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

The Bongos
I loved this Hoboken, NJ band’s 1982 debut DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON (and follow-up, 1983’s NUMBER WITH WINGS was nearly as good). By the time of their 3rd record, 1985’s BEAT HOTEL the band wanted out of its record deal and began talking to Island Records Chris Blackwell. They recorded this batch of songs in the Bahamas (Compass Point Studios) , what was supposed to be the band’s 4th record but, well, the record never came out. Shelved for nearly three decades, PHANTOM TRAIN finally sees the light of day and it’s a terrific batch of songs. Most of the songs were written by Richard Barone with a few co-written with James Mastro and it’s got 13 originals and one cool cover of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.” Guitars still dominate the proceedings but with plenty of synth work (hey, this WAS the 80’s). Oh and did I mention that the songwriting is terrific? Check out “My Wildest Dreams” and the punchy “Diamond Guitar” first and go from there. I can’t believe that this went unreleased for so many years. Wow. www.jemrecordings.com

Clara Hill
The instant that opening track--the broody, dark ambient "Konkav" segues into "Dawn Of A New Day," I realize that what Ms. Hill's fourth album is offering is the promise that Beth Orton never delivered. Walk The Distance is an album that's as dark as its cover, offering an interesting, compelling mix of electronica and folk, with the occasional pop beat. If ever an artist deserved the tag of "folktronica," it's Clara Hill. Songs "Dripstone Cave" and "Lost Winter" have an uptempo beat, one that's far removed from the more languid moments of the album. But it's those languid moments that makes Walk The Distance quite worthy. The album's high point is "Glacial Moraine (Original)," with its blends of gentle acoustic guitars, cold atmospherics, and Hill's hushed singing. It's all quite reminiscent of the sadly retired Heidi Berry, another underrated master of this style of songwriting. I'd never heard of Clara Hill until now, but this is a great record, and it makes me interested in hearing her back catalog. http://www.tapeterecords.de/ JOSEPH KYLE

The Proctors
EVERLASTING LIGHT -(SHELFLIFE)-Was thinking it had been years since I’d heard anything by this UK pop band and then did a little research and yup, realized that this is their first record since 1995’s PINSTRIPES & ENGLISHMEN (which I believe was on the Sunday label….straight outta Rolling Meadows, IL…..also known as the American version of Sarah Records…..anyone know whatever happened to label kingpin Albert?). I remember liking them back in the day, but man, this is really , really good. The band is basically the brainchild of Gavin Priest though he gets help here from drummer Adrian Jones and backing vocals from Margaret Calleja (also, the House of Love’s Terry Bickers adds some guitar to a few songs and Field Mice/St. Etienne producer Ian Catt co-produced). Speaking of the Field Mice, that’s probably who the band reminds me of the most (along with early Primal Scream) and songs like “Perfect World,” “Yesterday’s Boy,” “Ambulance,” “Wishing Well” and “I Need To Tell You” are among the best pop songs I heard in 2013 and EVERLASTING LIGHT will surely be on my top 10 list for best of 2013. Believe it. www.shelflife.com

The Zoltars
Saw the black record jacket and the band name and was thinking it was something dark and gothy. Such is our (my) preconceived notions about things. I then looked a little closer and decided to listen. They hail from Austin and had a song on the 12XU label’s comp., CASUAL VICTIM PILE II (thought the name sounded familiar, I like that comp) and after listening found out that WALKING THROUGH THE DARK has some damn good songs, enough melody that pop fans will like but enough off-kilter bits to keep those other folks coming back, too (there’s piano and cello, too). It’s a nice mix as the songs are moody with dark textures but it’s not all minor chords, on the contrary, the songs move with the rhythm section not missing a note and vocalist/guitarist Jared (not the guy from Subway) emits whispered vocals (most of the time) and textured guitar that occasionally gets jangly. Judging by the song titles there’s lot of thinking/wondering going on here (“I Walk Alone at Night,” “Here in My Room,” “Fear Not Death,” “”I Was Outside”, etc. ). If I still made compilation tapes you can bet your ass I’d out these guys on one (making comp cds isn’t as fun). Bedhead fans might like this. (side note; the band was also nice enough to send me their debut, SHOULD I TRY THIS ONCE MORE? (Sundae Records), which I’m going to listen to in a bit here…). www.cqrecords.com

Various Artists
Okay, admission time: I have never been able to get into the show Mad Men, because it just seems too self-aware about its cultural hipness. Collections like this, though, serve as a nice artifact. As one might guess, this is a Christmas album; as you might imagine, the music on here is hip, cool, jazzy, and 1960s. Aside from RJD2's theme song, and Jesica Pare's "Zou Bisou Bisou," every song found here is a classic. Okay, so Nellie McKay's contemporary, but she sounds just like Doris Day--and performs "Christmas Waltz," a song Ms. Day performed as well. Christmas classics from Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Dean Martin, Otis Redding, Vince Guaraldi, and Darlene Love are essential listening every Christmas season, Aside from the fleeting reference to the TV show, this collection serves as a nice gathering place for these wonderful holiday standards. www.concordmusicgroup.com JOSEPH KYLE

Wait a minute….didn’t I just review this band’s debut like a few minutes ago? Ok, so maybe it was a few months ago but still (and apparently they release an ep, TOUGH CITY in 2013 too that I’ve still yet to hear). These guys are prolific and I like it when a band I like it prolific (ok, so maybe Bob Pollard/GBV has taken that to an extreme but…). Speaking of GBV, this Columbus, OH band reminded me of early (BEE THOUSAND) GBV when they were still consistently cranking out good stuff (and for the record I have heard the newer GBV stuff and each record does have a handful of good songs on it). Anyway, back to connections, their previous record was recorded on Stevie Nicks birthday in 2012 and this one was recorded on Ralph Macchio’s b-day in 2012 and it’s just as good. The songs come at you fast and furious and I sure don’t mind the fuzz-o-meter being cranked up to 11, do you? Opening tune “Aimless” is an instant classic and second tune “Blurry Eyes” comes close. The guitar on “She’s Cheering Up” is of the Mascis variety and in “Late Shift” they’ve got , yup, another stone-cold classic. These guys are doing something right and right now I’m riding the crest of their success even if I am in the basement listening to it on my old turntable (bet you wish you were, too). www.anyway-records.com

Sex Tide
Don’t think that I don’t know what the word on the street is, oh yeah I know, “Hinely’s gotten soft.” I know you’re all sayin’ it. Oh sure, I’d rather listen to The Field Mice than the God Bullies these days and who can blame me (my ears took quite a beating in the 80’s and 90’s) but then something like this pops up and I’m all ears (heh heh heh). They hail from Columbus, OH (see Connections above) , I think there’s three of ‘em and I believe one’s a girl. If there’s one word I’d use to describe the music of Sex Tide it’d be primitive. The drums are total caveman and the guitarist plays guitar, like…well, like me (I play the guitar with two left feet). If the kid who constantly got beat up in high school had this one his turntable before school instead of some garbage like Kid Rock then he would’ve had super powers to pummel all of those jocks once school started. Listening to “Beggar, Beggar” (or “Gone”) right now gave me enough oomph to head back up stairs and grab another can of Pepsi (before taking a sledgehammer to the old bookcase and you can bet I’m way older than that high school kid). Black vinyl, I’ve got #105 of 300. www.awickedcompany.tumblr.com

1988-1995-(CHUNKLET)-Man, I loved Chicago’s Tar (John, Mike, Mark and Tim then later Tom replacing Tim). Starting out in 1988 they were a perfect time for me, I was 24 years old and close to getting; out of college (hey, no Blutarski jokes here). I was getting out of the hardcore scene but still wanted stuff that was loud, jarring and abrasive and labels like Touch & Go, Am Rep and Sub Pop provided that, but for Tar, it wasn’t noise for the sake of noise, the songs were mostly catchy. Tar called it a day in the mid-90’s but their legend lives on via this double vinyl set that includes every 7” they released along with all compilation and unreleased tracks too. The vinyl is orange and it comes with a neat little booklet which has some liners from some fans of the band as well as some info on the songs from the band members. A few of my favorites include the first single “Play to Win” b/w “Mel’s” as well as the “Hand” b/w “Flow Plow” (which Steve Albini used to refer to as “The Wire song”) single plus their cover of Pere Ubu’s “Non-Alignment pact” from 1991. They played a few shows in Chicago earlier this year but for me hoping for a full on reunion (tour, new recordings ,etc.) well, that’s pretty much out of the question. These guys have lives, kids, homes just like me but hey, this release, it’s a thing of beauty. I believe it is also sold out but go to the website here to the right and find out for sure. www.chunklet.com

Sarah Vaughan
Legendary Jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan experienced a creative renaissance in the 1970s; she had been extremely prolific up until the mid-1960s, and her comeback in the 1970s was a fertile and rewarding time. At the end of the decade, she decided to pay tribute to her friend, the recently departed Duke Ellington, with the help of equally legendary jazz producer Norman Granz. In 1979 she released two albums of Ellington covers; Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook Collection compiles both of those albums, as well as half a dozen unreleased tracks. For this compilation, the two albums are not presented in their original format; instead, the songs are arranged by session recording dates, and in so doing, the first six songs on the first disc are the bonus tracks, and while lovely, these songs--essentially a rough recording session to get a feel for the material recorded later in the week--pale in comparison to the final version; then again, lesser Sarah Vaughan recording of "Lush Life" and "In A Sentimental Mood" will always be better than what 99% of modern singers can muster. As with all Vaughan recordings, the power of her music is that husky, hard, yet sensual voice. Her voice is powerful and unstoppable on swing numbers like "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," but then she can turn around and offer up a soft, sensual ballad like "Solitude" and "Prelude To A Kiss." Pure, powerful, and perfect are the adjectives for this essential collection from one of the best vocalists of the 20th century. www.concordmusicgroup.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Well Wishers
Well Wishers leader Jeff Shelton must have a really cool wife (and kids). It seems as if he’s always coming out with a new project so you know what the mean? It means he spends a lot of time locked away in a garage or basement writing and recording songs. You’ve heard the Spinning Jennies who existed for most of the 90’s and into the 2000’s. He then kicked the Well Wishers into high gear a decade ago (and in between released a record under the name of Hot Nun a year or so ago). If you’re expecting more of the high energy rawk that he has come to be known for (albeit one with plenty of hooks n’ melody) well, go back to his other records as the 5 songs that comprise the DUNWOODY ep (of a town in Georgia) are more of the acoustic variety. I’m happy to report that DUNWOODY is GREAT! Man, maybe Shelton has found his true musical style…..don’t get me wrong I love his power pop and rock stuff but man, the songs on here just tickle a different part of my brain. “Peel Away” is terrific as is “Good Luck” (probably my favorite tune on here) and “Real Today”…ok, all 5 of them (the final two songs are “Open Up Your Eyes” and “Butterflies”). I think fans of The Feelies would dig this. Get this. www.facebook.com/thewellwishersband

Bubblegum Lemonade
As we all know, Santa Barbara’s Matinee Recordings is all about pOp! Music. Paying homage in their own special way to the golden days of indiepop, especially via labels like Sarah, Postcard, Creation and the like and bands like the Shop Assistants, early Primal Scream and East Village. Instead of looking backward though the label is constantly looking forward (though they occasionally do reissue an old classic). If there is any band on the roster that seems to take in the influence of the pop masters it’s this Scottish band. Led by Lawrence “Laz” McCluskey (who also leads another Matinee band, Strawberry Whiplash) who basically does everything here ‘cept for a few additions here and there from friends. On this, the bands 3rd record (with a cool homage to the first V.U. record (banana album) on the cover), McCluskey churns through 12 jangle pop songs that might have you thinking it’s some lost gem from yesteryear. The guitar has a way with a guitar (I’m guessing a Rickenbacker) and cuts like “Famous Blue Anorak,” “This is the New Normal,” “Dead Poets make Me Smile’ and “She Brings the Sunshine.” McCluskey’s records don’t change to much from one to another, the guys knows what he likes and knows how to deliver it. www.matineerecordings.com

Curt Cuscino is a movie soundtrack kind of guy, that’s what he does, and not surprisingly the bulk of his debut EP Externality sounds like a lot like a film soundtrack-- atmospheric and ambient. The movies he has scored, you probably haven’t heard of, independent shorts. While the songs are not quite soundtrack material, they aren’t quite stand alone songs either. While they are complete with a beginning and an end, they are somewhere in between good techno-pop-EDM songs and background movie filler. Eternality might be at home in your masseuse’s CD player or in a meditation group if it weren’t for the pervading dark undertones. The album has diversity; each song is different from the last; similar only in the instruments that create the sound and the moods each one evoke. You will hear some Oriental tinted strings on Only the Beginning, some discordant electronic woodwinds on Tonight We Dream. An Arrival sounds like we are in a futuristic space-train station watching electronic bugs scurry about. The album is bookended by the two songs with vocals--A Little Black and Walking in the Garden--sung by, and lyrics written and arranged by Sarah Magill. Her voice blends almost seamlessly with the music, and is a welcome respite from the rest of Eternality. www.cuscino.co STEVE STEVENSON

Vince Guaraldi Trio
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS-(FANTASTY RECORDS/ CONCORD MUSIC GROUP)-When I received this cd in the mail I was wondering to myself if this record gets reissued every year. I then looked at my most recent one and it was from 2006 that has basically the same songs, but a few different bonus tracks (and slightly different art work). It’s the soothing sounds of the Vince Guaraldi trio with piano (most of the tracks are instrumental) a plenty including everyone’s favorite, “Linus and Lucy” (where it seems like Belle & Sebastian took some inspiration from). This reissue has 3 bonus tracks (“Greensleeves”, “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Thanksgiving Theme”) plus in addition to the thick booklet with liner notes by there is also a wraparound cd cover that had cardboard punk outs of each of the characters. This is one of those records that has to be in every home, is there a copy in yours? www.concordmusicgroup.com

Psychic Friend
Psychic Friends is the project of Imperial Teen's Will Schwartz, and this is a fine album from head to toe. It's a pop record, and it offers expansions on his Imperial Teen work. The album's a blend of new wave, indie rock, bubblegum, and 70s singer/songwriter fare...with emphasis on the singer/songwriter fare. Before you listen, though: be prepared for falsetto and a lot of high vocal range singing. It can grate, but when it works, it works wonderfully. Also, don't try to resist the album's simple charms; I DARE you not to sing along to "The Kids Are OK" and "Quality Control." While different vocally, the arrangements remind me of a more upbeat John Grant, and is "We Do Not Belong" REALLY based on "Laura's Theme?" One of the most fun records of 2013, hands down. www.dangerbirdrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Ulrich Schnauss and Mark Peters
Album number two for this collaboration between electronica composer Schnauss and guitarist Mark Peters. Much like the duo's debut, Tomorrow Is Another Day is an album that pins together gentle, Brian Eno/Harold Budd-style ambient melodies together with interesting sonic flourishes. While debut album leaned towards the more shoegazer elements of the two men's past work, this album expands on Schnauss' dreamier soundscapes and beats. "Slow Southern Skies" and "There's Always Tomorrow" will be familiar styles for Schnauss fans, as they are quiet, hushed atmospheric compositions, while other moments, such as "Inconvenient Truths" and "Bound By Lies" are aimed for the dance floor. "Walking With My Eyes Closed" finds the instrumental duo taking up the microphone, producing a slice of, erm, interesting pop. Still, Tomorrow Is Another Day is a fine continuation of a fruitful collaboration. www.bureau-b.com JOSEPH KYLE

Cars Can Be Blue
I remember hearing this band’s 2008 debut, DOUBLY UNBEATABLE, and liking it but not liking it as much as I like TRACE THE TENSION. Then the band , originally from New Hampshire but now based in Athens, GA (home to the HHBTM label), was a duo of Nate (drums /vocals) and Becky (guitar/vocals) and have since added Jeremy on bass (and yelling) though I have been out of the loop so he could have been a member since 2008 for all I know. Anywho, this is the kind of stuff that is nearly impossible not to like, punchy catchy songs that any fan of Dressy Bessy, All Girl Summer Fun Band or Tullycraft would dig. The tunes? There’ 14 of ‘em and they come at you fast and furious. A few of my favorites include opener “You Gave Me,” the searing “On & On,” the guitar heavier “Title Track” and the jittery “Put Down the Gun.” This record is perfect while either in your car or cleaning the house and if you don’t clean your house then buy this record and maybe it will inspire you to do so (you slob). www.hbtm.com

CCR Headcleaner
I was pretty surprised to learn that this record is this Bay Area bunch’s debut lp (thought they had other long players but sounds like they have some other singles out though). I wanted to immediately lump them in with Pissed Jeans and there definitely is a kinship there though these guys are definitely more trippy/wobbly. This kind of music isn’t for everyone and definitely not for the faint for heart but if you’re willing to give it a shot, well dive on it (but I’m warning ya’, the water’s cold). The music on here is heavy, wild, dense, wiry, loud and at times zoned/zonked out. Song titles include: “Brain (floss)”, “Bombsuite,” “”Peace Full pastures,” “”Blood”, etc. If you miss The Brainbombs (Sweden’s finest) then have at this. If your neighbor ever hands you a sledge hammer , nods into the direction of his battered Buick that’s been sitting in his driveway for decades and utters, “Have at it”, well, you know have something to play for such a smashing time. Have at it. www.pizzaburglarrecords.com

The Dirtbombs
OOEY GOOEY CHEWY KA-BLOOEY-(IN THE RED)-When the Dirtbombs first started I thought it would be one of my of Mick Collin’s post-Gories’ projects that would hang around a few years and then he’d be on to something else. To my (and probably everyone else’s) surprise the Dirtbombs have been kicking nearly for two decades. I missed their last record (2011’s PARTY STORE, apparently an ode to the electronic/techno scene of his hometown of Detroit), but did not miss this new record, a tribute to the bubblegum pop bands of the 60’s that he loves so much. The drawing on the back shows a band that looks quite a bit like The Archies so there you go (think Ohio Express and 1919 Fruitgum Company) and also, Collins wrote all of these songs (though on the back it does say ‘Special Thanks to Brian Wilson on “We Come in the Sunshine”). Still, like everything Collins does this is authentic, but not nearly as lightweight as the originals as the band kicks up their usual amount of dust. I dug just about every song on here, but for a really good time check out charmers like “Crazy for You,” “”Sugar on Top.” You want a ballad/ Check out “The Girl on the Carousel” and yes, the final three songs are dubbed “The Sunshine Suite” and , well, not sure how many other garage rockers out there could have taken a concept like this and completely nailed it but Mick Collins isn’t most people. All that and it’s over in under a half hour (29:35) so take THAT naysayers. www.intheredrecords.com

Kool And The Gang
No song has been as ubiquitous in party playlists as Kool & The Gang's best-known hit, "Celebration." Even today, thirty-three years later, you'll still find the song in high school dances, movie soundtracks, weddings, and radio stations. Even though it was released in 1980, the song's theme is universal, timeless, and it's a very fresh groove. As with many albums with a smash single, the rest of Celebration, the band's 1980 album, often gets overlooked, but it's not for a lack of quality material. The seven other songs on Celebration are a fine R&B/pop/disco combination, with mellow love ballads like "Love Affair" and "Love Festival" blending nicely with dance-floor numbers like "Take It To The Top" and "Morning Star." This expanded edition provides single versions of the albums songs--sometimes a superfluous move, but in the case of Celebration, the single versions of "Take It To The Top" and "Celebration" are the more familiar versions of those songs. Celebration is a fun, enjoyable record that is a delight from start to finish. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

We love Kendall Jane Meade, and we love this four-track EP. It seems like it's been way too long since we've heard her lovely voice, but this little record quickly rights that wrong. The record kicks off with the catchy, upbeat title track; this is the pop song we've always enjoyed and always longed from Mascott records. "Our Life" is a love song of devotion that's a little bit country and a whole lot of lovely. "By The Book" is a slower jazz-pop number, one that's simple in arrangement but one that we love. Saving the best for last, Ms. Meade gives us her take on Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know." Unlike Tracy Ullman's well-known version, this is stripped down to just Ms. Meade and her acoustic guitar. It's lovely, sublime, and where's that new full length? We can't wait! www.kiamrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Burt Bacharach
This record is the third in El's series of Burt Bacharach composer anthologies. I never heard the first one (The First Book of Songs 1954-58 (ACMEM166CD) but I really enjoyed the 2nd one that came out earlier this year (Long Ago Last Summer 1959-61). 27 songs sung by nearly as many vocalists with the usual Bacharach impeccable arrangements. The set opens with the title, track, “Make It Easy On Yourself” sung by Jerry Butler (I had only ever heard the Walkers Brothers version of it) and I wondered what female voice that was on cut number two (“Donne-Moi-Ma Chance’ which translates to “Too Late to Worry”) only to find out it’s Sophia Loren! Elsewhere, as far a vocalist you would have heard of including Etta James doing ‘Waiting for Charlie to Come Home”, The Shirelles doing “It’s Loved That Really Counts”, The Drifters doing “Mexican Divorce.” Some gems I had not heard before include the sultry Babs Tino “Forgive me (for giving you such a bad time)” and her “Too Late to Worry” and Jane Morgan offers up a few choice cuts as well. The set ends with Marlene Dietrich doing two songs (she also does the liner notes). Once again you have to hand it to the ‘el Records powers that be, (ie: Mike Alway ) for coming up with yet another stunning collection of tunes that not only my parents would have/did love but I do too. Can’t say that about Black Flag. www.cherryred.co.uk

Dead Waves
I could describe the Dead Waves second EP Take Me Away as white noise with some screaming in the background. But, it deserves more credit than that. This New York based trio is considered indie-rock by some, but sound much more feral here, more true to the grunge, noise, post hardcore label. The hazy, almost trancy music is like a mist pervading the landscape. The vocals are a monster lurking just beyond the border of your site and the edge of the mist waiting to lunge at your jugular. Everything seems subdued, and in the background. The lyrics are obscured and hard to understand, but the emotion is there. It feels like a concept album with the production values as they are. The record definitely has a certain feel; it has you in a surreal mood all the way. I found myself wanting to listen more than a few times because I kept feeling like I was almost getting it, but not quite. The guitar is fuzzy and heavy, while the drums are enough punctuation to keep you cognizant so the monster doesn’t take you by complete surprise. I get more and more into this EP the more I listen. www.deadwaves.com STEVE STEVENSON

The Hickoids
HAIRY CHAFIN APE SUIT-(SAUSTEX)-I remember reading a live review of these guys in an old issue of Siltbreeze where editor TJ described their live set as a drunken mess, albeit a drunken mess that had to be seen. And on that subject, has it really been 25 years since their last true full-length (the press kits mentions that it was “first mentioned in print 24 year ago”) ? Yes, these Texas garage-meisters have been at it forever (not sure if they actually broke up in the middle and reformed or not…oh wait it does say they did in 1991). Well, they’re back, yes vocalist Jeff Smith and his booze-soaked crew (including Slowpoke on drums. Rice on bass and Tony and Davy Jones on guitars) are at it again whipping out 10 songs of…well, it’s pretty hard to classify this stuff. There’s the straight up rock of opener “Fruit Fly”, the lowdown honky tonk of “You Knee’d Me” (which is one of my favorites on here) and “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me, Kill Me.” Elsewhere, “Cool Arrow” is straight up Texas shuffle and then you have cool, classic undefinable ones like “The Talkin’ Hot Pants Blues” and “The Working Man’s Friend.” If you like booze and guitars, and I’m guessing you, do, then you now have HAIRY CHAFIN’ APE SUIT to cuddle up next to. www.saustex.com

Oh sure, we all miss New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records (did they come back or what?) but don’t blame Fishrider’s Ian Henderson. Dude has bened picking up the slack for several years now. Releasing several records by The Puddle (his brother George’s band) as well as ones by The Shifting Sands, Opposite Sex, etc. etc. Ian said I’d like this one but he was wrong, I don’t like it, I LOVE it. Some of these songs were previously released, I believe, four of the tunes are from their debut ep MALESMALESMALES and a few others were to be the forthcoming RUN RUN RUN ep so Mr. Fishrider combined but enough about the specifics, listen to the damn songs people. Remember how you first felt when you hear David Kilgour’s SUGAR MOUTH record? Specifically that song “No No No” well, most of these songs are on that caliber. Cue up cuts like “Pre Roll,” “Lucky Too,” “Madeline” “So High” and hell, just listen to the whole damn thing. Males leader Richard Ley-Hamilton is on to something here. You’ll be singing along, playing air guitar, playing air drums, all of that. I need more. www.fishriderrecords.com

No Age
LA-based art-rockers No Age offer up a record of rollicking art-rock. The album's a cultural statement done artfully, as, after all, No Age is art rock. The lyrics are obtuse yet symbolic, an abstract transmission of the sublime, all done in the name of art. It's political and you know it's political because the singing is fuzzy and blurry and sometimes unintelligible. It's art-rock, you know. That you're reading this review, well, that's just a sign that No Age have compromised their artistic vision and have, to use the parlance of that old punk-rock dude you see at the show, sold out. That someone like me is writing a review of their music...if I listen to it and like it, it must be too mainstream. An Object is not something one would object to, and that, my friends, means the band should probably break up before that Pepsi commercial airs. Oh, and if you buy An Object at Hot Topic this week, you'll get a free No Age t-shirt and sticker! www.subpop.com FOSTER HAYNES

Agony Aunts
I liked the previous record from this Bay Area bunch (KC, Karla, Khoi and Charlie…which should be Kharlie) from a few years ago (GREATER MIRANDA) and I also like their other band (most of the folks are in The Corner Laughers). BIG CINNAMON is nearly impossible not to like unless you are a big scrooge in which case you’re probably not reading this review (or webpage) anyway. I could have seen them fit in perfectly on the Los Angeles scene circa’ 67 with Love, the Mamas and the Papas, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Chocolate Watch Band (who were a Bay Are band, but I digress) , etc or fit in , like, RIGHT NOW. The debut wasn’t bad, but the songwriting is stronger on this one and it doesn’t hurt to get help from some talented friends like MLM honcho Allen Clapp, as well as Game Theory’s Gil Ray and the Bye Bye Blackbirds Bradley Skaught. The songs are hooky and infectious, check out stone-cold grooves like “Back to Back Bill,” “Family Drugs,” “Uranium My Love” “You’re So Vague” and plenty more. Tune in, turn on and dive right in people, you don’t need my permission. www.agony-aunts.bandcamp.com

The Brother Kite
I rarely gush over bands (ok, so that’s a total lie) but this Providence, RI quartet, well, it seems like every time they have a new record out I am gushing over it. And MODEL ROCKET is no exception. The band recorded it in their own studio space in Providence and were shooting for a record that sounded more like they do live, with less overdubs, and I believe they succeeded in that department. Leader Patrick Boutwell writes most of the songs here while other guitarist, Jon Downs wrote a pair himself (and the two collaborated on one also, “Am I making Sound?”….the two began writing songs together in 2001). The punchy opener, “Secrets’ definitely supports that as does the nearly as punchy “Father to Son” (that one has a cool dream pop part in the middle). “Giving Up Time” has a cool, dark groove to it while the moody, jangly “Bees” is among the best on here. That was side one, flip the cd over and you’ve got five more songs, all worthy of your precious time. I wonder how many people who’d heard this band for the first time instantly dubbed them “my favorite new band?” Probably quite a few. These guys have it. Yup, IT. www.tonevendor.com

The Last
DANGER-(END SOUNDS)-Though lots of older bands are reforming these days it seems like it’s been many older bands that released a lot of stuff. LA’s The Last, on the other hand, weren’t real well-known outside of their hometown back in the day (and not even sure how well-known they were even in LA) but the band, led by brothers Joe and Mike Nolte, did begin honing their craft back in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, CA so they were surely on to something. This is their first record since 1996’s GIN & INNUENDOES (released on SST) and the brothers Nolte are joined by the Descendents/All rhythm section of Bill Stevenson on drums and Karl Alvarez on bass (Stevenson also co-produced and recorded it at his Blasting Room Studios in Ft. Collins, CO). The songs? They are terrific! They come at you fast and furious (many are just over the two minute mark) , the choppy “I Know” starts things off and kicks right into the jittery “Red Hair” and then right into the tough, thick, melodic “Unreal Love” to the Jam-ish “I’m Not Crazy” and plenty more to tickle your brain. Some of the songs, with the dramatic keyboard rushes, remind me a bit of later period TSOL (though I’m sure these guys influenced Jack Grisham and Co., not the other way around). The songs DANGER barely take a breath from start to finish and are a real kick. Well done gentlemen. (note: front cover art by Raymond Pettibon). www.endsounds.com

Orange Yellow Red
I had been hearing good things about this Texas-based shoegaze label and then, out of the blue, the label owner contacts me (or maybe I contacted him?) and a nice package of records comes into my po box. The album artwork was interesting and the big OYR threw me off a bit (until I looked at the spine and saw it said Orange Yellow Red). The band, a trio, hails from England and have definitely heard a few Cocteau Twins records in their lifetimes but this is no slavish imitation. Guitarists Ross King and Philip John Mayor do some gorgeous dueling guitar work while layered on top are Emma Hayward’s soaring vocals. Songs either seem to be about the elements (“Thunder” (one of my faves on here), “The Sea”, etc.) or loss (“A Long Goodbye”, “Shattered”, etc.) but regardless, the songs are GOOD. Some shoegaze bands get lost in their own dreaminess and are more on sounds rather than songs but not OYR, they remember the importance of songs and it pays off for them in spades. A ROSE OF GALAXIES is a wonderful listen from start to finish. www.stmarierecords.com

Wooden Shjips
Okay, it's been a little while since the last Wooden Shjips full-length (or single, truth be told); the once prolific band's been somewhat dormant since 2011. But ya know what? DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT, because Back To Land is a strong return to form. While the psych-rock sound is firmly in place, they've updated it quite nicely, and it sounds less tribute-minded and more contemporary than ever. The title track kicks off the album and it sets a relentless driving tone that never lets up until album closer "Everybody Knows." It's heady, slick rock--not unlike Howlin Rain or Brian Jonestown Massacre--and leader Ripley Johnson is in fine voice, as he leads his merrymen through trippy jams. Stops include the amazing "Ghouls" (dig that guitar solo!), the powerful modern blues of "Other Stars," and the rock trip of "In The Roses." Back To Land may have taken a little while, but they're back and they're here and they're now and the sound is very WOW. www.thrilljockey.com JOSEPH KYLE

Bad Manners
Like many other 2 Tone ska bands, the English band Bad Manners was at the height of its popularity in the early 1980s, during the ska revival. Although the band briefly broke up, it got back together in the late ‘80s, just in time for the third wave of ska. Now, Cherry Red Records is releasing several of the band’s later albums, making some of the songs available for the first time. For example, the band recorded “Eat the Beat” in 1988, but it took until 1996 before it was released on CD. Like the band Madness, Bad Manners incorporated humor and slapstick comedy into its antics, especially those of Buster Bloodvessel, the band’s larger-than-life frontman. Roller rink Farfisa, sassy brass and jaunty melodies dominate much of “Eat the Beat,” beginning with “Since You’ve Gone Away” and continuing through “Return of the Ugly” and “Stampede.” Besides original material, Bad Manners was good at inventive ska covers, and this album includes the galloping romp “Bonanza Ska,” which features the “Bonanza” TV theme song, and “Pipeline.” The lyrics of “Sally Brown” and “Skinhead Girl” become too repetitive, and “Big Five” is downright crude and raunchy. To my ears, “Heavy Petting” – a re-release of an album from 1997 – has much more going for it than “Eat the Beat.” Although Buster growls a little too much for my taste, marring the cover of Deep Purple’s “Black Night,” he uses his voice to better effect in most of the album. Highlights include a nifty ska remake of the Monkees’ “Randy Scouse Git”; “No, No, No,” which dabbles in dub; “Feel Like Jumping,” with its positively infectious theatrical vocals; and the slower tempo and train-rider narrative of “Liverpool and Birmingham.” Throughout both of these albums, the band is tight and Buster sounds like he’s truly having a good time and not just going through the motions. The band must have been a blast to see live; Buster is currently the only original member, and performances now are sporadic. Playing these albums loud and clearing space for dancing may just be the next best thing. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Cosmic Psychos
Australia has always had a long history of tough-as-nails, hard rockin’ bands from long before folks ever heard AC/DC. I first began hearing the stuff in the mid-late 80’s when bands like the Celibate Rifles, Lime Spiders and feedtime, a trio, began filtering into the states. Another trio began to rear their handsome heads around that time, the Cosmic Psychos. Peter (guitar) , Bill (drums) and Ross (bass….all of them sang) grunted and heaved their way through several records of heavy, meat-grinding rock and roll. These reissue are of their first ep, the DOWN ON THE FARM (1985- 5 songs) an added to that is their s/t debut record (1987- 14 songs). The other reissue is their 1989 full-length, GO TO HACK (9 SONGS). Both of these records are why you started listening to punk and garage rock in the first place (or perhaps went BACK to listening to those records). The guitars are heavy, the vocals gruff and the rhythms pummeling but don’t think there’s not a sense of humor in these tunes. For that check out songs like “David Lee Roth,” “Rambo,” “Crazy Woman” and “Custom Credit.” Through the 90’s the band continued to release several fine records, but my favorite stuff are these early records. The band is still active, too, but the only original member is Ross, still though, go to the Goner Records website and purchase these the next time you want a good head bashing. (side note: there is also a new documentary out on MVD called BLOKES YOU CAN TRUST) . www.goner-records.com

The Last Conspirators
A CELEBRATION OF FURY-(SELF RELEASED)-Tim Livingston (the vocalist of TLC who wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on here) has been around the scene forever but instead of making his racket in the Big Apple, he’s up in the Hudson Valley where old punks don’t go to die, they go to make more music (his old band The Morons tore up the Albany area back in the day, or so I’ve heard). This band has been around for a decade but have grown slowly and steadily as this is only their 3rd record in that time (2007’s WARPARTY and 2010’s WHEN IT ALL COMES down are the others). Livingston and his crew have definitely heard some Clash records in their lives (and some 101ers, too…Strummers previous band). A CELEBRATION OF FURY only has 7 songs on it but the songs are tough and thick, dense if you will. This isn’t snarling punk rock like The Germs, this is more textured, more cerebral with the songs slowly unfolding. Opening “Last Man Standing” is a perfect opener, laying the groundwork while “Radio Warfare” drags the corpse for a few more blocks and “Powerful Friends” really bites down and grits its teeth (and is my favorite here, along with the melodic “No Time for Egos”). The rest of the songs are all worth hearing as well, my only complaint is that there’s not more songs. Next time guys give us a full baker’s dozen. www.lastconspirators.com

Hard to believe that Sub Pop is 25, that grunge is nearly as old, and that the metal has-beens Soundgarden got their start here. Okay, okay, I shouldn't start this review with hating on them for becoming the band they wanted to become, because this collection--which compiles everything Soundgarden released on the label--isn't that bad. It's most especially not bad when you hear "Nothing To Say," which is Soundgarden's statement that informs the world, don't fuck with us, we're badass. Yeah, it's heavy metal, but it's metal done right; that thick, cough-syrup drudging melody topped off with Chris Cornell's hard-to-deny-it powerful voice. Nothing on Screaming Life comes close to topping it. The grungy/blues boogie-woogie of "Hunted Down" and "Little Joe" are all hints of what was to come. The EP FOPP contains two versions of "FOPP," neither really essential. The cover of "Swallow My Pride," however, is Soundgarden's way of showing the scene that they're able to rise above it and create something special. Badmotorfinger revealed the band's metal ambitions, but these two EPs show that said ambitions were there from the beginning. www.subpop.com FOSTER HAYNES

Man, I used to see volume 1 of this UK comp all over the place back in the day but I’m not 100% sure I even knew there was a volume 2. The first disc, vol. 1 covers the years 1982-’83 while disc two covers 1983-’84. In the liner notes Cherry Red head honcho Ian McNay blames the comp all on Mike Always (‘el Records) and , as we know, Alway always had good taste (see what I did there? ). If you wanted to know what was going on in the UK behind bands like ABC and Duran Duran (which I love, BTW) one need look no further than the songs on here. You have cuts by the Marine Girls (includes two songs by the3m: “Lazy Ways” and “A Place in the Sun”), Felt (including one of their best songs, “Penelope Tree”) Eyeless in Gaza, Ben Watt (from Everything But the Girl….plus a cut from EBTG), the Monochrome Set (Including the great “Jet Set Junta”), Fantastic Something (their amazing jangly “If She Doesn’t Smile”), and plenty more lesser known ones, too. A few I hadn’t heard of include the lovably quirky Morgan Fisher doing “Un Homme Et Une Femme”, In Embrace doing the romantic “Shouting in Cafes”, Five or Six offering up the gloomy “Another Reason” and plenty more. There’s also a PILLOWS & PRAYERS video out there that I need to check out sometime but until then, this’ll do just fine. www.cherryred.co.uk

Bardo Pond
The music of Bardo Pond is heavy and dense, a broad brush dipping into a palette of dark colors to create intense sounds and mysterious images. “Peace On Venus,” the Philadelphia-based band’s ninth album, starts off with “Kali Yuga Blues,” with Isobel Sollenberger’s wistful croon and the guitars of John and Michael Gibbon venturing off into different directions: one meandering, the other resolutely noisy and distorted. Sollenberger’s flute floats over the maelstrom, wafting over the wreckage of some smoldering machine. “Taste,” with its crunchy guitars and mournful vocals, is reminiscent of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Although the tempo is much like the first song, the guitars stop and start, allowing the drums to occasionally come to the forefront, and the dynamic range is wider, with softer spots providing welcome relief from the squall. But then “Fir” kicks in with a blast of guitar sludge. Sollenberger’s vocals, while pretty, sound defiant as some serious wah-wah sounds and various other guitar effects create a thick haze. The 10-and-a-half-minute instrumental, “Chance,” starts out quietly, with lightly strummed acoustic guitar and breathy flute, but 40 seconds in, the electric guitars make their return, sticking mostly to bluesy sounds rather than creating havoc. Drummer Jason Kourkonis colors things in nicely with cymbal splashes and snare rolls and flourishes. Closing the album is “Before the Moon,” nearly 11 minutes of spookiness perfect for listening to in the dark with headphones on. Sollenberger sings like a ghost moving through a deep forest. The repetitive melody is hypnotic, with the flute floating in about halfway through the song. With its emphasis on mood rather than melody, Bardo Pond is an intriguing contrast to what I normally listen to, and “Peace On Venus” is an entrancing trip. www.firerecords.com (SUSAN BRETTINGEN)

The Bye Bye Blackbirds
If you ask Bye Bye Blackbirds leader, Bradley Skaught, he might tell you that he only likes bands that begin with B (including his own): The Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds, Big Star, Badfinger, and maybe a few others, don’t believe it though. The guy is a huge music fan who is never shy to gush over a new favorite artist and all of these come to play into the music of the BBB’s. Thankfully it doesn’t come off as cloying or a slavish imitators, but more like huge music fans who are beyond happy to be writing songs and releasing records. On HERE COMES THE RAIN, the bands 4th record (after a brief spell on power pop label Rainbow Quart, with 2011’s FIXED HEARTS, and by the way, does anyone know what happened to that label???). I’m happy to say that fans who dug the band’s previous record will enjoy, no love, this one. The hooks come at you left and right , from the opener “All in Light”, up next is one of my faves on the record, the fist-pumping “Like a Thief” to the Big Star-ish “Don’t Come Back Now.” You want tender? They can do tender, check out the lovely “Brand New Sitting Still” and “Secret Ride” (moreso the former though) and offer up a near classic in “Shook Down Softly” an grind it out on the final tune, “Spin Your Stars.” Overall, I think this is their strongest record yet as the band shows no sign of slowing down. Two interesting side notes: on the back it says “For Scott Miller” (the Loud Family/Game Theory leader who died earlier this year and was a friend of Skaughts) and another excellent cd cover by artist/musicians John Conley (Desario, California Oranges, Holiday Flyer, etc.). www.byebyeblackbirds.com

George Jones
TOO WILD TOO LONG/YOU OUGHTA BE HERE WITH ME-(MORELLO/ CHERRY RED)-The passing of George Jones earlier this year took place during his farewell tour and this twofer collects two albums from his "redemption" era--coming to terms with his demons, getting his life straight, and coming to terms with his legacy. The first of these two albums, 1987's Too Wild Too Long, is a fine set from a newly-sober Prodigal son. As one might expect, there's a bit of piousness in some of the songs, which taps into Jones' gospel roots; the title track and "I'm A Survivor" are moving ballads, with a heartfelt sincerity that only adds to the power. There are moments of the old, wild man, but with a sneaky, humorous twist; "Sittin' on a barstool, sipping on a glass of tea," he sings on "The Real McCoy," while telling the tale of a barroom vixen, and "I'm A Long Gone Daddy," he sings, "I've been in the doghouse so doggone long, when I get a kiss I think there's something wrong." It's a funny jab at his bad-boy reputation, and overall Too Wild Too Long is a breath of fresh air, hinting at greatness to come. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of 1992's You Oughta Be Here With Me. This album is a more melancholy affair, with a primary focus on ballads. While not a bad affair--check out the title track, a Roger Miller cover--the mood is darker, sadder, and a bit on the gloomy side. The exception is the closing track, "Ol' Red," a fast-paced hillbilly number that could stand its ground next to early hits like "White Lightning." These two discs may not be from Jones' best period, but they showed that in spite of his demons, he was still a fine, powerful singer. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

La Luz
Well, this was certainly a pleasant surprise. Four gals from Seattle doing a nice little mix of surf music and indie rock. I had never heard of the band before but hey, it’s on the Hardly Art label (a mark of quality) and what can I say, I love girl groups. This band features a gal named Shana Cleveland who has been in a few others band I had not heard of (The Curious Mystery, Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles, etc.) but I know may have to go check out her other bands. Upon the first (partial) listen I was going to peg them as a sub-Dum Dum Girls but that would have been a mistake as upon further listens these females have their own sound. Occasionally there’s some long musical interludes with some shuffling drums, whirring organ, thumping bass and that surfed-out guitar (done by Cleveland who has certainly heard some Ventures records in her life). My faves are the pumped-up ones (“Sure as Spring,” “Pink Slime,” etc.) but I like the darker, moodier ones nearly as much (check out “What Good Am I?”) and “Sunstroke” will take you right back to those Frankie and Annette flicks or at least a Roger Corman movie. Also, I don’t know who producer Johnny Goss is but the guy did a bang-up job on this one. As Charlie Sheen once said, “It’s Alive is pure winning!” www.hardlyart.com

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
I guess now, four records into their career, it’s no use for me to bitch about the band name anymore, right? Yeah, it’s goofy but hey, the band members met while in high school so let’s chalk it up to youthful…….I dunno something (fine…enthusiasm). For a while I also complained that the sound was too lightweight for even me (really saying something) but I’ve come to really like this bands wispy, jangly airy sound. On FLY BY WIRE it’s not like they’re doing anything much different than they did on the first three records, but they do seem to be refining it all. Opening song “Harrison Ford” might not be about the actor but I still like it (well put as the opener) while the zippier “Young Presidents” is my favorite song on here. They lighten it up (even for them ) on the dreamy “Cover All Sides” and the acoustic “Bright Leaves.” The songwriting is definitely there and I could even see them breaking out a bit to a newer crowd, like (gasp!) soccer moms. Who knows….I do know that at ten songs in just over a half hour they don’t overstay their welcome and heck, let’s bring ‘em back for another record in a tear or two. www.polyvinylrecords.com

14 Iced Bears
With a name like 14 Iced Bears, and a single released on Sarah Records in 1988, you’d expect this British band to be twee of the highest order. That was the assumption I made for several years until I heard some of the songs that appear on this 2-CD compilation, which presents the group’s entire discography in descending order. Although 14 Iced Bears actually began as part of the C86 music scene, with jangly guitars and melodic pop, the group abruptly became more of shoegaze act, so that its two albums – the self-titled debut from 1988 and “Wonder” from 1991 –sound like two different bands. So, what does this mean in terms of sounds? The tracks from the 1991 version of 14 Iced Bears are gauzy, abstract, somewhat psychedelic, and for the most part last a little too long, losing their focus. “Hold On,” with its chorus of “I wasn’t born to lead an empty life,” is anthemic; “Smooth in the Sun” is brisk and bright, a bit like the Mighty Lemon Drops. Three of the songs from 1989 are what I consider the highlights of Disc 1, particularly “World I Love,” which includes guitars that weave around each other, a bit like the House of Love. In my opinion, Disc 2 contains the REALLY good stuff, when 14 Iced Bears were more minimal, lo-fi, subtle, and therefore more memorable. Because he’s not singing over big, echoing guitars like on their later songs, Robert Sekula sings more softly and often in a lower register throughout these earlier tunes, creating more of a contrast with the instruments. Each song from this era stands on its own, rather than running together as the songs from 1991 do. Highlights here are “Take It,” “Holland,” “Cut,” “Balloon Song,” and – well, you get the idea. Nearly everything on Disc 2 is pretty darn good. The liner notes are informative, too, with comprehensive details about the band’s discography. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The Chills
Wow, it seems like it’s been FOREVER since the last Chills’ record (2004’s STAND BY was the last one of new material, but after that the 3-cd SECRET BOX SET was released, all older material). I can’t tell you how much this band has meant to me and I probably won’t be able to sum it up in a 300 word review. Records like KALEIDOSCOPE WORLD (a comp of early stuff), BRAVE WORDS and SUBMARINE BELLS changed my life. I was moving away from the harsher sounds of punk and hardcore and wanted something more beautiful, nuanced and The Chills came into my life (thanks to my pal Bob Portella, who first played them for me). Leader Martin Phillipps has had so many different Chills lineups that even he has probably lost count (don’t believe it) so on SOMEWHERE BEAUTIFUL, Chills lineup # ??? record some of the bands classic songs in a quasi live setting (a private New Years Eve party from 2011 turning into 2012). These renditions don’t differ too much from versions we’ve heard of both in the studio and those of us who have seen the band live on numerous occasions. Opening with “Night of Chill Blue” and into “Wet Blanket,” “Part Part Fiction,” “House with a Hundred Rooms,” “Pink Frost” (that song NEVER gets old to me), “Heavenly Pop Hit,” “”I Love my Leather jacket” and the set ending “Rolling Moon” all sound lively. Twenty songs in all and even the lesser known ones (“The Other,” “Walk on the Beach,” “Matthew and Son,” etc.) sound just as inspired. I’m a Chills completist, you should be too. Welcome back. www.firerecords.com

The Crookes
HOLD FAST-(MODERN OUTSIDER))-I just read that they’ve been around since 2008 but this is the first I’ve heard of this terrific British quartet and I hope to hear more Right from the first song (and single) “Afterglow” the songs jump out of the speakers at you (in my 20-plus years of writing reviews not sure if I’ve ever used that phrase before). I hear some influences of Belle & Sebastian (In the band’s elegance….The Smiths, too) as well as The Housemartins (in their exuberance). Both “Maybe in the Dark” and “Stars” keep the chugging engine going but they slim it down a bit on the (just as catchy but more minimal) “American Girls” and especially the hand-clappin’ “The Cooler King.” Vocalist Daniel Hopewell doesn’t seem like he has any lack of confidence, seriously, it seems like this band should be going places. They’ve gotten a lot more press across the pond (no surprise there) but slowly getting noticed here, too. That’s good, they deserve it. www.modernoutsider.com

Ha Ha Tonka
I got turned on to this Springfield, MO band from their last record, 2011’s DEATH OF A DECADE (I then worked my way backwards and got their first 2 releases , both on the Bloodshot label as well). DEATH OF…was a strong record with excellent songs that had a real punch to them. Also, the songs were varied too, not all easily fitting into one category or style (I also love Brian Roberts’ vocals, both soaring and intimate at the same time). I was anxious to hear the new LESSONS and I’m pleased to say that the band have made a perfect follow-up the D.O.A.D. For this record, the band sought inspiration from author Maurice Sendak (RIP), not that I would have been able to figure that out had I not read it, but there you go. While sonically it’s not too different than D.O.A.D. it is slightly more orchestrated than that record. Opening cut “Dead to the World” has some beautiful violin but doesn’t forget to kick out the jams, too which leads right into the soaring “Colorful Kids” and then “Staring at the End of Our Lives.” Of the 14 songs they could have left 1 or 2 off but overall LESSONS is pretty strong from start to finish (and make it to the end as the final song, the acoustic “Prove the World Wrong” is beautiful). The whole band just breaks out of the gate like they have all of the confidence in the world. Good for them, they should. www.bloodshotrecords.com

….and I always thought this band was San Diego-based. Since leader Rick Froberg was a member of Drive Like Jehu but apparently Froberg left SD for, where else… Brooklyn, NY. There he hooked up with former Edsel guitarist, Sohrab Habibion and the two found a rhythm section and voila, Obits was formed. Yeah, there’s been some hype but these guys are the real deal. Real, honest-to-god rock songs that rock (imagine that). It’s loud, it’s aggressive , in other words, they don’t pussyfoot around, they plug in, turn on and let ‘er rip. I liked their first two records quite a bit (2009’s I BLAME YOU and 2011’s MOODY, STANDARD & POOR) they come roaring out of the gate from the very beginning, “Taste the Diff” and press the gas pedal all the way down until the final tune, “Double Jeopardy (for the third time)” . Actually in college I used to have this old VW Bug and on occasion the gas pedal WOULD get stuck all the way down and I had to quickly throw it in neutral and thus wind the engine up, get the rpm’s way up there and I nearly killed the thing a few times. I’m not implying that Obits are out to kill you or even hurt you (then again, the name of the band IS Obits). On the contrary, this one should be called 15 BIG ONES. Oh sure, Mike Love might get pissed off, but who cares. Mike Love not war. www.subpop.com

The Buckaroos
In the liner notes to Play Buck & Merle, in 1965, a new member of Buck Owens' backing band expresses befuddlement about the idea of his new gig spending weeks in the studio recording new instrumental versions of songs they'd already recorded for The Buck Owens Songbook. The question rightly deserved to be asked; it does seem rather bizarre to record new versions of old songs. But Owens had a point--the instrumental versions of his hits like "My Heart Skips a Beat," "Act Naturally," and "I've Got A Tiger By The Tail" shine a new light on what the listener thought they new; stripped down of vocals and harmonies, one hears an intricate, delicate artistry at work. Sure, the cynical might say that Owens did this for a royalty cash-in, and perhaps he did--he was a savvy businessman, after all. One's cynicism goes out the door, though, when one hears "Before You Go." It starts with a fast pace, then abruptly changes, then abruptly goes faster, and then abruptly slows down. Though one might not have noticed it with Owens singing, what one is hearing is something that sounds a lot like an outtake from the Smile sessions. The second album in the set, The Songs of Merle Haggard, was released in 1971, and does much to highlight that Haggard was more than just a lyrical wordsmith. The instrumental takes of now-standards such as "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "Okie From Muskogee" turn those classic numbers into some red hot dance numbers. In fact, if there's anything to be said of this Haggard set, it's that they bring out a joyousness that Haggard's lyrical heavy-handedness covered up. They don't sing the verses, but they do sing along with the choruses. If I were to tell you that "Mama Tried" could be turned into a heavenly country hoedown, you'd probably rightly scoff. These two albums highlight a band that often didn't get the credit they deserve, and Plays Buck And Merle wonderfully corrects that error. If you only thought of them as Hee-Haw hacks, this collection will change your mind. www.omnivorerecordings.com JOSEPH KYLE

Barton Carroll
While the name Barton Carroll is no household name he has played with some more well-known folks, including Eric Bachmann/Crooked Fingers and Azure Ray. He was born and raised in North Carolina but has called Seattle home for several years. I was lucky enough to have a publicist send me his first solo record (2006’s LOVE & WAR) and have been a fan ever since. This record is at least partially autobiographical (something Carroll admits he resisted in the liner notes) and as Barton puts it, “So these songs are reflections of an upbringing in the Appalachian Mountains seen through the lens of several years of city life on the West Coast. Like when Tom Waits sings, “I never saw the East Coast until I moved to the West.” The record is real low-key and homespun, a few of my favorites on here include the twisting “Beech Mountain Waltz” and “Mama’s Making Something on the Loom.” There’s lots of musicians out there these days doing the folky thing but Barton is among the best. Listen and find out for yourself. www.skybucket.com

Man or Astroman?!
DEFCON 5 4 3 2 1-(COMMUNICATING VESSELS)-I have always suspected that the evil geniuses that comprise Man or Astroman must’ve built themselves a time-machine at some point and this new chunk of wax PROVES it. They transport us back to the mythical year 2000 and I for one couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve always dug the Astromen (I mean, how can you deny them?) and the songs on Defcon 5 4 3 2 1 are quite simply: infectious, incendiary bursts of noise and fun. Oh, and in case you forgot, they’re still some of the best musicians on the planet. (Brian Teasley is an absolute monster on the drums – so impressive.) I saw them on their recent tour and they were unbelievable – best show of the year so far, BY far. The tracks that make up Defcon are straight-up classic MOAM: a mix of instrumentals as well as vocal tracks, but without too many annoying sci-fi movie samples that they used a bit too much in the past. The songs “Antimatter Man,” and “Codebreaker 78,” alone are worth the price of admission. It’s just a blazing, roaring, almost-out-of-control garage-surf blast from end to end. To come back with an album this strong after a decade-plus hiatus is a rare thing to accomplish (nod to Superchunk who have done the same in recent years). The Astromen have, without a doubt, delivered the goods with this one and it should not be missed. Over and out. www.communicatingvessels.net JEREMY GRITESJOSEPH KYLE

I just became hip to the whole Nobunny thing with their last record. Oh how my life was empty before discovering this dude who likes to wear a bunny mask everywhere and apparently likes to play with very few clothes on. This is his 4th record and though it was recorded in lots of different studios and bedrooms it has a consistent feel of a studio record. Not to make you think he has gone all slick on us, no way. These 14 songs continue on the blueprint of lo-fi, garage-punk-pop and once again, he does not forget the guitar hooks. Most of these songs have more hooks than your grandpa’s tackle box (sorry, stole that line from an old Sloppy Seconds record review). A few of my faves here (which will undoubtedly be yours too) are “True Vulture,” “The Birthday Girl,” “My Blank Space” and “Trouble in Mind” (perhaps an ode to the record label?). SECRET SONGS isn’t too much different than his previous records as those were chock full of scratchy, catchy songs and so is this one. You can’t lose, unless you don’t listen, then you’re a loser. www.gonerrecords.com

Man, it’s been a while since I gave a Superchunk record a REAL listen. Oh sure, I checked out 2010’s MAJESTY SHREDDING and enjoyed it but never really went back to it. Popped this one in on the drive to work today (after seeing the band here last month at Riot Fest where they put on a solid/strong set minus Laura) and was duly impressed. As I began listening to the songs I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is really good. Why didn’t I listen to (and review) this sooner?” They still do the kids-on-coffee thing in a tune like “Void” while they do not forget the beauty in a tune like “What can We Do” and still roar with a straight-up hardcore track like “Staying Home” (all 1:15 of it). On “Me and You and Jackie Mittoo” they pay homage to the Skatalites/Studio One legend and you want melody? Don’t forget the hook-heavy “Out of the Sun.” When it’s a band like this, that I began listening to on their first record over two decades ago, I usually end up going back to their classic early stuff (not just Superchunk but any early 90’s band either still around or with a long catalog) but I could see I HATE MUSIC being a record that I go back to just like those early records. To me this sounds like classic Superchunk. www.mergerecords.com

Crystal Stilts
It’s hard not to listen to the music of Brooklyn combo Crystal Stilts and not see a bunch of pretentious goth boys busy staring, sneering at themselves in the mirror. That’s not really the case as I finally saw them just the other night and the band is a mix of characters (though the band’s founders, vocalist Brad Hargett and guitarist JB Townsend (he looking a bit like a tousled version of Crispin Glover) look like they could both use some real good night’ sleep). On this, the band’s third full-length (and first full-length of Sacred Bones after a few eps) the band shows no signs of slowing down as NATURE NOIR has a batch of terrific songs from the band’s usual reverby/bubbly underwater songs (“Star Crawl”) to the wired n’ weird stylings of “Future Folklore” to the low-key/pretty “Sticks & Stones” to the near rave-up “Darken the Door.” There’s very few weak songs on NATURE NOIR, even some of the lesser ones, like the opening “Spirit in Front of Me” and “Memory Room” are still pretty good. The band has expanded their sound though they’ve done it quite subtly and NATURE NOIR shows a band willing to grow but do it in a way where they keep their old fans and welcome new ones. Don’t miss their live show either. www.sacredbonesrecords.com

Tommy Keene
Keene seems to have found a good home for himself on Second Motion Records after stints on Matador, Geffen and a few other (remember, he’s been at it since the early 80’s). This was a pleasant surprise, a covers record but if you think Keene picks obvious choices, well, think again. Oh sure, he might pick some obvious choices as bands (The Who,. Television, Big Star, Rolling Stones, etc.) but the choices for songs are not obvious (and the song title comes from a Who song, “See Me, Feel Me” , but one he doesn’t cover on here, instead he chooses to cover The Who’s “Much Too Much” from their debut). He tackles both Television’s “Guiding Light” and Guided by Voices “Choking Tara” with his usually crisp and crunchy guitar style and both of those end up being among my favorites on the record. He also covers tunes by Donovan, Big Star and the Bee Gees among others. If you want to hear a covers record imbued with spirit and passion (by a music fan who’s full of the same) then look no further, EXCITEMENT AT YOUR FEET is here and it’s most excellent! www.secondmotionrecords.com

The Mountain Goats
ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS-(MERGE RECORDS)-After nearly a decade of low-key releases, tons of cassettes, and an appreciative audience in the lo-fi community, John Darnielle was on the precipice of something greater, something bigger. All Hail West Texas, released in 2003, was the beginning of his transformation. Ostensibly a concept record about Texas (though it being "West" Texas is a bit disingenuous), it's more a record of narrative songs that tell great stories in three minutes or less, accentuated with tape hiss. Much like Another Side of Bob Dylan being the sound of a young artist ready to jump to electric, the quality of Darnielle's songwriting simply begs for a band, a studio, and a producer. At the time, opening "The Best Ever Death Metal In Denton" was the highlight, garnering lots of college radio-play--which, admittedly, made me not think much of The Mountain Goats--but its cute and cleverness belies the awesomeness of the rest of the album, selling short the rest of the album. One hears tales of kids gone wrong ("Fall of the Star High School Running Back,") heartbreak ("Distant Stations"), and love ("Riches and Wonders," "Jenny"). This reissue contains a half-dozen demos, and while they're of a piece with the rest of All Hail West Texas, they don't add anything revelatory. Considering the way that The Mountain Goats would soon change, looking at it now, one hears a young man chomping at the bit and ready to blossom into something greater. www.mergerecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Pastels
I often think that John peel’s quote about the Fall can apply directly to the Pastels as well: “Always different, always the same.” It’s kind of incredible. No matter how much time passes between albums, what members shuffle through the ranks or what’s currently “happening” in “Music,” they always sound like the Pastels. That’s a talent in and of itself kids. Slow Summits is a decidedly mellow affair, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bummer. It’s that classic, jangly Pastels laziness - lilting its way through the record in a way that we’ve all come to expect and cherish. (see: “Summer Rain.”) Gone are the days of the noisy drones like “Baby Honey,” or the uppity “truck, train, tractor.” Now there are flutes and horns alongside somewhat muted distorted guitars, all topped off with Stephen’s unmistakable vocals. There are a couple of upbeat numbers like the title track and the bouncy, happy “Check my Heart,” which could be the single? “Come to the Dance,” is a nice hat-tip to the Velvets/Mo Tucker and “Night time made us,” is there to remind us all that without the Pastels there would be no Ladybug Transistor, Belle & Sebastian, Essex Green and dozens if not hundreds of others. If ever there was a record to listen to while laying in a grassy park, by a river, with some wine, in a beautiful foreign country, on a breezy summer day – this is it. Cheers. www.dominorecordco.us JEREMY GRITES

Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders
There’s a certain (small) percentage of folks who will tell you that any band that pat Todd is in is the greatest rock band on the planet. There were several who stated it when he led LA’s lazy Cowgirls through several records of the best bar-band punk this country has ever seen. Not sure when that band called it quits but several years back out pops his new band, the Rankoutsiders (which includes a Lazy Cowgirl or two). The guy,. Pat Todd, is also the least likely looking rock man you might seem, short and bald(ing) but when he takes the stage he’s got the strength and confidence of 100 men. If you’re expecting something different on 14TH AND NOWHERE well, don’t. It’s more of the same thing that he perfected in the mid 80’s and kept going because no one told him he was supposed to quit. The sound is a heady brew of 50’s rock, 60’s garage, 70’s punk and some real bloozin country music too and r & b, too. There’s some scorchers on here (“Carry’n a Torch,” “Dancin to a Pack of Lies,” the title track, etc.) and some heart-tuggers as well “Didn’t have to Die,” “You & Your Damn Dream,” “I Won’t Forgive You,” etc.). There’s so-called rock music and then there’s ROCK music This is the latter. Believe it. www.rankoutsiderrecords.com

When I was 12 years old and begging my parents for a guitar, they would only allow me to get an acoustic. Now, had I moved on to an electric and learned to play like Alister Parker of Bailterspace, I could understand why my family would want to restrict me. The man creates the most unholy ruckus you could ever expect to hear from a musical instrument, and yet he and his bandmates somehow control the chaos so that it never gets pretentious or unwieldy. Coming hot off the heels of last year’s “Strobosphere” album, the 12-track “Trinine” is another delightful gift of noise from the New York-based Kiwi trio, which includes Brent McLachlan on drums and John Halvorsen on bass. The opening (and title) track is a dense, dreamlike satellite glide over a nighttime skyline leading on to “Painted Window,” with the sheet metal shimmer of a guitar that remains melodic despite its distortion. “Today” and “Tri5” are beasts unleashed, with Halvorsen’s bass taking a more prominent role to create depth to all the chaos going on above it. “In the World” is a drive on a darkened street, foot heavy on the accelerator as splashes of cymbal and bass weave in and around a rhythmic guitar. In “Plan Machine,” Parker snarls like a snotty kid over a cheap PA system, while “Open” offers up a swaying tempo, the bass switching octaves and prowling underneath Parker’s gentle but insistent strum. “Together” offers a welcome change in time signature (6/8 as opposed to 4/4), with Parker wrapping his moody, hushed vocals in a fuzzy blanket of guitar. “Silver” is also a nice change in sound, with a lovely, echoing guitar line over skittering drums. “Gamma tram” is a gorgeous 39-second wash of reverb; “Films of You” features some percolating sounds and an angry, fuzzy guitar that eventually drowns out Parker’s voice. “TapenZloop” wraps things up with the sound of Parker’s guitar becoming possessed by some sort of demonic robot. If you find beauty in tension and bliss in dissonance, “Trinine” will definitely do the trick. www.firerecords.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

A pal had been trying to get me into this San Diego duo (Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell) since their first or 2nd record (this is their 4th) but I resisted the whole way. Not sure why, maybe it’s because of their Echo & the Bunnymen-inspired name but that wouldn’t make any sense as I LIKE Echo. Anyway, I reluctantly spun CRIMES OF PASSION….then I spun it again and again and before I realized it I had played it several times in a row at work and was liking it more and more. If you’ve read anything about then you know they’re inspired by all things British and pop (Echo, Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream ,etc.). They got The Raveonettes Sune Rose Wagner to produce, the right amount of fuzz and, well, one insanely catchy song after another. Try it on for size: “I Like it in the Dark,” “Marquis de Sade,” “Cockroach,” “Heavy Metal Clouds” (probably my favorite in the bunch) and on and on. It’s nice finding a record that will end up making my top 10 for the year when going in that was the furthest thing from my mind. Bully for them! www.frenchkissrecords.com

Terry Malts
NOBODY REALIZES THIS IS NOWHERE-(SLUMBERLAND)-I have to admit, I was bummed when the Bay Area band Magic Bullets broke up a few years ago but was overjoyed when I heard that 3 of the members formed a new band (they being bassist/vocalist Phil Benson, guitarist Corey Cunningham and drummer Nathan Sweatt). The ‘bullets were much janglier/more sensitive (big Postcard Records influence there) but as Terry Malts the guitar are much louder and on here they shows influences by bands like the Buzzcocks and Jesus and Mary Chain. Their 2012 debut, KILLING TIME was nice but this sophomore effort is even better. 11 songs catapult by in just over a half hour and songs like opener “Two Faces,” “I Was Not There” and “Buy Buy Baby” will flatten your ass in the best way possible. www.slumberlandrecords.com

George Thorogood & the Destroyers
I know many of you are probably wondering what the Hell Daggerzine is doing reviewing George Fucking Thorogood, right? Well, the reason is that these first two Lps with the Delaware Destroyers are pretty fucking killer – that’s why. It took me a long way to get there, but I get it now. Story-time: In the late 90’s indie-rock heyday I got burned out on all that stuff and needed to re-adjust my ears and re-evaluate music. I did that by getting into a ton of Mississippi delta blues guys like Sleepy John Estes & Lightnin’ Hopkins, guitar-primitive cats like John Fahey and even gospel-blues stuff by the likes of Blind Gary Davis and Sister Rosetta Tharp. My favorite out of all of them however was John Lee Hooker. In 1977 when George Thorogood released the Hooker medley that we all know as “1 bourbon, 1 scotch and 1 beer,” Hooker stated that it wasn’t his song anymore – that Thorogood owned that song now. Not in legal terms, but musically – he owned it. He also referred to Thorogood as his “white son.” That right there was enough for me to give these records a chance and I discovered that they are actually great records. It’s amazing to me that a record company would even put these out in the middle of the punk / new wave / MTV / 80’s radio-blandness of that era, and even more amazing was that it was popular! It must’ve surprised George and the band as well considering they went from being on a beer-league softball team together to opening for the Rolling Stones. So, obviously there are top 40 hits on these discs that you may well be tired of, but there’s plenty else to go around. Another thing that surprised me during my listening was that the production of these two records is so basic and true-to-form, which is great. These Lps stand up because they did not fall prey to shitty 70’s-80’s production fads. That, plus the fact that Thorogood is a thorough-LY schooled musician and music fan with an air-tight rhythm section backing him up. Only a few tracks in, I had already picked out references to Link Wray, Mississippi John Hurt and of course John Lee. In the end it’s just a rock-n-roll record, but more than that, it’s a return to where rock-n-roll came from – the Blues. Kurt Vonnegut suggested that the Blues might be the single greatest American invention. But that’s a story for another time. Hey, even if he’s only half right, it’s worth a try right? www.rounder.com JEREMY GRITES

Chet Baker
Plays The Best of Lerner & Lowe-(RIVERSIDE)-
In his lifetime, trumpet legend Chet Baker was known as a raconteur and a bad boy--drug abuse, jail, Mafia beatings, and a questionable death. His music, however, never really reflected that persona; his jazz was smooth, mellow, and romantic. Plays Lerner and Lowe is a collection of his interpretations of the showtune-writing duo's greatest hits. His smooth tone fits these popular standards quite well; "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "I Talk To The Trees" are, quite simply, aural ambrosia, a taste of something quite Heavenly. The rest of the record is equally beautiful, enjoyable, and delectable. For a man whose life was anything but peaceful, these songs are some of his most relaxing and his most enjoyable. (Riverside) JOSEPH KYLE

Alex Chilton
Now THIS is cool. Apparently Chilton was playing one night at the Knitting Factory in NYC. He was playing two sets, but after the first set the power went out. Most of the patrons had gone home but the ones who stayed were treated to Chilton picking up an acoustic guitar and cranking out a superb , off-the-cuff, 18-song set. A fan caught it on a hand-held cassette record so the sound quality isn’t great but you know what? It’s good enough and adds to the mystique of the evening. The song selection is terrific as well opening with the cloppidy-clop of Clyde Owen’s “Last Bouquet” into Glen Shirley’s “Step Right This Way.” Later on he tackles novelty tune “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “Girl from Ipanema”, and Louden Wainwright’s “Motel Blues.” After that he tackles a Joni Mitchell song and then a trio of Beach Boys songs and then slips into Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”, among others. While this might sound like it’s for Chilton completists only, it’s not. It’s a set of songs that any music fan with a heart can appreciate, capturing one of America’s finest songwriters (who left us in 2012- RIP) on a truly special evening. Wow, wish I had been there. www.bar-none.com

The Clean
VEHICLE REISSUE-(CAPTURED TRACKS)-Ok, so before we even start, you should all know that this band (and this record in particular) is one of my all-time favorites, forever, end of story. So, if you’re looking for an un-biased review, you should look elsewhere because I am about to get sappy. It’s hard to believe that the Clean began in 1978 and the original release of Vehicle (1990) was their first official LP. The reaction I had to hearing this album when it came out was very similar to inaugural exposures to bands like Big Star or the Velvets – it was exactly what I always wanted music to sound like. The crazy thing is that, unlike many albums important to me in my formative years that have aged poorly, this one seems to increase in importance to me. I have always declared that this is one of the best records the Clean, Flying Nun as a label or ANY label has ever released and that it was a tragedy that it had been out of print for so many years. Well, thanks to Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks label, it’s available once again and it’s as good as ever. CT did a superb job on this re-issue: it’s now a gatefold sleeve with great liners and pictures inside and also comes with the bonus In a Live EP which was equally as rare as LP copies of Vehicle’s first pressing! The recording quality of this album has always sounded flawless to me and I was glad to see/hear that CT didn’t monkey around with it too much, it sounds awesome. For me, Vehicle is a perfect record made by a band at their apex - every song is a classic, everything sounds amazing. Tracks like “I wait around,” “Someone,” and “Blue,” still give the chills 23 years later. For other NZ guitar-pop nerds like me who have been waiting for this reissue for years, don’t hesitate, it’s totally worth it. For those that are possibly just getting into this stuff, don’t hesitate, it’s a perfect place to start. This is a desert-island disc FOR SURE, and it’s great to hear it on 180g vinyl in all its glory. Seminal.

Iris Dement
This was actually released last year so I’m late on the draw on this one but her folks were nice enough to send me a copy and by god I’m a believer of better late than never on a review. This is Iris’ first record of new material in 16 years (hard to believe, huh? But yup, since 1996’s THE WAY I SHOULD….2004’s LIFELINE was a collection of gospel covers). Like a lot of her records, this one is carefully crafted, very detailed and at least partially autobiographical (Dement comes from a big, musical family) and most of the time, simply gorgeous. She could have probably been a star in Nashville had she opted to go that was but thankfully she didn’t. A few of my faves on here include the bouncy “The Night I Learned How Not to Pray”, the piano bounce of “Go On Ahead and Go Home, the sad, soaring title track and the gorgeous “Makin’ My Way Back Home.” In these songs there’s lots of heart, soul, piano and the soaring ache of Dement’s vocals (and let’s not forget her homespun wisdom). God I sure wish she would release records more often than she does. www.irisdement.com

The Winkies
With its mixture of pub rock, power pop, glam, and blues, this slightly odd but interesting one-off album was recorded by the Winkies, a quartet Brian Eno took as his backing band in 1974 on his first and only solo tour. The group, led by Philip Rambow and Guy Humphrys (each vocalists and guitarists), recorded these 10 songs back then, released them in 1975, and then broke up. Reissued and remastered, the CD cover, with its slyly provocative crotch-level image of men in Speedo-type suits, led me to believe I was about to hear some aggressively sexual music, and indeed the opening track, “Trust in Dick,” had me anticipating some entendres, but the only obvious one I heard was in the chorus: “Trust in Dick, he won’t let you down.” Apart from that, Philip Rambow sounds a bit like a bluesy Pete Townshend, and crunchy guitars chords abound. Other highlights include “Put Out the Light,” sung by Guy Humphrys, with an air of melancholy reminiscent of Big Star;, and the sprawling, nearly 6-minute narrative of “Twilight Masquerade,” in which Rambow sings a jaded tale of his love for David Bowie and Lou Reed but not their “lizard entourages.” “Out on the Run,” with its dirty, greasy slide guitar, brings Foghat to mind, and the plaintive “Wild Open Spaces” serves up some glam, with Rambow playing Bowie to Humphrys’ Mick Ronson. “Davey’s Blowtorch” briskly chugs along with some tasty wah-wah action, and in “Red Dog,” Rambow – who was born in Canada – tells a tale of being born “up on the tundra, where electric north lights glow.” Three of the album tracks are covers: a medley of Ruth Roberts’ “Mailman” and Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”; Johnny Horton’s “North to Alaska”; and Bob Seger’s “Long Song Comin.’” The Winkies were certainly a versatile band, sounding like a number of different bands back in 1974. The only drawback is that they weren’t all that distinctive; a second album with more originals might have proved me wrong. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Belle & Sebastian
There was a time when I waited for the release of this bands records (singles OR full-lengths) with bated breath. I’d get them, play them incessantly and never shut up about them. I loved just about everything they did (including their first odds and sods collection, 2005’s PUSH BARMAN TO OPEN OLD WOUNDS which collected their first few eps). Their last two full-lengths they’ve sort of landed down to earth. Yes, 2006’s THE LIFE PURSUIT and 2010’s WRITE ABOUT LOVE are fine records, ones any pop band would love to call their own, but they’re not the brilliant ones the band was creating in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Which brings us to THE THIRD EYE CENTRE, which isn’t really a proper full-length but more of an odds and sods collection. I’m guessing most of these were outtakes from those said two records, but the band gets a chance to stretch out a bit here, songs that might not have necessarily fit on those records but hey, toss on a collection and many of these songs are very good! When I hear a great outtake by a band I always wonder why the band didn’t see fit to put it on a proper record but hey, it’s their band, not mine, right? It opens with an unique version of “I’m a Cuckoo” (remixed by The Avalanches…hey, I like the flutes!), a terrific rushing pop number called “Suicide Girl”, an ok tropicalia number (“Love on the March”), a bluesy-pop number that was darn good (“Last Trip”), a Stevie Jackson ballad (“I Took a Long, Hard Look”), somet5hing vaguely reggae “(The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House”), a superb Richard X mix of “I Didn’t See It Coming” and plenty more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even Belle & Sebastian’s outtakes are better than most band’s grade-A material. So there. www.matadorrecords.com

Bill Evans Trio
In 1961, just as their star was on the ascent, tragedy befell the Bill Evans Trio. Scott LaFaro, their young, innovative bassist, was killed in a car accident. Understandably, Evans and drummer Paul Montain put the trio on hold. The trio's first major recording sessions took place a year after LaFaro's death, with Chuck Israels taking the bass role, and resulted in two albums--the ballads album Moonbeams, and this. For a band coming out of a mourning period, How My Heart Sings is a rather upbeat affair, with every song being fast-paced, jaunty, and celebratory. One gets the feeling that it's a life-affirming set, with the band appreciating life. Songs like the Gershwin standard "Summertime" and Cole Porter's "Ev'rything I Love"--both songs known for their slowness--sound positively joyous. New bassist Israels is a man with his own style; he's not LaFaro, nor is he trying to be. How My Heart Sings is the document of a band recovering from a major tragedy, and returning in fine form. www.concordmusicgroup.com JOSEPH KYLE

Kid Congo and the Pink Monkeybirds
HAUNTED HEAD-( IN THE RED )-Another nice new offering from Kid Congo Powers who is on a major tear these days. I mean, what do you expect from a dude that was in the Gun Club, the Cramps AND Nick Cave’s band!? Seriously though, I really dug the two previous Lps he’s done with the Pink Monkeybirds and Haunted Head only ups the ante. As usual, Congo’s patented smoky, silky vibe glows through the grimey, reverb haze, but I think this record rocks a bit more than its predecessors. It’s kind of equal parts Iggy & Richard Hell mixed with a little Lou Reed and Lee Hazelwood. Also typical of his recent releases, the production is spot-on – murky in the right places, blown out at the right times – he just has “his thing” SO down that you have to appreciate it. Haunted Head is a top-shelf garage-soul romp (with a coupla creepy waltzes thrown in for good measure) and its ACE. Well-done. www.intheredrecords.com JEREMY GRITES

The Moondoggies
From afar I’m guessing that this Seattle band have a really rabid local following. Hell, a rabid following wherever they go. I liked their first two records but on this, record #3 they really put it all together where they mix fuzzy folk, jangly pop and more jagged Crazy Horse-ish guitar workouts. The record opens with a short interlude (I’m a Ghost”) but then rips right into the heavier “Red Eyes” and then , on cut #3, sounding a bit like Fleet Foxes on “Annie Turn Out the Lights.” On the beautiful “Midnight Owl” they reminded me a bit of terrific Athens, GA band Futurebirds . So far everything I have mentioned is on side one so in the final 6 songs (side b…I like to call it even thought it ‘s a cd) you have the shuffling, pleasant “Stop Signs”, the ragged “Start me Over”, the poundingly melodic “One More Chance” and on and on. There’s one thing that this band definitely knows how to do and that is write a stellar song and ADIOS I’M A GHOST is full of ‘em. www.hardlyart.com

The Selecter
The Selecter was one of my favorite 2 Tone bands, part of the second wave of ska and rocksteady groups to come out of the late ‘70s. Not only did they come up with plenty of buoyant and incisive tunes, they had Pauline Black, whose vocals, by turns soulful and playful, set them apart from an otherwise mostly male-dominated genre. The appeal of this double CD set is twofold: if you liked these songs the first time around, you’ll like them again and may appreciate the updated sounds; if you’ve never heard them, they’re a good introduction to the band. The first disc consists of various EPs released in the ‘90s, just as the third wave of ska gained momentum. The 1996 version of “On My Radio,” originally from 1979, gets punched-up production and even more energetic vocals and organ solo. The reworked version of “The Selecter” is jitterier than the original and therefore loses some of its beguiling moodiness. Bringing in Prince Buster to help record his song “Madness,” the tune that inspired that OTHER group that took it as a band name, was an inventive choice; hearing a female sing the song gives it a new twist. Proving that it wasn’t just getting back together to go over old ground, the Selecter’s newer songs, “Hairspray” and “Die Happy,” each featuring witty wordplay and catchy melodies, sound totally in place with all those other ska bands popping up in the 1990s; Gwen Stefani was no doubt(!) influenced by Pauline Black. The cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “Sugar Town” is a bit of a misstep; pairing pedal steel with Black’s vocals does a disservice to both genres, with a tempo too fast for country and too slow for ska. However, the band’s cover of Toots and the Maytals’ “Sweet and Dandy” is a novel combination, matching a great song with Black’s expressive voice. The second disc, “Greatest Hits Live,” contains 20 songs that provide an extensive overview of the band’s work, with one glaring omission, “Celebrate the Bullet.” Unfortunately, the liner notes give no clues as to when and where these were recorded, but the band is in fine form. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Glad that someone still has their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in Columbus, OH. That person is Bela Koe-Krompecher. The guy used to book the city’s coolest club, Stache’s, was once part owner of the city’s best record store Used Kids Records and has for 2 decades run it’s best record label, Anyway. Connections is made up from some folks who were in previous Columbus bands like Times New Viking and 84 Nash (singer Kevin Elliott and guitarist Andy Hampel were in that band). The songs are short, loaded with fuzz and awfully good. My immediate thought was BEE THOUSAND-era Guided by Voices and while that does seem to be a good starting point for this band, some of the guitar work gets even heavier (check out “Casuals”) while others songs like “On Your Mind” and “Sister City’ are catchier than psoriasis. Best part about the back of the record is the “Mostly recorded on Stevie Nicks’birthday.” But oh and the swirly pink vinyl sure is purty and the best song title? “Totally Carpool.” If YOU Mr. and Mrs. Record Buyer don’t make these guys rich no one else will, so get to it. www.anyway-records.com

Stan Hunter & Sonny Fortune
The meeting of organ player Stan Hunter and sax player Sonny Fortune is funky, enjoyable mid-60s jazz club fare. You know the affair's gonna be a good one from the first notes of album opener, "Trip On The Strip," an upbeat number with some red hot playing. The groove is accentuated by Hunter's wonderful keyboard. The duo tackle one of the Beatles' greatest hits, "Yesterday," and thoroughly pull it off. The album's sole ballad, "Invitation," shows they could slow down the tempo and make some rather lovely music. All in all, this record is a fun one, full of happy, jumping jazz music. www.realgonemusic.com JOSEPH KYLE

Joanna Gruesome
WEIRD SISTER-(SLUMBERLAND)-Well, everyone else has commented on the name and so will I, it’s pretty goofy (I’m assuming it’s piss take on freak folker Joanna Newsom?) but then again it’s on Slumberland, a label known for impeccable taste so I would have checked it out no matter the band name was. Anywho, the band hails from Wales (see what I did there?), there’s five of them including female vocalist Alana McArdle and have crafted a terrific 10-song fuzzy noise pop record that clocks in at just under thirty minutes. Apparently the group has released several singles and eps but this is their first full-length and it’s a corker (apparently many of the songs on here were previously released but were all re-recorded for this record). “Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers” opens things up in the right way being a two and a half minute blast of bubbly melodic noise as is the rousing “Sugarcrush.” You want more? Check out the (their labelmates) Veronica Falls-ish “Lemonade Grrrl” and the riot grrrl-ish “Secret Surprise” (but none of those riot grrrl bands ever wrote a song this good) and the sweet/sour “Graveyard.” Those of us who grew up on early 90’s indie pop will eat this stuff right up (I want seconds) and even younger folks, newer to the genre will have a hard time not liking it. They, like Veronica Falls, just nail it. www.slumberlandrecords.com

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy
As most of you know, Kilbey was a member of 80’s Australian pop moodists The Church while Kennedy is a member of ambient pop band All Indie Radio. This is their 3rd record together (4th if you count their live record, LIVE AT THE TOFF) and honestly, I never heard the first two but after hearing YOU ARE EVERYTHING I feel like I need to go back and check those other ones out as this is a seriously beautiful record. The sound on these 11 songs is moody, mysterious and magical. First cut “I Wouldn’t Know” has a dark, warm groove to it but with an intoxicating melody as does the eerie “Everyone” (in which Kilbey trades vocals with Leona Gray). Later on “I Find” shows Kennedy creating a luxurious bed of music for Kilbey while “East Side West Side” continues on with the records theme of exploring time and space. Not sure if I want to go ahead and call it a masterpiece but man, this un’ is good. Kilbey himself called it “”Probably one of the best 3 records I’ve ever worked on, I don’t say that lightly!” I say intimate in the best way possible and recommended if you like the darker work of David Bowie and Talk Talk. www.kilbeykennedy.com

Ty Segall
Being an old-head, I must admit that I don’t know much about young Ty Segall other than that he’s a helluva guitar player and seems to release an album or single every 2-3 months. This latest release (solo, not with his new outfit FUZZ) just came out in August and is quite different than most of what I’ve heard from him and about him previously. First of all, it’s nearly entirely acoustic. There are a very few electric overdubs here and there, along with some non-traditional “beats” in certain spots, but no full-fledged drums. The album opens with its title track, a washy dirge that immediately reminded me of Jeremy Enigk’s debut on Sub Pop, but things keep changing throughout and it stays interesting. For instance, the album’s closer “The West,” is a strummy, upbeat tune that’s a bit like early Dylan doing a country song and it’s really quite good. Overall the album feels and sounds like some lost T Rex demos on a mixtape with some far-away, fractured Syd Barrett recordings – which is indeed meant as a compliment. The 5 song stretch from “The Man Man,” to “Sweet CC,” is a perfect example of this and also the heart of the record. At times the guitars are damaged, at others they’re cleaner. The reverb swells and recedes from song to song. The melodies are always there however and the songs are definitely cool. It may take previous fans by surprise – I don’t know. It was certainly different from what I expected, but I am really enjoying it. It’s a damn good psych-folk record no matter what. Perhaps this was the perfect place for me to start in his catalogue and I can now work backwards. Either way, it’s worth a listen. www.dragcity.com JEREMY GRITES

Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack
Born to Love was the result of a collaboration between two soft-soul giants. Released in 1983, lead single "Tonight I Celebrate My Love To You" quickly became a standard ballad in weddings across the world, as well as a constant "light" radio station playlists. The song was a major hit, and rightly so, because its an extremely beautiful love song. The rest of the album retains that mellowness, with the baritone-tenor interaction between Bryson and Flack a definite highlight. Sure, there are a few more up-tempo numbers like "Heaven Above Me" and "I Just Came Here to Dance," but the rest of the album's vibe is mellow, loving, and romantic, "You're Lookin' Like Love To Me" and "Born to Love" being highlights. This was pure 80s pop, but it was no mere album of fluff built around a hit single; Born To Love is a strong, beautiful album that delights the listener with some great easy-going sounds. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Elf Power
With Sunlight on the Moon, Elf Power has cemented its transition into the rare long-tenured outfit that unveils threads of innovation while remaining, from a songwriting and performing standpoint, consistent. Andrew Rieger remains the brainpower and energetic auteur behind the "magical Elves" (as Elyse, a Southern Oregon songwriter whom Elf Power briefly coaxed out of retirement in the early 2000s, called them), but he again has assembled a solid roster of musicians to back him on record and, presumably on tour later this year with Neutral Milk Hotel. Rieger's songs have become a shade darker over time, as the title of "Darkest Wave" (one of the record's most hypnotic and best tracks) might suggest. Sunlight is indeed bleak-sounding on most of the tracks, yet Rieger is still able to concoct precious pop hooks when needed, as he did with the outstanding title track. He's also incorporated the fuzzier touches from its cousin-band Olivia Tremor Control into several compositions, such as "A Grey Cloth Covering My Face," another fantastic song. Other standouts include the relatively sunny "Chromosome Blues" and the It's A Beautiful Day-like "Manifestations." Sunlight is a fine record. It could have been better without the heavy bass (I can't tell if it's from the production or the mastering that muddies several of the songs, particularly the opener "Transparent Lines." Rieger also used a drum machine on several songs, which only made me miss the poundings of the excellent Eric Harris. Still, Sunlight on the Moon suggests that Elf Power will continue to be viable as long as Rieger keeps writing and playing. Which could be a while: New listeners continue to discover the Elephant 6 collective that spawned Neutral Milk Hotel (and Olivia Tremor Control and the Apples in Stereo) and nurtured bands like Elf Power and the now crazily successful Of Montreal. There'll definitely be more demand for Rieger's music. And that's very good news, especially for those of us who've come to expect Elf Power releases every couple of years that, like Sunlight, are, at the very least, really, really good. www.orangetwin.com Andy Giegerich

New Bomb Turks
DESTROY OH BOY-(CRYPT- vinyl reissue)-My god this band was good. In the early 90’s four pals from thee Ohio State University decided to form a little garage punk band. Influenced by the good stuff (The Saints, Pagans, Ramones, Dead Boys, etc.) they released this unreal debut in 1993 on Tim Warren’s Crypt Records label, then the home for all thing no-fi garage punk (his full-page ads he used to run in zines back in the day were hee-larious…basically dissing most of what was being passed off as punk or garage rock). Well, here we are 20 years later and Mr. Warren, still walking our planet, has decided to reissue this as a 2-lp vinyl re-ish complete with gatefold sleeve, liners by, among others, John Petkovic (a man who knows a thing or two about Ohio punk rawk), rare pics, etc. All that stuff is well and good , but man, you HAVE to hear the songs. Many bands can slay in a live setting but it’s rare when a record can tear a roof off, this one can. From the insane opener , “Born Toulouse-Lautrec” to the final cut “Cryin’ into the Beer of a drink Man” and everything in between (including a cover of Wire’s “Mr. Suit”) this record is an absolute scorcher. The band would go on to release many other superb records on the Crypt and Epitaph labels (a few other labels too, Gearhead, etc.) but this is where it all started. It’s their first and their best (IMHO). Go! www.cryptrecords.com

The Polyphonic Spree
Wow, has it really been 11 years since that first Polyphonic Spree record arrived complete with plenty of hype and 25 or so people on stage in colorful robes? Yes, it has (and I DID see that first tour at the Aladdin Theatre in Portland which was uplifting in an odd way. Hey, at least all of them fit on one stage). Since that record I haven’t really kept up with them at all but was surprised to learn that the new record was being co-released by England’s legendary Cherry Red Records (and Dallas label Good Records, funded, at least in part, by fans). I was skeptical, but longtime DAGGER writer Joseph Kyle assured me the record was good. Dude was RIGHT. Leader Tim DeLaughter is back with him scaled-back crew and I wasn’t sure what to expect, was it going to be some weird folk gunk?, goofy new wave? 60’s influenced sunshine pop? Relentless hardcore? Well, a little of all (ok, not hardcore). The songs are tight, direct and they move (the rhythms sound a bit like a marching band). They’re catchy and busy but without all of the excess that previous DeLaughter’s songs were occasionally bogged down by. The songs are all titled Section, (ie: Section 33, Section 34, etc) but with a subtitle in parentheses next to it. 11 tunes, no b.s. My favorites include the soaring opener “You Don’t Know Me” , the carefree “Hold Yourself Up,” the swirling “Carefully Try” (reminding me bit of mercury Rev) and ther propulsive “What Would You Do?” A few of the cuts drag, but most of YES, IT’S TRUE is terrific and not at all what I was expecting. Bravo for them. www.goodrecordsrecordings.com

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
Alright, time to ‘fess up: I have totally missed the boat on Mr. Whitfield (real name: Barry White!), but I’m on board now and I am ready to testify. This is totally great, authentic garage-soul and Whitfield is an absolutely terrific front-man and singer. I’ve since learned that Barrence started the band in the early 80’s while living in Boston. He fronted the first version of the Savages – who were actually just the LYRES backing him up! WTF!? Again, I don’t know how I managed to not know THIS either and I feel shamed. (I’m currently in pursuit of those original lps along with the steady-yet-sporadic stream of releases thereafter.) So the super cool thing about this new pile of songs from Whitfield is that after many years and lineup changes, his boys from the Lyres are back with him and it’s a fucking blast! It’s full of sizzling guitars, crashing drums, and dirty, wailing horns - not to mention that Whitfield’s voice is bold, forceful and just scratchy enough. Check out “I’m sad about it,” and tell me I’m wrong. They play and sing their asses off from start to finish and there isn’t a clunker in the bunch. Some automatic favorites include “Turn your damper down,” “Corner Man,” and “Oscar Levant.” Honestly, it’s some of the best new garage / soul / r-n-b since Andre Williams’ Bait and Switch album came out on Norton a decade ago. Their tour starts this week (!) and I am not gonna miss it. Have a house-party and throw this sucker on repeat. Yesss. www.bloodshotrecords.com JEREMY GRITES

The Grand Opening
Lazy, gentle, unhurried. Those are the words that best describe this Swedish band's style, and their delectable fourth album. This quartet's sound is rooted in Americana, but their sound is a bit more atmospheric and cinematic. Songs like "False Light" and "Targeted" are accented by an electronica-minded haze, which allows lead singer John Olsson's voice--one that has a Neil Young tone--to blossom into something truly remarkable. Not to worry, though; the dark tones of "There Is Always Hope" and "Tired Eyes" accentuate the grayness, and help to present a consistent style while breaking the monotony that hinders similar artists. I'd never heard of them before this record, but it's certain that this record will be on repeat. www.tapeterecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

His Electro Blue Voice
Apparently this trio, who hail from Italy, have released some singles over the past several years (on labels like Sacred Bones, among others) but this was the first I’d heard them (I really need to get out more….and really, what is up with the band name????). I would have guess that they were youngsters from the US of A who were more than a little influenced by the Am Rep bands of the late 80’s (God Bullies, Surgery, etc.) or perhaps current Sub Pop miscreants like Pissed Jeans, but no, they’re youngsters and yes, they hail from the land of good food and good wine. The seven songs on here ooze for just over half an hour but they are an intriguing buncha songs and the song titles let you know you’re not in for a feel-good evening (“Death Climb,” “Spit Dirt,” “Tumor,” etc.). I can’t recall a point in the record where I was bored and when was the last time you could honestly say THAT? I’ve got one question, what the HELL is that on the cover? Go on, snuggle up to your loved one, play “Tumor” and heck, see what happens. Go on. www.subpop.com

Martha and the Muffins
TRANCE AND DANCE-(CHERRY RED)-Whew, it’s been a long wait; 33 years, to be exact. But Martha and the Muffins’ second album is finally available on CD in its entirety, with six bonus tracks to boot! Up until now, I had to make do with a cassette copy of my brother’s vinyl version and the few tracks that made it onto compilation CDs. Hot on the heels of “Metro Music” – the band’s incredible debut album -- “Trance and Dance” was somewhat of a disappointment, mainly for its lack of cohesion; the band wrote some of these songs before “Metro Music.” Still, if you don’t mind breaking the tracks out into various categories, you’ll find something to like. The bouncy sax, frenetic guitar and cheerfully cheesy keyboards that were the hallmarks of “Metro Music” are back for several songs, including “Luna Park,” “Symptomatic Love,” and the standout “Suburban Dream,” which features these classic lyrics: “Hockey Night in Canada is such a bore since the old man bought a brand new car.” Martha Ladly (one of the two Marthas in the band) contributes two of the more subtle, gentler tracks, “Was Ezo” and “About Insomnia”; she went solo after this album. The more cynical, but still relatively sunny-sounding side of the band shows up in “Teddy the Dink,” “Am I On?,” and “Be Blasé,” and if you’re the least bit annoyed by Martha Johnson’s mannered vocals, these are the songs that may grate. The title track, with its dark, moody keyboards, is a gorgeous coda, and sounds like something Look Blue Go Purple – a Dunedin Sound/Flying Nun band from the early ‘80s – could have easily covered. The bonus tracks consist of four live songs (three from “Metro Music” and one from “Trance and Dance”) and “Girl Fat” and “1 4 6,” B-sides to “Suburban Dream” and “About Insomnia,” respectively. While “Trance and Dance” is far from perfect, it’s perfectly splendid having it available again. Fanatics of New Wave music, take note! www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Ski Lodge
It’s impossible not to mentions classic UK bands like The Smiths and Orange Juice when you hear this Brooklyn, NY band. I originally thought the band was from the UK based on the vocals of Andrew Marr (no relation folks). You know the sound: jangly guitars, propulsive rhythm section , dramatic vocals and usually sad lyrics. Also, from what I’ve read, other than one song where he had a band, Marr wrote played and sang everything on here himself which makes it all even more impressive (you’d never know it, you’d probably think it was a full band like I did). The songs are good, too, sometimes very good. Opening cut “Anything to Hurt You” and second cut “Boy” both bounce and cut like only the best pop songs can and later on “Just to Be Like You” and are charmers as well. A few of the songs were a little TOO mopey for me (ok, so it was really only the title track and I didn’t even really hate that one) , if just a bit, but most of BIG HEART shows just that. Head on over to jangle town. www.dovecoterecords.com

Typsy Panthre
Was impressed by this Mpls duo and then realized it’s Allison LaBonne (formerly of the Legendary Jim Ruiz group and more recently The Owls and The Starfolk) and John Crozier who was on two terrific Grimsey Records bands of yesteryear (Ninian Hawick and Ninotchka…and if you have not heard Ninotchka’s “I’ve Got Wings” 7” please go listen on You Tube….it’s amazing!). On here she sings and he plays the instruments and it appears to be a match made in dream pop heaven with intoxicating melodies and LaBonne’s gorgeous vocals. At times Stereolab-ish (like on “Loma Clark”) and other times like the best Europop (“Hitch-Hiker”) while also dabbling into folk territory at times (“Hal”). This is the first release on this fairly new Minneapolis pop label with several other excellent release out by the likes to The Starfolk, The Ocean Blue and the Jim Ruiz Set. Head on over to the link to the right and see what all the fuss is about. www.kordarecords.com

Blue Aeroplanes
In some ways, it’s a shame “Yr Own World” is such a brilliant song. The second track off this album was my introduction to the Blue Aeroplanes in 1991 when “Beatsongs” originally came out. Through the years, it’s been all too easy to pull out the album for that one song and its infectious blend of catchy phrases and jangly guitars. Trouble is, by sticking to it, I overlook lots of other good tunes, and with this reissue – the original album plus a bonus disc of B-sides and previously unreleased tracks – there are plenty of other delights to sample. One thing that should be stated from the get-go, though: this band is mostly about speak-singing. Front man Gerard Langley bothers little with musical notes and instead uses his voice to recite, cajole, harangue, yell, and wisecrack. Guitarist Rodney Allen sings a few songs, and his plaintive, angelic voice is a refreshing break now and then. Langley is a remarkably talented wordsmith, and four of the five musicians in the band play a variety of instruments, providing an ever-shifting, mood-evoking backdrop to Langley’s narratives. Besides “Yr Own World,” highlights include “Angelwords,” with its cascading words and ascending guitar strum; “Fun,” a rallying cry for introverts sung by Allen with backing from the Jazz Butcher; the Celtic folk beauty of “Jack Leaves/Back Spring,” featuring mandolins, violin, bouzouki, and memorable lines like “I got confusion shoes … I got a Levi’s jacket … I should be happy with that”; and the raucous remake of Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble.” Most of the bonus disc songs are memorable as well, particularly “Mean Time,” the acoustically tinged prototype for “Yr Own World”; and “Disney Head,” in which Allen sings, “Well, it’s time to cry away another dream, now I’ve tripped up and landed on my self-esteem.” All in all, a nice rediscovery (original album) and discovery (bonus disc)! www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Merry Clayton
Since this will be in cyberprint, I won’t have to duck after saying it: I’ve always thought Neil Young’s version of his “Southern Man” was a bit messy – compelling & oddly exciting? Sure. But somehow bogged down by the caution Young may have felt about putting the song out; perhaps missing the ineffable balance, when it works, of Young’s emotive song craft with restraint. So it isn’t just refreshing to hear an African American sing the pants off a song about a prejudiced mofucka. Clayton’s cover is a scorcher; effectively reined in after three minutes and 16 seconds. Since this collection’s all about covers, the other 16 tracks tend to be good, great, or amazing around her ability to get her teeth around the composition. Standouts include a ballad, “After All This Time;” a chunky take on “Country Road,” an intimate rendition of “A Song for You,” a beautifully soulful twist on one of the best makeout tunes of all time; “Oh No, Not My Baby,” and the ebullient “Sho’Nuff.” If Clayton’s name sounds familiar, it’s likely because of her vocals on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” If her vocals sound familiar, it might be because you’ve watched Baretta or seen Robert Altman’s film Brewster McCloud (she sang theme songs for both). The 60-something diva, whose vocals could be a cross between Mavis Staples’ and Tina Turner’s, is getting additional, overdue recognition in the new 20 Feet From Stardom documentary.www.legacyrecordings.com MARY LEARY

Daughn Gibson
ME MOAN-(SUB POP)-Whoa, dude is DARK. Dude has a voice that sends shivers up your spine--imagine an amalgam of Scott Walker, Mark Lanegan, Nick Cave, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and David Eugene Edwards. In other words, it's heavy, it's rooted in darkness, and it sounds as if it's crying out from a very scary place. What prevents Gibson from being mere pastiche is that his arrangements are a blend of the more traditional folk and country and a very dark techno. It's not folktronica; it's really something greater than that, something that's rarely been heard before, and almost never succeeded. Opening track "The Sound of Law" is instantly captivating; Gibson's voice crying out like something evil coming out of the swamps. The rockers "Won't You Climb" and "Kissin' On the Blacktop" sound like popular plays on Hell's jukebox. The only bum note is "Franco," and that's merely because Gibson sounds annoyingly like the lead singer of Crash Test Dummies. Still, one bummer doesn't negate the rest of the record; Me Moan is an impressive introduction to a starling young talent. www.subpop.com JOSEPH KYLE

Honey LTD
Well, what’s not to like here? Four lovely women, dressed in colorful clothes and sitting in a garden. Oh there’s also the fact that these are the recordings they did for Lee Hazelwood in the late 60’s. The band, who I had never heard of before receiving this record, apparently met at Wayne State University in the late 60’s and were originally known as the Mama Cats. They were backing Bob Seger at the time but apparently caught Lee Hazelwood’s ear and he brought them out to LA to record with the Wrecking Crew as their backing band. The rest is history….well, sort of. The band broke up in 1969 after the record tanked but 3 of the 4 members reformed as the country rock trio Eve (need to check them out). Anyway, back to this, THE COMPLETE LHI RECORDINGS is 13 soulful, psychedelic pop numbers (they cover “Eli’s Coming” , made popular by Three Dog Night ) with some pretty amazing harmonies. On days that you discover a record like this, well, it makes it ALL worthwhile, a lost classic record from a bygone era that’d id never heard before. I was lucky enough to get a vinyl reissue which comes in a beautiful gatefold sleeve complete with a stunning full-color picture of the band (let’s face it…any of these women could have been a model) and a poster and booklet with liner notes by Jessica Hundley. Kudos to the Light in the Attic label for unearthing this gem. Wow! www.lightintheattic.net

Pure Bathing Culture
The name sounded interesting them I saw the video for “Pendulum” ok, ok…so my curiousity is piqued. I do a little more digging and find out that they hail from my former adopted hometown of Portland (we left in Feb. 2012…they moved there from , where else, Brooklyn, NY). No sooner do I request a copy of MOON TIDES for review and one shows up at my po box later that day (ok, that was weird) and damn if it’s not a real nice pop record ( I then ended up seeing them live a week or so after I first heard it and they delivered on stage! The live band is 4 piece though the core of the band is Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille. Some of the songs remind me at times of Beach House and the Cocteau Twins as it’s all dreamy guitars, swoony synth work and Versprille’s icy/warm vocals. The opening, cut, “Pendulum” is a gorgeous, intoxicating pop tune as is song number two “Dream the Dare.” The rest of the record, 9 songs in all, doesn’t get as good as those two songs, but the rest is still GOOD (“Twins” has a real nice bounce to it and loved the soaring “Only Lonely Lovers”). If you’re thinking that MOON TIDES has a few good songs and too many throwaways then think again. Songwriting seems to be their specialty and I want to hear more. www.partisanrecords.com

The Cowsills
If you don’t know about The Cowsills they were a family band, made up of siblings who hailed from Newport, RI (The Partridge family was based on The Cowsills). The original era of the band lasted from 1966-1971 and this particular record was the final one from that era. Apparently this reissue is the first legit one on cd, it has the 12 original songs as well as three bonus tracks. This one reminded me less of The Free Design and more like the later , early 70’s Beach Boys stuff like SUNFLOWER and SURF’S UP (which I believe this came before). One listen to “Can You Love” will tell you all you need to know (same with the gorgeous “The Mystery of Life” – both written by Bob Cowsill) while the slightly psychedelic opening track, co-written by Waddy Wachtel, was the record’s only single. The two songs written by Barry, “Dover Mine” and “Down on the Farm” have a country influence while the eerie “Heather Says” sung by Susan (and also co-written by Wachtel) is about a class bully. At the time of this records release the label, MGM was apparently having issues of its own so the record didn’t get promoted as strongly as it should have but take my word for it, it’s a terrific record with several strong songs and NOT a throwaway. Believe it. www.cherryred.co.uk

Dog Party
Though I had never heard or even heard of the band before the back story seemed interesting enough: Two young sisters (last name Giles) playing Ramonesy pop punk. Apparently these two have been playing music since they were little kids and now, at the ripe old age of 17 (Gwendolyn- guitar and vocals) and 14 (Lucy- drums/vocals) these two are ready to retire. Kidding! DOG PARTY is their third record but first for Asian Man and these 13 songs whiz by in under 30 minutes with songs about, what else, crushes on boys (I’m guessing they don’t rail on their parents too much as they must be super cool for letting them be in a band). A few of my faves include opener “How Are You Doing?”, the fuzzier/snottier “Box of Handkerchiefs”, the Tiger Trap-ish “Best Friend”, the rippin’ “I Can’t Wait” and their faithful of cover of X’s “Los Angeles.” Fans of Best Coast as well as Cub will want to check out too. Now I want to go find their older stuff. www.asianmanrecords.com

Kissaway Trail
BREACH-(YEP ROC)-Well this was a pleasant surprise Had not heard of this band before but after a little digging found out that they hail from Denmark , have released at least two other full lengths and some eps (some as far back as 2006) and create some nice, dreamy pop. The three guys, Thomas, Soren and Hasse, evidently impressed the Yep Roc label enough to release this record (their debut for the label) and their music can be soaring, majestic and at times dramatic (I always think of the Yep Roc label as being a home for alt-country , and while I know that they release other styles of music, kudos to them for releasing this terrific record). Despite its name, “The Springsteen Implosion” reminded me of Sonic Youth’s poppiest moments while the first single, “Norrebro” reminded me a bit of The Pixies and “Sarah Jevo” was more in the Arcade Fire vein. So the band is not afraid to wear influences on their sleeve but thankfully don’t come off as slavish imitators. On the contrary, these songs are too damn good. www.yeproc.com

Sam Phillips
I approached Sam Phillips’ latest album with a question: “With several Phillips CDs already in my library, do I need another?” ‘Cause what Phillips has done, for over a decade, is reliably repetitive: craft solid, minor-key-friendly songs that often build from verses to choruses that resolve as many Beatles songs did circa Rubber Soul and Revolver. She can be depended upon for mixes that add textures and interest to the above. Her husky lead vocals (and multitracked vocal harmonies – where would a great mid-to-late ‘60s pop song be without harmonies?) carry the tunes perfectly. Now that I’ve heard Push Any Button, I have only one suggestion – and that would be to inject some surprising new juice by way of someone else – perhaps Howie Beck, or me? - singing along with Sam. And maybe cut the albums short by a tune or two. Otherwise, I got nothin’ to recommend to one of the best pop songwriters around. “Pretty Time Bomb, “Can’t See Straight,” “You Know I “Won’t,” “When I’m Alone” and the verse of “No Time Like Now” are currently circling my brain without any sign of cessation; making great arguments for practicing something over and over until better songs than Sam’s written in years come out. www.samphillips.com MARY LEARY

Wharton Tiers Ensemble
Wharton Tiers is a man with a long, storied, and interesting production record. He's produced noise, he's produced indie-pop, he's produced experimental sounds, and he's probably produced at least one song by your favorite indie rock band. His latest outing, Freedom Now!, is a collection of sonic delights, instrumental rock that is hard and heavy, but sounds familiar. Blend a little Beach Boys, a little Sonic Youth, a little Greg Ginn, a little Unrest, and a little Ventures, and that's a succinct description of the sound of Freedom Now! It's a sonic onslaught, of course, but it's a very varied onslaught. Any album that mixes the dainty pop of "Last Train Out," the grunge-like sounds of "Suite #23," and the heady psychedelia of "The Randomness of Insects" WITHOUT sounding like a sonic dilettante is doing something right. Then again, of course something right's being done--you don't become "Legendary producer Wharton Tiers" without doing it right. Freedom Now! is a record that's simple in concept, complex in delivery, and an all-around enjoyable listen. www.whartontiers.com JOSEPH KYLE

Beach Day
If you’ve read this site for any length of time you know this much, if a band has the word beach in its name then you’ll at least get my attention. It took me a little while to get to this young Florida trio. At first I’d heard they sounded a lot like Best Coast and there are some similarities but Beach Day seem to have more in common with bands who go for the girl group sound of the 60’s, bands like The School and Camera Obscura. The trio, Kimmy on guitar/vocals, Skylar on drums and Nat on bass whip up some nice little pop nuggets on this record and the 11 songs go by in just under 33 minutes. The band is at its best when it’s kicking out punchy pop tunes. Like the first three songs: “Walking on the Streets”, “Days” (the single) and the band’s signature track, “Beach Day.” Oh sure, there’s a few ballads on here that are snoozers but most of TRIP TRAP ATTACK will be a perfect replacement for that sugary cereal you eat in the morning. (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, thank you very much). www.kaninerecords.com

Grateful Dead
A reissue of one of the finer moments in the Dead's classic 30-something volume of official bootlegs. This is a rather electric show, finding the young band developing into the live phenomenon that would sustain them for the next three decades. Though at this early stage, they're not quite there; future standards "China Cat Sunflower" and "Morning Dew" already sound like classics, while the version of "Dark Star" that appears here has to be one of the shortest version's I've ever heard. Not everything is excellent; "Born Crosseyed" is just a tad bit too generic in its jamming. Don't worry, though, as "Spanish Jam" and "Caution" are amazing jams, as is the final song on the set, the proto-punk five minute blast of feedback called, well, "Feedback," which sounds a whole lot like that grunge thing that was popular a few years back. Thanks to the internet, there are tons of Dead shows to be found, but this one highlights a band starting to discover the full range of its power (Real Gone Music) www.realgonemusic.com JOSEPH KYLE

Don Rich and the Buckaroos
THAT FIDDLIN MAN-(OMNIVORE RECORDINGS)-A few months back, the world was given a rare jewel: the only solo album recorded by Buckaroos guitarist Don Rich--a talented young man with an amazing guitar style who died in a motorcycle accident, just as his career was beginning. That Fiddlin' Man is credited to Don Rich, but it isn't a solo album per se; instead, it is a compilation of previously released material where Rich took the lead. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos were highly prolific, and often released compilations such as this one, to help each band member get a bit of a higher profile. This collection has doubled in length--due in part to the original album's amazingly short length of barely twenty minutes. For the most part, these songs are all Rich compositions--the closest he ever came to having his own solo album. The material's good; songs like "Louisiana Waltz" and "Going Home to the Bayou" sit nicely between more traditional fare such as "Orange Blossom Special" and "Faded Love." His guitar style is distinct; though Buck Owens and the Buckaroos may forever be associated with Hee Haw, that affiliation does nothing to hide that Rich was a very talented, versatile guitarist. Owens would state that Rich's death almost caused him to quit making music, because he had an eerie premonition about the accident the night before, and did nothing to stop Rich from leaving the session. For those not familiar with Rich and his style, this is a superior introduction to a lost and (sadly) (but fortunately no longer) forgotten talent. www.omnivorerecordings.com JOSEPH KYLE

Wow, where’d this band come from? Well, for me they seemingly came out of nowhere but folks in the know have probably been listening to them since their inception (probably in the past few years, I’m guessing). This all-female London quartet come armed and ready with a batch of terrific songs. Fiercely independent and defiant, this ain’t no cutesy gimmicks band (think The Waitresses or The Flirts, two bands I happen to dig, by the way). Think more of UK bands from yesteryear (The Raincoats, The Slits, etc.). A listen to the first 30 seconds or so of the opening track “Shut Up” will tell you all you need to know, whether it’s your bag or not. Throughout the 11 songs vocalist Jehnny Beth sings, shrieks, howls, brays while the rest of the band lays down a righteously jagged groove. I never much care for Sleater-Kinney (who I’m assuming are a big influence on Savages) but I completely dig this, go figure. I felt like a schmuck reviewing this thing 3 months late (the release date was May 6 and I have been listening to it since then) but ultimately it doesn’t matter does it? Great music is great and who knows, maybe someone reading this has never heard of the band and this review will make ‘em go out and pick the record up. Could happen, right? www.matadorrecords.com

I guess , according to the press sheet , this is an ongoing series (last year was Songs for the Lyon’s Cornerhouse) and this one happens to be the first one on Bob Stanley’s (one third of the great St. Etienne) new label, Croydon Municipal. Well, as the title suggest this is all NYC artists and if you’re thinking bands post ’75…..like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth and the like well, Mr. Bob goes back even further. Try folks like Vince Guaraldi (“Softly As in a Morning Sunrise”) Sammy Davis Jr. (“Bee Bom”) . You want some doo wop? Check out the beautiful song by The Tams, “Untie Me.” and there’s more, girl groups, some Latin-flavored stuff, sultry instrumental, etc. Names you’ve heard of (The Drifters, YMS Sumac, Dion, Connie Francis, Henry Mancini, etc.) and name you (or I) hadn’t heard of before (Billy Storm, Don Rondo, The Four Tunes, The Jive Bombers, etc.). Though I really like a lot of this kinda stuff, I don’t have much of it in my collection so a compilation like this is perfect for me. And not just for a picnic either, I could do with this on our next roadtrip or house cleaning. Liner by compiler Bob Stanley and next time you see him, buy him a tall drink and give him a pat on the back. I sure will. www.cherryred.co.uk

More pop gold from Sacramento’s finest pop label, Test Pattern Records. Had never heard of this bunch before and it is essentially the work of one two guys. Christopher Larsen who used to be in a band called Buildings Breeding and his pal Andrew Hoke (aka Bird Petersen, apparently a nationally known dj). Larsen wrote all of the songs and since Bird lives in Austin (and Larsen in Sacramento) they collaborated by email. They call this stuff electro-shoegaze (sounds good to me) and the songs ride the crest with heaping/heaving waves of guitar, sprinkles (ok, dollops) of feedback and a pulsing rhythm that keep the songs grounded. Some of the songs shake, like the moving “Every Mile” and the title track while others like “Street Lights’ and “Sun Dial” sweep and move the clouds from one side of the sky to the other. A few of the cuts were a touch too gauzy for me but most of CHARM will tickle that part of your brain which reminded you of why you got into outsider music in the first place. www.testpatternrecords.com

Townes Van Zandt
Over the past two or three years, there's been a bit of a Townes Van Zandt resurgence, thanks to reissues, tribute records, and a fine--and outright heartbreaking--documentary. This is a good thing, as he was simply one of America's finest singer-songwriters. His "outlaw country" appeal and hip cache was formed in part by the obscurity of his records; his catalog's fallen in and out of print, and sometimes it's been impossible to find his records. Surprisingly, his two albums that are considered among his finest work, 1971's High, Low and In Between and 1972's The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, have only rarely been available on individual CD's, often falling out of print as fast as they're released. (Note: A 1996 EMI twofer has been available as a budget release, and has been the perennial top seller in his catalog.) Both records are of a piece; painful, plaintive songs sung from heart, sincere, apologetic songs that instantly find a place in the listener's psyche. Like Hank Williams, Van Zandt defies easy qualification; his songs are haunted, coming from a place that's not earthly and often not peaceful. For this reviewer, there are simply not enough words to describe the magic that's found between the grooves of these two records, and there's a reason why songs like "To Live is To Fly," "You Are Not Needed Now," and "Pancho & Lefty" are so frequently covered. "If I Needed You" is, without doubt, perhaps the greatest song Townes ever wrote--a simple, plain, no-frills love song that makes one forgive the irascible rogue who wrote it. The Rosetta Stone to Van Zandt, however, can be found in the final song on The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, "Heavenly Houseboat Blues." As he sings of redemption and forgiveness and healing, seeking peace in the eternal life, one finds it warm...until, suddenly and unexpectedly, he starts making gurgling noises, with the song quickly fading off. Make of that what you will--I know it haunts me every time. If you want to know the story of Townes Van Zandt, there's plenty of opportunity to do so, and these two reissues are essential entrance points for you to do so. www.omnivorerecordings.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Ventures
WALK, DON’T RUN-(‘EL/ CHERRY RED RECORDS)-I had heard some Ventures music back in the day (considering I surfed too) but I think it was Arizona punk band JFA, who covered “Walk Don’t Run” back in the early-mid 80’s that had me take a closer look at this classic, instrumental surf band. The band formed in the late 1950’s in Tacoma, WA by two construction workers, Bob Bogle and Don Wilson. Dick Dale may have come first but The Ventures surpassed him in popularity (apparently in Japan they are/were huge…in the liner notes it states they outsold the Beatles 2 to 1 and that there are an estimated 600 Ventures tribute bands in Japan (!!???). This reissue of their debut, originally released in 1960, includes the original records 12 songs but in both the mono and stereo mix plus two bonus tracks. In addition to those 26 songs, there is a 9-song record by a pioneering UK guitarist Bert Weedon called TEENAGE GUITAR (pardon my ignorance but I had never heard of Bert Weedon before) but his music fits right in with The Ventures making this one hell of a package! In addition to the classic title track, The Ventures debut also includes “Caravan,” “Sleep Walk,” “Raunchy,” “No Trespassing,” “Home” and planet more. If you like reverb you’ve come to the right place. Go! www.cherryred.co.uk

I had no idea what to expect when asked to review the new album by Weekend, but when the opening track, Mirror, kicked in I immediately knew what I was getting into. Weekend wear their influences like a cheerleader wearing a letterman’s jacket proudly and unashamedly. They channel 80’s English post punk bands with a dash of shoegazing thrown in for good measure. That’s not to say that they’re derivative, they’re able to translate those influences into their own sound without sounding retro. The vocalist, Shaun Durkan, keeps his vocals obscured quite a bit of the time as he glides over the dreamy and propulsive music. He tends to repeat phrases which works in the music’s favor across the album. Most songs are driven by a steady beat that, over the course of the album, can wear thin and start to sound…samey (did I just make that up?)? Jinx is definitely a really good album but it’s best to take in small doses. www.slumberlandrecords.com CHANCE FIVEASH

Link Wray & Friends
Crashed amps! Faulty valves! Wrecked speakers! According to the press release that accompanies this album, these are just some of the methods guitarists have used, intentionally or otherwise, to create all those wild and weird sounds we’ve come to love and associate with rock and roll. However, these techniques were around long before Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend worked them into their repertoire. This 27-track collection takes on the ambitious task of chronicling the evolution of the electric guitar, from its humble beginning as a sonic sidekick to a horn section in a swing band, represented here by Charlie Christian and “Solo Flight,” to the snotty fuzzed-out monster buzzing the listener’s ears in the Ventures’ “2000 Pound Bee Pt. 1.” For the most part, the album does an admirable job, although it makes no attempt to be chronological. For example, it begins with Link Wray, who gets top billing here as “The King of Distortion,” starting with his signature “Rumble.” I admit, I was one of those who didn’t give much thought to anything else by him, but this album took care of that as it progressed to seven more distinctive numbers, including the playful, jangly “Slinky” and the imaginative “Poppin’ Popeye” in which Wray’s strums his part just a beat behind the rest of the band. From there, the collection backtracks to the ‘40s, returns to the ‘50s, and ends up in the early ‘60s. It also hops from genre to genre, offering up the hot jazz of Django Reinhardt; the earthy, raspy blues of Howlin’ Wolf and his mighty slide guitar; and Johnny Guitar Watson’s wonderfully bizarre “Space Guitar,” which is one of my favorite songs on the album along with Chet Atkins’ “Blues in the Night.” I have a few quibbles with this collection; the major one being that they omitted Les Paul and Duane Eddy; the minor one being the sketchy liner notes. But overall, there’s not a bad track in this bunch. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Ruthann Friedman
The first Ruthann Friedman record I got was the cd reissue that was on Water Records a few years ago. On this the Now Sounds sought fit to cobble together an 18 song compilation (song recorded from 1966-1970 including some produced by The Millenium’s Curt Boettcher and Van Dyke Parks, among others) from her years through the late 60’s and early 70’s. Even though you might not know her name she was fairly well-known in the folk and psych circles in San Fran and beyond, oh and there was also that little song “Windy” that she lent (gave) to The Association which became their biggest hit. Other than her version of a Randy Newman song, “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy plays on this record, too) the songs are all Ruthann’s and again, the songwriting is so strong you’ll wonder why she never got more famous. “Windy” (a demo) and the Newman cover are both terrific as are the “When You’re Near”, the very of-the-time “I’ll Make You Happy’ and the bouncy (with horns!) “Burning House”. Considering this is a collection from a 5-year period this flows together quite nicely. Informative booklet with liners by Now Sounds heads honcho Steve Stanley and plenty of excellent photos. Another winner from Now Sounds. www.nowsounds.co.uk

Future Bible Heroes
After an eleven year absence, Stephin Merritt resurrects his dormant Future Bible Heroes project. Dagger readers will know that this is his darker new wave band and collaboration with bandmate Claudia Gonson and Christopher Ewen. Unfortunately, Future Bible Heroes suffer from a most unusual curse--following up a perfect debut album. That record, Memories of Love, was, start-to-finish, a delightfully fresh collection of sunny but dark pop, and for many, it created such an impossible standard, it was almost predetermined that followup album Eternal Youth would pale in comparison. Partygoing, unfortunately, doesn't really compare, either. The arrangements are rich, and for this album, Merritt has returned to vocal duties, but that doesn't hide the fact that these songs feel like Merritt toss-offs. "A New Kind of Town" captures that Memories of Love, but for the most part, the humor seems forced, the cleverness is strained, and ultimately, Partygoing is a shockingly dull record that makes one long for a new Zinnias record. www.mergerecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Pinata Protest
EL VALIENTE-(SAUSTEX)-First off, any band that has a drawing of a masked wrestler on its cover is ok by me (Mil Mascaras was always one of my faves). This is the sophomore effort from a San Antonio band mixing punk and traditional Latino accordion music and it’s the real deal, this is no cheesy dad rock crap here (though some of these guys might be dads). The band lays it down heavy and vocalist Alvarado del Norte (who also plays trumpet and accordion) brings it all home with the energy and charisma you’d expect. The 43-second opening “Ghettotech” intro is classic and cuts like “Vato Perron” , “Life on the Border” and “Guadalupe” will have you raising your tall boy in no time. The record also includes cover of both “La Cucaracha” and “Volver, Volver” 9 songs, no filler. Are you ready? You’d better be, www.saustex.com

Charley Pride
These two albums highlight the versatile abilities of Country crooner Charley Pride, finding the singer adjusting to the change from "...and Western" to "Modern Country." There's A Little Bit of Hank In Me, from 1980, finds Pride paying tribute to the legacy of Hank Williams, Sr. It's a rather straightforward affair, with his interpretations proving to be faithful to the originals. Though all of the songs on this album are now considered classics of the Williams catalog, at the time a number of these songs, such as "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy" and "I Could Never Be Ashamed of You," were deeper catalog numbers when compared to classic numbers such as "You Win Again," "Honky Tonk Blues," or "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Burgers & Fries, the second album on this collection, predates the Williams tribute by two years, and serves as a great counterpoint. The title track--a personal favorite of mine growing up--was a hit upon release, and finds Pride and company adapting to the changing sound of Country music. The rest of the album follows suit; the classic twang of Pride's style ("The Best In The World," "Nothing's Prettier than Rose Is") fits nicely with a newer, cleaner, smoother pop production style that would soon dominate the Country scene. Songs like "When I Stop Leaving (I'll Be Gone)" and "One on One" predict the rise of Modern Country artists like Randy Travis, Alabama, and a whole host of others. Still, it's an adept record, full of great singing and superior arrangements. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

The Primitives
A few months back Cherry Red released this bands Lazy Records years double cd covering the years 1985-’87. This is a 2-cd set reissue of the bands now-classic debut record. And my god , has it really been 25 years since their debut?! Yes it has (and damn I’m old). The band, along with bands like The Shop Assistants and Darling Buds, melded fuzzed out guitars with killer pop songwriting into a lovely stew and this reissue reminded me of why I loved ‘em in the first place. In addition to the original 14-track album there are 11 songs on the 2nd disc that include some demos, a few live cuts and some single versions of a few songs (this includes a demo version of “Crash’ from 1985 and an acoustic version of “Way Behind Me”). While the rhythm section was happily bashing away it was topped off with Tracey Tracey’s sugary vocals and PJ Court’s sweet n’ sour guitar (think Johnny Ramone if he’d smiled a bit more). It’s all here: “Crash,” “Spacehead,” “Thru the Flowers,” “Dreamwalk Baby,” “Stop Killing Me” and plenty more. The liner notes are expertly written by all-around good guy (and the hilarious) Michael White. And don’t think this is strictly some nostalgia trip either the band released a record last year (ECHOES AND RHYMES) and are charging full steam ahead. Buy low, sell high and listen to the Primitives, dammit! www.cherryred.co.uk

Jack Endino
This three-song single is a taster for the legendary Washington producer's forthcoming solo album, and in case you're wondering, it's very much a g-word kind of record. This single's title track is some rather intense instrumental blues-rock. The second song, "Set Myself on Fire," is the title track to that full-length solo record, and it's easy to see how Endino's laconic singing style not only owes itself to the blues, but also was an influence on many of the bands he has worked with over the last three decades. The final track is a recording of his band, Endino's Earthworm, from a live gig, and is as well an exciting blues-rock number. This taster is great and whets the appetite for that full-length. I'm expecting it to be a pinnacle of g-word rock. (By "g-word," I mean "GOOD." What word did you THINK I meant, losers?). www.finrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

I was a bit confused here as I saw the label, Bridge 9, which I always thought was strictly a punk label Well, moseying over to their website it looks like most of what they have released is punk bands (Agnostic Front, DYS, H2O, etc.) but Lemuria is no punk band and that is just fine with me (I like BOTH kinds of music, punk and mostly everything else) and kudos to the label for branching out and releasing this. This trio from Buffalo, NY has been around in some form or another since 2004 and this is their 3rd full-length and I like most of what I hear on THE DISTANCE IS SO BIG (which was co-produced by the ban and J. Robbins). It’s basically noisy indie rock with plenty of melody. Guitarist/vocalist Sheena Ozzella’s vocals are occasionally forceful/occasionally sugary, but with a sense of purpose while the rhythm section of Alex Kerns (founder of the band with Ozzella) and Max Gregor on bass certainly keep the beat a humping and most of the songs are there. The record opens with the quirky “Michael and Stephen Moon” but then rips right into the records first single, the supremely catchy “Brilliant Dancer” (sung by Kerns) which is followed by the biting “Clay Baby.” From there on out the songs waver between straight-ahead poppy ones and more Pixies-ish grinders. I like the former ones better but regardless, the band is more confident this outing and THE DISTANCE IS SO BIG shows a band growing from their humble beginnings. Curious to see what their next move will be. www.bridge9.com

The Ocean Blue
ULTRAMARINE-(KORDA)-The first thing out of most people’s mouths when you mention The Ocean Blue is , “Wait, they’re still around?!” In fact, it was the first thing out of my mouth when I heard they had a new record out. Yes, the pride of Hershey, PA (well, other than chocolate) arte back and this is their first full-length record of new material since 1999 when they released DAVY JONES LOCKER (2005’s WATERWORKS was an ep) . The thing is, the band has been a model of consistency, basically doing one thing and doing it very well. What is the one thing they do? Come on, you’ve heard them…but, if you haven’t it’s create shimmering, jangly pop music with lots of keyboard and plenty of melody and if you’re concerned about ULTRAMARINE, well ,don’t be……it’s as strong as anything the band’s done previously. Main songwriter David Schelzel is still leading the pack (original bassist Bobby Mittan is still here as is longtime guitarist Oed Ronne and drummer Peter Anderson) and it’s funny how time heal all wounds whereas in the past the band were, at times, criticized as copycats they (like say Teenage Fanclub) are now the respected elder statesmen. Opener “Give it a Try” opens things beautifully and then drifts right into the gorgeous “Sad Night, Where is Morning?” Other highlights include “New York 6 AM” the bouncy “A Rose is a Rose” and the swirling “Sunset Moonrise.” Real nice record, glad they’re back. www.kordarecords.com (vinyl on Shelflife Records- www.shelflife.com

Roedelius Schneider
This is the second album by the collaborative duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster) and Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot), and much like their first album Stunden, it's a lovely, gentle mixture of piano and electronica. Sometimes, the blips and bleeps mix nicely with the organic sound of the piano and keyboards ("Graden," "Indie Woogie") whereas other times they are somewhat annoying, breaking the beauty with a distracting belch ("Umstunden," "Bald"). Still, the good outweighs the bad, and the listening experience is one that will bring you much peace and relaxation on a warm summer's night. www.bureaub.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Three O’Clock
At the time L.A.’s the Three O’Clock weren’t my favorite of the paisley underground bands (that was the Rain Parade) though if those band came out now, then this bunch might get the nod for being my favorite (being as poppy as they are). Apparently the band; drummer Danny Benair had spent the past decade trying to get this collection out (with help from all-around good guy Pat Thomas…..Benair also does a track-by-track description of each song in the booklet) and wow , what a collection it is! Most of these 21 cuts (one being a hidden track) are previously unreleased alternative takes and demos. The band uniquely mixed together several styles from the 60’s including , psych, pop and garage rock with a bit of a baroque flavor to it all (their debut EP was called BAROQUE HOEDOWN). In Michael Quercio’s voice (he played bass, too) , you had a voice that was a bit on the twee side but you never hated it, in fact just the opposite, it drew you in in an odd way while the rest of the band (Mike Mariano on keyboards and Louis Gutierrez on guitar) while the rest of the band didn’t miss a note. It had been years since I’d heard Three O’Clock classics like “Jet Fighter” “”With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend” and “All in Good Time” and they sounded wonderful (plenty more here too, like a Byrds’ cover of “Feel a Whole Lot Better” and a demo of Jennifer Only” from the pre-Three O’Clock band the Salvation Army). Wow, this is GREAT. www.omnivorerecordings.com

Camera Obscura
I’ve loved this Glaswegian band from the get go, the get go being the first time I’d heard their terrific debut BIGGEST BLUEST HI-FI back when it was released over a decade ago. Since then the band, led by songwriter Tracyanne Campbell, have been a model of consistency. The early comparisons to Belle & Sebastian (especially since B & S’s Stuart Murdoch produced said debut record) have long gone by the wayside to the point where now other, newer pop bands are now compared to Camera Obscura. I kept hearing this new one was a bit “different”, and “a little more slick” and even “a bit boring.” Well, I let myself be the judge of that and it’s true that DESIRE LINES took a little while to sink in and at this point I’d have to say it’s my least favorite C.O. record. BUT………having said that it’s not a BAD record by any means (when I say it’s my least favorite keep in mind that I have loved most of the others). Opening with the slow, sultry , soulful “This is Love (Feels Alright) (after a 30 second intro) and then right into the more upbeat “Troublemaker” (“Every Weekday” even has a slight island flavor to it ).There’s a lot more of those slower/sultrier tunes like “William’s Heart’ and “New Year’s Resolution” and it takes until the sixth song, the single “Do It Again” before they kick it into high gear with a real snappy one (their previous record, 2009’S MY MAUDLIN CAREER had the opening 1-2 punch of “French Navy” and “The Sweetest Thing” to start the record off). The rest of the record then vacillates between the two styles and, I have to say, it’s REALLY grown on me in the past few weeks (and since seeing them live a few weeks ago. Hell, talk to me in six months and THIS might be my favorite Camera Obscura record (and do not miss the next to last song, the gorgeous “Break It to You Gently”) . The band seems completely comfortable in their own skin at this point in their career and hey, if it is good enough for them then it’s definitely good enough for me. www.4ad.com

Kim Fowley
Want to blow some minds? Scare some squares? Then this compilation is just the soundtrack for you groovy people! You’re gonna dig these three happening albums. And the cat behind these far-out sounds? Kim Fowley! Forgive me for writing this way, but hearing Kim Fowley’s music will do that to you. His industry résumé is pages long, he bounced back and forth between his hometown of Los Angeles, England, and Australia from the 1960s through the 1980s, worked with the Runaways, Cat Stevens, KISS, Helen Reddy, Teenage Fanclub, and many others, but he also found time to make some records of his own. The two-disc “Wildfire” collection includes his three albums released on Imperial Records in 1968 and 1969, with tracks arranged in a cut-and-paste format. “Outrageous” and half of “Born to Be Wild” are on on Disc 1; “Good Clean Fun” and the other half of “Born to Be Wild” are on Disc 2. The “Born to Be Wild” album, mostly instrumental covers of songs like “Hello I Love You” and “Classical Gas,” is the most “normal” of the three, so perhaps it’s set up that way to put you in a mellow mood between Fowley’s other, more weird albums. After all, the very first track off this compilation, “Animal Man,” begins with Fowley yelling, “I’m ugly! Ha ha! Dirty, filthy, sneaky, horrible … I’m gonna kill you.” Steppenwolf guitarist Mars Bonfire, who wrote “Born to Be Wild,” also plays in Fowley’s band; consequently, many of the songs sound a bit like that band and somewhat like the Doors and Iron Butterfly, and when Fowley goes into his stream-of-consciousness rants, he sounds a bit like a goofy Jim Morrison. “Bubble Gum” is the highlight of “Outrageous,” with its trippy acid pop sound. “I’m Not Young Anymore,” written by Warren Zevon, is the wistful and sweet stand-out on “Good Clean Fun.” Other than that, most of these “songs” are Fowley’s comic, counterculture rants over fuzzed-out guitars and organ. To add to the enjoyment, listen to these on Windows Media with the psychedelic colors swirling around on your screen. Now that’s a trip, baby! www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

WORLD MUSIC-(ROCKET RECORDINGS)-Not much is known about this mysterious Swedish psychedelic collective, except that they've totally got the hard-rock/drugged-out space traveler thing going on for them. The bill of fare for this mystery group is wah-wah guitar rifts over banshee singing, unfunky funk rhythms, and general cacophony. Was this recorded in 2012 or 1972? My money's on either way. "Let It Bleed" isn't a Stones cover, but is a weird disco jazz hybrid. Other songs, such as "Golden Dawn" and "Diarabi," defy any kind of categorization. Oh, and they are an amazing live band. Oh, and they've signed to Sub Pop. That's about all we know...or all we need to know. www.rocketrecordings.blogspot.com JOSEPH KYLE

George Jones
It was a sad day this year when George Jones passed on, although some argued that he was lucky to have made it as long as he did considering his lifestyle. Either way, the Possum was a legend and his voice will be missed as well as emulated for generations to come. This disc pairs two absolute monuments to sadness & loneliness that never sounded so good. Released in 1974 and ’76 respectively, these two releases are the embodiment of the idea of “drowning your sorrows in your beer.” Any country or alt-country singer, songwriter or musician worth his or her salt will acknowledge George Jones as the King of Pain. It’s amazing to listen to albums by people like Robbie Fulks or Rex Hobart side-by-side with these releases and see just how directly they imitate him – or should I say, pay homage to him. I was always a fan of his real early stuff, before they started adding strings and barbershop quartets to his records, but, this is after that period when the pedal steel regained its prominence. It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are several up-tempo numbers in here – well, if you don’t listen to the lyrics. Either way, these are two stone-cold classics from the Possum, and probably the last truly great stuff he did before making a rash of cheesy, cocaine-fueled records with Tammy Wynette that he couldn’t even remember doing! Country music fans will totally dig this stuff, as I do. It’s not just a snapshot of Jones at the time, but also of country music and even the country itself in the mid 70’s. If you lost your girl, or your job or your mind, George Jones was there to let you know you weren’t the only one. He will be missed. www.cherryred.co.uk JEREMY GRITES

When Nalda Became Punk
First off I have a soft spot in my heart for colorful , cartoon drawings on the cover of records. Not sure why, maybe it brings me back to my youth. Anywho, the music by this Spanish duo, on this their debut record, fits that colorful picture. It’s snappy, catchy zippy indie pop, the kind of music that I just so happen to love (and that the Shelflife label specializes in). Elena Sestelo started the band way back in 2006 as a solo thing and her pal, Roberto Ciberia joined in 2011. Elena vocals are truly special and when laid over a top of swoony keyboards and jangly guitars (drum machine fits the music, too) it’s truly a winning combination. And though most of this is ebullient and upbeat, they mix the styles and tempos up enough where it doesn’t sound like one song (or the same song). A few of my faves here include opener “When It’ll Come”, the soaring “Satellites”, the dizzying “Summer You and Me” , the dancey “Before 5” and plenty more. The record was at least partially produced/mixed by UK legend Ian Catt who has done some classic work with both the Field Mice and St. Etienne. In other words, this band has all of its bases covered and they’ve got the songs to boot. You CAN’T lose. www.shelflife.com

Big Star
Well, I’ve been hearing rumblings of a Big Star documentary for years and it finally opens in theatres across the U.S. . (ok, select ones, anyway) tomorrow (7/3/13). I’m looking forward to seeing it but as a warm up I received this 21 track cd (2-lp sent on vinyl) soundtrack that features all previously unreleased versions of some of the band’s best songs. The band, which was started in Memphis, TN in the 70’s was led by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell (the rhythm section of Andy Hummel (who passed in 2010) and Jody Stephens rounded out the quartet) and after Chris Bell died (1978….he was only on the first record) the band carried on for a few more records, called it a day and Chilton went on to a terrific solo career (before his passing in 2010). Some of the songs you know include “In the Street” (from THAT 70’S SHOW), “September Gurls” (covered by The Bangles and too many others) and , well if you’re a casual fan (or don’t know the band at all) that’s probably all you’ll know but some other gems on here include the slow, heavy, sighing “Big Black Car” (rough mix , 1974), “The Ballad of El Goodo” (alternate mix, 1972). “13” (alternate mix, 1972) and plenty more. There’s a reason bands as respected as REM, Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, Wilco, The Replacement and too many more have/had been citing this band as an influence for years.. Though the band’s career was short, tumultuous and ultimately tragic, their three proper records (#1 RECORD, RADIO CITY and THIRD) are all considered to be underrated (yup, even still) classics and while maybe at the time the band members themselves thought their little band that could would fade off into obscurity, the discerning music fans thought otherwise. Dig it. www.omnivorerecordings.com

The Fall
You know the voice, and if you think at this point, nearing 60 years of age, Fall leader Mark. E. Smith is going to let you off the hook, well, think again. After umpteenmillion records (at least 30) they Fall return with their first one since 2011’s ERSATZ G.B. (which apparently Mark didn’t like too much). Of these 12 songs (some of which are just interludes) some rock like the Fall of old (the hammering “Sir William Wray”, the wiry “No Respects rev.”) while on other Marks mumbles his way through (Check out “Noise, “ “Hittite Man”, etc. ) and some are just plain weird (“Pre-MDMA Years”). They get all new wave on us on the goofy “Victrola Time” while “Irish” sounds like The Fall of old and “Jetplane” to me sounds like some lost classic Fall song that would’ve bene on their 3rd or 4th record except I forgot that the band is still capable of writing tunes like that in 2013. Overall RE-MIT is a bit of a mixed bag. I’m not gonna say it’s for hardcore fans only, it is a solid record, but longtimers may want to proceed with caution. www.cherryred.co.uk

BIG BANG!-(CHERRY RED)-We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Going to Use It! burst onto the UK music scene in 1986. The all-female quartet was comprised of members barely able to play their instruments, but their exuberance and charm, combined with their tongue-in-cheek humor, thrift shop chic image and catchy songs like “Love is the Slug” and “XX Sex” made them hugely successful in the UK and throughout Europe and got them signed to WEA in 1989. At that point, they changed their name to simply Fuzzbox and released “Big Bang!,” which has recently been reissued along with a bonus disc of remixes and rarities. I really wanted to like this album, but nothing prepared me for its slickness. As was the case with other musical acts from that era that started out in a post-punk vein, Fuzzbox’s quirks were glossed over and replaced with a high sheen and overblown production (think Bananarama and the Bangles, to some extent), rendering them virtually indistinguishable from other female singers of the day, and that’s unfortunately the case with most of the songs on “Big Bang!.” Having songwriter Liam Sternberg (“Walk Like an Egyptian”) on board for several of the tracks was likely partially responsible for that. However, there are glimmers of goodness. “International Rescue” is like a bright, sparkly song popped out of a toy ray gun; the video, directed by comedian Ade Edmondson (Vyvyan from “The Young Ones”), with its “Thunderbirds” theme, is a hoot. The best version of “Pink Sunshine,” the album’s opening track, can be found on Disc 2, which features a stripped-down, acoustic take. Disc 2 also offers up “Raining Champagne,” “Your Loss My Gain” and “You,” songs which again would have benefited from fewer keyboards and less knob twiddling in the studio, but allow for more of the band’s exuberance and high spirits to shine through. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The duo of William Cashion and Bruce Willen, according to their press release, make music that's inspired in part by German progressive, ambient masters, and experimentalists of the sonic realm, but you know what I'm hearing? I'm hearing a very well-recorded New Age album, one that would, for the most part, do quite well on Windham Hill. Now...that's not a bad thing, either! It's hard not to feel spiritually relaxed when you get lost in the gentle acoustic guitars and rainforest percussion vibe of "Blue Elvis," or the wind chime piano tranquility of "Belle Air." Peals' sound is simple but direct; aside from the noisy "Tiptoes in the Parlor" (really, did we need that?), Walking Field is a very tranquil record that would sound awesome whist burning Sandalwood candles and meditating to the Deity Of Your Choice. www.thrilljockey.com JOSEPH KYLE

James Younger
Double-tracked guitar lines; choruses that tie themselves into bright bows for resolution, and the sense that someone’s listened to lots of Tom Petty, Cars, and maybe some things by another Brit who loves American music; Nick Lowe. Currently in Vancouver, B.C., James Younger, who grew up in Manchester, U.K., has claimed to be descended from “outlaws… who rode with Jesse James during an illicit era of train robbing and boozing.” Umm… okay. Might make sense if Younger growled like George Thorogood, or joined Wilco’s descendents. The bio of a restless, rather dramatic young man helps explain this ambitious, overstuffed debut. And Younger’s raspy vocals start to grate by the third track, “Running Wild,” which finds him switching from pop to a predictable bit of garage rock. When Younger gets his mitts around a nice groove, as with “Two of a Kind,” it tends to get cluttered up with keyboards, or just too many sounds up-front, vying for attention. Still, Younger has promise, along with the bravado that’s driven many a North American immigrant to greatness.When he keeps his sound simpler, as on Feelin’ American’s first single, “Monday Morning,” he’s simply great. www.lightorganrecords.com MARY LEARY

You know how it can hurt to watch a breathtaking sunset when you’ve just gone through a break-up? Or to go driving on a beautifully cool, fresh night as you’re starting to suspect that the one you’re in love with isn’t over their ex? Songwriter Philip Pledger - apparently the heart beating at the center of Estrangers - conveys those feelings so well that listening to Season of 1000 Colors can be painful. It’s the kind of pain that feels… so… good; the sweet agony of obsession; a torn-up heart, a psyche that can’t stop fixating on the loved one. Estrangers evoke such delicious pain with Pledger’s nearly-raw vocals, shimmering synth waves behind lots of minor key guitar chords, and songwriting somewhere between power pop and emo. It’s all bolstered by a rocking edge that helps emphasize anger, shock, and passion. “Scatterheart” sounds like something Tennis might do if it were more capable of falling apart in public. And “Dayzd” is a propulsive modern take on the happy beach sounds of the mid-‘60s. Good/sad/bittersweet vibrations, indeed. www.estrangers.com MARY LEARY

The Green Pajamas
Ok, so: if you’ve been reading Dagger for awhile you may recall that I have given an unfavorable review to every Green PJ’s cd that has ever crossed my desk. I’m sorry about those, but I stand by them – it’s an opinion-based fanzine and that was my opinion. However, this re-issue of the very 1st GPJ’s record from waaaay back in 1984 is the best thing they ever did! Even then they were still throwing in a few “Eastern themed,” melancholy dirges that make me want to throw the cd across the room, but largely Summer of Lust is a fun, jangly romp! When they are in their ‘garage-Beatles’ mode they really shine and the 12-stringers sound great – even if they were home-recorded on an 8 track reel-to-reel in a bedroom. I think that’s how this band was meant to sound. Nods to folks like the Flamin Groovies, Barracudas, Pandoras and half of the Get Hip label’s roster are all noticable here and the songs stand up. I don’t know if it ever happened, but I can easily see these guys playing with the Smithereens back in the day and totally holding their own. While this might not make up for my previous reviews, it’s on the level. Fans, of jangly, 60’s garage-rock/pop will really enjoy this – in all of its paneled-bedroom glory. www.greenmonkeyrecords.com JEREMY GRITES

Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle
PERILS FROM THE SEA-(CALDO VERDE)-You gotta give Mark Kozelek credit; he's not afraid to try something new. Perils From The Sea is his first collaborative album with The Album Leaf's Jimmy Lavalle, and it's an interesting affair. Instead of the folk/classic rock sound that he's known for, Lavalle's sound is much more lush and electronic-minded. It's a bit disorienting to hear Kozelek's voice over the blips and bleeps that Lavalle provides. Occasionally, it's disorienting; I honestly felt slightly dizzy upon hearing "What Happened to My Brother" and "Gustavo." Also making a return is Kozelek's epic tendency; none of the eleven songs found here clock in under five minutes. The final track on the record, the ten-minute "Somehow The Wonder Of Life Prevails," finds Kozelek and Lavalle combining into one wonderful mind, his lyrics and singing enhanced wonderfully by Lavalle's gentle, unhurried accompaniment. While not everything on this collaboration works, it's great that Kozelek is willing to take a chance. www.caldoverderecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Sugar Shoppe
I can’t profess to have ever heard of this late 60’s sunshine pop band that hailed from Toronto, Canada. But Now Sounds head honcho Steve Stanley had and thus he passes his gifts (ie: music knowledge) on to us. The band consisted of two men and two women (I’ve read that they were considered Canada’s Mama’s and the Papas at the time). The men were Peter Mann and Victor Garber (who later went on to be featured in the Titanic) while the honey-voiced women were Laurie Hood and Lee Harris. They got signed to Capitol Records, pointed their car south and headed to L.A. where they got Al De Lory (Wrecking Crew guy) to produce and Mort Garson to arrange. The songs are very of the time and in addition to Mamas and Papas the band got plenty of Fifth Dimension comparison which were fair (on their trippier tracks). A few of my favorites on here include the sizzling opener “Skip-a-Long Sam”, the shuffling “Take Me Away” (great harmonies), the vaudeville-into-60’s –pop “Poor Papa” and plenty more. The band was short-lived-though, ending in 1970 after a three year run. They did a reunion a few years later but it didn’t work out. In addition to the 11 regular album tracks this includes four bonus tracks as well as the usual Cherry Red/Now Sounds treatment with a full-color booklet with plenty of liners (from Steve Stanley as well as a track-by-track synopsis by Peter Mann), photos, etc. Keep the sunshine pop treasures a comin’. www.cherryred.co.uk

Various Artists
Centered around the birthday of one of folk music’s seminal mold-creators, this CD/DVD set could have featured at least 50 more artists who’ve been influenced by Guthrie. Best moments include those provided by Rosanne Cash (who still sounds sweet, as does Judy Collins) with "I Ain't Got No Home" and "Pretty Boy Floyd," and a typically riveting turn by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. The group presentation of “This Land Is Your Land” is better than such stage-crowding events tend to be; partly per the presence of soulful harmonizers Sweet Honey in the Rock and the solid bluegrass strums and plinks of the Del McCoury band. I think Guthrie would have liked it. Somewhat conspicuous in his absence, at least for me, is major Guthrie-esque torch-bearer Pete Seeger – but, hey, the guy’s 94 years old – maybe it wasn’t possible. While some of Guthrie’s music can be a bit dull to these ears, I have endless respect for his documentation of poor and working class life, and across-the-board struggles. I can’t imagine a better time than the present for younger performers to get more serious about integrating socio-political messages into their sounds. Or maybe I should be careful what I wish for - there's something of an art to transmitting information while making good music. www.legacyrecordings.com MARY LEARY

Bettie Serveert
The press-kit on this record states that it’s the bands’ 10th album! What? I didn’t know that, but I guess it’s true. Another thing that the ‘Kit states (which is always a red-flag to me) is that the songs were “all recorded live in the same room.” First off, so what? It should be. Second, using that as a selling point usually means that the record isn’t that good. With the exception of the song “Tuf Skin” which is an absolute embarrassment, the aforementioned theory was proved wrong in this instance. The Serveerts bang out a pretty solid indie-rock offering on OH MAYHEM with some great melodies and spirited playing. I don’t really care for the polished, controlled production of these recordings; I miss the ramshackle, untamed-ness of their now 20 year old debut LP. But, things change and it’s good to see that they are still plugging away and pulling it off. For me, Carol Van Dyk’s vocals make the album – there are tons of great melodies and lush self-harmonies throughout that are nicely augmented with tasty, well-suited guitar parts. I guess that’s part of being in a band together for 20 years – you know how to do it now. As I said, there are a coupla dips on Mayhem, but by and large it’s a solid effort with some sweet, hooky indie-pop moments. Worth a listen for sure. www.secondmotionrecords.com JEREMY GRITES

The Cherry Bluestorms
I thought this LA duo’s debut from a few years ago was certainly solid, but they have stepped it up a notch on this sophomore effort (which is basically a rock opera of some sort). The band is essentially the duo of Deborah Gee (vocals) and Glen Laughlin (longtime Dickies member) on vocals, guitar, bass and keys with some other friends helping out. You can tell that they are influenced by a lot of the 60’s pop that came out of their hometown of Los Angeles (I hear some nods to Love) as well as Britsters like the Beatles (‘natch) and even some Pink Floyd as well as The Kinks. The record opens with the prog-ish instrumental “Bad Penny Overture” then into the folky “By Your Leave” (not my favorite song on the record) then into the supremely poppy “A Better Place” (definitely my favorite song on the record). From then on the record wavers between dark pop and darker folky (“Wear Your Love Like Heaven” mixes both, and happens to be a Donovan cover while “Sunday Driving South” is pure Fab Four. If 60’s UK music is your bag then check this one out, it might not get a much props as it deserves (being self-released and all) but is certainly worthy of your attention. www.thecherrybluestorms.com

John Grant
PALE GREEN GHOSTS-(BELLA UNION)-John Grant's debut album, Queen of Denmark, was a beautiful, powerful collection of heartbreaking songs, all in a pleasing, enjoyable, quirky 70s singer-songwriter style. It rightfully made him somewhat famous in Europe. His second album, Pale Green Ghosts, is a stunner, too--but in a completely different way. He's mostly ditched the singer-songwriter style (though it does appear on "GMF" and "It Doesn't Matter to Him") and has made a straight-up electronica record, produced in Iceland with members of legendary electronica troupe GusGus. Their tendency towards dark, murky soundscapes wonderfully enhances Grant's dark subject matter--heartbreak, terminal disease, midlife confusion, and mortality. Of course, Grant's sense of humor is fully at play, especially on such songs as "Sensitive New Age Guy," a hi-NRG dance track that will make you laugh and smile as you dance along to it, while "Ernest Borgnine" is a witty song about a very serious health issue. By dumping his award-winning style, Grant took a big risk with Pale Green Ghosts, but it's paid off quite well, and the result is one of the best records of 2013. www.bellaunion.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Mantles
Only the 2nd full-length from this terrific San Francisco band that has been round since ‘06. The s/t debut was released on the Siltbreeze label then they released an ep on Mexican Summer (and several assorted 7’s on various labels) and now, finally the sophomore effort on Slumberland (a perfect home for them). It’s obvious from listening to LONG ENOUGH TO LEAVE that the band digs the sweet sounds of New Zealand and specifically the Flying Nun label (I hear lots of nods to The Clean on here). What sets the Mantles apart is that they make it all look so easy, which is to say, they write damn good songs. The funny thing is about LONG ENOUGH TO LEABVE is that only a few of the songs hit me immediately while most of the others took a few plays to really grow on me (those are always the best anyway). So yeah, jangly, psychedelic pop songs (and occasionally garage, like on the noisier “Hello” and “More Than I Pay”) is the order of the day and there’s not many road bumps on here. At least partial credit must be given to producer Kelley Stoltz who did a stellar job here and again, the band’s strong songwriting, too. Cuts like the dirtier “Hello”, the Clean-ish title track and the pop masterpiece “Reason’s Run” have been on repeat since I got my copy of this a few weeks ago. Get your own copy, I’ll bet it’ll be on repeat at your place, too. www.slumberlandrecords.com

Willie Nile
Willie Nile is one of those songwriters that I have always heard of, has seemingly been around forever and probably has a small legion of hardcore fans. Well, had this record not plopped into my PO Box I might have gone my entire life without ever hearing him. Thankfully it did. On first listen I thought the guy was a wannabe Springsteen (or Dylan) but then realized that he’s been around nearly as long as The Boss an apparently Springsteen, among other famous folks (Bono, etc.) are big fans of Nile. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY but he relocated to NYC right when the punk explosion took hold which means he was lucky enough to see early performance by the likes of Television and Blondie. I do know this much, the batch of 12 songs on AMERICAN RIDE is terrific. A healthy mix of styles and tempos from inspiring rockers (ala Springsteen) like “This is Our Time” and “Life on Bleecker Street” to nifty hoe-downs like “God Laughs” to more spare, folky tunes like “She’s Got My Heart.” One thing’s for sure, I’m gonna go back and check out some of his previous catalog and if he makes it to Denver, I’ll be front and center. www.willienile.com

Beach Fossils
Has anyone else noticed that the opening riff on this new Beach Fossils record is a note-for-note copy of “No Feelings” by the Sex Pistols? Not that that matters, I just find it interesting because, aside from regurgitating punk bands, no one really references the ‘Pistols much anymore. Anyway, just wondering… So, this is the ‘Fossils’ 3rd release (2nd full-length album) and it’s a great, logical progression / evolution of the style they originally laid out. Instead of a one-man, bedroom recording project, it’s now a real, full-fledged band – and it shows. They manage to synthesize most of your favorite bands from the 80’s into one swirling, summer-y mixture that is hard to resist whether you’re their age or an old-head like me. Elements of early Cure, mix with REM arpeggios, then glide into Galaxie 500 territory before taking flight in full New Order mode – and that happens in the span of about 4 songs. An appreciation for bands like the Wedding Present, Wire and certainly My Bloody Valentine also abound on Clash the Truth, and while they have a shoegaze bent, the punk ethos is instilled enough that the songs are upbeat, quick and catchy instead of getting bogged down and boring. They pull it off live too – at least they did the couple of times I’ve seen them. They mine the same sort of territory as many new-ish bands like the Crystal Stilts, Pains of Being, and Real Estate, but I think the ‘Fossils turn out the best version of the combined ingredients. Definitely a great summer soundtrack… www.capturedtracks.com JEREMY GRITES

Man...Or Astroman?
DEFCON 5...4...3...2..1-(CHUNKLET)-
In the 1990s, one could always rely on an amazing, fun, interesting record from outer-space rockers Man...Or Astro-man? appearing every few months. The band folded in 2000, much to the sadness of their legion of fans. Occasional reunion shows would happen, but it wasn't until last year that the band committed itself to a full-on reunion, with a tour, a beautifully packaged 45 release, and the recording of Defcon 5...4...3...2...1. Musically speaking, this album finds the band picking up their surf/garage/space-punk sound right where they left it; one could easily mix any of these album cuts with their older material and not be the wiser. Does that seem somewhat dismissive? It shouldn't be. Like The Ramones, Mudhoney, or Guided by Voices, their sound may be simple and singular, but their formula is so rich and rewarding, one doesn't care about that. It's nice to hear the sounds of the outer space surf that you hear on "All Systems to Go" and "Defcon 3," while the band does take on a more traditional indie-rock approach on "Cocoon" and "Arc." They were prolific then, hopefully they'll be prolific again. Welcome back, spacemen! www.chunklet.com JOSEPH KYLE

Joe Meek
I HEAR A NEW WORLD-(TRIUMPH/ CHERRY RED)-Joe Meek’s “outer space stereo fantasy” sounds far out even now, here in 2013, so imagine what the reaction was when parts of it were released in 1960 as an EP, “I Hear a New World – Part I,” credited to the Blue Men and directed by Rod Freeman. As troubled a soul as Meek was, his personal demons didn’t keep his wild and wonderful imagination from creating melodic oddities; “I Hear a New World” is a treasure trove of beautiful bizarreness. I first discovered it while trawling blogs about lounge and early electronic music, and certain tracks fit those genres, so having this CD version -- with a poster inlay that includes Meek’s comments about some of the tracks and a video portion of an interview – is an intrinsic addition to a collection of ‘60s esoterica. The title track sets the tone, sounding like a calypso song from the cosmos, complete with David Seville “Chipmunks” backing vocals, presumably creatures from Meek’s new world, followed by “Orbit Around the Moon,” an instrumental that would fit right in with “Telstar.” From there, it’s time for the Globbots – extraterrestrials, and giggly ones at that – to come marching in. The Dribcots and Saroos – more alien beings – get their own numbers as well. “The Bublight,” with its slide guitar, sounds like Polynesian music from another planet. “Glob Waterfall” is rife with eerie sound effects, some created with cutlery and milk bottles. Other songs sound like futuristic hoedowns (“Magnetic Field” and “Disc Dance of the Globbots”) and sock hop slow dances (“Valley of the Saroos”). Aside from the novelty aspects of the speeded-up vocals – in my opinion, the album’s only weakness -- there’s a compelling sense of melancholy among some of the songs, such as “Valley of No Return.” Some may easily dismiss “I Hear a New World” as an extended novelty record, but for fans of Joe Meek and other instrumentalists and musical visionaries of the ‘60s, it’s essential. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Muuy Biien
You’ve gotta hand it to HHBTM head honcho Mike Turner (also a Wuxtury Records employee and man behind the Athens Popfest , he used to do a zine too, the Bee’s Knees but the guy had to have SOME time to himself) as you never know what’s he’s gonna hit you with. The last record I reviewed on this label was the jangly/twee Sweater Girls record (which is terrific). This bunch hails from, Athens and are more of a punk rock variety. They remind me of a lot of the stuff I used to listen to in the 80’s (when City Gardens in Trenton, NJ was my home away from home) and still love when I hear today, at least when it’s done right and these guys do it right. The front cover shows a guy about to be slugged in some Pettibon-esque art/lettering and the music is a pure sprint from start to finish (think Off!). The guitars are fierce, the vocals, courtesy of Joshua Evans are fiercer and cuts like “Another Degradation,” “Vulgarities,” “Something Rotten” and the more choppy/jittery “Sister” are perfect for cooking your next meal, if that meal is Hamburger Helper (with chunks of glass in it). Know what I mean? Me either. www.hhbtm.com

Eddie Spaghetti
I have to admit that while I liked the Supersuckers ok and all I was never a disciple or anything. My favorite record by them was their country classic, MUST’VE BEEN HIGH. With that being my favorite by them it shouldn’t really be much of a surprise that I like ‘suckersa frontman Eddie Spaghetti’s solo records quite a bit. I missed the first two, THE SAUCE and OLD NO. 2 but really enjoyed 2011’s SUNDOWNER (his first for Bloodshot). On this new one, Eddie , who considers this one “my first REAL solo record since it was the first one where I wrote all the songs” , gets help form country sideman Jesse Dayton and the two ambled down to Austin, TX to record these 10 revved-up rockers. The opening cut, the title track, is awesome and definitely the best song on the record with its fast shuffle beat and grinding guitars. Elsewhere Mr. Spaghetti shows his smart-ass side with such chestnuts as “Fuckin’ with my Head,” “”People Are Shit” and “If Anyone’s Got the balls.” There’s definitely some soul-searching lyrics going on (I’m empty, got nothin’ inside” from 2nd cut, “Empty”) but those kind of lyrics are usually coupled with some hook-heavy guitars (also check out the swingin’, barroom brawler “Waste of Time”). Spaghetti is another one of those guys who HAS to do this stuff. Music is in his blood and he’ll be doing this stuff until he’s in the grave. With records as good as this, I’ll keep listening. www.bloodshotrecords.com

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
Fans of JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound’s 2011 release WANT MORE will not be disappointed by the Chicago band’s latest effort, HOWL released on the same hometown label Bloodshot Records. The self-proclaimed “post-punk soul” band brings the same exuberant energy and catchy hooks that made their previous performances so engaging and memorable, but with a newfound sophistication and lyricism. Themes of love and heartache underlie Jayson Brooks’ falsetto croons and guitarist Billy Bungeroth’s infectious riffs on songs like the title track “Howl” and the first single “Rouse Yourself” (for which the band launched a successful video-funding campaign on Pledgemusic.com). These standout tracks layer Motown swagger and danceability with personal, pensive lyrics,” If we had forever/ I hope we’d just get better, better, better/ That’s why it’s such a shame/ The ways we stay the same, same, same.” Varied in its musical influences, Howl brings a contemporary sensibility to its effortless combination of musical styles. The keyboard and vocals of the funky “Security” call to mind Sly & the Family Stone, while the gospel-soaked “River” is accentuated by R&B-style female backup vocals. Other tracks are more pop-rock than soul, such as the 80s-tinged “Not Alone,” and 70s pop-reminiscent “Before You Die.” Discussing his songs on www.ascap.com, JC Brooks’ said of the personal nature of HOWL’S lyrics, specifically “Security” --“Everyone isn’t dealing with [a relationship] in the same way… But at the same time, I think that makes it more relatable when you’re not just painting with pastels.” Known for their high-octane live performances, JCBUS’ new songs bring an authenticity and vulnerability to their sound without sacrificing the soulful, engaging performances their fans have come to know and love. HOWL is another chapter in the story of a band who continues to evolve and mature, and to demonstrate that past influences can co-exist with freshness and innovation. www.bloodshotrecords.com SARAH GROSS

Club 8
I discovered this terrific Swedish duo pretty early on, like when their debut record, NOUVELLE, came out on Spain’s Siesta Records label (in 1996). Since then most of the bands records have come out on band leader Johan Angergard’s Labrador label (the other half of the band is vocalist Karolina Komstedt). Having said all of that, of all the friends is spoke to, I was pretty much the only one who enjoyed the bands previous record, 2010’S THE PEOPLES RECORD. On that record Club 8 abandoned their soft pop sounds for a left turn into more tribal territory complete with bongos and upbeat, danceable rhythms. It was a bold move for the band but one that paid off (well, to my ears, anyway). On ABOVE THE CITY Angergard has once again pushed the boundaries of pop music (and Club 8’s sound too) while delving into samples (children’s choir music, a Russian field recordings, etc.) but still making unique pop music. They toss in airy pop that they’re know for (“You Could Be Anybody”), dancey near-disco (I’m Not Gonna Grow Old”) , a minute long instrumental (“Instrumental) and a final song that kinda rocks (“Straight as an Arrow”). I still don’t think they’ll ever be the household name I want them/hope they will be but that’s ok, most of the time it seems like they are making their records for me only anyway. www.labrador.se

Mark Kozelek
LIKE RATS-(CALDO VERDE)-In his later years, Mark Kozelek has become EXTREMELY prolific, and Like Rats, his umpteenth album released this year, is another interesting diversion. Kozelek's always had a way with a cover song, having released full albums of artists as diverse and as unlikely as John Denver, AC/DC, and Modest Mouse, as well as occasional songs by classic 70s rockers and pop stars, like Michael Jackson, Yes, and Paul McCartney. Like Rats is a full-on covers album, and while there's really not much to say about his singing and arrangements--both are impeccable and warmly beautiful, but offering nothing surprising--the thrill comes in his choice of covers. Okay, one shouldn't necessarily be surprised that he takes on songs by Glenn Danzig ("Green Hell," "I Killed Mommy"), Sonny & Cher ("I Got You Babe), or even Ted Nugent ("Young Girls"). It's his less-obvious choices that surprise, such as his take on one of Dagger's all-time fave songs, The Descendents' "Silly Girl," or his take on "Right Back Where We Started From." True, Like Rats might not be the most revelatory album Kozelek's ever released, but it's certainly not a bad record, either. www.caldoverderecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Red Hare
Whatever happened to Dag Nasty/ Swiz frontman Shawn Brown? Well aside from fronting that Dag reunion late last year (that I wish I could have attended) he is in this new Washington, DC band Red Hare. The dude hasn’t mellowed at all, he’s still full of piss ands vinegar and the band he has another Swiz alum on guitar in Jason Farrell (Farrell also led Dischord band Bluetip) as well as a rhythm section of Dave Eight on bass and Joe Gorelick on the skins. Only 8 tunes here but it hearkens (yes, I said hearkens) back to the old days of Dischord when bands would meet in a basement, rehearse, fight, makeup, fight some more and out would come a batch of terrific songs (I’m lookin’ at YOU Embrace and Rites of Spring) then break up. Tunes like “Horace,” “Dialed In’ and the title track got straight for the jugular and I’ll bet live they smoke. Also, Farrell’s production job accentuates everything and sounds crisp but not overproduced. Are we entering another golden age of Dischord? www.dischord.com

Irma Thomas
Within the first few piano chords and tambourine shakes, it’s clear that Irma Thomas is back with some molasses-dipped soul. And why should we expect anything else? While other decade-spanning artists may feel the need to torque their sound to attract new ears, I’d be sorely disappointed were Thomas to adopt any such notion. On In Between Tears, the “soul queen of New Orleans” is given spirited, succinct support by horns and strings from Swamp Dogg’s band, as well as Duane Allman, Jesse Carr, and Jerry Williams, Jr. While I could live without the strings that are added to some tracks, there’s a lot to love here, including the call and response punctuating soul-wop piano and concise guitar strokes on “These Four Walls,” and Thomas’s leonine vocal stretching on the title track, “She’ll Never Be Your Wife,” “What’s So Wrong with You Loving Me,” and We Won’t Be In Your Way Anymore.” The anguished shouts of “Wish Someone Would Care” are, by themselves, a testament to the endurance of real soul. The remaining tracks function as the gumbo-fortified phone book into which Thomas injects life, with a few of them drawing a line from the less explicated, more romantically focused stories of mid-late ‘60s soul chanteuses to the more powerful, self-realized woman embodied by Thomas today. Which brings the form - along with a narrative Thomas helped paint several decades ago - up to date. www.alive-totalenergy.com MARY LEARY

The Aardvarks
West London’s Aardvarks were one of those bands that were a little too late for the Mod revival of the late Seventies and early Eighties; unfortunately they never really tapped into the popularity of the Britpop movement either, although their one and only album, “Bargain,” was released in 1993. This 27-track collection includes that album in its entirety and an additional 13 tracks of rarities, singles and EP songs. Brothers Gary and Mark Pietronave – lead singer and guitarist, respectively – make no secret of their love of Sixties music. It’s easy to play “spot the influence” as you listen to songs like “Arthur C. Clarke” (early Bee Gees), “Office No. 1” (The Jam), “Mr Inertia” (The Kinks), “Fifty Hertz Man” (the Beatles and the Who) and flashes of the Small Faces, Humble Pie, early Status Quo, and the Pretty Things here and there. But if they don’t exactly break new ground, the Aardvarks use these ingredients to take listeners into some interesting territory. “Girl on a Bike” is a lovely wistful tune with sweet harmonies and nifty touches of wah-wah. “Time to Fly” is yet another gentle number that gradually builds in intensity, marred only by a slapdash ending. The band’s cover of “Save My Soul” is better than the original, in my opinion, sounding more menacing than the Wimple Winch version. The Aardvarks’ guitarist was another reason the group was more than merely a revival act. Guitarist Mark Pietronave cut loose now and then, venturing into the blues without getting self-indulgent, particularly in “You’re My Loving Way,” “Threw Her a Line,” and “Buttermilk Boy,” which leads me to believe the band was fun to see live. If you seek originality, the Aardvarks are most likely not your cup of tea, but if you like bands that add a few new flavors to a formula you already like, you should check out “Sinker, Line & Hook.” www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Blank Tapes
If you haven’t previously heard of Matt Adams’ project, the Blank Tapes (formerly solo; now more of a band); it’s just made a new album, Vacation. The couple collaborators who’ve climbed aboard throw new sparks into Adams’ bright mix of classic ‘60s rock (the Kinks; the Youngbloods) and garage spontaneity. Adams’ writing is versatile and prolific, with a consistency of feeling that holds the variants together without growing monotonous. Blank Tapes’ first release with Antenna Farm benefits from pleasantly in-your-ears production – from sweet acoustic guitar burbles and vocal harmonies to the muddier blasts of more rockin’ matter. Vacation’s a nice alternative to the hyperbolic anthems increasingly ruling mainstream airwaves. And, whether planned as such by Antenna Farm or a happy accident, it’s just in time for warm weather.www.antennafarmrecords.com MARY LEARY

Drivin’ n’ Cryin
SONGS FROM THE PSYCHEDELIC TIME CLOCK-(NEW! RECORDS)-This is the 3rd installment in the band’s 4 eps released in a 12-mionth time period. And you’re wanting to know if it’s as good as the first two, right? Well, we have an answer and yes folks it is! The first installment, SONGS FROM THE LAUNDROMAT was all about the band’s southern roots while volume, two, SONGS ABOUT CARS, SPACE AND THE RAMONES were more revved-up and hooked by punk. Well, it’s no surprise that once you read the title of this installment (and see the trippy cover artwork) that this is the band’s homage to 1960’s psych and garage nuggets. It’s amazing to me that drivin’ n’ cryin, a band I made fun of back in my punk days because I didn’t like their name, are so adept at all these different styles of music. You’ll hear echoes of bands like The Seeds, The Count Five, The 13th Floor Elevators and even popsters like the Beatles and Love. The record ends with the two and a half minute instrumental title track and off they go into the sunset, getting ready to us the fourth installment which I hope I sooner rather than later. www.drivinncryin.com

Daniel Romano
I had never before heard of this guy until a few weeks ago when the publicist assured me to show up early and check him out (he was opening for Caitlin Rose). I did and he and his denim-clad cronies did not disappoint (all wearing 10-gallon cowboy hats too). Here is Daniel’s new record (I think he has a few previous ones) and this is real, honest-to-goodness , cry-in-your-beer (as the title suggest) honky tonk country music. And where is Daniel from, you ask? Well, it ain’t Texas, no sir, he’s from the cold climes of Toronto, Canada! It didn’t hurt that he got Travis Good (from The Sadies) and Julie Doiron (Eric’s Trip, solo) to help out on the record (both on backing vocals) and he has a pedal steel player and a fiddler, otherwise, it is all Daniel. A few of my favorite songs on here include the revenge song I’m Not Crying Over You,” the swaying “He Lets her memory Go (Wild)”and the cloppity clop of “Middle Child.” While you’re at it, check out some of the other releases on the Normaltown label (Ronnie Fauss, Lilly Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies, etc.) as they have been releasing a slew of fine, fine country stuff. This is my favorite on the label, so far. www.normaltownrecords.com

Tim & Adam
Housed in a bright pink cd digipak (with yellow lettering) just the cover of the cd had me intrigued. I then found out that the Tim in the band is Tim Yekezkely of terrific Florida lounge pop band The Postmarks (only female named Tim I have ever heard of). Adam is Adam Rosenberg from South Florida bands Whirlaway and I Am Stereo. At 10 songs in just under 40 minutes the band doesn’t wear out its welcome and it’s a fun mix of dream pop with some spacier and electronic elements and a real sense of fun throughout. Not all of the songs hit the mark but the ratio of good to just ok leans more toward the former and a few of my favorites include opener “One Little Taste”, the magnetic “So Much More”, the bright n’ shiny “3D Love” and the eclectic “Imago.” While waiting for the next Postmarks record, this’ll certainly do. www.timandadam.com

Mikael Cronin
I didn’t realize that So Cal native Cronin was in the band Charlie and the Moonhearts (later shortening their name down to just the Moonhearts after Charlie left). He has also collaborated with Ty Segall (specifically on 2009’s REVERSE SHARK ATTACK on the In the Red label) but he first came to my attention on his S/T solo debut from 2011 on the Trouble in Mind label which I really enjoyed. Hearing he got signed to Merge got me really excited and hearing the first cut on the record, “Weight” , a few months back I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. A classic mid-tempo jangly pop song with just the right amount of dirt. Having said that the record of the record is good, very good in some parts but that song, in my opinion, is the high point (but againm, this is a VERY GOOD record). It’s less noisy and more melodic than his previous records (fine with me) and he kicks the falsetto into high gear on several songs and yeah, MCII is a nice batch of tunes. He follows up “Weight” with two nice mid-tempo, fuzzy pop tunes in “Shout it Out” and “Am I Wrong?” and adds a bit of drama (and I think violin, too) on the terrific “Peace of Mind.” Head to the end and you have the more epic, rockin’ “Turn Away’ and the ending piano ballad, “Piano Mantra.” A terrific sophomore effort and I’m glad that Cronin didn’t go back in the shadows after his S/T debut, he needs to be out front. www.mergerecords.com

As many readers of this site may already know, Dump is the solo project for longtime Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew. McNew left his Charlottesville, VA home in the late 80’s and joined as bassist for Christmas (I think after they had left Boston for Vegas) and, since 1992, holding down the bass for YLT ( I think I first discovered them when my old college pal Tom Scharpling released a Dump 7” on his 18 Wheeler Records back then). There’s two big reasons why I’m excited that these two records are being reissued (originally on Holland’s Brinkman Records label) one being they deserve to be heard by a new legion of fans and the second being that my original copies are out in a box in the garage since we moved and I can’t find them (once we get a house that will all be changed). Both of these records are being reissued by Morr Music on cd and vinyl (first time on vinyl and I CAN HEAR MUSIC will be a dbl lp and triple cd). McNew’s lo-fi pop songs with his patented high-pitched voice are wonderful little pop nuggets and the guy is a master at cover songs (he did a whole record of Prince songs (entitled THAT SKINNY MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HIGH VOICE) and covered the Go-Betweens classic “Dive for Your Memory” on a split 7” which is among my faves). Both of these cds have a ton of songs , many of which you’ll like very much. It’ s bit of a mixed bag as there’s also some not-so-good stuff on each, but the good outweighs the bad. So go pick ‘em up. Go on, don’t be shy. www.morrmusic.com

Dillon Hodges
RUMSPRINGA-(SELF RELEASED)-“Thoughtful,” “poetic” and “refreshing” all apply to Dillon Hodges’ songwriting and execution. The native Alabaman writes catchy songs that gracefully ford any gaps between pop, Appalachian folk, and country. With a bit more grit in it than Adam Levine’s, Hodges’ tenor organically waltzes with his flat-picking guitar; a core that’s enlarged by rich backdrops and intuitive shifts in format and tempo. Rumspringa’s one of the best Indie folk releases I’ve heard in some time. So far, my favorite track’s a lovely duet with Jaida Reyer, “The Garden/The Moth.” www.dillonhodges.com MARY LEARY

The House of Love
They’re baccccck (again). Yes, this is the 2nd comeback for UK’s House of Love. I never heard their first comeback record, 2005’s DAYS RUN AWAY but if it’s anywhere as good as this then I’m 8 years late on a terrific record. Yes, leader/singer/main songwriter Guy Chadwick is back with the usual suspects: Terry Bickers on guitar, Matt Jury on bass and Pete Evans on drums and SHE PAINTS WORDS IN RED is a superb record with 12 songs and honestly, not a bad song in the pack. They’re still doing that melodic-yet-sorta-psychedelic guitar pop that they patented in the late 80’s and honestly I was a bit nervous. When a band returns you’re never sure what to expect but yeah, this is a nice batch of songs. The start/almost stop “A Baby Got Back on Its Feet”, the bouncy/jangly “Hemingway”, the gently swaying title track, the gorgeously meandering “Lost in the Blues” and plenty more. Maybe this one record every 8 years thing isn’t a bad deal. Ok , see you in 2021. www.cherryred.co.uk

Howling Hex
Neil Michael Hagerty, what ARE we going to do with you? You are a talented guy--Royal Trux proved that. Since the split, your career has been nothing less than challenging. You'll turn in something really good, and then you'll turn around and do something that is trying. It's less a case of limited potential, it's more that you're selling yourself short. I'm assuming that the theme of The Best Of is to make music that's silly, sounds like cartoon music, but isn't. I'm picking up on a total Ween vibe going on here, except without the Gene or Dean Ween-style singing. Maybe you're trying to take up the slack ever since Aaron Freeman put the kibosh on his band? Yet every time you release a confounding record, as I listen to it and try to say negative things about it, I wind up falling for your silliness, and I'm won over. That's what's happening to me. It happened with the duck-quacking sound in "Highlights." But to potential listeners, be warned: you might find the waltz tempo featured throughout to be just a bit trying. Think a sixth grader learning what a waltz is, and then annoying the hell out of you as he practices it endlessly. As much as you confound me, I think I'll keep listening, because you always win me over. www.dragcity.com JOSEPH KYLE

Underground Lovers
Even though I had barely heard any music by this band before there were two things that had made me curious. One, my pal Laura had given me a cd ep several years ago by this by and I liked it (apparently she had two of them and since has great taste in music so I had a feeling I’d like it). The second thing was the label it’s on , Rubber Records, I have an old Prisonshake cd on the label that I love as well as a cd by an Aussie band called Even (the label has released several things by Even). Apparently this is a comeback record, the bands first in 14 years which can always be a risky proposition but I’m here to tell you, that WEEKEND is a fabulous record. The band mixes noisy pop music with some electronics and they do it well. Apparently vocalist Vincent Giarrusso (he shares vocal duties with the dreamy Phillippa Nihill) and guitarist Glenn Bennie met in high school (and have been called “the Morrissey/Marr of Australia”) and have been chums ever since. Oh and about the songs, well, “Can For Now” is the greatest song Sonic Youth never wrote and “Haunted (Acedia)” is a dream pop lover’s dream. Elsewhere you have the heavenly bliss of “Dream to Me”, a Go-Betweens tribute in “Riding” and several more. There’s 10 songs on here and I don’t think there’s a wasted note in the bunch (even when it gets almost new agey). Now THIS is a comeback. www.rubberrecords.com

Blue-Eyed Son
This might be the first and only time I ever saw one of those little ads on the right hand side of my Facebook page where I got curious enough to check a band out. It was described as “summery folk” or something like that plus it’s on the Eenie Meenie label, a label I have enjoyed releases on in the past. The band is the brainchild of one Andrew Heilprin and though he writes all of the songs he has a bevy of musicians helping him out (one being Goldenboy’s Shon Sullivan). Only five songs here but all of them are good including the shiny opening cut “All Went Black” which has a bit of a Beulah vibe with its blasting horns (second tune, “Golden”, too). Two others, “We’re Fighting a War” and “Hold On” are both more low-key and folkier and “Good Men Die Like Dogs” are more in the vein of the other two. Apparently Heilprin is a surfer as well, so it’s a win all the way around! www.eeniemeenie.com

Life Coach
Two years ago veteran musician Phil Manley released an album titled Life Coach, and now he's returned with a project of thesame name, similar in nature, with the assistance of ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. If you forgot that Manley was in bands such as Trans Am and The Fucking Champs, you will quickly reminded. Alphawaves is a heady blend of prog-rock, experimental noise, and balls-out metal. "Fireball" is all falsetto, insane electric guitar solos, and some raucous drum-beating; "Life Experience" is a two minute Melvins-style guitar solo and nothing more, while the title track is a wonderful ambient rocker. The best moment on here? "Mind's Eye," which is a powerful blast of twenty-second Century prog-rock, channeling everything great about Trans Am, Rush, Tangerine Dream, and The Mars Volta into one relentless light-speed paced rocker. It simply sounds out of this world. Oh, and don't let "Ohm" fool you; it's merely a continuation of "Mind's Eye." If you want to know what the future sounds like, just look to Alphawaves. www.thrilljockey.com JOSEPH KYLE

Rose Melberg
SEPTEMBER-(LOST SOUND TAPES)-Thanks a lot to DAGGER point man Joseph Kyle for hipping me to this cassette release. Miss Rose (you know her from her solo releases, Tiger Trap, The Softies, Brave Irene and several other terrific bands) tackles 22 cover songs. As she says on the insert, in September of last year she recorded a song a day for 30 days. 22 of those songs ended up on here and what a batch of songs! It starts off with The Clean’s “Tally Ho” (can tell that organ run anywhere) on to the Magnetic Fields “ I Don’t Believe in the Sun” then onto Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know” and that’s just the first three songs. Elsewhere on side A she hits up songs by Confetti and Thin Lizzy and others as well as one of my favorites Bats’ songs in “Mastery” and Big Star’s “Thirteen.” On side B she offers up cuts by The Beatles, Mirah, Young Marble Giants, Sebadoh and plenty more. Most of the covers are pretty faithful to the originals and made even more special by Roses’ voice, which I happen to love. While I do appreciate cassettes and all this really does deserve a proper release. Anyone (Mike Schulman you readin’ this?)? www.lostsoundtapes.com

Swamp Dogg
Newly remastered, Swamp Dogg’s, idiosyncratic, ahead-of-its-time merging of bayou-thick soul, pop, and commentary (on the late-‘60s counterculture) is still an ambitious, intermittently goofy stunner. Dogg apparently listened to everything from Don McLean to Jefferson Airplane. As much a cultural artifact as deep soul document, TDTYM reveals a black southerner’s droll, impassioned, and/or sobering reactions to the Vietnam War, racism, and commercialism. In “The World Beyond,” life’s seen through a child’s eyes, with Dogg’s piercing tenor delivery of a killer melody delivering the song from Cheeseville. And his disaffection with a “Synthetic World” is injected into a spicy stew of midtempo keyboards and guitars. TDTYM merits alignment with the work of King Floyd, Lowell Fulson, and Irma Thomas. Alive’s also released a remaster of its follow-up, Rat On! www.alive-totalenergy.com MARY LEARY

Low-key solo project by a Canadian guy (Toronto) Shawn Park. He has a few other friends help out but perhaps the biggest contribution comes from Mr. Eric Matthews who played on some of the songs and produced this as well. Only 5 songs here but they are all quality meaning the songwriting is strong and there’s no filler on here. From the first song “Silhouette” (which is the most rockin’ song on here complete with blasting trumpets) to the last song , “It’s Trip” (low-key and gentle, kinda right in between The Beatles and Badfinger) and the three in between (do not miss the hushed folk of “Why Do You Come”). Well done and here’s to lots more music in the (near) future and while I’m not always sure what the role of “producer” does someone please buy Eric Matthews a filet mignon for the smashing job he did on this. www.tindermusic.bandcamp.com

Bad Religion
After a while you do get kind of sick of saying , “Well, Bad Religion have released another terrific record.” Well, truth be told, their previous one, 2010’s THE DISSENT OF MAN, was only ok (changing up a bit of the formula with longer songs) but the two prior to THAT one, 2004’s THE EMPIRE STROKES FIRST and 2007’s NEW MAPS OF HELL, were both very good. TRUE NORTH, the band’s 16th record in thirty plus years goes back to the B.R. of old with a torrent of raging guitars and strong melodies. When I used the word “formula” earlier in the review it’s easy to think of a band that is coasting but B.R. is not coasting, while the band does have a specific sound Like The Ramones and AC/DC have/had a sound) an while there’s nothing on here as good as 2004’s “Atheist Peace” or 2007’s “New Dark Ages” it doesn’t mean that TRUE NORTH is not a strong record. It is with a bevy of very good songs: “Robin Hood in Reverse,” “Fuck You,” “Vanity,” “In Their Hearts is Right” and the title track. 16 songs in just over 35 minutes and at this point Mssrs. Graffin, Gurewitz, Baker, Bentley, Hetson and Wackerman could do this in their sleep…and we’d STILL wanna listen. www.epitaph.com

Grave Babies
Okay, here's the thing: an album called Crusher, featuring a cover with an altar built around a pig's head, nearly impossible to read Heavy Metal typeface, and the band's name written in (what I presume) that pig's blood? Let me take a guess here...just a wild hunch...this is gonna be a Death Metal trip, right? WRONG-O. What is it, then? It's a weird blend of post-punk and mid-90s noise rock, blended into something that's mostly undefinable. "Slaughter" sounds like the actual moment of those sounds being mixed together as we speak, and I haven't heard slurry vocals like that since the last time I listened to the Peoples Temple suicide tape! But don't let all of this scare you, because there's some "good" stuff on here, such as "Breeding" (or is that "Bleeding?" Maybe it's "Greeding?") is a great rocker, and would sound better if it didn't sound like it was recorded from some kid's boom-box. Then again, maybe it wouldn't...maybe that's the point. When they do step away from the distort-o recording methods, such as on "No Fear" and "Prostitution," they turn in some rather lovely mid-80s Goth pop, not unlike Gene Loves Jezebel. It occasionally tries your patience, but Crusher makes you wonder what these songs sound like live, when the band can't hide behind production methods and these songs stand on their own. I bet they sound awesome. www.hardlyart.com JOSEPH KYLE

The O’Jays
SHIP AHOY-(BIG BEAT RECORDINGS )-In 1972, The O'Jays released Backstabbers, their debut for Philadelphia International. The move was a wise one, for after nearly a decade of middling success, this album proved to be their breakthrough: it topped the charts, and both the title song and the album's other hit single, "Love Train," are Soul classics. Ship Ahoy, which appeared a year later, would help concrete the band's success in what would prove to be an extremely successful decade. Considering how quick it appeared after Backstabbers, it doesn't suffer from follow-up inconsistency. Instead, Ship Ahoy is an amazing maturation from an already-seasoned band. Political in nature--thanks in part to the crack PI writing team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff-- Ship Ahoy does something quite rare: it makes grand political and lifestyle statements that are not didactic or preachy, all while contained in a very enjoyable groove. Once again, the album would provide the world with one of their signature hits; "For The Love Of Money" is not only a radio staple, its distinctive introduction can be heard on commercials almost daily. There's more to Ship Ahoy than that one hit, though; "Don't Call Me Brother" is a slow-burning jam about honesty, betrayal, and fidelity; "This Air I Breathe" is a jaunty number about the burgeoning environmental concerns; "You Got Your Hooks in Me" is a powerful ballad of a woman's power over a man. "Now That We Found Love" is a lovely little love song, which would be a hit with Heavy D & The Boyz's hip-hop remake in 1992. The most haunting, thought-provoking number, though, is the epic title track; starting with the crack of a whip, it is a song depicting the slave trade, from getting on the boat in Africa. It's haunting, powerful, and not a little thought provoking. The O'Jays' success would blossom even further after this album release, but this is a fine, essential album that proves that the trio was not merely a singles act. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Palma Violets
If the story is correct, these four gents, who call London home, were at the reading Festival in 2010 and decided at that point to form a band. Apparently three of them were old school chum and the vocalist/bassist Chilli Jenson was there too but didn’t know the others (the others being guitarist/vocalist Sam Fryer, keyboardist Peter Mahew and drummer Will Doyle). Getting together to record in Studio 180 (an old house) the band began doing live gigs there and eventually began recording this debut. Right from the opening cut, single “Best of Friends” you can tell this is no ordinary Brit-pop band as they blend elements of psychedelic, soul and garage rock into an intriguing stew (they occasionally remind me of the great, ragged glory of The Libertines, not so much in sound, though a bit there too, but in spirit). Also the trippier “Step Up for the Cool Cat”, the tender “All the Garden Birds”, the driving, frenetic “Rattlesnake Highway” , the other single “Last of the Summer Wine” and well….nearly every other one (don’t miss “Johnny Bagga” Donuts”). Plus, the band has a thicker, tougher sound than most of their peers and there’s more than enough variation in the songs to keep 180 interesting from beginning to end. And a hair over 40 minutes they don’t wear out their welcome, nope, 180 is just right. www.roughtrade.com

We Are Loud Whispers
A debut from a duo recently signed by Sub Pop’s fave gadabout brother; consisting of Sonya Westcott of Arthur & Yu and Ayuma Haitani of 4 Bonjour’s Parties. Just their other band names make me wish that I, too, was a trust-funded or energetic and adaptable enough musician to sit around coming up with group names with such instant cachet. (My own late ‘90s performing unit went by a relatively straightforward moniker; The Secret Life of Mary Leary, although an earlier, wackier group involvement was called The Potato People, LIAR, or whatever else we settled on before our sparse appearances.) What you probably want to know is whether Haitani and Westcott are making delightful sounds with varying degrees of artsiness – introspective, digitally and electronically- derived atmospherics, poetic effects, tinkling bells, and semi-conscious narratives and whispers -- for their intelligent friends and wannabe pals. Which is harder to do than it may sound as if it is. While Suchness’ fortifying broth is quiet, cerebrally stimulating sonic matter, We Are Loud Whispers has the inimitable knack of populating that broth: with the shiver-inducing “Glossolalia,” a charming little train of a song called “Modern World,” a tasty confection titled “You, Surround,” and a headier track, “Rewind,” that dips more than its toes in progressive water. Sign me up for We Are Loud Whispers’ show with Amor de Dias, Damon and Naomi, or some other band with a name likely to appeal only to sensitive misfits, such as a gently loony Orange County-based combo called Oto. www.hardlyart.com MARY LEARY

Justin Ancheta Band
Reggae releases seem to arise at intervals; appealing to a fairly substantial, same-old sub cultural and/or world music listening base. But a reggae band that incorporates klezmer, rap, and pop? That’s a plant that rises less often – and, in the case of Justin Ancheta’s debut album, one that not only evokes “wows,” but that’s produced a full-length with the scope to attract the ears of folks who may not think they like reggae. Ancheta’s vocal range is such that he can apply a soft, John Mayer sorta sound, shift to gritty soulfulness, or inject the more piercing depth of Jon Anderson. DJ and trumpeter Will Magid’s contributions are among those of a slew of ‘Frisco-based players whose clarinet, djembe, saxophone and violin are seamlessly woven into a savory mix showcasing a solid set of compositions. Recommendations? So far, a slice of pop sunshine (“Surface of the Moon”) and two lovely bits of balladry (“Outer Space,” “Downward”) are especially appealing. www.justinancheta.com MARY LEARY

Wanda Jackson
Wow, this is a true treasure trove. It’s almost easy to forget about Wanda Jackson’s accomplishment as her name is not brought up nearly as much as the men from that time period. Still, for her to play this kind of music back in the 50’s must’ve taken a serious amount of courage. For that alone she deserves the utmost respect but she nails so many of these songs (she only wrote about a third of the cuts on here, 29 songs in all). As the title says, this is all of her A and B sides that she cut for Capitol from 1956 and 1963. Now, though I am a casual fan I have to admit that I’m no expert on Wanda, but pals who are say that this is the best comp yet (Rhino apparently did a real good one and Capitol released a solid one in 1996). Her tunes go back and forth ‘tween straight country to her later rockabilly stuff but she kicks tail at both . A few of my faves here include the sassy “Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad”, the swaying “Let Me Explain”, the doo woppy “Cool Love”, the rawkin’ Honey Bop”, the swingion’ “Mean Mean Man” and plenty more. The Omnivore label has done us all a great service here with this terrific retrospective so pick this up and get an education. www.omnivorerecordings.com

THE SOLAR KING-(JAM RECORDINGS)-Yet another record from pop wunderkind Jeremy Morris. He has enough records out that he may give Jandek a run for his money. This record, recorded way back in 1980 consisted of Jeremy on vocals./guitar and keyboards and his brother Mike, on drums. At some point in the recording of it his brother bailed and Jeremy shelved the records until now. 30 years later THE SOLAR KING is finally seeing the light of day and it doesn’t sound much different than the type of music he makes today. Ok, maybe I should clarify a bit, Jeremy’s record comb many different genres: pop, prog, Christian, folk, etc. so this record sounds a lot like his pop records of the day. Influences include The Beatles (his biggest influence) and I hear some Cheap Trick too. A few of my faves here include “Hold On Forever”, “For Chosen Ones” (a little bit of Alan Parson Project in that one), “The Light” and at least a few others and it wouldn’t be a Jeremy record if it didn’t have at least one 15 minute song (on here it is “Journey to the Light”). Head on over to the website to my right and check out his hefty catalog. www.jamrecordings.com

The Night Marchers
Allez! Allez!-(SWAMI)-
Has it really been five years in between records by this terrific San Diego unit (their debut, SEE YOU IN MAGIC, came out in 2008)? Did this really come out in January and here it is May before I’m reviewing it? Do I blow it on occasion? The answer to all three of those questions is yes. Yes, Mr. John “Speedo” Reis (Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes and Swami Records, dude…you can also spot him on Yo Gabba Gabba in a turban if you watch closely) is the main dude in this San Diego band (and if not the main dude then ONE of the dudes). Well, if you liked said debut then you’ll like (love) this. The songs on ALLEZ! ALLEZ! are just as good, maybe better. This is garage punk the way it was meant to be played and Reis and his bandmates (guitar Gar Wood, bassist Tom Kitsos and drummer Jason Kourkounis) kick it out with power, passion and let’s not forget a healthy dose of humor, too (and horns!). You want songs, tough guy? Check out the jittery opener “Tropical Depression”, the gritty “Loud, Dumb and Mean”, the catchy “All Hits”, the swingin’ “Pain” and at least a few others (don’t miss “Wasting Away in Javalinaville,” “Big in Germany”, “I Wear the Horns,” etc.) . You won’t find any better way to spend the next 45 minutes. www.swamirecords.com

Shout Out Louds
Ever since 2007's Our Ill Wills, The Shout Out Louds have been on the radar for making distinctive new-wave inspired pop, topped off by lead singer Adam Olenius's voice, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Robert Smith. Their follow-up to that well-received record, 2010's Work, was oddly melancholy; lacking the hooks of its predecessor, it felt too heavy, too sad, too personal, and was a bit of a disappointment. Optica, however, finds the band tempering the melancholia with the styles that felt so rewarding and enjoyable. "Sugar," which opens the album, almost feels like an apology for the previous album's depressiveness. The following song, "Illusions," turns on the New Order rhythm machine, and that influence never wanes. That's a good thing, too; "14th of July" sounds better than anything that other band has done in ages, as does "Chasing The Sinking Sun." The rest of the album varies between the upbeat fare and the occasional melancholy moment. After such an unintentional misstep, Optica is a welcome return to form for a superior pop band. www.mergerecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Big Boy Pete & The Squire
The Squire is back! By that I mean, Mr. Christopher Earl, heretofore knows as The Squires of the Subterrain who has released many records of his homegrown pop treats and treasures (and I’ve always wanted to use the word heretofore in a review so there you go). Here he teams up with 1960’s Brit dude Big Boy Pete (Pete Miller who used to be in 60’s UK band The Jaywalkers). These two have teamed up before (check out The Squire’s 2007 record BIG BOY PETE TREATS, Miller didn’t play on that but he did produce and wrote most or all of the material) and they seem to be more than comfortable penning tunes together and to my ears Miller sounds like he was Billy Childish before there was Billy Childish (if there was such thing). I guess Peter had written most of these tunes for The Jaywalkers who weren’t interested so he bailed on that band and went solo. Plenty of garage/psych/pop nuggets here like “American Spring,”, “Trailer Trash,” “Tea” (a little Syd Barrett-ish), the loveably kooky “Hide & Seek” and the 3-ring circus known as “All the Fun of the Fair.” Tune in, turn on and ride this ferris wheel of a record! www.thesquiresofthesubterrain.com

Françoise Hardy
S/T-(Cherry Red Records)-
Although Françoise Hardy was an integral part of the yé-yé pop music scene that originated in France in the early 1960s, she stood out from many of the other female vocalists. Although she was undeniably attractive, as were France Gall and Sylvie Vartan, Hardy wrote most of her own songs – not needing Serge Gainsbourg to pen her hits – and sang with the voice of a mature, self-possessed woman rather than that of a naive, girlish sex kitten. Many of these songs are moody and reflective in nature – not gloomy, but not bouncy, perky confections either. This rerelease of her 1963 album contains 12 songs in French and 10 in Italian, with six of those being versions of songs originally in French. For example, you get “Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles” and its Italian version, “Quelli della mia età.” Recorded when Hardy was just 18, the songs in this collection are simple in their arrangements and instrumentation, but catchy -- very much of their time, yet classic, beginning with “Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles (All the Boys and Girls),” which was a huge hit when it was originally released in the summer of 1962. Because I don’t understand French, everything Hardy sings sounds cool and sophisticated to me. Songs like “Ça a Raté” and “Il Est Parti un Jour” make me think of a girl wearing a beret and leather jacket and leaning against a jukebox with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Other songs make it obvious that Hardy was influenced by American pop music. The melody of “La Fille Avec Toi” sounds like the Everly Brothers; “Oh Oh Chéri” has a bit of a Buddy Holly thing going for it; and “Il Est Parti un Jour” channels Elvis. The fact that there’s nothing deep about this music doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It takes the listener back to a time before Beatlemania took over and most performers felt compelled to sing everything in English. Françoise Hardy not only had Bob Dylan and David Bowie swooning over her, she inspired other females to write more of their own music, and with this album, you can hear why. You’ll hear her songs popping up in all sorts of places, and she’s still putting out albums, but “Françoise Hardy” is a fine introduction to this icon. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

George Jones
THE COMPLETE UNITED ARTISTS SOLO SINGLES-(OMNIVORE)-I don't even have to unwrap this collection to tell you of its greatness; that's how ingrained George Jones is to me. This collection covers his early and mid 1960s career, and there's some awesome stuff to be found here. There are the obvious hits: "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Race Is On," "A Girl I Used to Know," songs that are classics in the Country canon, and will represent Jones well after his passing. Yet Jones was a much more diverse musician; he could sing songs about sinning and regret ("Wrong Number," "Ain't IFunny What A Fool Will Do," "World's Worst Loser") as well as he could sing songs about the redemptive nature and power of the Lord ("He Made Me Free," "He's So Good to Me"). Thankfully, Jones only rarely indulged in novelty songs, such as the theme song to the film "Geronimo" and the B-side "My Mom and Santa Claus (Twistin' Santa Claus)," which is a fun, upbeat swinging number; silly fare, but it serves to temper the weeper on the flipside, the heartbreaking "Lonely Christmas Call." Jones is an American legend and Country institution, and a prolific one at that; this collection will give you a wonderful glimpse into that talent--but there's more to him than this one era, so this is a good starting place. www.omnivorerecordings.com JOSEPH KYLE (R.I.P.- GEORGE)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but if the sticker on the cd mentions that the band’s sound is cut from the same cloth as bands on “Creation and Flying Nun labels”, then I’ll stand up and take notice (ok, so I’m sitting down but that’d beside the point). This Oakland, CA band (who got roasted in a review from VICE magazine, not sure why) is basically the work of two guys, Bay Area guy Jeffrey Harland and New Zealand-native Matt Bullimore and yes, it sounds as if they have heard a few Flying Nun records in their lives (and just for the record, the band photo on the press sheet shows 5 people). Opening cut “Friday Afternoon at the Zoo” was a nice hazy/lazy opener which sets the stage of the awesome organ-pumping “Go Ask Your Mother” which is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Nothing else on the record reaches those heights but there’s still plenty of strong cuts on here like the fuzzed-out, dreamy “Rounded Edge”, the jangly “The Colours”, the cacophonous “Time to Face the World” , the very Flying Nun-ish “Cast in Shadows” and “Don’t Say a Word.” So what I’m trying to say here is that PASS THE RINGO is worth spending your hard-earned money on. www.theloglady.com

Attempts – by the band or others – to nail down Paperhaus’s music? Well, they’re starting to seem fairly comical. My very first listen to Lo Hi Lo, I was so moved, I thought it must be some Canadian or European band I’d missed, that had been around for at least a few years. A bit of research revealed that descriptors including “psychedelic,” “progressive,” “blues,” “pop,” and even “country” have been applied, although the latter was used more around the D.C.-based quartet’s 2011 debut EP. By whatever category, Paperhaus is a band to know about. It makes deeply melodic alt. pop/rock (my terms) that at its apex fills my need for classic Cardigans and gives me new tunes to mix with those of the Dears and the Smiths. Indeed, “Helicopters,” a song recently featured on All Songs Considered, is an instant classic. I’m not just talking “good melody” here, but a feel for subtle major/minor shifts and nuances that’s generally slim on the ground -- it’s an art. Think of one of Tennis’s best songs, or the early Beatles, or Peter Svensson. “Helicopters” is a sexy/romantic charmer that could help rekindle a relationship. And spinning it around any new prospect who doesn’t seem like a keeper could prove dangerous. While the opener, “All Through The Night,” is a bit weak, this four-song EP’s cumulative effect, including that of the excellent title track, more than justifies its teasingly short duration. www.paperhausmusic.com MARY LEARY

The Appleseed Cast
Unless they’re supporting catchy melodies with unusual changes, I tend to glaze over in response to thick, intricate “emo” and/or arena rock sounds. Which is what’s happening to me with the Appleseed Cast’s latest. Nothing’s offensive, nothing stands out, nothing (were I to hear this in a nightclub, or from someone’s window) -- would make me want to seek out and procure. The better melodies tend to do the predictable rising-emo thing; a bombast that leaves me unmoved. But it must be said that the price of admission’s a good investment in the opportunity to hear Nathan Wilder do some impressively precise, rhythmically shifting drum work. The guy’s practically at a jazz or math rock level. www.graveface.com MARY LEARY

Lloyd Cole and Hans-Joachim Roedelius
Yes, it's that Lloyd Cole. Yes, he's teamed up with progressive electronica master Hans-Joachim Roedelius. It shouldn't be terribly surprising, though, that Cole has made an experimental, instrumental record; he's done so over the past decade, and it's not bad. Nor is this collection of electronic bleeps and blips an unenjoyable or self-indulgent trip into experimental music. You sort of have to have a taste for what they are doing; thankfully, I totally do. The songs range from happy-go-lucky blips ("Fehmarn F/O," "Selbstportrait-Reich") to dark, ominous, drone ("Wandelbar"), and from gentle, gossamer-like melodies ("Lullaby") to outer-space trips ("Orschel," "Still Life with Kannyu.") That these "selected studies" are labeled "volume one" gives this listener the hope that the duo will release more of these beautiful studies some time soon. www.bureaub.com JOSEPH KYLE

Dave Edmunds
SUBTLE AS A FLYING MALLET (EXPANDED EDITION- REISSUE)-(RPM/ CHERRY RED)-This was certainly a pleasant surprise, it is a reissue of Edmund’s all-cover 2nd record that originally came out in 1975 on the Rockfield label. The impressive thing here is that Edmund’s played nearly all of the instruments on here (getting a rhythm section only for two songs). The order of the day here is classic 1950’s and 60’s rock and roll that Edmunds grew up on and it includes the 12 original record tracks as well as 8 more bonus tracks , most of which were on the original soundtrack o the movie Stardust (released on Ronco!). Some of the songs he tackles here are “Baby I Love You,” “”Maybe” (great falsetto!), “Da Doo Ron Ron” the dreamy “Let It Be Me”, “Chuck Berry’s “No Money Down” (we’ve all heard that riff a million time…later on the record he also cover Berry’s “Let It Rock”), traditional county number “Billy the Kid” The Chordette’s grand “Born to Be With You”, one by his pal Nick Lowe “She’s My Baby” and plenty more. The Stardust bonus tracks are more of the same and worth hearing. The problem some people have with SUBTLE…. is that the covers are note-for-note covers and not much different than the originals. While I admit I do like hearing what a band can uniquely do with someone else’s song, I also don’t mind hearing the note-for-note covers either, as long as they are played with passion and Edmunds has that in spades. The informative booklet has exhaustive liners by Roger Dopson and plenty of great photos. www.cherryred.co.uk

Whenever I see a record that says “RIYL- the Field Mice and The Clientele” I’ll stand up and take notice (or at least give it a listen). Lapland is the moniker of NYC via Texas musician John Mease who is apparently also know in the circles of jazz, r & b and classical (??!!) music as well. While I do hear elements of those previously mentioned band I also hear plenty of other styles at work here too, all of ‘em well done. I love the breezy folk of “Drink Me Dry” (though I shouldn’t call it breezy as his lyrics are much more introspective than that) as well as the more soul influenced “Aeroplane” (perhaps a nod to Neutral Milk Hotel?) and the dreamy pop of “Where Did It Go?” (don’t miss the High Llamas-ish “Fountains”). The guy seems to do it all and he does it all very well. Lapland was a pleasant surprise to say the least. www.listentolapland.com

The Primitives
Wow……I have been waiting for this (or something like this) for quite some time, This gang from the UK, with the darling female vocalist, started showing their faces in the early 80’s with a slew of catchy singles on the label, you guessed it, Lazy Records (original home to My Bloody Valentine). Eventually the band got signed to a major, had a minor (major?) hit in “Crash” and then probably crashed due to “creative differences.” These recordings, 41 in all, are when they were still young and starry-eyed and this was always my favorite stuff by The Primitives. On the first cd is their Lazy singles (including, of course their three top 20’s: “Thru the Flowers,”, “Lazy” and my personal favorite “Really Stupid” as well as three live demos from ’85 (including an early version of “Crash”) and a bonus track. Moving right along to disc two is 7 songs from the 1987 album sessions (the title of this compilation, EVERYTHING’S SHINING BRIGHT, was supposed to be the name of their planned full-length for Lazy Records that never saw the light of day) and the final 15 songs on this are form a live show at the ICA on 8/15/878 which shows the band is all their glorious fuzzed-out form. To say that this is essential for fans of fuzzed-out pop would be a tremendous understatement. Side note: ½ of the original band, vocalist Tracy Tracy and guitarist PJ Court, got back together with longtime drummer Tig Williams (who had replaced drummer on this cd, Pete Tweedle, pretty early on) a few years ago when original bassist Steve Dullaghan died and played some shows and did an all-covers record too, which I’m dying to hear. In the meantime, this will do. www.cherryred.co.uk

Chris Brokaw
Chris Brokaw is a musician in the truest sense of the word. Go to the guy’s website and see the sheer amount of records he’s played on, lots of different styles genres, etc. He’s been in three of my favorite bands over the past few decades (Codeine, Come and The New Year) but these days he does mostly solo stuff or one offs with other bands/ friends. He plays mostly everything on GAMBLER’S ECSTASY (which came out last year) but he’s helped out on a few numbers by both John Herndon and Douglas McCombs of Tortoise and a few others folks. Right when I dropped the needle on the first song I knew this was going to be a keeper. First cut “Criminals” is three or so minutes of direct fuzz which leads right into the folkier “Crooked” then to the rip-roaring “Danny Borracho” to the New Year-ish “Into the Woods” to the subtly melodic “The Appetites.” That is all of side 1 which is nearly flawless. The songs on side two are just as strong (including his cover of Wussy’s “Crooked”, which adds viola from David Michael Curry) and with Brokaw’s penchant for experimenting and taking chances, most of the songs on GAMBLER’S ECSTASY are some of his most accessible yet. Brokaw is a lifer and GAMBLER’S ECSTASY might by favorite thing he’s done yet. www.12xu.net www.chrisbrokaw.com

Drazy Hoops
I’d never heard Drazy Hoops before This is the Sound of… and am unlikely to forget ‘em. The new album from the New York City-based group is wryly amusing, creative, and likely to endure. DH’s brilliantly sexy cover of Devo’s “Whip It” makes me smile, and several tunes, including opener “Baby You Gave Me More,” feel like tongue-in-cheek spins on alt. goth country inflections. While DH doesn’t sound much like Captain Beefheart, I’m not surprised to learn it’s named after that phrase in Beefheart’s “The Blimp.” It obviously aims for a similar combination of heartfelt ingenuousness with wit and artistry. Highly recommended; perhaps starting with standout “I Am Going To Bring You All Together.” The chord changes on that verge on the sublime. Oh, and another hint: Giant Sand fans are likely to heart this. www.drazyhoops.com MARY LEARY

Roger Knox and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
STRANGER IN MY LAND-(BLOODSHOT)-Judging by the photo on the inside Roger Knox doesn’t look like someone you’d wanna mess with in a dark alley. He also happens to be an aborigine and I’ve seen him called the “Johnny Cash of Australia’ as well as The Black Elvis” too. STRANGER IN MY LAND is an homage to his home land he’s joined by Chicago’s Pine Valley Cosmonauts, led by none other than Mr. Jon Langford who produced the sessions (recorded both in Australia and America) and it’s a record that could have been recorded in Memphis in the 50’s , 60’s or even current day. A few highlights include the jukin’ opener “The Land Where the Crow Flies Backwards” (written by Billy Bargo), the svelte, lovely “Blue Gums Calling Me Back Home” (by Harry & Wilga Williams), the dreamy Arafura Pearl (written by the Mills Sisters but here sung by the honey-voiced “Tawny Newsome (the pride of Vacaville, Calif.) and the Byrdsy “Brisbane Blacks.” Knox and his talented cohorts treat this music with the respect that it deserves and it has a million times more soul than most of the crap they pass off as country today. This is the real deal. www.bloodshotrecords.com

The Orange Peels
"Dark" is one adjective I never thought I would use to describe a record by Allen Clapp, yet the lo-fi Lutheran's newest offering, Sun Moon, is exactly that. Last year The Mommyheads surprised longtime listeners with a massive stylistic change, and on first listen, Sun Moon is this year's shock. Gone are the sunny
California vibes you may have come to expect; instead, the songs are mostly midtempo, and instead of the crunchy rock, Clapp has focused more on making big, loud-- though not necessarily heavy--arrangements. I'll be straight up honest; on first listen, I didn't get it. The only thing recognizable was Clapp's distinctive voice, and the melancholy was a bit heavy. It took a few more listens, and then I noticed that there's a very subtle theme here; look at the back cover. The songs are divided under "sun" and "moon." The "sun" songs are dark, heavy, and sad; "The Words Won't Work" and "All At Once" remind me of the Southern alt-rock of the early 1990s. The "intermission" number "Traveling West/Sundowns" brings back the sunny 70s pop of the Allen Clapp we know and love, and the "moon" songs feel like the traditional Orange Peels you know and love; "Grey Holiday" is a jaunty number that suddenly gets all Jeff Lynne on you. "aether Tide" and "Watch Her Fly" remind you how at one time they were contemporaries with The Ocean Blue. Then there's the closer, the big, epic "Yonder," a song that starts quietly and then blossoms into a Technicolor prog-rock dream. Sun Moon may not taste like the Orange Peels you know and love, but give it another try, it will grow on you. www.mintyfresh.com JOSEPH KYLE

Townes Van Zandt
The Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos 1971-1972: Talk about a lovely little discovery; this two-disc set collection compiles outtakes and unreleased demos and versions taken from sessions in 1971 and 1972, and it finds the troubadour at the peak of his game. The set is wisely divided into "sessions" and "demos," as there's a bit of overlap. The session takes aren't radically different from the previously released version, but it's still nice to hear songs stripped down, with a bare-bones accompaniment, stripped of the post-recording production sheen. The alternate versions of "Pancho and Lefty," "To Live Is To Fly," and "Blue Ridge Mountains" help to remind you of just what a talent Van Zandt was. The two previously unreleased songs on the first disc, Jimmie Rogers' "T for Texas" and his take on the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" are true gems; the first, a funky, fun Texas swing, the latter, a country-funk version that's perhaps much more real than the Stones' take. It's the second disc, however, that really makes Sunshine Boy a worthy investment. All of the songs found here are just Townes and his guitar, and there's something haunting
about hearing 40-year old songs of a man twenty years dead; "To Live is to Fly" becomes something even more powerful in this stark, simple arrangement. "You Are Not Needed Now," one of his best kiss-offs, is made even more poignant and powerful in this setting. If ever a document outside of a greatest hits collection featured the best of Townes Van Zandt's talent, it is Sunshine Boy. www.omnivorerecordings.com JOSEPH KYLE

We know this much, they hail from Denmark, are fairly young gentlemen and controversy seems to follow them wherever they go. Their debut, NEW BRIGADE, came out in 2011 on the What’s Your Rupture label and ushered in a new voice in the burgeoning punk scene and they’ve since made the jump to bigger label Matador. The mix of explosive guitars, raspy vocals combine into a raw punk fury that reminded me mostly of 80’s Washington DC/ Discord records band Rites of Spring. The arrangements on YOU’RE NOTHING are a bit more nuanced than the debut as the songs become a bit more sophisticated (ok, maybe not the best word to describe them). Still, cuts like opener “Ecstasy”, “Everything Drifts” and “Morals” (which has gulp, piano) show a band that is growing by leaps and bounds (though I still love old hardcore tracks like “It Might Hit First”). Hard to tell where the band will go next (they obviously don’t want to get stuck in a hardcore rut) but I have to say, I’m mighty curious. www.matadorrecords.com

Ennio Morricone
El Records never fails to find excellent obscurities from all around the world, and in this instance, they've compiled twenty-nine songs from almost as many different singers. These songs all contain one common theme; they were produced and arranged by Morricone in the early 1960s, before he became a household name thanks to his soundtrack work. As compilations go, listeners may have some difficulty ingesting this all at once; of all the vocal songs, only one, Peter Tevis' take on Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty," is sung in English. One should take the time to sink into this bill of fare; while one might not understand the lyrics, one can't help but enjoy the shuffle of songs such as Tony Del Monaco's "Donna de moriere," the Nicolike vocals of "Perdono," which isn't so much sung as it is whispered as a simple harpsichord and oboe accompany her. It's a thing of beauty. The melodies range from light jazz (Nora Orlandi's "Arianna," Helen Merrill's "Nun e' peccato") to folk ballads (Peter Tavis's "Notte infinitia", to pop (Dora Musumeci's "Caffe e camomilla), to straight up mod-rock (Gianni Morandi's "Go-Kart Twist"). There are twenty-two more songs to explore; consider this a trip to a hipper, cooler, 1960s Europe. Enjoy your flight! www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

VANISHING POINT-(SUB POP)-Mudhoney’s 9th album starts with a thunderous drum roll, an energy that holds steady through the last yelp. Mark Arm’s piercing vocals deliver song after song brimming with orgiastic guitar pile-ups and gripping melodies. That Arm and his crew can still conjure songs so engagingly varied - after about 25 years - is pretty amazing. “What To Do with the Neutral” carries a lot of pop and sizzle for a mid-tempo track. But the preceding song, “I Like It Small,” bristles with the power chords and vocal snarl of classic Iggy, while its follower, “Chardonnay,” puts its pedal to the metal hard enough to give thrashers something to slam about, whether they’re puzzled by or instantly converted to the band’s scathing swipes at mediocrity, including that of the contemporary music world. www.subpop.com MARY LEARY

Caitlin Rose
My god this gal is too talented to be so unknown. Maybe the release of this sophomore effort will change that. I too nearly passed on her debut record, 2010’s OWN SIDE NOW (released after a few terrific eps) when I gave it a listen and it didn’t do much for me. It was nearly off to the sell pile for it, but something told me to give it a few more listens, I did and it really grew on me and became one of my favorite records of that year. I saw a few gigs of hers in Portland in 2011 and she and her band really delivered and Caitlin’s no pretension/“aw shucks” demeanor was so refreshing. Fast word to 2013 and here she is delivering her sophomore effort (on the bigger ATO label) and I’m happy to say there’s no sophomore slump here. THE STAND IN is chock full of her patented country pop tunes akin to a Linda Ronstadt record (her voice gets a bit Patsty Cline-ish, too) with strong songwriting and a real sense of maturity for someone who I think is in her early 20’s. Opening cut “No One to Call” has a little guitar bit to it while the beautiful “I Was Cruel” has a gorgeous sway to it and “Only a Clown” and the hooky “Only a Clown” should/would/could be a huge hit (we’ll see). Elsewhere, “Dallas” is a real tear jerker while both “Everywhere I Go” and “Silver Sings” show she has a penchant for pop hooks. Well done, my dear. www.atorecords.com

The Smittens
I really enjoyed that last Smittens’ record but wasn’t aware of this one until late last year when the label was nice enough to send one (clear vinyl, too on an edition of 500!). One of the nice things about The Smittens is that they mix it up with vocalist and tempos, too. On vocals it could be Big Max with the deep voice (like a happier Stephin Merritt) or the high-pitched voice Colin or perhaps sweet-voiced Dana, that along with the mix of tempos and also they aren’t afraid to toss in a melodica here or uke there …tambourine too, (god I love the tambourine, such a simple instrument bit so effective in a pop song sometimes). And before you ask, yes, the songs are there. “Typing, Texting”, “First Bus, “Sometimes People Get Sad,” “”Forever, “True to You” (great call and response vocals) and plenty more. There’s no trace of bitterness here either, these folks seem like they genuinely enjoy making music together (imagine that). Well done, very well done (and on the insert in the record is a recipe for Vermont Apple Cider Doughnuts so how about that). www.fikarecordings.com

The Catbirds
The Incredible Casuals’ Chandler Travis seems to be on fire. I recently wrote about a more complex, sophisticated recording that he made with the Chandler Travis Three-O, which, in its way, knocked me sideways. The music he makes with the Catbirds (some of whom are also Casuals) is a different animal; a celebration of three-chord wonders, rockin’ harmonies, bar band glory, and all things nicely powerful (chords; pop). I hope the album’s excellent, old-school rock ‘n’ roll escapism will be enjoyed by more than Casuals fans – for starters, Rivers Cuomo might use it to help get some of his mojo back. There, I’ve said it. www.thecatbirds.net MARY LEARY

Steve Forbert
When Steve Forbert first burst upon the scene in the late 70’s I was too young to appreciate him (to me he looked like a goofy, wannabe Springsteen though the Meridian, MS native was apparently was a fixture on the CBGB’s scene) . Fast forward a few more years and I was far to enamored in the sounds of the American hardcore scene to both to listen to him. So here we are thirty plus years later and his first two records, ALIVE ON ARRIVAL and JACKRABBIT SLIM are reissue (on Forbert’s own Blue Corn Music imprint) and I’ve come to realize that the guy truly was/is a unique songwriter. “Romeo’s Tune” (off JACKRABBIT) was his hit and honestly , it’s the only one I recognize here but ALIVE (recorded in NYC) has plenty of sharp tunes that are more than worthy of your time (opener “Goin’ Down to Laurel”, the spare “Thinkin’”, the humorous “What Kinda Guy?” and plenty more. Record #2, JACKRABBIT SLIM (from 1979, recorded in Nashville and produced by John Simon) opens with the terrific “Romeo’s Tune” but is just as good as the debut, if not better. In addition there’s the torchy ballad “I’m In Love with You”, hit only other chart single “Say Goodbye to Little Jo”, the blasting horns in “The Sweet Love That You Give (sure goes a long, long way)”, the soulful “Baby” and plenty more. I don’t think the guy ever reached such heights again on any later records though I heard last year’s OVER WITH YOU was darn good. Still you can be rest assured with this two-fer that you’re getting some top quality music. www.steveforbert.com

The Relatives
THE ELECTRIC WORD-(YEP ROC)-Don't call it a comeback; you didn't know about them the first time around. Texas-based gospel-soul The Relatives were a shortlived group, with only three singles released during their initial existence, so The Electric Word is their debut album proper--thirty-eight years after their last session, and thirtythree years after their breakup. On first listen to The Electric Word, It's immediately clear that no time has been lost in Reverend Gean West's muse. Dig the opening track, "Times are Changing." For the first minute and a half, the song is a wonderful clapping chant, until it turns into a kaleidoscopic explosion of soulful funk. The melodies are tight, the singing is tighter, and it's hard not to sit still when listening to "Bad Trip" and "Let Your Light Shine." The love ballad "Your Love is Real" is moving, and the message of "What's Wrong With America" is a shining example of the power of gospel. Then there's that last song, "I Will Trust In The Lord," an acapella spiritual that highlights the power of the band's harmonies--which are tight, tight, tight. Every year it seems that some obscurity comes back to the spotlight, making great music after decades of being forgotten. The Electric Word is the best rediscovery/comeback of the year. www.yeproc.com JOSEPH KYLE

Sweater Girls
I’ve had this one for a while and have been meaning to slap it on the turntable and now that I have I wish I’d done a lot sooner. This male/female quintet from Los Angeles (3 girls/ 2 guys) get the party rolling right out of the gate with the amazing “Infatuation Street’ which is all guitar fuzz, handclaps, whistling, keyboards, tambourines and what I think is a glockenspiel. This has to be one of the most ebullient debut records since, I dunno….the first Small Factory record perhaps. Many of the other songs take the lead of “Infatuation Street” and make sure there’s nothing but Jolt Cola and smiles in the room. There’s no lack of good songs on here…they’ve got ‘em in spades: “Fred” (there’s a video for this one), “Pretty When You Smile,” “Sweater Weather,” “Fast Forward Time”, the very Tallulah Gosh-ish “Space Crush” and the fuzz-overload “Sticks and Stones.” I’m throwing the Pixie Stix away, I just got my daily dose of sugar. Bonus points for one of the members on the back cover wearing an All Girl Summer Fun Band t-shirt. www.hhbtm.com

Sweet Talk
Austin’s 12XU label has been on a roll lately with the release of this as well as recent ones by Chris Brokaw, the Golden Boys and Obnox (let’s not forget Tommy Keenne, too) and terrific 7” singles by the likes of Unholy Two, Ratsak and several others. I dunno a whole lot about this bunch other than they hail from Austin and seem to like melody and having a good time and songwriter Stephen Svacina knows where to put a hook to have it mean something. I read that they were pop-punk but this isn’t The Queers or Screeching Weasel by any stretch (though I do like stuff by the former), no, this is more in common with early gunk Cheap Trick or The Scruffs or more recent stuff by (defunct) Portland legends like the Exploding Hearts, The Minds (or anything on the Dirtnap label, really). “Put You Right Back” is a classic pop song as is the lovingly distorted “No Vacancies” while “Danger” slows it down a, but is lo less effective. Flip over to side two and a few other faves are the title track, “Who Are You” (not that one) and the positively electric “Live to Die.” 11 songs in under 30 minutes, perfect for a busy, no-attention span guy like myself. www.12xu.net

Anders & Kendall
Whenever I hear that Kendall Jane Meade is involved in something I immediately want to hear it. Actually that’s not true, I didn’t know she was a part of Sparklehorse but I have loved the solo records she did under the name Mascott. The Anders part of this duo is Anders Parker who has played with lots of folks bust mostly under his own name, Varnaline (whose material I liked but didn’t love). On WILD CHORUS, they are both at the top of their game and I’m happy to say it’s a lovely record that needs to be heard by all ears. Opener “We’re on Fire babe” is a lovely duet while the loping, Kendall-sung “City of Greats’ is a little moodier but no less effective. “Let’s Get Lost” is more shuffling, reckless and again the harmonies between the two is slightly ragged but oh so right while “Across the Years” reminded me of something off last year’ Sera Cahoone record (one of my favorites from 2012) while “Dreamers on the Ground” has a bit more guitar grit and they can do rockin’ just as nicely as light n’ folky and the final song, the spare , folky “The Sun Will Shine Again Someday” ends the set perfectly.. I’m not going to review each song but needless to say there’s not a dog among the 11 songs www.ninemilerecords.com

Kail Baxley
If ever a person were born to make soulful sounds, it’s native South Carolinian Kail Baxley, whose story (grew up in the same town as/had contact with James Brown; fought professionally; didn’t pick up a guitar until he graduated from high school; ended up performing his own music when a sound engineer convinced him to favor it over his plan of composing film scores) is that of a legend waiting to happen. I don’t think Baxley will wait very long. Baxley’s vocals are a hypnotic blend of those of Bill Withers and Amos Lee. He has an unerring feel for mixing the earthy genres he grew up with into his own bluesy, folk-rock lexicon. Songs that at first listen seem relatively inconsequential rapidly become attractive as well broken-in sweaters. Even Baxley’s previous sojourn in Africa has a subtle effect on this extraordinary full-length debut, which combines his Heatstroke/The Wind and the War EPs.www.fortybelowrecords.com MARY LEARY

Hot Nun
S/T-(SELF RELEASED)-San Francisco’s Jeff Shelton must be a real busy guy, it seems like he never takes a break from recording music. His first band (or first one I’d heard of ) the Spinning Jennies released several records full of hooky power pop and his more recent band, Well Wishers, delivered more of the same. This time he hooked up with his pal Braden McGraw and the two went into the studio and banged out 8 songs (7 originals and one cover of Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”). Don’t worry, did you think Hot Nun has gone off the rails and rewritten Shelton’s music book there’s no reason to worry as the songs on this S/T debut pretty much follow his previous career path, in other words if you dig Cheap Trick and Sloan then you’ll be ok with this. Cuts like “Brave New World”, “Spirit of ‘76” and “Win It All” are pure pop riffage that have hooks galore and are hard not to like. Even if you don’t have a convertible, pop this one in the car cd player and you’ll THINK you’re driving with the top down. “Hey good lookin’, we’ll be back to pick you up later!” www.facebook.com/hotnun

Yo La Tengo
So, I'm gone for a year or two and this shit rag stops writing reviews on "good" albums? Yo La Tengo is a frustrating band. While it would be suffice to sum up "Fade" as being better than "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out", but not as good as "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One", it's never really that simple, is it? The last time I saw YLT, there was the exciting potential of the Wheel Of Fortune Tour. All arousal was extinguished by the cold shower that was an unfortunate landing on "The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science(Pt. 2)", an amazingly boring soundtrack to a series of 2001 underwater documentaries. Therein lies the frustration. When YLT do their rock thing, their guitar thing, their "Fuck another cover album, let's really show what our influences mean(t) to us" thing, they are captivating and beautiful. "Fade" is produced by John McEntire (drummer for Tortoise, The Sea & Cake) and the first since '93's "Painful" not produced by Roger Moutenot. While Ira is still the main vocalist, Georgia sings beautifully on "Cornelia And June" and the album closer "Before We Run". The Byrds? Dennis Wilson? The Beatles? No, just YLT doing their thing that they do really well. This seemingly "gettin' back to our roots" YLT should stick around. Does anyone want to remake "Propeller" with me? www.matadorrecords.com KIP KELGARD

Thalia Zedek Band
Hearing a new Thalia Zedek records gives me hope for music. Since the late 70’s, when she first formed the Boston band Dangerous Bird it was then on to Uzi, followed by a move to New York she fronted Live Skull for a few records and by the mid-90’s she formed with amazing Come (w/ Codeine’s Chris Brokaw) who released several terrific records on the Matador label (the first two records, 11:11 and DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL are among my favorites not just from the Matador label but from that whole decade of music). For nearly the last decade she has been solo (w/ most releases coming via the Thrill Jockey label) both by herself and, as this record indicates, a band. The band on here includes a viola player (David Michael Curry), a pianist (Mel Lederman) along with rhythm section of Winston Braman on bass and Dave Bryson on drums (Thalia, of course, songs and plays guitar). The songs, like many that have defined her career, are dark, moody, cascading and awfully good. Opening tune, “Walk Away” is among her best while (as is the slowly unfolding “Get Away”) while“Winning Hand” stretches out in a maelstrom of minor chord moodniness. While there’s a lot of anger, despair and confusion in these songs there’s also a sense of redemption too. Where the despair turned to resignation and now, a sense of almost peace and contentness. You can really feel it in these songs, Zedek is that kind of a songwriter, she’s that good. www.thrilljockey.com

Karl Bartos
A fascinating record, this! Karl Bartos was a member of the legendary Kraftwerk, and as the band recorded and worked, he would quietly compose sketches and songs on his own. Decades later, he's revisited those songs for this collection--a re-imagining and expansion on ideas about the music of the future, written in the past, and recorded in the present time of the future past. First song "Atomium," a dedication to the 1958 Worlds Fair attraction of the same name, establishes a few things: Bartos was in Kraftwerk, he is a potent musician, and the past's idea of music of the future still sounds futuristic. The album, for the most part, doesn't stray far from this pattern, but what makes it rewarding are the softer, gentle songs, such as "International Velvet," "Instant Bayreuth," and "Hausmusik." Don't think he's gone soft; the electronic groove can be felt in "Rhythmus" and "Musica ex Machina," and he's a master at it. All in all, this revisit of ideas once "off the record" was a worthy one, and is a compelling reminder of why Bartos is a master electronic musician. www.bureaubrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Christina Courtin
There’s a new girl in town. But she’s not totally new (been playing violin and viola with the Knights, Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Marianne Faithful). And Varsity is her second solo release. Still, once her music starts to catch on, I think we’ll be hearing Christina Courtin’s name, whether her songs end up on primetime drama soundtracks (Grey’s Anatomy seems a shoo-in) or being covered, eventually, by The Voice contenders. Her songs are that catchy; her voice that pretty, and her leanings - including retro structures similarly favored by Tennis, La Sera, and others - are hip enough to garner a warm “Indie” welcome. I’m especially partial to tracks such as “Caroline” and “Harpy’s Diner,” which add really creative pauses and textures. Courtin’s best work could tempt a number of more established musicians to collaborate with her, rather than using her just for back-up. www.hundredpocketsrecords.com MARY LEARY

Livingstone Daisies
DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPINESS IS-(POP BOMMERANG RECORDS)-I had never heard of this Aussie bunch before but that’s maybe because they are fairly new. Scotty at the Pop Boomerang label was very excited about them (but he’s excited about all the bands on his label, as any label owner should be). Apparently the members were in some other known bands but I hadn’t heard of any of those bands but the ‘daisies have a real pleasant, breezy sound that sounds like it owes a bit of debt to The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub, Big Star and others and is real easy to like. Van Walker and Liz Stringer handle the guitar/vocals while Michael Barclay and Cal Walker handle the drums and bass respectively. Opening cut “Wednesday” and “Redhead” are two enticing pop numbers while ‘Die on the Vine” kicks it up a notch and creeps into garage rock territory. They save their best as next to last in the gorgeous 7th song (8songs total) in the supremely melodic “Keep Searching.” I hope this is more than just a one off and this bunch are planning a follow up. www.popboomerang.com

Golden Grrrls
I had a feeling that I’d like this band for one, they hail from Scotland (always a good sign) and most importantly, they’re on the Slumberland label, a label known for many great releases. Oh sure, the band name is a little goofy but hey, I can deal with that (I’ve loved American Music Club for years) and apparently two of the original four left the band which has now been whittled down to a trio. These young folks seem to take bits of their homeland history during days of yore (Pastels, Vaselines, etc.) and whip it all up into a frenzy of finger-snappin’ songs. Opening cut “New Pop” is everything a good opening pop cut should be: fuzzy melodies, male/female vocals, crashing drums, etc. (like a Tiger Trap song if they had a male singing backing vocals) while “Past Tense” is a little folkier (think Look Blue Go Purple) but no less effective (same on “Take Your Time”). There’s enough variation in the track that it doesn’t sound samey or sound like the songs run together. The 11 songs skip by in just over 27 minutes and boom, your commute is over and you want to hear it all over again (and you may). www.slumberlandrecords.com

The Skatalites
The Skatalites are my favorite all-time ska band; a designation that’s unlikely to change, given its role in helping to create the genre, along with setting the bar high by maintaining a precarious balance of rock-steady beats with excited spontaneity. Along with an army of new and old fans, I’m psyched about almost any release by the enduring combo. Still, the demise of seminal and long-term Skatalites, including trumpeter Lloyd Knibb, bassist Lloyd Brevett, and vocalist Lord Tanamo, means some loss of juice, even if the band’s managed to sustain a remarkably consistent sound and feeling through play breaks, personnel changes, and illness. With Doreen Shaffer occasionally providing vocals, Walk With Me represents some of the last recordings with Knibb, who passed away in 2011. The masterfully mixed album preserves the band’s lo-fi immediacy. And several tracks, including the title song, “Lalibela” and “Desert Ska,” carry the band’s trademark verve and vigor. But the set drags a bit for lack of more standout tracks and vocals. There’s nothing wrong with Shaffer’s work – it’s just a bit thin in the face of the Skatalites’ laidback but powerful juggernaut. In other words, if there’s a new Tanamo in the zeitgeist, hear my call. Meanwhile, Walk With Me is here to help Ska-fidels brew morning coffee and conjure idiosyncratic aerobics routines. www.skatalites.com MARY LEARY

I have to admit that since Dischord’s heyday of classic hardcore records in the early to mid-80’s I haven’t totally kept up with all of the label’s releases though the few that have slipped into my hands, like Medications and Faraquet, I have really enjoyed. This Washington, DC quartet (formed in 2009) has a rich musical history including Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty here playing guitar and singing as well as two Medications members in Devin Ocampo and Mark Cisnersos and Bob Mould co-conspirator Rich Morel. Initially hearing it was both prog and glam influenced I was a bit nervous but that is why it is always important to actually listen to a record first before making any assumptions. The songs (there’s only 7 of them) take odd but always interesting turns into deeply emotional, dark territory with dramatic keyboards and minor-key guitar chords. Opening cut “Better Than Bad” as is the darkly emotion “Low Lying Dreams” (which before I knew that the title was I was thinking it could be a on a film soundtrack in a dream sequence) and the creepy “Hospital.” I could have done without the oddly funky “Dali’s House” but the final three songs are all worth your time (especially the groovily melodic “Playboy”). I hope they do a full tour and not just play the Northeast (then breakup). I really wanna catch these guys on stage. www.dischord.com

Mary Gauthier
Mary Gauther is a veteran singer/songwriter, one who doesn't fit neatly into a pigeonhole; her style is a mix between folk, country, and even a little bit of rock, and this is, as you guessed it, a live album, recorded "one beautiful Bluebonnet Spring evening outside of Austin, Texas," accompanied by two other musicians. While I must admit to not being familiar with Ms. Gauther's music, I can't say I didn't enjoy this little live experience. Gauther's voice is pleasing, with a hard edge to it that makes me think that this is what Courtney Love could be like if she got her shit together. There's sadness and there's humor, often within the same song, such as on Fred Eaglesmith's "Your Sister Cried," "Our Lady of the Shooting Stars," and "Drag Queens in Limousines." I can tell that this was a fun night for her and for her audience, and even though I don't know her work, this has served as a great introduction for me. www.marygauthier.com JOSEPH KYLE

Onward Chariots
THIS IS MY CONFESSION-(SKIPPING STONES RECORDS)- If memory serves me correctly this is the same Ben Morss who was in the band Chariots of Tuna so I’m glad he ditched that awful moniker for something better. Based in NYC and having released previous singles on both the Dufflecoat (UK) and Elefant (Spain) labels he’s not on indie pop label Skipping Stones, a good home for him (and I hope said label releases more records form Sweden’s The Charade). Armed with several like-minded friends who are able to expand upon Morss’s pop vision, these 16 songs with folks on keyboards, trumpet, violin, clarinet, oboe, mandolin, etc. run the gamut from sophisticated pop of the awesome “Sisters and Brothers” to the bouncy, giddy “Mel Gibson” and “I Just Met a Girl.” Moving right along, “When You’re Smiling” is a sweetly melodic tune while the minimal “Mama” perhaps shows a Queen influence and 1960’s pop of “You Don’t Have to Be Unhappy” and the chugging, more rockin’ “I Want Everything.” On THIS IS MY CONFESSION Morss proves his unique talent as a songwriter and hopefully the Skipping Stones label (a micro-indie, as they call it) can give the record the exposure it deserves. www.skippingstonesrecords.com

The Partridge Family
If you were a kid in the early ‘70s, ABC was the network to watch on Friday nights when “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family” were both in the lineup. The Partridges were based on the real-life singing family the Cowsills, and although Shirley Jones and David Cassidy were the only cast members to actually sing in the show and on the albums, it didn’t detract from the show’s entertainment value. As corny as it was at times, “The Partridge Family” was humorous escapism, and who can forget that Mondrian-themed bus? The show made teen idols out of Susan Dey and David Cassidy and boosted Shirley Jones’ career. As for the music, it was catchy at times, cheesy at others, and sometimes both simultaneously, but, as evidenced by these two albums – together on one CD – David Cassidy had the knack of making the most of the material. “The Partridge Family Album,” the debut, includes two big hits, the buoyant “I Think I Love You” and propulsive “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat,” as well as “Brand New Me,” another fine pop confection. The biggest drawback of the first album is the inclusion of the Love Generation, the syrupy sweet band that sang backup vocals on Partridge Family albums; in this case, they actually take over two tracks entirely; by the time David Cassidy comes back in, it’s a huge relief. Thankfully, he’s much more front and center on “Up to Date,” which has its share of cringe-worthy lyrics, but also a batch of hook-laden tunes in “I’ll Meet You Halfway,” “You Are Always on My Mind” and “I’ll Leave Myself a Little Time.” Cassidy’s skillful use of vocal dynamics keeps the slower songs from being snoozers. Now, whether you run out and buy these collections will probably depend on how nostalgic you are for the early Seventies, but of the 22 songs on this collection, I’ll probably play at least half of them repeatedly. SUSAN BRETTINGEN www.cherryred.co.uk

Red Jacket Mine
More or less in the vein of Pure Pop for Now People, we have a new set of juke-length tunes from the well-oiled, Seattle-based combo, Red Jacket Mine. There are unabashed strains of Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, and Elvis Costello in songwriter Lincoln Barr’s apparently effortless demonstrations of succinct craftsmanship. But Barr lapses into easy cliché when he throws anger at a hackneyed target (the street preacher in the country-based “Have You Got a Permit to Preach on This Corner?”) and tells us nothing new with “Nickel and Dime.” The frustration with women that veins through SEC is refreshing (at least he expresses it, in this over-careful world) while feeling somewhat off-putting. I feel safe saying these things ‘cause SEC’s garnering mucho critical kudos. So I don’t feel alone in shouldering the responsibility for reporting that “Ron Nasty” has the melodic finesse of Alex Chilton, the Bolan-esque “Engineer” is sexier than anything emitted to date by Lowe or Costello, and beer’s likely to have just the right tang with “Skint City” playing. For some of us – especially those with great Rumour-love, three-minute pub rock rarely gets better, even if SEC could use the handful of edits that could remove the feeling that it’s a songwriting showdown entrant. Its cranky charm, handy compositions, and bar band excellence compensate for any excesses of testosterone, yada-yada vitriol, and ideas. www.finrecords.com MARY LEARY

The Barbaras
2006-2008 -(GONER)-
Not sure how I missed the boat on this band, heck, I thought the Magic Kids (who I love) were some new band that had no precedent. Little did I know. Apparently this band had all kinds of history. Two of the members, Bennett Foster and Will McElroy went on to the Magic Kids while two other members, Billy Hayes and Steven Pope went on to , first Jay Reatard’s band (Reatard produced some of the Barbaras material) and then later (currently), Wavves. It gets weirder still when Reatard stole Pope and Hayes for his own band but when the ditched him for Wavves he claimed he erased all of the Barabara recording but alas, these 15 songs were “found.” The sound is all kinds of fun, a mix ‘tween bubblegum pop and snotty garage rock and the songs sway , bounce and slug as only good pop songs can. “Superball” (later recorded by the Magic Kids) sounds bit rawer while other cuts, like “Heaven Hangs,” “Grief Touches Everyone,” “Flow,” “”Day at the Shrine” and plenty more kick up some dirt (mixed with sprinkles and malt balls , of course). And if I’m to judge only by the back cd cover I wish I would have seen them live (I see balloons, masks, and the like). Damn, they would have been my favorite band circa 2007 had only I known about them. www.goner-records.com

Gap Dream
This one came out last year but I didn’t get hip to it until this year. My pal had told me about it and then, a few days later I’m looking through my vinyl and realized that the nice folks at Burger Records had sent me a copy of it. It’s basically the work of one Gabriel Fulvimar (and some friends if I’m to believe he has friends named 17 Shadows, Tuliq Vorte and Eddy Grapes) and though it sounds California in sound he hails from Cleveland, Ohio. I love about half of the songs and merely like a few others. Then there’s a fewer, slower, druggier ones (ala Brian Jonestown Massacre) that weren’t really my cuppa tea (though I do love some of the BJM stuff). In the stuff I love is the cosmic “58th St. Fingers”, the catchy “My Other Man”, the dirty “Feast of the First Morning” and their awesome cover of The Squires “Go Ahead”- which I believe New Zealand’s Pop Art Toasters covered on their lone ep). I think if Fulvimar decided to so a straight pop, minus all of the studio trickery/fuckery, it could be a monster. Maybe he doesn’t want to do that and that’s fine, it’s his band, but just something to think about Gabe. You hear me? www.burgerrecords.com

THE NEW FAMILIAR-(EENIE MEENIE)- Another low-key but strong collection of songs from L.A. songwriter Shon Sullivan (apparently his old friend Elliott Smith was the one who gave him the Goldenboy moniker and Sullivan himself has played with The Eels, The Rentals, Neil Finn and others). He’s released a few other terrific records but the guy doesn’t seem to get the attention of many of his peers which is a shame as he is just as strong a songwriter. This is LP #3, I believe, and the band now seems solid with Bryan “The Boz” Bos on drums, Katy Stone on bass and Nicole Verhamme on guitar and vocals. THE NEW FAMILIAR opens with the 6-minute plus “The Walking Song” which hits all the peaks and valleys a good song should and then drifts into the Field Mice-esque jangle of “Today’s the Day” and then into the darker, Cure-ish “Steal Your Face” (Take THAT Deadheads!). “The Right Chemistry” is mostly Shon singing and strumming, “Soho’s Empty” is another pleasant pop tune that you’ll wanna hear if you have any brains (you do) and “Starlight Town” is the one that sounds most like Belle & Sebastian. The two other songs (8 total) are both worth your time as well. Pitchfork might ignore but Dagger sure as hell won’t. www.eeniemeenie.com

Mark Kozelek
I have to be honest about something, I'm a bit mixed on this release. It is a beautiful release, chock full of beautiful songs, recorded both live and in the studio. It's just that Kozelek has gotten into the habit of releasing a LOT of live albums as of late, either standalone records, or as bonus gifts for those who purchase his studio albums directly from him. There's nothing wrong with that, but for someone who has been infatuated with the man's music for the past twenty years--and who is a loyal fan in terms of supporting him--there's just a lot of repetitiveness on this release for me, and this feels a bit superfluous for the hardcore. Yeah, there are some new versions, but they're versions of songs the hardcore already own in not-very-different arrangements. I also realize that this is a soundtrack to his recently-released On Tour documentary, and so I cannot fault him for using that as a basis for this collection, which is, in a weird way, a "greatest hits" record for his post-Red House Painters career. Still, when you hear him singing "Four Fingered Fisherman" or "Third and Seneca" or "Mistress," you'll be quick to forgive. I know I have. I still await every Kozelek release with baited breath, and I'd recommend this record not for the hardcore inasmuch as I would the newcomer; this is a fine primer of what makes the man so great. www.caldoverderecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Don Rich
In his own way, Don Rich was the Randy Rhoads of country music: an amazing guitarist and musician who wowed and impressed everyone who saw him perform, yet died young, before he had a chance to fully prove himself, and whose passing left a major vacancy in the heart of his bandleader. Don Rich was the right-hand man of Buck Owens, and he joined Owens' band the Buckaroos in 1970. He was a member of his band until his untimely, sudden death at the age of 32 in a motorcycle accident after a Hee-Haw taping session--one that Owens reportedly had a vision of the night before. Owens tried to persuade him not to ride his motorcycle that day, and his death profoundly affected Owens, who nearly quit the music business. Surprisingly, Rich had very little in the way of recorded work; at some point--no one really knows exactly when; the best guess is the summer of 1970--Rich recorded a handful of George Jones songs that were shelved. He took on a number of his hits, such as "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Race is On," and "White Lightning," and these Bakersfield recordings remind not so much of George Jones as they do future Bakersfield recording star Dwight Yoakam. Rich had a fine voice, and played some great guitar, and his passing was a great loss. To fill in some of the space, there are four Buck Owens recording from the Hee-Haw sessions that were previously reviewed. Rich may have been forgotten to the annals of time, but these recordings certainly help to remind just what a great talent was lost. www.omnivorerecordings.com FOSTER HAYNES

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington requires no introduction; he was, simply, one of the greatest jazzmen of the Twentieth century. Like the recently deceased Dave Brubeck, Ellington was a man who could make music that was easy on the ears, heavy on the groove, and appealing to all walks of life, all while being quite innovative--if not outright experimental. Such is the case with this party music--featuring luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and Johnny Hodges--where Ellington and his band are simply on fire, whether with the up-tempo fare of "Red Shoes" and "Fillie Trillie," or the softer, slower fare of "Red Carpet," "Satin Doll," and "All of Me," and the best number of all: the swinging singing of Jimmy Rushing on album closer "Hello Little Girl." If you know Ellington, you know what greatness lies within this record; if you aren't familiar with his work...well, don't you think it's time you learned? www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

I always enjoyed this melodic L.A. band so I was pleased as punch when they returned in 2001 with the terrific, BETTER DAYS. They seem to have picked up eight where they left on the previous record (2003’s CATCHING UP TO THE FUTURE). On this, the band’s 4th full-length, the band (mainly the work of couple David Klotz and Emily Cook) the band is still doing what it has always done, melding jangly pop with elements of dream pop and shoegaze into an intoxicating stew/brew. The opening one-two punch of “Seeing Stars” and “You’ve Got a Life Of Your Own” gets things started in the perfect fashion then they slow it way down on the dreamy “She is Real” but crank the fuzz machine back up again on the terrific “Summer’s Gone.” Cook’s vocals on “You and I” add a certain sweetness and light to the proceedings (also on the terrific “Last Goodbyes”). It’s great seeing the band completely recharged and still producing quality music. I hope there’s not another hiatus on the horizon. www.fondamusic.com

The Knack
TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS-(CHERRY RED/ NOW SOUNDS)- Nope, Not the late 70’s power-poppers out of LA (though, oddly enough, they were on the same label, Capitol, and the label used the same slogan, “Get the Knack”…but hopefully not “Nuke the Knack” as what happened to the “My Sharona” gang) nor the UK band of the same name (that later changed their name to Gun). No, this uniquely American band existed in the late 60’s and despite having a batch of terrific pop songs couldn’t find the time to get arrested. Led by the awesomely-named Michael Chain (Chain the and equally badass named Dink Kaplan co-wrote most of these tunes). The band never cut a proper album but the folks at Now Sounds have compiled this 14 songs comp that includes the bands four singles, five previously unreleased tracks and an alternate mix of “I’m Aware.” Opening cut “Time Waits For No One” is upbeat poop ala the Beau Brummells but this is definitely no by-the-book pop record as some of the songs port odd time signatures (I’m Aware”). Other choice cuts include “Pretty Daisy,” “Lady in the Window,” “”Once Upon a Cheek” and a few others. Not sure if I’d call this an essential release of 60’s pop but still worth hearing (thought 40 years late). www.cherryred.co.uk

Buck Owens
Man, getting this release has made my year! This collection gathers up eighteen country classics recorded by Buck Owens and his Buckaroos, all previously unreleased--no mean feat, as almost everything he's done has been released. These songs, though, all stem from his work with the influential show Hee-Haw. While the cast would often have original songs and would feature guest artists, in between the jokes and skits and Junior Samples, the band would perform country hits by others. Surprisingly, most of these have never been officially released, and there's tons of them, apparently. True, these songs feel like the work of a really awesome bar band, as they plow their way through songs like "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Waterloo," and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." Their performances are stripped down, no-frills, and they sound wonderful, because, hey, these guys had probably played these songs quite a lot in their career. The hokum of Hee-Haw was always great corny fun, yet it helped to obscure just how damn good a country musician Buck Owens was. To me, this is one of the best reissues of the year so far. The only drawback? It didn't include the four songs from the Black Friday 10", Buck Sings Eagles, where Owens takes on Eagles songs. Don't laugh; he did a great job! www.omnivorerecordings.com FOSTER HAYNES

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It
I still think fondly of these four women from Birmingham, England (known simply as Fuzzbox). The brightly-colored gals (lots of hair dye and bright clothes) took their native land by storm when their 1986 debut 7”, “XX Sex” b/w “Rules and Regulations” hit #1 on the indie charts over there. When this debut record came out my pal Bob Portella turned me on to it (and so many other bands) so when they played the club Revival in Philly in the Spring of ’87 of course we went to see them and they were a blast. Total fun. I would occasionally post their videos on my Facebook page but didn’t dream of ever seeing a reissue but, thanks to the good folks at Cherry Red, here it is. 34 songs stretched over two discs. Disc one is the original 12-song debut while the 22 song disc two has all sorts of odds n’ sods, alternative mixes, remixes, etc. Plenty of terrific songs that I remember like “Love is the Slug, “Jackie” (cool sax!), “What’s the Point” and plenty more. And in typical Cherry Red form, the booklet that accompanies it is deluxe with plenty of photos, liners, etc. The band released one more record, BIG BANG!!, in 1989, before calling it a day in 1990. Side note: ¾ of the band reformed in 2010 and did a tour of the UK. Sad note: Fuzzbox member Jo Dunne died last year of Cancer. This reissue is a lot of fun and well-worth hearing. www.cherryred.co.uk

Aina Haina
What happens when a Badman Recording label head and talented producer (of albums by Starfucker and the Builders and the Butchers, among others) pulls his rock ‘n’ roll persona out of relative obscurity with an EP by a duo he and Mike Ailes started a few decades ago at the U. of Hawaii? Magierek broadcasts happy-go-lucky vibes from the self-titled new release’s physical cover, with his own statement, “Better than the new Van Halen.” I’m right with ya, Dylan – if anything, your claim might be a mite over-modest, as Aina Haina (the EP; the band, the mini-series…) is five tracks of hard-rock with a melodic sensibility. Hard to believe it’s just Magierek (drums/vocals) and Ailes (guitar leads/rhythms, vocals). www.badmanrecordingco.com MARY LEARY

David Cassidy
By 1974, David Cassidy had decided to leave “The Partridge Family” TV show and focus on his recording, singing and songwriting career. “Getting’ It In the Street” is actually his ninth solo album, and although it came out in 1976 in Germany and Japan, it was never officially released in the United States until now. As he did with his two previous solo albums, Cassidy teamed up with Gerry Beckley from the group America for production and songwriting duties for three of the tracks. Beckley can also be heard singing background vocals on several of the songs. So what does a then-26-year-old teen idol sound like? Surprisingly, pretty good to these somewhat skeptical ears. The title track is a romping rocker with Mick Ronson on guitar. “Cruise to Harlem,” which Cassidy wrote with Beckley and Brian Wilson, sounds as good as what the Beach Boys were doing then, for what it’s worth. “I’ll Have to Go Away (Saying Goodbye)” shows off Cassidy’s heartfelt vocals. “The Story of Rock and Roll,” written by Harry Nilsson, wouldn’t sound out of place on an Eric Carmen album (and I mean that in a good way). Despite their slick sheen, songs like “I Never Saw You Coming,” “Living a Lie,” and “Love, Love the Lady” are hooky little concoctions. Had I been a rabid Cassidy fan back then, I certainly would have found them enjoyable, and even now, they’re entertaining, if not essential. “Rosa’s Cantina,” with its hokey lyrics, is the only clinker on the album, which ends with “Junked Heart Blues,” a smoky little ballad in which Cassidy once again shows off his expressive voice. Although “Gettin’ It In the Street” doesn’t inspire me to dash out and collect Cassidy’s other albums, it has me thinking more seriously about catching him in concert next time he comes through town. www.realgonemusic.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister
NOBODY DANCES IN THIS TOWN-(PARK THE VAN)-The band name threw me off a bit as I was expecting something a bit flamboyant (usually a bad sign for me) and this LA band’s debut record, well, it IS sorta flamboyant but what the hey, I dove in and never came up for air. And true to the name, the band is led by siblings Robert and Rachel Kolar (both sing, he plays guitar and she bangs the tambourine) while Lauren Brown (dancin’ n’ drummin’), Oliver Newell (stand-up bass) and Aaron Robinson (lea guitar on a lap slide) round out the quintet. The songs come at your quickly with a real swampy, eclectic feel but the band remembers to write songs with plenty of hooks (a must for me) and not just make a record full of aimless gobbling. Give a listen to rousing cuts like “Let it Live Free,” “The Same Old Ground,” “Tales that I Tell,” “Wake Your Heart,” “Clackin’ Heels” and at least a few more. What can I say, the record is a real hoot to listen to and while it peters out a tad (again, just a tad) at the end, I’d still say that of the 11 songs a good ¾ make the cut. If and when they come through Denver I’m NOT missing ‘em. www.parkthevan.com

Chris Stamey
I can’t say that I was ever a Chris Stamey disciple (they’re out there, though) but I’ve always respected him from afar. The dbs for instance (who reunited last year), I have always respected them more than listen to them and the same can be said for his solo career (though I did really enjoy his Yep Roc debut, 2004’s TRAVELS IN THE SOUTH). The low-key LOVESICK BLUES is a different thing altogether. I started out barely making it through it and have ended up listening to it constantly, usually in the morning in the car on the way to work. It’s mostly made up of low-key acoustic folk tunes like first and second songs, “Skin” and “London” but it’s not all downcast strum as chiming pop tunes like the gorgeous “Anyway” (sounding like something straight off an Association record) , the soaring, punchy “You n’ Me n’ XTC” (with some guest arrangements from Mr. Andy Partridge himself) and the hopeful “I Wrote This Song For You” (more strings). The record ends with a few more intimate songs like the gorgeous “Wintertime” and the title track. A beautiful, intimate record that demands repeated listens. Good on ya’, Mr. Stamey! www.yeproc.com

Two Hours Traffic
This Canadian bunch (who hail from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and took their name from a line in Romeo and Juliet) could be one of those bands that’s barely known here in the states (which they are) and may be huge stars in their native land (I’ve heard Blue Rodeo are rock stars in the Great White North but can barely get arrested here). Formed in 2003, I missed their 2005 S/T debut but enjoyed 2005’s LITTLE JABS and 2009’s TERRITORY. One of the founders, Alec O’Hanley has left the band but long timers Liam Corcoran (vocals/guitar) , Andrew McDonald (guitar/vocals) and drummer Derek Ellis are still around (along with bassist Nathan Gill) and FOOLISH GOLD just might be their best batch of songs yet. Hooking up with producer Darryl Neudorf (who has done some nice stuff with the New Pornographers and Neko Case, among others) he helped the band do what it does best which is excel at writing mid-tempo, hooky pop songs that occasionally remind me of Squeeze. Two of the best songs on here , “Audrey” and “Amour Than Amis” , were on the stop gap EP from last year (SIREN SPELL) but there’s plenty more here like the gorgeous “Last Star”, the punchy “Magic”, the jangly “Faster 4 U” and plenty more. The more I listen, the more I like these songs. A nice surprise to say the least. www.bumstead.com

A Fragile Tomorrow
Putting a “Produced by Mitch Easter” (or in this case co-produced) on your record will certainly get me to take some notice. The former Let’s Active dude had worked with several favorite bands (Pavement, Velvet Crush, The Hang Ups, REM, etc.). I’m a little surprised that I’d never before heard of this South Carolina band but I hadn’t, still though, this is their 4th record and most of it is terrific. The band is comprised of the three Kelly brothers (Sean, Dominic and Brendan) and their pal, bassist Shaun Rhoades. They probably could have trimmed a bit of the fat of these 14 songs down to 10 but really, I’m quibbling here. Opening cut “Don’t Need Saving” is a terrific, mid-tempo pop cut while “Crooked Smiles and Greedy Hands” slows it down a bit and reminded me of a mix between Nada Surf and The Mommyheads. “Loyalty Lies” get s a bit tender n’ atmospheric and was nice, but I like the tunes that jump a bit more: “Long Time to Be Happy,” “Intentions,” “Kernersville” (which they get help from Mr. Easter himself on guitars and a few Bangles on vocals, Susan Cowsill, too) , “Dropout Reunion” and a few others. If you like well-written jangle pop tunes that have some bite then look no further. www.afragiletomorrow.com

The House of Love
Wow, the Cherry Red label went all out on their reissue of the 1988 debut by Britain’s The House of Love (originally on the Creation label), who, for a few years in the late 80’s/early 90’s, seemed like the biggest band in the world . They have released it as a 3-cd in a foldout digipack. The first disc, of course, has the record while disc two has singles, b-sides and rarities and the 3rd and final disc has previously unreleased mixes and demos. Whew….50 songs in all. Truth be told, my favorite record by the band was their self-titled sophomore effort from 1990 (also called the Butterfly album) but the debut was and still is a thing of beauty that you need to hear. The rhythm section (of Chris Groothuizen and Pete Evans) was certainly top notch but the core of the band, vocalist Guy Chadwick and especially guitarist Terry Bickers (who would eventually leave the group acrimoniously) created their unique sound on this record that was part Brit pop, part psychedelic ooze and part breezy 60’s chime. Opening with the haunting “Christine” plus the jaunty “Road”, the catchy “Sulphur”, the driving “Salome”, the darker “Love in a Car” and plenty more. On disc two there’s 19 songs including alternative versions of some of the above songs plus scorchers like “Shine On,” “Destroy the Heart,” “Blind” (one of my all-time faves) and ends with several live cuts. Disc three has 18 songs and again, plenty more bounty that the completist will want/need to have. For a few years these guys light shone as bright as anyone on the UK music scene. When you hear Bicker’s subtle, textured yet out-of-control guitar meanderings you’ll realize the guy was truly a unique axe-slinger and kudos, once again, to the Cherry Red label for once again getting the job done right (and then some). www.cherryred.co.uk

John LT
SUBURBAN SUPERSTAR-(MOTHER WEST)-The cover art got me interested, plus the fact that it’s on the Mother West label and produced by Charles Newman (same label/producer as the Jon DeRosa record from last year, which was one of my favorites of 2012). I’ve never heard of John LT (who hails from Baltimore) but the guy has a whole host of folks helping out on this 13 song record (including Mr. Newman on keys and percussion, he also did all of the string and horn arrangements). One thing is for sure, they guy’s not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve, I hear elements of Elton John, Dennis Wilson (PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE anyone?), Billy Joel and probably others. The swingin’ title track is pretty ambitious as are many others on here. Opening track “Lottery Ticket” reminded me of Sir Elton while “Pretty Angel” reminded me of surfer boy Dennis with its soulful vocals. Other choice cuts include the roller coaster-ish “Nowhere To Go”, the funky “Mr. Wonderful” and the dreamy “The Governor’s Wife.” The guy is obviously a huge fan of all eras of pop music as it pours out of him on SUBURBAN SUPERSTAR. Not only that , but the guy sang the National Anthem at an Orioles game. Huzzah! www.motherwest.com

Midway in the Wake
Another late 2012 release that shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle is this atmospheric full-length. We Will Remain Sedate features wonderful guitar textures, as well as poetically-appointed interplay between synths, keyboards, vocals, effects and guitars. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this band is its ability to write captivating melodies, which ride a winning mezcla of everything from late-period Beatles to Pavement, along with some oddball strands that make these sounds really interesting. Perhaps most telling of all Midway in Wake aspects is this: some of these tracks are pretty long – a risky move from many a musician – but I’m with the music every minute. So here’s the punch line: Midway in Wake isn’t really a band; it’s this El Paso, Tx.-based guy; Greg Reynaud, who orchestrates the whole thing, from soup to nuts.www.lowatt.com MARY LEARY

Athens, GA’s HHBTM label (Happy Happy Birthday to Me) has been quietly releasing some terrific pop records for several years now. And one of the best things about the label is that it’s hard to categorize as their bands go across genres. Tunabunny is one of them. They have two previous records but I never heard either (I believe that I only previously heard a single or maybe an EP). On GENIUS FATIGUE they offer up 10 crunchy blasts of, well, I thought it would be straight fuzzy pop but this definitely has a unique post-punk edge to it. Vocalist Brigette Herron and Mary Jane Hassell don’t mess around, not in the least (Chloe and Scott round out the quartet). Lead-off cut Dutchess of Nothing” snorts and gallops to the finish line as does “You Do What You Want” (which is a bit slower/murkier and the equally raucous “Airplanes in Echelon.” The pop side of the band rears its head on cuts like “Slackjawed” and “Form a Line.” And again, being 10 songs on here they don’t wear out their welcome, just the way I like it (and I’m guessing live they’re a “Do not miss” band). www.hhbtm.com

I heard one song on a friend’s Facebook page and was hooked. I had never heard of the band before, had never heard of the bands mastermind Gregory Raimo and had not heard of his previous band, the Gunslingers, either. I do know that the guy hails from France, that this is his 3rd solo record and that he loved eeking some crazy noises out of his guitar. I guess you could call this stuff psych-garage rock and not sound dumb but hey, there’s even a, ahem, folk number on here and plenty more. Really though, giving these songs labels is pointless (but I’ll still do it anyway) cos’ no sense in doing that when your ears are getting fried (for starters, think of the old San Francisco duo Chrome). Opener “Low Born” has some wild jazzy drumming, grunting guitars and phone-booth vocals while the title track has more of the same but the drums are more rapid-fire and the phone booth has gotten smaller. “Hymn of Pan” is the folk song (Peter , Paul and Mary, it ain’t….it’s not even Peter). You want more? Spin “Spectre of the Brocken” and “The Primitive Hoodoo” and you’ll get the trip that those bath salts never gave ya’. Seriously, this is one molten slab of wax (yes , wax…vinyl only) and remind you of why you feel in love with music in the first place . From opener to the ender, 8 songs in all, not a wasted second. www.mexicansummer.com

Trapper Schoepp & the Shades
I have to admit, the name intrigued me…I was thinkin’ this was gonna be some fun garage rock bunch ready to play your wedding or bar mitzvah but then I noticed they have a pedal steel player so you know what that means. They hail from Milwaukee and are led by, you guessed it, Trapper Schoepp (his brother Tanner plays keyboards) and offer up 12 country nuggets ( I didn’t say alt country) and most of these cuts really swing. Opening cut “So Long” is almost waltzy as it swings n’ sways while cut #2, the rousing “Cold Deck” has a hooks aplenty and a nice kickback beat (and probably my fave song of the bunch). He goes for tender (and succeeds) on “Tracks” (on the title track as well) while they crank it back up again on the terrific “Pins and Needles.” They tuck a few of the stronger cuts near the end too like the crying/sawing “Twenty Odd Years” and the mid-tempo “I-94.” Overall the band can play and Mr. Schoepp can weave a darn good tale. They remind me of longtime faves the Old 97’s so let’s see if this band can keep writing quality songs like Rhett Miller and the boys have done. Be real neat if they did. www.sideonedummy.com

Summer Hours
CLOSER STILL-(TECHNICAL ECHO)-At another time, I might be wary of a group with so many ‘90s influences (guitars with spot-on Sonic Youth tones; vocals so close to Lisa Loeb’s…). But Summer Hours grabs me by its second song – if there are ‘90s influences here, this is an exceptionally inspired reworking of things I’ve liked from The Breeders, Cardigans, Weezer, Pavement, and, yes, Sonic Youth. And it would be clear – even if Mike Bliss hadn’t recently revealed his deep interest in older-school rock to The Vinyl District -- that he and Summer Hours co-founder and fellow Oberlin College alumni Rachel Dannefer bring a lot of creativity and thoughtfulness to the table. In any case, Closer Still is a breath of sparkling air. Formerly on the Deep Elm and Contraphonic labels, Summer Hours feel convincing, confident, and sweetly vulnerable – a great combination with the band’s rock instincts - for its Technical Echo debut release. www.technicalecho.com MARY LEARY

Toy Love
Fun fact: I nearly went to The Gluepot, the famed New Zealand club, and not just to see anyone but to see The Chills. In February of 1991 I was in New Zealand for a month and as I was shoving off from Auckland on the Kiwi Experience (basically a bus for backpackers) I noticed a flier that The Chills, one of my all-time favorite bands that I had already seen several times in the USA ,were playing The Gluepot two nights later but alas, our bus tix were bought and paid for an my pal and I had to leave. Still, it would’ve made a great story. Listening to this vintage recording of one of NZ’s first punk bands it’s good to remember that, though NZ brought us some great pop bands, namely The Chills, The Bats, Look Blue Go Purple, and many others it’s easy to forget that the country had a vibrant punk scene. Toy Love was comprised of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate (who both went on to form the Tall Dwarfs), Paul Kean (who went on to The Bats) and drummer Mike Dooley who played with several bands. So on this night in September of 1980 (as I was in New Jersey beginning my junior year of high school) Toy Love played a snarling set of 25 songs to what looks like a packed house. Knox’s vocals are snotty while Bathgate’s guitar can slice steak, fruit cake or year old rock hard muffins and Kean/Dooley and doin’ a damn good job of keeping up (let’s not forget keyboardist Jane Walker!). Seriously, this rips from start to finish. Go on… www.goner-records.com

Wendy and the Lost Boys
I’m not sure if this Portland band took their name from the book (a book that I had nor even heard of until I Googled it) but hey, who cares because this band does have a singer named Wendy (who’s got a lovely set of pipes)and the rest of the band, all males, might just be lost. The band describes what they do as “Acoustic Americana” and on this 5-song debut ep however, the band seems to know exactly what they want to do. Well-respected guitarist Phil Garfinkel has been bouncing around the Portland music scene for years (usually behind the sound board) and he, along with multi-instrumentalist Christian McKee, upright bassist Paul Prato and vocalist Wendy Rover (who also happen to play the Cajun rub board put their best foot forward on these 7 tunes, six original and one reworking of a traditional song (“(Hand Me Down My) Walkin’ Cane”). A few of my favorites include the lively opening cut “Broken Hearted Zydeco”, the mandolin-heavy “Singin’ in the Engine Room” and the jug-band influenced “Great God A’Mighty.” There’s not a bum song in the bunch and live they apparently put n a helluva show (sad to say, prior to leaving Puddletown, I never did see ‘em. Don’t make the same mistake). www.wendyandthelostboysband.com

Lisa Germano
That Lisa Germano makes nature sound slightly gothic (crow or raven calls; wings that seem to flap right by the mic., and acoustic keyboard sounds) could be a plus for some listeners. Me; I have to get past the glacial pacing of Germano’s barely-enough-air-in-this-world-for-me, inside-the-mic. vocals, reminding myself that others have said her work is interesting, subtly complex, and astonishing. I also have to ape some Alzheimer’s around my knowledge that Germano came, more or less, out of the same ‘90s singer/songwriter era in which Jewel, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, and Tori Amos flourished (an epoch to which I responded by writing and performing my own music; along with listening to vintage blues, all sorts of jazz, the Cramps, the Pixies, Rocket from the Crypt, the Cardigans, tons of great rock and alt. sounds from the ‘60s-‘80s, TFUL 282… iow, anything but). It also needs to be said that Germano’s respected by and/or collaborated with David Bowie, Howe Gelb, Neil Finn, and… I’m sorry, I can’t go on with this. I’m about halfway through No Elephants and I can’t take any more. It’s not that nothing here is pretty, that I don’t dig it when the music gets trance-y, or when there are trippy effects. But with Germano’s open-wound vocals the common highest-in-the-mix thread, I’m just bored and annoyed. It doesn’t matter to me how important the lyrics are, or how deep the emotion, if the music feels predictable and lacking in vitality, and that’s the case for me, here. Finally, just for some perspective, chanteuse-artistes such as Ruby Throat, Laura Nyro, P.J. Harvey, Cat Power, Hail’s Susanne Lewis, Joni Mitchell, and the Raincoats have held me in their palms with confessional and/or slow-paced vocals. You should probably take my “take” with a grain of salt; making up your own minds about No Elephants when it comes out on February 12. There’s a video for “Apathy and the Devil” up on YT now, btw.www.badmanrecordingco.com MARY LEARY

Golden Bloom
After a terrific debut in 2009 (FAN THE FLAMES) and a follow-up EP in 2011 (MARCH TO THE DRUMS) G.B. leader Shawn Fogel and company return with 5 more songs (where’s the full-length?) on NO DAY LIKE TODAY. The thing is ,on those first two records Fogel recorded everything by himself, but when he went out on tour he put together a band and that band is who recorded this ep (Fogel stated that “I realized we’d be a better band if we applied the live band vibe to the writing, arranging and recording”). There’s still some chiming melodies but, truth be told, a few of the songs are a bit light for my ears (like opener “Flying Mountain” not a bad pop song, but not great) and I was a bit bored by “Deliver it For Me.” The main exception here is the hooky, punchy, fantastic “Shadow of a Man” (one of Fogel’s best songs yet) while the moodier, darker “White Whale” adds a darker element to Fogel’s usual bright pop tunes. The closing song, “Lone Reporter”, adds elements of both, beginning with spare instrumentation and ending in a maelstrom of crashing guitars and drums and is worthy as well. NO DAY LIKE TODAY is certainly worth hearing, maybe for me it will just take a few more listens to get used to the full-band thing and to the Shawn Fogel show anymore, that’s all. www.goldenbloom.net

Billy Paul
WAR OF THE GODS-(BBR/CHERRY RED)-Paul's previous album, 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, had been a surprise, unexpected hit, thanks to the sultry ballad, "Me and Mrs. Jones." As an artist, Paul wanted to experiment, and he felt little desire to merely repeat the formula that gave him acclaim; after all, if you've got the spotlight and you've got the ability to do so, why not experiment? That he did. Enlisting the help of songwriting team Gamble and Huff, Paul created a trippy, spaced-out album that felt like a concept album. On some level, the big, grand arrangements feel like prog-rock, especially the trippy, epic title song. Beginning with blaring alien noises that give way to some sexy, sexy soul music, it's one of Paul's greatest accomplishments, his voice fitting in quite nicely with the weirdness. Yet War of the Gods never fully goes experimental, as promised by the first two songs--or, as you might imagine, the first side of the vinyl album. "The Whole Town's Talking" is a more traditional number, a jaunty pop number that feels out of place, and "Peace Holy Peace" is easily one of Paul's finest album cuts, a deep ballad that blends gospel and soul music in quite a masterful way. After this, Paul would return to more traditional sounds and styles, to varying levels of success. War Of The Gods is a fine, beautiful album that nearly reaches the heights of its stone-cold classic predecessor. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Tracey Thorn
Christmas is four days after the start of winter, yet why do winter-based songs stop being relevant after that date? Everything But The Girl lead singer's always had a voice that sounded like wintertime, and Tinsel and Lights, which is her turn at making a Christmas record, is an interesting affair. Eschewing the big-name holiday fare, she turns in a somewhat melancholic, piano-based affair that feels quite "adult" in nature. As with anything she does, it is Thorn's voice that draws in the listener; she makes new songs, like Stephin Merritt's "Like a Snowman" and Ron Sexsmith's' "Maybe this Christmas" sound like classics, and she makes familiar songs like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Hard Candy Christmas" sound fresh and contemporary. The arrangements are soft, allowing for the lyrics and her voice to make for a potent combination. Don't think of this as a Christmas record; think of this as a winter record, with the occasional nod towards that Yuletide day. www.mergerecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Mike Uva & the Bad Eyes
Mike Uva has been quietly releasing music from his home in Cleveland on his Collectible Escalators label for the past several years, He has been in some previous bands and this is his 3rd record under his own name but the first in five years. Also , while his previous records were more in the “pop” category (maybe adding an indie before the word pop) Uva with band The Bad Eyes now in tow, goes for a more dusty, folky, country sound (complete with a pedal steel player…did I ever tell you how much I love the sound of that instrument?). In addition to the pedal steel the bands adds some piano here, some trumpet there, organ too in addition to the usual guitar/bass/drums and these guys are on to something. The songwriting is low-key yet strong and cuts like “Where Do You Want Me,” “California” (which is just Uva on vocals and guitar) and the title track are all winners (plenty more, too). Oh and if I didn’t say it yet, this is a vinyl release and very nice to hold in my sweaty palms. Instead of giving the latest Pitchfork buzz band your money, how about sending some Uva’s way. The guy really deserves it. mikeuva.bandcamp.com

Lulu Gainsbourg with Various Artists
Whether the presence of celebrities and hipsters is a drawing card or turn-off for you, From Gainsbourg to Lulu is, for starters, intriguing. It’s interesting to hear what Iggy Pop, Scarlett Johansson, and Shane MacGowan do with Gainsbourgh’s certifiedly cool material. It’s the first release from Gainsbourg’s son, Lulu, was was five when his dad passed away in ’91. His star-studied bevy of friends also includes Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Sly Johnson, and Rufus Wainwright. I can only imagine the catering tent. www.mbmrecords.com MARY LEARY

Gary Lewis & The Playboys
You know it's a warning sign when members of a band disparage the material found within their own release! Such is the case with Gary Lewis and his "band." The son of Jerry Lewis, it seemed unsurprising that he was aimed towards fame and a musical career, and they did turn out a few great hits, namely "This Diamond Ring," and "Just My Style." Lewis did not seem to be in control of his own destiny; many of the songs—especially the B-sides--are merely the Wrecking Crew getting to have fun, with no Lewis around. The powers that be behind the group held onto a "let the B-side be crap so it won't detract from the A-side" policy, and there sure is some dreck to be found here—with horrible covers of other hits and the kind of songs that made Elvis turn to drugs. The promise of the band's first single, the hit "This Diamond Ring," was quickly sunk with the atrocious "Tijuana Wedding," which is a rather obvious "La Bamba" knock-off. Still, there are some good moments, such as "My Heart's Symphony," "Girls in Love," and a rather lovely cover of "Rhythm of the Rain." The Playboys didn't last long, and Lewis went onto a more traditional showbiz career. The hits here are great; the rest...not so much, and they knew it. More for completists, this. www.realgonemusic.com JOSEPH KYLE

Eric Lichter
ELKS IN PARIS-(DIAMOND MARKET RECORDS)-Seattle musician Lichter (who is also a member (keyboardist) of the long-running psych-pop bunch, the Green Pajamas) apparently did a kickstarter campaign to get this thing recorded and released and yes, as the title implies, it was recorded in the City of Lights. It was produced by co-conspirator Ken Stringfellow and veers more toward the pop side of things and less on the psych side and Stringfellow’s production is warm and clear and the two of them seem to be quite a formidable team. Now that the particulars are out of the way, on to the songs. ELKS IN PARIS is full of sweet pop music that’s lovingly rendered by all involved. Opening cut “A Plan So Beautiful” (“How could a plan so beautiful go so pitifully bad?”) is dreamy and melodic while “Back to the Best” adds a bit of quirk with a twitchy side step before slipping into the pretty chorus. “Posh” is light n’ airy while “Coroner’s Motel” is pleasant, strummy and folky. As his previous solo record was a decade ago (PALM WINE SUNDAY BLUE), it sounds like Lichter needs to step out on his own more often. Well done, gentlemen. www.elksinparis.com

Stick Insect
One thing I’ve always loved about the Teen Beat label is that they always come outta left field with something and leader Mark Robison shows no signs of slowing down in that dept.. Whether it’s Johnny Cohen, Flin Flon or whoever, it’s always interesting and unpredictable. Enter Stick Insect which is a recording project for Brooklyn-ite Jeannine Durfee. She was at one a time a member of the Sisterhood of Convoluted Thinkers (The Gazetteers, too) and apparently this debut record has been in the making for ten years and though it’s solo project, Durfee got plenty of help on several songs from Sisterhood’s leader Rob Christiansen (who also co-produced the record as well….he was in another one of my favorite Teen Beat bands, Eggs). Not unlike a lot of acts on the T.B. label, there is a real bass-heavy sound that’s quite minimal (see ‘Who Knows Who You Are”) while other tunes are speedier and scratchier (“Crash,” etc.) or just plain glitchy (“Cabin IV”). Plus like a lot of the release on the Teen Beat label, the packaging is over-the-top, in this case the designer got their origami on (silk-screened, too) and did one hell of a number! An interesting listen that’s appropriate for house parties, dinner parties or my 5 year old’s birthday party coming up in a few weeks! www.teenbeatrecords.com

Star & Micey
Star & Micey have put out another 2012 release I don’t want to ignore; I’ve just had a really busy end of the year. And why should their worthy sounds suffer any consequent neglect? The band seems like a nice enough group of youngish good ole boys (swigging beer in their YT videos, wearing the ubiquitous baseball caps and flannel shirts of heartland performers). And the Memphis-based trio’s onstage merriment translates easily to their recordings. Star & Micey’s hit on a rather unique formula: shit-kickin’ progressions with chunky beats – that’s kind of addicting. Check the band’s just-this-side-of-bad-taste video for the EP’s title track (the girl featured seems to be, well, underage; although the band gets its just desserts) on its site: www.starandmicey.com MARY LEARY

Knock Knock
This record was a pleasant surprise, apparently it is the band third but I had never heard of them before. Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised though as it’s on the fairly new Test Pattern Records label and though the label hasn’t been around for that long a time they have already released several terrific record (Baby Grand, Desario, etc.). It’s also good to see that Sacramento (where the label and the band are from) still has an active scene with good bands (let us not forget Tiger Trap, Rocketship, Holiday Flyer and too many others). It’s pretty upbeat pop music, the style of music I never (or rarely) get tired of as long as the songs are good and the hooks are plentiful, which they are here. A few tunes that stuck out for me were the opening kicker “Wild and Blue”, the soaring title track and the interestingly-titled “Mike vs. the Mysteries of the Multiverse.” This one was a fun listen all the way around and the Ouija Board concept on the inner sleeve was pretty cool, too. www.testpatternrecords.com

Jacob Morris
I’m in the groove with Jacob Morris’ Moths from the first strum. Mid-tempo, predictably resolved chord changes can be hella boring. Or they can feel, as in the case of Moths’opener,“Sidewind,” like old friends. The kinds of old friends who bring CCR, Rubber Soul-era Beatles, and Gerry Rafferty simultaneously to mind. And it gets better when Morris’ chutzpah (opening with something so unlikely to stop any show) is vindicated with the second track, “Flowers,” which pulls any influences I’ve mentioned, along with any of which I’m unaware, into the present; making the language of cantering acoustic rock his own. Morris has an unassuming, slightly haunting tenor, along with a good sense of timing re: backing vocalists and instrumental add-ons. He’s also possessed of a mature sense of placement. As when he’s won my ears with the first two tracks before settling back into a bit of minimalist loveliness, “Spider,” which is flavored by vintage Appalachian and Celtic folk. I’m so taken with Jacob Morris’ intuitive, easy-as-an-old-suit minstrelsy, I wish I’d heard it before compiling my Best of 2012 lists. ‘Nuff said.www.cloudrecordings.com MARY LEARY

IGNITION-(BLACK VINYL SHIOES)-A few weeks back I reviewed the Shoes best-of compilation that Real Gone Music released and forgot that the band, form Zion, IL has been around for 35 years (plus) with the same three guys: John Murphy, Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe (and longtime live drummer, John Richardson). Well, here they are with their first record of new songs in 18 years (since 1994’ws PROPELLOR) and I’m happy to say that the band still dedicates their energy to songcraft and the 15 songs that make up IGNITION are as strong as any batch of songs that the band had released in its career. Starting with opening cut “Head vs. Heart” and continuing on through other standouts like “The Joke’s On You” and “Diminishing Returns” (ok, so I just named the records first three songs) the band is nothing if not consistent (and always has been). I guess in 18 years the band had a large backlog of tunes to choose from and it looks to me like they chose wisely. I still feel like the band has been way under the radar for far too long and don’t get nearly enough respect but if they’re ok with their lot in lifer then I should be too, right? You want good, catchy pop songs with sparkling melodies and plenty of guitar bite? Then look no further. www.shoeswire.com

Titus Andronicus
Wait, for starters lead vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stickles shaved his Abe Lincoln beard off??? What gives! Ok, to be fair this Glen Rock, NJ’s previous record, 2010’s THE MONITOR was all about the Civil War so I guess tickles was just staying in character (and props to him for that). Anywho, the band is back for record number three an while not quite as ambitious as said sophomore effort the band are still writing raucous, revved-up and just plain rousing songs that are a joy to hear. Only thing with LOCAL BUSINESS is that towards the end it runs out of steam a bit (let’s put it this way, if I had the vinyl I’d be playing side 1 A LOT more than side 2)., but still, having said that, there’s plenty to like here. The chugging opener “Ecce Homo” while “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter” (yup, the band is still talented at naming songs) has all of the band pouring their guts out (even though only Stickles is singing). Speaking of pouring his guts out, some of the songs shows Stickles laying bare some personal struggles for everyone to hear, especially on a song like “My Eating Disorder” (but that song is preceded by the minute long hootenanny, “Food Fight!” while the song that follows it “Titus Andronicus vs. the Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)” end the three-song suite in intense fashion. ‘In a Big City” sounds like a punked-up Springsteen while the nearly 10 minute Tried to Quit Smoking” brings it all to a crashing halt as only T.A. can do. As Iggy once said, I NEED MORE. www.xlrecordings.com

Working Week
After Simon Booth's indie-pop/jazz band Weekend split up, he felt the desire to carry on the pop/jazz hybrid, which he did so via his band Working Week. Recruiting Weekend associate Larry Stabbins, the duo set about writing and creating, working with a number of vocalists--debut single "Venceremos (We Will Win)" would feature Everything But the Girl's Tracey Thorn, Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt, and Claudia Figueroa, but the duo would soon settle with a regular vocalist, Julie Roberts. The band's debut, Working Nights, is a fine blast of mid-80s British jazz-pop, of a piece with Everything but the Girl, Kalima, and Sade—a mixture of Latin grooves, intoxicating rhythms, and wonderful horns. The audaciousness of opening a record with a cover of Marvin Gaye's classic album-closer "Inner City Blues" shows exactly what the band had going for them: chutzpah mixed with talent. It's a fine cover, and sets the tone for the groove that follows. The appearance of Last Poets rhymer Jalal on "Stella Marina" is a brilliant collaboration; a frenetic, firecracker of a jazz number, the twelve minutes go by in a flash, recalling a carnival. Bonus tracks continue this brilliance, with extended mixes, instrumentals, and live tracks--all hot, hot hot! The band would go onto a storied career, and this was a promising, compelling debut album for the young trio. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Creedence Clearwater Revival
Now I know what you’re thinking, how many Creedence best-ofs does one man need? Admit it, you were thinking that. This one is a 52-song comp spread out over three discs and disc three has live recording (from dates in 1970 and ’71). You don’t need me to tell you that all of the band’s hits you know and love are on here (“Bad Moon Rising, “ “Proud Mary,” “Fortune Son,” “Suzie-Q,” “Green River,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, etc.). Aside from those hits, which all Creedence comps have, this one digs deep, real deep and come up with plenty of more obscure winners. How about “Born to Move,” “Molina,” “Walking on the Water,” “Porterville” oh and there’s plenty more. It’s a beautiful package with copious liner notes by Alec Palao (Palao states “If any one act could legitimately stake a claim to be America’s Beatles, then that would be Creedence Clearwater Revival” and with respect to The Beach Boys and The Byrds, one could certainly make a case for that) and I think that calling it the ULTIMATE Creedence Clearwater Revival is accurate. www.concordmusicgroup.com

Brooklyn's Mountains are purveyors of fine, fine space rock. Not since Tangerine Dream have I heard a group that so masterfully can split the difference between classical rock (a la post-Syd, pre-Dark Side Floyd) and the more experimentalGerman progressive rock. But they do it, and on Centralia, they waste no time getting to that point. "Sand" is an eleven minute journey into deep headspace, although that's not the biggest song on the record! That title belongs to the lackadaisical "Propeller," which starts off slow and shimmery, gets a little loud, and then ends as quietly as it began. Sublime little pieces hibernate between the big ones; "Identical Ship" and "Tilt are quiet guitar pieces, not unlike Robbie Basho or John Fahey, but tempered with an atmospheric background straight out of Klaus Schulze's sketchbook. If you're looking to start off 2013 with quiet, sublime music, then Centralia is for you. www.thrilljockey.com JOSEPH KYLE

TENDER NEW SIGNS-(MEXICAN SUMMER)-Tamaryn’s 20120 THE WAVES was a fine debut and ushered in a new duo with a unique slant on the shoegaze side of things. New Zealand born vocalist Tamaryn and instrumentalist Rex John Shelverton (now based in San Francisco) added a new element of sultriness and atmosphere to the shoegaze genre with delicate, dreamy, druggy songs that don’t forget the melody. Anyone who thought that there might be a sophomore slump need not worry as TENDER NEW SIGNS is at least as good as the debut, maybe better. Still taking cues from the Jesus & Mary Chain, the Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star and, at times, early Mojave 3, the 9 songs on here clock in at just over 40 minutes. “I’m Gone” is a beautiful , hypnotic opener which melds right into the equally gorgeous “While You’re Sleeping, I’m Dreaming” (love that song title). Stuck right in the middle is the record’s best song, the more upbeat (well, as upbeat as these guys get) “Prizma” while the record’s closer “Violet’s in a Pool” ends things on a darker, slightly ominous note. The band stays focused from beginning to end and the record is much better taken in as a whole rather than listening to a song here and there so make sure you’ve got 40 minute to spare, find a comfortable spot and head off to dreamland. www.mexicansummer.com

Jah Wobble & Keith Levene
Last year, John Lydon returned with his band Public Image Limited, but with a later period lineup. Still didn't stop him from making a great return-to-form record. At the same time, former PiL guitarist Jah Wobble--who, according to Lydon, was asked to participate in the reunion-- reunited with his former bandmate Keith Levene, and set about forming Metal Box In Dub with a vocalist, Nathan Maverick, whose sounds dead-on like Lydon. (Maverick, while a superb vocalist, only appears once on the album, "Understand,"oddly one of the album's weaker moments.) Yin & Yang is the duo's studio collaboration, and it's a pretty good dub/rock record. The band is tight; Wobble's voice is sneaky and evil and fits in wonderfully with his deep-groove bass lines and Levene's outer-space melodies—check out the darkly wicked title track and the nine-minute spoken-word UFO trip "Jags and Staff." It's not all dub, though; "Mississippi" is a 70s-style rocker, with gorgeous harmonies and sounds not unlike Stealers Wheels. Then there's the curve-ball cover of George Harrison's "Within You, Without You," which must be heard to be best appreciated. Thankfully, these guys don't get stuck in reliving past glories, and are looking forward. One-off, or the first in a continuing collaboration? Who knows. Either way, the results aren't bad. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Leave it to Mike Alway, the ‘el Records head honcho to dig up some of these obscure 50’s girl groups. Oh sure, we’ve all heard of (and love) The Ronette, The Shangri-Las, The Crystals and plenty of others. Ok, so there are a few on here that I was familiar with like The Shirelles and The Chantels, but how about bands like The Poni-Tails? The Blossoms? The Bobbettes? If you’ve heard of these bands then you’ve dug more than I have in the girl group archives because I have not heard or even heard of them. A few that really stuck out for me were The Blossoms (especially the sax-soaked “Move On”), the unique doo-wop of The Bobbettes (like “Look at the Stars”), the Poni-Tails (doing the sultry, slow-dance worthy “Born Too Late”) and the finger-snappin’ Baby Dolls (with “Go Away Baby”). You want more? Well, there’s The Deltairs, The Joytones, The Tonettes and plenty more. 33 songs in all. You’ll want this for your next sock hop so visit the web site to the right (under, actually) and have your credit card ready. www.cherryred.co.uk

Daughters of Albion
I’m not gonna try and pull the wool and act like I’ve been waiting for this reissue for days, Truth be told I had not even heard of this late 60’s California trippy pop band but when I see a Now Sounds logo on the back of it I know it’s a mark quality. Daughters of Albion was the male/female duo of Greg Dempsey and Kathy Yesse (nee’ Dalton) who were previously in a folk rock band called the Gas Company. In 1968 they sought out none other than Leon Russell and created this psych-pop record (some call it a rock opera….which usually scares sme off). This is the bands lone record and some bonus tracks are added too. The songs are at times really poppy, trippy, folky and sometimes all three in the same song. And if love wasn’t a theme in these songs, well you certainly couldn’t tell by the song titles (the first three songs are “I Love Her and She Loves Me,” “Still Care About You” and “Yes, Our Love is Growing”) and while it’s very of the time, most of the songs are well-worth hearing (and not some trippy-dippy love fest). Aside from those first three love-infested song, a few of my other faves include “Ladyfingers’ (is that a tuba???), the swanky “Hats Off, Arms Out, Ronnie” and the sweeping “Well Wired.” It may not have been St. Peppers, but hey, it was THEIR Sgt, Peppers. www.nowsounds.co.uk

Ronnie Fauss
If you had told me 15 years ago that I’d be actively seeking out new country (alt country, if you will) artists to check out I would have told you that you were crazy. Next thing you know someone turns me on to Gram Parsons sometime in the 90’s and there you go. This is a strong debut by this Dallas, TX songwriting (he had a few eps before this) on the new Normaltown Record (offshoot of New West Records…they have released some other fine records as well). In addition to the guitar/bass/drums lineup, Fauss band also includes folks on pedal steel, fiddle and organ (Wurlitzer!). Fauss has real pain in his voice (and self-deprecation in his words) and his cry-in-your-beer tunes are not cheesy or maudlin. Check out rousing tunes like “I Don’t See You,” “The Night Before the War”, the pretty “Good Enough” and plenty more. And speaking of the Cosmic Cowboy, here they cover the Flying Burrito Brothers Burritos “Sin City” in fine fashion. www.normaltownrecordws.com

The Moving Sidewalks
THE COMPLETE COLLECTION-(ROCK BEAT)-The Moving Sidewalks holds a historic place in the story of Texas music, and especially of Texas psychedelic music. Though as a band, they were only a one-shot, one-album group, they are a band that was very much of its time--even though they may be better known as the babysteps of lead singer Billy Gibbons, who would soon go on to greater prominence with ZZ Top. Those expecting the funky Texas blues-rock groove of Gibbons' later band might be disappointed. What you will find, however, is something equally as awesome. The first disc is the band's sole album, Flash. On it you will find a band of guys who are beholden to the blues, yet beholden to rock and roll--especially Jimi Hendrix, with whom they would tour. "You Make Me Shake" and "Crimson Witch" sound so much like Jimi, you'll be looking to the credits to see if it was a cover. When the band gets down and dirty with the blues, like on "You Don't Know the Life" and "No Good to Cry," they share much with their contemporaries Big Brother & The Holding Company. Then there's the straight blues of "Joe Blues," which predates Stevie Ray Vaughan by a decade or so. It's not hard to picture the Vaughn brothers seeing them do this and being extremely inspired. As this set is the "Complete,' the second disc features singles, outtakes, and other rarities. While there are some compelling pieces here--such as single "99th Floor," and a hard-blues take on "I Want to Hold Your Hand," this disc adds various versions of these songs, and occasionally feels somewhat superfluous. More interesting is the demo tape as "The Coachmen," which was Gibbons' band pre-Moving Sidewalks, and features a number of tunes they would later record; their sound is less psych and more mod. As far as reissue goes, this gets it right--a compelling story, told well in the notes, a dynamic album that's presented on its own accord, and bonus tracks that are interesting, even if not all are essential. www.rockbeatrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Weather Prophets
It’s been about 25 years since I first heard the Weather Prophets (I have my pal Bob Portella to thank for that) and that song “Almost Prayed” is STILL stuck in my head. That song plus 19 others are included here. The UK’s Weather Prophets formed when The Loft broke up and Loft leader Peter Astor (along with drummer Dave Morgan) formed the WP.s They released two records (both on Creation Records) and called it a day when Astor went solo. Speaking of Astor he apparently hand-picked these twenty cuts and it’s a nice mix of thee bands classic jangle and moodier numbers. In addition to the previously mentioned “Almost Prayed”, some other knockout numbers include the light n’ airy “Like Frankie Lymon”, the grittier “Hollow Heart’ (which reminded me a bit of the House of Love), the gorgeous “Always the Light”, the dreamy “Sleep”, the slightly psychedelic “In My Room” and plenty more. Liner notes by, who else Alan McGee (and several others). Is it on your Christmas wish list? www.cherryred.co.uk

A rock/blues festival from, where else, Bayport, Minnesota (put on by a gent named Chris Johnson who owns the Bayport BBQ restaurant) and all of the Alive natural Energy bands showed up to crank out a few tunes (all in all 26 bands from four countries and sixteen states played the fest but this document just has the bands on the Alive label). Opening up with two tunes is the Buffalo Killers including the killer opening song “River Water.” Up next is Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires with two songs of more straight up blues. Brian Olive offers up two low-key tunes. On the heavier side Radio Moscow cough up two Hendrix-ized tunes , (especially “Hold On Me”) . Other bands on the comp include Left Lane Cruiser, John the Conquerer and Henry’s Funeral Shoe (the last two being bands I’d never heard of). Make sure you bring the bandana and the ear plugs. www.alive-totalenergy.com

The Babies
Oh, sure I got excited when I heard the “members of the Vivian Girls and Woods” too. I mean, I love the former (VG’s Cassie Ramone is in the band) and certainly like the latter (Woods Kevin Norby is the other main member) but that Babies debut (on the Shrimper label) was…..I dunno, just ok. I didn’t have my sights set to high on this new one (jumping over to the Woodsist label which is sorta like to the 2000’s what Shrimper was to the 90’s) and you know what? OUR HOUSE ON THE HILL is a much better affair and a terrific record all the way around (…and I’m STILL kicking myself for missing ‘em here a few weeks back). The songs sound like, well, a mix ‘tween the Viv Girls (in the fuzzy pop dept) and the off-kilter pop of Woods but then Norby tosses in a few folkier, Dylan-esque tracks (at times his voice does sound a lot like ol’ Bob). Get an earful of opener ‘Alligator, the Butterglory-ish ”Mess me Around,” the garagey “Get Lost” plus “Moonlight Mile” and plenty more. Really a nice batch of tunes, most hover around the 2.5 minute mark, plenty of hooks, lots of punch, not lo-fi but not glossy by any means. You NEED this, trust me, I know what’s best for you. www.woodsist.com

Matt Bauer
No Shape Can Hold Me Now is one of those sleeper recordings - as Jerry Seinfeld might have quipped, “A record about nothing!” But Bauer’s poetic sounds cast a surreptitious spell; gripping me well before the last track, “Homeward Bound.” Quiet piano, acoustic guitar, banjo, bell, cello, and flugelhorn(?) sounds, with Bauer’s vocals (and those of Jolie Holland, on “Andaman Sea”) add up to much more than nothing – in fact, a five-song cycle that’s evocative and lovely, albeit on the moody side. Fans of St Even, Feist, and Winterpills will probably want to get at least their cyber hands on this music. The only thing like a criticism: No Shape Can Hold Me Now is too short. And how often do I say that? Not very. www.crossbillrecords.com MARY LEARY

The Condors
3 ITEM CONDO-(VITAL GESTURE)-This is pretty timely as the main man behind The Condors is Pat Dipuccio, who was one of the folks helped start the famed L.A. punk zine FLIPSIDE back in the late 70’s and in the new print issue of DAGGER is an interview with Pat (aka Pooch) and Hudley (Holly Cornell). I never even knew that Pooch made music until he sent me the previous Condors record (WAIT FOR IT) a few years back and was pleasantly surprised to find some nice, hooky power pop pressed onto that little silver compact disc. With Pooch on vocals/guitar and the obedient rhythm section of Miggs on bass and drummer Mark Francis White the Condors comprise a tight, rockin’ unit. You want a reference point? Think Elvis and the Attractions (someone else mentioned The Plimsouls and that’s pretty accurate, too). The songs are a nice mix of punchy power-pop numbers that come at you fast and furious (“Queer Fascination,” “Here I Go,” “Angry Little Man,” “Full Blown Love Attack” etc.) and slower, more subtle numbers that take a lil’ longer to sink in but once they do they’re stuck in your noggin’ for good (“My Slice of Life, “Bad Tattoo”, “All Hung Up,” etc.). You can’t go wrong with a fine batch of well-written songs and 3 ITEM COMBO is full of ‘em. www.thecondors.com

Golden Void
Loud, in-your-face blues rock with a psychedelic edge and a garage heart, with a slight thing for early Black Sabbath. That's what this lovely little band happens to sound like; vocalist Isaiah Mitchell channels Ozzy in ways that aren't bad at all, eschewing the cliches, yet playing up to them when it suits the song--"Virtue" sounds a little too close to the bone of "Crazy Train," if ya know what I'm saying. Still, I like the hard blues-rock bluster of "Atlantis." Okay, Golden Void ain't reinventing the wheel, but they are polishing it up and giving it an interesting new look. www.thrilljockey.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Summer Hits
This is a record that I think should have gotten reissued quite a while ago so I’m glad that the Burger label did it (and I’m diggin’ these cassette releases/reissues…am I the only one who likes the cassette format?). The Summer Hits were an L.A. band that , as the title says existed in the early 90’s and it consisted of Darren Rademaker (ex-Further/ currently in The Tyde), Josh Schwartz (ex-Further) and stoned surf zombie with what sounded like a fake Brit. accent, named Rex. The fuzzed-out beach pop that they created wasn’t totally unlike further though in some ways the songs were more direct than furthers (with way spaced out lyrics). The song titles will also give you an idea of where they were comin’ from : “Maximum Bum Ride,” “Groovier Drugs,” “Stoney Creation,” “Carmel Feelin’ and “Laetitia” (who can only be about one person) and plenty more (16 songs in all). One time I asked a pal of the band (the dude who ran the No. 6 Record store in L.A.) if the Summer Hits would ever tour and his response was, “No way, man. Rex does WAY too much acid for them to do that.” Tune in, turn on but do not drop in (on their waves…or else). www.burgerrecords.com

Dinosaur Jr.
This is a live document of a gig that the original trio of J. , Lou and Murph did in 1987 during their European tour of their 2nd (brilliant) record, YOU’RE LIVING ALL OVER ME. The show, at Doornroosje in Nijmegen, Netherland at a club called and the song are a mix of tunes from the aforementioned 2nd record and their 1985 S/T debut. I caught the band twice during this same year of 1987 and both times they had the plug pulled on them (at City Gardens in May at City Gardens in Trenton , NJ playing in between Das Damen and Sonic Youth, they had shown up late and then that summer in New Brunswick, NJ headlining at the Court Tavern, there it was because of the club’s curfew) and both shows were pretty sloppy affairs (and yes, loud, VERY loud) but still revelatory for me since said 2nd record changed my life. These days the band is a much tighter, more cohesive unit but those tension-fueled shows of the 80’s are what drove Dinosaur. The sound on this 11-song document isn’t great or anything but I wasn’t expecting it to be, it’s late 80’s Dino Jr., it’s the songs that (and you) keep going back to over and over again. “The Lung,” “Severed Lips,” “Repulsion,” “Sludgefeast,” “In a Jar” and plenty more. Honestly, I wouldn’t say it’s essential, but it sure is nice to have. www.mergerecords.com

drivin’ n’ cryin’
You know, drivin’ n’ cryin’ were one of those bands that I claimed not to like but I don’t ever think I actually heard. I think it was the name that bugged me plus I always lumped them in with those southern jangle band that I didn’t like (like Dreams So Real). Well, if their earlier records were anything like this, boy was I wrong. This is the 2nd of 4 eps that the band is going to release this year and next year (the first one was SONGS FROM THE LAUNDROMAT). This has 6 songs and, like the title says , there’s plenty of revved-up madness on here and the songs are terrific. “Hot Wheels” starts things off with a nice, revved-up mid-tempo power pop number while the next cut, “Acceleration” revs it up even more and quickens the paces (very Ramonesy, as the title says) and they up the tempo even MORE on then next cut, “Johnny Rides Shotgun.” The final three songs are nearly as good and the on the gritty “Out Here in the Middle of Nowhere” they get Cheetah Chrome to add a guitar solo and background vocals (it did remind me a bit of the Dead Boys). This record is well-worth your hard-earned money. www.drivinncryin.com

Wes Hollywood
FANTASY ARCADE-(SWEET SCIENCE RECORDS)-Boy, do I feel like a jerk,. Wes Hollywood was nice enough to see me this lavish-packaged record back in April and I tossed in the closet where all of the other mail for that week was (to all be opened up on Saturday) and it was never to be…until I cleaned out the closet last week and found it. It’s a double album (same record, one a stereo mix and one a mono) in a beautiful gatefold sleeve (the inside pic has Wes and his band inside a 80’s vintage arcade…thus the record name, I assume) with a signed poster Am I going to proclaim it better than FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE? well, take “Show Me the Way” off of F.C.A and yes, yes I will (it’s more in linme with Cheap Trick’s LIVE AT BUDOKAN, though). Hollywood used to lead a band called the Tennis Courts (Kingsize before that) who I liked a lot and the songwriting on FANTASY ARCADE is very similar. Hooky, mid-tempo power pop music and a few of my faves include “Alfie,”, “It’s Good to See You,” “City Streets” and “Lazy Yesterdays” and plenty more (check out the Beatle-esque “The Bell”). Beautiful package, terrific tunes, go on…. www.weshollywoodmusic.com

Epic ambient rockers Hammock return with their most epic work to date--a two hour opus of pure, purely blissful space rock. In spite of its title, the songs on Departure Songs are no departure from Hammock's firm stock of trade: big, gigantic, heavenly music, and the album is certainly that. It's not an all-instrumental affair, though you might have to strain to hear Hammock mastermind Marc Byrd's wife's "angelic singing" (their term), but it's there, and it's a case where one really should read the lyrics to "(Tonight) We Burn Like Stars That Never Die)" and "Hiding But Nobody Missed You," but it feels somewhat wrong to pick apart an aural experience like Departure Songs. While there may be no surprises here, it's a wonderful kind of consistency that will bring you back. www.hammockmusic.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Three Degrees
The story of Philadelphia girl group The Three Degrees is one of patience. Though they started in the 1960s, they did not obtain success until the mid 1970s, when they joined forces with MFSB on a number of their hits, which led to success on their own. Valerie Holiday, lead singer, was a powerful vocalist--one who certainly hold her own next to Diana Ross and Mary Wells. The band's signing to Roulette would be the beginning of the band's transformation from a trio merely working the cocktail and supper club circuit into a formidable, successful, charting band. This collection gathers their debut album, which was released in 1970, and the label's follow-up compilation, which was released in 1974, after the band had become a success elsewhere. Their brief time with Roulette was a productive one; of the nearly three dozen songs found here (excluding alternate/mono versions), there's little filler. Maybe is, in its way, very much a debut; the title track, a cover of The Chantels' main hit, is transformed from a ballad into something steamier, thanks in part to Holiday's spoken-word introduction, and her heartbroken yet powerful singing. Other highlights of the debut is a cover of Joe Walsh's "Collage," and a trippy take on "Macarthur Park," which splits the power of the Richard Harris version and the yet-to-happen groove of the Donna Summer version. They also turn "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" into a funky number that has nothing in common with the Lynn Anderson version. Yet it's the second disc, So Much Love, where the trio got interesting; after the album's release, they started to become a little more psychedelic, a little more pop--less girl group, more Sunshine pop, a la The 5th Dimension, especially on the one-two opening punch of "Magic Mirror" and "Trade Winds." They still retain the ability to get funky, like their take of Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With" and Bill Withers' "Who Is He (And What Is He To You)." Though at the time So Much Love felt like a cheap cash-in from a former label after they'd had greater success elsewhere, it's a strong record in its own right. A handful of unreleased tracks--including a spectacular cover of George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity"--round off the set. If you're not familiar with the Three Degrees, Maybe is a treasure trove of gorgeous songs and music. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Almost Charlie
A pal kept asking me if I had the news Almost Charlie disc and I kept saying I don’t know. I had it all along but somehow it escaped me, the artwork on the cover nearly obscuring the band’s name and it passed me by for a few months. I’m glad he kept asking. For one I like most of the stuff released on Minneapolis’s Words on Music label and I really likes Almost Charlie’s 2009’s sophomore effort, THE PLURAL OF YES (their first for the label). The band is the brainchild of Dirk Homuth, who hails from Berlin, Germany and plays most of the instruments on here and a lyricist form New York City named Charlie Mason (not Manson). Aided by a bassist, drummer and pianist,. Homuth take Mason’s sometimes flowery/sometimes heartfelt words and molds 11 gorgeous pop songs into TOMORROW’S YESTERDAY. Taking inspiration from Nick Drake, Simon and Garfunkel, Kings of Convenience (who are a modern day Simon and Garfunkel), Mojave 3 and The Beatles, there’s lots of variation in these 11 songs from spare folk (“Sandsong”) to nearly straight up pop (“Open Book,” “Man without a Home,” etc.) to the nearly bluegrassy “A Nice Place to Die”, which is my favorite song on the record. Though a continent away from each other, these two seem like they were born to make music together and TOMORROW’S YESTERDAY illustrates that perfectly. The band also has a self-released debut from 2006 that I have yet to hear but really need to. I’m gonna go find it now. www.words-on-music.com

Glen Campbell & Bobbie Gentry/Glen Campbell & Anne Murray
At the height of his career, country crooner Glen Campbell paired up with two equally talented ladies: in 1968, he met up with soon-to-become reclusive Bobbie Gentry, and in 1971, he paired with the soon-to-be-famous Anne Murray. Both records are of a similar type: lushly-arranged take on pop songs of the day, but each possess a charm not found on the other. With Gentry, her somewhat husky voice is a contrast to Campbell's sugary sound, especially on their version of "Little Green Apples" and their take on the "All I Have to Do is Dream," which was a hit two years after the album's release, is the only bonus track found here--but what a bonus it is! His collaboration with Anne Murray is a twangier, rawer, more country affair, with songs like "We All Pull the Load" and "You're Easy to Love" sounding like Hee-Haw fare--not a bad thing! The only misstep is the bizarre medley of the Bacharach/David hits "I Say a Little Prayer" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," wherein Murray sings "Prayer," while Campbell follows her verse with "Phoenix," and they back-and-forth like this for the song. It's a clever idea, but it just sounds muddled. The two albums are pretty--the Gentry record being the better of the two--though not necessarily the best work by any of the artists involved. Still, this twofer is a lovely collection of late 60s/early 70s country pop. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Ian Hunter
THE SINGLES COLLECTION 1975-83-(7T’s /CHERRY RED)-When I was a kid, I remember sneaking into my brother’s room to play his copy of Mott the Hoople’s Greatest Hits. A few years later, a couple of the “album rock” stations I liked began playing numerous tracks from an album called You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic , the fourth solo album from Ian Hunter, former front man for the glam-tastic Mott the Hoople. “Just Another Night,” “Cleveland Rocks” and “When the Daylight Comes” were the standouts that prompted me to buy the album, and soon after that, my brother picked up the two-record set Shades of Ian Hunter: The Ballad of Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople, which acquainted me with his previous solo work as well as some lesser-known Hoople gems. The more I listened, the more I liked and admired Hunter’s work. Several labels have since released other anthologies, but this double-disc version by 7T’s Records is the first to focus solely on Hunter’s solo work, and it’s the most complete, beginning with “Once Bitten Twice Shy” (1975) and concluding with a slow version of “All of the Good Ones Are Taken” (1983). The liner notes include stories about each of the singles and corresponding B sides. Each disc progresses in chronological order; Disc 2 also features some live tracks, such as a medley of “Once Bitten Twice Shy/Bastard/Cleveland Rocks.” Images of record sleeves for each of the singles are also included. Chances are, if you liked Mott the Hoople, you liked Ian Hunter solo. Songs like “England Rocks”/”Cleveland Rocks” were basically a continuation of the big glam sound that was Mott the Hoople. Hunter worked with Mick Ronson on and off throughout the years. But Hunter was open to other influences as well, bringing in musicians from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band for “Just Another Night” and “When the Daylight Comes.” Hunter released the ballad “Ships” as a single; oddly enough, it took Barry Manilow’s cover to make it a hit! Personally, I think the quality of Hunter’s work tapered off a bit in the ‘80s. I remember being disappointed by the Short Back ‘n Sides album (1981); despite being produced by Mick Ronson and Mick Jones, songs like “Lisa Likes Rock ‘n’ Roll” sounded a bit generic to me, as did “All of the Good Ones are Taken,” the title track from the album released in 1983. Of course, Great White’s version of “Once Bitten …” in 1989 brought the song much-deserved radio success in the United States, and prompted me to play Hunter’s original version for my friends so I could prove to my friends that – naturally! – it was far superior. (I convinced a few!) And of course the use of “Cleveland Rocks” by the Presidents of the United States as a theme for “The Drew Carey Show” gave the song new life in the late 1990s. For what it’s worth, Hunter continues to release albums. From what I’ve read, he’s still a legendary performer and he’s still touring, so I’m hoping to see him in concert one of these days. In the meantime, this is a very nice collection, which does for me what all good anthologies should do: make me curious enough to explore the songs not included in previous Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter compilations. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Wow…..35 years, holy moly. It is true, The Shoes, the pride of Zion, IL and in some ways the godfathers of the power pop scene have been at it for 35 years and with the release of IGNITION, released earlier this year and their first record in 18 years,it shows that they show no signs of slowing down. This collection cherry picks 21 tunes from 9 of their records and it’s either a great place to start for beginners or a must-have for long time fans (I’m kind of in the middle, I do like the band and have a few of their records but don’t consider myself a hardcore Shoes disciple or anything) and it shows their attention to song craft. Yes, Jeff and John Murphy and their friend Gary Klebe (same 3 guys for 35 years) took a big gulp of inspiration from, who else, The Beatles and have carried the torch onward with terrific pop songs like “Tomorrow Night,” “Okay,”, “The Summer Rain,” and , of course, their almost-hit “Too Late.” Why these guys weren’t as big as Cheap Trick, I have no idea. The booklet contains informative liners by Steve SPAC Schnee with plenty of photos. For me this compilation did the trick, it pushed me from being a part-time fan to now wanting to hunt down the rest of their records, the ones I don’t have. It might do the same for you. www.realgonemusic.com

The Soft Pack
Out of nowhere this L.A. via San Diego band blew me away with their 2010 S/T debut. The songs came fast and furious and in listening I was instantly reminded of several of my favorite bands (The Feelies, The Clean, The Modern Lovers, etc.). Not that The Soft Pack are exclusively derivative but hey, they know their influences and thankfully, can write great songs as well. On this 12-song follow-up they grab the torch from that debut and continue carrying it in and lay down a handful of great songs on this sophomore effort though they do take a few unexpected detours as well. The record opens with four terrific songs in “Saratoga,” “Second Look,” “They Say,” and “Tallboy” and they expand a bit with added keyboards and especially sax on several songs. Though they follow-up those four openers with “Bobby Brown” one of their worst songs ever (complete with bad Kenny G-ish sax- the sax on the others songs is NOT Kenny G-ish) they then follow up THAT with a few more corkers (“Chinatown,” “”Ray’s Mistake,” “Head On Ice,” etc.). In the minus category is the wobbly instrumental, “Oxford Ave” and they end with a few more minimal tunes that aren’t necessarily bad but aren’t what the band does best (though the nearly 7 minute closer, “Captain Ace” has its moments). Stick with the 4-barrel guitar pop, guys, and you’ve got a fan for life in me. www.kemado.com

Weather Report
Trippy, spirited, complex, and intelligent are all words that could describe the work of Weather Report, particularly after the uber-talented Jaco Pastorius added his bass fretting to the mix. That’s the point from which this boxed set takes off; housing Black Market (1976), Heavy Weather (1978), 8:30 (1979), Night Passage (1980), and Weather Report (1982). While I know considerably less about jazz fusion than some of my friends, it’s obvious that this collection is a great idea for anyone who’s into fusion and who’s been slow to replace or embellish their vinyl originals with the CDs. The collection also features 12 bonus live tracks, and the popular “Scarlet Woman” is where it should be, on 8:30. Even non-jazz listeners, especially musicians, could be inspired by Weather Report’s intuitive, innovative collaboration.www.legacyrecordings.com MARY LEARY