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October 2006 "Back To Civilization" Reviews by

Awkward Stage
Birdie High
Buffalo Killers
Pelle Carlberg

Mark Chesnutt
Country People
Cul de Sac
Catie Curtis

Kellylee Evans
The Figgs
Four Hours Sleep
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
T. Hallenbeck
Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit

Josef K
The Lemonheads*

M Coast

Massive Attack
Kawabata Mokoto & The Mothers of Invasion*
Mr. T

Dustin O'Halloran

Andrea Perry*
Return To Civilization


Skid Row
Sonny Purdue
So Percussion

Stars of Track and Field*
Stool Sample

Suck From the Rich

Two If By Sea
Why Make Clocks

Zach Wimp

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


Awkward Stage - Heaven Is For Easy Girls (CD, Mint, Soft pop)
Because the cover of this CD features a young man presenting a rose to an inflatable doll that is obviously ready to give head, one might assume that Canada's Awkward Stage is a joke band. But nothing could be further from the truth. Rather and instead, the band's music is decidedly soft, serious, and slick. The band's tunes are written by Shane Abram Nelken, a young fellow with a silky smooth voice and a real knack for writing catchy commercial tunes. The folks at Mint may have a money maker here. Instead of playing music that could only appeal to teenagers and college students, Nelken writes songs that could appeal to a wide range of folks of all ages. As an interesting side note, Shane has a peculiar day job...as a cremationist (!?!). Heaven Is For Easy Girls is a nice, easy spin...featuring twelve upbeat tracks including "The Morons Are Winning," "Sad Girl Radio," "I Love You Hipster Darling," and "West Van Girl." (Rating: 4++++)


My father was a rotten
A mean, cold, rotten

(Rating: 1)


If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow...
Why oh why
Get high?

(Rating: 1)

Buffalo Killers - Buffalo Killers (CD, Alive, Pop/rock)
If the folks in Buffalo Killers aren't heavily influenced by The James Gang and early Joe Walsh...we'll be ready to take a dive in the smarmy mudpit any old time you like. The band consists of Ohio-based brothers Andrew Gabbard and Zachary Gabbard plus drummer Joseph Sebaali. This, the band's simply recorded self-titled debut album, contains a wealth of smart, well-played guitar pop with an emphasis on soaring vocal melodies. The songs harken back to the days of 1970s FM radio rock when guitars ruled the airwaves. This is not a perfect album...but it is important and essential because this band has all the elements necessary in order to make some even greater music in the very near future. This trio plays with a firey gusto that is impressive and addictive. We can't help but be blown away by tracks like "San Martine Des Morrelle," "With Love," "Down in the Blue," and "Something Real." Some of these tracks could very well end up being timeless classics in the years ahead. (Rating: 4+++++)

Pelle Carlberg - Everything Now! (CD, Twentyseven, Pop)
If you really dig The Smiths and Cinerama...there's a good chance you will be very impressed by the music created by Sweden's Pelle Carlberg. Carlberg was formerly the front man in the band Edson...but now he's out on his own. Everything Now! is an exceedingly smooth and subtle spin. Carlberg writes soft melodic songs and he has a super smooth voice that should appeal to a wide range of listeners...particularly those who enjoyed some of the better 1980s guitar pop from Great Britain. What we find interesting is Pelle's image. Instead of looking like an underground songwriter, this young man looks more like a business professional. This album features eleven soothing tracks...including "Musikbyran Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack," "Go to Hell, Miss Rydell," "Summer of '69," and "Mind the Gap." Well done. (Rating: 4++++)


We cheated our way
Though school.

You should too.

(Rating: 1)

Mark Chesnutt - Heard It In a Love Song (CD, CBUJ, Country/pop)
Mark Chesnutt is somewhat of a purist in the world of country music. While others have allowed their music to merge with other styles, Chesnutt has always pretty much stayed on the straight path. His methodology has certainly worked...earning him an astounding five gold albums and fourteen number one singles. Heard It In a Love Song is a collection of lost treasures written by a variety of artists including Toy Caldwell, Hank Williams, Jr., Merle Haggard, and Leon Payne. Mark co-wrote only one of the tunes ("That Good That Bad") on this short album that clocks in at just over 30 minutes. Love Song presents Chesnutt doing what he does best...singing mid-tempo country in his signature deep masculine voice. Folks who long for country music from the past will find a lot to love here. Tasty treasures include "Heard It In a Love Song," "Dreaming My Dreams With You," "Apartment #9," and "Lost Highway." Instantly rewarding music from one of country music's finest... (Rating: 5+)


Country people
Aren't any better
Than city people.

(Rating: 1)

Cul de Sac - ECIM (CD, Strange Attractors, Progressive)
This is a remastered version of this out-of-print album that includes three previously unreleased tracks. Cul de Sac consists of Robin Amos, Chris Fujiwara, Chris Guttmacher, and Glenn Jones. ECIM (that's mice spelled backwards, incidentally...) was originally released fifteen years ago and had apparently become increasingly hard to find. The guys in Cul de Sac play progressive instrumentals that teeter in and out of psychedelia. The ten songs on the original album feature some rather obtuse jamming and spacey sounds. There are three bonus tracks included ("Cul de Sade," "The Bee Who Would Not Work," "Negligee"). Plenty of good mental driving music here with our favorites being "The Moon Scolds the Morning Star," "Nico's Dream, " and "Eleetar." (Rating: 4++++)

Catie Curtis - Long Night Moon (CD, Compass, Pop)
Catie Curtis is a truly engaging and intriguing singer/songwriter whose music, at least up to this point, has not caught on in a big way with the general public. And that is a shame...because her music is unusually accessible and vastly superior to most of the music currently being devoured by fans of commercial music. The surprising part is that her earlier albums can still easily be found in the cheapie bins at many used music shops so we suggest that you grab 'em up now...before this lady gets really, really big. A word of warning. Ms. Curtis' tunes won't blow you away on the first spin. Instead, her music requires a bit of time and energy for the meaning to sink in. But those who spend the time getting to know Catie and her music...are in for big rewards. Once absorbed, her personal lyrics, superb vocals, and articulate melodies will stay with listeners for a very long time. Long Night Moon features twelve mature tracks including "Find You Now," "Water and Stone," "Passing Through," and "Hard Time With Goodbyes." Excellent. (Rating: 5+)


Alcohol is for dummies.
Marijuana is for dummies.
Religion is for dummies.
Everything is for

(Rating: 1)

Kellylee Evans - Fight or Flight? (CD, Enliven! Media, Female vocalist/jazz)
Canada's superbly smooth vocalist Kellylee Evans has come up with a real winner here. Recreating a sound that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, Kellylee and her associates recorded these smooth tracks with acute attention to detail. Evans surrounds herself with top notch musicians who add integrity and real backbone to her music. These tunes are fluid and slick to be certain...but Kellylee's focused, subtle vocals are the real centerpiece. Fight or Flight? features twelve sultry, moody tracks that would be the perfect music to put on for that incredible night with someone special. Kellylee's voice is sexy without being pretentious...and she never seems to push herself unnecessarily. Like Peggy Lee (one of our favorite vocalists of all time), Evans seems to realize the value of restraint. This is a lovely album that is pure entertainment from start to finish. Standout cuts include "What About Me?", "I Don't Want You To Love Me," "Rapunzel," and "Enough." Outstanding. (Rating: 5+)

The Figgs - Follow Jean Through the Sea (CD, Gern Blandsten, Pop/rock)
The guys in The Figgs have real staying power. The band has been around for about twenty years now and this is their tenth full-length album. Curiously, at least up to this point, these guys are probably still best known for their work as Graham Parker's backup band...which is a shame, because they seem to make consistently credible and entertaining music on their own. What is most appealing about The Figgs is the fact that their music is so thoroughly unpretentious. Whereas other bands change their focus and their music becomes overproduced and generic over time, these fellows are still doing what they started out doing...writing and recording positively catchy pop/rock tunes. Follow Jean Through the Sea is right up there with the band's best recorded work. The playing is focused and straightforward and the vocals are always right on track. Perhaps one day...if they stay on track...The Figgs will be the big time band they deserve to be. Until then, their diehard fans will continue grabbing up each and every release. Ten cool tracks here including "Breaking Through These Gates," "Don't Hurt Me Again," "Let Me Hold You," and "Chasing After Words." (Rating: 5+)

Four Hours Sleep - Love Specifics (CD, Popboomerang, Pop)
While Four Hours Sleep is his latest project, Bill McDonald is by no means a newcomer in the world of music. He has previously either been in or has been involved with a variety of bands including (but not limited to) Frente, Ultrasound, Neneh Cherry, and Michelle Shocked. Rather than allowing himself or his music to be easily categorized or pigeonholed, Bill seems driven by the desire to write and record high quality music. That said, some may be surprised how commercial and accessible many of the tunes on Love Specifics are. This isn't a mere artsy outing where all listeners are bound to get lost. In satisfying his own desires, McDonald also keeps his listeners in mind...creating hummable, catchy tunes that are easy on the mind as well as the ears. But while the proceedings are, for the most part, hummable and smooth...Bill manages to incorporate plenty of surprises along the way. Just when you think you know what to expect, something subtle comes from left of center. By balancing the familiar with the abstract, McDonald and his friends have managed to come up with an album that is both familiar and just slightly strange in subtle ways. Thirteen tracks here including "I Know I Shouldn't," "Goodbye Song," "Very Strange, Very Cool," and "That's OK." (Rating: 5)

Gojogo - All Is Fair (CD, Galaxia, Instrumental)
We don't receive many submissions like this one...and it's probably because many artists and companies mistakenly assume that all we are interested in is underground pop and rock bands. Gojogo is an instrumental band with a difference. The group consists of Sarah Jo Zaharako, Elias Reitz, Eric Perney, and Ben Mawhorter. These four individuals create music that is difficult to describe and pigeonhole. These instrumentals are precise and provocative...yet you can never be quite sure of what sort of music these folks will come up with next. The surprise element is part of what makes All Is Fair such an entertaining spin. That...and the fact that these folks are all superbly proficient on their instruments. The percussion in these compositions is often exotic and non-mainstream...while the violin playing is staggering. By precisely combining elements of classical music into their modern progressive instrumentals, the folks in Gojogo have created their own uniquely inviting niche in the world of music. They come across sounding something like a cross between The Kronos Quartet and The Grassy Knoll (!). Wonderful stuff. (Rating: 5)

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back (CD, Last Gang, Soft progressive pop)
Emily Haines' approach to music reminds us very much of babysue tip-top favorite Lisa Germano...except the music is not nearly as alienated and depressing. Haines writes soft, pensive songs that are delivered with such restraint that many listeners may miss the point completely. Underneath these soft progressive tunes are lyrics that are wonderfully real and adventurous. There is an odd childlike wisdom inherent in the tunes on Knives Don't Have Your Back. Haines has an impressive and unique way of crafting words. That combined with her slightly spooky and utterly effective voice make these tracks seem like distant dreams playing in the back of your head. This is one of those cases where everything was done right. This CD is packaged in a beautifully designed hardback book-type sleeve that houses a lyric booklet. We have to admit that the endorsement on the back by Robert Wyatt did initially spark our particular interest in this disc...but it is ultimately the music that made us come to the conclusion that this album will end up being one of the best discs released in 2006. Rarely do we hear a new artist whose music is this genuine and real. Puzzling, magnificent tracks include "Our Hell," "Crowd Surf Off a Cliff," "The Lottery," "Mostly Waving," and "Winning." Favorite lyric line: Hell is asking to be loved. An absolutely stunning display of real talent. Emily Haines' music is, in a word...magnificent. (Rating: 5++++)

T. Hallenbeck - Packrat (Independently released CD, Acoustic pop)
Emeryville, California's T. Hallenbeck sounds very much like a young Ian Anderson...particularly from around the time of Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick album. Being big fans of Thick As A Brick, we can't help but be impressed by Hallenbeck's music. Packrat is a sparse collection of acoustic pop tracks that was recorded from 2005 to 2006. Hallenbeck is a master of the guitar, as his songs combine intricate and nifty guitar riffs with unusual chord progressions. Not only are his songs reminiscent of Anderson, but his vocal is startlingly similar. In an age where everyone is recording and releasing music (even when they have no talent or credibility)...this young man stands out from the pack because he has real talent. Standout cuts include "Wrath of God," "Jealous of Joe," "Redneck Divorce," and "Robert Johnson." Excellent lyrics throughout. (Rating: 4+++++)

Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit - Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit (CD, Jade Tree / Sketchbook, Pop/folk)
Micah P. Hinson is an extraordinarily strong new contender in the world of underground folky pop. Not only does he write and record impressively mature music, but he also seems to be hanging around with the right people (Eric Bachmann arranged the strings and horns on this album). Musically, Micah's tunes are reminiscent of classy artists like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. But the possible influences are slight, as Hinson seems driven by his own inner desire to create quality songs that are usually unassuming and occasionally perplexing. The tunes on this album are, for the most part, subtle and sparse...which seems to be a perfect fit for these exceedingly genuine and personal compositions. The vocal melody accentuated by Bachmann's string arrangement on "Drift Off To Sleep" is mesmerizing and beautifully bewildering. Micah P. Hinson is an extremely focused young fellow whose music will surely be around for many years to come. Clever keepers include "Seems Almost Impossible," "Jackeyed," "She Don't Own Me," and "You're Only Lonely." (Rating: 5+)

Hybrid - I Choose Noise (CD, Distinctive, Electronic pop)
Imagine mixing Jane's Addiction with The Young Gods...and you might have some idea of what the band Hybrid sounds like on their oughta-be-a-hit track "Dogstar" (the second track on this, their third full-length release). The band is the duo consisting of Mike Truman and Chris Healings, both of whom have been very active musically over the past ten years or so. They've made a lot of interesting connections along the way as is evidenced by some of the high profile artists now lending a helping hand on their recordings. At their best, Truman and Healings present an interesting meshing of rock and industrial electronics. When they aren't on...the music can sometimes veer into discoland. I Choose Noise is an extraordinarily high tech recording with a strong emphasis on arrangements. Our favorite parts are the more obtuse passages without a beat. (Rating: 4+++)

Josef K - Entomology (CD, Domino, Progressive pop/rock)
An intriguing yet forgotten 1980s band whose music recalls artists like Howard Devoto, Bill Nelson, The Monochrome Set, and early Gang of Four. The guys in Josef K were only together for a short time...and yet they seem to have left strangely definitive marks on those who have heard their music. Entomology offers an overview of the band's career. Featuring singles, unreleased and previously released tracks, this CD is almost certain to make an impression on those who hear it. While these guys have a sound that is very similar to the previously mentioned bands...their tunes are original and unique enough to warrant their underground cult status. Josef K and similar bands didn't really make much of an impression on the United States market at the time. But as years have passed, some of the better 1980s European bands have become well known in certain circles. Entomology is a strange spin...bringing back memories of a time when underground bands really were underground bands. Twenty-two tracks here including "Radio Drill Time," "Endless Soul," "Forever Drone," and even a cover of the early Alice Cooper track "Applebush." (Rating: 4++++)

The Lemonheads - The Lemonheads (CD, Vagrant, Pop/rock)
The Lemonheads...are back...???!!!??? Yes, you read that right...The Lemonheads are back. When the band made their biggest splash, we weren't impressed. There were far too many people screaming and heaping praises on bandleader Evan Dando...and the whole thing just turned us off royally. But as time passed and folks began to tire of Lemonheads tunes...we eventually realized that the band's songs were actually credible and rather intriguing. By that time, Dando had begun releasing solo material that was even more impressive. For this album, Dando teamed up with drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez at a Rocky Mountain hideaway and recorded this collection of eleven tunes. Evan has returned to his roots, so to speak...playing extremely catchy hard guitar pop. This album seems to incorporate all the ideas and styles that this man has been incorporating into his music for the past couple of decades. The tunes have the punch of the early material...but they are much more commercial and hummable. The Lemonheads is a keeper for sure...the tunes are upbeat and optimistic and they feature some absolutely wonderful vocal melodies. We can't help but love tracks like "Black Gown," "Let's Just Laugh," "No Backbone," and "December." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

L.E.O. - Alpacas Orgling (CD, Cheap Lullaby, Pop)
If these letters look strangely familiar...it's because they are. You may not remember the band L.E.O...but chances are virtually everyone remembers E.L.O. (Electric Light Orchestra). This is an E.L.O. tribute CD of sorts only there's one BIG difference...this is NOT a collection of cover tunes. Ringleader Bleu (William James McAuley III) was influenced a great deal by the music of Jeff Lynne. As such, he assembled an amazing group of musicians who shared his love of E.L.O., and they all contributed to what sounds very, very much like a brand new E.L.O. album. So much so that you'd almost swear you're hearing Lynne himself playing and singing. The only prior project we can think of that offered a similar approach was Neil Innes' brilliant Beatles tribute Meet The Rutles. Bleu's troupe of players is nothing less than mind blowing. Making appearances on this album are Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish), Mike Voila (Candy Butchers), producer John Fields, Tony Goddess (Papas Fritas), babysue favorite Matt Mahaffey (Self), Jason Scheff (Chicago), Paula Kelly, Steve Gorman (Black Crowes), and the Hanson Brothers. McAuley and his all-star cast put on quite a performance here...incorporating many of the same songwriting ideas and recording skills that made Jeff Lynne a household name. Lovingly recorded with acute attention to precise details. Intriguing. (Rating: 5)

M Coast - Say It In Slang (CD, Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Pop)
The Athens-based band Marshmallow Coast has evolved and changed over the years...which led to the band's newly shortened and slightly altered name M Coast. The band's present line-up consists of Andy Gonzeles, Derek Almstead, Sara Kirkpatrick, Emily Growden, and Carlton Owens. Say It In Slang is a smooth, mental collection of modern progressive pop that sounds something like an Athens, Georgia version of Stereolab. The band's tunes are soft and easy, often incorporating bits of spontaneous jazz. These light and breezy songs are likely to have an instant and immediate effect on those who hear them. Instead of trying to challenge their listeners with harsh and unfamiliar sounds, these folks layer familiar sounds and instruments over one another...creating a sometimes thick wall of smooth pop that is a pure feelgood experience. Songwriting is split up evenly between Gonzeles and Almstead...both of whom seem to have a great knack for writing effective melodies. Nifty cuts include "Sailing Around the World," "I Believe In Love," "Feel Like," and "Thinking of Illusions." Beautiful and absorbing pop that sticks with you. (Rating: 5+)

Mahogany - Connectivity! (Double CD, Darla, Progressive pop)
The second full-length album from Mahogany. Many were impressed with this band's debut album (The Dream of a Modern Day). This, the long awaited follow-up, is a soothing and cerebral spin. Like the band's debut, Connectivity! is a double disc set. While this band's music will appeal to many underground music fans who already appreciate music by bands like The Cocteau Twins, many others may dismiss Mahogany as a drone band. But the band is definitely not a droner. While there are some drony elements in this band's music, their compositions are actually much smarter than that. Some of the tracks on this album are surprisingly direct and poppy ("The View From the People Wall"). The folks in this band seem to enjoy manipulating sounds and arrangements in odd ways to make their tracks sound slightly distant and obtuse--in some cases, you almost get the impression you are listening to a stereo playing in the next room. If the Mahogany sound could be summed up in one word that word would almost certainly be...dreamy. The lovely, orchestrated tunes on this album are calmly seductive, intriguing, and moody. In addition to the audio tracks, this set also includes three mpeg videos. Wonderful music, executed to perfection. (Rating: 5+)

Massive Attack - The Best of Massive Attack (CD + Dual disc CD + DVD, Virgin, Dance/pop)
The first thing we noticed about the audio portion of this set is the incredible sound quality. These tunes absolutely kick ass. The bass is thick and throbs like a monkey in heat...the drums thump and thud like the drummer is in the room with you...and the vocals are dreamy and crystal clear. This double disc set is indeed a fitting tribute to the music of Massive Attack. But you get a lot more than a mere "best of" compilation here...the second double-sided disc features new songs from the band, rare material, and all of the band's videos. And to top it off, it's all packaged in a beautiful hardback booklet. While this band's sound and style are probably too slick and stylized for hipster underground music fans...they still manage to hit the target with a large number of listeners. This is probably the best introduction to Massive Attack currently on the market as it presents an overview of their career as well as a slice of their present day sound. Trippy dance tunes include "Safe From Harm," "Protection," "What Your Soul Sings," "Incantations," "Small Time Shoot 'Em Up," and "Danny the Dog." (Rating: 4++++)

Kawabata Makoto & The Mothers of Invasion - Hot Rattlesnakes (CD, Prophase Music, Progressive/psychedelic)
This is a reissue of a classic modern slice of modern progressive psychedelia. This band features guitarist Kawabata Makoto jamming with Acid Mothers Temple members Tsuyama Atsushi and Ichiraku Yoshimitsu. This project seems to be a loving tribute to 1970s guitarists like Steve Hillage and Frank Zappa. Hot Rattlesnakes features three lengthy tracks that allow the band members to give their fingers a major workout as they expand their minds. Makoto's playing is fluid and cerebral...and Atsushi and Yoshimitsu provide a non-stop rhythmic flow that holds everything together. We've gone totally nuts over most everything we've heard that has been associated with the folks in Acid Mothers Temple...and this is no exception. If you want to truly open up your consciousness without the use of anything illegal...this is the kind of music that will take you there. Great stuff, recommended... (Rating: 5+++)


Goddamn you.
Goddamn me.
Goddamn everyone
Except Mr. T.

(Rating: 1)

Niobe - White Hats (CD, Tomlab, Pop)
This serves as our initial introduction to the music of Germany's Niobe...a young electronic pop singer/songwriter whose music is capturing the imagination of a growing number of music fans. In some ways, Niobe's music sounds like female vocalists from the 1950s...if their words and music were filtered through state-of-the-art digital effects. Her music is inviting and soothing...yet it is also rather ethereal and peculiar. On the first spin we found White Hats rather bizarre and obtuse. By the tenth or fifteenth spin...we were transfixed and hypnotized. The more we hear Niobe...the more she sounds like a haunting Doris Day or Peggy Lee on sedatives and hallucinogenics...being fed through a variety of computer processors. Niobe is creating her own unique version of music. Her songs have style and substance...and they hold up to many repeated spins. Clever heady tracks like "Give All To Love," "White Hats," "Up Hill and Down Dale," and "Cool Alpine" make White Hats an obvious babysue favorite. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Dustin O'Halloran - Piano Solos Vol. 2 (CD, Filter US Recordings, Piano/instrumental)
In a world full of complexities and confusing musical artists, Dustin O'Halloran stands out from the pack. This collection of eleven piano instrumentals is beautifully intriguing and executed to perfection. While others overdub and over process their music to death, O'Halloran plays the piano alone by himself...and the results are immediately impressive. Dustin's restraint is, perhaps, what makes his music so effective and unique. Instead of playing complex passages and showing off, this man seems more concerned with expressing his thoughts and emotions through the piano. Though there are no voices or lyrics to be found on this album, there are definite ideas and sincere thoughts to be found. Piano Solos Vol. 2 is an exceptional album from start to finish. Fresh, simple, and totally lovely. (Rating: 5+)

Parasites - Retro-Pop Remasters (CD, Go-Kart, Pop)
Best of collection from a band that has always been deserving of more attention than they've gotten thus far. This fourteen track disc offers a sublime overview of the band's career. Parasites tunes sound something like a cross between The Ramones, The Shoes, and The Jam. This band pounds out heavy pop tunes that are almost always instantly catchy and upbeat. Unlike other bands that alter their sound over time or change their career course...Dave Parasite and his changing array of band members seem to always stay perfectly focused on their craft...writing simple yet effective pop tracks that recall 1960s bubblegum music. This disc will hopefully make more folks away of Parasites. It seems amazing that they've been so criminally overlooked for so long. Clever tracks like "When I'm Here With You," "Refuge," "Top Secret," and "Never Giving Up On You" present the band at their finest. (Rating: 5+)

Andrea Perry - Rivers of Stars (Independently released CD, Pop)
We have raved about this young lady's music in the past. We are pleased to report that Austin's Andrea Perry has really outdone herself this time around. Rivers of Stars is a resounding success. Actually and in fact, when you hear the tunes on this album, you will most likely be wondering how in hell this girl's name has not yet become a household word. While many others are crafting soundalike tunes that don't really offer substance, Andrea truly pours her heart and her soul into her tunes...giving them real credibility and the ability to hold up to hundreds of repeated spins. Ms. Perry's vocals have always sounded great...but perhaps never as focused and perfect as they sound on Stars. These fourteen songs are dreamy, concise, pointed, unique, and provocative...and there's not a bad seed in the bunch. Andrea writes melodies that stick...and they feature wonderfully genuine and sincere lyrics that offer real insight into the world and other people. At this point we probably don't need to say this but...we are absolutely in love with Rivers of Stars. This will easily end up being one of the best pop albums of 2006. As a point of reference, this album sounds something like a cross between Azure Ray and Lisa Germano...both of which are tip-top favorites here in babysueland. Killer tracks include "Fly," "Broken Heart," "Take Me Where the Lions Roar," "Reservoir," "Wasting Away," and "Rivers of Stars." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Purrs - Purrs (CD, Sarathan, Pop)
Simple, pure entertainment. With so many bands trying way too hard to be unique and original...it is sometimes refreshing to hear a group of folks who aren't trying to be radically different or to impress anyone. We get the feeling that the guys in Purrs are motivated mainly by the desire to play music. On the first spin Purrs didn't make much of an impression on us, but something about the tunes made us hit play again and again...and we soon realized what it was about this music that made us want to write about it. The tunes on this album are straightforward, hummable, and melodic. These fellows have come up with some excellent melodies here...and fortunately they are not buried underneath layers of digital multitracks. Purrs tunes feature neat guitars and appropriately subtle vocals that recall bands like early Rolling Stones and even Red Kross at times. Feelgood pop tracks include "She's Gone," "The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of," "Because I Want To," and "Get On With Your Life." Nothing but direct hits here. (Rating: 5)

Razorlight - Razorlight (CD, Universal, Pop)
Fresh, bright, upbeat melodic pop played with genuine enthusiasm. That's how we felt about this band after hearing the lead track on this album ("In The Morning"). The song is a true hit and sticks in the mind like mental glue. We were feeling rather certain that the guys in Razorlight were a real force to be reckoned with. But unfortunately, the rest of this album trails off into a wandering path of lesser compositions. Thus, unless this band can come up with stronger material the next time around, these guys may unfortunately fall into the "one hit wonder" category of musical ghosts. Some of the other tracks are so forgettable that we ended up quickly skipping past them (!). You will definitely want to download "In The Morning"...but you may want to pass on the rest of this hit-and-miss album... (Rating: 3+)


We moved away
From civilization
Thinking that it would be best.

But now we return
To civilization
To do what we do best.

(Rating: 1)

Saso - The Middle Ages (CD, Melted Snow, Soft pop)
The guys in Saso have been thoroughly committed to their craft for some time now. The duo's early recordings were rather abstract and peculiar. Over time, the band's releases have become more smooth and accessible. The Middle Ages could possibly be the most commercial sounding Saso release yet...featuring songs that recall mainstream artists like Peter Gabriel and even Sting at times. But fear not, Saso fans...judging from the sound of this album, these two fellows aren't going to be covering "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" anytime soon. While some of the sounds here are more user friendly, there are plenty of obtuse passages that should please the slow but ever increasing Saso fan base around the globe. We have to admit that in some ways we prefer the band's earlier releases...but when you consider the music from a different perspective, it becomes obvious that artists need room to grow and expand. And that is exactly what these guys are doing. They are becoming more focused and they are perfecting their original ideas. And for that, we have to applaud them. Eleven tracks here including "Bone," "Snowstorm," "Waking Life," and "Chloroform." (Rating: 5)


How many ways
Do I goddamn thee?
Let me count
The goddamn

(Rating: 1)

Skid Row - Revolutions Per Minute (CD, SPV USA, Rock)
It seems as if everyone is making a comeback these days. The latest comeback rockers to be added to the list are the guys in Skid Row. The original members are definitely back...and they've added a new vocalist (Johnny Solinger) and a new drummer (Dave Gara). Anyone who doubts the hairiness of the band's new balls will be instantly convinced when the lead track ("Disease") comes crashing through the speakers. Whatever they are or they aren't, the guys in Skid Row can definitely still rock out like hell. We liked the band's original style and sound...but to our ears, the new line-up sounds even better. The guitars are loud and abrasive, the rhythm section thick and focused, and Solinger has a great masculine voice that makes it all come together rather nicely. Not only will the band's original fans most likely be impressed...but we're guessing that a whole new generation of young rockers will be drawn into this band's loud metallic pop. Smoldering tracks include "Another Dick in the System," "Strength," "Nothing," and "Let It Ride." (Rating: 4++++)


Sonny Perdue
Is a fat old chicken woman.
Sonny Perdue
Sasses his fat ass around
Like a queen.

Sonny Perdue
Won't do it for you.

His asshole resembles
A vagina.

(Rating: 1)

So Percussion - Amid the Noise (Double CD, Cantaloupe Music, Electronic/modern classical)
Far from being just another underground art act, the folks in So Percussion have made a great deal of interesting connections thus far. They've already released albums featuring the music of Steve Reich, David Lang, and Evan Ziporyn...plus they've received ultra-positive praises from both Billboard and the New York Times. Considering the group's unorthodox ways of making music, it is surprising that they have received so much attention so early in their career. Judging from the sounds on Amid the Noise, we have determined that the underground buzz is well-founded. These folks use percussion as a basis for their compositions and then layer them with odd, cerebral sounds...using incredible restraint in the recording process. Some might categorize this music as ambient while others might call it electronic trance. In our minds, these tracks seem to combine elements from both of these fields...all the while teetering in and out of the realm of modern classical. Heady and inventive, Amid the Noise is a beautifully trippy collection of modern mood pieces. Smooth and calming. (Rating: 5+)

Stars of Track and Field - Centuries Before Love and War (CD, Wind-Up, Progressive pop)
Intelligent and thought provoking modern progressive pop that features great vocal melodies and really cool guitars. Particularly for a band so early in their career, Centuries Before Love and War features some extraordinarily complex and intricately woven tracks. True to the claim of the press release that accompanied this disc, the guys in Stars of Track and Field create music that is reminiscent of great guitar bands like Built To Spill (some of the instrumental passages are particularly similar). The band's songs would already be strong on their own...but they are amped up to the next level by some rather acute and precise studio tweaking that adds multiple cerebral layers to the proceedings. The band consists of Jason Bell, Kevin Calaba, and Daniel Baker Orvik (plus additional guitars and keyboards courtesy of Tony Lash). This album leaves no doubt in our minds that these fellows are going to be a major force to be reckoned with in the years ahead. Mind boggling cuts like "Centuries," "With You," "Arithmatic," and "Exit the Recital" make this a top pick in babysueland. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)


Here is a sample
Of our finest wooden bar

(Rating: 1)

Strays - Le Futur Noir (CD, TVT, Rock/pop)
Much will undoubtedly be made of the fact that Toby Marriott is the son of deceased Humble Pie / Small Faces member Steve Marriott...but hopefully not so much so that The Strays' own music gets overlooked because of the family ties. Le Futur Noir is the band's debut album...and it is indeed a rocker. Though Marriott already had his foot in the door, so to speak...he and his bandmates Jeffrey Saenz and Dimitrios Koutsiouris are doing things the old fashioned way...pushing their music using a great deal of focused determination and hard work. Will the public go for it...? There's no way of knowing. The band's music does have a lot in common with a great many other bands. But these guys seem to have the marketing machine working for them...plus their album boasts a really great slick sound. Le Futur Noir might not push them into the big leagues yet...but if these guys keep it up, we have a feeling they'll probably deliver something really, really dynamite in the years to come. Nifty tracks include "Geneva Code," "This Is Forever," "Future Primitives," and "Kill." (Rating: 4++++)


We moved back to a
Cool, hipster neighborhood
So that we can
Suck from the

(Rating: 1)

Tiga - Sexor (CD, Turbo Recordings / Last Gang, Electronic pop)
Sounds from the 1980s seem to be increasingly returning in the world of underground rock and pop. Tiga obviously has no problems incorporating the late great eighties into his music. The tracks on Sexor recall a variety of early electronic pop acts, most notably New Order and Gary Newman. A word of warning. If you're seeking heady and adventurous music, you won't find it here. Tiga's tunes are light and easy and don't require concentration...and our guess is that this is exactly what he intended when he was recording these tracks. These songs feature smooth keyboards and soft vocals...layered over simple infectious mid-tempo beats. Fourteen clever cuts here including "Welcome to Planet Sexor," "Pleasure From the Bass," "Good As Gold," and "Brothers." Recommended for fans of Ronnie Martin's Joy Electric. (Rating: 4++++)

Two If By Sea - Safety (CD, Silverthree, Progressive pop/rock)
The second full-length release from Baltimore, Maryland's Two If By Sea. This band plays complex, modern progressive pop music that is characterized by steady beats, angular guitars, and a vocalist with a distant presence. Producer J. Robbins seems to have been a perfect choice to work with this band as this album has a nice, thick, sharp sound. What we like best about this band is the fact that they only use their best punch on occasion. Unlike many bands who constantly play at full volume using as much force as possible...the fellows in Two If By Sea only occasionally play at full throttle. Sounding something like a cross between Jawbox, Joy Division, and The Doors, these guys are proficient on their instruments and they are obviously very focused on their career. Smart rockers include "Report From Damage Control," "The Leaf Storm," and "Sight To Sound." (Rating: 4++++)


Symptoms aren't victims.
Blimps aren't victims.
Owls aren't victims and
Kittens aren't symptoms.

(Rating: 1)

Why Make Clocks - Midwestern Film (CD, Barely Bias, Soft pop)
A lot of folks will probably be lumping the folks in Why Make Clocks into that all-too-familiar Americana category. To categorize this band as such would be too limiting, as their music is pure melodic soft pop. What impresses us most about the tunes on Midwestern Film is the fact that they are extraordinarily unpretentious. In a world where so much music is made to impress people or to freak them out with creativity, the bands and artists who impress us the most are those who aren't trying to impress anyone. These soft, mid-tempo pop tunes are played straight from the heart...without unnecessary overdubs...and without the dreaded overkill that is present in so many artists' recordings. The band consists of Dan Hutchison, Brian Wiksell, Boonie, Eric Kennedy, and Philip Sterk. This album features pure, good tunes that are certain to stand the test of time. Impressive tracks include "The Tape Hiss Told Me This" (great title there), "Who's Laughing Now" (a particularly effective track), "All Your Smiles," and "The Finalist." (Rating: 5+)


Zach is just a dumb
Zach has always been a dumb

Only the dumbest of the dumb
Would ever vote for
The biggest retard
In Tennessee...

Zach Wimp.

(Rating: 1)

Additional Items Received:

8mm - Songs to love and die by
65daysofstatic - One time for all time
Ryan Anderson - Trains take away old friends
Antiques - Nicknames and natives
A Shoreline Dream - Avoiding the consequences
Asphalt Jungle - Juglization
Bambix - Club matachek
Barzin - My life in rooms
Steffen Basho-Junghans - Late summer morning
Justin Beckler - Oh! my troubled mind
Black Watch - Tatterdemalion
Bobcrane - Bobcrane
Boggie - Boggie
Boyskout - Another life
Matthew Clay - Eat cake!
Cute Is What We Aim For - The same old blood rush with a new touch
David and the Citizens - Until the sadness is gone
Die Princess Die - Lions eat lions
Gigi Denisco - Too close for comfort
DJ Shadow - The outsider
Dosh - The lost take
Driftless Pony Club - Cholera
Driveblind - Driveblind
Elephone _ The camera behind the camera behind the camera
Jeremy Enigk - World waits
Byan Estepa - All the bells and whistles
Everyday Atlas - Your move
Fat Jon & Styrofoam - The same channel
Jerry Fels - Live in your bedroom
Fits - Near fits
Robert G. - Dreamland express
Robert G. Highest mountains
Goldenboy - Underneath the radio
Gymclassheroes - As cruel as school children
Hail the Size - Side two
Harry Partch - Enclosure seven
Hideaways - The whiskey tango sessions
Hypocrisy - II
Inner Banks - Inner Banks
Ira - The body and the soil
Shaun Kama and the Kings of the Wild Frontier - Dear scarecrow
Katamine - Katamine
Kind of Like Spitting & Lemuria - Your living room's all over me
Lake Holiday - The curse of sunshine
Lava Province - Strangeway
Left is West - Alive between the record sleeves
Sean Lennon - Friendly fire
Librarians - Alright easy candy stranger
Love Like Fire - Bed of gold
Sam Lowry - Songs of my enemy
Minstrels - Our cruel demise
Mstrkrft - The looks
Mt. Gigantic - Gleanings and gatherings
Multiple Cat - The secret of the secret of the multiple cat
My Latest Novel - Wolves
Nardwuar the Human Serviette vs. Bev Davies - A 2007 punk rock calendar
Leigh Nash - Remix project
Therese Neaime - Livin'
Nicola - Don't take it personally
Paolo Nutini - Live sessions
Organ Failure - All over
Other Desert Cities - On the verge of collapsing
Oxygen Ponies - Oxygen Ponies
Panda Band - Vital chapter
Patience Please - Parallel plots
River City Tanlines - I'm your negative
Stacy Rock - One way home
Rural Electric - The road to hell is paved
Paolo Rustichelli - Neopagan
Rust Kings - Hotel west virginia
Rusty Wright Blues - Ain't no good life
Samiam - Whatever's got you down
Dan Sartain - Join
Scissor Sisters - Ta-day
Stephen Sebastian - Time
Nathaniel Seer - The killing task
Secret Apollo - Homemade time machine
Louise Setara - Still waters
Shortstack - The history of cut nails in america
Soul Purpose - Needful things
Spady - The long way around and other short stories
Stattica - Destined to crash
Swims - Swims
Takota - The ivory tower
Tenki - We're not talking about the universe are we (#1)
That Handsome Devil - That Handsome Devil
Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players - Off & on broadway
Trentalange - Photo album of complex relationships
Jack Tung - The life and times of chengwin
Unleashed - Midvinterblot
Various artists - A rage for peter walker
Various artists - Soul slinger classics part I
Various artists - Songs of the year: Cracker barrel old country store
Vulcan Feedom Fighters - Stardate unknown
Andy Werth - Back to the sun
Carol Williams - Jesus on a chain
Justin Winokur - Thirteen songs about love
Tom Wurth - Tom Wurth
Yoshitoshi - Ibiza
Zandosis - George w. bush go straight to f*cking hell
Zapruder Point - It's always the quiet ones

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