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May 2005 Reviews by

Auburn Lull
Mariah Carey
Channing Cope

Jill Cohn

Comment Piece
Graham Cousens

The Crayon Fields
Brad Dutz
E.S. Posthumus
Einsturzende Neubauten

Electric Eel Shock

Fluid Ounces
C. Gibbs
Girl Friday

The Graves Brothers Deluxe
Al Green
The Greencards
The Holy Fire
Hilary James / Simon Mayer
The Kingdom Flying Club

Molly Hatchet
The Muggs

My Education

No Wait Wait

The Old Haunts*
Piano Magic

Iggy Pop
The Raveonettes
Riddle of Steel*
The Robot Ate Me*
Adam Sandler

Edie Sedgwick
The Seldon Plan*
Langhorne Slim*
The Slip
Slow Dazzle
Some Water and Sun

Starflyer 59*
The Stereotypes

Steel Train
Carei Thomas

Ian Tyson
The Valley Arena
Patricia Vonne

Wan Light

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


May 2005 Comment Piece:
"Have You Seen the Raisins?"

We were happily tromping through the isles of a grocery store in Rome, Georgia recently with our friend Massuh Tailwind when an obnoxiously meek, soft spoken middle-aged fellow walked up to all of us and asked "Have you seen the raisins?"

We were confused but responded briefly, telling the shy little fellow that we did not know where the raisins were. Then, once again in his meek little voice, he chirped "I've been looking all over the place and I just can't find the raisins anywhere." He seemed genuinely disappointed and lost.

As we got to the next isle, we realized that the question was actually the slimey little creep's way of trying to flirt with Massuh Tailwind and us.

How repulsive. We've heard dumb lines before but..."Have you seen the raisins?" Sheesh!

It's too bad that there are so many lonely and desperate people out there. It really is. But when you find yourself face to face with one of them they don't seem sad at all. They are just nauseating and repulsive.

On our drive home with Massuh Tailwind, we were rolling in laughter imitating the pathetic little homo and his cheesy, shitty voice. We all laughed so hard that we were almost crying. We kept thinking of all the responses we should have used, like "They're next to the frozen corn dogs." (That would have given him a more precise idea of how we felt about his ridiculous "offer".)

The incident reminded us of what we already knew all too well.

Even though they can sometimes be amusing as Hell...people sure are sickening.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Auburn Lull - Regions Less Parallel: Early Works and Rarities 1996-2004 (CD, Darla, Progressive pop)
To quote directly from the press release, Regions Less Parallel is "a chronological retrospective of Auburn Lull's non-LP work, from the mid-nineties to the present." That about sums it up. This disc features The Dual Group EP, singles, compilation only tracks, and previously unreleased recordings. This band's heady, atmospheric pop flows by like clouds wafting by in the afternoon sky. Their compositions sometimes seem more like modern mood music than actual pop...although there are elements of both in their lush, orchestrated songs. If you're looking for something upbeat and catchy, you won't find it here. There are few elements in Auburn Lull that will immediately jump out at you. Instead, the band's music slowly grows in your subconsciousness until you eventually feel the calm deep...lull of the music. Someone did an excellent job mastering this disc. You hardly even notice that the tracks were recorded at different times and places. The more we hear these guys...the more impressed we are. Twelve dreamy cuts here, including "Secor," "Watching," "North Territorial," and "Rural Divide." Beautiful. (Rating: 5)

Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi (CD, Pop)
More processed overblown slop from the pathetic plastic pussy. Fans are bound to be as pleased as punch...because Ms. Carey continues shoveling out the same old shit that they all know and love. (Rating: 1)

Channing Cope - Sugar In Our Blood (CD, 54 40 or Fight!, Progressive pop)
We have become increasingly enamored with the 54 40 or Fight! label over the past couple of years mainly because the folks at this underground enterprise seem to have the uncanny ability to unearth unusual underground bands with real substance. Channing Cope is another top-notch group that is most certainly deserving of your attention. This trio's music is somewhat reminiscent of Ticonderoga (with whom they share the same label). Sugar In Our Blood features six brooding, subtle tunes that are anything but predictable. The tunes are, for the most part, subdued and strangely complex. Instead of playing familiar chord progressions, the band creates their own musical universe. Channing Cope consists of Ali Ozkan (bass, vocals), Chris Conner (drums), and Kenny Schulte (guitar). This trio's music grows on you the more you spin it. Puzzling compositions include "Blackbody Curves," "Next Year," and "For A Better Monday." (Rating: 5)

Jill Cohn - Seven Year Surrender... (Independently released CD, Soft pop)
It used to be that...once upon a time...if you were really, really talented you were almost guaranteed of finding at least a small audience for your music. But as the number of musical artists has grown exponentially over the years, all of that has changed. Despite the fact that she is super talented and her music is extremely accessible, Jill Cohn is still currently only appreciated by a relatively small group of people. And that is unfortunate, because her music is completely credible and genuine. Ms. Cohn's tunes are smooth and hummable...and she has an incredible voice. Seven Year Surrender is a mature and memorable album which showcases Jill's continuing growth as a songwriter. If they were given the big push, many of these tracks could easily end up being big hits. Songs like "Pass A Little Hope Around" and "Come On Home" are uplifting and ultra hummable. The only problem track here is the hidden, unnamed thirteenth track. The song is fantastic but is, unfortunately, rendered unlistenable by the unwelcome appearance of an obnoxious hip-hop (c)rapper near the end. Remove that last cut...and you have an almost perfect album. Jill Cohn keeps getting better. Hopefully one day she will find the larger audience that she so obviously deserves. (Rating: 5+)

Condor - Do It Everywhere (CD, Birds Go South, Rock/pop)
Well outside the norm. Condor is Wendy Farina (drums, vocals), Kurt Keppeler (synths, vocals), and Joshua Richardson (bass, vocals). Together, these three individuals create experimental rock music that doesn't follow patterns. Experimentation is the word of the day here...as Do It Everywhere is an exercise in spontaneity. Many of the tunes on this album sound as if they were written and recorded on the spot. This band combines pop, rock, disco, and techno-pop...and then spews them out with intriguing passionate energy. Whether you like 'em or hate 'em...you have to admit that Condor doesn't sound very much like other bands. Harsh metallic crunchers like "Go No Dull," "Here You Go," and "Strings Undone" make this album a very peculiar spin indeed... (Rating: 4++++)

Graham Cousens - Living Room Sessions (CD, Spade Kitty, Pop)
Beautifully understated guitar pop. Living Room Sessions is a collection of ten tunes Graham Cousens recorded entirely by himself in his home studio. That said, these tunes do not have the sterile sound that is usually associated with one man bands. Mr. Cousens isn't trying to dazzle his listeners with studio polish or impress them with fancy playing. Instead, Living Room Sessions is exactly what the name implies...a nice collection of honest music from a fellow who isn't trying too hard. The cool laidback feel of this album is probably what makes it so appealing. Whereas most pop artists try to cover up the fact that their music has no substance by layering their recordings to death, Graham does the exact opposite. The simple, clean arrangements on this album allow the listener to hear the real meat of the music...melodies and lyrics. This exceptionally solid album features ten classic tracks including "Julia," "Holy Roller," "So Long," "Emily," and "Help Me Help Myself" (our favorite). (Rating: 5+)

The Crayon Fields - The Good Life (CD EP, Cavalier Music, Progressive pop)
Intelligent progressive guitar pop in the same general vein as 1970s bands like Television and The Talking Heads. Melbourne, Australia's The Crayon Fields play peculiar pop music that is centered around guitars (the vocals almost seem at times like they were added as an afterthought). This trio does a lot using only the bare essentials. Even though the majority of the music consists of drums, bass, guitar, and one vocal track...the music never sounds dull or empty. The band's subtle yet direct approach works...making The Good Life a neat little chunk of progressive modern pop. Cool tracks include "Sweet Little Kids In Your Sad Little Town," "Lovers In Your Carpets," and "Soak With Me In The Sun." Some very cool stuff here. (Rating: 5)

Brad Dutz - Nine Gardeners Named Ned (CD, pfMENTUM, Modern jazz)
Percussionist Brad Dutz assembles a band consisting of twelve top-notch musicians...and the results are amazing. Nine Gardeners Named Ned features nine strangely-titled tracks that feature superbly executed modern jazz. These compositions have odd flavors that are sometimes reminiscent of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels. The songs are fluid and unpredictable and yet Dutz and his associates manage to inject their tunes with enough classic elements to make music that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. As with virtually all pfMENTUM releases, the sound quality is excellent throughout. Destined to be a cult favorite, Ned is blissfully satisfying and executed with genuine precision. (Rating: 5+)

E.S. Posthumus - Unearthed (CD, 33rd Street, Progressive)
E.S. Posthumus is the duo of Helmut and Franz Vonlichten. While these names may not be familiar, the music almost certainly is. The Vonlichten's music has been featured in so many places that it makes the head spin. Their compositions have been featured in tons of major motion pictures and major league sports shows that have been distributed all over the world. Unearthed was originally released on the Wigshop label in 2001 and is being reissued by 33rd Street in May 2005. These epic progressive tunes have a huge sound. The Vonlichtens are master arrangers...crafting their songs with exacting precision. It is not surprising that this disc has already sold over 20,000 units. Unearthed sounds like what it very well could be...a beautiful cinematic soundtrack. Influences are far and wide reaching. Features thirteen mind-blowing cuts, including "Antissa," "Nara," "Lepcis Magna," and "Isfahan." (Rating: 5)

Decomposure - At Home and Unaffected (CD, Unschooled, Computerized modern pop)
While many people create computer-driven pop music...few take an approach as unorthodox as Canada's Caleb Mueller (the man who calls himself Decomposure). The overall mood of Mueller's music is disarming and unusual. What is perhaps strangest about his pop tunes is that he uses sampled electronic sound for percussion (!?!). To make matters even more confusing, Mueller's melodies and vocals sound as if they were lifted from 1970s and 1980s pop records. The combination of the familiar with the unfamiliar is unsettling...and strangely unique. The music sounds something like Todd Rundgren mixed with The Lemon of Pink. There are few people in the world of electronic pop whose music is as immediately recognizable as this. At Home and Unaffected is confusing, obtuse, puzzling, and occasionally very catchy indeed. Fourteen cuts here, including "Whose Side Are You On?", "Distraction," "Multitracked," and "The Wars." (Rating: 5)

Dwarves - F*ck You Up and Get Live (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Live concert)
The Dwarves are one of the truly great underground rock bands left on our planet. Rather than taking the safe approach to music, these guys continue to twist morality and offend lots of people. And in today's super conservative climate...that is very refreshing indeed. Shot on location at the Continental on October 18, 2004 in New York City, F*ck You Up and Get Live is the video counterpart to the band's last album The Dwarves Must Die (which is easily one of their best albums ever). What makes The Dwarves such an attractive act is the fact that they aren't just a thrash/hardcore band. Sure, many of their tunes are skinhead pleasers...but the band peppers their shows (and albums) with pop tunes as well as slower, heavy rock numbers. This band is tight...super T-I-G-H-T...and they sure look as though they're still enjoying what they do. These five guys thrash through nineteen crowd pleasers without ever letting up. The band's trademark seems to be the lead singer's in-between-song-banter...which mainly consists of the words "F*ck yeah...yeah...f*ck yeah...f*ck..." repeated over...and over...and OVER. The black and white footage mixed in with the color works very well. In addition to the concert, this DVD also contains studio videos for the tunes "Over You," "WeMustHaveBlood," "Bleed On," "HeWho," "Pimp," and "Way Out." While other bands have gotten softer over time...and lamer and lamer bands tend to rule the airwaves...The Dwarves stand out because they remain true to their mission. (Rating: 5)

Einsturzende Neubauten - 1/2 Mensch (DVD, Some Bizarre / Cherry Red / Music Video Distributors, Industrial)
While many bands use the term "industrial" to describe their music...the fellows in Germany's Einsturzende Neubauten create honest-to-God real industrial music. 1/2 Mensch is a bizarre visual and auditory experience. On this DVD the band delivers cut-and-paste footage of generalized stuff, actual live performance pieces, and studio pieces which...at times...almost seem to have some sort of message. In performance, these guys put on a rather stimulating show. Our favorite of the live performance pieces is "Z.N.S."...in which the main percussion is performed by "playing" and abusing a shopping cart. But the real meat of this disc are the two conceptual pieces entitled "Die Zeichnungen des Patienten" and "Der Tod ist ein Dandy." These feature segments that are very strange, peculiar, and surreal...and quite frightening at times. Like some of The Residents' odder material, these pieces give the viewer the feeling of dreaming. 1/2 Mensch is a really strange trip into the minds of some of Germany's oddest musicians. Many folks will be turned off by the abrasive noise and unsettling imagery...while others will be delighted with the purely artistic sights and sounds. One thing is certain. You either love these guys...or hate 'em. (Rating: 5+)

Electric Eel Shock - Go USA! (CD, Gearhead, Hard rock)
The three men in Japan's Electric Eel Shock are out to show America a thing or two about how to rock. Despite the band's more prominent success in other parts of the world, the band has yet to make a major mark on North America. Go USA! seems designed to change all of that, as the band now has their sights squarely focused on the United States. Whether they succeed or not is secondary to the fact that this is a killer little hard rock album chock full of fourteen badass tunes. While the band's music sounds decidedly American, the vocalist fortunately has a very thick Japanese accent...which helps to give their music a more honest feel. The band plays with furious intent on Go USA!...never missing a beat. The guitars are frantic and crazy...and the vocalist is a real screamer. Potential listeners should be warned that this is really, really hard stuff...harder than most people can take. Harsh, frenzied rockers include "Japanese Meets Chinese in USA," "Do the Metal," "Suicide Rock 'N' Roll," "Vegas Night," and "I Wanna Be A Black Sabbath Guy, But I Should Be A Black Bass." (Rating: 5)

Esmerine - Aurora (CD, Madrona, Instrumental/progressive)
Esmerine is the duo consisting of Bruce Cawdron (of Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and Beckie Foon (of A Silver Mt. Zion). Aurora is the duo's second album. Lending helping hands in the proceedings are Mike Moya, Harris Newman, Jessie Carrot, and Howard Bilerman. Esmerine is an extremely artsy endeavor...so if you're looking for a quick fix of catchy pop or a jolt of hard rock, you should consider looking elsewhere. Aurora is a sparse...almost gothic...collection of moody instrumentals. Much of the music is presented without percussion...as looming, methodical strings pull the pieces along to their conclusion. Most of this album is dark, droning, sad, eerie, and brooding. These compositions sound something like a soundtrack to a very serious European film. Cawdron and Foon are playing to a very limited and specific audience, as these songs have almost no commercial appeal whatsoever. This project was obviously created as a labor of love, however, and as such...there is a great wealth of entertainment value here. Packaged in a beautifully abstract cover, Aurora is an unusual creation from two of Canada's oddest underground musicians. (Rating: 5)

Fluid Ounces - The Whole Shebang (CD, Vacant Cage, Pop)
Hummable upbeat piano pop in the same general vein as Ben Folds. Murfreesboro, Tennessee has a funny way of spawning great bands. The folks at the Vacant Cage label seem to be filling the void left by the demise of Spongebath. Produced by Matt Mahaffey (of ridiculously overlooked band Self), The Whole Shebang is an intelligent and well-thought-out collection of tunes. The band Fluid Ounces has been making music since the late 1990s. The band is propelled by the songwriting talents of Seth Timbs, a multi talented young fellow with a killer voice. Timbs does, in fact, play almost everything on this album (with the exception of drums)...but don't expect to hear a sterile sounding one-man-band. These compositions are fresh and energetic. One can't help but think of Ben Folds (and even Self) when spinning this disc...but when the songs sound this great, who cares...? Catchy cuts include "Paperweight Machine," "Big Deal," "Hung On Every Word," and "Destined to be Forgotten." (Rating: 5)

C. Gibbs - Parade of Small Horses (CD, Dren / Rubric, Soft pop/folk)
You may not know his name...but you've almost certainly heard him before. C. Gibbs began his career as a guitarist in the band Modern English. He then played for a while with Dave Vanian and Foetus before eventually forming his own band (The Morning Glories) that released three albums on the Cargo label. Gibbs then struck out on a solo career, releasing two albums prior to Parade of Small Horses. Considering Gibbs' lengthy and varied musical experiences, it is not surprising that this album is a multifaceted listening experience. Blending elements of folk, Americana, pop, and rock, the disc showcases this man's smooth voice and his flair for writing memorable melodies. Gibbs' tunes are reminiscent of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Gram Parsons...except they are obviously much more up-to-date. Horses is subtle and pleasing...and the songs have intriguing depth. Standout cuts include "Ferdinand," "Honeywell," "Two Dollar Ford," "Tiny Bridges," and "Lonely On A Saturday Night." (Rating: 5)

Girl Friday - Swimmer (CD, Get Fresh, Pop/rock)
This disc is dated 2003...so we're not quite sure why the push is happening now...? In any event, Swimmer is a cool batch of tunes from an up-and-coming New York band. These three individuals (Amanda Dora, Byron Isaacs, Konrad Meissner) aren't following current trends. These tunes could just as easily have been written and recorded in the 1980s or 1990s. The band's tunes are simple, yet ultimately hummable. These folks show considerable restraint in their playing, allowing their lyrics and melodies to shine. Ms. Dora has a beautiful voice which is the centerpiece of this group's sound. Whereas most groups with a female vocalist tend to sound very much like some other group with a female vocalist...this is not the case here. Girl Friday is a refreshing change from the norm. The band's tunes are upbeat and hummable as Hell. Thought provoking cuts include "Give Over," "Make My Peace," "Meadow Song," and "Don't Know Anything." Upbeat and rather exhilarating. (Rating: 5)

The Graves Brothers Deluxe - Light (CD, Good Forks, Pop/rock)
Another quality release from California-based The Graves Brothers Deluxe. These guys have come a long way in a short amount of time. The band has already released a slew of recordings in addition to touring Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Don't be deceived by the title of this album. The music is anything but "light." These recordings find the band in fine form and rocking harder than ever. While retaining an edge with their music, these guys' sound is slightly haunting and spooky. Light is the band's most focused release to date. The songs are strong and the recordings reflect increasing attention to detail. There all kinds of subtleties here that make this album sound better the more you spin it. And as always, Stoo Odom's vocals sound superb. Killer cuts include "About the Future," "Seen It All," "Drinking at the Sea Star," and "Nerves." (Rating: 5+)

Al Green - Everything's OK (CD, Pop)
Al Green used to make some decent music. What happened...? Nowadays he's just another old fart pooting out jelly for all those fans who are still dumb enough to worship him. Everything's OK will make you feel like you have worms. (Rating: 1)

The Greencards - Weather and Water (CD, Dualtone, Country/bluegrass)
The folks in The Greencards are touring with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson from May through July of 2005...but we'll forgive them, because Weather and Water is an outstanding album full of truly entertaining music. Interestingly, this trio consists of two Australians (Kym Warner and Carol Young) and a British fellow (Eamon McLoughlin)...all of whom met in Austin, Texas and began their career playing there. Don't expect overseas influences here, however...because this music is 100% American. Very early on, these folks even managed to nab the Best New Band award at the Austin Music Awards ceremony. The Greencards have created a heavy buzz...which is well deserved because--unlike many new artists--these folks' music has real substance. Killer tracks include "The Ghost of Who We Were," "Weather and Water," "Time," "The Ballad of Kitty Brown," and "Bordered on a Breakdown." Excellent material from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

The Holy Fire - The Holy Fire (CD EP, Down Peninsula Audio, Rock)
This cool rockin' little EP was originally released in 2004 and received so much praise that the folks at Down Peninsula have reissued it this year (2005). The guys in The Holy Fire make music that sounds not unlike Sebadoh. There are definite melodies and song structures...yet they are soaked in layers of harsh, pounding guitars and frantic rhythms. These fellows don't merely crash and bang away at high volume. Their songs are smart and well-structured. Instantly kickass tunes include "Lift Off Message," "Sleeping, Screaming Boy," and "Outside the Mercury." Cool stuff...and those guitars sound great. We'd bet these guys will shoot out a killer full-length soon... (Rating: 5)

Impellitteri - Pedal to the Metal (German import CD, SPV USA, Hard rock/metal)
Frantic, wild, inventive heavy metal music played with furious intent. Led by the antics of mind-blowing guitar virtuoso Chris Impellitteri, following this band's twists and curves is an exercise in humility. Pedal to the Metal features a huge ultra-polished wall-of-sound approach to rock. Unlike many metal bands that go off on lengthy ego trips, these guys keep their material relatively brief and to-the-point (the longest cut here clocks in at 4:19). This is a harsh and heavy band and yet ...incredibly...you can usually understand the lyrics (if not, they are included in a handy booklet which features killer cover art by Derek Riggs). The guys in Impellitteri combine the best elements of 1970s progressive rock with 1990s heavy metal to create their own unique blinding brand of rock. Smashing hard rockers include "The Iceman Cometh," "Hurricane," "Judgement Day," and "Propaganda Mind." (Rating: 5+)

Innaway - Innaway (CD, Some, Progressive pop)
Groovy progressive music that goes all over the place and back again. The first track on the band's self-titled album sounds something like The Charlatans UK...but that's where the similarities end. By the time the second cut comes around, these folks are sounding something like a modern-day Henry Cow. Delving even further into the disc, the band's influences expand to include older bands like Pink Floyd and even The Beatles. To sum it up gently...the folks in Innaway play music that is difficult to pigeonhole and/or describe. One thing is certain...the music is most definitely progressive in nature. The tunes are unpredictable and incorporate sounds and ideas that span several decades. A CD single from the album ("Rise") is being released to promote this disc. Our guess is that this music is too peculiar to make much of an impression on the average listener but then...what do we know? To put it simply, Innaway is a band that doesn't really sound like all the other out there. And that, in and of itself, is a major achievement. (Rating: 5)

Hilary James and Simon Mayor - Laughing at the Moon (CD, Acoustics, Folk/soft pop), Lullabies With Mandolins (CD, Acoustics, Folk/soft pop)
Hilary James and Simon Mayor make music for all the right reasons. While most folks in the United States may not be familiar with these two individuals, they are well known in Great Britain. The two have been recording and touring together in various stages of their careers since the 1970s. James sings, plays guitar and bass guitar while Mayor is a mandolin virtuoso. Laughing at the Moon is a lighthearted romp through a variety of traditional and original tunes. Hilary has a voice that is perfectly smooth and always on key...slightly reminiscent of Alison Krauss. Mayor's playing is personal and spirited throughout. The instrumentals sound just as good as the vocal tracks and vice versa. On Lullabies With Mandolins, the duo covers songs that will appeal to children as well as adults. The album reminds us of The Innocence Mission's Now the Day Is Over. James and Mayor chose to cover timeless lullabies that will sound great decades from now. Both of these discs showcase two musicians who truly love what they do. In their spare time, these folks even play for children in schools. How cool is that? Completely genuine and real in every way. Excellent. (Rating: 5+)

The Kingdom Flying Club - Non-Fiction (CD, Emergency Umbrella, Pop), Sumatra Fox (CD EP, Emergency Umbrella, Pop)
Something like an underground noisy version of The Beach Boys...but not really. Actually, the folks in Columbia, Missouri's The Kingdom Flying Club are much more than that. This album and EP present a young band with a lot to offer. Despite the relatively low fidelity of the band's recordings, their genuine spirit comes shining through clearly on these two discs. Was it luck, talent, or connections that got the band's music featured on the television show The OC and landed their album at #95 on CMJ's Radio 200...? It doesn't matter really...because this band has songs with substance (and that definitely does matter). These folks make music that is extremely reminiscent of Athens, Georgia pop bands from the 1990s. Occasionally noisy and unusually sincere, the songs on these discs are honest...and feature wonderfully gliding melodies and above average lyrics. These aren't totally perfect discs...but they display so much creativity and talent that we just can't help but feel that these folks are going to catch on with underground pop fans across the globe in a big way... (Rating: 4++++)

Mae - The Everglow (CD, Tooth and Nail, Pop/rock)
Concept albums have almost become a thing of the past as peoples' attention spans have grown shorter and shorter. The guys in Mae are thus taking somewhat of a risk with the album The Everglow. This beautifully packaged CD features a great little lyric/story booklet with killer artwork. The package promotes a kind of "read while you listen" approach to music. On the first spin, we were slightly turned off by the first and seventh songs ("We're So Far Away" and "The Ocean"). They're great tunes...but they sound way, way, way too much like Ben Folds (and that is not a cut, because we still love Mr. Folds). Fortunately, the band's own sound eventually comes to light...and their upbeat buzzsaw pop takes over. These guys play smart, hummable, loud pop with smart, intricate arrangements. Smooth and uplifting. (Rating: 4+++)

Minikon - Super Minikon (CD, KiraKira, Electronic/instrumental)
More super happy upbeat infectious electronic instrumentals from Florida's Minikon. Super Minikon, the artist's second full-length album, picks up where the first left off. Minikon is Denty One, a fellow who prefers to keep his music simple and to-the-point. As was the case with the first album, these tunes are reminiscent of Joy Electric except for the fact that they are instrumentals. Plenty of heavy 1980s influences swimming around here. This time around the tracks are a bit more produced. Thus, they may appeal to a slightly wider audience. Denty is treading in unusual territory. After all, how many modern artists create happy instrumental music...? Distinctly pleasant and instantly memorable, Super Minikon is a delightful spin from one of Florida's best. Features beautiful Japanese-inspired artwork. Clever cuts include "Flying Hero," "Shiver and Smile," "Tiger Dream," and "Wonder Planet." (Rating: 5+)

Molly Hatchet - Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge (CD, SPV USA, Southern rock)
They baaaaaaaaaaaack. The guys in Molly Hatchet have probably influenced more bands than most people would like to admit. Who knows? Without these guys' influence...we might very well not be blessed with killer modern badass sexy-as-shit bands like SuperHeavyGoatAss (and that is something we would not like to imagine). Way back when they were really popular, we couldn't stand this band at all. But now that our tastes have matured...we can now actually understand the appeal. After all, who doesn't like to down five or six beers, rip off your shirt and then scream "Free Bird!" at the top of your lungs...? (Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Tim Lindsey plays on this album, by the way...). Phil McCormack still has that masculine growl that made the band famous in the first place. Rather than being a tired replay of times gone by, Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge sounds surprisingly modern and relevant. This could be because there are so many new bands who are now aping the "Hatchet sound." This album should please old fans...as well as current metalheads. Surprisingly good stuff here... (Rating: 5)

The Muggs - The Muggs (CD, Times Beach, Rock)
Led by the ferocious talents of Danny Methric (of the critically acclaimed band The Paybacks), The Muggs are heavily influenced by the music of Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin. Joining Methric are Tony DeNardo and Matt Rost. Together, this trio delivers a big rock hard sound that is heavy on cool guitar riffs and intense hard rock rhythms. Guitar lovers everywhere are bound to get a major charge out of kickass rockers like "Need Ya Baby," "Monster," "Hard Love," and "If You Please." Though some may find the heavy Zeppelin influences a bit too obvious...this don't bother us not one goddamn bit. We just wanna turn this baby up and ROCK OUT to the fire brigade. Killer stuff...our advice is to get blasted and turn this little sucker all the way UP. (Rating: 5)

My Education - Italian (CD, Thirty Ghosts, Instrumental/progressive)
Austin produces lots of artists...but few that have a sound similar to the folks in My Education. Playing music that sounds distinctly un-Austin-ish, these folks are impressive, progressive, and atmospheric. You have to hand it to bands like this that play music for what is almost certain to be a very small audience. Most listeners need words in order to latch onto songs, and instrumentals tend to lose most music fans. Unfortunate, but true. Italian is a complex batch of compositions that are epic in nature. The band's big sound ebbs and flows with unpredictable spontaneous energy. At times, the songs transform into noise and atmospheric sound...but at other times the sound is almost classical in nature. Our guess would be that these guys really deliver in concert. Amazing stuff that is credible...and well outside the norm. (Rating: 5)

Negativland - No Business (CD, Seeland, Collage/cut and paste)
Negativland is a group of artists (we hesitate to use the word "band" because the term probably does not apply) whose creations always seem to foster debate. These fellows snatch sounds and images from other sources and then "re-compose" them...thus creating their own "music." Is it fair? Should it be illegal? Is it really music...or is it not? Hell, who cares? Folks can continue the debate to infinity...while the guys in Negativland just continue doing what they do best. The title track ("No Business") is a SCREAM. The "song" features Ethel Merman cut and pasted together so that she sings "There's no business like stealing" (haw haw haw!). The track is a RIOT. "Favorite Things" features a very confused Julie Andrews singing nonsensical strings of words. Some of these tracks work better than others but...in the end, No Business proves that the guys in Negativland are still credible. Folks either love these guys or hate 'em. Anything that makes us laugh always gets a good rating. Great packaging here. Includes a 58 page booklet and even...a whoopie cushion...yee-haw!!! (Rating: 4++++)

No Wait Wait - No Wait Wait (CD, Chairkickers, Pop)
No Wait Wait is Marc Gartman (Pale Horse and Rider) and Alan Sparhawk (Low). The two took breaks from their better known projects and headed to Duluth, Minnesota to record No Wait Wait. The album may be a surprise to many folks. Instead of artsy stuff or underground rock, this album is pure pop. The overall sound is something like a softer and looser Fountains of Wayne. The tunes are subtle and feature amazingly hummable melodies. We could very easily see this project take off in a bigger way than either of these guys' other bands. The music is much more accessible and could appeal to a wide range of people. Kickass cuts include "Faith and Words," "Rock of Ages," "Throwing Stones," and "Shots and Sleep." (Rating: 4++++)

NRA - Machine (CD, Gearhead, Rock)
So many hard rock bands are generic, boring carbon copies of one another. The gentlemen in Amsterdam's NRA provide a refreshing change of pace. When listening to Machine, it seems impossible that these guys have been at it since 1989 (?!?). What sets these guys apart from the pack are super smart catchy songs and, even more importantly, the fact that the vocalist sings (rather than screams). The band's music is somewhat reminiscent of early Stranglers. The vocalist even sounds like Hugh Cornwell at times. The tunes on Machine are short, direct, and focused. There are no unnecessary variables included in the mix here. The band's killer rhythm section supports unrelenting buzzsaw guitars...making NRA one of the best hard rock bands we've heard of late. How could anyone not love killer rockers like "Why Did I Listen To You?," "Missed My Slot," "Real Life," and "Tell Me Why"...? Killer stuff from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

The Old Haunts - Fallow Field (CD, Kill Rock Stars, Rock)
Simple, direct hard pop/rock played with furious intent. The fellows in The Old Haunts play kooky jagged hard rock that sounds slightly similar to Pink Flag era Wire. There are no gimmicks here. The band doesn't dress strangely nor do they try to sound weird and unusual. The songs on Fallow Field are decidedly simple, direct, and succinct. This album works because the only ingredients it contains are those that are absolutely essential. This band's minimalistic approach works simply because they write great songs. The nervous yelping vocals sound absolutely killer. This band pays homage to their heroes from the 1970s...all the while reinventing those ideas with crazed giddy energy. Lovable tracks include "By the Bay," "Deflect It," "The Old World," and "Vandal Hymn." Hard rockin' FUN. (Rating: 5++)

Piano Magic - Disaffected (CD, Darla, Progressive moody pop)
Disaffected is the sixth album from Piano Magic. The group is comprised of Glen Johnson and Alasdair Steer (both are English) and Jerome Tcheneyan, Franck Alba, Cedric Pin, and Angele David-Guillou (all of whom are French). The multi-faceted sound of this group may very well be the result of the diversity of its members. Many words could be used to describe this album such as epic, sweeping, hypnotic, and even gothic. But the truth of the matter is that these folks create music that doesn't fall into any particular categories or genres. Calling the music pop is even stretching the term, because these compositions certainly won't be finding their way into the top of the charts anytime soon. Acute attention to detail is evident throughout Disaffected. These folks obviously spent a great deal of time and energy recording these tunes. Nothing is standard here. The melodies don't sound familiar. The lyrics are sensitive and peculiar. Each song sounds something like a precise audio portrait of something you've never heard before. Finely tuned compositions include "You Can Hear the Room," "Disaffected," "I Must Leave London," "Deleted Scenes," and "You Can Never Get Lost (When You've Nowhere To Go)." Intriguing. (Rating: 5+)

Iggy Pop - Live San Fran 1981 (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Live concert)
When he's "on" Iggy Pop is one of the greatest entertainers in the world. When he's "off"...well...he's just off. While Live San Fran 1981 is an intriguing look back at Mr. Pop during one of the low points of his career (this concert was filmed after the release of his poorly received Party album), it is not without its drawbacks. First, the quality of this footage leaves a lot to be desired...which would not be any big deal really...if there was more substantial content. The fact that the folks at Target Video have their name emblazoned across the bottom of the screen at all times doesn't help either (very irritating). This was not an "on" night for Iggy, despite the fact that he is supported by the mind-boggling backup band consisting of Carlos Alomar, Gary Valentine, Rob Duprey, Mike Page, and Clem Burke. There are some highlights, however...most notably blistering versions of "1969" and "Eggs on Plate." Page's drumming has to be seen to be believed--the man is dynamite on a drum kit. But for the majority of the concert, Mr. Pop just seems tired and bored. The show ends on a horrible note with a dynsfunctional version of "Pumpin' For Jill"...which gives you the impression there was no encore necessary on that particular night. The DVD "bonus" isn't really a bonus at all...it is an advertisement for another DVD. So...while this does contain some interesting segments and while completists will surely want a copy...we were ultimately disappointed with this disc...despite the fact that we will probably always remain big fans of this legendary fellow. (Rating: 4-)

Prettymess - Greyscale Broadcast (CD, Shock, Power pop/rock)
Shooting out catchy tunes straight from the hip, the guys in Australia's Prettymess don't mess around. These fellows make power pop drenched in hooks that is reminiscent of late Redd Kross and The Gigolo Aunts. The band's driving rhythms are counterbalanced with loud fuzzy guitars...but its those vocal melodies that really deliver the punch ("Tripping" has an amazing melody). Greyscale Broadcast features eleven tunes that soar off into the clouds and beyond. This is pure feelgood music. This band doesn't require any thought or emotional energy. All you have to do is turn up the volume and you're guaranteed to have a great time. Passionate, urgent, and ultimately entertaining, this album is bound to sound great decades from now. Killer rockers include "Leaving Look," "Rescue Me," "Falling Pins," and "Escape." Absolutely great from start to finish. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Raveonettes - Pretty in Black (CD, Columbia, Pop)
Take one talented young singer/songwriter (Sune Rose Wagner) and pair him up with a beautiful young lady with a killer voice (Sharin Foo) and what do you get? This answer is, obviously, The Raveonettes. This Danish duo has made some mighty big splashes in a short amount of time...which is quite amazing when you consider the fact that the music they play does not sound modern or hip and does not fit in at all with what is currently popular in the United States. Wagner and Foo play music that pays homage to great vintage surf bands and sing-songy doo-wop girl groups of the 1960s. While other bands are trying their hardest to break new ground and sound as modern as possible, these folks are taking the exact opposite approach...and it works. Light, upbeat, and sinfully catchy, Pretty in Black is a wonderfully satisfying collection of tunes. Wagner penned all of the tunes with one exception ("My Boyfriend's Back"). While on the surface this music may seem light...there is actually substance beneath the surface. Tracks like "If I Was Young" showcase the band's talent for writing thoughtful, mature tunes. An excellent spin from start to finish, this album is likely to please just about anyone who loves great pop music. (Rating: 5+)

Riddle of Steel - Got This Feelin' (CD, Ascetic, Hard pop)
Sounding something like a modern version of The James Gang, the guys in Riddle of Steel are a mesmerizing new hard pop trio. Creating cool grooves that instantly kick ass seems to come naturally to these fellows. Interestingly, Got This Feelin' was recorded in Norman, Oklahoma (?!?)...yet it sounds as if it was recorded in San Francisco or even somewhere in Great Britain. This band consists of Jimmy Vavak (bass, vocals), Andrew Elstner (guitar, vocals), and Rob Smith (drums). These guys have a big, big, big sound that is characterized by super tight playing and precise attention to detail in the studio. This is an incredibly smart collection of tunes. So much so, in fact, that the band may lose many folks along the way because their music is too intellectual for the average listener. Unlike most artists, the guys in Riddle of Steel challenge their listeners with wild bursts of creativity...which may help to explain why this album is so ultimately satisfying and genuinely credible. Mind-numbing blowout power pop tunes like "The Lovers of Nothing," "Deeper Still," "Got This Feelin'," "This Is A House of Lies," and "The Sunshine Strangler" are slightly obtuse and totally hypnotic. GREAT STUFF...!!! (Rating: 5+++)

The Robot Ate Me - Carousel Waltz (CD, 5 Rue Christine, Pop)
Carousel Waltz is a bit more accessible than earlier releases from The Robot Ate Me...but never mind and not to worry. You won't be seeing Ryland Bouchard on American Idol anytime soon. This disc is unlike most underground albums. The lyrics on Waltz are surprisingly upbeat and positive. And this time around, Mr. Bouchard presents his tunes in a surprisingly direct fashion. While there are some unusual arrangements to be found and some peculiar moments to be sure, this album is...overall...a rather direct shot at the target. And, not surprisingly, Ryland once again hits the center dead on. This album finds the tunes sounding something like a cross between Ray Davies and The Flaming Lips...without sounding too much like either. This collection of tunes centers around the ideas of falling in love and being in love...ideas which, in the wrong hands, could easily be sappy and obnoxious. Fortunately, Carousel Waltz is neither. Instead, the album is a strangely compelling and uplifting vision of how love affects a person. Soft and focused, these unusual tunes are simultaneously accessible and peculiar. The Robot Ate Me remains one of the most unique acts on the planet. Brimming with credible substance, Carousel Waltz is yet another killer album from an artist who just keeps getting better and better with time... (Rating: 6)

Rollerball - Catholic Paws / Catholic Pause (CD, Silber, Progressive)
Talk about difficult to describe. The folks in Rollerball truly do create music that stretches across boundaries and continents. One moment they sound like The Residents...a moment later they sound like Yoko Ono and/or Jarboe...and a song or two later they sound like some updated British progressive rock band from the 1970s...or a modern classical ensemble...or even a moody modern progressive pop band. By continually transforming themselves and their style, the folks in this band are bound to lose almost everyone in the process. And that is something we just have to admire. Rollerball consists of Mini Wagonwheel, Mae Starr, Gilles, Amanda Mason Wiles, and S. de Leon S....but adding additional assistance are eight additional musicians. Catholic Paws / Catholic Pause is so intelligent and so difficult to digest that the album will, most likely, only be appreciated by a few small group of people. But for that tiny group of open minded folks...there are some really great treats to be found here. Cool confusing compositions like "Quench," "F*cker," "Break In Your Neck," "Tambien," and "Quad Four" have true depth and amazing quality. Absolutely stunning packaging on this one... (Rating: 5++)

Adam Sandler (Worthless retard kind of thing)
Calling this asshole an actor or a comedian is like calling George Bush the President of the United States. Maybe it makes sense to retards but...to us the very idea is just ridiculous. (Rating: 1)

Edie Sedgwick - Her Love Is Real...But She Is Not (CD, DeSoto, Electronic/pop)
Formerly Justin Moyer (of the bands El Guapo and Antelope), this fellow changed his gender and transformed into Edie Sedgwick (the name was taken from the 1960s semi-celebrity who died in 1971). Her Love Is Real...But She Is Not is Sedgwick's first album. Is this 2005...or 1975...? Listening to this album will send listeners straight back into the mid-seventies...when synthesizers and electronic pop had just hit the scene. The song titles on this album are names of celebrities: "Martin Sheen," "Sigourney Weaver," "Molly Ringwald," "Tim Robbins," "Sally Field," etc. Edie recorded these stark electronic compositions alone. Most drag queens dance around mouthing the words to other people's music because they don't have any real talent. This lady proves that drag queens don't have to be tired and insipid. Edie's music is truly inspired. Expect even bigger things from this artist in the future... (Rating: 4++++)

The Seldon Plan - Making Circles (Independently released CD, Pop)
The Seldon Plan is a great new band from Baltimore. These four guys play guitar pop that is reminiscent of some of the greatest bands of the 1980s and 1990s. Two things missing from the majority of average pop bands are excellent melodies and great vocals. The guys in The Seldon Plan have both. Making Circles resounds with catchy tunes with top notch vocals. These guys make music that sounds familiar while managing to retain unique character and creativity. The guitars sound inspired and totally lovely. When combined with those heavenly vocals...the overall effect is cerebral and heavenly. We rarely hear independent releases that even come close to the quality of this disc. Destined to be a favorite among fans of underground pop, the guys in The Seldon Plan are doing everything right. Killer cuts include "A Rhyming Dictionary," "Making Circles," "Westchester," "Love Again," "New Instant," and "Chicago 2003." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Langhorne Slim - When the Sun's Gone Down (CD, Narnack, Pop/bluegrass/hillbilly)
Refreshingly genuine and pure, When the Sun's Gone Down is an album that doesn't sound like anything else we've heard in recent years. If you can imagine Don Van Vliet singing bluegrass music, you might begin to have some idea of what Langhorne Slim's music sounds like. Langhorne combines elements from all over the place...coming up with what might best be described as hillbilly bluegrass pop creations with exceptionally insightful lyrics. What is most impressive about this young man is that his music seems to come straight from his heart. There are no gimmicks here...no dumb image to deal with...no dumb studio gimmicks...and no overtly clever song titles. This is just a killer collection of tunes, pure and simple. Destined for great success very early in his career, Langhorne Slim has hit the target dead center. An exceptional album that is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 5+++)

The Slip - Live at Lupo's (Double CD, Kufala, Rock)
How often do you get introduced to a new band through a live recording of not one...but two...full discs of music...? The Slip is Andrew Barr (drums, vocals), Brad Barr (guitar, vocals), and Marc Friedman (bass, guitar). Live at Lupo's was recorded on June 12, 2004 at Lupo's in Providence, Rhode Island. Must've been a fun night. The trio is a jam band, more or less...but their music is inspired and vibrant. All three fellows are as tight as bonkers on their instruments, which may explain why they have such a big sound. From the sound of these discs, it sounds as if both the band and the audience had a great time at Lupo's. Cool jam tunes like "Old George," "Fear of Falling," "Children of December," and "Proud" make this double disc set a real HIT. (Rating: 4++++)

Slow Dazzle - The View From the Floor (CD, MISRA, Pop)
Slow Dazzle is Shannon McArdle and Timothy Bracy (both are in The Mendoza Line). This band is named after the John Cale album and pays homage to Mr. Cale as well as other artists such as Leonard Cohen and Richard and Linda Thompson. But McArdle and Bracy don't merely tread old territory. The View From the Floor is a moody and subtle spin which features an original perspective on the world. This short album features eight moody, reflective tracks...including "Fleur De Lie," "The Prosecution Rests," "The View From the Floor," and "Now or Never or Later." (Rating: 4++++)

Soeza - Why Do You Do? (CD, Gringo, Progressive pop)
While the title of this album is rather hilarious...this band's music is anything but a joke. Bristol, England's Soeza is a band whose music crosses boundaries and genres...making it almost impossible to determine who Why Do You Do? does...or even does not sound like (!). The six members in this big band have been together since 1996. The idea may not be to confuse...but that will most likely be the end result for most listeners. Why Do You Do? is an almost entirely artistic endeavor. Because their approach to music is so peculiar, Soeza is almost certainly limiting the number of people who will follow along. And that is not a bad thing obviously, just a mere observation. You have to appreciate bands who are willing to take such a unique stand with their music. Includes "Prince the Boat," "They Glow At Night," and "Wounded Hounds and Their Treatment" (?!?). This is a very strange album from an almost totally unpredictable group of folks. (Rating: 4++++)

Some Water and Sun - All My Friends Have To Go (CD, Hefty, Techno/pop)
Some Water and Sun is the duo consisting of John Hughes III (of Slicker) and Shin Tasaki (of Spanova). The duo creates unusual pop that is driven by modern technology. While the tunes themselves are rather normal and familiar sounding, they are presented in some very unusual light. Though these fellows' approach to music takes a bit of getting used to (the percussion is sometimes particularly obtuse), once you accept the unorthodox approach, there is a lot of meat to be gnawed from All My Friends Have To Go. Danceable and upbeat, these pop/soul tunes feature neat sound effects, great melodies, and superb vocals. This twelve track album features cool cuts like "Snowbreaker," "The Rain," "Watering," and "Everything." Intriguing and unusual. (Rating: 5)

Starflyer 59 - Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (CD, Tooth and Nail, Pop)
Jason Martin is an unstoppable force. For years this man has been churning out exceptional moody pop music for a devoted fan base that grows slowly with every passing year. Maybe at some point in the future this extraordinarily talented fellow will be recognized for what he is...one of the most gifted songwriters on earth. Rather than burning out, Martin seems to just get better and better at his craft. Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice is right up there with the very best Starflyer 59 releases. The songs are instantly hummable and feature dreamy arrangements and, of course, those super smooth vocals that have become a trademark of the band. Incredible compositions include "The Contest Completed," "Easy Street," "A Good Living," and "The Longest Line." Pop music just doesn't get any better than this...in any decade or in any century. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6+)

The Stereotypes - 3 (Double CD, Earthling, Pop)
The Stereotypes return with their best release yet. This San Diego-based group pleased many fans and reviewers with their earlier releases...but this will most likely be the album that will propel them to the next level. This double disc set contains one CD featuring the ten tracks that make up the actual album while the second CD features six "leftover" tracks. This band's music sounds something like a cross between The Velvet Underground and early Guided By Voices. 3 doesn't contain cutesy crap nor does it feature trendy modern rock. These guys' music is simple and direct...and their songs are surprisingly direct and catchy. Their compositions satisfy for the plain and simple reason that they are just...great. In an age where every band seems to be trying way too hard to be unique and original, these fellows just let their music speak for itself. And man oh man...does it speak. Killer tunes like "Emily," "My New Friend," "Dontcha Think," and "Triangle Girl" will sound great decades from now. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

Steel Train - Twilight Tales From the Prairies of the Sun (CD, Drive-Thru, Pop)
These guys are so smart and talented...that they may very well have a difficult time finding an audience (!). People seem to want bands and artists to fit neatly into one specific category, and these guys do not. This chameleonic quintet goes all over the place on Twilight Tales From the Prairies of the Sun. The only constant is that whatever they do, they do it well. There's a lot to digest on this fifteen track album. The guys in this band do not write and record alternative slop. They play classic pop that is amazingly mature when you consider how young they are. The playing is spirited and the vocal harmonies are incredible. This album has the potential to appeal to young and old fans alike. These songs are just plain good. Kickass ultra-hummable cuts include "Better Love," "Road Song," "Catch You On The Other Side," and ""I Will Stay Here." Excellent material from start to finish. (Rating: 5)

Carei Thomas - Sound Window(s) V: Pinnacles (CD, Innova Recordings, Jazz/modern classical/experimental)
Sound Window(s) V: Pinnacles is a very strange spin indeed. Carei Thomas and his associates play freeform improvisational music that has no boundaries. These compositions feature elements of jazz, modern classical music, and electronic experimentation. At times the music almost seems to be grounded on the earth...but those moments don't last long, as the musicians seem intent on stretching the boundaries of their music as often as possible. While we played this in the background one afternoon, there were several segments that had us thinking that something had gone wrong with our refrigerator (!). Strange and slightly spacey, Sound Window(s) V is wild and trippy...and completely unpredictable. A pleasant overload of imagination and creativity. Cool stuff. (Rating: 5)

TSAR - Band-Girls-Money (CD, TVT, Rock)
How could we not love a band that cites Redd Kross, T. Rex, The Archies, and The Dead Boys as their biggest influences...? Actually, the guys in TSAR are much more harsh and loud than any of these bands...but that don't matter none, because their hearts are obviously in the right place. These guys play snotty loud rock music that is brimming over with attitude and adrenaline. But despite the overdriven guitars and overall intensity, the tunes on Band-Girls-Money are surprisingly hummable and catchy. These guys are getting a very well deserved boost in their career at long last, as the title track from this album is being used in a nationally-televised commercial advertising Napster and Nestle Crunch. This band pays admirable tribute to their idols...while exploring their own explosive, raw talent. Kickass power pop numbers include "Wanna Get Dead," "Superdeformed," "Straight," "Everybody's Fault But Mine," and "You Can't Always Want What You Get." Upbeat, funny, and catchy as Hell. (Rating: 5+)

Ian Tyson - Songs From The Gravel Road (CD, Vanguard, Soft pop)
Most may not immediately recognize the name Ian Tyson, as this man is better known as one-half of the legendary 1960s folk duo Ian and Sylvia. Well times have changed...and so has Mr. Tyson's music. Nowadays Ian plays mature soft pop with a Western influence. His love of cowboys and horses is a consistent thread in his music. Songs From The Gravel Road is a super slick spin. The tunes are well-produced and the emphasis is on Ian's deep resonant voice. This is Tyson's first album is six years. If there is one word to describe this album, it most certainly is inspired. We always love hearing music that is created because the people making the music love what they're doing. The folks involved in Gravel Road obviously enjoyed themselves immensely. Ten cool tunes and two bonus tracks ("Moisture," "Casey's Gone"). Thoughtful and real. (Rating: 5)

The Valley Arena - Take Comfort in Strangers (CD, Astro Magnetics, Rock)
The problem with most hard rock bands is that they do nothing more than thrash away aimlessly in a confused adrenaline rush...completely lacking direction and focus. But the good part is...this fact makes you appreciate bands like The Valley Arena even more. This Long Beach quartet plays loud and hard...but their songs are extremely intelligent, unusual, and unpredictable. The guitars are skewed and crazy...the rhythms pound nervously...and the overall sound is consistently on target. But what is perhaps most striking about this band is their focus on songs and melodies. Despite all the harshness, there is always something substantial to latch onto...in terms of both music and lyrics. Take Comfort in Strangers was produced by Jason Cupp and released on Geoff Rickley's label Astro Magnetics (Rickley is the frontman in the band Thursday). A neat slice of modern rock played with verve and gusto...Strangers is an invigorating spin. Truly inventive modern music. (Rating: 5+)

Patricia Vonne - Guitars and Castanets (CD, CoraZong, Country/pop)
Let's face it. In country music, vocals are everything. And that is most likely why newcomer Patricia Vonne has already caught on in a big way. This young lady has a great big resonant voice that just rings with real energy. She sounds something like a cross between Cher, Lene Lovich, and Alisson Krauss singing Spanish-influenced country pop. Guitars and Castanets is a super slick voyage into modern day country/pop music. The album's big sound can be attributed to producer Carl Thiel (the album was recorded at his studio in Austin, Texas). Vonne either wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks here, there are no cover tunes. While she's got the music that delivers...Patricia's image may confuse some people. A young Spanish lady...playing country pop...? While this may leave some folks scratching their heads, others will simply be entertained. Great tracks include "Joe's Gone Ridin'" (inspired by Joe Ely), "Texas Burning," "Lonesome Rider," and "Fiesta Sangria." (Rating: 5)

Wan Light - Carmaline (CD, Labrador, Progressive pop)
Wan Light is the Swedish duo consisting of K. Svensson and M. Karnock. Together, the two create heady soft atmospheric pop that sounds something like a sparser version of Flaming Lips...but not exactly. While duo's first album (Let's Wake Up) didn't sell millions, it did hit the right spot with many reviewers. For better or for worse, the same will probably be true for Carmaline. While the album is strangely compelling and often fascinating, there are not enough familiar threads here to pull in a large segment of listeners. We are continually disappointed by the fact that some of the world's best musical artists will never reach more than a few thousand (or even hundred) listeners. Sad, but true. So...let's tip our hats to artists like Wan Light...who are living proof that everyone's motivation to make music isn't to make money. Carmaline is a truly artistic endeavor. Obtuse tracks include "Airborn," "Two Words Away," "Television Crews," and "Tumbling Down." (Rating: 4++++)


Additional Items Received:

All Hours - In flagrante delicto
American Horsepower - American Horsepower
An Angle - We can breathe under alcohol
Arms of Kismet - Cutting room rug
Aruna - Running red lights
Axel Rudi Pell - The ballads III
Anton Barbeau with The Bevis Frond - King of Missouri
Bebek - Bebek
Ben Birchall - Year of the monkey
Frank Brown - Out of the blue
The John Butler Trio - Sunrise over sea
Buttercup - Sick yellow flower
Cake Boy - A film by Joe Escalante
Cardinal - Cardinal
Cesar - Worlds of change
Chariots - Congratulations
Churchill's Tractor - Diarrhea of a madman: Greatest hits vol. 1
Clara Venus - Greatest hurts
Cloud Cult - Advice from the happy hippotamus
Currituck Co. - Ghostman on second
Dear Johnny... - A tribute to Cash
Demon City Wreckers - Inner demons
Disciple - Disciple
Disclaimer - The airbag's lipstick kiss
Dog Faced Gos - Stoned council
Embrace - Out of nothing
Fake Ray - The fumes are deadly
Fake Ray - Star maps single
Fartsy Nanna - The biggest splotch on the block
The Frank Boscoes - Escapade to esprit
Freedom Call - The circle of life
GitoGito Hustler - Gito gito galore
Gizmachi - The imbuing is coming
The Gold Standard - Square
Darren Hanlon - Little chills
Heap - Heap on the cheap
Her Next Friend - Her Next Friend
The Higher - Histrionics
Hognose - El sombrero
Hotpipes - The deadly poison
Patria Jacobs - Poison of the sea
The Keep Aways - The Keep Aways
The Koffin Kats - Inhumane
Eric Kolo - Eric Kolo
Lali Puna - I thought I was over that: Rare, remixed and B-sides
Little Darla Has a Treat for You - Volume 23, Summer 2005
Lycia - Estrella
Manual - Azure vista
Maplewood Lane - The golden skies
Dan Melchior - Hello, I'm Dan Melchior aka singer-songwriter
New Riders of the Purple Sage - Veneta, Oregon August 27, 1972
Mylar Kitten - Humming the tune of the power lines
Nocturne - Guide to extinction
One Umbrella - Solve
Ongles - En devil
PCI & Radioactive Prostitute - Live from stab n' kill
The Peppermints - Jesus Chryst
Phosphorescent - Aw come aw wry
Pole Folder - Zero Gold (defective CD)
Psychobilly - Kicked outta purgatory
The Punks - Thank you for the alternative rock
Raging Speedhorn - How the great have fallen
Kimberly Rew - Essex hideaway
RIFU - Dead end street
The Rocketz - Rise of the undead
The Rumours - We are happy
Dudley Saunders - The Billy White acre sessions
Saving Daylight - Saving Daylight
Silent Page - Chapter 2
So Many Dynamoes - When I explode
Soul Coughing - New York, NY 16.08.99
Dave Stein - Tomorrow still has me
Therapy - Remember me when you decide to change
Tiger Bear Wolf - Tiger Bear Wolf
Kris Tiner / Mike Beggetta - There, just as you look for it
Towers of London - On a noose
The Track Record - The Track Record EP
Traded to Racine - Our hopes for emit city
Wax Cannon - Valve
TK Webb - KCK
Ume - Urgent sea
Christa West - Nothing is not enough
Whitman - Anhedonia Falling
Dandi Wind - Bait the traps

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