Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: The Killdares "Secrets of the Day"

"Secrets of the Day" is the 5th full-length CD by the Celtic rock band known as The Killdares. Together since 1996, their fifth outing finds the band in top form, playing better than ever in the niche they have carved out for themselves. They are one of the busiest and hardest working bands, showcasing their unique sound at tons of pubs and festivals in Texas and beyond. After listening to "Secrets of the Day", it is no surprise to me that they are in such high demand - this kind of music is best experienced live in a pub with a pint in hand.

So what do they sound like? Imagine a Celtic version of Collective Soul, complete with blazing bagpipes and a fiery fiddle. Tim Smith, who does the lead vocals as well as the drums, sounds like a cross between Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root and System Of A Down's Serj Tankian. I know that might be hard to fathom, but his intriguing vocal tone is well suited the band's sound: a marriage of traditional world music with modern alternative rock. The only trouble I had was some difficultly hearing the vocals, which got buried in the mix at times. I can't hear them at all on "Long Island High", "Glasgow", and "Rose de Lay" - oh wait, those are instrumentals haha!

If you enjoy bands like Black 47, Rusted Root, Dexy's Midnight Runners, or even Yellowcard, you should take note of The Killdares. I draw your attention to "Seasons", "Hold My Heart", "Disappear", and "Perfect Accident".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 10

The Killdares on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: Ness "You Can't Afford To Feel"

After reading this from their bio, I really didn't know what to expect from this CD by Ness: "Describing 'You Can’t Afford To Feel' is like opening a Pandora’s box of chimerical rock metaphors. Its unholy mixture of classic pop and epic reach is like Ray Davies wearing chain mail and jousting a tower of Vox AC30s, or Todd Rundgren daydreaming with a 23-sided die stuck in his ear."

One thing was for sure - this was going to be an interesting and unique listening experience. "You Can't Afford To Feel" passes with flying colors in this regard - I've not heard anything quite as varied, ambitious, and experimental since early Pink Floyd. Brainchild behind the project, Rick Ness, has no shortage of musical influences that he's managed to pay tribute to through his own hybrid music. It is quite astounding how he can sound like Jason Falkner (while in The Grays) on some tracks, like the Beach Boys on other tracks, and then the Beatles or The Who on other tracks. Often you can hear his plethora of influences right in the same song! Ness is a bold pioneer, pushing the musical envelope with experimental sounds and unorthodox song structure. One opus, “The Future Used To Be Cool” clocks in at over 24 minutes and truly feels more like a trek beyond the galaxy rather than another routine lap around the sun.

"You Can't Afford To Feel" is an awesome ride, one best experienced in its entirety with headphones. However, there are a few standout tracks that also play well in isolation, including the brilliant and soaring opener, "Where's Guns?", "I Intend", and "Pretty White".

This CD is not commercial. It is not radio friendly. It is a work of art.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 7

Ness on MySpace.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: McTwist "Amateur Hour"

Formed in Rockville, Maryland in 2007, the new 'cocktail rock' band McTwist is off to a solid start with their debut record, "Amateur Hour". They are not named after some sweet chocolate-vanilla confection available at McDonalds; McTwist refers to a skateboarding move first performed in the 80s by Mike McGill. But there is plenty of literal twisting evident in their music, as it is a hardy blend of many rock subgenres, including pop, alternative, punk/emo, and ska. Often, this kind of musical identity crises drives a listener insane, but kudos to McTwist for emerging from this sonic blender with a surprisingly distinct and identifiable sound of their own.

Despite the self-effacing name of the CD, the band sounds more seasoned and experienced than what you would expect for a bunch of enthusiastic "amateurs". The passion for what they do leaps right out of the speakers with an energy that is usually felt only during a live performance. The vocals come across like a combination between Vinnie Dombroski (Sponge) and Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), sounding more than appropriate for this hodge-podge of different rock styles. The witty and sometimes amusing lyrics are also a cut above your average new band on the block. However, what does sound a tad amateurish is the lead guitar work, which merely stabs at the notes rather than creating a soulful flow between them.

Highlights for me include the feisty lead-off track, "Word Proof Vest", the very catchy "Prizefighter", and the fun sing-a-long jam, "Brianna". Much of the other stuff is OK, just not as melodic or engaging as the standouts.

They remind me of bands like Sponge, Green Day, and For Squirrels - not just because the vocal tone is similar, but also because of the songwriting structure and their ability to mix multiple forms of rock into something that is still infectious and entertaining. While it has its flaws, "Amateur Hour" is a remarkable debut by a promising young band. I will be keeping my eye on these guys and can't wait to hear what they do next.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 7, 8, 11

McTwist on MySpace.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review: Chrissy Coughlin "Look Ahead"

Chrissy Coughlin has created a little something for everyone on her latest CD release, "Look Ahead". Want to hear some melodic country rock? Check out the infectious opening track, "Back to You". Want to hear some blues or jazz? Check out "Big Log" and "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars", respectively. Or how about a gorgeous piano ballad? Try some of the title track.

The common thread that strings these varied genres together into a vibrant musical tapestry is the crystal clear and angelic voice of Chrissy Coughlin. Her vocal tone sometimes reveals an innocent quality that reminds me of Jewel, but at other times there is greater depth and maturity that is more reminiscent of Sheryl Crow or Alison Krauss. Despite the genre hopping, which showcases Coughlin's breadth of musical skill, the CD plays very consistently and works extremely well when listened to in its entirety. With its generally subtle and warm tone, comforting and introspective lyrics, "Look Ahead" is a wonderful CD that serves as your cozy blanket on those rainy days. On top of this, the musicianship and production are top-notch, professional grade, providing a truly pleasurable listening experience.

Standout tracks include "Back To You", "Perfect Time", and "Do It Out Of Love". My favorite track is the sublime "Look Ahead", one of the best piano ballads I've heard so far this year. Coughlin's "Look Ahead" is a near masterpiece, and highly recommended if you enjoy Sheryl Crow, Jewel, or Colbie Caillat.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10

Chrissy Coughlin on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Mitch Friedman "Game Show Teeth"

"Game Show Teeth" is the fourth album of quirky pop from Brooklyn’s Mitch Friedman. While the record was produced, performed and engineered almost entirely by Friedman, he once again brings in some very familiar names from XTC to join in the fun. Andy Partridge contributes some of his trademark guitar licks to “Little Masterpiece,” while Dave Gregory jams on "The Man That Talked Too Much".

Mitch Friedman's brand of pop is playfully "out there", ranging from clever and witty to downright goofy. The comical cover of the CD is a good representation of what you are about to hear. Vocally and musically, Mitch Friedman holds his own, although his vocal tone seems tailored for kids' music or novelty records. Truth be told, most people who prefer this subgenre of pop don't care about that and are just listening for a good laugh - and they should find plenty on "Game Show Teeth". If funny and eccentric pop music is your bag, Mitch Friedman will delight you like no other. In fact, it might make you feel like a kid again. Personally, I can only handle stuff like this in small doses or while really drunk in Vegas.

Audition some Mitch Friedman if you enjoy They Might Be Giants or XTC. If you are not into artists who fuse comedy, kids play, and novelty with their brand of pop, you may want to come up with an excuse to miss this party.

Mitch Friedman on MySpace. Official site. And finally, a web site that is devoted to the "Game Show Teeth" CD.

Check out the music video for "This Is A Song":

Morrissey "Years of Refusal" for less than 4 bucks

The long-awaited new CD by former Smiths frontman, Morrissey, is now available. I have not given it a full and thorough listen yet, but it already sounds better than his 2006 effort, "Ringleader Of The Tormentors". My first impression is that it is one of his more rocking efforts in a long time. But I am posting now because you can get the new CD in its entirety in mp3 format for only $3.99 at I jumped on it - I do not know how long the offer will last.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Alan Cohen Experience "Alan Cohen Experience" [EP]

Um, OK. I'm thrown for a loop right from the get-go: "All's quiet on the waterfront, it's just me and my elephant." I can't tell you how many times I wish I had a song to play when my elephant and I are in proximity to peaceful waters.

This is the kind of experience you are in for when you listen to this unusual EP from Alan Cohen. An eccentric collection of six intriguing tracks will grab your attention if anything else. Its unorthodox tendencies aside, the production is top-notch, brimming with lush orchestration, crisp guitars, and interesting sound effects. In addition, many of these tunes have a wonderfully infectious chorus that is centered in more familiar musical terrain. In a way, each one of these melodic choruses is like an oasis in a song that is otherwise boldly atypical.

Alan Cohen Experience is not the most common thing I'd order off my music menu, but it gets high marks for being engagingly different. This is one I'd recommend for fans of Frank Zappa, Cake, and other pioneers of eclectic pop. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary but still catchy and expertly performed, look no further than Alan Cohen Experience.

Perhaps as an extension of the track "Space Watch", Alan Cohen is currently working on his next concept album, inspired by Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time". Watch this 'space' to find out if it is a big bang or black hole!

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3

Alan Cohen Experience on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Review: Kirby Swatosh "Toys in the Static"

"Toys in the Static" is the latest release from singer/songwriter Kirby Swatosh. Kirby lists influences as diverse as Dada, The Beatles, Barenaked Ladies, and James Taylor. His music is largely upbeat and on the sunny side, with some sticky melodies here and there and a handful of clever lyrical moments.

I am finding it difficult to get past the lo-fi sound quality of the record. The acoustic guitar tone on most of the tracks does not appeal to me at all; however, it sounds much better on the brief instrumental, "Luna Calypso" and on the track "Thief". The guitar solos are largely staccato with little flow between the notes, resulting in an amateurish sound that is devoid of soul. Kirby's vocals are unremarkable and some of the harmonies sound off key at times (especially "NYNY"). Critiques aside, with some more experience and perhaps additional collaborations to take the production up towards a more professional level, Kirby Swatosh could become a potent songwriting force.

Kirby Swatosh on MySpace. Official site.

Review: The Damnwells "One Last Century"

"As of February 10, 2009, Paste Magazine will be offering the new Damnwells record, One Last Century, for free download from their website. Go to and download the record for free.

A few words regarding this free record.

I suppose the hardest thing to explain to people is why I’m giving this record away. “You’re just going to give it away?” seems antithetical to the human brain. “Is this just a bunch of b-sides or something? Some ‘give away’ material you don’t mind releasing into the ether?” No. Quite the contrary. I have never worked so hard or put so much of myself into a collection of recorded songs. It is for just this reason that I want to give it away. To me it makes perfect sense. I just want people to hear this music, and I don’t want them to have to enter into some kind of contractual agreement with a third party to do so. Download the record, copy it and give it to your friends, lovers, and enemies. Whatever. It’s so hard these days just to get the actual music into people’s houses and cars, let alone their ears. Besides, I know everyone’s broke, maybe I can supply the soundtrack. So, I just want to give this music away because I want people to hear it. I should have done this years ago. I’m starting over.

Enjoy, Alex Dezen"

BMF: Wow - a FREE record from a marvelous band! This is becoming more and more common (yeah!), so the questions that now emerge are: is it worth my time and is it worth taking up space on my hard drive? In the case of The Damnwells, the answer to both of these questions is an enthusiastic YES! For those not aware, The Damnwells are rapidly rising as the premier acoustic-based rock band. Fans of artists like The Jayhawks and Wilco are going to fall in love with The Damnwells. "One Last Century" is full of timeless, easy-going jangle pop and folk rock that is both melodic and lyrically engaging.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8

The Damnwells on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New video: Jellybricks "Ruin Us"

This is so cool!

"By special agreement* with the creators of Rock Band 2, here's the video for "Ruin Us," off our most recent album, "Goodnight to Everyone." "Goodnight to Everyone" is available for download on the iTunes Store, and other digital music merchants. CDs available at and Pirated copies available on many fine BitTorrent sites.

*we agreed to pay money in return for a copy of the game" - The Jellybricks

Check it out:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review: Jim Basnight "We Rocked and Rolled"

Disclosed Records has just released this 23 track career retrospective CD titled "We Rocked and Rolled: The First 25 Years of Jim Basnight: The Moberlys and Beyond". We've reviewed a couple releases by this Seattle-based rock and roll warrior, including his acclaimed "Seattle-New York-Los Angeles" CD with The Moberlys and "Makin' Bacon" with The Rockinghams. "We Rocked and Rolled" is a long overdue collection of some of the finest slices of rock and power pop from this prolific and grossly underrated talent.

The CD is arranged chronologically, beginning with some true gems from the beginning of Jim Basnight's musical career in the early 80s. His knack for writing killer pop rock hooks shows itself immediately with the infectious opener, "You Know, I Know" and the merry "Live In The Sun". His initial sound captured the bubblegum spirit of the great 60s groups such as Tommy James or The Buckinghams, but his style of garage rock kept it sounding real and genuine - bubblegum with a bite! Then he moved into Replacements territory, represented with cuts like "I Wanna Be Yours" and "Lose Me", even vocally sounding like a cross between Paul Westerberg and Mick Jagger.

Featured next on this collection are plenty of his choice cuts with The Rockinghams, including "Need A Car", "Hello Mary Jane", "Rock and Roll Girlfriend", "More Than One Way" and my favorite, "Space". The gritty tracks he recorded during this period had a distinct blues bar feel to them and remind many of early Rolling Stones. The CD closes with some more recent chapters in the Jim Basnight testament to rock and roll, including a newly recorded version of "We Rocked and Rolled" that pretty much sums it all up.

What I enjoyed most about this retrospective is listening to how Jim Basnight evolved as an artist over the past 25 years. Expanding into new musical territory while retaining your distinctive sound is a rare accomplishment, but Basnight seems to pull it off with ease. Here's to another 25 exciting years...

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 16, 17, 23

Jim Basnight on MySpace. Official site.

Brandon Schott "Homegrown Recordings" Free mp3

From Too Poppy...

"I've partnered with Brandon Schott and he's promised to deliver an unreleased tune from his personal archives every month as a free download. The first installment: a stellar cover of Bjork's 'All is Full of Love'. Check it out here."

Brandon Schott on MySpace.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rare CD: Mortal Kombat II

"This is the ultra rare Mortal Kombat II (2) Arcade Game Soundtrack put out by Midway.
NOT A COPY this auction is for the 1993 original CD.
The CD was only available via a mail away offer from Midway back in 1993 and features BOTH soundtracks from MORTAL KOMBAT and MORTAL KOMBAT 2."

Sold for $302.99 on ebay (15 bids).

Rare CD: Jeremy Camp "Burden Me"

"This is the rare and extremely hard to find "Burden Me" CD from Jeremy Camp. It is his original self released CD. This CD has been used by me. I purchased it new a few years ago when Jeremy Camp was performing at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, CA. Item is in great condition. CD and case have minor scratches consistent with normal wear. CD plays great. I need to raise money so I have to let this favorite of mine go."

Sold for $322.55 on ebay (27 bids).

Going for $400 on Amazon.

Rare CD: Unique "Rock Down"


Sold for $700 on ebay.

Rare CD: Rolling Stones "Terrifying" Promo

"This item is a rare Columbia Records promotional compact disc single by The Rolling Stones containing 2 songs. Songs are 'Terrifying' (4:52) and 'Rock And A Hard Place' (rock mix edit) (5:49). Disc label and number is Columbia CSK 1897. This single was released to select radio stations only and features a version of 'Rock In A Hard Place' which is exclusive to this CD single. This track was remixed by Michael Brauer and edit was done by Mike Corbett. Original version is on the 'Steel Wheels' CD. Disc comes in a plain jewel case with no artwork which is how i received it originally. CD itself is brand new with no scratches or scuffs and was played once! (I'm the original owner). A rare Rolling Stones CD single and a great addition to your Stones collection!"

Sold for $1,525 on ebay (38 bids)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: Ken Block "Drift"

"Drift" is the first solo CD from Ken Block (Sister Hazel). After a few listens, it is a bit unclear to me why he bothered to do a solo project that sounds nothing unlike Sister Hazel. His Sister Hazel bandmates contribute extensively to this record, most notably Drew Copeland . Drew's vocal support produces the trademark Sister Hazel harmonies. In essence, there is virtually no "drift" from Sister Hazel at all, perhaps explaining why I like this record so much.

Ken Block explores familiar lyrical terrain on "Drift", pondering life's mysteries with a sense of humor and sarcasm. He challenges us to converse about the big questions, most notably on "We Don't Talk Anymore", as he reflects upon life in his charming and sometimes self-effacing way. There is an abundance of good acoustic-based rockers on this one, with several nice ballads thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, "Drift" is not a mere collection of Ken's inferior songs that the guys from Sister Hazel might have vetoed.

"Blue To A Blind Man" is a gentle opener featuring Ken Block in a rare duet with the beautifully sweet voice of Maile Misajon. Ken kicks up some dirt with the crunchy mid-tempo rocker, "The Other Side". He recounts his previous struggle with addiction in "Completely Wasted", gives Steve Miller a nod in "It's Alright" (hoo hoo), and rides high on an alt-country rocker called "I Don't Mind" (video below). "Better This Way" sounds like a sequel to "Champaign High", but it doesn't top it. The record has a very strong finish with a string of standout tracks such as "So Far", "Ride", and "You and Me".

Ken Block is one of the most genuine and honest songwriters out there today. If you enjoy "Drift", you should become a "Hazelnut" and forage into his complete discography with Sister Hazel.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12

Ken Block on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "I Don't Mind":

Review: The Shadow Kabinet "Smiling Worlds Apart"

The Shadow Kabinet is the vehicle for one-man band Steve Somerset to showcase his penchant for Beatlesque melodies and harmonies. The multi-talented Somerset does just about everything on the aptly named "Smiling Worlds Apart". The music seems designed to gently lift your spirits and put on a smile on your face. With tracks like "Trouble and Strife", The Shadow Kabinet is always there with words of encouragement for you.

Musically and vocally The Shadow Kabinet reminds me more of Julian Lennon, particularly during the "Help Yourself" period. The vocals are smooth and soothing, especially on the majestic opening track, "There Must Have Been A Moment". Somerset is a versatile songwriter, going beyond the comfort zone of strict Beatles styled songwriting to venture into surf rock ("Surfing on the Shadows"), psychedelia (the title track), novelty pop ("Bad Hair Day"), and even a bit of baroque music ("Tabla Motown"). The impressive 19 song set, clocking in over an hour, provides plenty of tasty morsels for those who are hungering for a classic pop buffet.

Standout dishes served from The Shadow Kabinet that appeal to my palate the most include "There Must Have Been A Moment", "Office Life", "Is She?", and "She Rules The Roost".

The Shadow Kabinet is a wonderful opportunity to experience the shimmering and soothing sounds from a bygone era in pop music history. Somerset's songwriting style and vocals will trigger intense feelings of nostalgia for more seasoned music fans. With any luck, he will also recruit a new legion of younger music fans to join in the appreciation of this classic sound as Andy Partridge (XTC) has done.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 14, 17

The Shadow Kabinet on MySpace. Official site and videos.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Review: The Warm Fuzzies "The Bubblegum EP" [EP]

Two words can sum up the The Warm Fuzzies: FUN WEEZER. It is hard not to like a band that is so creative with its packaging; "The Bubblegum EP" CD arrives in a cardboard folder that looks like the classic Bazooka Joe gum wrap. The liner notes are in comic strip form. The CD itself is noted as being a scratch and sniff disc that smells like bubblegum, but I scratched the hell out of this thing and it did not smell like bubblegum.

Then I flipped it over and scratched the pink nonplaying! It really works! I felt like a kid in a candy store. And I got some funny stares from my wife as I sat there laughing while inhaling a CD. Aroma aside, listening to The Warm Fuzzies reinforced the feeling that I was a kid in a candy store. Still, I don't think this music is best classified as "bubblegum". I believe it more accurate to say it is alternative rock, strongly resembling early Weezer. The Warm Fuzzies do provide a sense of warmth by flexing their funny bone in their music. So if you like alternative, fuzzy guitar rock with amusing lyrics and subject matter, then you need to check out these guys. A better name for this band could not have been proposed.

The band buzzes through six tracks that range from an ode to cheese ("Queso Love") to contemplating some of the more significant philosophical questions of our time, such as "Why Do Girls Wear Big Sunglasses?". My favorite track is the witty and melodic "Space Invaders", strategically complemented with arcade game synths. Speaking of which, the record is heavy with vintage keyboard riffs that will remind you of The Cars. So in a nutshell, I can best characterize The Warm Fuzzies as what Weezer would have sounded like if they made records in the 80s with Ric Ocasek as producer. If you don't get Weezer, The Warm Fuzzies will rub you the wrong way. But you should get the disc anyway because the scratch and sniff feature is wild.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 5

The Warm Fuzzies on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Review: Hoobastank "For(N)ever"

The fourth Island release is a do or die for alternative hard rockers Hoobastank. Their first two records yielded hit after hit, climaxing with the smash single, "The Reason", in 2004, which made it to #2 on the BillBoard Top100 - quite an achievement these days for a rock band. But in 2006 the uneven "Every Man for Himself" fizzled quick, threatening to jettison Hoobastank from the charts forever. So "For(N)ever" has to be killer.

It is evident the band is aware of their predicament, as the lead singer Doug Robb reflects on the blistering opener, "Yesterday I've learned from, tomorrow is uncertain; so why can't I just make my turn today?" "My Turn" marks a nice return to the classic Hoobastank formula of hard, yet melodic, alternative rock. There is a renewed sense of energy and hunger for their chart-topping days to return. So Hoobastank follow all the right corporate steps: they dumbed down the lyrics, included a large share of syrupy ballads, and wrote some by-the-book melodies. The good news is that for the most part this works in making for a decent hard rock experience, even if the lyrics are trivial and bland.

Highlights among the meaty rockers include "My Turn", "Who The Hell Am I?", and "All About You". I also enjoyed the refreshing piano-driven track, "Tears Of Yesterday". There are a couple guilty pleasures - "So Close, So Far" and "You're The One" - both grand ballads that are blatant attempts to repeat what "The Reason" did for them 5 years ago. As if two atempts to repeat "The Reason" weren't enough, there is yet another weaker clone ballad to follow ("You Need To Be Here").

The verdict: Doug Robb sounds at his best, the others in the band are tight, and guitar tone choices are perfect. I applaud the effort here and think the record is far better than its predecessor. But I'm afraid "For(N)ever" is not going to be the triumph the band needed - it has several good hits, but they had to knock the ball out of the park with every song.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 6, 9

Hoobastank on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "My Turn"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: Josh Fix "Free At Last"

The package arrived with a return address of "Flop of the Year". With such a ringing endorsement, I couldn't wait to hear this CD by the modest Josh Fix.

"Free At Last" is certainly no flop; on the contrary, it is one of the best CDs I have heard all year. How can something that sounds this unbelievably good be accomplished by an indie artist, who pretty much plays everything and sings every note on the record? "Free At Last" is a monumental achievement, something you'd expect from the most seasoned of artists.

The grand and sweeping musical style with piano front and center will appeal to fans of Gavin DeGraw, Melêe, and Ben Folds. The complexity in the arrangements of these tunes is mesmerizing, yet his pop sensibilities keep everything catchy and memorable - very much like New Radicals. His voice is fantastic, with harmony vocals evoking Queen, Jellyfish, and ELO. Lyrically it doesn't get much better, as Josh Fix brilliantly balances poetry with satire. There is virtually nothing about "Free At Last" that doesn't work.

The party begins with the upbeat opener about the daily grind, "Don't Call Me in the Morning", which will enable you to smile and take it all in stride. "Whiskey & Speed" is an addictive track, and "Rock and Roll Slut" is destined to become the next great wedding song. Like the title track, "Burn It Down" and "Tiger on a Treadmill" continue to cast a fresh look on the every day circumstances that constitute our lives. Josh Fix sets a new bar for Ben Folds with his hilarious and biting critique of no-talents hacks, "Bad with the Superbad". He proves he's no one-trick piano pony with the acoustic guitar-driven title track and "What's the Point", the latter of which features a line all of us guys can relate to: "I know I'll find a way to screw things up with you".

Remarkably, Josh Fix performs all "vocals, bass, acoustic/electric guitars, Hammond B3, keyboards, loops & computer programming, percussion, arrangements & Eno-isms, more vocals, an antique Emerson upright piano, miscellany", while Andy Korn takes care of the drums. To call him an overachiever is an understatement. End the insanity and help bring justice to the world by buying this CD today and helping to spread the word. Make the music of Josh Fix a permanent fixture in your house.

iPOD-worthy: ALL TRACKS!

Josh Fix on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Review: Canadian Invasion "Three Cheers for the Invisible Hand"

Rising up from the land that has sprouted many wondrous power pop bands - no, not Canada, but Philadelphia of course - is Canadian Invasion. What is it about the City of Brotherly Love that cultivates such a great sense of melody and harmony?

In 2006, Canadian Invasion burst onto the scene with the acclaimed "Songs for the Atco Ghost, described by Philly Weekly as "breathy jangle that’s both bubblegum and alt-country". The upcoming release, "Three Cheers for the Invisible Hand", is poised to cement Canadian Invasion's status as a major player in modern power pop and alt-country rock. But what is up with the name? Vocalist and guitarist Andy Canadian explains, “Our songs are a satirical assault on American ‘values’. We call ourselves ‘America’s last line of defense against the evil Canadian socialist empire’s pernicious ideology of cheap health care and gun control'...We want catchy pop songs that remind you that your life is fairly absurd.”

With some of the most interesting song titles this side of Fall Out Boy, more hooks than a Bait & Tackle shop, and harmonies as graceful as those of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Canadian Invasion is out to infiltrate your brain until you wave the white flag and unconditionally surrender a few dozen memory cells to their melodies. "Three Cheers for the Invisible Hand" is some tremendously entertaining jangle pop - as funny as it is catchy - like The Jayhawks doing stand up. How can you resist being intrigued by a song titled "Standing On The Shoulders Of The Carcass Of John Mayer"?

There's hardly a dud in this platoon of tunes, but my favs include "Pop Magic Fantastical Masterpiece”, "The Last Time I Went To Church" (complete with church organ), and the title track. Fans of Pernice Brothers, Town and Country, Teenage Fanclub, and Wilco...prepare to be invaded.

"Three Cheers for the Invisible Hand" drops February 17. Get it here.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10

Canadian Invasion on MySpace.

Check out the video for "One Hand Claps the Other":

Monday, February 2, 2009

Review: David Cook "David Cook"

David Cook: the first American Idol winner to release an album I actually like! I had a feeling this one might be good given his incredible voice, which booms with natural talent for singing classic rock.

A few more things in Cook's favor: Rob Cavallo is at the helm as producer, noted for his work with Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, and Shinedown to name a few. Cavallo and mixer Chris Lord-Alge give the record a highly polished and thundering sound, but balance things well so that Cook's remarkable voice is not six feet under in the mix. And that is a good thing since some of these songs would only be so-so if sung be anyone else. Some other big hitters have helped Cook forge this impressive record full of radio friendly fodder, including some of his influences such as Chris Cornell, Ed Roland of Collective Soul, and Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace. In addition, Johnny Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls) helps with the rocking "Declaration" and Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra) contributes to the amazing "Avalanche". Consequently, there is a strong 90s alternative rock vibe permeating this record.

One thing about this record that REALLY irks me is the huge gap of silence separating "A Daily Anthem" and a hidden bonus track I'll call "Just A Kiss On The Neck". This makes track 12 over 15 minutes long, much of it being silence. Why do artists/producers still do this?! Seriously, what is the point? Make it a separate track for crying out loud!

David Cook will appeal to anyone who digs Daughtry, Shinedown, or Big Wreck. Born from American Idol, the record does veer more toward the 'Hollywood' side of things, but under the glitz and makeup is a true talent with his heart in it. The lyrics are certainly a step up from the typical sap that oozes from the nozzle of American Idol. On "David Cook", there are hooks aplenty, huge guitars, and an exceptionally talented dude who sings his lungs out - what more could you want?

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12 (actually two songs that you'll have to crop with MP3 DIRECT CUT or equivalent)
My CD had two bonus tracks...the stereotypical American Idol finale song, "The Time Of My Life", which really sticks out like a sore thumb here, and "Breathe Tonight", which is tons better - a catchy and upbeat tune that sounds right at home with the front half of the CD.

David Cook on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Light On"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Review: Bruce Springsteen "Working On A Dream"

The Boss is back, once again with Brendan O'Brien on board as producer. I was really looking forward to "Working On A Dream" as I was a big fan of "Magic", which marked a return of sorts to a sunnier and poppier side of Springsteen. While many complained about the awful sound and questionable mix on "Magic", few will deny the songs were highly melodic. The good news is that O'Brien did a better job with the sound quality on this record. The bad news is that Springsteen brought a fairly mediocre batch of songs to the studio.

The record starts with the curious "Outlaw Pete", a 3 minute story that he takes 8 minutes to tell. It is the musical equivalent of that movie "The English Patient" - an epic piece of art that I feel guilty for not liking. Probably realizing he'd better redeem himself quick, "My Lucky Day" follows as a familiar and upbeat slice of classic Springsteen - arguably the best track on the record. The title track, which was performed at an Obama rally and at the Superbowl, is a fairly decent cut, a pleasant midtempo song but not in league with most of his past hits. "Queen of the Supermarket" comes off as a joke, although we know this is not his intention - the lush production just makes this song about a common man yearning for a grocery clerk even more incredulous.

I liked "What Love Can Do", "This Life", and "Kingdom of Days", which are tracks that sound like quality leftovers from the "Magic" sessions. I can't figure out why they thought it would be a good idea to overly distort the vocals on "Good Eye", rendering this bluesy track virtually unlistenable. Springsteen does some Bob Dylan on "Tomorrow Never Knows"; again, nothing wrong with it, but nothing overly right about it either. The somber and reflective "Life Itself" is pretty interesting, with a catchy chorus sandwiched between verses that sound like David Gilmour is playing guitar. "Surprise, Surprise" is the closest I recall Springsteen getting to bubblegum pop, but it is a 'surprisingly' trite and repetitive lyric, probably written to celebrate Patti's birthday. With the number of times he says 'surprise' in this song, you'd fear Patti must be going deaf. "The Wrestler", a song used in the acclaimed movie of the same name, is included as a bonus track, but that track doesn't do much for me.

"Working On A Dream" is not the strongest record in Springsteen's amazing catalogue, but we can't expect a masterpiece every time. I will probably reach for his classics or "Magic" before this one.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10

Bruce Springsteen : official site.