Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: The Bads "So Alive"

The Bads could be considered New Zealand's organic counterpart to Roxette. The sharing of vocals between Dianne Swann and Brett Adams, along with their spot on harmonies and pop instincts, make them a fine addition to the string of male-female music duos. Their second album "So Alive" was released back in April, following up the 2005 critically acclaimed debut "Earth from Space".

The music of The Bads has a very earthy quality to it, but their alt-country songs are coated with a veneer of pop sensibility, sparkling with grade A production and flawless harmonies. Brett Adams has a voice well suited for straight-up pop rock, which balances nicely with the graceful tenderness in Swann's vocal performances. Swann possesses the sweet, warm tone of Olivia Newton-John, but can deliver it with edginess of Christina Amphlett (DiVinyls) when needed. You will ache with her as she croons through "Baby Come Home" and tap your foot along as she glides through the mid-tempo treat "First Night". However, my favorite track happens to feature Adams; "Drop in the Ocean" is an instantly memorable, banjo-infused delight that will please country and rock fans alike. "Gracious" gives us the best of both of their voices, which complement one another better than anything this side of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

The Bads are nothing but good - check them out today. In the words of Swann, "So Alive" is for "rockin poppin altin country" music fans.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 8

The Bads on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: Sorry "RSVP" [EP]

Sorry is a 3-piece band from Auburn, WA that wants the world to RSVP to their indie powerpop party. The "RSVP" EP contains seven songs that introduce you to the band's sound, which features frequent harmony vocals layered atop melodic guitar riffs. Sorry is making some significant strides this year, including an invite to play International Pop Overthrow 2009 and earning several positive reviews on the powerpop circuit.

Two-thirds of Sorry consist of brothers Alan and Stephen Brozovich, who sound as pleasant as Tim and Neil Finn when in harmony. With all the harmonies, it is easy to draw comparisons to The Posies, but I am also hearing a lot of early Toad the Wet Sprocket (Bread and Circus, Pale) as well as The Connells. I'm actually enjoying the non-emphasis tracks the most, especially the catchy "Nuevo Laredo" and the strikingly beautiful ballad "Set Sail", which incidentally has been picked up by Three Imaginary Girls podcast.

Sorry claims that their music is "indie rock nice enough to take home to mom". While that may be true, I'm not certain your mom, or anyone else in the house for that matter, is going to get too riled up about Sorry. The production is pretty lo-fi, most songs are forgettable, and the vocals, despite the harmonies, just don't do that much for me. But check them out for yourself if you enjoy any of the aforementioned bands - you might not be sorry.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4

Sorry : Official site. Get it.

Review: John Mellencamp "Life, Death, Live And Freedom"

About a year ago, we wrote a rather tepid review covering the latest from pop folk rocker John Mellencamp, entitled "Life Death Love and Freedom" (click here to refresh your memory). Mellencamp is back already with a new release, but not new material. As the name obviously implies, "Life, Death, LIVE And Freedom" simply features live versions of eight of the tunes we've experienced on "Life Death Love and Freedom". The big question that comes to mind of course is WHY?

The answer is that a live performance usually breathes new life into songs. "Life Death Love and Freedom" was an unmelodious and dark reflection on the topics in its title, and it made for a pretty uneasy and dull studio recording. However, "Life, Death, LIVE And Freedom" gives Mellencamp the opportunity to redeem himself on some of the tracks and he seizes this opportunity. Mellencamp remains an outstanding live performer and he takes no prisoners on these gritty tracks, catapulting some of these tunes to a whole new level. In most cases, he is like a doctor injecting a powerful shot of medicine into a comatose song, bringing it back to the land of the living with a vengeance. Case in point are the tracks, "If I Die Sudden" and "Jena" - I was less than thrilled with the studio originals, but the live versions are fantastic. In contrast, some of the tracks, including "My Sweet Love", sound much better on the studio release than this live release to me. Finally, there are some that sound good whether recorded live or in the studio (the excellent "Longest Days").

I wish they would have made this a companion piece that was included in the original release rather than a stand alone product; I can't imagine anyone but the most devoted fan purchasing this CD, and it is going to do next to nothing to help Mellencamp climb the charts once again. However, it is an important artistic piece from an enduring legend in rock music who is not afraid to explore the more disquieting aspects of life, in which pop music just isn't an appropriate backdrop.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 7

John Mellencamp on MySpace. Official site.

Here’s an mp3 cleared for giveaway: If I Die Sudden (Live radio edit)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson


Review: Tijuana Hercules "The Almanack of Bad Luck"

"The Almanack of Bad Luck" is the latest offering from Tijuana Hercules...a record that "makes the Book of Job look like a cakewalk". Tijuana Hercules goes on to describe itself as "The greazy dark, bitter, & nasty parts of American music" - I can't say it any better than that.

The vocals make modern day Bob Dylan sound like Josh Groban. The throaty, weathered voice beats you in the face like a blast of bad breath - making you feel the pain in this guy - if there is one thing that Tijuana Hercules is, it is genuine. It is hard to listen to Bruce Springsteen complain now about how hard life is, but when Tijuana Hercules sings, you really believe it.

The music runs the gamut and is probably nothing like what you've heard before. It is sometimes festive with Mexican-influenced brass, but then suddenly turns into a murky swamp. I'd describe it as Los Lonely Boys gone loco. If you've never heard a diddley bow, jew's harp, or electric washboard, "The Almanack of Bad Luck" gives you the chance!

Much like life, "The Almanack of Bad Luck" is full of parties and funerals. The music is not the usual featured here on BMF, but if you are yearning for something different and don't mind it being rough around the edges, this one is for you.

Tijuana Hercules on MySpace.

Check out the video for "Down in the Bottom Lines":
Tijuana Hercules - Down In the Bottom Lines

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: The New Up "Better Off" [EP]

San Francisco alt rock outfit The New Up release the "Better Off" EP on August 18, 2009. It is the second in a trilogy of EPs - their first, "Broken Machine", charted on the CMJ Top 200 in 2008. The trilogy is an analysis of society - "Better Off" is a step towards resolving the conflicts in society that were first raised on "Broken Machine".

Driven by the post-punk vocals of ES Pitcher and the heavy dark riffs of guitarist Noah Reid, The New Up sounds a lot like the grunge version of Blondie. Intelligent lyrics, well-placed harmonies and backing vocals, and the occasional flute combine to keep things interesting.

The group is not a one-trick grunge pony, however, as evidenced by the great dance rock beat of "Bitch". On this track, comparisons to a feminine The Killers are likely, which is not too surprising given that they recorded with Jaimeson Durr, who has worked with The Killers and Franz Ferdinand. Another highlight is "Dear Life", with its blasting guitars and catchy vocal line demanding repeated listens.

The final EP installment is due next spring and "will complete the transformation by exploring the feeling of finding hope after experiencing the pain of having lost things that seem necessary, but that ultimately are holding us back." This will build off the themes addressed in "Dear Life" and promises to be another audio treat.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3

The New Up on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

News: New Bleu due! - Pre-order autographed copy!

The long-awaited new album from powerpop master Bleu will finally arrive on July 14 - it is called "A Watched Pot". 12 brand spanking new tracks from one of the greatest forces in the genre today. I've had the opportunity to preview the tracks and what I am hearing so far is OUTSTANDING. Some of the highlights will include "Save Me", "Come 'N Go", and "There's No Such Thing As Love". My initial impression is that this will easily be one of the big powerpop blockbusters of the year...dare I say bordering on instant classic? "A Watched Pot" generally sounds more reflective and slower than previous work, but still laden with sticky hooks and unshakable melodies. A full review will follow in the near future! In the meantime, I suggest you check out some of the new material for yourself at the links below.

There is also a pre-order promotion up at where you can pre-order Bleu's "A Watched Pot" for $9.99 and also get an autographed CD booklet. Click here for the exciting details.

Bleu on MySpace. Official site. At Ning.

Review: The Dimes "New England" [EP]

Who would have thought that you could merge history lessons with music and still be entertaining? Alt-country and indie pop act The Dimes is poised to undertake such a project on their forthcoming new release (due August, 2009). In the meantime, I've been lucky enough to receive this "sampler" EP to whet the appetite.

The boys in The Dimes hail from Portland, Oregon and I have little doubt that the climate there has influenced their musical style. The generally slow and steady pace of their tunes seems to match the rhythm of rain, and the lyrical content is more reflective than most. I cannot think of too many people whose songs were inspired by historical happenings in colonial Boston, so strike up another A+ for creativity and innovation. Add in earnest vocals, masterful harmonies, mandolins, and an occasional banjo or accordion, and you have a refreshing 'indie folk rock' sound that combines the best of The Jayhawks with The Decemberists.

The catchiest and most instantly gratifying track is "Clara", but one of the more intriguing tracks on this gem of an EP is their re-interpretation of the John Lennon hit, "Watching the Wheels". Their take on this song is haunting and somber, which some may argue is even closer to the lyrical intent.

I don't want to rush the summer, but one great thing about the arrival of August will be listening to the new full-length release from The Dimes.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4

The Dimes on MySpace. Official site. Note that you can download demos of the new tracks for the upcoming CD for free at their web site.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: Clifton Williams and the Blue James Band "Will"

"Will", the latest CD from Clifton Williams and the Blue James Band, was released late in 2008. Clifton Williams is a talented songwriter who polished his craft as a graduate student in music composition. He is supported by some extraordinary bandmates; collectively, their is a boatload of talent in this assembly of fine players.

The songs on "Will" are sophisticated and intricate, layering multiple strata of musical styles and instrumentation (ranging from rock to reggae, folk to funk), yet they never sound less than organic. The roots-rock feel and positivity in the lyrics will delight fans of this genre, and fans of Paul Simon and Sting may hear their influences in the songwriting. For pop rockers who enjoy the quick-fix hook, I'm afraid you probably won't find too much that is accessible here. However, the tracks I will highlight should please fans of all walks of music: "You Should Know", "Crossroads", and "Don't Waste the Days". For me, "Will" makes for a perfect laid-back Sunday morning treat.

I recommend Clifton Williams and the Blue James Band for fans of the Dave Matthews Band, Pat McGee, and Edwin McCain.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 6, 7

Clifton Williams and the Blue James Band: MySpace. Official site.

Check out a video for "Believe":

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rare CD: Stephen Stills - "Stills Alone"

Track listing
1. Isn't It So
2. Everybody's Talkin'
3. Just Isn't Like You
4. In My Life
5. Ballad of Hollis Brown
6. Singin' Call
7. Right Girl, The
8. Blind Fiddler Memory
9. Amazonia
10. Treetop Flyer

Sold for $36.00 on ebay (17 bids). $43.33 at - check now.

Rare CD: E.G. Daily "Wild Child"

"Hi! You are bidding on a RARE CD from Pop/AOR artist E.G. Daily-"Wild Child" from 1985 on the "A&M" Records label (Germany), original CD, inserts, etc.


CD is in near mint condition / inserts in near mint condition!
Great CD for fans of 1980´s Hard Rock/AOR! Bidding starts at $14.99"

Sold for $53.80 on ebay (11 bids)

Rare CD: Femme Fatale "Femme Fatale"

"Femme Fatale : Femme Fatale. Rare Melodicrock /AOR CD. (MCA 255 974-2). CD Made In: Germany. CD Contains 10 Fantastic Melodicrock/AOR Tracks. Produced By: Tom Werman, David Cole & Jim Faraci. Musicians On The CD: Bill D´Angelo (Guitars), Lorraine Lewis (Vocals) + More. CD & Booklet In Good Condition. A Must Have For Hardrock / AOR Lovers !!!! Original CD"

Sold for $70 on ebay (10 bids). ??? Going for just $27.50 at Amazon. Check now.

Rare CD: Danny Elfman "Midnight Run" (Soundtrack)

Original Soundtrack From The Classic Action Film with Robert De Niro "MIDNIGHT RUN""
(1988). Composed by Danny Elfman.

Sold for $76.00 on ebay (12 bids)

Used version going for $49.99 at Amazon. Check now.

Rare CD: The Raspberries "Greatest Hits" (BMG with bonus tracks)

"The Raspberries Greatest Hits Ultra RARE OOP BMG Record Club Pressing with 4 bonus demo tracks! Excellent Condition"

Sold for $77.09 on ebay (12 bids)

Rare CD: Radiohead "BONES.96" (Belgian)


Track listing:
BONES 3.03

More info here.

Sold on ebay for $203.50 (8 bids)

Rare CD: Roxxi "Drive It To Ya Hard"

I don't know much about this one, the band's release from 1963. Here are details I found at Amazon:
Audio CD (July 1, 1991)
Original Release Date: 1963
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Dead Line

Sold on ebay for $280.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review: Green Day "21st Century Breakdown"

I've never disliked Green Day, but I can't say that I've been an avid fan, especially after the lackluster follow-ups to 1994's smash hit "Dookie". That began to change in 2004 with the release of their excellent "comeback" concept album "American Idiot". Now, 5 years later, "21st Century Breakdown" makes me want to buy a Green Day T-shirt to wear with pride.

"American Idiot" was a huge success at the critic and commercial level - these kinds of records, appearing after a decade of being together, create a fear in the fanbase that the last hurrah has been in the world are they going to possibly top "American Idiot"? I must admit I had the same concern myself. With each passing year of nothing new from Billie Joe and the gang, I grew closer to writing off "American Idiot" as a fluke and concluding that the band had nothing more to say.

This could not have been more wrong. "21st Century Breakdown" is stupendous. I know it disturbs many of the old school Green Day fans, but the band's new musical direction (a logical extension of where they were headed with "American Idiot") takes their game to the next level. I believe this record will cement Green Day as a force to be reckoned with in the rock world.

Not only is the music on "21st Century Breakdown" some of the most accessible and melodic of their career, but the layers of lyrical depth have me believing that Green Day could be this generation's U2. The record is another concept album of sorts, tracing the history of a young couple (Christian and Gloria) through the first decade of the new millennium.

Produced by Butch Vig along with the band, and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, "21st Century Breakdown" is a sonic masterpiece. The band continues to experiment by adding piano and strings to their crunchy and punchy guitars, and their harmony vocals have never been more abundant and effective. There are almost too many good songs to pick favorites, but I'll go with "Viva La Gloria", "21 Guns", "Before the Lobotomy", and the title track. "Before the Lobotomy" is particularly cool because it starts out as an acoustic ballad that is 'covered' by the more traditional sounding Green Day towards the end of the song.

Absolutely terrific record. Don't let the current single "Know Your Enemy" fool you - it is one of the more simplistic and banal tracks. I am puzzled why it was selected as a single when so many of the other songs are far superior.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18

Green Day on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for the single "Know Your Enemy":
Know Your Enemy

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Review: Ace Noface "Toxic Charm"

A lot of people are under the impression that piano-based music just can't rock...Ace Noface proves just how false this assertion can be. His excellent new release, "Toxic Charm", pounds its way into your head with its infectious melodies and lyrical urgency. No doubt this urgency stems from the fact that Ace Noface has tragically been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Musically, we're dealing with some very catchy stuff - the vocals have a clear, warm tone that sound like a cross between Jason Falkner and Ben Folds, and the harmony vocals are plentiful and well placed. But beyond the engaging melodies are some of the most thought-provoking lyrics in music today. Ace Noface is unafraid to explore the themes that most musicians wouldn't dare touch, from religion to the cowardliness of bigotry, to deep contemplations on the meaning of it all. Much like Freddie Mercury on Queen's masterful "Innuendo", Ace Noface boldly shares his most intimate thoughts knowing that the hands of fate are tightening up around his throat. Those of us who take our health for granted can all learn a lesson hearing what someone in this unique position has to say. He's also a great storyteller, getting into the head of the notorious Toronto bicycle thief Igor Kenk on "2000 Bicycles".

Amazingly, Ace Noface crafted "Toxic Charm" literally note by note, as it was written with just one finger due to his disability. This is completely undetectable after hearing the layers upon layers of musical complexity, which effortlessly weave standard pop progressions with threads of jazz and prog rock. Highlights include "Regret", "Whiskey Bottle", and "Gotta".

Pick up this CD from Ace Noface if you are a fan of Ben Folds, Keane, Mêlée, or Five for Fighting. "Toxic Charm" is easily one of the best piano-driven rock CDs of the year so far, musically and lyrically.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9

Ace Noface on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Donate to the ALS Association.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review: Chickenfoot "Chickenfoot"

It is refreshing to see a classic hard rock act get the A-list treatment in terms of promotion. I seem to find signs of Chickenfoot everywhere - even on the (gasp) radio! For those of you who have recently been rescued from a desert island, Chickenfoot is rock's latest supergroup comprised of one half Van Hagar (Sammy Hagar and Mike Anthony), guitar wizard Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer Chad Smith.

The pros: The chemistry between these guys is fantastic and their individual talents gel well to produce a modern rock feel - the record sounds great. Sammy's vocals are still incredible after all these years of tequila-drenched wailing and to say that Satriani is amazing with the guitar is a vast understatement. The packing is pretty cool, too, with the heat-activated digipak whose artwork shows up after warming up.

The cons (you know there have to be significant cons when one of the pros commends the packaging!): The biggest drawback is that the songs are mediocre at best, lacking the meaty hooks and sing-a-long choruses that make arena rock songs memorable. There isn't enough of the trademark Hagar and Anthony harmony vocals, which may have been avoided as a conscious effort not to sound too much like Van Hagar. Finally, Sammy seems to be on a 'man on a mission' with his lyrics to prove that older does not mean wiser (with rare exception).

Like the band's ridiculous name, the Chickenfoot CD is attention getting, but leaves you scratching your head and asking, "What? This is the best they could do?" For me, Chickenfoot is one of this year's biggest musical disappointments - it is a clucking bore! There is an abundance of talent in this coop spinning out of control - if it can be centered to revolve around strong melodious hooks, they will truly earn the title "superGROUP".

iPOD-worthy: 5, 8, 9

Chickenfoot on MySpace. Official site.

Get the Chickenfoot mp3 album for only $3.99 at Amazon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Tieweb "Indier Than Thou"

Virginia-based Tieweb, featuring Justin Fazzari on vocals & guitar, Chris Aylward on bass & vox, Eric Bayles on lead guitar, and Steve Quesenberry on drums, claims to be putting the "die" in indie rock. They refer to themselves as the "most quirky band on the planet"; with influences ranging from Herbie Hancock to Phish to The Pixies, I think they are deserving of that title. Their latest effort, "Indier Than Thou", recorded by Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) award-winning producer Marco Delmar, is a sonic treat that defies genre classification.

Tieweb hastens to engage the listener right away with the rousing rocker, "Way Out", and follows it up with the vastly different but equally likable track called "Fade". I found my mind wandering during the subsequent tunes, but the upbeat acoustic rocker "Up and Down" captured my attention once again. They saved my favorite track for last...another peppy acoustic-driven gem called "Baby Don't Cry". Definitely the most accessible and catchy track on "Indier Than Thou", "Baby Don't Cry" is a perfect summer charmer. Overall, Tieweb is refreshing and innovative indie pop, and they weave some tangled, albeit interesting melodies along the way.

The CD art claims to make you "hipper" (more hip?) by listening to this music - I must admit that I do indeed feel cooler driving down the road with Tieweb blasting out of the speakers. "Indier Than Thou" is for fans of Frank Black/Pixies, Spoon, and Thee Makeout Party.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 6, 10

Tieweb on MySpace. Official site.