Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats "Meet The Meatbats"

"A journey through funk, punk, and beyond"...welcome to Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats. Most of you know Chad Smith as the drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot. As if that weren't enough diversity for one resume, he is back with a completely new project that I can't even classify.

Introducing the Meatbats: guitarist Jeff Kollman, keyboardist Ed Roth, bassist Kevin Chown, and of course Chad Smith (on drums, duh!). Do they sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers? Do they sound like Chickenfoot? Do they sound like Red Hot Chickenfeet?

Yes and no. First of all, the big difference is that there are no vocals. That's right, kids, this is an instrumental album. They are also calling it "jazz". But this ain't your daddy's jazz. Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats fuse together elements of classic rock, old school funk, blues, and 70s lounge/R&B. The CD plays almost like a long jam session that we've been invited to attend. Not my usual selection off the musical menu, but this is an intriguing listen and will be fun to play at parties. But like most instrumental records, ultimately I feel the band is getting a lot more enjoyment making the music than I am listening to it. A key standout, however, is the often brilliant keyboards by Roth.

I dug the funky "Need Strange", bluesy "Bread Balls", and the very cool David Gilmour-inspired closer, "Into the Floyd".

"Meet The Meatbats" is set to be released September 15th on Warrior Records / Universal Music Distribution. They are also holding a drum solo contest, with prizes including a drum kit, personal call from Chad Smith (whoever wins, please ask if the next Chickenfoot album will be better than the first), signed swag and more. Check out the details here.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 9, 10

Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review: Jet "Shaka Rock"

Melbourne rockers Jet soar back this month with their third release, "Shaka Rock". I fell in love with their throwback to vintage rock on the smashing debut, "Get Born" (2003), but was less than thrilled with their sophomore effort, the uneven "Shine On". This time around, Jet has produced a killer record sizzling with hooks, riffs, and swagger while also incorporating some modern rock flair into their retro formula.

Image and attitude can only get you so far, but this time Jet flies the radio-friendly skies, packing plenty of memorable melodies. There just doesn't seem to be an end to the tasty guitar licks these guys can crank out and there is no shortage of energy. And let's face it - Nic Cester's vocals are the epitome of rock. While "She's a Genius" and "Black Hearts (On Fire)" come the closest to the "Get Born" sound, don't be quick to dismiss songs like "Seventeen" and "Let Me Out" that make an earnest attempt to capture more of today's rock sounds. There is only one ballad, the closer "She Holds A Grudge"; it holds its own, but does not hold a candle to something like "Look What You've Done". A couple of nondescript songs pollute the set a bit (the mundane "Start The Show"), but overall "Shaka Rock" is cleared for take off.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10

You can download the record for only $3.99 at!

Jet on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for the first single, "She's A Genius":

Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: Dreaming In Stereo "Dreaming In Stereo"

Dreaming In Stereo is centered around the multi-talented singer/songwriter Fernando Perdomo. Vocally, Perdomo has quite the dreamy voice with hints of J.R. Richards and Jason Falkner - atmospheric and pleasing to the ears, and exceptionally well suited to his ballads and mid-tempo numbers. After hearing this self-titled debut, I am convinced Dreaming In Stereo has all it takes to make their dreams of pop rock stardom come true.

Perdomo is a master at crafting catchy songs in an artful manner, complete with some atypical instruments now and then to keep things interesting. His pristine vocals just sail over these gorgeous melodies, creating a great mood record that is as intelligent as much as it is fun to listen to. From the jamming "Steal This Song" (his meditation on musical piracy) and the upbeat power pop gems "I'm Not Gonna Move To L.A." and "Decisions, Decisions", to the beautiful balladry in "Lazy" and "Let Me Love You", this CD has it all.

Deep lyrics, credible vocals, and sophisticated music - you get all this and more with Dreaming In Stereo. Some of the most accessible art rock I've ever hard - Dreaming In Stereo may have founded a new musical genre: progressive power pop! Fans of Genesis, Yes, Dishwalla...take note.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10

Dreaming In Stereo on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Steal This Song":

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Sister Hazel "Release"

The prolific songwriting team of Sister Hazel is back with their latest, "Release". The depth of their songwriting well never ceases to amaze me - Ken Block just released a solo record not long ago (reviewed here), but he and the boys are back with another remarkably strong set of songs...and in my opinion, one of their strongest sets since the masterful "Fortress" from 2000.

Most people know Sister Hazel from their breakout hit, "All For You" off 1997's "...Somewhere More Familiar". Since that sophomore record, the band has been quietly cranking out fantastic acoustic-based rock at a breakneck pace (almost one album a year). "Release" is their seventh studio release, not counting a couple of great live albums and solid solo efforts from band members along the way.

As usual, Sister Hazel sounds great - they really have found their groove after all these years. The trademark harmonies are plentiful, the acoustic guitars are shimmering, and the drums keep a dynamic and steady pace. The band treads no new ground here, but they have a proven formula and why fix what isn't broke? Best of all, each song sounds like it received the same care and attention any band would give towards a single.

Interspersed among a bunch of very good tunes are some downright excellent ones, including "Run For The Hills", "I Believe In You", and the title track (co-written by Emerson Hart of Tonic). Other notable contributors on this effort include Pat McGee and Stan Lynch (Tom Petty). Sister Hazel was clearly in the zone while writing and recording "Release", one of their best efforts in an already outstanding discography. Get this one right now - it is super cheap at most major retail outlets. Help make this one their lucky seven and get Sister Hazel back on the charts where they belong!


Sister Hazel on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: Gidgets Ga Ga "The Big Bong Fiasco"

Fans still lost in classic 60s rock and power pop are going to love this Chicago trio, Gidgets Ga Ga. Mix retro riffs with modern guitar oomph and add in a voice with just the right amount of rasp, and out storms Gidgets Ga Ga. Their record, "The Big Bong Fiasco", rocks ceaselessly and is sure to liven any party you throw.

There's no shortage of classic sounds you'll hear on "The Big Bong Fiasco"; some tunes have a hint of Rolling Stones while others a dose of the Byrds. Michael Flores delivers these pop rock tunes with a smokey voice, somewhere between Chris Robinson and Billy Squier. Filled to the brim with 18 energetic tracks, the record never slows a bit. Some of the songs would have benefited from additional production or some more innovative moments, but they get it right most of the time. Highlights include "The Sorry Song", "Hit By A Train", "Lullaby", and "Crime of the Century".

If you dig modern rockers with a 60s rock sound, similar to Jet, Eugene Edwards, The Fags, or early Black Crowes, you will go - crazy - for Gidgets Ga Ga. C'mon, you didn't really think I'd go for the obvious one there, did you?

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 17

Gidgets Ga Ga on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Jim Ivins Band "Free-P" [EP]

The newest EP from the Jim Ivins Band, "Free-P", continues their fine tradition of radio-friendly acoustic driven pop rock. Fans of their debut full-length CD, "99 cent Dreams" and the edgier "Back To Reality" EP are going to be very pleased to have a few more quality tracks from JIB to add to their mp3 players. This young band is off to a good start, already securing an opening slot for acts such as Carolina Liar, The Ataris, and Pat McGee Band.

If you are looking for music to jolt you out of bed or help you run a marathon, don't think JIB. If you are looking for something that might help you sleep, again, don't consider JIB. However, if you are looking for something in the middle - just right - that is when you would listen to JIB. JIB's brand of melodic rock is generally mid to up-tempo, and always a gentle treat for the ears. The music is organic and vocals earnest, with lyrics almost anyone whose been a teenager can relate to.

The Jim Ivins Band will appeal to all fans of acoustic based rock, so if you dig Highway 9, Sister Hazel, or the softer side of the Goo Good Dolls, be sure to check them out.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2

If you sign up for their email list (follow MySpace link), you'll gain access "Free-P" for the low price of free - don't miss it!

Jim Ivins Band on MySpace.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Adam Bones "Feel For Tomorrow" [EP]

Adam Bones "combines pure rock, melodic pop hooks and raw energy to concoct a lethal brew of rock 'n' roll that’ll get your hips shakin'". He and his cohorts have gone back to basics on their new 5 track EP, "Feel For Tomorrow" - a 'bare bones' approach, if you will.

If Adam Bones has any skeletons in his closet, they all come out to play on "Feel For Tomorrow". His influences stretch all the way back to The Who and reach up to today's modern rock. The sound is fun garage rock, with Adam's voice strongly reminiscent of Scott Blasey of The Clarks. Bones has a knack for crafting smart pop hooks, but what I enjoy most is that he cranks up the amps and his confidence to deliver the authentic rock sound and attitude sorely missed from today's music. He proves his versatility on these five tracks, stomping through Kinks territory on the crunchy opener, "I Had You", while strolling near alt-country terrain on "Shouldn't Love", then slipping through some funky sleaze rock on "How Hard I Needed You".

Make no 'bones' (ahem) about it, this short and sweet EP is great end of summer music. He reminds me a lot of Eugene Edwards, but I would check this one out if you fancy The Clarks, Gin Blossoms, or OK Go.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2

Adam Bones on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Fulton Read "Indivisualize" [EP]

Stephen Duffy and Anthony Erickson comprise Fulton Read, a rather eclectic rock band based in Austin, TX. "Indivisualize" is their latest EP, which they describe as "a big boost in diversity with funky jazz breakdowns, improv jams and trippy segues, all next to a piano pop hook."

One thing about this band that is indisputable: you are going to have a hard time comparing them to anyone. With the wide variety of musical instruments and styles, I think it is safe to say they are carving out their own niche. Maybe all these interesting goodies are distracting me, but I am having trouble finding the hook. The other element that pulls away your attention more than anything else are the striking vocals.

Erickson's vocals are raspy and grating, with hints of Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) coming through. They just don't seem to match well with this brand of music. Imagine what Trent Reznor would sound like if backed by Ben Folds - that is Fulton Read. Not exactly the most inviting thing to listen to, but some people will truly appreciate the fresh sound.

I would recommend Fulton Read if you like The Dwellers or Stereophonics. If you want to check them our for yourself, you've got nothing to lose but a little time and memory space - "Indivisualize" is available as a free download through their MySpace page. That's right..."after four years of recording, promoting, releasing and playing, Fulton Read has turned its back on music business as usual and determined themselves to release all their new music for FREE." Thanks guys, but don't go teaching a course in business anytime soon! Go buy a T-shirt so they don't have to sell another Saturn to make an EP.

Fulton Read on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: Wheat "White Ink, Black Ink”

I was pretty excited to sink my teeth into some new Wheat. I was attracted to their 2003 major label debut "Per Second, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second" after hearing the semi-hit single, "I Met A Girl", and the rest of the disc really grew on me. But after hearing their new one, "White Ink, Black Ink”, I may have to re-evaluate my fondness for this indie rock band.

"White Ink, Black Ink” was a real challenge for me to get through, from the electronica beats in the lead-off track to the dissonant piano on the album's closer, "Baby In My Way". While there are some moments of genius, I generally find the bulk of the music to be inaccessible. True to indie rock, Wheat thrives on being different, but in 2003 kept the experimentation grounded with solid hooks; on this one, I am struggling to find more than one song that I am in a hurry to hear again.

I would liken Wheat to a collision between Wilco and Radiohead, partly because of Scott Levesque's vocals. The music is purposely chaotic, which can be fresh and exciting here and there, but for an entire album it gets old fast. Sad to say, but I think "White Ink, Black Ink” ranks as one of my biggest let downs of the year. For those of you who dig exploratory pop rock and still want to check out the record, I'd point your ears to "Change Is", "Living 2 Die vs. Dying 2 Live", and "Music Is Drugs".

iPOD-worthy: 2

Wheat on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Change Is":

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: The Elms "The Great American Midrange"

The Elms, one of Indiana's hottest melodic rock bands, are back with their fourth album, "The Great American Midrange". I have been a big fan of The Elms since I heard their debut EP in 2000, but they worried me a bit with the uneven "Chess Hotel" (their 2006 major label debut). I am happy and relieved to inform you that "The Great American Midrange" is a brilliant return to form.

I thought it would be appropriate to listen to the new record while driving through their hometown of Seymour, Indiana, while on my way to The Horseshoe Casino to play some poker. I don't think a better soundtrack for such a trip could have been crafted. With titles like "Country Fair" and "Back To Indiana", and a strong roots rock sound, the record just screams 'rock from the heartland'. The ballads can make you feel like you're on your back in a golden field, staring at that big open sky on a lazy afternoon...but without missing a beat they can rock it like a twister. The Elms have attracted some big names to perfect the sonic quality of "The Great American Midrange": the record was mixed by Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters) and mastered by Bob Ludwig (Rolling Stones, U2, R.E.M., many more).

Owen Thomas sounds as good as ever; his versatile voice gently sways to falsetto and back again on the tender ballads ("A Place in the Sun" and "The Little Ways"), but can rock out with the best of them amongst the crunchy guitars and thumping drums ("Strut" and "Thunderhead"). What I like best is that the boys have returned to the more classic Elms sound, with big hooks and sing-a-long choruses, and they kept their lyrics smart, positive, and inspiring. My favorite song is "Unless God Appears First", which encapsulates everything I like about this band. There isn't a dud in the bunch, but the other must hear tunes include "Back To Indiana", "This Is How The World Will End", and "The Wildest Heart".

"The Great American Midrange" is a terrific record - one of my favorite records by the band and one of my favorite records of 2009 so far. You'll like The Elms if you dig Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Scarecrow"-era John Cougar Mellencamp, or just about any other Midwestern rock outfit.

"The Great American Midrange" drops September 15, but if you pre-order now, you can get an autographed copy, bonus download, and host of other goodies. There is also a very reasonably priced option to get an acoustical interpretation of the album in its entirety.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 (including "Lily" bonus track)

The Elms on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a trailer for "The Great American Midrange":

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: Our Lady Peace "Burn Burn (Deluxe Edition)"

It has been since 2005 that we've heard anything from the Canadian band Our Lady Peace, known to most for their string of alternative rock hits in the late 90s (including "Superman's Dead" and "4 AM"). The distinctive vocals and unusual inflections of Raine Maida may not be pleasing to everyone's ears, but one thing these guys have consistently done is write good pop rock songs under the guise of "alternative". Long-time fans often complain that the band's sound has evolved to be too commercial and mainstream since 2002's "Gravity", which spawned the awesome hit, "Somewhere Out There", but I for one have enjoyed them more and more with each release.

Which brings us to their new record, "Burn Burn", the seventh album. While "Burn Burn" was hyped as a return to their older sound, I actually think it is a logical extension that picks up where they left off with "Healthy in Paranoid Times". In other words, "Burn Burn" is a slick and well-produced record, full of hooks and more straightforward lyrics, and finds Maida sticking to a more accessible vocal tone, minimizing those strange inflections and grating falsetto that were his trademark in the 90s. To me, these are good things. Everything from the ultra catchy single, "All You Did Was Save My Life" to the upbeat and climatic bonus tracks pull you in with the hypnotic vocals, memorable melodies, and sonic brilliance. A very worthy addition to the Our Lady Peace discography.

One pet peeve - I really hate when "bonus" tracks are included on a "Deluxe Edition". Go ahead and include a DVD if you want on a "Deluxe Edition", but put ALL the audio tracks on the standard release. The standard release is only 10 tracks and the extra two included on the "Deluxe Edition" ("Time Bomb" and "The Right Stuff") are excellent rockers. The standard release needs those rockers because otherwise it is too ballad heavy. Fans should have been able to buy all 12 tracks on the standard edition without an inflated price!

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

Our Lady Peace on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for the single "All You Did Was Save My Life":
All You Did Was Save My Life

Review: Warren Charles "When Chandeliers Sway"

Warren Charles is W. Peter Jacobson and C. Lucas Jacobson, a brotherly duo that can really tickle the ivories, along with your senses. Their 2009 effort, "When Chandeliers Sway", oscillates between jazz and funk, but is firmly attached to a ceiling of pop rock.

Immediately, you'll almost mistake the indie pop charm of some of these piano-driven tunes for Ben Folds or Barenaked Ladies, while the album closer "About a Week" sounds a lot like late 70s songsmith Rupert Holmes. Vocally, these guys are very good and liberal with their tight harmonies, and are solid lyrical scribes. The music is a bit eclectic at times, and some songs have parts that are quite disjointed; while this makes it a bit less accessible, it does keep things intriguing. Highlights include the smart and sharp opener, "Standing in my Way", complete with horns and a groovy vibe that makes it impossible to resist nodding along to the beat, and the equally infectious "Enter the Break". My favorite track is the rare moment they slow things down with "You Don't Know Me", which incidentally reveals the duo's cross-over potential into mainstream pop.

I recommend Warren Charles if you are a fan of Ben Folds, Barenaked Ladies, or Bruce Hornsby. Warren Charles delights with some of the best and varied piano-based rock you'll find today.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 6, 9

Warren Charles on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: Vinyl Candy "Land"

I just ate up the debut CD from retro popsters Vinyl Candy. Now they have returned with the sophomore effort, "Land". Like its predecessor, "Land" is drenched in Southern California sunshine, radiating with lush harmonies and sparkling melodies. There are all sorts of sweets in the Vinyl Candy bowl, flavors of bubblegum pop, psychedelic rock, pop rock, and more.

The musicianship, production, and vocals are amazing, dressing up songs that Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. himself probably wishes he'd written. Each song goes the extra mile to create a unique listening experience, but still play cohesively from track 1 to track 13. No matter what they do, Vinyl Candy has a distinct retro sound that classic pop fans will love to sink their teeth into.

In addition to the slick pop, "Land" also showcases more of a hard rock side to Vinyl Candy, as evidenced on tracks like "Fan Club History" and "Star Struck" that bring a little 70s-era Kiss to mind. The lead off track "I'll Be Fine" is my favorite, but you'd be remiss to miss the excellent "All Along the Way", "Gasoline and Tangerines", and "Learn How To Fly". I also liked the more laid back and stripped down (for Vinyl Candy, at least) ballad, "Want It So Bad".

"Land" is a concept album about a rock star's rise and fall, yet it is just impossible to listen to these grand and sunny songs without feeling better...and they are so catchy that the tunes and your good mood will last long after the last note is heard. Check out Vinyl Candy if you like Queen, Jellyfish, or ELO.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 11

Vinyl Candy on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review: The Injured Parties "Fun with a Purpose"

The Injured Parties - what a great name for a band! And their debut album title pretty much says it all...these guys from the Windy City exude a fun and wacky attitude with their music and lyrics, but strive to make some meaning of it all along the way. We're dealing with energetic yet quirky pop here, with a good dose of rock added to the mix.

The songs are actually very good - well-written pop with more than your fair share of hooks and harmonies. But what kills it for me is the voice - sorry, but I find the vocal tone annoying. It is very They Might Be Giants, so if they don't rub you the wrong way, it is a safe bet that you will really enjoy The Injured Parties. If you are a fan of Shake Some Action or Hoodoo Gurus, I'd also suggest you check out The Injured Parties too.

Highlights for me included the rollicking "American Comfort" and "Zingerman's Deli", as well as the driving "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love". However, my favorite track is "If You're Gonna Break My Heart", which inches into Material Issue territory.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 6

Injured Parties on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Florez "Not Alone" [EP]

Florez specializes in "tangy, groove-driven rock" with songs that "transform snapshots of life into catchy melodies". They've been kicking around Nashville since 2002 and have been steadily building a following. Florez has achieved a career highlight in 2005 by earning the opportunity to open for Gavin DeGraw in 2005, and brought aboard some more fans through some shameless (but smart!) self-promotion from band member Erik Huffman, who sported a Florez cap while participating in the reality show “Survivor: China” in 2007.

The 4 track "Not Alone" EP follows their recent "Yellow Shoes" EP from 2007. Florez manages to mix several different flavors of pop rock music, yet I can't decide if the chemistry is right. The hooks did not grab me immediately and the vocals are rather pedestrian. "Not Alone" strives to be indie and commercial pop simultaneously, and succeeds to some degree (I really enjoyed "Uncle Frankie"). But here's the bad sign: I didn't notice when the CD had looped back to the beginning and began to play again - I forgot it was an EP and didn't realize I had just heard the songs less than 20 minutes ago...that's how memorable they were!

While I look forward to hearing more from Florez, "Not Alone" is remarkably unremarkable. The tribe has spoken.

iPOD-worthy: 3

Florez on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: Benjamin r "The Other Side of Nowhere"

Just three songs into this CD and I was desperate to learn more about Benjamin r, wondering why in the world I've not heard of this guy yet. Robert Selvaggio, otherwise known as Benjamin r, has 'come out of nowhere' with his excellent debut CD, "The Other Side of Nowhere". My hope is that this release takes him somewhere big.

With a solid foundation in producing and recording acts from Jewel to Puddle of Mudd, Benjamin r decided in 2007 to track some of his own tunes. 2009's "The Other Side of Nowhere" is the result - lucky for us! Benjamin r generally writes in the style of Crowded House, and sounds somewhere in-between Mark Kano (Athenaeum) and - believe or not - Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (especially on "I Don't Need This Anymore", one of the strongest tracks on the disc). But for the more coffeehouse songs, he reminds me a bit of Elliot Smith (check out "Letters").

True, Benjamin r's expertise as a recording engineer shines on this sonically pleasing debut, but it is the pop rock sensibilities that have won me over. The first half of the disc is remarkably strong, infusing a bar band rock sound with catchy powerpop melodies on tracks like "Tell Me I'm Wrong", "Falling Apart", and "History". The second half of the disc is not bad by any means, but it did not capture my attention as quickly. All in all, a very strong debut, and I hope to hear a lot more from the other side of nowhere.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9

Benjamin r on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Review: Strangefinger "Into the Blue"

Strangefinger...strange name, but fantastic disc. "Into the Blue", the latest offering from SideBMusic, arrives just in time as the new soundtrack to summer. Since it comes from SideBMusic, you know it has to be good...and after I heard Chris Manning (Jellyfish) had a hand producing and mixing the record, I was waiting outside by the mailbox with eager anticipation for its arrival.

Strangefinger is pure power pop bliss - band leader and main songwriter, Freddie Lemke, has gone through hell and high water to get this record, which was recorded and mixed in 2005, to finally see the light of day. Persistence has paid off and Strangefinger's "Into the Blue" is destined to be a classic in the genre.

Maybe it is the album title or cover art, or song titles with "Ocean" and "Sunshine" in them, or maybe it is the sunny melodies, bright instrumentation, or positive vibe, or perhaps the heavy Brian Wilson influence in many of the songs, but numerous reviews have already remarked how appropriate "Into the Blue" is for the beach. And while these comments make perfect sense, I'd like to add for clarification that Strangefinger does not sing about the surf and sand; rather, the lyrics are much more interesting, rewarding the listener with something more substantial and contemplative.

We begin with a beautiful piano-driven pop tune called "Sleep", which is far from a snore, boasting a gorgeous melody sung with perfection. "Good Night" is a show closer and, while it may have been intuitive to place this at the end of the CD, it is ear candy wherever and whenever it is heard. "Piscetarrius" is another piano-based and harmony-rich ditty that is very reminiscent of Jellyfish. Strangefinger also demonstrate that they are not just a one-trick pony by showing a soulful side on the groovy track "System to the Grind". Additional highlights include a "lost in the 70s" ballad called "Two Angels" and the outstanding single, "There's An Ocean".

Strangefinger should appeal to a wide range of power pop and rock fans. Audition them for free by downloading "There's An Ocean" here.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12

Strangefinger on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Check out the video for the single, "There's An Ocean":

Review: Children Collide "The Long Now"

Children Collide is a modern rock trio from Melbourne, Australia. Releasing EPs since 2005, 2008's "The Long Now" marks their full-length debut and is creating a buzz not only in their homeland, but also here in the states. Driven by the ceaseless energy of guitarist and vocalist Johnny Mackey, the music of Children Collide demands your attention and can shake you out of any stupor.

The band has a strong indie rock vibe that sounds modern, yet there are lots of flashbacks in their music to the 90s. In other words, there is the potential for a lot of cross-over popularity, drawing in today's rock fans along with those still dwelling in the last decade. My favorite track is the sizzling opener, "Across the Earth", which has definite Cult overtones. "Farewell Rocketship" is also cool in the way that is deceptively laid back during the verse, but then "blasts" you with their more typical noisy chorus. I also like the lyrics on this track. Others of note include "Marie Marie Part II" and "Brave Robot", the latter of which resembles The Killers.

"The Long Now" is masterfully produced by Dave Sardy (Dandy Warhols, Oasis, Wolfmother, Jet), so crank it up. Children Collide will be on tour with Jane’s Addiction before embarking on their own headlining tour. The sky is the limit, it seems. Children Collide should appease fans of modern alternative rock in the neighborhood of Jack Butler, Modest Mouse, and The Strokes.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 11

Children Collide on MySpace. Official site.

Check out this cool interactive 360 degree video created for the new single, “Chosen Armies”:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Review: Livan "Happy Returns"

If anyone is going to get me to listen to anything with electronica overtones, Livan(Lie’van) is the man who can do it. I am normally repelled by music that is heavily processed and industrial, but Livan brings plenty of rock guitars and catchy riffs to keep me listening. I would liken his style to a more rocking version of Depeche Mode.

His music comes at you fast and furious, with deep and intelligent lyrics ("do your math religiously") that pull you into his turbulent world. Livan has witnessed the hardships of addiction, politics, exile, poverty, and prison, giving him a copious amount of material to draw upon for his poetic explorations. Livan communicates his struggles with sincerity and humanity, never being preachy or assuming. Vocally, Livan has a good range, but stays predominantly baritone, sounding somewhere between two Peters: Peter Murphy and Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil.

Despite the intensity of the majority of the tracks, it is when Livan slows it down that he appeals to me most. "Where I Bleed" and "Still Around" are fantastic and have huge cross-over potential. On these tracks, Livan's strong voice is at its most emotive and the choruses are most memorable. I would like to also call your attention to the blistering opening track, "King of the World" and the very melodic "Underground". Many of you will also want to take note of his industrialized cover of "Shout" originally by Tears for Fears.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 8, 9

Livan on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for the title track:
Happy Returns

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: David Brookings "Glass Half Full"

It seems like only yesterday we covered singer/songwriter David Brookings' "Obsessed" release (review here). But the prolific Brookings is back already with a new CD comprised of 14 pop treats. "Glass Half Full" is just as good as "Obsessed" - if not, better - brimming with a sunny outlook and shimmering melodies to match.

Brookings sounds more and more like the long lost son of one of the Beach Boys. His gentle voice just coasts and glides over the catchy guitars, and he throws in plenty of harmonies to boot. On his latest, it is evident that Brookings' lyrical themes are beginning to mature, as he now references the need to get babysitters and even has a closing track entitled, "Gettin Older".

Every song is wonderfully catchy and has the power to change your mood for the better. The top half of "Glass Half Full" is probably one of the strongest starts to any of his records so far (his 5th solo album), with radio-friendly gems like "Don't Wake Me Up" and "This Time Its For Real". Brookings doesn't slow things down often, but the dazzling ballad "Flashlight Love" might make you wish he did a little more. The happy-go-lucky feel of "One Lonely Word" makes it my favorite of the bunch.

Fans of 60s and 70s pop songwriting need to drink from the cup David Brookings offers on "Glass Half Full". Good to the last drop!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13, 14

David Brookings on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Check out a video of him performing "I Wish I Could Be With You":

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Movies that Rock: "This Is Spinal Tap" on Blu-ray Disc

What better way to debut a new feature here on BMF that highlights rock movies than profiling the iconic "This Is Spinal Tap"?

In celebration of the 25th (!) anniversary, "This Is Spinal Tap" is now available on Blu-ray Disc (MGM Home Entertainment). All of the great extras that accompanied the DVD version are there - cast and crew commentary, deleted scenes and outtakes, their music videos, and more - but the Blu-ray Disc also contains two brand new exclusive features: Spinal Tap’s 2007 Live Earth reunion performance of their hit “Stonehenge” at Wembley Stadium and Nigel Tufnel’s interview for the National Geographic Stonehenge special.

For most people, this film needs no introduction. Put simply, it is the defining picture that brilliantly satirizes virtually every strata of the hard rock music scene. Spinal Tap (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer) is the fictional band that takes center stage, and we have a front row seat to witness the typical growth cycle of your average heavy metal band. From the unlikely rise to fame, the ridiculous excesses, the shoddy management, inevitable fall, and modest comeback, too many bands have followed in the footsteps of what was intended to be fiction. In fact, many bands have been quoted as failing to see the humor in this movie because they have actually lived every scene. This just speaks to how "in tune" with the music business the writers were, which included the stars and director Rob Reiner.

This Is Spinal Tap is beyond classic - it is the quintessential movie any musician or music fan must see, again and again.

Spinal Tap on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Age "Useless Souvenirs" [EP]

I am really excited about this new hard rock outfit from Evesham in the Midlands (UK). Their new five track EP "Useless Souvenirs" flexes some huge muscle and shows incredible promise.

Stu Lister leads the charge with some powerhouse vocals that can still be heard over the thick and heavy guitar riffs. The five songs come at you fast and furious, but what knocks the ball out of the park is that their choruses are rooted in smart melodies, accented with many well placed harmonies. Great stuff to pump your fist in the air to. There is some room for growth, and Age would benefit from big league production, but "Useless Souvenirs" should be the ticket that helps them secure some significant backing. That said - there is a certain charm about the production...Age put the "raw" in "rawk"!

My favorite cuts include "Battery", "Your Last Day", and "I'm Not Done". If these guys keeps enveloping good hooks and harmony in crunchy loud guitars, and avoid the temptation to scream and rap, it seems inevitable that they'll be international stars in no time.

Age is one of those rare contemporary bands that will suit old school and modern rockers alike. I'd recommend you check them out now if you rock out to Hawthorne Heights, Three Days Grace, or Puddle of Mudd.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5

Age on MySpace.

Check out the video for "Useless Souvenirs":

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Classic Rock Band competition at French Lick Resort

Rock bands have until August 7 to get in on the month-long competition and vie for the $7,500 first place cash prize. The runner-up will be awarded $2,500. Bands are encouraged to submit a CD or DVD to the resort with a photo or to upload a video onto YouTube.

The finalists will perform live on the casino stage for 30 minutes on weekends August 14-September 12. Fans and supporters, 21 and over, are encouraged to be at the casino during the performances. Judges will take crowd response into consideration when making their decision. The final round is scheduled for September 19 in the resort’s Windsor Ballroom.

There is a $4 cover charge for the preliminary round performances in the casino lounge. Tickets for the final showdown are $10 and may be purchased at the Hoosier Sugar Company in the French Lick Springs Hotel, on Ticketforce or at the door the night of the show.

To enter, groups may send a CD or DVD and photo to:
French Lick Resort
10k Classic Rock Band Challenge
8670 W. State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432

Or, simply upload a video to French Lick Resort’s Country Band group page on YouTube

Please note, quality of entry will have a direct effect on band selection.