Saturday, October 31, 2009

Review: Goldbergs "Jingle Jangle Pop" [EP]

An early holiday treat is about to come your way! Andy Goldberg (see our review of the latest Goldbergs record here) is releasing a special Holiday EP appropriately entitled "Jingle Jangle Pop". The EP contains 4 tracks - 2 brand new and 2 from his previous project, The Sun Kings. Individual tracks or the entire album will be available only on iTunes no later than November 9 - mark your calendars as this is one powerpop fans won't want to miss.

My favorite track, the playful "Chanukah Guy", has that trademark Beatles-esque Goldbergs sound that I raved about earlier this year in my review for "Under The Radar". "Chanukah Guy" features Rich Pagano on drums (who is in the Fab Faux) and John Conte on bass. "Christmas Time Again", recorded entirely in Andy's basement, features Andy singing and playing everything himself.

Tracks 3 and 4, "Santa's Calling" and "Have a Very Merry Christmas", are from Andy's old band The Sun Kings (circa 1998). In addition to giving me two more tracks I can't wait to add to my iPOD's holiday playlist, these tracks provide an intriguing glimpse into Andy's evolution as an artist.

I can't wait until the next full-length release from the Goldbergs, but until then these four holiday tunes will be great to 'yule-tide' me over.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4

The Goldbergs on MySpace.

L'Avventura "Your Star Was Shining" FREE thru Nov!

News from L'Avventura:

" just included "Rocket Sue" in its 5 Songs You Gotta Hear list.

KCRW Los Angeles has put "Swandive" in rotation on its Eclectic24 Internet station. BBC Radio has also been playing tracks from the latest album.

The entire "Your star was shining" album will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD here for the entire month of November."

You can find our review here.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Go here to get eight free Glen Phillips tracks:

1. Always Have My Love
2. Blood Pressurize
3. Don't Lose Your Voice
4. Return To Me
5. Thankful
6. Crowing
7. Everything But You
8. The Hole

"This is for those of you wondering what I've been up to since Toad. I'd like to give you eight songs in exchange for your email address, so I can tell you about upcoming tours (solo, with Toad and WPA) as well as new recording projects. Sound good? I think so.

Most important new project: WPA - go to for more information, or for the record.

Thanks for coming by..." - Glen

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Doctor Squid "Doctor Squid"

Doctor Squid - interesting name, interesting sound. What do they sound like, you ask? Well, you might regret asking that question. Here is the answer in the band's own words: "The sound of how wonderful you'd feel if a giant squid successfully performed life-saving surgery on your organs. And then kissed you on the cheek. With his beak."

I have mixed feelings about Doctor Squid - can't quite put my tentacle on it, but something is amiss. The band is unabashedly independent and there are some clever melodies and intriguing harmonies here and there. But at the end of the day the vocals generally sink the ship for me. They are not awful, but kind of all over the place and on the whiny side to borderline annoying. And that is a shame because there are some songs here that are quite infectious - these guys have a good instinct for writing playful sing-a-long stuff. For example, check out "The Things We've Chased", "Running", and "On My Way".

Doctor Squid is part Fountains of Wayne, part Weezer, and a dash of They Might Be Giants. Musically solid and lyrically fresh, but with vocals that might make you wish Doctor Squid was calamari. As they sing on "The Day It Rained Hot Coffee", they don't sink or swim...they just float.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 8

Doctor Squid on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News and free mp3 from DANNY ECHO

This just in from Danny Echo (see review of his latest album here).

"We have some exciting news. First off, we have just finished recording a new "radio version" of our 'Tomorrow Today' (a previous version was included on our last CD). The new, improved version was mixed by the legendary Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Franz Ferdinand, etc), and produced by Jeff Dawson (Daniel Powter, Kelly Rowland, Tal Bachman). You can download the new version for FREE on our website at:

Second item: We have the honour of being selected as one of the Top 20 finalists in the Vancouver-based Peak Performance Project, a seven-year,$5.29 million contest open to all independent musicians in Vancouver (and the rest of British Columbia, Canada). Of these twenty artists, the top three will share $275,000 in cash for career development. First place receives $150,000; second place receives $75,000; and third place receives $50,000. Obviously, the prize money would be a huge boost for our career....Part of the criteria we are being judged on is an online vote. Please vote for DANNY ECHO! Create a wave of support for us:

We have some additional brand new material that we are preparing for a new release, so we'll keep you posted as soon as it is released!" -DANNY ECHO

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Creedence Clearwater Revival "The Singles Collection"

Below is a press release regarding the latest compilation from Creedence Clearwater Revival (a.k.a. CCR). This one is unique in featuring all of the singles from CCR - whether they charted or not. Spread across 2 CDs, this sprawling collection is the perfect way for new fans to get acquainted with CCR. For fans who have all their records already, the collection may still have appeal for you as it features a cool DVD with four music videos not previously available and a slick poster of artwork from the singles. Everything is included in a handsome slip case.

The new collection is a great way to honor and appreciate once again some of the finest work from a legendary American rock and roll band. Most CCR fans already have a comprehensive set of hits with "Chronicles, Vol 1"; if you are one of them, there are only a handful of additional tracks to appreciate on "The Singles Collection". "Revolutions Per Minute (parts 1 and 2)" are conversational pieces and in my opinion not worth going out of your way for...but other tracks like "Porterville", "Call It Pretending", and "Door To Door" are a few gems you'll find here and not on "Chronicles".

"Creedence Clearwater Revival's golden era of hit singles (fall of 1968 through spring of 1972) rivals that of any band in rock 'n' roll history. The Southern-flavored quartet from El Cerrito, Calif., turned out 17 hits in a 44-month stretch, nine of them in the Top 10, five of them in the Top 5.

On November 3, Fantasy Records will release "The Singles Collection", a two-CD, one-DVD box with a slip case, containing all of Creedence Clearwater Revival's U.S. singles -- 30 songs in all. Top 5 smashes like "Bad Moon Rising," "Green River," "Down on the Corner," "Travelin' Band," "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Run Through the Jungle," "Up Around the Bend," "Long As I Can See the Light" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" are joined by seldom-heard singles that never charted ("Porterville" and "Call It Pretending" on Fantasy's Scorpio subsidiary, and later singles "Tearin' Up the Country" and "45 Revolutions Per Minute [Parts 1 & 2]").

The 30 songs, (which are presented in their original single mixes, many of them in mono --- are making their CD debut), housed on two CDs, will be joined by a DVD containing four never-before-available, long-pre-MTV music videos: "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Bootleg," "I Put a Spell on You" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door." Also included in the package are a poster featuring the dozens of international single sleeves, and a 16-page booklet with liner notes by former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres, who lived and wrote in the Bay Area during CCR's golden half-decade.

Fantasy will also manufacture a limited edition collectors' version of "The Singles Collection" featuring actual vinyl 45 rpm singles with reproductions of the original Fantasy label design and housed in their rare picture sleeves-- the ultimate holiday gift for Creedence fans. Forty years later, the music sounds as fresh and vital as ever."

Get it.

The Damnwells NEXT RECORD

From The Damnwells:

"First, thanks to all of you who have downloaded and continue to download our record, One Last Century [reviewed here on BMF]. It’s been a great experience for us to be able to connect directly with our fans, as well as make some new ones. Thank you all for your continued support. Consider One Last Century as our gift to you, though really it’s just payback for all the great support you’ve given us over the years.

As we embark on a new recording project, we need to ask for your help. Bands rely on their fans. You’re the people who come to the shows, buy us drinks, sing along, and make us feel pretty. The Damnwells need to take that one step further. Don’t worry; you can keep your clothes on (for now, anyway). What we need is your help in making our next record. We’ve recently partnered up with Pledge Music, an organization that helps independent bands raise the money necessary to make records. What’s so great about Pledge is that not only do they help independent bands get their records made, they also donate 10% of the money tallied to charity.

Here’s how it works. By pledging your donation here (, you will not only be able to directly assist in making this new record, you will also have access to EXCLUSIVE Damnwells b-sides, video posts, blogs, photos, not to mention helping fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. For this project, we’ve decided to offer 10% to The Global Fund, a humanitarian organization committed to providing much-needed resources for the prevention and treatment of these devastating diseases. Oh, and you also get to download the record once it’s done.

But wait! That’s not all! (cue Vanna White.)

Check out the “Exclusives” section on our home page for, well, exclusive opportunities. Get your name in the credits. Come hang out for a rehearsal. Have us come play your house. Go nuts!

For now, head to the site and enjoy a free download, a little taste of what you’ll have access to when you pledge. The song is called “Death Defier,” and I suppose it embodies some of what we’re talking about here. (Click on the “download” button at the bottom of the page to get it.)

Help us continue to make music and maybe, possibly, really change some lives.
Fans, this one’s for you.

Love, as always,

The Damnwells

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Andrew Petersen "The Universe, And Its Sense Of Humour"

Singer/songwriter Andrew Petersen (Brisbane, Australia) has released his first solo album entitled, "The Universe, And Its Sense Of Humour". Petersen, the frontman for soul-rockers Shutterspeed, has been working on this project for 2 years, which he describes as: "It's got definite country flavours but it's not a country record, it's got pop sensibilities but it's not a pop record. It's music with a melodic heart. It's music with humour and passion".

Petersen's solo record distinguishes itself from Shutterspeed with its organic and acoustic feel, yet he has not abandoned his instinct for writing solid melodic hooks. Sprinkled into the mix you'll hear some well-placed harmonica, mandolin, pedal steel, and banjo, but it would be a misnomer to call this country or folk - it's more pop rock with an alt-country flavor. The production is remarkably good - bright, crisp guitars whether strummed or picked.

Petersen's voice sounds somewhere between Bob Seger and Ed Roland (Collective Soul), just perfect for this type of roots rock. Highlights include the upbeat harmonica-enhanced "A River Near Here", the swaying "It Gets That Way", and "I'll Come Running", a veritable tribute to classic Bob Seger. There is also a great cover of "Soul Deep", an all too often forgotten gem by Wayne Carson Thompson made famous by The Box Tops in 1969. Finally, "Hide" is a stripped down and beautifully performed acoustic ballad that quietly closes the record.

If this were basketball, "The Universe, And Its Sense Of Humour" is nothing but net. A fantastic debut that hits all the right buttons. Recommended for fans of Ryan Adams, Will Hoge, and Counting Crows.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11

Andrew Petersen on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Crosby Loggins "Time To Move"

I missed the 2007 debut record "We All Go Home", so this new release "Time To Move" is my first exposure to Crosby Loggins, son of AOR top gun, Kenny. Let's get the inevitable comparisons out of the way first, shall we?

Does he sound like his father? If he is complaining that his CD is currently going for less than one dollar in the used bins, then yes. But otherwise, if I didn't know better, I would never have guessed he was Kenny's boy.
Did his father help with any of the songs? No - whether that is a good or bad thing is a matter of personal opinion.
What has he done that his father hasn't already? Crosby won MTV's reality show "Rock the Cradle". That has to look good on your resume.
Is he fond of beards? Evidently.
Will any song from "Time To Move" be featured in a testosterone-driven action movie? Most definitely not.

Crosby Loggins is attempting to carve out a niche of his own here, as the title might suggest. He sounds quite comfortable but not all that confident yet. "Time To Move" primarily consists of run of the mill light rock with simplistic lyrics about girls and love - sound familiar? His vocal performance is adequate, but nothing that stands out in the crowd. He probably has it in him to dazzle us more than he does here. The good news is that the melodic fruit did not fall far from the tree - the most memorable tracks include the upbeat numbers "Good Enough", "Better Days", and "Radio Heart". Incidentally, "Radio Heart" was co-written with Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket). Another guest star is John Mayer, who supplies the guitar solo on the title track.

Closest comparisons would be contemporary soft rockers like John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and Train. If this is your thing, you can get the CD used for less than a buck at

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

Crosby Loggins on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Jeff Larson "Heart of the Valley"

The latest from singer/songwriter Jeff Larson is called "Heart of the Valley", and boasts songs, production, and performances from Gerry Beckley (America). Many of the songs are penned by Beckley, with a couple co-written with Larson. The chemistry of this collaboration is noticeable right from the start and only gets better as the disc is played again and again.

The first comparison that sprung to my mind was Timothy B. Schmit (Eagles) - Larson weaves his voice so effortlessly around the mellow musical terrain, making "Heart of the Valley" such a gentle treat for tired ears. Even better, these gorgeous songs are grounded with a strong melodic hook and drenched in 70s-inspired harmonies.

A few seconds into the opening strums of the title track and you realize this is a CD to chill out to - it is a perfect accompaniment to your Sunday morning coffee. "Sudden Soldier" is probably my favorite tune in this set, sounding most like a long lost track from America, and not just because Beckley shares the lead vocal with Larson. Other highlights include the upbeat "Minus Marci", the graceful ballad "Calling", and the slow building drama of "Two People At Once".

Jeff Larson has a winner here: smooth rock for adults with a modest country vibe in the spirit of the Eagles, Poco, and America.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11

Jeff Larson on MySpace. Official site.

Gerry Beckley on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Review: Five For Fighting "Slice"

I've been a casual fan of Five For Fighting (a.k.a. singer/songwriter John Ondrasik) from the get-go, but with each new release I become a little more fanatical about how great these CDs are (and more frustrated with how Five For Fighting seems to receive less attention with each new record). The fifth album, "Slice", contains some of the strongest material Ondrasik has written and performed to date.

"Slice" is exceptionally Billy Joel-inspired and is consistently amazing through the first seven tracks. Ondrasik is the new piano man - and this time around, his brand of piano-driven pop rock is lushly orchestrated and sonically awesome. Better still, the eleven songs are built on his usual thought-provoking lyrics. If he's not telling a poignant story, he's compelling you to ponder the bittersweet complexities of life of human relations.

There are too many ace tracks to highlight them all - suffice it to say that nearly every track is melodic and beautiful, with subtle hints of genius that should make the hairs on your neck stand up. "Chances" (the current single) and "Story of Your Life" (should be a single) are upbeat, catchy, and a friend to radio. "Tuesday" and "This Dance" are a couple of the standout ballads. "Note to the Unknown Soldier" is one of the greatest tributes I've ever heard. Finally, lead-off and title track, "Slice", can be taken as a sequel to Don McLean's "American Pie", with Five For Fighting proving that today is the day music has been reborn. Get this one, gang - it is a terrific record, no matter how you slice it.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9

Five For Fighting on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rare CD: Greg Kihn "Rockihnroll"

"Rare official CD released on "Son of Beserkley" label! Winning bid pays your choice of media mail or priority mail shipping. Good luck on owning this great piece of 80s rock music!"

Sold for $100 on ebay (10 bids)

Rare CD: Pharaoh "On Your Knees"

"This is a 4 song Monster Rare indie from 1991, if you're a serious collector you have probably heard of this one before."

Sold for $474 on ebay (16 bids).

Rare CD: Robin Gibb "Secret Agent"

"This is the Robin Gibb "Secret Agent" CD. This is EXTREMELY RARE and Hard to find. This was released on Mirage Records, made by Polygram. This has been out of print for some time and very sought after. Both the disc and the artwork are in MINT Condition. Feel free to ask any questions and thanks for looking."

Sold for $530 on ebay (10 bids).

Review: Kevin McAdams "It's My Time to Lose My Mind"

Kevin McAdams (Elefant, Watchmakers) steps out from behind the drum kit to release his first solo effort "It's My Time to Lose My Mind". His CD contains 11 tracks, most of which fit comfortably in the pop rock genre, with a handful that contain some modest experimental elements (Beck comes to mind) to keep things interesting.

The instantly catchy first track, "Start Over Again", which recalls a bit of E.L.O., will grab you at the get go. "Start Over Again" has plenty of harmonies draping its sunny hook - when this song ends, you'll likely want to start it over again. While nothing else on the CD tops this wonderful pop confection, some of the other tunes come very close, such as "A Different Kind of Love Song", "The Hustler", and "My Time". The songs are generally upbeat and peppy, but the lyrics and vocal delivery are fairly melancholy. Like McAdams sings, "I'd like to write a happy song, but lately everything I've touched just falls apart". Well, not everything, Kevin..."It's My Time to Lose My Mind" holds itself together quite well.

McAdams' voice has that somewhat faint, whispery quality to it that puts him somewhere between The Brigadier and Matt Nathanson. It won't knock your socks off, but it services his brand of song well. As you would expect from an accomplished drummer, the rhythm section in all of these tracks is outstanding, many of them possessing an unshakable dance groove. All in all, a solid release that should get enough favorable reviews to keep McAdams stepping away from the drums and up to the mic more often.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 5, 6, 10

Kevin McAdams on MySpace. Get it.

New video from Vinyl Candy

Go here to read our review of the great new power pop CD from Vinyl Candy.

They've just released their first video on-line. Check it out:

Purchase "Land" on CD or MP3!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: Dangtrippers "Days Between Stations"

Here is a powerpop gem from the vault: The Dangtrippers debut LP, "Days Between Stations", from out of Iowa circa 1988. I recently dusted this one off to give it a spin and was surprised at how well these songs have stood the test of time. This one features their original lead singer, Devin Hill, who went on to release a number of solo albums in the 90s. Sadly, he and The Dangtrippers remain undeservedly below the radar.

The Dangtrippers deliver curt jangle-pop, with most songs rarely exceeding the three minute mark. Sharp and to the point, Devin Hill and company cut right to the chase to express the lyrical idea with a nice melody...and then onto the next one. The Dangtrippers kind of remind me of The Posies and 80s-era R.E.M., offering plenty of warm, upbeat tunes with plenty of harmonies. Good stuff worth hunting down. Highlights include "When Time Runs Out", "Masquerade", and "Reasons Why".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11

Dangtrippers on MySpace. Devin Hill on MySpace.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: Foreigner "Can't Slow Down"

I didn't think we'd ever have the pleasure of reviewing a new record from Foreigner, the classic rock and AOR band that first formed back in late 70s. I imagine some fans are confused as to how the current line up can justify calling themselves Foreigner, seeing that the only conserved founding member is Mick Jones. But we're not here to debate that, we are here to tell you if the record is worthwhile.

The first thing that struck me about "Can't Slow Down" is how well this group of guys have captured the trademark Foreigner sound. Kelly Hansen (Hurricane) became the new lead vocalist since Lou Gramm's second departure in 2003. Much like Arnel Pineda substituting for Steve Perry in Journey, Hansen sounds remarkably close to Gramm, yet still retains enough of his own style that a discerning ear can tell the difference. Hansen does an excellent job on this record.

But the second reason why this record is such a pleasant surprise pertains to the simple fact that Mick Jones brought a batch of very solid AOR songs to the studio table. Always wise to balance rock with melody, Jones and the boys aim to please with this set of punchy and catchy tunes. While I found the ballads to be largely uninteresting ("As Long As I Live" being an exception), the record makes up for this with plenty of midtempo and upbeat numbers.

Does the record sound dated? Yes and no. They kept the keyboards down to a minimum, so that element of their 80s heyday is unnoticeable. But Foreigner is bringing saxy back with this record! Numerous songs feature some in your face sax, which is something I've not heard much of since the 80s.

Highlights include "In Pieces", "Living In A Dream", "Lonely", and the title track. Another cool one is the closer, "Fool For You Anyway", which is a horn-laced and soulful retro rocker in the finest Joe Cocker tradition (long time fans will recognize this song from Foreigner's debut CD many years ago). I had a lot of fun with this record - like I said, it was a pleasant surprise. Lyrically and musically, "Can't Slow Down" largely sticks to the classic AOR formula, but there is a charm and energy here that makes the record worthwhile. Younger acts can learn a lot from these seasoned rockers who once again demonstrate that memorable songs start with good hooks.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Foreigner on MySpace. Official site

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review: ghostbird "ghostbird" [EP]

Trent Hancock & Mike Cooper are the forces behind ghostbird, who released their self-titled EP June 30. Their mission with ghostbird, which literally means owl, is to "blend musical styling with social substance". Fitting to the nomenclature, the EP is wise, stately, a bit mysterious, and best played at night. Their music certainly does not conjure up your stereotypical view of their homebase, San Diego, CA.

ghostbird likens their sound to Postal Service, Radiohead, and Spoon. These comparisons are fair as indie artists tend to be genre benders and blenders. The music generally feels inorganic and takes a couple listens for the hooks to show their teeth. I know it is done purposefully, but the percussion is performed as if the drummer is playing to a completely different song.

Faithful readers know that I am not a fan of electronica, a genre that ghostbird flirts with, but actually uses in small, tolerable doses. The majority of the tracks didn't give me much of a reason to return to them, but the brooding power of "Night Kills Day" and peppy bounce of "Caroline" are will earn a place on the ol' iPOD. These two tracks are much closer to the straight-forward pop rock readers trust me to recommend.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4

ghostbird on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for the single "Toy Soldier":

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: First In Space "Geronimo"

I just got hold of the new sophomore release from Ohio-based band, First In Space. There is nothing too fancy about the CD packaging and artwork...just a modest black and white photo of three normal looking guys on the front, and an understated black and white photo of their gear on the back. The music by First In Space is exactly like their presentation: no nonsense, no frills, let's just get the job done and get it done right.

Their sophomore release, "Geronimo", comes complete with straight-up harmony-laden guitar rock adorning stroytelling lyrics. Vocal duties are divided equally between founding members Johnny Stanec and Dolus McCormick (see below), who incidentally harmonize very well and very often. Despite who is taking the lead, the vocal delivery is heartfelt and warm, and often contains some nice moments where the notes are sustained, with "It's All Gone To Hell" being the best example.

The CD is front-loaded with the best tracks being "Goddamn Shame", "It's All Gone To Hell", and "They Won't Catch Me Now". The latter half of the record is not bad by any means, but collectively it lacks the instant likability of the first half. Still, this is a very consistent CD that you can enjoy from start to finish.

"Geronimo" would have fit perfectly with the rise of melodic rock acts during the mid-90s that made us begin scratching at heads while listening to lingering grunge, wondering, "What the hell were we thinking?". Like the bands Gin Blossoms, Del Amitri, and Better Than Ezra, First In Space is the kind of band that could reinstate pop rock and make it cool again. First In Space should be in orbit around your head.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8

First In Space on MySpace. Official site.

You can find First In Space CDs at Not Lame Records, Kool Kat Musik, and CDbaby, or it can be downloaded at iTunes,, Last.FM, Rhapsody, Napster, etc.

Catch them on tour:
NY, NY Oct. 9th at Kenny's Castaways
Pittsburgh, PA Oct. 22nd at Club Cafe
Youngstown, OH Oct. 24th at Cedars Lounge
Akron, OH Nov. 27th at Musica
Akron, OH Dec. 4th at Annabelle's

Here is a track listing and which member is doing the lead vocal:
1. Goddamn Shame- Dolus McCormick
2. It's All Gone To Hell- Johnny Stanec
3. Take It Away- Dolus McCormick
4. They Won't Catch Me Now- Johnny Stanec
5. In My Dreams- Johnny Stanec
6. Stuck Around You- Dolus McCormick
7. When I Was Young (I Was Cruel)- Johnny Stanec
8. Down On Me- Dolus McCormick
9. Taking Over- Dolus McCormick
10. End of the Night- Johnny Stanec

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Paramore "Brand New Eyes"

All eyes are on Paramore...their sophomore release, 2007's "Riot!", was a huge breakthrough for this rock band. Propelled by a string of radio-friendly hits the record went platinum, and their mix of emo and alternative rock was pleasing the ears of many teens (and quite a few adults, too). So expectations are running high - was "Riot!" a fluke or does Paramore really have what it takes to have a sustained career in this business?

I wasn't too thrilled about the first two tracks, which include the current single, "Ignorance", which I think is mediocre at best. But the CD's midsection is very melodic and saves "Brand New Eyes" from going straight into my CD trading pile. "Playing God" has a great Jimmy Eat World vibe, while "Brick By Boring Brick" sounds like it could have been included on "Riot!". "Turn It Off" is an excellent midtempo pop rocker while "The Only Exception" gives vocalist Haley Williams a chance to showcase her righteous chops with a decent power ballad. But she saves the best for last and delivers a chill-inducing performance on the album's closer, "All I Wanted".

I have mixed feelings about the production by Rob Cavallo, and often wonder if anyone with major label support does NOT have Chris Lord-Alge doing the mixing. It seems Cavallo was out to make Paramore sound like Shinedown, and while the volcano of sound is impressive, all too often it fails to let the CD breathe. Hayley Williams has a fantastic voice and I would have loved to hear it above the crashing guitars more often.

While a respectable successor with some terrific moments, "Brand New Eyes" doesn't quite rise above "Riot!", but I have a feeling we will be hearing plenty more from Paramore.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11

Paramore on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: The Dimes "The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry"

Back in July, we featured The Dimes' "New England" EP here on BMF (review here). The EP was unique in giving us a history lesson about colonial New England - and a history lesson never sounded so good. These guys from Portland, Oregon will be releasing the full-length follow-up record December 1, entitled "The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry".

"The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry" continues to provide us intriguing historical insights while entertaining our ears with their soothing pastoral sounds. Frontman Johnny Clay sings these tunes as if they were lullabies, and the band plays music to match. "The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry" is filled to the rim with flavorful tunes that are simply gorgeous. Collectively, the songs could be considered to be a historical soundtrack for the city of Boston - most involve people or events associated with Boston...or at least Massachusetts. "Damrell's Fire" is centered on The Great Boston Fire of 1872, "The Liberator" is about William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper of the same name, "Susan Be" is reference to Susan B. get the idea. Incidentally, Boston is the hometown of bandmate Pierre Kaiser.

The Dimes cleverly evoke colonial imagery with their distinct sound, which is always pure and pristine. There is a baroque assortment of instruments, but you'll also detect some harmonies reminiscent of 60s pop. Noted engineer Jeff Stuart Saltzman (Death Cab For Cutie, Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney) is at the helm once again, putting his touch on these beautiful and well-crafted songs. Highlights include "The Liberator", "Celia's Garden", "Webster Thayer", and "Save Me, Clara", which is my personal favorite. Recommended if you like The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, or Great Lake Swimmers. And that is my two cents worth regarding The Dimes.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11

The Dimes on MySpace. Official site.

You can preview The Dimes for free right now with these mp3s (free and legal):
“Damrell’s Fire”
“Walden and the Willow Tree”

Check out a live performance video of "Susan Be":

Review: Pearl Jam "Backspacer"

While I consider their first three records among the best recordings I own, shortly after 1996's "No Code" I no longer got too excited about a new release from Pearl Jam. They too often seemed to go out of their way to avoid good hooks in their music and cluttered their records with baffling filler. I caught wind of the "controversy" surrounding their latest (ninth) release, "Backspacer", with enough critics and fans slamming the band for sounding too melodic (oh the horror!) that I had to check it out for myself.

For me, "Backspacer" is the record I've always wanted Pearl Jam to make. It is unabashed garage rock that by in large retains the trademark Pearl Jam sound (hard to avoid with Vedder's distinct vocals) yet finally dares to contain songs that you will remember and want to sing. It is a quick fix - just 37 minutes or so - but it comes at you like a bunch of fast jabs, with only a few quiet moments. "Backspacer" makes both the classic and punk rock influences of Pearl Jam more evident than ever. Vedder puts in plenty of umph as usual, but comes across as more sincere this time - you can almost feel him having a good time for once! The band also incorporates some piano, acoustic guitars, and other dynamics that make "Backspacer" an added pleasure to hear over and over again.

Refusing to slow down until the atypically gentle acoustic ballad, "Just Breathe", the band rocks out with gusto on cuts like "Gonna See My Friend" and the catchy single, "The Fixer". Other highlights include the groovy "Force of Nature" and supercharged energy of "Supersonic".

"Backspacer" is a thrill. Even if you've grown disenchanted with Pearl Jam, pick this one up and see if you agree that it is their best since "Vitalogy".


Pearl Jam - official site.