Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Tiff Jimber “Burning At Both Ends”

Fans of piano rock rejoice – a new queen of the ivories is emerging to tickle your fancy. Tiff Jimber has conjured up a style infusing influences such as Billy Joel, John Mayer, Nina Simone, and Adele. Her 2009 record, “Burning At Both Ends” contains ten enchanting tracks that will make you want to dance fast…or slow.

“Ol’ Joanna” captures the essence of Tiff Jimber at her best – a tantalizing piano-driven verse sandwiching a thumping, tremendously catchy chorus. It is likely the song Sara Bareilles wishes she could have written. “City Life” is similar in style with a lyric many will relate to, made memorable by an irresistible sing-a-long chorus. Things cool off for a bit, but she comes back strong with another infectious number called “Love That You Need”. “Garage” is a subdued ‘don’t give up’ anthem, probably a reference to the fact that she had to live in a garage to pursue her musical ambitions. The record ends with the title track – another upbeat inspirational piece encouraging you to go that extra mile for your dreams. In short, half the record is excellent and the other half is good. Tiff Jimber could knock it out of the park if she brings each and every song up the bar she’s set with the highlights mentioned above. Her voice is warm and clear, with a girl next door quality, but her music would benefit from more elaborate harmonies and more impressive vocal stunts.

“Burning At Both Ends” didn’t quite burn up the charts, but these songs display a serious artist in the making and were making me optimistic to hear her future material. Her new single is a cover version of Taio Cruz's dance hit "Dynamite" - available now on iTUNES. Sorry to say it doesn’t do much for me.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 6, 7, 10

Tiff Jimber on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Ol’ Joanna”

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: The Early Strike “Ten Outta Ten”

The Early Strike is a four piece pop punk band hailing from Southern California – “Ten Outta Ten” is their sophomore record. The distinguishing feature separating The Early Strike from the countless other pop punk bands out there is that they have both a male and female singer (Ryan Shaw and Brit Joyce), often trading lines in the same song.

The band is young and as one would expect, their music is designed for the young. The performances are solid and consistent with the genre, and the 11 tunes are fast paced the whole way (clocking in just over 30 minutes). Producer David J. Holman (No Doubt, Bush) did a terrific job capturing the energy of the band. But to my ears, it is hard to tell one song from the next and, aside from the male-female duo vocals, the band really doesn’t do much musically or lyrically to stand out from the herd.

The Early Strike is probably going to strike out with most music fans, but they should resonate for newbies who haven’t heard or grown tired of the pop punk formula yet. Check them out if you like All Time Low, Something Corporate, or New Found Glory. If you’re interested, I’d like to point your attention to “Real Man Show” (video below) and “Reality Check”. “Ten Outta Ten” will be officially released February 15, 2011, but is available now on iTUNES.

The Early Strike on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a video for “Real Man Show”:

The Early Strike - Real Man Show

The Early Strike | Myspace Music Videos

Friday, December 24, 2010

Powerpopaholic: The Top Ten Power Pop albums for 2010

Check out Powerpopaholic's picks for best powerpop records of 2010!

Powerpopaholic: The Top Ten Power Pop albums for 2010
: "Finally. My year end top ten and more... The video gives you a quick 30 second clip from each album and then we see to my remaining favorites..."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BMF Best of 2010

Here is a list of artists that I feel REALLY stood out of the crowd this year. Each one has been reviewed here on BMF, so be sure to click their link on the right panel to read more. See you in 2011!

Ingram Hill "Look Your Best"

Honorable mention:
Joshua Ketchmark "List Of Regrets"
Crash Kings “Crash Kings”
Megan McCormick “Honest Words”
Quakers On Probation “Every Living Thing”
Archie Powell and the Exports “Skip Work”
Son Of A Bad Man (Shawn Fisher) [EP]

Kopek “White Collar Lies”

Melee “The Masquerade”

Honorable mention:
Dot Dot Dot “II” [EP]

Brian Howe “Circus Bar”
Unruly Child “Worlds Collide”

Honorable mention:
Treat “Coup de Grace”
Nelson “Lightning Strikes Twice”
Harry Hess/First Signal “First Signal”
Blanc Faces "Falling from The Moon"
Bucket and Co. “Guitars, Beers, and Tears”

Wig Wam "Non Stop Rock & Roll"

Timmy Sean “Songs From and Inspired By Noisewater"
The Posies “Blood/Candy”

Honorable mention:
IKE “Tie The Knot With All That You Got”
Taylor Locke and The Roughs "Grain and Grape"
Radio Days "C'est La Vie"
The Riffbackers “The Curtain Shop And Alterations”
Justin Kline "Triangle" [EP]

Neil Nathan "The Distance Calls"

Honorable mention:
Ted Garber “American Rail”
Sara Radle "Four"
Matt White “It's The Good Crazy”
White Buffalo “Prepare For Black and Blue” [EP]

The Corner Laughers "Ultraviolet Garden"

Rockin’ The Mistletoe (SideBMusic)

My Chemical Romance “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys”
Stone Temple Pilots "Stone Temple Pilots"
Dashboard Confessional "Alter The Ending"
Sara Bareilles “Kaleidoscope Heart”
Gin Blossoms “No Chocolate Cake”
Weezer “Hurley”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Calico Brothers “Road of Bones” [EP]

New Zealand's Calico Brothers are back with a new five song EP entitled “Road of Bones”, following their notable country tinged pop rock release, “Tell It To The Sun” (review here). The tunes gracing the new EP carry on the band’s tradition and love of harmonious acoustic based pop.

The subdued “Hold On Love” begins the EP – a haunting and beautiful fingerpicked tune that allows the pristine vocals to shine. The harmonies from the brothers Calico are most inviting. “Sick In Love” is more upbeat, and the boys add in a dingy electric guitar and hand claps to add a new dynamic to the atmosphere – sounds very Traveling Wilburys. “Lonely Christmas (Hallelujah)” is a timely piece that will provide a refreshing change of pace in anyone’s winter playlist. But with a well balanced mix of acoustic and electric guitar, “Rock Rose” may just be my favorite on the EP.

Don’t miss the Calico Brothers if you like The Jayhawks, The Thorns, and Grapes of Wrath.

Calico Brothers on MySpace.

Listen to "Rock Rose":

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

VAN HALEN "Balance" (1995)

"Balance" reflected a balanced composition between Van Halen's darker edge and lighter side. This album depicted a lot of expressive statements in the lyrics and revived some old riffs and arrangements - most songs are embalmed with a heavy metal touch with a couple of ballads and interludes. Now onto evaluate the quality of the songs: I found that the latter half of the album is slightly inferior, downgrading the whole album from the perfect rating, but overall Van Halen did an amazing job, especially looking back at 1995, which was a tough year for the glam and hard rock scene.

"The Seventh Seal" and "Don't Tell Me" are examples of Van Halen playing in the darker territory. "Can't Stop Lovin' You" and "Not Enough" are radio hits that I found to be lovable and fresh to this date. "Amsterdam", which pictures the sex and drugs of the city, has groovy guitar and an infectious chorus. "Big Money" is a jazzy jam with a frantic rock and roll rhythm. The intro to "Aftershock" will remind you of Metallica, and this song later evolves into a superb hard rock track. The remaining songs are decent but with several unimportant instrumental fillers, "Balance" should only enjoy a maximum of 4 stars from me.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rare Trax - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy "Mr. Heatmiser"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy from their 2004 album, "Everything You Want For Christmas". The popular modern swing band does a great interpretation of "Mr. Heatmiser" from the children's classic, "The Year Without A Santa Claus".

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: TAG “Forward”

TAG is the new musical vehicle by Jersey rocker John Taglieri, who is no stranger to the stage. With years of continuous touring and seven solo albums under his belt (his latest EP was reviewed here), music has been his life. Taglieri has won numerous pop rock awards and shared the stage with heavy hitter acts such as Edwin McCain, The Gin Blossoms, Gavin DeGraw, and Sister Hazel. His new band is rounded out by longtime co-writer and guitarist Brad Whitley, Tom Darby (keys, harp, guitar), Dave Willard (bass) and Rob “Action” Jackson (drums).

For those of you familiar with Taglieri’s music, TAG is undoubtedly going to please you. For those of you who aren’t yet acquainted, Taglieri is a Springsteen-Bon Jovi hybrid - a good time rock and roller who is one part bar band and another part arena rocker. TAG provides a new forum to do the same thing he’s been doing for years – consistently belting out memorable and fun pop rockers. The band has an excellent chemistry, providing moments for each individual to shine while teaming up for effective ear pleasing harmonies.

“After Farewell” could not be a better choice to start off the record, with its crunchy verses leading up to a fiery chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. “After Farewell” is a fine example of the band’s full potential. “Breathe” is a slow burning rocker with a touch of blues and another highly melodic chorus that will leave you breathless. TAG slows things down a bit with power ballad “Fly”, a beautiful acoustic-driven slice of AOR with electric guitars crashing down at all the right spots. The next few tracks go into classic bar band territory – vintage Taglieri, but not as melodic as the other songs. Despite its curious title, the mid-tempo “The Lives of Splattered Flies” is an effective mix of alternative rock and AOR. “With You I Want To Be” is another ace power ballad, its haunting tone creating a welcome dynamic at this point in the record. These tunes help build a strong finish for “Forward”, but the unremarkable cover of “Drive” (by Incubus) ends the record on a disappointing note.

TAG kicked off a midwest tour on November 26, which will be followed by a cross-country US tour in January. “Forward” is available now.

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

TAG on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a video:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays from Green Light Go artists - free mp3s

A HUGE list of free mp3s from GREEN LIGHT GO artists, many of whom we've reviewed on BMF. Download, enjoy, and spread the word!

Lawrence & Leigh from Hills and Masts
Release Date: March 7, 2011
“Chelsea Nights”
Genre: Folk/Experimental/Indie Rock
For fans of: Joanna Newsom, Dirty Projectors, Fleet Foxes

The Handsome Family from Honey Money
“Just Like Tom Thumb Blues" (Bob Dylan Cover)
"Drinking Beer on the Roof" (bonus track)
Genre: Folk/Americana
For fans of: You should already be their fan!

Brian Huber from Imagination of Ourselves
Release Date: December 14, 2010
Genre: Power pop
Hometown: DC
For fans of: They Might Be Giants, Fountains of Wayne, Ben Folds

Gwyneth & Monko, From Gwyneth & Monko
Release Date: February 15, 2011
“Get in the Sun”
Genre: Americana/Roots Music/Alternative
For fans of: Emmy Lou Harris, Patty Griffin, Jenny Lewis

David Gergen, From The Nearer It Was... The Farther It Became
Release Date: January 18, 2011
“Love Blues”
Genre: Alternative/Electroacoustic/Indie/Americana
For fans of: Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen

John Shipe, From Villain
Release Date: February 01, 2011
“Love Belongs to Everyone”
Genre: Acoustic/Indie/Rock
For fans of: Josh Ritter, Jonathan Rice and Elvis Costello

Enjoy Your Pumas, From Commonality
Release Date: February 01, 2011
“Wright of the Circles”
Genre: Alternative/Indie/Rock
For fans of: Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bloc Party

Seafarer, From Hiding Places
Release Date: January 18, 2011
“Noise Floor”
“The Archipelago”
Genre: Indie/Folk/Experimental
Hometown: Chicago
For fans of: Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Pavement

David Gergen, From The Nearer It Was... The Farther It Became
Release Date: January 18, 2011
“The Streets I’m Walkin’”
Genre: Americana
Hometown: Los Angeles
For fans of: Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen

Bridges & Powerlines, From Eve
Release Date: January 25, 2011
“Blue Sky”
Genre: Power pop
Hometown: Brooklyn
For fans of: Wolf Parade, Frightened Rabbit, Guided By Voices

The Sleep-Ins, From Songs About Girls & Outer Space
Release Date: October 19, 2010
“Silver State”
Genre: indie rock
Hometown: Asheville, NC
For fans of: Pavement, Polvo, Pixies

Neil Nathan, From The Distance Calls Release Date: August 24, 2010
“California Run”
Genre: Powerpop
Hometown: New York
For fans of: Matthew Sweet, Cat Stevens, The Go, Marc Bolan

Neutral Uke Hotel
“King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1” (Neutral Milk Hotel Cover)
Genre: Indie rock, Cover song
Hometown: Montclair, NJ/Boston
For fans of: Neutral Milk Hotel

Leopold and His Fiction, From the upcoming album TBA
“Golden Friends”
Hometown: San Francisco
Genre: Garage folk
For fans of: The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Heartless Bastards

News: New single and record from Lannie Flowers

Following the success of Lannie Flowers’s first album, "Same Old Story", Power Pop Station’s 2008 Power Pop Album of the Year, Lannie is mining for even more pop gems in 2010 with his sophomore release, "Circles". "Same Old Story" was met with overwhelming praise from pop critics, “Can't say enough about this one except Lannie's a true innovative pop Genius.” -Kool Kat Musik

The first single is called "Not In Love" and it is a winner - delightfully bright powerpop. Check it out:

Lannie Flowers on MySpace. Official site.

Neil Nathan's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" Charity Video

Neil Nathan's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" Charity Video was written and directed by Zev David Deans (The Yes Men Survivaball video).

In it, he plays a little boy in feetsy pajamas that opens his presents early and gets busted and whisked away by a very scary David Lynch Santa Claus and his Evil Elves. He's using it to raise funds for the The Fred Gabler Helping Hand Camp Fund, which sends underprivileged youth to summer camp and was started in the name of his dear and lifelong friend who passed in the WTC on 9/11. This is the link to make a donation.

And click here to download the song for free.

Review: Richard Marx “Stories To Tell”

80s balladeer Richard Marx is back with a new CD of sorts. On “Stories To Tell”, Marx doesn’t really present us with any new material, but rather acoustical reinterpretations of his earlier works. Some of the tracks are stripped down and/or tweaked versions of well known hits like “Endless Summer Nights”, “Should’ve Known Better”, and “Hazard”. Others are tunes Marx wrote that were made famous by other artists that range from boy bands like N’SYNC to country superstars like Keith Urban and Travis Tritt to modern rockers like Lifehouse and Daughtry. Since Marx dropped out of the spotlight, many people don’t realize he’s still been a very active and successful songwriter for other artists.

Marx still sounds great (a standout vocal is delivered on “One Thing Left”) and the unadorned acoustic guitar removes the 80s sound from his classics, leaving us with a fresh and more timeless sound. In short, his material sounds less dated. The production is immaculate with glistening piano, crisp fingerpicking, and radiant strumming on those acoustic guitars. My favorites on “Stories To Tell” include “Over My Head”, “Angelia”, “Loved”, and “Should’ve Known Better”, but the other tracks produce mixed feelings. His ill-fated venture into R&B territory with “Keep Coming Back” still sounds pretty drab when unplugged. And some of the songs included here were acoustic and slow to begin with, such as “Now and Forever” or “Right Here Waiting”, so there isn’t anything really new or surprising about them.

The seven bonus tracks that follow the eleven unplugged songs are those that were written by Marx and performed by others – a unique opportunity for fans to finally hear their beloved singer perform his own tunes. These songs are not unplugged and typically feature a powerful backing band – the arrangement is so close to the original that it often sounds like Richard Marx covering another artist. Nonetheless, these tracks are interesting to hear. While no Josh Groban, Marx does turn in a rather stunning vocal on “To Where You Are”. And hearing him do “Had Enough” and “On The Inside” builds confidence that Marx could be a viable modern rocker if he wanted to.

Devoted fans of Richard Marx are clearly going to appreciate this CD, but the more casual fan will probably wish he’d present something new. As for me, I think the first eleven tracks will get plenty of spins on those lazy Sunday mornings and I will hold out hope that he’ll comeback with an infectious modern rock sound next time.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 13

Richard Marx on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Over My Head”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: Betty Moon “Rollin’ Revolution”

Toronto singer-guitarist Betty Moon is “driven to making powerful age-defying rock”. She has been on the scene since the late 80s, starting in a band called Bambi, and then releasing her self-titled major label debut on A&M Records in 1991. She has won numerous awards and has a loyal following of headbangers up north.

A respected veteran in the classic hard rock scene, Betty Moon has been able to attract some big names to contribute to her fifth recording opus, “Rollin’ Revolution”. Guests include guitarist Yogi Lonich (Chris Cornell, Wallflowers, Buckcherry), Kenny Aronoff (Smashing Pumpkins), Scott Warren (Heaven and Hell, Type-O Negative), and many more. The one thing that jumps out loud and clear on her latest is that Betty Moon is in her element, and genuinely loving each second of what she does.

Betty Moon is heavily influenced by 70s classic rock, but you’ll also hear some modern rock influences percolating to the surface on “Rollin’ Revolution”. Her voice is strong, with a darkened tone not too unlike Ann Wilson from Heart at times. She writes honest lyrics and attempts to match them up appropriately with the musical mood. While I love the attitude and buy into her sincerity, the main dilemma I face with “Rollin’ Revolution” is that the songs are not exceptionally memorable. However, first single, “My Stupid Dream” is terrific – I wish there were more tracks like this one. “My Stupid Dream” injects plenty of melody without compromising her rock edge. There is also a superb cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love” that would make Grace Slick proud. The album’s beginning and end are fairly strong, but the middle is kind of like going through quicksand – full of murky alternative rock tracks that are either too gloomy or irritatingly monotonous. “Elegy” is an unexpected jazzy track that showcases another side of her talents, but on this record it sticks out like a sore thumb and will probably leave many rockers scratching their heads and going for the fast forward button.

“Rollin’ Revolution” is available online now and will be available in stores January 28th, 2011. She will also hold the album release party that day at the famed Whisky A-Go-Go in Hollywood. Recommended if you like 70s-era Heart, Led Zeppelin, or Puddle of Mudd.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 10

Betty Moon on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “My Stupid Dream”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Paul Gibbons "Out With The Introspect"

Paul Gibbons wears his Beatles influences on his sleeve. Named after a Beatle and born in England, he is now a pop rock artist based in Vancouver, Canada. Paul's last band, the Ryecatchers - featuring Paul on lead vocals - recorded the song "You Lift Me Up" with Randy Bachman. "Out With The Introspect" is his latest solo record – and solo in every sense of the word: self-produced, written, and engineered by Gibbons.

In addition to obvious Beatles and Brit-pop influences, the ten songs on "Out With The Introspect" buzz with electrifying sounds from the 80s. Growing up in the 80s, it is probably inevitable that those musical influences have incorporated themselves into his evolving sound. It all works out very well to my ears. “Turn Me On” (video below) is a superb upbeat track to kick things off, with 80s synths helping to drive a pulsating beat that feels like modern rockers The Killers. “Turn Me On” is bursting with energy and should not be vacant from radio today. More of those lovable 80s sounds along with a super catchy chorus makes “Jenny Jenny” another winning song. “I Need” maintains the momentum with some sizzling guitar work and a propelling rhythm. “Love Of My Life” slows things down a bit, but after the guitars crash down on the piano, you’ll barely notice your listening to a syrupy ballad. “No One” is another epic ballad - completely engaging with its memorable hook, gritty guitar lead, and string synths. The second half of the record is also pretty good, but does not top the superior first half.

"Out With The Introspect" is an impressive work and a milestone achievement for Paul Gibbons as a solo artist.

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

Paul Gibbons on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Turn Me On”

Turn Me On

Paul Gibbons | Myspace Music Videos

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: John Shipe “Villain”

After numerous stints in various bands, and ten albums under his belt, John Shipe proclaims to be committed to singer/songwriter mode for now. Consequently, his latest, “Villain”, is an easy going acoustic affair full of songs you’re likely to hear on a Thursday night at the coffeehouse around the block. And, according to Shipe, “Villain” is not a dark record, “Even though some of the characters in these stories don’t always win, there is a fun aspect to telling and a good feeling.”

“Villain” is a coherent effort and sounds ideal for a lazy Sunday morning. Produced by Ehren Ebbage (The Dimes), the record sounds terrific, with crystal clear acoustics, some well placed strings, gentle harmonies, and warm lead vocals. Shipe writes some whimsical lyrics that are often amusing. The songs are pleasant enough, but sadly not all that memorable. Shipe is more of an indie folk writer and is not likely to appeal to music fans who like sing-a-long melodies and big hooks. “Lion” and “Love Belongs To Everyone” are two tracks I’d recommend the most.

There is a lot to like about John Shipe’s “Villain”, but I’m not finding a whole lot to love. Give it a shot if you dig Ryan Adams, Damien Rice, or Josh Ritter.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3

John Shipe on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Lion”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

SLAUGHTER “The Wild Life” (1992)

"The Wild Life" saw daylight in 1992, when most 80s bands began to suffer as the grunge wave started sweeping in. Slaughter managed to produce several hit singles and hit gold status, but after this album everything went sour commercially for them. Ironically, the next release, “Fear No Evil”, in my opinion, is their peak of creativity. This album showed a rich variety of musical perspectives, from those mandatory emotional-fueled ballads, to psychedelic hard rock, to groovy melodic rock, to early 80s heavy metal.

"Reach For The Sky" and "Out For Love" are good openers, but the title track steals the show. That first single has a blasting chorus and Blas Elias pumped up the groove nicely. "Dance For Me Baby", with its naughty Van Halen-ized beat, and "Old Man" with its Aerosmith flair, are great examples of Slaughter taking on some past references. "Days Gone By", "Real Love", and "Streets of Broken Hearts" are all sensational ballads - hard to top them all and they remain timeless classics to this day. I always found the songs to be very inspiring and adorable.

At the verge of glam's decadence, Slaughter still delivered a classy effort. This is their second best album of all time after "Fear No Evil", and together with the debut, all three are essential must buys for glam fans.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Re-live "The Wild Life":

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rare Trax: 1927 "Tell Me A Story"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is "Tell Me A Story" by the underrated Aussie group called 1927. The song is from their 1990 album, "The Other Side". Fans of 80s pop rock from the likes of INXS, Glass Tiger, or Mr. need to check this band out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: Research Material “Dictated By Design” [EP]

Research Material is yet another pop rocktronica band to cross my ears lately, so I am beginning to think this is a new trend. Sounding like Andy Lehman singing for Dot Dot Dot, L.A.-based Research Material has a hip vibe and commercially viable style. The 4 songs on their new debut EP, “Dictated By Design” are pop rock and dance hybrids that appeal to me because they are driven by a strong sense of melody – big hooks that you don’t mind replaying in your head day after day.

Research Material was named the KLOS (95.5 FM) "pick of the week" and you can already hear their music on MTV, VH1, TLC, Style, E!, and Cartoon Network among others. “Dictated By Design” was produced by Mike Daly (Plain White T's, Sherwood) and mixed by Travis Huff (Fallout Boy, All Time Low). The EP is off to a very accessible start with the radio friendly, “All Year Round”. The follow up track, “The Sun”, radiates with a modern style and possesses a hook that will burn its way into your brain. The final two cuts, “I’ll Be True To You” and “Secrets”, are also worth a listen, but didn’t grab me as immediately as the first two songs.

Both sonically and vocally, Research Material reminds me a lot of Owl City. Fans of 80s music will love the synth work in every track. A lot of commercial potential here, and hopefully the band will inject even more of a rock edge to appease fans on that end of the continuum. Research Material has a full length record and nationwide tour planned for 2011. We’re looking forward to hearing more from these guys!

Research Material on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a video:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: Slumberjet “Slumberjet”

Recorded from 2003-2008 in various studios around Dublin, the self-titled CD by Slumberjet is a gentle powerpop gem. With vocals and chord structures very reminiscent of Jason Falkner (Jellyfish, The Grays), “Slumberjet” is certainly going to delight powerpop fans.

Slumberjet is a trio featuring Barry O'Brien at the helm, Keith Farrell on bass, and Aidan O’Grady on drums. Throughout the dozen songs on this CD, you’ll hear influences predominantly from the 60's, 80's and 90's. Featured guests include former Cardinal member Eric Matthews, singer/songwriter Duncan Maitland, and former Pugwash members Aidan O'Grady and Keith Farrell, who also produced the album. The album was mastered by John Dent who has previously worked with U2, Bob Marley, and PJ Harvey.

There is a healthy mix of upbeat songs among the slower paced songs, providing a dynamic listen that rarely gets boring. “The Strangest Game” (video below) kicks things off by hitting all the right powerpop buttons and is easily my favorite track from the CD. Another winner comes up next in the jovial guitar-driven “The Letter”. The rest of the CD is hit or miss on the first listen, but with repeated spins, fans of this genre won’t be disappointed. “C Song” and “Gone” are peppy tunes that firmly caught my ear after a second listen – don’t miss the clever harmonies! For something a bit slower and more contemplative, check out the dreamy “Cut Me Out”.

I’d recommend Slumberjet for fans of Jason Falkner, Duncan Maitland, Bleu, and Mike Viola.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7

Slumberjet on MySpace.

Check out the video for “The Strangest Game”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Various Artists “Rockin’ The Mistletoe”

“Rockin’ The Mistletoe” is a new 17 track holiday compilation featuring some of the artists of SideBMusic, a standout label that promotes excellent power pop for adults from seasoned musicians. In addition to artists on the SideBMusic roster, other acts with a similar sound were recruited to the project as well. We’ve covered several of the outstanding artists making an appearance on “Rockin’ The Mistletoe” before, such as Richard Snow (see here), Laurie Biagini (see here), Chris English (see here), and Rob Bonfiglio (see here).

There are only so many renditions of “Let It Snow”, “Silent Night”, and “The Christmas Song” that can be stuffed into a stocking, so I was very happy to see that “Rockin’ The Mistletoe” contains all-original songs, many of which were recorded especially for this project. Many of these artists have been enmeshed in the music business for decades, playing alongside pop luminaries and sharing their philosphophy for sparkling melodies and abundant harmonies. “Rockin’ The Mistletoe” includes Scott Bennett (Brian Wilson’s band), James Carter Cathcart (who plays the voice of Meowth on TV’s Pokemon), The Zummos (featuring former Joe Jackson guitarist Vinnie Zummo), Rob Bonfiglio (Wanderlust, Wilson Phillips), Taylor Mills (Brian Wilson’s band), and surf-pop singer Laurie Biagini.

Standout tracks include opener, “Getting Ready For Christmas” by Scott Bennett, a fantastic way to set to stage, with vivid imagery and a Peanuts-like piano line that fills you with the warm sensation that the holidays are expected to bring. Richard Snow’s (who is better named to contribute a wintertime track?) “Christmas With You” is another winner, telling one of his typically clever stories (this one with a happy ending…I guess the Christmas spirit got to him!). As expected, Rob Bonfiglio’s track “Warm, Lovin’ Christmastime” is a stellar feel good song. “Christmas Song For My Darling” is a sweet song beautifully orchestrated by Stockholm Strings. I also really enjoyed Paulina Logan’s “Not Alone At Christmas” and Taylor Mills’s “New Year’s Eve” – both have such a gorgeous voice! Kids are bound to like the amusing story of the Easter Bunny covering for a sick Santa in Alan Boyd’s playful “Christmas Bunny”.

Only two tracks stick out like a red nose – Nicola’s “What If”, which is rich with electronic dance beats that stand in marked contrast to most of the styles featured here, and Stephen J. Kalinich’s spoken word piece, “One (My Christmas Wish)”, which would have perhaps been better placed at the end of the record. Otherwise, the record plays wonderfully consistent from start to finish.

For fans of light rock or powerpop, I can’t recommend “Rockin’ The Mistletoe” enough – it is easily my favorite holiday release this year and will be spun for years to come. No lump of coal here!

SideB Musicofficial site.

Complete track listing:
1. Getting Ready For Christmas (Scott Bennett)
2. What If (Nicola)
3. Christmas Song For My Darling (Stockholm Strings & Horns)
4. Christmas Isn't Christmas (Chris English)
5. Christmas Morning (James Carter Cathcart)
6. Christmas Bunny (Alan Boyd)
7. Christmas In California (Brian Battles)
8. Christmas With You (Richard Snow & The In-Laws)
9. Christmas In The Air (Mistletoe Mix) (Laurie Biagini)
10. There Won't Be A Christmas Without You (The Zummos)
11. Warm, Lovin' Christmastime (Rob Bonfiglio)
12. Let's Make Every Day Like Christmas (Jez Graham)
13. Cigarettes In Snowmen (Radio Edit) (Nicholas Alan)
14. One (My Christmas Wish) (Stephen J. Kalinich)
15. Not Alone At Christmas (Paulina Logan)
16. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Eric Matthews)
17. New Year's Eve (Taylor Mills)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kneejerk: Santana - Bryan Adams

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new major label releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Santana – “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time”

I guess when creativity dries up one can always cover the songs of other artists and hope your name is sufficient to sell the result. Rod Stewart has been inexplicably successful with this strategy, and now the legendary Santana is taking a stab at it. Santana’s new record, however, tries to entertain us with his renditions of “guitar classics”, sung by a host of diverse artists from Joe Cocker to Nas. While no one will dispute Santana’s talents on the axe, there is plenty to dispute about the song choices. “Under The Bridge” (Red Hot Chili Peppers), “Riders On The Storm” (The Doors), and “Bang A Gong” (T. Rex) are not what come to mind when I think of GUITAR classics. I will admit there was an inkling of curiosity to hear Pat Monahan (Train) sing “Dance The Night Away” or Daughtry take on Def Leppard’s “Photograph”, but there is no reason to listen to these novelties more than once. And then to hear Nas rap AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, Scott Stapp (Creed) karaoke CCR’s “Fortunate Son”, and Rob Thomas slither to Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” – these are just stomach turning. Joe Cocker’s singing of “Little Wing” (Jimi Hendrix) is pretty decent and the cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by India.Arie and Yo-Yo Ma is quite beautiful, but other than that I’d steer clear of this one.

Bryan Adams - “Bare Bones”

Just before the world started to ignore 80s hit maker Bryan Adams, he released a well received “unplugged” album (1997). Now over a decade later, he has released another record in this format. As the title suggests, these performances are stripped down to voice, guitar, and/or piano. The tunes were performed live, so an easy record for Adams to throw together. Adams manages to fit 20 tracks on here, mostly because he abbreviates some of the tunes. He leaves off some solid hits, but that is OK because it leaves room for some lesser known numbers that sound great naked like “Cloud Number Nine”, “Walk On By”, and “You’ve Been A Friend To Me”. Adams still sounds terrific after all these years and I enjoyed listening to the stripped down versions of “Cuts Like A Knife”, “Summer of ‘69”, and “Heaven” on acoustic guitar. Many of the ballads, which are sparse anyway, are just too similar to the superior original. I wouldn’t recommend this release for a casual fan, but if you love Bryan Adams, this one is worthy of your collection.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

ENUFF Z’NUFF “Enuff Z’Nuff” (1989)

Enuff Z'Nuff came to the scene dressed up like drag queens in typical late 80s glam outfits…but make no mistake, behind those masked appearances and goofy name, the band possessed a unique style and highly talented musicianship that cleverly crossed 60s rock with 80s melodic hard rock. The result is what you'll hear in their magnificent self-titled debut. Donnie Vie's voice is unusually gritty, in contrast to most late 80s singers who loved to fly high to reach those notes.

The two most famous Z'nuff songs, "New Thing" and "Fly High Michelle", are featured on this album, but if you think knowing and listening only to those two songs are enuff, then you're wrong. Take "Hot Little Summer Girl" and "Little Indian Angel", for instance. Try cranking the volume up and waiting for their catchy choruses to come rolling in…I won't believe if you don't like these songs. "For Now" is a smooth melodic rock track with radio hit potential, and one of their best songs ever made. "Kiss The Clown" has the naughty snakedance riffs, transforming the classic 60s rock to a harder edge. "I Could Never Be Without You" is a touching ballad, and Vie's lazy vocal and irregular melodies made this track strange and beautiful at the same time.

I found the next release, "Strength", to be slightly more entertaining and better overall, and their third record was their peak. These first three records are the pinnacle of their career. Even though EZN never became the ultimate commercial success, they have lots of loyal fans that kept them going for 25 years. If you like a great blend of 60s rock and 80s glam, then this record is definitely for you.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rare Trax: The Dimes "Watching The Wheels"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by The Dimes from their EP, "New England". It is a beautifully mellow version of John Lennon's 80s hit, "Watching The Wheels"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Jim Ivins Band "Songs Of Life"

The Jim Ivins Band are a positive pop rocking outfit that we've covered previously here at BMF (review here). They are back again with a good cause and some great music. Their three new songs on "Songs Of Life" are excellent and not to be missed. Check out the press release below and then go get the new tunes!

Richmond, VA’s The Jim Ivins Band are back just in time for the holidays with new music after last year’s acclaimed self-titled Ace Enders-produced EP.

RICHMOND, Dec. 2, 2010 -- This December, acoustic pop rockers THE JIM IVINS BAND offer three new songs on a brand new charity compilation close to the band’s heart. The project, entitled Songs of Life: The Kathy Ivins Project is a tribute to the mother of Jim and Jack Ivins, lead vocals/guitar and drums, respectively, who passed away in July of this year from melanoma. After taking some time off in the summer, the band hit the studio with Bill Leverty, their cousin and guitar player of 90’s rock band FIREHOUSE, who agreed to engineer, mix, and master the project.

The band recorded two new songs inspired by their mother, “Moving” and “You Can Have It All,” and a full-band update of her favorite song from Jim’s 2007 solo album 99¢ Dreams, “Stages Of Your Life.” All three songs are classic power pop, with Ivins and co. channeling the sound of bands like The Goo Goo Dolls and The Fray to communicate the uplifting subject matter of the songs.

All proceeds from the album go towards the newly established KATHY IVINS FUND, a foundation started by the family in order to benefit fitness and wellness groups, as well as to promote healthy lifestyles, all things close to Kathy, an avid marathon runner.

In addition to the three songs from The Jim Ivins Band, the album includes songs from the guys’ father John Ivins and his JOHN IVINS WORSHIP BAND, as well as Virginia singer/songwriter sensation SUSAN GREENBAUM.

For more information on The Kathy Ivins Fund, head to, where you can also purchase a physical copy of the new album. Digitally, the album is available on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital retailers.

Review: Joshua Ketchmark “Karus Cruentus” [EP]

Late in 2009, we found ourselves truly impressed with the debut album from Illinois rocker Joshua Ketchmark (review here). Once again, he is ready to launch another release at the start of the New Year – his new EP, “Karus Cruentus” drops January 11, 2011.

What made his debut, “List Of Regrets”, work so well is the basic rock formula followed by Ketchmark. His tunes were full of crunchy guitar and fat hooks that made you want to instantly sing along. Unfortunately, he seems to have largely thrown this formula to the wind with the five new songs on this EP. I was not attracted to any of them with the immediacy I experienced last year listening to “List Of Regrets”. This time around, Ketchmark has recruited producer Andrew Ackland (Eagles, Bravery) to the project, and the team aimed to produce a “very live feel” to the recording. While that is an admirable aim and would probably work for an artist as talented as Ketchmark, it is the mediocre songs that make the EP a failure.

I’ve gotten conflicting information on what the first single is – one states the first single is “Breakdown”, a dreary composition that is a serious miscalculation, and the other states it is “Absent Savior”, a much better choice but still forgettable song. The only saving grace on “Karus Cruentus” comes at the end with “C’mon C’mon”, an upbeat rocker that somewhat restored my faith in this guy’s potential. To take the next step up, I encourage Ketchmark to take two steps back and deliver another record with the melodies and hooks of “List Of Regrets”. Ketchmark also needs better harmonies and more of them to augment his average vocals.

Joshua Ketchmark on MySpace. Official site.

Here is a video preview of the new EP:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review: Nelson “Lightning Strikes Twice”

September, 1990. The Cold War officially ends, Bush is about to put Iraq in its place, “Ditto” becomes the response to everyone’s “I love you”, and Nelson’s shimmering song, "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection", from their smash hit album “After The Rain”, was at the top of the Billboard music charts. Now, twenty years later, twins Matthew and Gunnar Nelson are back on the radar, hoping to create another storm with their Frontiers debut, “Lightning Strikes Twice”.

Nelson was by no means a “one-hit wonder” – three other very successful singles from their triple-platinum debut were all over MTV and radio throughout 1990 and 1991. Their follow-up record, 1995’s “Because They Can” was a solid effort, but the Seattle grunge bands had already ushered in a new era. “Because They Can” didn’t stand a chance and the Nelson brothers went into a tailspin and identity crisis, dabbling in darker concept albums (“Imaginator”), country fried rock (“Brother Harmony”), and even covering their famous father’s tunes from the Golden Era of Rock N Roll (“Like Father, Like Sons”).

Thankfully, despite two decades of waiting, Nelson have gone back to their AOR roots and crafted a record that any fan of “After The Rain” is going to love unconditionally. If giving the fans of your first record what they want is the barometer of success, “Lightning Strikes Twice” is a remarkable achievement. Any fan of music should stand in admiration of the magical harmonies Matthew and Gunnar produce, but this time out the twins put that talent to good use in songs that are just dripping with sugary melodies. The song structures resemble everything fans of AOR – past and present – could possibly want. As soon as you hear the ringing guitars and their trademark “whoa-oh oh oh” harmonies on the opener “Call Me”, you know Nelson is going to deliver on their promise. Their first music video in 15 years was filmed to “You’re All I Need Tonight” (see it below), a slice of pure AOR heaven. For you ballad lovers, there is an epic one that would make even Bon Jovi weak in the knees called “To Get Back To You”, which also features AOR master Steve Lukather (Toto) on guitar. The highlights keep coming with superb cuts like “When You’re Gone”, “Take Me There”, and “Change A Thing”.

As the third generation of Nelsons to have #1 hits, the boys do the family proud with this sensational comeback album. 1990 would have been as good to this record as it was to “After The Rain” – maybe even better. Perhaps the winds of musical change will blow once again at the backs of the Nelson twins. As they sang in 1990, “Only time will tell…”

More good news for Nelson fanatics…Frontiers Records will release two more Nelson albums to in Europe on December 3rd: “Before the Rain”, the demo collection of songs that secured their recording deal with Geffen Records in 1990, and “Perfect Storm – After the Rain World Tour 1991”,a live concert album. A North American release will follow in February 2011, as a complement to the release of “Lightning Strikes Twice”.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11

Nelson on MySpace. Official site. New “kick ass” website.

Check out the video for “You’re All I Need Tonight”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview: The Outfield

They may best be known for their hit ’80s tune, but The Outfield are back in full force and ready to please again with their upcoming 2011 release

2011 will mark the return of the original trio behind ’80s pop rock sensation The OutfieldJohn Spinks (guitar, keyboard), Tony Lewis (bass, vox) and Alan Jackman (drums). The new album, due out in the spring, does not have an official title yet, but there have been rumors it will be “Pennyfields.” Grammy award winning producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, The Strokes and The Outfield’s "Voices of Babylon") plays keyboards on two tracks for the new album, “California Sun” and “In Your Company.” All of the new songs have been written by John Spinks and produced by The Outfield with executive production by John Spinks. In addition, Sony Music Group will be releasing a new "Best Of: The Outfield" as part of their Playlist Series due out in January of 2011, which will include the forthcoming single, “California Sun.” In the meantime, we caught up with the members of The Outfield to find out more about the band – past, present and future.

Q: It has been a long time since we’ve heard from The Outfield, especially as the original trio! How does it feel to be up at bat once again?

Read the full interview here at Rock and Roll Report!

1000 posts!

We reached a milestone yesterday with our 1000th post! Thanks to all of the readers and musicians who make this site work! KEEP ROCKIN'!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kneejerk: My Chemical Romance – Kid Rock

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new major label releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

My Chemical Romance - “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys”

The music world has patiently waited four long years for the follow up to My Chemical Romance’s crossover smash, “The Black Parade”. Like Green Day, this band’s punk roots have grown into a tree with many branches. Incorporating punk, modern rock, pop, metal, and even dance rock, into innovative concept albums, My Chemical Romance is one of the most creative bands on the scene today. Best of all, nearly every song they write is imbued with a strong sense of melody that makes them hard to forget. “Danger Days” is nothing short of brilliant and in my opinion even surpasses “The Black Parade”, which I thought would be impossible to achieve. There are a few weak tracks near the end of this 60 min opus, but you won’t find a more consistently awesome modern rock record this year. Most of you have heard the single, “Na Na Na” already, which is good, but there is even better material waiting for you on the record. Second single “Sing” is great, but don’t miss “Bulletproof Heart”, “The Only Hope For Me Is You”, “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back”, and the beautiful 80s-flavored “Summertime”. With “Danger Days”, My Chemical Romance proves they deserve to wear the crown as kings of modern rock.

Kid Rock – “Born Free”

The new one by the big mouthed, undershirt wearing Detroit rocker takes a sharp turn into more accessible territory – as he sings on “Slow My Roll”, he “turns around and settles down”. In doing so, he risks alienating fans expecting more of his rap metal rock hybrids. Will a new fan base flock to replace them? My bets are on “no”. Kid Rock has considerably mellowed out on “Born Free”, producing generic country-flavored rock songs. The approach could have worked if only the songs were interesting and if Kid Rock was a better singer. Perhaps trying to capitalize on their previous success with “Picture”, he teams up again with Sheryl Crow on the sleepy “Collide” (which also features on Bob Seger…on piano). Country rock fans without high expectations are likely to enjoy this left turn, but most listeners are going to be as bored as Kid Rock appears on the cover. If you are curious, I’d direct your attention to the title track, “Care”, and “When It Rains”. And for a good chuckle, check out “For The First Time (In A Long Time)”, where Kid Rock attempts to sing in falsetto.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Ned Brower “Great To Say Hello”

Most of us know Ned Brower as the drummer and a vocalist for one of our favorite power pop bands, Rooney (see reviews here). Brower also has some modeling and acting credits under his belt (Big Fat Liar, Dawson’s Creek, Not Another Teen Movie), and now the multitasker is testing the waters with a solo record.

Brower’s debut record, ““Great To Say Hello”, was produced by none other than pop maestro Mike Viola, who put his indelible stamp on many of these songs. There are plenty of catchy hooks and ear pleasing harmonies to go around, more than enough to satiate any fan of Rooney, but Brower injected enough of himself into the record to make it a clear standout from Rooney material. In general, the record is peppy and bright, like the cover art. “Underneath Your Spell” is a sublime classic pop gem with a hint of 70s bubblegum flavor. You’ll fall in love with its bouncy melody and the warm and fuzzy harmonies. Other pop rocking highlights include “Hide Your Secrets Away” and “The Alleyway”. “Mine and Mine Alone” is also a standout, breaking up the stream of power pop with a funky groove and juicy chorus that will win you over in a heartbeat. I’m also a sucker for father-son tunes, so have to give props to “Father To Son”.

Given the outstanding solo albums from Taylor Locke and now Brower, it gives us a greater appreciation of the massive talent tied up in Rooney. Lucky for us fans of power pop, this abundance of talent can be dealt out in more than one venue.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8

Ned Brower on MySpace. Official site. Get it on iTUNES.

Listen to “Underneath Your Spell”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

FOREIGNER “Mr. Moonlight” (1995)

There are two important things to mention about Foreigner’s "Mr. Moonlight". First, it marked the return of Lou Gramm to the band, and also long-time members Rick Wills and Dennis Elliot. Second, the album basically marked the end of this chapter of Foreigner until Jones resurrected the band in 2009 with a new lineup. 1995 was surely a bad year for melodic rock - album sales were disappointing and rated so low that many people didn't even know the band still existed. However, this record has many good songs worth listening to, especially if you love the tender tunes of AOR.

I'm gonna start with "White Lie", a great upbeat track to start the album. This one is followed by "Rain", and the smooth transition of each note is lovable. "Until The End of Time" is relatively unknown, but the single reached a quite respectable position in the Adult Contemporary chart back then. Some other notable tracks are "Running The Risk", "I Keep Hoping" (which is the best ballad on the album), and "Hand On My Heart". The rest are good except "Real World" and "Big Dog", which I think should have been left behind and replaced with other songs in the veins of "Cold As Ice" or "Waiting For A Girl Like You".

It's nice to see the recent comeback of Lou Gramm, whose voice is still as strong as in the 80s. "Mr. Moonlight" is an underrated gem with a lot of high value goodies that you can find cheap. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that this album is horrible!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rare Trax - Johnny Cash "Hurt"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by Johnny Cash from his album, "American IV: The Man Comes Around". In the twilight of his career, the legendary Johnny Cash released a string of albums filled with cover songs, putting his unique stamp on songs you'd never imagine appropriate for him to perform. Take this chill-inducing version of "Hurt", originally done by Nine Inch Nails, for example. So haunting, so deep, so Cash. One of the last songs he ever recorded, and his final music video.

Here's the video:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: The Great Affairs “Ricky Took The Wheels”

Last February we reviewed the self-titled record from The Great Affairs (review here). The mastermind behind this outfit, Denny Smith, is back with Patrick Miller, Matt Andersen, and Jason Hees to promote their latest effort, “Ricky Took The Wheels”. “Ricky Took The Wheels” picks up where the last record left off, with the Nashville band serving up more pop Americana.

The first string players are right at the top of the lineup, although there is a pinch hitter saved for the very end. In-between are a lot of slumbering tunes that, while expertly performed, might be a chore for many of you to get through. “Feels Like Home” is a terrific way to start things off…an upbeat number straight out of the Tom Petty songbook. Hearing The Great Affairs play this one feels like home, indeed, and this one is my favorite off the new album. “Inside Your Head” also has its charms, with a bit of Black Crowes injected into the punchy riffs. The verses shake you a bit, but it is the wonderful pre-chorus that gets you moving. “My Apologies” is a sparse and lovely fingerpicked tune, but like many songs on “Ricky Took The Wheels”, it takes a few spins to fully appreciate its subtle majesty. A few sleepers creep in, but then “You’re Not Funny” arrives - a bluesy road house track that gets your blood pumping once again. Similarly, “Bastard Son” is a driving pop rocker that proves these guys can be more accessible if they want to be. Finally, the record ends on a high note with the crazy good rocker called “Last Good Memory”.

Half slow, half upbeat, “Ricky Took The Wheels" takes us up to the mountains and down into the valleys. The Great Affairs is recommended if you like The Jayhawks, Grant Lee Phillips, or Wilco.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 12

The Great Affairs on MySpace.

Listen to “Feels Like Home”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: The Remainers “Formal Fridays” [EP]

The Remainers are a modern rock band with 80s pop influences, an outgrowth of a band called Big City Rock, which we previously praised here. The Remainers are Nate Bott on guitar/vocals, Frank Staniszewski on keyboards, Jason Lautenschleger on bass, and Kaumyar on Drums. “Formal Fridays” is their first EP, consisting of six must-have tracks that Big City Rock fans are sure to love.

The sprinkling keyboards at the start of “House”, which kicks off the EP, will make you think you stuck the “Better Off Dead” soundtrack into your disc player…until the contemporary guitars blast through the mix. “House” is a hot track fresh from the Big City Rock songbook (video below) that radio should be playing night and day. “Another Moment Like This” is another upbeat slice of rock delivering the best of what this band has to offer. “Blessing In Disguise” has a markedly darker sound, but the band’s retention of a strong melody throughout puts their stamp on it and makes it a winner. The splendid power ballad “I Got A Chance” could have been a 1988 prom theme, but it sounds edgy enough to serve the same role at next year’s prom. “When You Need Me” ends the EP on a powerful and energetic note, leaving you begging for more.

With driving verses, arena ready choruses, and a flair for the pop rock sounds of the 80s, The Remainers should be at the top of everyone’s playlist. Check them out if you like Rock Kills Kid, The 88, Neon Trees, or (naturally) Big City Rock. I can’t wait to hear more from these guys.

The Remainers on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

See a video for “House”


The Remainers | Myspace Music Videos

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Matt Ryd “Looking For Home”

You may have heard Chicago singer/songwriter Matt Ryd if you are a regular watcher of Scrubs – the first single, “Healed” from his new record, “Looking For Home” has been featured on the popular television show. Ryd has also opened for Jeff Tweedy and The Swell Season.

“Looking For Home” is a sunny album full of smart, pristine pop rock that is very much in Rembrandts territory. Joan Hoedeman supplies ear-pleasing harmonies on many of the tracks, taking those songs to a whole new level. “Impression” is a great way to begin the record, with melodic verses building to a most catchy chorus with Hoedeman beautifully echoing Ryd’s lines. “Impression” makes a great first one, and this track has become my favorite. The aforementioned “Healed” is even more upbeat and another treat for the soul. Additional highlights include “Pieces” and “Home”, the latter of which makes for an excellent anthem when you’re away. The achingly contemplative “Wondrin’” is my pick for best ballad on the record. The second half of the record is generally slower with songs that are well done, but not as instantly memorable.

One minor complaint – toy piano appears to be used on a couple tracks, which just sounds like fingernails scratching a chalkboard to me. But don’t let this be the factor that dissuades you from giving Matt Ryd some serious attention.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 10

Matt Ryd on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Impression”