Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review: Brian Mackey "Brian Mackey (Red CD)" [EP]

Fans of the lighter side of rock and powerpop will thoroughly enjoy Brian Mackey. His vocals and songwriting style are very reminiscent of James Blunt, but perhaps a bit more melodic. His new "Red EP" features four tracks, beginning with the mellow but lovely "Painted Red". This is followed by "Come Out of the House", a more upbeat but just as catchy love song, showcasing more of his infectious harmonies. "Patty Brown" is not a bad song, but wasn't one worth writing home about to me. The fun closer, "Radio", is essentially a tribute to the genre he loves and endeavors to 80s powerpop. He highlights names like Cheap Trick and Joan Jett while grimacing at Michael Jackson and Oingo Biongo - so if you share this musical taste, Brian Mackey is going to bring back some memories for you. "Radio" could easily be our theme song here at BMF!

Brian Mackey on MySpace. Official site. Get some.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cover tune catastrophe: One

In this ongoing series, I will uncover some of the WORST cover tunes ever recorded. We’ve all encountered that unsettling feeling upon hearing a beloved song redone by another artist. What were they thinking? How dare they try to redo this song! While we are powerless to prevent these clowns from trashing the originals, we can call them out on it.

Filter – “One” (Harry Nilsson)

This song was originally written by Nilsson in 1968, but the best known version is the stupendous ‘one’ by Three Dog Night recorded ‘one’ year later. Three decades later the song had a sudden revival. This horrifying cover of “One” by the alternative rock band Filter appeared on the soundtrack to the “X-files” movie in 1998. Also in the 90s, Aimee Mann recorded it for a Nilsson tribute album (her version is much better, though!)

So what do you think is one of the worst cover tunes? Leave a comment and tell us - if it is bad enough, we might just write it up!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: Rockburn [EP demo]

I don't get demo CDs from Scotland that often, but now I have a reason to get excited whenever I see them in the mail. These four Scottish lads comprising Rockburn jolted me right out of my seat with a classic sound and spirit that captures the best of 70s rock while still managing to have a modern edge. Only three tracks on the demo: "Night On Fire", "Wishing Well (Free)", and "The Last Stop" - each one is dynamic and bursting with catchy riffs and thumping bass. It was great to hear a band that remembers to crank up the low end (but don't interpret that as a license to crank it up any further, gents!).

"Night On Fire" kicks in with a thick, ear-shredding riff and will soon be the song you'll want to play while getting ready to hit the town. "Wishing Well (Free)" continues the feel-good party vibe with a driving, booming bass that reminds me of that distinctive early Survivor sound - you know, before Peterik went nuts with all the keyboards. Beginning with some great acoustic guitar, "The Last Stop" showcases their diverse musical palate and instincts to write a memorable melody.

Stephen Baxter's vocals may be the limiting factor in this band achieving wider appeal. Don't get me wrong - to me, they are well-suited for what Rockburn does, but for others his tone is going to be an acquired taste. I am very excited to hear more of what this band can do. If you like Jet, The Flamin' Groovies, or The Fags, check out Rockburn.

Rockburn on MySpace. Official site.

Check out some Rockburn:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Vertical Horizon "Burning the Days"

After a near 6 year break, Vertical Horizon has quietly crept back with a new CD entitled, "Burning the Days". The record picks up right where "Go" left off, serving up light rock with a punch, made more interesting thanks to the signature delivery of capable vocalist Matt Scannell.

Vertical Horizon gets a little help from friends on this offering. Neil Peart (Rush drummer) lends a hand on "Save Me From Myself", "Welcome To The Bottom", and "Even Now", which he also co-wrote. Richard Marx tickles the ivories on the schmaltzy ballad, "Here", a song that would sound right at home on one of his recent CDs. Marx also lends a hand producing some of Scannell's vocals. In case you missed it, Marx and Scannell have been quite the collaborators recently; Scannell helped Marx remember what it is like to rock on his CD "Emotional Remains" (see review here).

Fans of the last two Vertical Horizon records should delight in "Burning the Days". Nothing is as intensely radio-friendly as their hits "Everything You Want" or "You're a God" - it takes a couple spins, but great rewards await as the hooks begin to reveal themselves. Like many of Scannell's songs, the verses can be a bit quiet and mundane, but he more than makes up for that with a soaring and memorable chorus. No song really races past mid-tempo, so listening to the album all the way through can be a chore, especially towards the end where the songs get significantly longer but less interesting. But in isolation, many of these songs are terrific, and to hear Scannell's voice back in action is a real treat. Highlights for me include "All Is Said and Done", "The Lucky One", "The Middle Ground", and "Carrying On".

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

Vertical Horizon on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Were Robbed - Amanda Marshall

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

While quite famous in her native Canada, Amanda Marshall has not come close to reaching similar heights here in the US. Marshall was 'discovered' by another famous Canadian musician, the late great Jeff Healey. Her self-titled debut album appeared in 1995, pleasing the ears of many of our friends up North. Marshall has an astonishing voice that could stop traffic - it is soulful, but with a raspy rock edge. She delivers every song with sincere conviction and gravitates to those with memorable melodies. Her debut has a great mix of acoustic guitar and piano, perked up with some electric guitar for an extra punch every now and then. Just listen to tracks like "Let It Rain", "Birmingham", and "Sitting On Top Of The World".

Her 1999 sophomore effort, "Tuesday's Child" was almost as good, featuring more powerful pop rock gems like "Believe In You", "Love Lift Me", and my favorite, "If I Didn't Have You". Overall, this record is more ballad-rich, with lots of strings and glossy production. Some of that "organic" feel of the debut was compromised, but most of the songs are still strong and her voice is brilliant as always. She also had Desmond Child, Eric Bazilian (Hooters), and Carole King helping out with the songwriting, and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) playing guitar on "Why Don't You Love Me".

Marshall's third release, "Everybody's Got a Story" (2001), however, was a dramatic course change deep into R&B territory. I was not a fan of it. While there is a greatest hits compilation out there called "Intermission", I recommend you just pick up her first two albums - each is a masterpiece and available for pennies in used CD stores.

Amanda Marshall is reportedly in the studio cooking up a new release. Here's hoping that 2010 will be her year.

Amanda Marshall: Official site.

Check out the video for "Let It Rain":

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: Ted Garber "American Rail"

Life isn't fair. Some people can write good lyrics, but they can't write a good song. Some people can sing, but can't play an instrument. Some can play, but can't carry a tune if their lives depended on it. But some people have a monopoly on talent - they can do everything, and do it oh so right. Ted Garber is one of those monopolizers of talent who can write smart lyrics, craft jubilant songs, sing his heart out, and play his guitar and harp like nobody's business. And on top of all that, he comes across like your average everyday nice guy.

Ted Garber calls his unique blend of music "BluesAmericanaRock" and says his latest effort, ""American Rail", is a "deeply personal collection of songs steeped in American tradition with an international twist". A few tunes in and you'll catch his continental drift - while there is a bedrock of pure American party rock, you'll hear some Brazilian Bossanova, some Afro-Cuban drumming, and some of that classic big band sound. Garber's lyrics can be heavy, but always inspirational, as in "Giving Tree", a call to continue the efforts to rebuild what Katrina destroyed.

From the opening harmonica in the stomping "It's About Time" to the Jason Mraz riffing on the closer "Another Monday", you'll be captivated by the diversity of genres this artist has masterfully stirred into a singular style. Other highlights include the feel-good, horn-laden "Strike It Up", the wonderful upbeat duet "Waste Some Time", and the gentle beauty of "Break Me Down".

Garber is a genuine musical talent who uses his gift to remind the world of the power of American music. It is impossible to ride "American Rail" without feeling better in the end. Check out Ted Garber if you like Willy Porter, Pat McGee Band, or Bruce Springsteen.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10

Ted Garber on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cover tune catastrophe: Eye of the Tiger

Time for a new feature here on BMF! In this ongoing series, I will uncover some of the WORST cover tunes ever recorded. We’ve all encountered that unsettling feeling upon hearing a beloved song redone by another artist. What were they thinking? How dare they try to redo this song! While we are powerless to prevent these clowns from trashing the originals, we can call them out on it. There are loads of lousy cover tunes out there, so let's get started.

Paul Anka – “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor)

And in this corner…we have what has got to be a joke. Back in his prime, Paul Anka could do no wrong, but oh how things have changed. He is still doing things ‘his way’, but someone needs to tell him to stop. His 2005 album, “Rock Swings”, consists of - you guessed it - swing versions of pop and rock songs. The album should have been subtitled “Rock Swings (and misses)”. There are so many dreadful covers to pick from on this record, but I’m going with the swing version of Survivor’s 1982 classic “Eye Of The Tiger” to top our list. Mostly because he actually purrs at the end!

So what do you think is one of the worst cover tunes? Leave a comment and tell us - if it is bad enough, we might just write it up!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: Craig Bancoff "Eden"

Craig Bancoff is making contemporary alt-country music for grown ups. If you are looking for that perfect soundtrack for your early morning Sundays, or something to contemplate during an overcast day, Bancoff's "Eden" is the CD to play.

Fearlessly exploring the "outskirts of Eden" with his wise and insightful lyrics, Bancoff is no stranger to the grit and grime of every man's work day. He has roots in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania, and the melancholy in his music captures that imagery. "Eden" is similar to the darker Springsteen acoustic classics, like "Nebraska" or "Ghost of Tom Joad". Still, at times, you can see a glimmer of light and inhale a breath of fresh air as you emerge from the depths of this record. The beautiful cover art is truly reflective of the music inside.

Bancoff couches his songs in pedal steel, mandolin, and acoustic guitars, straddling the line between soft rock and country. The instruments are expertly recorded, capturing their innate qualities rather than burying them in effects and noise. Bancoff's gentle yet firm vocals are ideal for this genre, somewhere between Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Highlights include the catchy opener "Crutch", the weepy "Beautiful Lies", and touching ballad, "Waiting".

If you like Tom Petty ("Wildflowers" era), Jayhawks, or Works Progress Administration, there is plenty on "Eden" that will feel like paradise to you.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 7, 10

Craig Bancoff on MySpace. Official site.

Interview: John Faye of IKE

My interview with John Faye of IKE is now posted at Rock and Roll Report. Check it out!

Here is the review of their new record, "Tie the Knot With All That You Got" in case you missed it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

CD Review: Still Standing "Black and White"

Still Standing is a modern rock band with a knack for writing catchy, hard-hitting melodies. The band is comprised of identical twins Justin and Johnny Santoro (sons of guitarist Tony Santoro) and the masterful drummer, Alex Zarzycki. Beginning in 1998, the trio began to mark their mark on the punk rock scene in Philly, but then moved to L.A., ultimately hooking up with renowed songwriter and producer Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Buckcherry, Papa Roach). "Black and White", their new full-length release, is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication.

Still Standing is bursting with commercial readiness, exuding the right look and attitude, but most important they've delivered a record filled with fantastic radio-friendly songs. They touch upon most of the themes boys their age can relate to, from the troubled love of "I Can't With You", to the pensive longing for solitude ("Leave Me Alone"), to the inspirational anthems like "Never Be Afraid" and "Suck It Up". The sonic quality is amazing and the hooks in the choruses will have you humming along with a fist in the air in no time - definitely one of those CDs best played loud.

There really isn't a bad song in the batch, but my favorites include the driving opener "Never Be Afraid", the chilling "Do You Believe" ("Do you believe that tragedy can make you see what's alive is dying slowly?"), and the excellent power ballad, "I Can't With You". The entire record is brilliantly consistent - all of the songs have the same meaty guitars and full sound - but like the twins themselves, the songs have enough nuance to keep them from sounding identical.

With their perfect blend of hard rock and punk, mixed with pop sensibilities, Still Standing is ready to take the world by storm. I'd recommend Still Standing for fans of Simple Plan, New Found Glory, or SR-71.

Check out my interview with the band at Rock and Roll Report!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10

Still Standing on MySpace. Official site.

Note: "Black and White" is not yet available for purchase, but you can get the single "I Can't With You" on iTUNES right now, and their cover of "Blister In The Sun" (Violent Femmes) on iTUNES February 1. Watch their web site for updates for when and where you can get their CD!

Check out a special live acoustic version of the song "I Can't With You":

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rare CD: Relient K "All Work & No Play"

"You are bidding on a copy of Relient K's first ever demo release "All Work & No Play". This CD was made in 1998 and self-released by the band. This was made and released before they ever signed to any record label. It contains several songs on future releases with different verses. It also contains several songs that have never been release on any other CD. I have searched eBay very often and have NEVER even seen a copy of this CD for sale nor met another individual that actually owned it. I am not sure of the number of these that were released, but judging by my experience with people even knowing about it, the number is extremely limited.

Artist: Relient K
Title: All Work & No Play
Year of Release: 1998
Track Listing:
1) K Car
2) I'm Lion-O
3) Staples
4) Marilyn Manson Ate My Girlfriend
5) Cojack
6) My Good Friend Charles
7) Register
8) Be Rad
9) C.U.R.B.
10) William
11) Softer To Me"

CD is EXTREMELY rare and it is very rare to even find one being sold.

Sold for $115.09 on ebay (28 bids)

Rare CD: Purple Raven "Crazy Train"

"Here is a cd that is always asked about when I get wantlists from collectors, but I have never seen one in the flesh..until now..... PURPLE RAVEN - CRAZY TRAIN, 1993, German Hard Rock indie...7 Tracks of excellent Melodic Hard Rock similar to Roko, Axxis, & Parazite, cd and inserts are nearly flawless...if you want to pick up that killer piece that no one else has, and I mean no one...then grab this one....I don't know how many of these were made back in 1993, but this could be the only one, it surely is the only one I have seen on ebay in the last 12 years that I have been buying on ebay....get it now, my only copy I will ever have!"

Sold for $157.77 on ebay.

Rare CD: Joker "Cool Deal"


JOKER is a very cool and highly sought after melodic hard rock band from the USA . I would describe the CD as brilliant melodic hard rock masterpiece with infectious melodies, shreddin' guitar , catchy hooks all played to perfection .This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to score one of the rarest and finest indie metal bands out there.


Sold for $182.50 on ebay (26 bids)

Rare CD: Butch Walker "This is Me Justified and Stripped"

"Incredibly rare promo only release from 2004 from Butch Walker of Marvelous 3 and Southgang fame!!! This is a ten song cd that was given away free as a promo release for those who purchased one of his cds. It has been long out of print, and is the holy grail for collectors of Butch's. VERY hard to find!!!"

Sold for $200 on ebay (17 bids)

Friday, January 15, 2010

My 2009 Interviews

In case you missed them, or would like to revisit them!

Lita Ford
July For Kings

More to come in 2010, starting with John Faye of IKE!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: eENIK "Oddomatic"

If you ever wondered what Faith No More might sound like today, you need to look no further than "Oddomatic", the new full-length release from L.A.'s eENIK. This interesting band creates wild sonic textures that criss-cross between the boundaries of modern rock, metal, and even a bit of funky jazz. The music ranges from hard and fast (with the occasional cookie monster vocal) to groovy and hip with a touch of electronica. Not one to follow the rules of musical genres (or correct spelling - see some of their song titles), eENIK's singular goal is to be defiant in every way. There is not a lot for most of you pop rockers out there to grab onto, as the intriguing experimentation usually takes priority to a stable, sticky melody, but for those more adventurous readers, eENIK may be the breath of fresh air you've been longing for. Check out "Animals At Play", "Just For Men", and "Perfeck Contak".

If you like Faith No More, Chronic Future, or Incubus, you should be looking into eENIK.

eENIK on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

News: Tim Be Told download and tour dates

If you missed our review of Tim Be Told, check it out here.

Tour dates! Catch them, people!

Jan 14 2010 @ 5:00 pm Kick Butt Coffee, Austin, TX
Jan 15 2010 @ 7:00 pm Fort Bend Community Church, Missouri City, TX
Jan 16 2010 @ 7:30 pm Houston Chinese Church, Houston, TX
Jan 17 2010 @ 11:00 am Fort Bend Community Church, Missouri City, TX
Jan 19 2010 @ 7:00 pm The Living Room, Los Angeles, CA
Jan 20 2010 @ 7:00 pm University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA
Jan 22 2010 @ 7:45 pm Hollow Body @ TRiP, Santa Monica, CA

Jan 23 2010 @ 7:00 pm Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Jan 24 2010 @ 5:00 pm South Bay Sa Rang Community Church, Torrance, CA
Jan 28 2010 @ 7:00 pm Livingwater Church, Berkeley, CA
Jan 31 2010 @ 7:00 pm Bay Area Chinese Bible Church, San Leandro, CA
Feb 3 2010 @ 7:00 pm Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Feb 4 2010 @ TBA Skagit Valley College, Oak Harbor, WA
Feb 5 2010 @ 7:00 pm Ethnic Cultural Theatre w/ New Heights, Seattle, WA

Feb 6 2010 @ 7:00 pm Evangelical Chinese Church, Seattle, WA
Feb 9 2010 @ 3:00 pm University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO
Feb 10 2010 @ 7:00 pm Chinese Evangelical Church of Denver, Denver, CO
Feb 12 2010 @ 7:30 pm The Chapel w/ Fundamental Elements, St. Louis, MO
Feb 15 2010 @ 9:00 pm Elbo Room w/ Lucrezio, Chicago, IL
Feb 17 2010 @ 6:30 pm The Canopy Club w/ special guests, Urbana, IL
Feb 18 2010 @ TBA Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Feb 20 2010 @ 7:00 pm Ishan Gala Benefit Concert, Charlottesville, VA

Review: Rob Nicholas "Rob Nicholas" [EP]

It doesn't take long to realize that Chicago's Rob Nicholas is classically trained - just a few bars into his new self-titled EP and you'll be amazed with the professional level and depth of his talent. Classically trained artists easily impress us with their fretboard gymnastics, but often come up short in the melody department. Not so with Rob Nicholas. The five tunes on his EP are not only technically brilliant, but are also extremely accessible. I can't recall that last time I've heard someone get away with such a mix of sophisticated pop, rock, blues, and jazz so successfully.

Rob Nicholas is bringing solo guitar back! There is some incredibly tasty lead work throughout this EP, and it stood out as one of the strong suits for me. But Rob Nicholas delivers in other areas as well - his vocals are great, at times sounding like Eric Johnson or Gavin DeGraw, but also reminding me of James Taylor during his quieter moments. Lyrically he is no slouch either, providing us with something more cerebral and compelling than the usual rubbish. The songs expertly blend acoustic and electric guitars, enhanced with some organ and progressive percussion. My favorite tracks are "Dare We Go" and "Searching", probably the two most radio-friendly in the batch, but honestly every track is excellent. What I like most is that Rob Nicholas has found that magic balance that allows his expertise on the instruments to shine while not letting a memorable melody play second fiddle.

If you enjoy Sting, John Mayer, or Dave Matthews, you need to check out Rob Nicholas. This guy is incredible!

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

Rob Nicholas on MySpace. Official site.

Review: IKE “Tie The Knot With All That You Got”

John Faye and IKE break open the new decade with another winning record, “Tie The Knot With All That You Got”. This record sees a personnel change (longtime bassist Joann Schmidt has departed), but the one constant thing about IKE is that they never fail to deliver a fine collection of new pop rock gems. The 2010 version of IKE includes John Faye of course on lead vocals and guitar, Brett Talley on lead guitar and backing vocals, Tommy Kristich on drums, and Susie Steen on bass.

For those less familiar with IKE, frontman John Faye used to be in the fantastic yet grossly underrated 90s band, The Caulfields. Upon their break-up, John Faye released a solo effort (The John Faye Power Trip), with another power pop master, Cliff Hillis, on board. Incidentally, Hillis was also a member of IKE for their first two records, “Parallel Universe” and “In Real Life”. But I digress – how is “Tie The Knot With All That You Got”?

Thematically, IKE describes the new release as: "Breakin' up is hard to do, but IKE breaks on through to the other side, confronting big-ticket subjects like the decline and rebirth of love, mortality, and hypocrisy". From the opening hand claps to the perfect harmonies in the final “Why?” chorus, IKE takes you for another thrilling spin on their trademark crunchy rock ride. The title track kicks things off, and is well suited to setting the stage, being one of the most infectious and energetic tracks IKE has recorded of late. The great tunes keep coming at you with “Set You In Stone” and my favorite off the record, “1-Way To Avalon”. “Latitude” is another particularly strong song, a sure-fire winning power ballad. I’d also like to call your attention to the outstanding “Where Did You Come From?“, arguably the most radio-friendly song on the record. We’re also treated to a rather rare, stripped down version of IKE on the album’s infectious closer, the acoustic-based “Aftermath”.

Yet again IKE delivers track after track of melodic rock ear candy. The band has an excellent chemistry and John Faye proves he still has some of the best pipes and songwriting instincts in the genre. It is very early in the year, but IKE has set the bar high and is the band to beat for one of the best records of 2010.

IKE will satisfy fans of Better Than Ezra to Dashboard Confessional - and any band in-between.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 13

IKE on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Don’t miss my interview with John Faye on Rock and Roll Reportclick here!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Allison Iraheta "Just Like You"

Allison Iraheta was one of the runner up contestants on last season's American Idol (2009). This young lady (she was only 10 in 2002 when American Idol premiered) brought a genuine rock edge to the show and it was sad to see her lose out to the likes of Adam Lambert (bizarre) and Kris Allen (yawn). Her debut CD "Just Like You" is out now. Sadly, I think a bona fide talent has largely been wasted, falling prey to the major label trend to bury everything under a wall of sound. The other major problem is the lackluster'd think with all the resources these corporations have they could afford something less bland. They seem to think that if you dress it up with strings or yet another layer of noise that it will somehow disguise the fact that the song was banal at the start.

They also don't seem to know what to do with Iraheta. Is she going to do pop dance like Pink or the rock stuff that drew comparisons to Joan Jett and Pat Benatar? "Just Like You" does deliver on the rock stuff at times, but with an intense inorganic feel a la Kelly Clarkson or Avirl Lavigne. On the other hand, there is a lot of pop fluff the listener has to endure in-between the good songs.

The first two tracks are awful, which includes the schizophrenic single, "Friday I'll Be Over U". "Robot Love" is another electronic mess over top Gary Glitter's famous "Rock and Roll Part 1 (The Hey Song)", overused at sporting events. The title track is a very good song, and is followed by the respectable "Don't Waste The Pretty", two tracks that begin to redeem the album. But then it steers down mediocre avenue once again for what seems like a torturous eternity until "Still Breathing", where we can actually hear Iraheta's beautiful voice over some acoustic guitar for a little while before the ubiquitous distortion kicks into overdrive again. The trouble with "Trouble Is" - a fine example of what frustrates me about this record - is that it is a boring song to begin with that no amount of strings, vocals, or glossy production can hope to salvage. "No One Else" is much more compelling thanks to its memorable melody in the chorus. The album closes as badly as it began, with the ridiculous "Beat Me Up" - a horrible lyric set to a brain-numbing house beat and boring guitar riff, and aptly titled, "You Don't Know Me". I don't feel like I got to know Iraeta on this record at all.

I sincerely hope Iraheta can rebound with a team that is better suited to let the majesty or her voice shine rather than burying it in senseless noise and wasting it on unexciting songs.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 9, 11

Allison Iraheta on MySpace.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Review: Michael Gross and the Statuettes "Impulse and Exports" [EP]

These fine, prolific lads from Utah have just released a brand new EP, the follow up to their very good "Dust and Daylight" EP (review here). Right away you'll note the higher quality production - the boys really seemed to have stepped it up in this department. While the record sounds glossier, fans will be happy to know that they've maintained their indie rock sensibilities in the songwriting. For those of us wanting a bit more development on the melodic side, we'll have to keep waiting.

The progress between EPs is remarkable - the guys deserve a lot of credit here, and if they continue to grow at this rate, anything is possible. This time around, they've incorporated some subtle vintage synths (late 70s/early 80s sound) that mix nicely with the modern guitar tones. Gross is sounding more comfortable and confident and the band's chemistry is beginning to boil.

I enjoy the more immediately infectious cuts, my favorite being the catchy and dynamic "On and On", which starts off with some breezy strumming and builds into an excellent driving pop song. "Holy Smokes" and "Silence Is A Killer" are two more notable tracks. Longtime fans will want to take note of "No Good" as well; it is a re-make of one of Michael's earlier songs off his solo effort, "Tales From a Country Home" tune. "Impulse and Exports" is brimming with enthusiasm and is yet another blast of indie pop rock fun from Michael Gross and the Statuettes.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5

Michael Gross and the Statuettes on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Review: Friday Mile "Good Luck Studio"

Friday Mile's new one, "Good Luck Studio", aims to please with curt songs that provide a quick burst of delightfully smart pop with indie overtones. All the ingredients are here for pop rock goodness: excellent musicianship, dynamic interplays between guitar and piano as well as terrific male and female vocals from Jace Krause and Hannah Williams, and top-notch production (the record was recorded with producer Dennis MacKay, who has worked with David Bowie and Lou Reed), but at the end of the day most of it just doesn't all come together for me. There are a number of clear exceptions, however, in the more upbeat and catchy tracks like "Lives of Strangers", "Autograph", and "FYI". Check them out if you like Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, or Sixpence None the Richer.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 7

Friday Mile on MySpace.

Review: Strange Lights "Light Bright"

Strange Lights is a male-female duo from Colorado whose new release, "Light Bright", is full of tunes with a dusty, Western folk rock feel. Lonny Roth and Deb Zazzo write and perform dark and dingy songs - nothing particularly light or bright about them. Roth's vocals are rough and scratchy, but suited to the fuzzy musical style and gritty guitars. Zazzo's vocals on the other hand are smooth and angelic by comparison, making for some interesting contrasts when the two sing together. For me, many of the songs are too slow, long, and aimless for my musical tastes, but those of you who dig more experimental and psychedelic indie pop will probably find something here that will brighten your day. Think Cowboy Junkies, The Flaming Lips, and Patti Smith.

Strange Lights on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

BMF picks the Top 10 CDs of 2009!

I can't believe another year is over already and this blog is still going strong! Thanks to everyone who has played a part in its success...whether you've sent me your music or you are a fan of the posts or both...your continuous support and comments are much appreciated! It is much easier to keep the blog going when I know there are so many people following it.

It is always a great challenge for me to pick just 10 records out of all the cool stuff I've heard over the past year. The criteria I used was simple: which records did I find myself going back to the most in proportion to the time I've had them.

First, a few disclaimers: I did not include EPs, compilations (including “Greatest Hits”), or any records from artists or bands that were released on a major label and going gold or platinum. And it should go without saying: I only have two ears…there is a lot of stuff out there I did not get to hear yet, so if you think something is missing…kindly let me know!

My top 10 favorites of 2009 are as follows…in alphabetical order:

Lisa Bianco “Post-Data” (review here)
Bianco is a budding NYC singer/songwriter who sounds a lot like Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt) – “Post-Data” is a solid collection of charming pop rock numbers that sink in more and more with each listen.

Bleu “A Watched Pot” (review here)
Bleu’s lost “third album” is the charm for me. Some argued it was too slow, but the melodies are just gorgeous and his vocals better than ever.

The Elms “The Great American Midrange” (review here)
The Elms make a triumphant return to form with this one, restoring my confidence that they are one of the most underrated melodic rock bands in America’s heartland.

Bobby Emmett “Learning Love” (review here)
A retro power pop dream come true – plenty of 70s timbre imbuing these tasty pop confections.

July for Kings “Monochrome” (review here)
Another grossly underrated rock band that got lost in the mix of major label irresponsibility. After a long break, they are back with vengeance and endless assortment of melodies. JFK sounds like Brian Vander Ark (Verve Pipe) fronting an edgier matchbox twenty.

Andy Lehman and The Night Moves “Lowcountry” (review here)
The unique voice will grab you first, then the intriguing chord progressions, and then the story will hit you. “Lowcountry” is an intelligent concept album depicting a lover’s triangle gone wrong, but each song stands on its own as a beautifully crafted pop rocker.

Lloyd Dobler Effect “Lloyd Dobler Effect” (review here)
This self-titled record is an exceptionally strong set of songs from these contemporary pop rockers who mix rock muscle with heartfelt vocals…not to mention one of the coolest band names around!

Starcode “A Fine Line” (review here)
A band of brothers, Starcode is kind of like The Rembrandts with a kick. Not a bad tune in the bunch.

Strangefinger “Into the Blue” (review here)
Another outstanding power pop record released this year by SideBMusic – fans longing for a Jellyfish reunion can bide their time with this gem from Freddie Lemke, a.k.a. Strangefinger.

Scott Warren “Quick Fix Bandage” (review here)
Solo release from Signal Hill Transmission member, “Quick Fix Bandage” is indeed perfect for healing or meditation. All of the songs are generally mellow with an organic sound, channeling the best of Rhett Miller and Matt Nathanson.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review: King Washington "Grenadine" [EP]

"Grenadine" is the new EP from the L.A.-based band King Washington. Perhaps it is the sunny weather in L.A. that makes their sound so bright and energetic. Whatever the root cause, there is no denying the vibe of cheerfulness and positivity in their music.

King Washington's motto: "We're trying to bring back what never should have left." By this they largely mean those catchy melodies and feel-good harmonies perfected long ago by The Beatles. You'll hear some of the most overt - and wondrous - John Lennon influences on this EP. While the boys maintain that songwriting is their focus, I would be remiss not to mention their amazing musical talents. Yes, these songs have a great melody at heart, but what truly takes them over the top is how well they are performed.

The EP throws its best tracks at you first, the infectious and groovy "I Get By" followed by the sweet mid-tempo number "Angela". Tell me you don't hear the Lennon-McCartney trademark in the vocals and harmonies here - it is remarkable! They slow it down to nice effect with an inspirational acoustic-driven ditty called "Live On", showing that they can sooth you as much as they can move you. The funky flavored rocker, "The Cobbler", is another highlight you won't want to miss.

King Washington makes the bold claim that they "will begin your reclamation of faith in today's music". After a couple spins of "Grenadine", I'm a believer.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5

King Washington on MySpace.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Review: Joshua Ketchmark "List Of Regrets"

Illinois native Joshua Ketchmark has recently released an impressive debut that happens to be the "soundtrack to his very well could be the soundtrack to yours". Music is at the heart of Ketchmark's existence; as an only child, a guitar served as his surrogate sibling. Before long he found himself in Nashville, honing his songwriting chops and picking up more instruments along the way. By incorporating himself into the fabric of musician's society, he soon found himself working as a guitar tech, providing opportunities to rub elbows with producer extraordinaire Rob Cavallo, Johnny Lang, and Melissa Etheridge. In fact, Etheridge let him use her signature 12-string guitar to record his debut record, which is the first thing you hear in the Byrds-like riff on the excellent "How 2 Let Go".

All Ketchmark's tunes follow the formula we love: quiet but engaging versus that erupt into a catchy arena-ready chorus. As you would expect from a "soundtrack to life", Ketchmark touches on familiar themes of romance, but also explores feelings of loss (of his father in "On Your Shoulders") and finding happiness in the wrong place (the eerie and mysterious "Now"). Overall, the production is great and the vocals are well done (would have enjoyed more pronounced harmonies, though).

"List Of Regrets" will satisfy fans of The Calling, Lifehouse, or 2000-era Goo Goo Dolls. What a great way to start off 2010! Ketchmark has delivered a remarkable debut and I look forward to hearing this artist grow into a superstar.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10

Joshua Ketchmark on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Everything":