Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rare Trax: Mr. Mister "Hunters Of The Night"

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 "Hunters Of The Night" by Mr. Mister from their 1986 album, "I Wear The Face".

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Ravishers “Ravishers”

Indie rock
Portland, Oregon's indie-pop outfit Ravishers release their self-titled full length debut on May 10 on Timber Carnival Records. Three years in the making, “Ravishers” is a follow up to the EP, "Singles for Singles", and some of the EP tunes have been tweaked for this LP.

Songwriter/frontman Dominic Castillo has a voice that is warm and lucid, quite soothing over the sparse arrangements consisting largely of crisp piano and/or tasty lead guitar supplied by Jonathan Barker (a jazz musician turned rock guitarist). Despite the deceptively slacker-styled arrangements, there is a great deal of admirable craftsmanship in these tunes in both the lyrics and music. When asked to sum up Ravishers, Castillo is quick to joke, "Fine purveyors of hand crafted songs." He's happy to elaborate, too. "Seriously, what we try to do is a great song. We're still naive enough to think that rock songs matter, in some way. For us that usually means a thoughtful arrangement that has some harmonic complexity and a touch of wit, along with the message of the lyrics. Also, there's a distillation process that's been happening over the course of the album. The more you make music, the more your musical personality hopefully concentrates. I like the idea of just becoming more of what you are artistically. Hopefully Ravishers shows that."

While some may not grab your ears right away, I advise you to exercise a little patience: the hooks are anchored there and make their way to the surface by the end of the song. The best examples you should explore include “I’m Him”, “The Chase”, “Cruel Love”, and “Keep You Around”. Fans of The Shins, Spoon, Fleet Foxes, and similar indie pop/rock bands, you need to check out Ravishers.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7

Ravishers on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the music video for Ravishers' first single, "Underachievers." The concept behind the music video is simple - a day in the life of Ravishers' guitarist, Jonathan Barker.

Ravishers - 'Underachievers'

Ravishers | Myspace Music Videos

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Poplord “Poplord Vs The Universe”

We last heard from Poplord back in 2008 with their release “Full/Filled” (review here), but in 2011 they are ready to take on much more…the entire universe in fact. A band against the world - make that all worlds - “Poplord Vs The Universe” rebels against current musical trends to deliver traditional pop and rock to their fanbase.

The epic battle with the universe started small…in the living room of keyboardist/singer Tom Magill. With the help of Stan Schaffer (drum, vocals, lyrics) and Craig Daniel (guitar, vocals), the trio has crafted another mix of melodious and quirky pop confections. The first two tracks are spectacular and have “universal” appeal. Poplord blasts off the launchpad with one of the most rocking tunes they’ve recorded, “Flower Bomb”. There are super harmonies and a killer hook – every member of the band is firing on all cylinders here. Another track that is out of this world is “Miss Universe” – just listen to the attention to detail in this song…flanged guitars, a space-age keyboard tone, and a transient house beat inexorably linked to beauty pageants, all of which tie in perfectly with the lyrical theme. On the lovely “Descending”, the band apes their most important influence – The Beatles. “Descending” features a Lennon-esque psychedelic chorus and a weepy Harrison-styled lead guitar. The ELO-flavored “Drilling For The Sun” leaves a great taste in your mouth towards the end. Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks – which are generally less upbeat - pale in comparison to these standouts…not because they are bad songs, but because the others are so good. There are flashes of brilliance in almost every song in the form of masterful harmonies, a groovy retro tone, or a witty lyric.

“Poplord Vs The Universe” is the first release on the band’s own Fowl Tone label, a nod to the small farming town of Fowler, California, where the band is based. Fans of powerpop – be sure to get Poplord on your radar.

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

Poplord on MySpace.

Check out the video for “Change In Time For Monday”:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

The Orchestra “No Rewind” (2001)

Growing up in the mid to late 70s, and looking back now, I really had two bands that I would count as favorites of that era: Queen and the Electric Light Orchestra. In fact, I remember saving all my miscellaneous change and taking it down to the record store in the Styretown Shopping Center in Clifton, NJ to buy ELO’s “Out Of The Blue” set. As a pop minded 11 year old though, I don’t think I ever got past side A of record one until at least 15 years later. And as the late 70s become the 80s, my musical mind eventually turned to heavier and more riffier fare, leaving the orchestral grooves of ELO far behind.

Sometime in the 90s, as I discovered bands like Jellyfish, I also rediscovered my love of ELO and started to go beyond the hits. Though I would rank their 1979 effort “Discovery” as one of my all time favorites, I can now find the genius in not only their 80s discs but even the “Xanadu” soundtrack. I also discovered the rather tasty discs from the Electric Light Orchestra Part 2 offshoot as well as the next progression, The Orchestra.

Containing members of both versions of the band as well as a few “new guys,” this set is a proud and worthy addition to the band’s legacy. Recorded strictly on the band’s own dime, but you’d never know it as all the ELO trademarks are there, from big bouncy choruses and huge orchestrations to the almost Beatlesque layering of tracks, it sounds like a million bucks. Even though there’s no involvement from Jeff Lynne (other than some legal action!), you can even hear traces of his production stylings with George Harrison and The Traveling Wilburys.

Songwise, it’s so easy to press repeat of tracks like “Jewel & Johnny,” “Can’t Wait To See You” or “I Could Write A Book.” They have a very upbeat 70s pop feel without sounding like it’s completely stuck in the past. And with an epic like “Over London Skies,” it’s frankly about as close to the ELO sound as anyone could get without involving Jeff Lynne.

Judging by my personal enjoyment of this disc as well as the sold out crowds the band is still playing too, I’d say there’s still something of a market for grandiose pop and roll. With the addition of ex-Styx man Glen Burtnick and a never ending tour, I’m hoping chances are good that a new album will eventually see the light of day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: Eleven Dollar Life “Shatter The Silence”

I’ll be frank – I’m not a big fan of schizophrenic bands. Most musicians simply aren’t talented enough to blend two genres – let alone more than two. The mix often results in a mess weighted down in endless self-indulgence that might have been fun to play, but not fun to listen to.

Eleven Dollar Life is a five piece band trying to create a storm in the Windy city, stirring together all sorts of musical influences from rock, funk, blues, and even jazz, hoping to create their own identity in the end. The band is making some admirable strides by landing high prolife gigs thanks to their blossoming reputation as high energy performers. They generated some buzz in 2007 with an EP called “The Problem”, with their mix of funk and post-grunge rock drawing comparisons to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus.

The aptly named “Shatter The Silence” marks Eleven Dollar Life’s full-length debut. “Wisconsin” starts things off with handclaps and a 1-2-3 go! Gets your blood pumping, but 3 minutes into this 5+ minute tune and it has already worn its welcome. “The Problem” is a more digestible meal – a feisty rocker with a driving beat and funky groove. “The Problem” is the shoe that fits the band best, and could walk them up to greater heights. “Acronym” is another attention-grabber, built on the catchiest guitar riff found on the record. The accurately named “Relief” is an acoustic-driven ballad that serves as the eye of the hurricane. Despite the dreadfully muddled tone of the strummed acoustic guitar, the tune is capably sung and features the most attractive melody I heard on the album. Most of the other tunes have some great individual elements and laudable ideas, but the band needs to iron out the wrinkles. The band seems to go out of their way to impress you with their diverse talents, even bringing in horns on occasion (“Zee”), but the hook gets lost in the chaos.

I’ve no doubt that Eleven Dollar Life put on a rousing live show, so try to check them out if you can. The fun they have on stage is likely to be contagious – I have to hope so, because I am not sure the music alone would be enough.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 9

Eleven Dollar Life on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “The Problem”

Review: Deep Dark Robot “8 Songs About A Girl”

Deep Dark Robot is an L.A.-based duo comprised of singer/songwriter Linda Perry and drummer Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson). Described as “French garage pop”, the latest EP “8 Songs About A Girl” is exactly what the title suggests. Subtlety and riddles are not what Deep Dark Robot is about. As Perry says, “Deep Dark Robot is an artificial agent trying to be human. Aren’t we all just trying to be human?” Tornay adds, “The more people become isolated by technology, the more that technology begins to feel.” OK then...

If the lyrics are reflective of what humanity is like, Perry is not providing much incentive to become human. This is a dark and angry record plagued with redundant riffs and mundane melodies, assuming you can find a melody at all. Of course you don’t expect an abrasive record to be bright and poppy, but you can still use other tactics to make the songs memorable besides a monotonous riff. The other setback are the blunt and inane lyrics – yeah, you’ve been burned, we get it – but even teenagers can come up with something more poetic than “F*** you, stupid bitch”. With more F bombs than Eddie Murphy’s “Raw”, the record comes across as juvenile, bereft of grace and artistry.

Perry’s vocals are muscular and gritty, and she can wail with the best of them – reminds me a bit of Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde). “I’m Coming For You!” has a promising start – bit of a retro groove a la Jet, but the riff is overplayed and the lack of dynamics makes you tire of it too soon. The best track is “No One Wakes Me Up Like You Do”, a beautiful song that reveals the tender side of Perry’s voice before it climaxes into the husky growl. Everything is firing on all cylinders during this song and I wish there were more like it. “Can’t Getcha Out Of My Mind” shares that classic rock vibe and boasts a decent chorus, but the pedestrian verses prevent this song from rising to greatness. Another flash of brilliance appears on “Speck”, which features some gorgeous piano and a refreshingly understated yet heartfelt vocal delivery.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 7

Deep Dark Robot on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “No One Wakes Me Up Like You Do”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

NIGHT RANGER "Midnight Madness" (1983)

Kelly Keagy probably never had a thought that a simple story about his younger sister which was lyrically portrayed in "Sister Christian" could have propelled Night Ranger's name to the sky and boosted "Midnight Madness"' sales to their biggest selling album of all time. But this album is not all about that ballad; in fact, there are several real rockers that will steal your attention such as "(You Can Still) Rock In America", a classic concert anthem with Fitzgerald's fingers dancing swiftly on his keyboard and the Watson/Gillis duo unleashing superb rhythm and solos. "Why Does Love Have To Change" is an underappreciated huge melodic rock tune - check out the beat-pumping chorus after the grandeur verse…simply stunning. "Chippin' Away", a song that's rarely seen in their set list, carries big potential behind its back as well.

Going back to that ballad, I always think that "When You Close Your Eyes" is far superior compared to "Sister". With its killer arrangement and memorable chorus, this track is a sure winner, but nevertheless, both served as the important keys of this album. Two tracks that I think are subpar here are "Touch of Madness" and "Let Him Run", but "Rumours In The Air" and "Passion Play" are among the highlights and serve as great examples of Night Ranger's capability of molding fine compositions.

Night Ranger's first three records are undoubtedly their best and since their formation in 1980, the band hasn't been able to produce any better output than this, and that also includes Jack Blades' side project, Damn Yankees. But I always look out for their latest release as I'm secretly hoping that they will be able to push their limit and boundaries and knock this album down from the top, a respectable position of what I called 'their best album to date'.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rare Trax: Company of Wolves "My Ship"

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 "My Ship" by Company of Wolves from their excellent self-titled 1990 album, which I consider to be one of the last "classic rock" records ever made. "My Ship" is one of the catchiest cuts off the record. You just can't resist feeling better after hearing this song - an optimistic anthem about turning a corner and "dropping your anchor away". I wish the band's ship would have come in, but sadly it was lost at sea.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: The August Infinity “Voices Of A Generation”

The band’s tagline is: “Too hard to be considered pop but way too pop to be considered hard rock; seriously kids, this is how America writes music”. Even I couldn’t come up with a better way to describe my primary musical preference, so I had to take note of this Brooklyn band called The August Infinity.

The August Infinity is an American five-piece rock band that came together when drummer Ian Pierce discovered singer Joshua Hawksley at the 42nd street subway stop, where Joshua first made an impression on New York City as a one-man subway performer. The band has since honed a catchy hard rock sound playing off the added talents of bassist Chris Moss and guitarists Peter Strzelecki and Frank Grullon. The August Infinity has toured extensively throughout the Northeast, and has shared the stage with a number of national acts including the platinum selling band Hawthorne Heights.

The August Infinity definitely has a hard edge and Hawksley has one of those scratchy voices heard all over the radio during the glam metal days (honestly, he keeps reminding me of Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat). But what is going to pull you into this band’s orbit are the terrific hooks. Super catchy tunes like “Push Pull Shove” and “The Faster That You Run” help this band stand above the crowd. (There’s also an acoustic version of “The Faster That You Run” worth checking out). Other highlights including “Purpose In Life” and “The Promise In The Misery Line” are slightly less melodic, but still worthy rockers that will help you wake up in the morning. Most of the other cuts aren’t bad, but lack that magical ingredient that makes them effortlessly memorable.

To my ears, I’m hearing a lot of Chronic Future, Hawthorne Heights, and Story of the Year. If these bands make you happy, you can’t go wrong with The August Infinity. The band recently wrapped up production on their follow up EP, “To Whom It May Concern” expected later this Spring. In the meantime, catch up by getting into “Voices Of A Generation”.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 10, 12, 13

The August Infinity on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Push Pull Shove”

Neil Nathan Releases Earth Day A/B Side

Neil Nathan Releases Earth Day A/B Side
Featuring "What A Wonderful World"
To Raise Funds for Reverb & Earth Day NY

NEW YORK (April 22, 2011) — "Indie pop rocker Neil Nathan can always be counted on to provide a song for a holiday," says Snob's Music. Whether it's his April Fool's Day release of his "original version" of "Honkytonk Woman," or his darkly comic "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" charity video, or his Valentine's Day Video for his ode to undying love, "You're Mine," Nathan is always looking for an excuse to celebrate.

This time he sets his sights on Earth Day with an A/B side entitled EARTH A.B. It features his breezy power popping cover of the Louis Armstrong and Ramones Classic "What a Wonderful World." Nathan enlisted the help of fellow Pirate Vinyl labelmates, Pete Sinjin and SusannaH Conn to create a Fleetwood Mac/Traveling Wilbury's influenced hippie gang vocal that riffs once more on this timeless classic. Riley McMahon co produced and Adrian Harpham played drums.

By contrast, the B side is a somber ethereal ballad entitled "What We Do." Nathan was inspired to write it during a trip to Jamaica and St.Croix. "All they played was Bob Marley on a loop, it was killing me. There's obviously nothing wrong with Bob, but there are other Reggae artists. It got me thinking about how much I love Jimmy Cliff and the melody just popped into my head. It took a lot of self control to not blatantly mimic him when I was recording the vocal."

Nathan is using the tunes to help raise funds for two green organizations. In the spirit of thinking globally and acting locally, there's Earth Day NY. And the other is Reverb, the org that greens rock tours for artists like Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, and Ben Harper. Click on the album cover below to stream and download the songs and on the links above to make a donation. You can also download the record at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Research Turtles “Mankiller Part 1 of 2” [EP]

Modern rock
We last heard from the Research Turtles in August of 2009 with their self-titled debut album (review here). They’re crawling back now with a new EP called “Mankiller Part 1 of 2”. The time in-between has been spent relentlessly supporting their initial release, scoring opening slots for bands as varied as Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sister Hazel, and Candlebox. The hard work has served them well – the Research Turtles were the winners of the 2010 Record of the Year Contest by Radio Six International in Great Britain (for the song “Let’s Get Carried Away”) and voted the 2010 “Best Band in Louisiana” by Lagniappe Magazine. Another recent change is the addition of a new guitarist/vocalist, Joseph Darbonne.

After a sparse yet attention-grabbing intro (“Girl Like You”), which showcases the naked beauty of their vocals minus the crunchy guitars for a moment, the EP kicks into high gear with a staple for this band, “You Are So”. This feisty little tune is an irresistible fun time rocker with sunny guitar leads and a breezy break in the middle. Great dynamics and strong performances throughout. “Bugs In A Jar” is sedated, but engrossing, with moody verses and a captivating lyric. As cool as it is, I’m not sure I would have put it out as a first single to introduce folks to the band, as it is more of a grower than most of the other tracks here. “Mankiller” has a great Romantics feel to it, bristling with energy and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, and the grungy “Rhinestone Gal” resembles early Stone Temple Pilots. “Rhinestone Gal” also features one of the sweetest melodic breaks I’ve heard this band pull off to date…my current favorite off the EP.

What is most noticeable about this five song collection is the remarkable diversity of musical styles you experience in such a short period of time. “Mankiller Part 1” will be out May 31, 2011, with “Part 2” to follow later this year. In the meantime, why not head on over to their web site and download the first single, “Bugs In A Jar”, for free (until May 31)?

Research Turtles on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Mr. Reality “Mr. Reality” (1992)

As the over the top decade of excess known as the 80s came to an end, the swelling undercurrent of the “unplugged” movement started to take hold. Suddenly, “every bad boy had a soft side.” Bands like Bon Jovi, Great White and Poison were all getting an extra boost by picking up their acoustics and gaining some new fans. Though the trend didn’t last long, we were fortunately left with some gems of the genre, including this superb effort from New Jersey’s Mr. Reality.

This album is almost 20 years old, and until this week, I haven’t listened to it in probably a decade. This set though is proof that solid song structure, amazing harmonies and catchy melodies are timeless.

It would be all too easy to dismiss this trio as Bon Jovi wannabe’s, as they follow the typical Jersey-style songwriting, which is big on storytelling and sweet as candy choruses, but I’d probably compare them closer to Nelson, Danny Wilde/The Rembrandts or even the Eagles (not surprising considering this was produced by famed LA producer/Don Henley sideman Danny Korchmar).

How songs like the upbeat and incredibly infectious “Anonymous,” “If I Close My Eyes” or “Jess” weren’t at least small market radio hits is beyond me. Throw in more introspective fare, like the excellent imagery of “In My Yard” or the down but never out tale of “To Leave Me Standing In The Rain” and I’m left more befuddled that this barely rates as a cult classic.

And, it would be absolutely criminal to not mention the rocking “Waiting For September,” about as sure of a hit as I’ve ever heard and sounds like it was lifted from a lost Night Ranger album.

The band would morph over the years, first into Samhill and eventually into Highway 9, whose debut also ranks as one of the “Best Albums You Never Heard.” Seems like all three are still somewhat active in music, with guitarist Gordon Brown going Nashville while vocalist Peter Scherer and bassist Rob Tanico still plugging away in their own ways.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Jim Camacho “Is It Me” [EP]

I can sit here and list all of Jim Camacho’s numerous awards, such as the New Times’ "Best Songwriter" and "Best Acoustic Performer”, and tell you about his contributions to film soundtracks films, including the Grammy nominated, “Tom Dowd & the Language of Music,” Paris Hilton’s “Pledge This,” and “Fatboy,” which was nominated at the Sundance Film Festival for “Best Use of Music in a Documentary”, or tell you that his 90’s band, The Goods, released five albums including the rock opera 5 Steps to Getting Signed, which won “Album of the Year” at the Florida Jammy Awards, and how as a solo artist he has released three albums thus far winning the Gold Remi in the Music Video category at the 40th Annual WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival for the video of “Houdini”…but it is just a lot easier to just say “Trust me, get his latest EP, “Is It Me”, right now”.

“Is It Me” has five damn near perfect tunes bristling with pop rock smarts and just a hint of Americana – he’s somewhere in-between Tom Petty and Don Henley. Camacho’s songwriting skills are on par with a seasoned pro, and his vocal instincts are spot on. The EP begins with only a beautifully played piano to complement Camacho’s earnest delivery, but then explodes with the sound of a full band – this title track gives me chills every time. “It’s Over” is a straightforward rocker, not astray from the poppier side of Wilco – take note of this one, fans of ye cowbell. “Debutante” reminds me a lot of a Will Hoge ballad and sits comfortably in the middle of this batch of tunes. Even more than the other tracks, “Debutante” provides Camacho a platform to showcase his vocal dynamics and knack for emotive inflections. “Get Out” starts deceptively – quietly building into a rousing anthem of a chorus. Finally, “Say It Soon” closes the all-too-short affair with another piano-driven piece with thoughtful lyrics. In short, nothing but gold here.

The “Is It Me” EP is available now, and we look forward to a new full-length record this summer on Forward Motion Records/Broken Records.

Jim Camacho on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Is It Me”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

LOUDNESS "Soldier of Fortune" (1989)

Released in 1989, "Soldier of Fortune" was the first album with Michael Vescera after Minoru Niihara got kicked out of the band. This was done to help them break through the American market, although the final result wasn't exactly what they expected. The whole album sounded very American and has a lot of 80s glam metal influences.

"You Shook Me" stomps on the ground with Takasaki's thunderous riffs topped with Vescera's raspy screamer. "Danger of Love" is another winner and sounds like an unreleased Dokken song. "Red Light Shooter" fires away some ferocious hooks with flashy tapping. Too bad the euphoria was soon over when they struck me with the blunt and boring ballad, "Lost Without Your Love". If you're looking for a down-tempo sentimental track, "Twenty Five Days" is a far better pick - check out the unforgettable intro lines. Thankfully, they refuel the album with several heavy tracks and close it with the fantastic "Demon Disease".

"Soldier of Fortune" is a truly great album with lots of powerful songs, stellar vocals, and exceptional guitar work. Although this ain't the same Loudness as in the early 80s, Akira still deserves a glass of beer for these magical and mind-blowing compositions!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rare Trax: The Crystals "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)"

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 "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)" by The Crystals. One of the more interesting songs in the "oldies but goodies" file, and it speaks volumes about how much society has changed over the years (for most people at least - some could argue this could be today's theme song for women dating Chris Brown).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Madison Square Gardeners “Teeth of Champions” [EP]

Maybe they could be described as the Weezer of alt country? Brooklyn’s Madison Square Gardeners have a long pedigree as backing musicians for artists like Ben Kweller, The New York Dolls and Jill Sobule, to name a few. Drawing comparisons to Wilco, the band hopes to impress with their latest five song EP, “Teeth of Champions”.

This little EP packs quite a punch and leaves a good first impression. Mixing breezy laid back guitars with skull-blasting bursts of energy, Madison Square Gardeners are masters of balance. More good news – they are no strangers to writing good hooks and placing harmonies in the sweet spot. “Little Bit of Heart” is very Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – a slow burning mid-tempo rocker that builds up to an infectious chorus. “Record Store” is even better, boasting timely lyrics and a terrific sing-a-long chorus. I found the most accessible song to be the instantly catchy “Stand By You”, which features a wonderfully bright and upbeat chorus set to a propelling drumbeat. The EP leaves us with “Miracle Mile”, which starts off laid back then…wait for it…ends with a thundering coda that makes you want to go right back and replay the whole EP again.

The Madison Square Gardeners EP “Teeth of Champions” is available now – definitely worth sinking your teeth into.

Madison Square Gardeners on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Stand By You”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: Marissa Levy “63 Songs About Joe” [EP]

Pop rock
Silly love songs – what’s wrong with that? Nothing, if Marissa Levy is the one singing them. Born in my home state of Maryland and honing her songwriting and musical chops in New York, Levy is a pop rock dream come true. But the first thing you’re probably wondering is how short these songs must be if she squeezed 63 of them onto a single EP? Well, she may have written 63 songs about Joe, but only 5 made the cut here.

It has been five years since Levy’s last effort, “Charmed and Dangerous”. For her new EP, she recruited power pop guru Mike Viola, who has been featured here on BMF many times. Viola’s talents are the perfect match for Levy’s songwriting skills – the production is excellent and the backing vocals are outstanding. Viola has cast the same magical spell on Levy’s craft that he’s done for Kelly Jones and Mandy Moore – pure pop wizardry. Levy’s vocals are sweet as chocolate and you’ll hear copious amounts of Beatles and Beach Boys influences in her tunes.

You couldn’t ask for a better springtime song than the perky feel-good opener, “A Love Song”. Levy’s folky side leaks through to good effect on the milder “Growing Up To Do” – her fragile yet firm vocal, the backing vocal accents, and enchanting melody make this one another favorite. She could be mistaken for Lisa Loeb on the tender and catchy “Heartbreak Liar”. “The Magic” is also beautifully crafted with a mild retro feel and more trademark Viola harmonies. Rounding out this set is “Breathing Fire” – a perfect example of how an artist can get a little darker without compromising on melody.

There isn’t a bad apple in the bunch. All I can say to sum up…bring on the other 58 songs! “63 Songs About Joe” was released on April 5 - you can order it through her web site.

Marissa Levy on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “A Love Song”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Drake Bell - It’s Only Time (2006)

One of the secret joys about being a parent is being able to watch kids shows without any feelings of guilt whatsoever. One show that my boys watch over and over is Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, and I’m there with them every time. Just puts me in the mind of an 80s sitcom, a genre sadly missing from the television these days.

We bought this disc as a gift for my youngest and he would play it night and day, loudly. But, I sure as hell took notice because this was far from what I expected it would be. Obviously the boy was raised right musically because it would have been all too easy for him to release some over processed, auto-tuned mess rather than this power pop blast of goodness.

Seemingly inspired by Jellyfish, Paul McCartney and Cheap Trick, it’s standard three chord rock that far exceeds any sort of expectations. Not that I’m complaining, because it’s so easy to hit repeat on a track like the riffy and oh-so-hit-worthy title track, which not only reaches for the rafters but proceeds to blow the roof off. The same could be said for the sunny day 70s pop of “Makes Me Happy” or the acoustic take of the Drake & Josh theme song “I Found A Way” which continue this poptastic streak.

But, it’s songs like the vaudevillian opener “Up Periscope,” the pure piano pop of “I Know” or the deep Beatlesque “Fool The World” that elevate this far above typical teen idol fare.

On the musical front, Drake has been awfully quiet other than some live shows (where he actually covers Jellyfish’s “Joining A Fan Club” and nails it). I heard a new track from an album that’s been forever due and though it has an almost industrial touch shows a lot of promise and still very much in the power pop world.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sarah Elizabeth Foster creates contemporary music infused with nostalgic melodies popularized in the 50s and 60s – and she even looks the part too. Born in Texas and having vocal coaching in Germany, her music is big and bold, and her voice is captivating.

It is hard not to find a better mood while hearing something like “Go Home Alone” – the song structure harps back to those carefree chord progressions of the Golden Era of rock and pop, and the vintage organ over that backbeat helps develop that mood to the fullest. Her voice shines above it all, making this track an instant favorite. “Line ‘Em Up” borrows heavily from Nancy Sinatra’s big hit, but it is really an interlude that ends almost as quickly as it begins. The other highlights from this short 7 song record include the pretty mid-tempo number “Waiting For Love” and happy go lucky closer, “Little Love Affair”, which also exhibits just a touch of funk. “Preach To Me” is a soulful and stunning ballad with weepy strings and an affectionate vocal delivery – sounds like it would have been a hit for Aretha Franklin back in the day.

Part B-52s and part Norah Jones, the music of Sarah Elizabeth Foster is smack-in-your-face good.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 5, 6, 7

Sarah Elizabeth Foster on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Go Home Alone”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

XYZ "XYZ" (1989)

Not to be confused with Jimmy Page's XYZ, this band actually hailed from L.A. and became one of the house bands for the Whisky Club at Sunset Strip. Don Dokken saw that they had big potential and produced the first album, spawning the minor hit "Inside Out", which I think is a decent song compared to the more superior tracks such as "Maggy", "Take What You Can", or the soul-cleansing acoustical-thang, "After The Rain".

My other fave tracks are "What Keeps Me From Loving You", which sounds very Whitesnake-ish and "Nice Day To Die", a tune that races the rhythm to the limit - a speedy Dokken-style song. The highlight of the band is the monster vocals of Terry Ilous, who sounds very close to Don Dokken himself, only better in some aspects. This album is a dazzling and distinctive release in 1989 featuring a whole lotta killer tracks by a superb band.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: Yellowcard “When You're Through Thinking Say Yes”

Rock/Pop punk
With their seventh album, Yellowcard has left the majors in favor of their indie roots. I’ve been a champion of this band ever since I heard their breakthrough record “Ocean Avenue” (2003), which spawned the massive hit with the same name. The post-punk band had a knack for imbuing their youthful anthems with the sun-soaked atmosphere of Southern California, and brought a unique element to the table with the use of violin amidst the crushing guitars. As unintuitive as that may sound, the band’s formula actually works and creates a sound like none other out there – modern pop punk with a virtual Celtic twist.

But the formula works only if great, catchy songs are played. “When You're Through Thinking Say Yes” gets off to a fiery start “The Sound of You and Me”. There is a great song in here struggling to be heard, but that doesn’t happen until the drummer lets up – the first half of the song is ruined with the breakneck pace of the drums. It’s almost as if he hates this song and just wants to play it fast to get it over with. The familiar violin is front and center on “For You, And Your Denial”, which was chosen as the first single. I thought “With You Around” was more accessible, though, and I would have gone with that track. Second single, “Hang You Up” is a sweet mid-tempo piece that masterfully blends the violin to set the melancholy mood here – well done. Among the other cuts, “Hide” is a respectable upbeat tune with decent backing vocals, and the similar “Soundtrack” is even better. “Sing For Me” is the token ballad that should burn a lot of butane at their concerts. While unremarkable musically, I really enjoyed the lyrics of “See Me Smiling” – a song that expresses a hopeful wish that a certain lost loved one realizes the difference they made in our life.

“When You're Through Thinking Say Yes” is a solid effort sure to appease fans who have been thirsting for new Yellowcard for over two years – it’s another slice of the same cake they’ve been serving for the past seven albums. But it’s just not the Yellowcard record I’d reach for first when I get the craving for an emo-violin mash up – this time out it seems the band has come up a bit short in the melodic category. For fans of Jimmy Eat World, All-American Rejects, and All Time Low.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 7, 8, 9

Yellowcardofficial site.

Check out the video for “For You, And Your Denial”:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rare Trax: Acoustic Hits "Love Bites"

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

In keeping with Kurt Torster's piece on Def Leppard this week (see here), I thought I'd spotlight a cover of their hit "Love Bites". This stripped down version, featuring just a single acoustic guitar and a female vocal is from the digital album "Acoustic Hits: A Def Leppard Acoustic Tribute" found here. There is a whole series of these "Acoustic Hits" releases, but finding information on the people performing the tunes is challenging. The vocalist on "Love Bites" really nails it - her delicate and earnest delivery puts the song into a whole new light...very nicely done. Can anybody tell me who it is?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Small Change: Alexi Lalas “Ginger”

Small Change spotlights great, often overlooked CDs that you can get for cheap. Just because the economy sucks, it doesn’t mean your music has to.

ALEXI LALAS “Ginger” (1998)

Most of you will know Alexi Lalas as “that American soccer guy”. In 1998, Lalas released the album ‘Ginger’ (his third, I believe) and it’s a fantastic record, full of power pop gems.

On the album, he not only wrote and sang all the songs, but played guitar, bass and drums. Lalas is a fine vocalist, but rather more importantly here, he proves himself to be a superb songwriter. You won’t find any deep or life-changing lyrics, but then that’s not what ‘Ginger’ is about. The opening number ‘Goodnight Moon’ sets the tone with its upbeat jangle, sure to please fans of Gin Blossoms etc. However it’s the album’s second track which really makes the listener realise they could be onto something a bit special; musically, it’s got a similar vibe to the opener, but a catchy, simple guitar riff gives it edge. The lyric “hey hey hey, just another cliché, too much too fast and it slips away” would suggest Lalas more than understands the fickle nature of the music industry (and fame in general) and come what may, he’s getting maximum enjoyment from his work – and that’s something which really comes across in most of this album’s performances.

‘Drive-by Serenade’ has a more mature sound and slows thing down a little. It feels less throwaway than some of the album, but somehow that doesn’t make it better. If you want a comparison, this fits snugly into the late 90s alt rock mode again and wouldn’t sound too out of place played up against the likes of Far Too Jones. It holds its own with the best music of that style. ‘Sonic Lullaby’ tears by in full-on rock mode - and is gone in under three minutes. ‘This Should Be’ is perfect Gin Blossoms style jangle-pop. I may even dare suggest it’s better than some of the material on their second album! ‘Vacancy’ is another slower number which combines both acoustic and electric guitars and is very reminiscent of Five Easy Pieces – another great and largely unknown band from the late 90s.

The songs on offer are so strong; ‘Ginger’ is an album with no unnecessary filler and at approximately 37 minutes playing time, it leaves you feeling like you need to give it that second spin when it’s done, just to help keep up the good vibes. If you’re a fan of ‘Hang Time’ era Soul Asylum, Goo Goo Dolls or Gin Blossoms (and particularly their side project Gas Giants), then you need this record. As far as largely ignored albums go, this is one of the greatest.

Get it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Ten “Stromwarning”

AOR/Melodic rock
I’ve always had mixed feelings about the band Ten. Loved by many fans of AOR and melodic rock, their songs have always struck me as overly long, infused with aimless prog rock that is probably fun to play, but not so fun to endure listening to. That said – there is rarely a Ten album that I can’t find at least a couple tracks to love.

After listening to their latest, “Stormwarning”, their ninth full-length studio effort, my attitude towards the band is not going to change. Singer and principal songwriter, Gary Hughes recruited Neil Fraser on lead guitars and Mark Sumner on bass, in addition to long-time members John Helliwell on guitar and Paul Hodson on keyboards. Mark Zonder (Fates Warning) takes care of all the drum duties, rounding out this version of Ten to create “Stormwarning”. Sonically speaking, the album sounds wonderful, but I am here for the songs.

“Endless Symphony” is the perfect illustration of what disengages me from the band…an over-the-top opus that clocks in at nearly 7:30 minutes – endless indeed. Lots of redundant riffs and runs that – while clever at times - do not lead to a satisfactory conclusion, making the song ultimately forgettable. “Centre Of My Universe” at least has a semi-solid hook in the chorus, but another 6 minutes later leaves me thinking I could have listened to 2 or 3 really good songs instead of 1 mediocre one. Highlights that I found to be worth the five plus minutes of my attention span include the sweeping title track and the rocking “Invisible”, as well as the infinitely more accessible “The Hourglass And The Landslide” and the lovely, Beatlesque closer called “The Wave”.

iPOD-worthy: 5, 6, 8, 10

Ten on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “The Hourglass And The Landslide”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Def Leppard “Slang” (1996)

It amazes me that there are still a fair amount of people that think that “grunge killed hair metal,” when in reality hair metal did just fine to kill itself off. 3rd tier bands were releasing mediocre product thinking they’d be able to ride Bon Jovi and Poison’s coat tails forever. What people always fail to understand, music is cyclical in nature and no one genre ever stays on top for long. When the stagnation sets in, all that needs to happen is for the right band to be in the right place at the right time to bring about sweeping change. And, that’s exactly what Nirvana did. Did they plan it? No, Cobain was lucky to stand upright. But, for that one moment in time, lightning struck Seattle and the musical storm once again changed.

So by the time 1996 rolled around, I think it’s safe to say that not many were pining for a new Def Leppard album, except those who were still sitting around blaming grunge for all their begotten musical ills. Shame of it is - what is probably the most misunderstood Def Leppard album was also one of their best. Had the Mercury promotional team handled things correctly, sales might have been more multi-platinum rather than just scratching gold.

I have to admit, the first time I listened to it I had taken notice how different the sound was. In fact, you couldn’t not notice. It was contemporary and not so reliant on technology or production. It was rough, down-tuned and dare I say, industrial. Title track notwithstanding, gone suddenly were songs about pouring sugar and getting rocked to make way for much more personal songs.

The first two tracks, “Truth?” and “Turn To Dust,” were not exactly the best choices for album openers. Not bad songs by any stretch, just out of place. Once track three rolls on, the title track “Slang,” the album just kicks in and never lets up. That title track also should have been the first single in the US, as it is the closest song here that bridges the gap between old Lep and new Lep.

From there on out, the next seven songs in a row all had hit single potential. From the Bryan Adams like “All I Want Is Everything” to the thrash-like blitz of “Gift Of Flesh,” even now these songs stand up remarkably well. Hell, maybe even better than when they were released.

But, it is absolutely criminal that the superior power ballad “Breathe A Sigh” was never promoted in any way, shape or form as a single. A bit sparse and almost a capella at times, it is hands down one of the best songs this band has ever recorded. That goes for the other power ballads, “Blood Runs Cold” and “Where Does Love Go When It Dies,” which I’d throw up against any ballad the band has ever recorded.

I think this relative failure hit the band pretty hard. I saw them on the “Slang” tour, with Filter in tow, and although they played quite a few songs from the album, the passion and conviction seemed to be missing. They’d regroup though and go on to record a few more killer albums, all pretty much ignored as well. They have seemingly turned into a nostalgic touring act now but here’s hoping they still have the fire to get a few more albums out as there is definitely a huge hole in the musical world without them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: The Davenports “Why The Great Gallop”

Indie pop/rock
Building on the pop craft of their two previous critically acclaimed records — “Speaking of The Davenports,” and “Hi-tech Lowlife” - “Why the Great Gallop”, produced by Charles Newman (Magnetic Fields), means serious business. The Davenports are also known as the writers of "Five Steps," the theme song to A&E's Emmy-nominated program Intervention. “Five Steps” was also featured on an episode of South Park, “Crippled Summer.”

Now the Brooklyn band, lead by Scott Klass, returns with a new album. The latest video for the single, "Thinking About You, Maryann", sets the stage for the story encapsulating the record. The tale revolves around a fellow named Christopher, who is enduring a rough breakup with his beloved Maryann. Despite all the torture he has been through, he is bewildered at how much affection he still has for her. Unlike most concept albums, the songs on “Why The Great Gallop” stand alone just fine – but don’t play this one on shuffle because the storyline is linear and too clever to miss.

The record is a grower, but Klass has one of those gentle rasps (reminds me of E from The Eels) that makes it easy to want to replay this one. “Why The Gallop” begins with the appropriately titled, “Christopher Stars”, which is a light-hearted pop confection, and “Anything From Amelia” quickly follows as another sunny and energetic treat. “Something’s Gonna Get Us” grooves with breezy acoustic guitar and some subtle space-age sound effects, all leading up to a hooky chorus that is the “something” that will get you. “Hanging Out With Dave” and “You’re Not Comin’ Round” (check out the ragtime break!) are additional highlights. There’s also a host of beautifully crafted ballads enriched with strings, well-placed to break up the string of more upbeat numbers. The story comes full circle with the closer, “Thinking About You, Maryann”, with a gentle fingerpicking and understated vocal that masterfully balances melancholy with nostalgia.

Check out The Davenports if you like Belle and Sebastian, Fleet Foxes, or the lighter side of Fountains of Wayne.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12

The Davenports on MySpace. Official site.

Video for “Thinking About You, Maryann”:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

AC/DC "Highway To Hell" (1979)

“I'm goin' down, all the way, I'm on the highway to hell, don't stop me!" …so goes the rant of the late Bon Scott when he screamed the band's signature song way back in the 1979. Apparently the devil granted his wishes when they found his body in a car breathless, tragically dead by an alcohol overdose. “Highway” is the band’s sixth album - more spooky information. Scott’s death was a huge loss to the hard rock scene and there was brief talk inside the camp to disband, but luckily they continued and later on, AC/DC became bigger and bigger. As of 2008, they have sold more than 200 millions albums worldwide.

Produced by Mutt Lange, who later leaped even higher as a successful producer for Def Leppard and Bryan Adams, achieved his first major rock triumph with "Highway To Hell". AC/DC scored 7 platinums in the USA alone with this album, which spawned legendary tracks such as "Girl's Got Rhythm", "Touch Too Much", If You Want Blood", "Shot Down In Flames", and of course the title track itself. I also like "Get It Hot" and "Love Hungry Man" and probably only "Walk All Over You" is my least-fave pick of the album.

"Highway To Hell" is an extremely enjoyable album and undoubtedly an iconic release you should buy as the last legacy of Mr. Scott. While I can accept Brian Johnson's voice, I always prefer Scott's, maybe because he seems to be less chaotic-and-distorted than Johnson. This album was mentioned as one of the 500 greatest albums ever made by Rolling Stone magazine, and I can convince you that it ain't an empty boast.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rare Trax: Lindsay Mac "His Dreams"

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 “His Dreams” by Lindsay Mac from her 2008 album, “Stop Thinking”. Lindsay is an innovative writer and performer – she tells vivid stories with her lyrics and plucks or strums the cello in her music. “His Dreams” is a poignant tale of a boy lured away from the family farm through the backdoor draft to fight in the war. She pulls no punches and her haunting vocal will give you chills. Be sure to check out the rest of her album for more, including a cover of “Blackbird”.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Original “Honkytonk Woman” Unearthed - Rolling Stones To Be Sued For Theft

Original “Honkytonk Woman” Unearthed
Rolling Stones To Be Sued For Theft

NEW YORK (April 1, 2011) — Shocking new evidence indicates that “Honkytonk Woman” was not written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Though they’ve been credited with creating the song while on Brazilian holiday in 1968, its true birthplace goes back much further. Richard's quote that “it was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930’s country song,“ seems now to be quite revealing of its true origin; the1930’s. And the writer is golden voiced crooner, William “Silky Bill” Nathan. Virtually unknown to all but the most serious auteurs, Nathan is credited as one of Elvis’ main vocal influences. But since all his recordings were believed to be lost to oxidation, it was never known to what extent until now.

How could such a ruse have stood for the past 40 years? It seems that billionaire and noted eccentric Maurice Fetherberry, had hoarded the song amongst the rest of his 30’s vintage country, folk, and blues archives. The Maurice Fetherberry Archives were thought to be lost while in transport on the final voyage of the Andrea Doria (Fetherberry believed air travel to be unsafe).

However, the real truth is they ended up in the hands of Fetherberry’s grandaughter, Marianne Faithfull, Jagger’s girl friend from 1966-1970, and co-writer with Jagger and Richards of Sister Morphine. Although now clean and sober for decades, at the time Faithfull was battling her own demons, and sold the archives to fund her drug addiction. No one knows whose hands they passed through since then, and the collection has been all but decimated. But in a strange twist of fate, the original recording of “Honkytonk Woman” has found its final and rightful resting place; in the hands of William “Silky Bill” Nathan’s great grandson, Neil Nathan. A singer songwriter in his own right, Neil gravitated over to some cylinders of 78’s at a NYC antique fair and noticed his great grandfather’s name on one of them. Now Nathan is fuming and and plans to file suit against Jagger and Richards. “Those slimey limey bastards’ll get there’s! You can’t just tell people you did something you didn’t do!”