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Around Hear: August 2010

| July 30, 2010 | 1 Comment

Local Band Reviews

Bird Show Band‘s self-titled CD is flat-out bizarre at first, but for those willing to embrace its unconventional mixture of jazz, progressive rock, and synths, it’s one of the more alluring projects to come from the Amish Records catalog. Though the group is avant-garde at its most indulgent, the European undertones provide a sense of warmth that make it less heady than most experimental projects of this nature. (www.amishrecords.com)
— Andy Argyrakis

With hard-rock hat tips to Helmet and Chevelle, Chainwax‘s Provoked is tried-and-true headbanger fare from start to finish. Though there’s no denying the roaring riffs and players’ chops (especially on “Sacrifice” and “Voices And Deception”), clichéd songwriting subjects in “One More Score” and “Steal My Soul” hamper the group’s efforts. (www.chainwax.net)
— Andy Argyrakis

James Brown may have been the “hardest working man in show business,” but when it comes to the local jazz scene no one works harder than Fareed Haque. Together with his ensemble Garaj Mahal, he has two new discs: the nine-track More Mr. Nice Guy and the 12-tune Discovery. The former offers solid fusion, especially on “Tachyonics,” with the latter using the Moog guitar to shape a more esoteric air on compositions like “Sea To Sky.” Both efforts are marvelously mind-blowing. (www.owlstudios.com)
— Jeff Berkwits

On A Future For The Dead, Chicago’s electronic rockers The Glide commendably introduce the old school to the new. The opening track, “Monster,” sets the tone with thumping, new wave-influenced percussion, while the reverb-laced guitar parts favorably add a more experimental element. Paying careful attention to congruency, this quintet keep the momentum building with catchier midway tracks like “The Vanishing” only to bring the LP to a cool, melodic close with the minimal “A Billion Lights.” (www.theglidemusic.com)
— Max Herman

The eponymous debut from Sarah Holtschlag & The Crosscuts is best heard late at night. Holtschlag’s sweetly innocent vocals float above a thin layer of instrumental backing, usually nothing more than an acoustic guitar or piano. Her songwriting is solid and her melodies harmlessly wash over the ears. Unfortunately she gets too sleepy at times, and none of the tracks leave a lasting impression. (sarahholtschlag.wordpress.com)
— Carter Moss

What do you get when you put five songwriters of varying musical tastes in a studio to record? You get exactly what you’d expect: a sonically diverse jam band. You get Ifdakar. Their debut, On The Edge, is a varied collection of funk, rock, jazz, and electronica that is just cohesive enough to really work. Nearly every track is six minutes or longer, and half of them forego vocals for straight-on instrumental jamming. (www.ifdakar.com)
— Carter Moss

Bursting with passion and soul, JT And The CloudsCaledonia‘s rich musical complexity shows the group’s amazing repertoire. Supercharged with exuberant R&B and Motown funk, “Low July” and “Fever Dream” are blistering urban bumpers, perfect for blasting on the El to get you through your sweltering summertime commute. The Southern gospel drawl and slinky jazzy come on of “Playin’ Dozens” hits your head from a different angle, but with similar intoxicating effect. (www.jtandtheclouds.com)
— Patrick Conlan

While the testosteronic lyrics/subject matter (and indeed the band’s name and CD title) may might be a tad too chauvinistic for some sensibilities, it nevertheless sounds well-suited to Knife Of Simpson‘s hard rockin’ proto-metal dual-guitar led eight-plus songs on Orenthalogy, and reminded this listener of, say, Deep Purple (sans organ) or Uriah Heep in their prime, with a bit of good ol’ all-American Blue Oyster Cult on the side. In short: just wonderfully irreverent over-the-top rock that one doesn’t hear too much of any more. (www.myspace.com/knifeofsimpson)
— David C. Eldredge

Yvonne Doll has been an impressive solo artist, but teaming up with bassist Christy Nunes and drummer Kirk Snedeker in the power trio The Locals seems to have created an even better vehicle for her powerhouse vocals and songwriting abilities. The band’s new Salt EP follows 2008’s full-length debut, Big Picture, with four hard-hitting but melodic songs. “Sound It Out” is reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge but with more of a Midwestern power-pop feel, and “Away From Here” is a declaration of independence set to a rocking beat. (www.localsrock.com)
— Terrence Flamm

More often than not the vocals are deficient, and the melodies aren’t too creative, but there’s something undeniably charming about the nine songs on Maddog Madden‘s debut, Drowning In Harmony. The multi-instrumentalist’s fun ode to the film Flight Of The Navigator perfectly reflects his mid-1980s metal sound, while the final tune, “Rock Rock Rock,” testifies to his musical attitude. With more instrumental originality and a few voice lessons, the future looks awfully bright for this crazy canine. (www.reverbnation.com/maddogmadden)
— Jeff Berkwits

Thoroughly electronic and undeniably quirky, Mahjongg‘s The Long Shadow Of The Paper Tiger is also not surprisingly incredibly danceable at times, especially on tracks like “Grooverider Free” and the ’70s-tinged “LA Beat.” Other notable tracks include the Nitzer Ebb-like “Wardance” and the Tom Waits-ish “DeVry” as well as the unclassifiable “Miami Knights.” Overall, an entirely creative and utterly engaging disc. (www.myspace.com/machinegong)
— Dean Ramos

Stretching and flexing over the course of eight minutes, “Alphaspectra Rising” starts as a ripping instrumental charged with dissonant squeals and massive drums before dissolving into a twisty, Tortoise-like epic. It’s a convoluted track, but acts like a mission statement for Miracle Condition. Expertly meshing similar juxtapositions, MC weaves slippery grooves and spacey guitar textures in “Into The Bay,” and the sinister feedback creaking through “Anthem” prefaces the art-damaged, shoegazing mist that crystallizes into gleaming armor around “The Arrival.” (www.miraclecondition.com)
— Patrick Conlan

The Palace Flophouse‘s Try Not To Get Worried comprises 12 finely crafted acoustic-pop jewels, encrusted with bass, horns, piano, and multi-hued vocal harmonies. Bradley Bergstrand’s rapid-fire lyric crunching in “10 Feet Tall” hurtles alongside the elliptical piano melody for a compelling contrast. Gretchen Shaw’s vocal harmonies are elegant and classy, and infuse these songs with an angelic lilt. There’s a beguiling honesty and genuineness when the vocals aren’t pitch-perfect either, befitting the homesickness of “Lafayette,” and the struggle and yearning in “Minor League Pitcher.” (www.myspace.com/tpfsounds)
— Patrick Conlan

Kevin Andrew Prchal‘s Eat Shirt & Tie showcases his deep, rich vocals on a highly polished collection of easy listening and country & western songs. “Another Fool (In Love With You),” is a rollicking Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash style duet with Genevieve Schatz from Company Of Thieves, and Prchal also impresses with the majestic romantic fantasy of “Opryland Hotel.” (www.kevinandrewsprchal)
— Terrence Flamm

It seems Question Of Honour set out to record a survey of rock genres on the 11-track CD Apothecary, trying to be the one band for everyman. There’s pop rock, hard rock, acoustic pop, and even a skosh of electronica and metal (“Power” is dead-on Judas Priest). It all makes for a schizophrenic listen, but also shows the band capable purveyors of all genres. If not original, better to be prolific. (www.strangehues.com)
– Jason Scales

Rabbit Children‘s lushly self-produced Thou Shalt Have A Time Machine shows just how far technology has raised the level of DIY recording, enabling the band to craft a richly layered collection of midtempo pop tunes and ballads that — as centered upon the multi-instrumentalist band’s straightforward keyboard and guitar leads and driven by its tight multi-vocalist harmonies — recall mid-career Beatles with, at times, flirtatious nods toward good ol’ all-American country and indie rock jangle . . . with (thank God for once!) no emo at all. A great beginning; now time to get more adventuresome. (www.mayspace.com/rabbitchildren)
— David C. Eldredge

They call themselves the “modern-day Santana,” which seems odd since the rock legend is still churning out amazing melodies. Still, on Make Music Rico generate a dozen pleasant albeit pedestrian songs. Although their Latin/Afro-Cuban/soul-infused tracks — most notably “Zoned” and “Money” — are dynamic, they’re basic Santana-style jams. The act is probably great as a tribute band, but need to find a unique sound before they can be judged on their own merits. (www.ricojams.com)
— Jeff Berkwits

As of this spring, indie-rock trio The Salts are no longer recording or performing together. Fortunately the band’s third and final album, Broomstick Rock Star, is available for free download and it’s a good indication of the light hearted tunes they were capable of crafting. Sure, “Fa La La La La” and a few other tracks sound slightly underdeveloped, but the simplicity The Salts carry can also really work for them, like the bluesy and mildly amusing “Parent’s House.” (www.thesummersalts.com)
— Max Herman

The 16 tracks on Treadmill Trackstar‘s ambitious I Belong To Me sound like a cross between Coldplay and the orchestrated psychedelic rock of the late 1960s. Heidi Carey’s cello gives the band much of its ornate texture, but singer/guitarist/keyboardist Angelo Gianna’s vocals play a huge role as well, particularly when he harmonizes with bassist Mike Mills. Drummer Tony Lee helps Trackstar add a hard-rock edge to its lush approach on the bitter “Hands Off” and “Least I’m Feeling.” (www.treadmilltrackstar.com)
— Terrence Flamm

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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  1. bobby says:

    Chainwax is killer!! Thanks for the heads up…

    I just picked up my copy off of Itunes.

    effin A!!!!!

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