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Lover's Lane

Around Hear: January 2013

When two of its members aren’t serving in the National Guard, power trio The Allegiance launches its own musical shock and awe on this 13-cut CD of front-and-center bass-heavy, metal-edged punk originals. The band’s spit-in-your-face lyrics would gladden the heart of any mosh pit front-liner. While not all of the band’s tales from the dark side are equally convincing, one has got to admire the chutzpah to close the disc by pulling off a cover of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” Now that’s bravery! (reverbnation.com/theallegiancerock)
– David C. Eldredge

The long-form instrumentals on Above The Clouds by the Terry Bartolotta Group tend toward traditional jazz and feature tenor sax player Alex Beltran and Nick Sednew on trumpet. Bartolotta also gives himself some time to stretch out on these original compositions, particularly on the nocturnal “Mood Piece” and Latin-flavored “Little Bolero.” Bassist Nathan Kawaller and drummer Lucas Gillan turn in some inspired solos on “On A Whim” and “Times Change,” respectively. (terrybguitar.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Four-song (plus a brief “Intro” and “Outro”) debut, Almost Nowhere is a shoegaze tour de force by multitasking musician/producer Josh Cohen. Multi-layered guitar tracks and heavily-reverbed vocals muddy up his simple melodies and songs of unrequited love into a dizzyingly surreal wash ready to vaporize were they not grounded by minimal drums and bass. Interesting and diverting enough at first encounter, but the similarity/interchangeability of Blind Moon’s songs erases any lasting impact. (blindmoonbooking@gmail.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Their Kingsize EP kicks off with a nasty dissonance that recalls Seattle’s early grunge bands; the rest of the set departs from that sound but stays in the PacNorthwest. Captain Bucket‘s true love is the riot grrrl scene as spearheaded by Team Dresch and Kill Hannah. Matilda Muffintop can easily replicate Corin Tucker’s scolding caterwaul, but she and Sir Crampy Hambone’s aggressively regressive guitar interplay brooks no comparisons to S-K. Despite frequent, Ramones-ish nods to early rock and “The King”‘s cheeky lift of “All Day And All Of The Night,” Kingsize’s aesthetic trumps anything it might be trying to say. (reverbnation.com/captainbucket)
– Steve Forstneger

Central Illinois-based Jeff Davidsmeyer possesses the basic formula to be a successful country/folk singer-songwriter – an honest voice, simple melodies, and storytelling lyrics. But he lacks the charisma and maturity that makes someone like Sufjan Stevens or Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam so compelling. You can’t fault Davidsmeyer for trying though. His third release, Takin’ Our Time, sees the addition of some female harmonies and more backup musicians, which helps songs like “Hello How Are You” and the title track transform from simple solos into more textured, earnest ballads. (jeffdavidsmeyer.com)
– Carter Moss

How can you not love a collection featuring a buoyant song inspired by the famous “Twilight Zone” episode, “Time Enough At Last” (where Burgess Meredith just wants to be left alone to read)? That’s just one of 11 great tunes on Gallery, the latest effort from Jeff Elbel + Ping, whose country-tinged heartland melodies are at once beguiling and beautiful. In short, it’s another infectious, invigorating installment from these hometown heroes. (marathonrecords.com/ping)
– Jeff Berkwits

Nationally-touring rock trio A Friend Called Fire‘s new CD, The Lightning, features two singles. First song, “The Lightning,” with its haunting melodies, rich textures, and huge vocal harmonies, hits you with a familiar modern rock sound in the vein of Stone Temple Pilots, Nickelback, or Three Days Grace – with an emphasis on song structure. Second song, “Space,” is a slow, yet playful acoustic segment. The new songs depart slightly from the band’s normal aggressive stance, but we should expect something spectacular if the band’s next full-length follows suit. (afriendcalledfire.com)
– Kelley Simms

Singer-songwriter David Hawkins sure knows how to turn a phrase. The lyrics of the 11-song Hello Mr. Death & Other Love Songs are at once pleasing and perceptive, especially on “Hello Mr. Death (A Love Song)” and “Till My Heart Beats Again.” Hawkins’ folksy voice melds well with his country-style picking, resulting in a set that’s equally enlightening and entertaining. (hawkmanmusic.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Holiday House created a concept album based on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, but don’t expect giddy tributes to the first Ferris wheel. Night Falls On The Fair consistently sounds ominous, as if serial killer H.H. Holmes is only one of many evils awaiting visitors to the event. Still, Andi Donahue’s gorgeous vocals, particularly on “Scrape The Sky” and “Big Mary,” along with guitarist/drummer Paul Wendell Obis’ elaborate folk and rock arrangements make this a fascinating effort. (holidayhouse.bandcamp.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Jazz pianist Jim Holman’s Explosion! (featuring Richie Cole and Frank Catalano) is a fun romp. Holman commands a talented crew on alto sax, tenor sax, bass, and drums on this 10-song debut. The title track indeed explodes, with each instrument (especially Holman’s dexterous piano) getting its room to roam. Classics including “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” and Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” are delivered with a playful confidence. (delmark.com)
– Jason Scales

Self-described “garage rock mutant one-man band” Jehosaphat Blow sounds exactly as one expects on Natural High For Low People. Captured on a four-track in his living room, but with snarling, growling vocals and frumious acoustic guitar chords as if spewed from the depths of a well, Blow raises low-fi, proto-rock to artistic heights not seen/heard since GG Allin ceased writhing in broken glass.  And even though one can only intermittently understand what the heck he’s spewing about, there’s no denying he has his infectious moments. (facebook.com/jehosaphatblow)
– David C. Eldredge

The Kelly & Pratt Brothers (formerly known as The Heat) enter the local pop-rock music scene with a 14-song eponymous debut that sounds like a lost ’80s cassette. Carried purely by electric guitar (no keyboards here), the simple hooks and upbeat unison choruses of many of the tracks could fit perfectly as a TV theme song or in the epic get-ready-to-rumble scenes of some retro movies. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Brothers (also featuring Mark Pulice) at least prove they can write decent songs and sing them with a bit of passion.
– Carter Moss

The dark, gothic stylings of Leper allow the listener to explore the beauty of solemn, melancholic, and depressing music with hope and optimism. Even the title of the band’s third full-length, Beautiful Gray Day, has a silver lining. Each of the 12 romantically-binding tracks are constructed and layered with synth-heavy melodies and programmed drums, which produces some trance-like techno/industrial rhythms. Even atypical goth fans can agree – the music Leper creates carries some weight and its haunting melodies wrap around your head. (grrrrecords.com/leper)
– Kelley Simms

Separation Anxiety is a serious recording dealing with profound issues, but that doesn’t mean Mutts simply pump out droning shoegazer ditties. Their self-described grunge/blues sound is energetic (though a skosh schizophrenic), moving from gritty guitar workouts like “Tire Swing Blues” to screamfests such as “Now Now Now.” These 10 cuts (plus an untitled hidden track) are weighty yet worthwhile. (muttsmusic.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

No matter how digital music becomes, it will always be organically communal. Norwood Park All Stars’ 13-track album Northwest Highway is anachronistic proof. The album lives up to a heavy responsibility: to capture the Norcore scene from the mid-1980s. Each track features a different lineup of veterans reliving the glory days of punk, hardcore, and glam. Short, energetic guitar-based tracks like “1:29″ and “Since 1973″ make a listener pine for the glory days when rock was king. This collection serves as a worthy artifact. (norcore.us)
– Jason Scales

On his third release, Shaking Faith, long-time House of Blues songwriter-in-the-round host Thomas Pace surrounds himself with an excellent band of country-ish singers and players, and their efforts are further boosted by the disc’s excellent production. But while Pace’s original songs and workman-like lyrics are serviceable, if not memorable, his limited range (especially when he’s the sole voice) dims a lot of their perceived luster. (thomaspace.com)
– David C. Eldredge

The Safes released two songs from their future album, Century Of Saturdays as a CD single to coincide with their use on the PBS show “Roadtrip Nation.” “It’s True” offers fun in a skiffle music mode, thanks to Frankie O’Malley’s playful vocals and accordion playing. He adds vibraphone to the melodic, “Simplicity,” which also benefits from Ryan Matthew on violin. It’s a safe bet the band (including bassist Michael O’Malley and guitarist Patrick O’Malley) will keep things cooking on the full-length. (thesafes.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Even with solid rhymes and satisfactory beats, ultimately there’s not much that stands out on Lightspeed, the new project from Sid Sound. Undoubtedly, “Sick” (built around a sample of the love theme from The Godfather) stands as the collection’s most creative cut, but mostly, the tracks lack any noteworthy qualities. Still, all 16 songs are available for free download, and at that price they’re at least worth a listen. (sidsoundmusic.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

The mononymously dubbed Trakan handles a microphone the way a cabernet-drunk, aging punk talks too closely in your ear. On his Powder Kegs Beneath Dagger Trees mini-album, he marries a Billy Bragg-meets-Nick Cave veteran angst with the occasional – if predictable – foray into Irish-tinged insurgent country. That he chooses to have a female duet partner accompany him on the tracks is a tiny bit subversive, but definitely counterproductive. Trakan’s best when he takes another swig and breathes a layer of sleaze onto your nape. (trakan.com)
– Steve Forstneger

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  1. Kevin Kelly says:

    Thanks Carter for the review. The Kelly and Pratt Brothers (with Mark Pulice) – formerly known as The Heat, was a band back in the 80’s. We are still playing but in separate projects. Half of the tracks we recorded at Gary Loizzo’s Pumpkin Studios. I reached out to Gary to move these tracks from dat to CD. Gary after listening to them after all these years, said this stuff is “pretty good”.

    These are at https://myspace.com/the.kelly.brothers.and.fr
    in case there is any one interested in giving them a listen.
    -Kevin Kelly

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