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Local CD reviews

| January 30, 2009

It’s tough to be negative about Brown Like Fiasco, a band so friggin’ happy on tracks like “Lovely Day” and “Somewhere” from Superstar. But the group’s Mr. Rogers outlook on life sucks all the power out of its power pop. Nothin’ wrong with feel-good jams, but these guys could write a cheery song huddled in the corner of a basement while a tornado blows the house off its foundation. Sometimes too much cheer is just a bummer, man. (
– Trevor Fisher

Farewell Captain‘s highly polished The Jersey Bounce veers from mainstream rock to power pop in a way that recalls The Bad Examples. Strong melodies abound and lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Ruggiero takes full advantage of them, particularly on the high-speed “Out Of My Reach.” “Someone I Know” is an artfully rendered midtempo song, and Farewell Captain offers some classic power pop with “Knocked Around.” (
– Terrence Flamm

Despite the high-tech name, w00t (Internet slang for “Yay!”) isn’t filled with computer sounds. It’s down-and-dirty, fun fusion expertly performed by Garaj Mahal, a quartet led by bassist Kai Eckhardt and local guitar legend Fareed Haque. From the opening murmurs of “Semos” (a tune that, on more than one occasion, pays subtle homage to synth savant Thomas Dolby) to the quiet keyboard interlude within “Corner Peace,” the nine jazz jams are uniformly provocative and pleasurable. (
– Jeff Berkwits

On Anne HarrisGravity And Faith, the singer-songwriter finds herself once again immersed in a vibrant amalgamation of violin-infused, pop/rock arrangements (“Lull-aby,” “Violet Revolution”) and the occasional folk flavoring (“1000 Miles,” “Seeking The Source”). Those sweet but sassy sounds are also met with introspective lyricism that find the ambitious troubadour digging deep into the most transparent portions of her already provocative soul. (
– Andy Argyrakis

With obvious nods to the likes of Tom Waits on “Not Likely To” and “See Me,” Orso‘s Ask Your Neighbor nevertheless leaves a bit to be desired. While some cuts (like “Warm Up”) are more moving than others (“I’m High”), the album is consistently very slow and droning, and one can’t help but feel a little drowsy afterwards. (
– Dean Ramos

Pull up a barstool and enjoy Slow Gun Shogun‘s Eve Adam And The Apple, a CD that sounds like it was recorded at a honky-tonk. Vocalist/guitarist A.J. Martin makes most of the fun, particularly a revved-up take on the traditional “Evangeline” and the funny “Even Outlaws Grow Old In Utah,” which features backup vocals by Miss Palanti. But Martin’s tendency toward so-bad-they’re-funny vocals get annoying, especially when they spoil the cow-punk arrangement of “One Big Ache.” (
– Terrence Flamm

Suicide Note‘s 10-song Empty Rooms (Hawthorne Street) is not, like the band’s name suggests, a woe-is-me, suicidal missive. It is discordant, agitated noise mongering, urgently delivered in tracks that mercifully average two-and-a-half minutes. On songs such as “Truly Historic” and “Social Leper,” the band displays a talent for experimental post-modern punk. The standout tracks, including “Merci, Mercy” and “Simple Math,” however, take a slightly mellower, Fugazi-inspired approach. (
– Jason Scales

Cy Touff is one of the few bass trumpet specialists in the history of jazz and, along with tenor saxophonist Sandy Mosse, brings a classic jazz sensibility to Tickle Toe (Delmark), a collection of tracks recorded in 1981 and unreleased until last year. This is the kind of straight-up jazz that has sustained the Chicago scene for decades, and it’s pleasing to hear it done this well. Sadly, Touff went on to that great gig in the sky in 2003, but his playing swings from beyond, maintaining his place in local jazz circles. (
– Mike O’Cull

If you’re going out, go out with a bang, right? “Best Of Around Hear” alum Twin Wrecks The Memory goes out with a huge fucking bang on Suffer And Sell, an album it released the same night as its farewell show. There’s no one easy genre like indie rock, punk, metal, or hard rock with which to describe “Alcohol And Rock N’ Roll” and “Joy (Kill) Me Now,” because they, like the entire album, are bloodyknuckle mashups of each. TWTM will be missed. (
– Trevor Fisher

Early in 2008, Brice Woodall & The Positrons toured England, visited Abbey Road Studios, and played at the Cavern Club. The influence of that trip is heard on “Pulses,” the kickoff cut on Sine Wave Sea. Throughout the 11-song CD, The Beatles are an appreciable inspiration, but the mellow pop melodies also nicely blend folk, psychedelic, and alt-rock elements. (
– Jeff Berkwits


Singer-songwriter Nathan Xander aims for old-school folk rock on his latest CD, Swiftly, Surely, creating seven acoustic-based songs modeled after a youthful Bob Dylan. Xander’s imaginative imagery on “America As Egypt” is arresting, even when it’s not clear what he’s singing about. “Brilliant Before My Eyes” has a classic coffeehouse feel, and Xander evokes Harvest-era Neil Young with the tuneful “Lighthouse.” (
– Terrence Flamm

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Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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