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Around Hear: May 2010

| April 30, 2010 | 6 Comments

Local Band Reviews

Admiral Of Black

Admiral Of Black has recorded the template for fundamental hard rock/metal debut albums with The Hand Of Chaos. The eight-track CD — already a year old — has the right production to stand out from other newcomers, thanks to a party-metal swagger that overcomes any minor first-effort deficiencies. Songs feature precise power-riffing, a high-octane tempo, a few face-melting leads, and a frontman who delivers vocals that match the intensity. (
— Jason Scales

Brighton, MA committed its four-week/four-show February 2009 residency at Schubas to disc. While the live, six-song recording attests to the band’s proficiency with pedals and its ability to draw a crowd, it also leaves one to question blogosphere claims of frontman Matthew Kerstein possessing “one of the most engaging voices . . . anywhere.” Download for free and hear/judge for yourself (
— David C. Eldredge

Throughout Jeff Chan‘s seven-track Horns Of Plenty project, the bass-clarinetist and tenor saxophonist demonstrates his chiseled chops, but often stays in such a subdued frame of mind that the disc rarely shines. Ten-minute jams like “Waiting” and “Decisions” drag on, while shorter tracks like “Song For Ava” are still sluggish and long to be interrupted by a full band free-for-all. (
— Andy Argyrakis

Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey) is the fifth album from Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor performing as Chicago Underground Duo. They continue to experiment with the contours of composed and improvisational jazz, and push the boundaries of sonic manipulation as music. Rumbling drums and searing blasts of Mazurek’s cornet fuel the lava-hot spiciness and kinetic energy of “Green Ants,” while “Left Hand Of Darkness,” with its smeared blips and raw sonic space, is more akin to a futuristic sound collage. (
— Patrick Conlan

The post-Low Skies outfit Judson Claiborne drives forth on Time And Temperature, which piles on the orchestral folk-pop arrangements as if in a death race with Andrew Bird. Bird’s whistle, however, is no competition for Chris Salveter’s toned-down keen, which always finds a way through the draped sonics. The draping can make its weight especially burdensome, though, as these 10 tracks work through nearly 53 minutes. It’s almost enough to shroud the Midlake-meets-The Veils roll of “The Freeze Up” and languorous “One Hundred More Than One Hundred Times.” But not quite. (
— Steve Forstneger

Cary Kanno is wasting no time trying to become a one-man musical force. After forming two bands (Abstract Giants and Doko Benjo), he dove head-first into a solo career, simultaneously releasing two LPs (creatively titled One & Two), on which he played nearly every instrument and handled full mixing and production duties. One deftly captures 15 tracks of Kanno’s definitive sound — his honest, no-frills, laid-back vocals over simple country/ folk/pop-tinged instrumentals. Kanno’s sound is a beautiful example of “less is more.” (
— Carter Moss

Don’t let the opening track, “Coal In My Veins,” fool you; as authentically gritty of a blues tune as that is, Joe Martina‘s The More Things Change is a wonderfully simple country album through and through. Even despite missteps like “Carved In Stone” and “Salvation & Loss” (where the slower, more introspective direction really doesn’t do him any justice), this is still easily one of the most enjoyable back-to-basics country albums one is likely to hear. (
— Dean Ramos

Rap and disco are no strangers to flirting with one another, but rarely is the split so cohesively integrated as Keith Masters throughout the Discotheque EP. Like the beats of Jamie Lidell or Walter Meego, laced with the mic skills of Kayne West or Common, expect an old school authenticity on top of current dance floor beats sure to induce a sweat within seconds. (
— Andy Argyrakis

There’s a lovely, languorous quality to the 11 songs on Harm Among The Willows (Bloodshot), the first solo release from long-time country singer/songwriter Jane Baxter Miller. The melodies aren’t especially noteworthy, but her vocals, particularly on tracks like “Swimming Up” and the sweet “He’s On A Train,” are terrific. With a voice that by turns recalls Bonnie Raitt and Bobbie Gentry, it’s a solid, unquestionably successful CD. (
— Jeff Berkwits

Hailing from Elmhurst/Villa Park, jam-band Mind’s Hideaway has released its debut LP Supercollider, which can be described in one word: conglomeration. Musically it’s a huge pot of influences, from 311 to Incubus to Cake to Bloodhound Gang and beyond. Lyrically the band covers everything from public health care to the environment to sleeping in. And instrumentally, well, the guys just love to jam on their guitars, organ, and percussion, all of which produces nearly enough interesting layers to overcome the lack of vocal prowess and memorable melodies. (
— Carter Moss

A thumb drive submitted by Passive Aggressor contains two parallel universes, in that the 10 songs credited to 2008 are a mostly similar-sounding collection of moody, darkish lyrical lamentations moved along by a jazzbo-ish bass rhythm and spare snare beat, with a now-and-then pizzicato string punctuation. The four songs (two labeled a B-sides) from 2009 embrace the full drum kit and deliver a much more rockin’ sound more suitable to the band’s moniker. (
— David C. Eldredge

Ryan Powers should takes is own advice: Stick With It, Kid. The singer/songwriter’s five-track CD is an impressive collection of pop rock songs. Powers unabashedly tugs at the heartstrings with tightly crafted, repeating-hook tunesmithing. On “All But Right” he’s earnest and vulnerable, with a vocal ability that is engaging and strongly featured above the instrumental harmonies. (
— Jason Scales

Despite its undoubted sincerity, Derren Raser‘s Home In This Direction suffers from the same fatal drawback as numerous other folk-music releases out there: monotony. That said, however, there are a few songs here that break up the overall homogeny, such as jazzier tracks like “Friends & Lovers” and “Slow Down” while the accordion and almost Sade-like feel of “Goodbye” makes this particular number the absolute standout of the album. (
— Dean Ramos

Though certainly related, packaging The Right Now in the same box as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings because they’re reviving R&B is a mistake. Not a hair-on-fire shouter, Stefanie Berecz slips between full-on gospel (“Better Way To Live”) and bended-knee pleading (title track) with certainty and ease on the surprising Carry Me Home. Memphis horns, electric keyboard, wah pedals . . . the band have West Side electric blues on their side and don’t forget it. (
— Steve Forstneger

Qubbles over a certain sameness of tempos among the three more jazzish vs. two more hard-edged cuts aside, duo Right Rongly‘s five-song debut not only belies its size, but also (dareonesay) breaks new ground. Acoustic guitarist Scottish McMillan’s virtuosic “live” fretwork gets embellished by sample loops and distortions, and when combined with Ryan Aiello’s tasteful drumming, delivers a uniquely personal sound well worth continued exploration. (
— David C. Eldredge

Qualo member Shala waited long enough to see if his group’s debut would ever drop. Hearing the clock, he made the Songs To Rap Along To mixtape in anticipation of the (supposedly) forthcoming And Along Comes Shala LP. Lazily dubbed a “Kanye protégé,” Shala’s oversized beats are necessary to combat his powerful rhymes on the elbow-throwing “I Ain’t Goin'” and juke-happy “Pockets,” which features his Qualo mates. The highlight is “Sumthin Gotta Give,” which displaces trendy synths with a psychedelic Sly Stone chorus. (
— Steve Forstneger

William Steffey‘s latest release, the six-song Love And Armageddon, exudes the sophistication of an artist who has been creating music for two decades. The well-crafted pop of “This Show Must Go On” and “Had To Pay” brings to mind Chris Stamey and Crowded House, and Steffey taps into 1980s synth bands for the lush “Cartography By Candlelight.” Melissa Reasoner impresses with her back-up vocals on a funky cover of Thomas Dolby’s “Weightless.” (
— Terrence Flamm

Toby & The Tremors continue to honor the tradition of Bruce Springsteen on Blond Alibi by spinning tales of everyday people through mainstream rock. The energetic title track depicts a guy searching for a woman from a one-night stand who can clear him of a crime, while “Hidin’ Their Tears” is a touching look at how a divorce affects a couple’s kids. The disc ends with two rollicking party songs, “Memphis Rescue” and “Shake That Stuff.” (
— Terrence Flamm

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  1. 7 songwriters, 14 live recordings – one Lady Gaga | | January 29, 2011
  1. JIMMY CHINZ says:

    Just had to comment on my review by Kevin Keegan in April’s Around Hear. I thought you guys just lost my CD. I see you also lost the letter attached too. 1st, I just want to tell you that there is NO ‘WITH’…ALL MY FRIENDS’ When there’s ‘ONLY ME’ on the CD made at home by MYSELF, so hey maybe you can EQ dude if you think it’s muddy. 2nd, ‘B 4 U Leave Me Now’ is not latin at all (got your songs mixed up).And what about the lyrics? This is my first try at writing ’em. I’m just a guitar player, But some songs just need words. WHAT ABOUT THE SONGS-ISN’T IT ABOUT THE SONGS!

    Oh…drum machine on blow…now that’s funny!

  2. Jimmy Yao says:

    Hey Jimmy – If you don’t want the criticism, don’t send your CD out for review. My band was reviewed by IE 5 years ago, and we got a somewhat bad review. It taught us alot. Get over it dude.

  3. doug says:

    Thanks to David C. Eldredge for the review of passive aggressor!
    doug – pA

  4. JIMMY CHINZ says:

    Whoa Yao, unless you read my review, hear my CD or work for IE



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