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Around Hear: March 2012

| February 29, 2012

Local Band Reviews

Rich Ryan (a.k.a. Richie Rich) brought in some heavy hitters to record his debut album From The Streets with his Chi-Town Blues Band. Featuring Grammy-winning guitarist Billy Flynn, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, and pianist Barrelhouse Chuck and the Tommy Dorsey horn section, Ryan’s obvious love of traditional Chicago blues comes through as he channels Willie Dixon and Otis Rush on “Friskey Whiskey” and “Fat Cat Blues.” Ryan also finds his modern, funky side on “Blues And Money.” Like many blues vocalists, Ryan is not the most accomplished singer, but he overcomes his limitations with emotion, a knack for good blues storytelling, and his killer band. (
— David Gedge

On his The Astonishingly Odd Project, Molemen-backed MC Astonish doesn’t sound like the game is treating him like it once did. Tracks like “Lake Shore Drive” nearly land him on suicide watch, and everywhere else he sounds tired of dealing with chasing women, paper, and the grind. The production — mostly by Oddisee, Odd Couple, and Jay Vega — follows suit, with only the flicker under “Fill Up A Room” countering Astonish’s stiflingly heavy heart. (
— Steve Forstneger

Battlestations serves up new-wave arrangements topped with the consistently quirky vocals of lead singer/guitarist D Sullivan and his harmonizing bandmates on the nine-song The Unicorn. At times the gimmick wears thin, but other tracks, like the rapid-fire “No Gold In The Crown” and atmospheric “Cancer Vader,” prove to be worthwhile adventures. (
— Terrence Flamm

Much more structured and methodical than their namesake sport, Beer Hockey bring it like they’d rather foment revolution than grab some brews after the game. Their four-track EP is a caustic addition to the realm of instru-metal post rock, with darting guitar lines, dry distortion, and relentless, pounding bass. Melodies and soft textures are the product of deliberate chord voicings on tracks like “Mercenaries,” and clean-tone sections are merely means to some fiery ends. (
— Steve Forstneger

With an overt love of Brit rock and an underlying respect for soul, The Break‘s Cold Elbows EP evokes elements of Oasis, The Who, and even hints of the Stax sound. Despite looking fresh out of high school, the foursome is mature beyond its years, not just in the influence department, but also when it comes to musical proficiency and harmony-filled chemistry. (
–Andy Argyrakis

This Welcome To Ashley/Pale Blue Dot collaboration sounds born of a sloppy, drunken makeout session that kept going even after it passed out on the barroom floor. Though tinged with Americana, The Buddies‘ real debt is to greasy rock ‘n’ roll and particularly — if you believe “A Lifetime At Best” — The Boss, though he never would have sanctioned the rocky injection of that second guitar at the end. The spirit of early Replacements courses through “All The Beer Is Gone,” while the rest of Fuck The Buddies could use a bath — in a good way. (
— Steve Forstneger

The Chose In Few might be hip-hop’s new odd couple. Dreadlocked African-American rapper Rasheed Thomas teams up with plus-sized white MC Demented, and the result is a pleasant surprise. The duo’s Roots-influenced laid-back flows are fast and smooth through all 18 tracks like a late-night drive. All of this, deftly combined with simple but effective instrumental foundations and smart lyrics, Excuses Are Useless just begs for windows to be rolled down and heads to start bobbing. (
— Carter Moss

Christopher Morris is not in the massage business. His and The Cosmic Plethora Of Doom‘s stock-in-trade is sounding like a warped record, a wavering, wobbling psychedelia that’s akin to stepping off a spinning merry-go-round after a couple slices of deep dish. Destroying The Cataclysmic Chrysanthemum raves of hauntings and paranoia, and Morris sings (and strums) these delusions as if they’re the montonous monologue of a heavily sedated mental patient. Indulgently and perhaps myopically idiosyncratic, it’d be interesting to hear the demos of these demos. (
— Steve Forstneger

It has been a few years since Deals Gone Bad released new material, but the ska band is in top form on its new “Far From Home”/”These Arms Of Mine” 7-inch. The A-side seamlessly swings from easy-going ska rhythms to Motown exuberance as lead vocalist Todd Hembrook sings about life’s ups and downs. On the flip side, the band brings a tropical element to Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine.” Both songs are also available in digital format. (
— Terrence Flamm

Even Bigger lives up to its name with bruising, ballsy rock comprising crunchy, whiplashing guitars and a dual-vocal attack. Uptempo tracks like “Hinges” and “Christina” feature punkish flair and roaring energy. There’s a straightforward honesty in the gruff, howling vocals and an insistent vibe of playfulness in the lyrics about love (especially “Wrong Again”), familial relationships, and growing up. Kaboom! is steeped with energetic bite and lyrical wit. (
— Patrick Conlan

John Kolodij, a.k.a. High Aura’d, joins forces with Locrian’s Andre Foisy for an amazing split cassette on Stunned Records. Kolodij’s “Dusk Latitudes” builds through subtle progressions from a dreamy lullaby to heart-rending noise that would have Kevin Shields grinning with envy. By contrast, Foisy’s piece is dark, ambient drone, shuddering with tortured vocals that bleed into the menacing thunderstorm. This pairing makes the split both haunting and soothing, each 21-minute track mesmerizing in its unique exploration of texture and sound. (
— Patrick Conlan

Blending remnants of the psychedelic era with a hippie-folk flavoring finds Jellybones recalling the likes of Neil Young or Roky Erickson throughout A Warm Banana Nut Muffin. Though the group excels with a penchant for imaginative storytelling, the limited quality of the recording doesn’t allow this particular disc to reach its full potential. (
–Andy Argyrakis

Diane Marie Kloba doesn’t sing her originals so much as rhythmically recite/declaim her words against the sparest of mostly electric guitar notes/strums and percussion. While one hears Brill Building girl group or non-aggro punk essences, in the end the disc probably is more evocative of performance-art minimalism than the pop/rock canon. When she sings a lyric such as “I find there’s no need for an audience” in eponymous cut “I Am An Unknown Artist,” one is reassured that this CD isn’t really for everyone. (
— David C. Eldredge

After opening True Love Maze (Priceless Fool) with a string of competent but generic rockers, The Last Dark Show hits its stride mid-album. “Spare Room” is a pretty ballad leading into the stormy piano and yearning vocals punctuating “Keep Me”; these cuts are reminiscent of the passionate catharsis perfected by Snow Patrol. The section is followed by the sparkling standout, “Heart String,” with a pitch-perfect blend of chiming and acoustic guitar and crushing heartache. (
— Patrick Conlan

Just like TV’s Matlock invariably cleared his clients’ names, rapper Matlock acquits himself well on the potentially damning 2707. A 15-track hip-hop work with guests galore, a new producer for each cut, and barely a crossover hook in sight, he seems to take pride in stacking odds against him. But whether the bangin’ “Blaze It Up” (featuring EC Illa and Psalm One) and “I Don’t Play That” or soapboxing “God Vs. Money,” Matlock brandishes a versatile, though commanding flow and sequences his producers’ contributions (including Mr. Green, Kaz One, and Custom) almost perfectly. As is typical with straight-MC albums, 2707 could always be shorter, but an episode’s not complete without a couple twists at the end. (
— Steve Forstneger

Alt/indie rockers A Minute Jack Forum from up in Madison deliver a fresh conglomeration of retro-rock influences on their debut full-length, Traction Blip. A blues-rock flavor mixed with twangy, modern country & western elements make up the song arrangements, which capture the mood and atmosphere of something dark and melancholic, yet uplifting at the same time. The songs have a familiar vintage or nostalgic vibe accented by subtle textures and moods with poppy guitar hooks. Some of the songs seem to drag a bit, but they soon turn into unchartered yet pleasing territories. (
— Kelley Simms

When he dropped his ’09 debut, a little research had to be done to make sure Musikanto wasn’t a Turin Brakes side-project. Blessed with a souful, midrange voice and a gently quaking vibrato, he takes it easy on Sky Of Dresses with anonymously rustic folk pop. The shoe fits, and he’s best when on about prairie dogs and gravediggers, or when a piano base forces him off his strummy perch. A frequent partner of Will Phalen, Musikanto’s a singular talent who needs to put his days of weepy ballads and flirty duets to rest. (
— Steve Forstneger

If a band is relying on a mere three-song EP to make an impression with its music, then it better make every note count. In the case of Mystic Soulz — it does. Nikki Gilbert’s lead vocals won’t blow anyone away, but her honest, straight-forward delivery aptly carries the band’s otherwise formulaic pop-rock sound. With catchy choruses and simple hooks, Mystic Soulz shows how to make a complete and convincing EP. (www.
— Carter Moss

Long-time founding member of “future folk” trio Sons Of The Never Wrong Bruce Roper makes his solo debut on Accidental English, which he sums up as “14 songs about young love, sung by an old man.” And know what? They are also 14 examples of smart songwriting excellence, with the entire disc alternating between exquisitely crafted sub-two-minute and three-plus-minute acoustic-pop gems that consistently hook the listener’s interest. This early in the year notwithstanding, it’s already a contender for the IE’s best of 2012. (
— David C. Eldredge

Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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  1. Mr Eldredge,
    Thank you for the in depth review of “I AM AN UNKNOWN ARTIST” I usually put reviews on my website. You are the first person to give me a “NON” review. You are also the only person who EVER gave me a bad review as you did on my first Cd “I KID YOU NOT” You knew you did not like me from the beginning, shoulda just left it in the pile for someone else who is more “up” on ANTI-POP.

  2. Mr, Eldredge,
    I apologize for the comment on your review of “I AM AN UNKNOWN ARTIST” I realize it takes much time and effort to review CDs and I and many other bands are thankful for it. I enjoy reading yours and have found some great new music in doing so.
    Thank you for mentioning my album and including my website in the article.
    Happiness to you.

  3. We just wanted to thank Kelley Simms and IE for taking the time to review our debut CD, Traction Blip. We are currently working on new material for our second CD. We look forward to more reviews for you in the future.

    A Minute Jack Forum