Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Flagship Doesn't Quite Set Sail on Sophomore

Flagship - Electric Man
Bright Antenna
- out March 10
3 / 5

Charlotte, North Carolinan duo Flagship hoist the sails again in their sophomore LP, Electric Man. Here, Drake Margolnick (vocals) and Michael Finster (drums) aim is toward mid-tempo rockers, the more emotive ones instead of rock shredders, and generally hit their target; yielding a result like "In the Rain," a drum-pounding anthem. But while Flagship hit their target, we're going to admit: that target wasn't too terribly high. The risks on Electric Man are minimal, the songwriting not terribly explosive, and the execution is above-par, but not much else.

But those drums, though... Yes, Finster definitely hits the percussive spot throughout the album. And Margolnick also tends to nail the vocals, more often than not. But again: the songwriting, the lyrics especially, aren't really anything all that special. We've listened to this album a few times through, and the rough feeling of it is that it's pleasant to listen to, but passes through without sticking much. We'd like to bring up a very different act, Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes, which is vocally inferior (in terms of hitting those notes), but lyrically far superior (in terms of memorability). Bright Eyes has that kind of color, also that deep kind of truth to it, that makes it stick in our mind. For all their musical competence, Flagship just hasn't hit that sweet spot of uncomfortable truth yet; nor do they quite break out of a sense of formulaic instrumentation. Our favorite track here is actually a bonus track: "Pocket Full of Matches" tends to bend the formula by using a bit of sampling, though the track does not appear on the record, rather unfortunately.

It's a close call here, but should the Flagship take sail by you, we're advising you take a pass.

Listen to some of Flagship on Soundcloud right here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

No Extra Words / Ravings Double Team

Hi y'all!
We've got a little surprise for you. Hint hint:

What does this photo mean?? Wait and see... (c) Matthew Keefer

The No Extra Words podcast is running a cool little series call "Writer Spaces" wherein previously published authors (such as yours truly) describe their writing spaces in audio-form.

Here's the next few scheduled posts:

-Episode 75, Feb. 17 (later today!!)
-Episode 77, Mar. 17
-Episode 78, Mar. 31 - OUR AUDIO ESSAY FEATURED HERE!!
-Episode 81, May 12

So yes. Check out No Extra Words on their site, or iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts (or all of the above).

And be sure to stop by here on March 31st to snag our little contribution to this cool little series.

Y'all enjoy now!

PS - We mentioned we were previously published on N.E.W. right??? Once or twice, maaaaaybe...

Monday, February 13, 2017

No Hot Air - Our Take on Dutch Uncles' "Big Balloon"

Dutch Uncles - Big Balloon
Memphis Industries
- out Feb. 17
4 / 5

We're going to try a different approach for Manchester, England based quartet Dutch Uncles here. Their latest full-length, Big Balloon, is number five in their full-length discography. We've covered #3 - 2013's Out of Touch in the Wild - which you can read right here. We also had to follow up with them in 2015 on their fourth full-length O Shudder (also read our review right here). If there's something you, our readers, might have noticed about our reviews of Dutch Uncles' last three albums, they're all good, solid albums, at 4 / 5. (Four of five whats? Ponies, oz. of honey, orangutans? Just 4 / 5, accept it for what it is.)

In any case, yes, Big Balloon is another 4 / 5. These last three albums, Dutch Uncles have delivered, have been dynamic enough not to repeat themselves, but not quite inventive enough to really - we mean REALLY - knock it out. Big Balloon is by no means a disappointment, gosh no, and it's certainly worth your money. But we strongly suspect that within the next two albums after Big Balloon, they're really REALLY going to knock it out.

Right now, Dutch Uncles have proven to us they know their method, they know the studio. Currently, they've only really toured England extensively. What we're hoping for from the Uncles is an album, a truly great one, that hits 4.5 / 5 or better, one that'll give them a real crossover boost into the US market. And do we think it's possible? Yes, absolutely. Our Vegas (or really, RMMM) odds? About 80% chance in the next two albums.

So what exactly are we saying here? If you're that hipster douchebag who always needs to be on the ground floor of a "new indie band," here's your shot. Brush up on these guys, you'll enjoy, and in a couple albums, when everyone's talking about them, you can flood the streets with your excessive douchiness and mention their back catalog and how you "knew these guys were gonna hit it." You're welcome. Send a check our way (or just donate on the Paypal button on the right side here).

Big Balloon = recommended. And absolutely, keep an eye on these guys for the next album or two.

Start buying their merch on their official site right here, ya monstrous indie douchebag.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Soul Sick" Missing Sallie Ford's Spirit

Sallie Ford - Soul Sick
Vanguard Records
- out tomorrow
3 / 5

We love Sallie Ford and her Sound Outside's 2013 release Untamed Beast. It's buoyant, joyous, fun, and all-around a great album. It's a rocker, and it knows it.

Fast-foward to 2016: Sallie Ford releases her second official solo, sans-Sound Outside. We'll be honest, Ms. Ford is a hit-or-miss kind of artist. In 2013, she hit. But 2016, on Soul Sick, she missed. This is why.

We've got to bring it back to what made Untamed Beast so good. Ford and her Sound Outside had just hit their stride musically: they felt spontaneous, they gelled, they rocked it out of the park. Here, Ford's backup doesn't feel like they quite gel. Their guitar licks are passable (which, in this day and age of Karen O among others, is sub-par), and Ford's rhythm section never quite hits a toe-tapping groove. It feels like they play because of obligation, not from joy of the material.

Song-wise, the writing is still above-par for Ford. There are good twists, good lyrical depth, but again, without the right kind of execution, it falls so so flat. While Untamed Beast was something of Ford putting on a Beyonce pro-sexual stance, Soul Sick tries to tackle deeper topics here. We'd definitely argue these songs are written better than Untamed Beast's - topic, construction, etc. - but again, sometimes it's more "how" than "what," and this is one of those unfortunate cases.

Simply put, Soul Sick is good material, but it doesn't quite pick off the runway. We just don't find ourselves wanting to put it on again and again; take a pass. And do pick up Untamed Beast instead.

Check out Ford's website right here for to stream.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Kyle Morton @ Cafe 939 - Jan 21, 2017

One man, one guitar (oh and one wifey). Photo (c) Matthew Keefer

Morton opened set with "Poor Bastard" off his 2016 solo debut, What Will Destroy You, and delivered to the hungry audience a few more songs off the album. I have never heard an audience so quiet during a show. Morton's songs always have a tragic feel to them, but stripped bare of the dense instrumentation, with just his voice and minimal guitar, I was not the only one in the audience mesmerized. When Morton suddenly broke into Typhoon favorite "Belly of the Cavern" (2010 EP Hunger and Thirst), there were smiles in every direction as people slowly starting to sing along.

Morton is a small man - literally. So small, in fact, that it was difficult to see him on the stage; but he has an emotive power to his voice. Imagine if Kermit the Frog and a baby angel procreated (okay, don't imagine it, that's gross) [ed's note: it certainly is; apologies to our readers!] but somehow that strikes close to the sound of Kyle Morton's singing voice. You likely think that sounds horrible, tragically horrible, but I can assure you that unique, gut-wrenching emotion behind his words make his voice quite beautiful.

Morton sprinkled other Typhoon songs throughout his set including my personal favorites, "Prosthetic Love" and "Common Sentiments" - the latter of which was one of the best sing-a-longs I have ever experienced. The entire audience acted as his backing track and even sang harmonies along with him. The room - Cafe 939 - felt alive with love, not only for the music, but for life itself.

Morton closed the show by allowing the audience to give him an "encore" ovation without, as he said, having to "leave the stage and stand around awkwardly for a minute." His wife, Danielle Sullivan of the band Wild Ones, joined him for the last few songs of the night, one of which was a sneak peek off of Typhoon's third full-length album (due later this year, title TBD). The cute duo also did a cover of John Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves," and while there isn't a video from Cafe 939, you can shut off the lights, bring 40-50 people into your living room, and play this Youtube link to get something close to the experience.

Of course, Morton invited fans to visit him at the merch table, and took time to chat with each of them and sign copies of his records. [ed's note: and take photos, 'natch] In short: great guy, great show.

Keep with with Typhoon's and Kyle Morton's upcoming releases (and shows!) at their site:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Open to Donations - and Totally Open to Review Suggestions

Gettin' ready to shoot some musicians. With a camera. Yeah, awk. (c) Pamela Almeida
Welcome to the new year! It's 2017! Everything is ending!

We haven't monetized this tiny little blog with ads and other obnoxiousness, buuuut... we thought this was a cool idea to hear what ch'all have to say.

How can you get a say? Check out the right side of the blog - a Paypal/Credit Card donate button! Woo hoo! We're asking $1 - for a suggestion of a CD review you want (current year only); $3 for an artist interview. Mostly, we wanna hear what you want to read. Might as well squeeze a buck from y'all while we're at it.

Check it out! Thanks everyone, we're excited to go shoot Kyle Morton. With a camera.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Kyle Morton (aka the Typhoon) Passes into Boston

Kyle Morton circa the solemn 1930s (B&W). Photo (c) Jeremy Paul Hernandez.
Rough Trade NYC, New York, NY. Fri. 1-20-17, Doors 8p, Show 9p. $15.
Cafe 393, Boston, MA. Sat. 01-21-17, Doors 7:30p, Show 8p. SOLD OUT.

In case you were unaware, we are obsessed with Typhoon. You might want to read our review of their debut full-length White Lighter from 2013 - one of two 5 / 5's on this little blog (the other belonging to Deer Tick).

It's a brilliant album, we can safely say.

So when we saw Kyle Morton's solo tour, the same Mr. Morton who is primary songwriter and singer for Typhoon, you knew we were going to get excited. Everyone we've met - from the Oh Hellos to Cereus Bright to god knows who else we're forgetting - have fond memories of the 11+ piece Typhoon. And to have whittled down the group to a small handful of solo performances... we'll, let's say we're probably expecting quite a bit.

Here are the further tour dates. And here's Morton's 2016 solo album, available for streaming and purchase. We're expecting to hear much off this latest album, but quite hopefully, his brief discography with Typhoon will likely be making an appearance (and yes, they've announced a sophomore full-length to be forthcoming).

Anyway... yes, this show is sold out in Boston. But in case you're near NYC, we suggest checking out one of the most exciting new songwriters we've ever listened to. Probably the most surprising, intricate, and outright unexpected songwriting we've come across. So, yes, worth the admission, we'd be happy to stake. Check out the few other tour dates as well.

And be back after the Boston show so we can shower you with photos and Morton with praise (most likely),