Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's coming... April 8th

It's coming this spring: our first collection of short stories! We started up a Kickstarter to get a few books out there, and here are a couple stories in the collection (again):

"The Sentence"
"The Madness of the Gods"

We're going to print a (very) limited run so that we can do something crazy: give them away. Essentially. We're going to set up a message board for the traveling books so that you can ship out your book to Nowhere, Nevada to someone who wants to read it. Hopefully not to the two unnamed women of "The Sentence." All explained in our terrible iPhone-shot video (feel free to laugh at us), though note this: at least we have on a Typhoon shirt signed by all 11 members of the band. Plus their sound engineer. Just awesome.
Take that like, share it around. We need *points* you.
On a related note, we're also taking January off, or at least mostly off. We need the time to attend to the Kickstarter! Check it out, and feel free to tell us what you think about it, either here or at our email on the blog.
Many many thanks!

And the Number One of 2013

You must've been expecting it. We definitely went out of our way to make these guys and gals feel comfortable on our blog (which is no mean feat, considering there are this many:
Riders on the hill. Sun to their backs: strategic positioning.
of them). We absolutely love the 11-piece's orchestra rock, brilliantly written, full and vast. And writing is the strength of White Lighter, Typhoon's debut full-length: it is dense and mercurial, it is writing for musicians, it is writing that bursts like a wave's crest upon the sea, it challenges and envelops. It's the reason why we gave the Portland, OR outfit our much-heralded five-of-five. With songs like "Young Fathers," the post-apocalyptic "100 Years" and "Hunger and Thirst" - each of which is about three songs in one - we find ourselves truly impressed with how far each song carries in thought and development, many of them musings on mortality (which we love, of course). Can we tell you how many times we've spun this album up? No idea, but over fifty at least. And now we're telling you to spin this one up, too. It's well worth your time, a candidate for being a classic, and not only the album of the year, but of the last couple years.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Number 2 of 2013: And Now for Something Completely Different

Lovely as stained glass: Patty Griffin's voice is nothing short of beautiful.
You know us: sometimes we jostle around the numbers and fudge them in all kinds of ways. Well, we couldn't feel good about ourselves if we gave Beware of Darkness (a 4.5/5) a higher slot than Patty Griffin's American Kid, which is just so replete with beautiful, home-spun harmonies (with Robert Plant no less) and dinner-evening storytelling that it would be criminal to go just by the numbers. Besides, maybe we could've gone a little higher on American Kid - an homage to her late Irish father - but better late than never. On her seventh album she is laid-back, gorgeous, a total mother-folker of the highest proportions; achingly sentimental on a retake of "That Kind of Lonely," and restrained on the absolutely brilliantly-written "Ohio" with said Plant. Griffin has many strengths, but here, the key word perhaps is that one, "restrained": she knows that good folk is done in breaths and meaning, not in power vocals or technical flourishes. Which is unusual for a performer with a voice like Griffin's: we had the grace of catching her on tour, and the woman has indeed got pipes - serious pipes. It's her emoting and gut that guides these songs through, that and an underlying sense of joy, too, and the combination renders us speechless. Add to that another album released in 2013, the fantastic and previously unreleased Silver Bell, and we just found a new musician to hunt after. For the folked at heart, earnest and stunning, and a necessary album of 2013.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Number 3 of '13: Rocking with (Sombrero) Style

Next it's these LA'ers that we tip our hat off to. New to the scene, with just one full-length under their belts, we're still gaga we mean crazy over their classic-rock inspired, no-holds-barred debut. Without further ado,
Palm trees in a cemetery. How very LA of you.
we present Beware of Darkness. The best way we can describe Orthodox is perhaps this: remember when you read Kafka and channeled Poe's depression while blasting an emo Robert Plant while Christian Bale (who's just intense, always intense) tells you about the time between Batman movies that he went for a drink and fought off half a dozen Yakuza? Does that work? No? Well, it's dark-themed music ("Life on Earth," "All Who Remain") that hits all the right parts of your coal-blackened soul: desperation, great lyrics and choruses, passion and yearning for hope. The trio fills out an immense sound that few five-pieces accomplish, and while it may not be the most diverse playlist, what they do (rock out) they do very very well (very well). The real test of a rock band's longevity, however, is in their songwriting, and based on these dozen tracks, we expect Beware of Darkness to do very well over the next few years. Engaging, entertaining, and while not perfect, still a highlight of 2013.

PS - We didn't even talk about "Howl"! How could we forget the Zeppelin-esque riff on "Howl"? We'll let you check out the video, definitely the track of the year. Must... hear... song...!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Top of the Pops (and etc.) for 2013!! Number 4:

Sexy sexy. Yes. Twice.
It's a stunning retro-throwback to disco / funky R&B sexytimes that Sean Tilman, aka Har Mar Superstar, brings on his fifth full-length, Bye Bye 17. If you couldn't tell, Mr. Tilman doesn't take himself too seriously, but we certainly have to: he's got great rhythm, good pipes and a great ear for songwriting. Check out choruses like "Restless Leg" and "Rhythm Bruises"; "Leg" is too fun to keep you from smiling, and "Bruises" hits the opposite end of the spectrum, the kind of melody that you have to sing along to and realize you're just no good at it. Oh well, it was worth the shot, yes? That doesn't even bring us to our favorite song... have you seen Prisoner? Do you want to see Prisoner? The video with Juliette Lewis? Yes, yes you do. Tilman's innate goofiness cannot possibly overshadow the absolute perfection of this track, which screams pure pleasure from his vocals to every little supporting note by the horns. If you didn't get how much we love his dual-nature, go read up on our original review, which we still stick by 100%. Now go pick up this fun, fresh and musically fertile album.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

And now! Our Belated Top Two of Two-Thousand Twelve!

Hi y'all!
So we know we kept y'all in the dark on what we though were our top favorites of 2012. To be honest, we took a bit of a respite that year, so what we've compiled is a very, very brief list. In fact, it's only technically a list, one with two entries. What were they?
After a year of listening, we have to give our primary kudos to this guy:
Pocket watch, anyone?
The folksy, Dylanesque singer-songwriter who took it all to Chicago to record his first EP, Nation of Heat, and hasn't looked back since. His 2012 full-length, The Great Despiser, is one of those rare gems that spans so much - war veterans, a world in turmoil, and a cover of "Deep Dark Wells" - with such depth and grace, that we have trouble believing he's really 30. The songs are aged, his voice spot-on, and the stories he composes compelling; The Great Despiser, while a shade off from his debut EPs, is an album that is easy to cherish in its simplicity and beauty. Check out the opener, "Ours," or just about anything on this album, as they are all fantastic.
(And let us say we also look up to his marketing techniques - giving away EPs, selling tickets directly. Mr. Pug is a listener's musician, first and foremost.)

Now on to our number two:
Lilies? You can't kick butt with them, can you?
Who ever said Canadians can't rock? We could say ripping vocals from Caitlin Dacey is what this band is about, but then we'd be forgetting the slashing guitar, those power-pumped arrangements, and the kind of pulse you'd expect from those Olympic weightlifters whose veins jut out at odd angles when they life 2.3 thousand pounds. This band does just the same: they lift 2.3 thousand pounds of pure, awesome rock. Add to that the fact that they also had been giving their music away for free (sorry, not anymore!) but suffice it to say, this will be the best five dollars you're going to spend this year. We love their music, they're personally very personable, and they're working on a new album, too, which we hope kicks Holy Crow's arse (which, itself, already kicks some serious arse). They're for fans of classic smash-your-guitar-and-possibly-head kind of rock, and if you're into Zeppelin or anything that takes no prisoners, then this is your kind of rock.

That's it for our 2012 wrap-up! Sorry it was so brief and late! Catch us this week for the top albums of 2013!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Self-Release Medwed Is Own Man on Free Man

Andrew Medwed - Free Man
-out now
3.5 / 5

The cover may not look like much, but inside Ukranian Medwed debuts a rocking, stomping sense of musicianship. We appreciate the diversity of his songs, even if we don't appreciate all of them, and the fact that he can go from garage-y swamp music to pop/rock in a track or two impresses us. We also appreciate the crafting of his songs: they're full, they're completely realized and written well. We're going to admit, there isn't anything here that surprises or astonishes us, other than the fact that this is a 100% self-release, but when we smell talent, it clogs our nostrils. Medwed has the musical potential and flexibility of half the indie releases we come across here combined (even if he does have some ways to go).

"Whiskey & Rain," the single off this album (and check out the video below) is a brilliantly executed Jack-White-ish rocker that pumps through heavy on the low-end and drives like a smoky pickup truck. Our next favorite, you ask? - would have to be "My Demons," the swampiest, garage-iest feel on the album, another Jack White-inspired track that pumps the smoke like a... a... mogwai spewing out gremlins. That sort of worked. Anyway, it's wicked and dark and delightful. One of the exceptions on this album is "Skyline," which is simply too poppy for our tastes here, and comes off too mainstream radio (ie punk-pop-ish). But still, for a full self-release, the tracks here are well-mastered, well-executed, and well worth your time.

We give Medwed our thumbs up here, and expect to see more of him in the future. And next time around, hopefully he'll give the big names more of a run for their money; recommended.

Check out the video for "Whiskey & Rain," and check out the album on Soundcloud.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Admirers Have Little to Admire on Debut

Admirers - Involuntary Memory
Ardent Music
-out now
2.5 / 5

Electro-pop Memphisians Admirers debut their dreamy near-dozen. Now, you know we love ourselves some SVIIB and dance music, but dance music that doesn't make you... well... dance? That we cannot tolerate. And yet Involuntary Memory is chock-a-block with tepid tempos, deflated beats, and just general averageness. These songs here all seem to borrow the same two-and-four beat, never changing, as reliable as the trains - moreso, jab at the MBTA. Which makes for exciting dancing, of course.

The tragedy of it all is that "Return," the opener-slash-single off the album, is really a great four-star bright pop with a super-emotive chorus. We admit, it's what drew us in initially. The next best track on here is "Rhythm Mirages," which is a whole step down: fairly satisfying, and at least it proudly declares us to "dance to the music." And after that, the rest of these tracks fall off the cliff as far as writing goes: they all blend into each other, lose their individuality, and end up as one gray mass of overcooked pasta. It's not as if they stopped trying, but Admirers stopped working hard. It takes a serious amount of effort to come off effortless; a great deal of thought to be spontaneous, and this dance album lacks both. It's a shame to get sucked in by one good song, but it's part of the music business, unfortunately.

Our excitement lasted the 4:42 of the first song and no further. This album is yet another drop in the ocean of mediocrity out there. Take a pass.

Check Admirers out on bandcamp.