Trick in the Hat is the electronic new wave inspired project of Ron Hetrick. oh I tried is an eleven song album which falls in lines with groups like Pet Shop Boys to Cut Copy. This is music that was in its heyday in the 80’s. You could find it blasting in clubs where people were doing coke in the bathroom and dancing till six in the morning.
The unique thing about today is nothing is really nostalgic anymore. There's so much music out there you can find some band playing it at a local club or on a playlist through Spotify. Hetrick isn’t reinventing the wheel but he's done his homework and the songs hold up in my opinion. There were a couple of one off songs that didn't work for me as well and thought the synth based club thumpers were the strongest songs.
He opens with “Gone in Seconds” which is a highlight. The 4/4 beat, synth bass and crystal lead synths make for ethereal combination of 80’s allure. I was hooked by the time it got to the juicy hooks.
There is more success to be had with “Fire”, “Sail Around” and “Live It Up” which all ride a similar vibe. I was impressed by the hooks and how easy it was to get into the music. I got a little lost with “All Get Down” which was a little more aggressive and could argue gets into industrial territory. There is also a XTRMNTR type vibe to this song.
“Breathe In Me” is an atmospheric, meditative song which I enjoyed individually but felt like such a leap emotionally. Hetrick goes back to making upbeat, fun dance music for the remainder of the album. The songwriting unsurprisingly is very well done.
I would say this album is a no brainer for club kids who have love 80’s dance music. Truth be told here in Chicago you will find a party playing nothing but 80’s dance songs every weekend. I think I can spin this album the next time I go out and people will be very happy.
In the process of pre-production Drew Wardle and James Gascoyne had a conversation about how they wanted the five song EP Suicide Tuesday to sound. Bowie’s name came up and the aesthetic that you hear on the album Hunky Dory. He said “He wanted it to be retro but also exist out of time at the same time.” In other words they wanted to make something timeless which seems to me like that would be an inherent goal of any artist. No one wants to sound dated or irrelevant.
The retro feel and general vibe certainly did remind me of Bowie starting with “It won't do”. I enjoyed the song right away especially the vocals. The melodies were catchy and the delivery was also top notch. He sings “You sit with her by the seaside and reminisce about the times you've had and all the answers you threw away”.
Up next is the title track. Unbeknownst to me the expression Suicide Tuesday is a term to refer to a hangover from MDMA. The song isn’t nearly as dark as the title implies in fact I would say it feels borderline celebratory.
“You're the one” has a little more nostalgia behind it while “leave” is an ambient track and was wondering if he was inspired by David Bowie’s Low by inserting it in there with other pop songs. In this case I don’t think it worked. It felt a little too alien and ominous compared to the rest of the vibe of the album. The closer “Lover with no name” is an exceptional song mainly because of how well it's written. It’s addictive and loved the lead guitar as well.
These are very well crafted songs but the resemblance to Bowie felt a little too obvious at times and made me feel like popping in a Bowie album. That being said I wouldn't pass this up if you are a fan of rock from the 60’s and 70’s in general. Recommended.
Zak Hawkins (Vocals) Brad Craig (Guitar) Jesse Hawkins (Bass) and Yoni Yahel (Drums) are Mini Simmons. The band plays a satisfying blend of rock and blues on their debut EP entitled Whiskey and The Witch.
Bands like Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes came to mind. For the most part they sound like a band that would have been around from the late 60’s and early 70’s. Suffice it to say the band isn't’ reinventing the wheel with these songs but delivers on multiple fronts.
Up first is “Cowboy Cigarette” which starts with vocals and guitar. Once the drums and lead guitar come into the mix the song is smothered with Jimmy Page-esque type guitar as well as a good amount of attitude. I loved the way the song unfolded especially the slide guitar you are greeted with around the two minute mark.
“Slippery Gypsy Woman” also captures that badass 70’s flavor that is raw, visceral and honest. The groove is infectious and felt like a great song to rock out to. I haven't seen them live but have a feeling this song sounds great after a couple of beers in a small club.
“Witching Hour” certainly had its moments as well but I think the highlight was “Bar Dance”. They display a little more versatility on “Bar Dance” which taps into a jazzy vibe not unlike The Doors but also hit pop sensibilities they you could argue has more in common with The Byrds. Either way the hooks really stood out to me as well as the songwriting on this particular track.
The band did a great job capturing the tone and textures of 70’s rock. They recorded and mixed it themselves and have to say they did a stellar job in this department.
I also had a chance to check out their pics on Facebook and the band looks the part. They are a bunch of young guys with long hair who drip with the rock and roll allure.
The only advice I have is for the band to think about what kind of x-factor they can throw in the mix to make their sound stick out. This style of music isn’t going away any time soon and if you can find a way for an audience to remember your sound rather than the other guy then that is a good thing.
Overall, this is a really good EP which builds a foundation for the band. I’m interested to hear where they go from here.
There’s always so much serious shit going on in the world around me that I often feel overwhelmed. Then I find myself listening to depressing ass music on Spotify during my train ride home in a car that reeks of stale farts and bum piss.
Then I hear a band like the Portland five-piece rock outfit Haunted Spurs and I feel like everything is right with the world again, suddenly everything doesn’t seem so drastically putrefied. It reminds me that rock and roll has the power to cure all ills, and from the very beginning of their four song EP Manhattan, Haunted Spurs keep the rock turned up to outrageously loud and ear-catching volumes.
Take the opening track, “Manhattan,” with its high energy raucous guitar sound that reminded me of the then and now mixture of bands like The Ramones blended with the earlier career fuzz rock output of the Kevin Barnes led collective of Montreal. The song at once takes you in its grasp and shakes you, makes you feel it, hear it, and want more of it.
This same feeling continues on the equally scuzzy rock of “Midnight Blur” a buzzing infestation of fuzzy guitars and wild vocals that sound a bit like Tarzan crying out from the trees in those old films. Then a song like the two-plus minute onslaught of fuzzy pop rock “Tyrannosaurus Rx” (worth it for the title alone) keeps you nailed to the wall with its high energy.
Manhattan closes just as raucously as it begins, with the high energy, balls to the wall mixture of garage rock and new wave melodies of “Holy Oleander.”
I haven’t had an EP whet my appetite for a proper full length in a long time. But Manhattan sure has me hungering for more of this infectious and fun rock. I hope it comes soon because I am seriously starving for more.
Become A Fan
I was a fan of Chris Murphy when I was first introduced to his music a couple of years back. His recent release Water Under The Bridge is just more reason to be a fan of his music. The music on this release is as good as anything I’ve heard from him which deviates from the styles you heard on his previous releases. This release certainly has a jazzy Django Reinhardt type feel where even the melancholy songs feel light and playful.
The album gets going with “A Moveable Feast” which is like a burst of sunshine or dopamine. Probably both. I loved the loose feel that is carefree in the best way possible. The fiddle and guitar have a symbiotic relationship but that piano also sounds right at home.
I presume he is referring to Joan Crawford the classic film actress on “Joan Crawford Dances The Charleston”. The song is a serene laid back journey through the lazy river of life. Feeling sleepy? Well, “Table For Two” will put some pep in your step and have you dancing on a table with your sweetheart. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Have you ever been on Riverboat but were a little blue? I personally have not but I’m sure a human being has experienced this juxtaposition. If that's you then why aren't listening to “Riverboat Blues”. Look there's an alligator.
Shake off the blues with Grandpa’s famous elixir on “I Swear I’m Going to Learn this time” or “Spanish Lover’. I love those drums on “Spanish Lover”. I was reminded of Tom Waits on “Tomcat Blues” and L.A. Noire on “Dog Ear Blues”. Another standout was “Water Under the Bridge”.
I’m hard pressed to understand how someone could hear this type of music and not enjoy it. Murphy has the ability to make music that is emotionally resonant yet free of any pretense. The sense that their is an artist with an ego behind the music who needs your attention is absent which is something I rarely experience.
Overall, this is another exceptional release from Murphy and can wholeheartedly give it two thumbs up.
Hailing from Cedar Falls, Iowa Oakland are a band consisting of Sam Heithoff (Guitar and Vocals), Jeff Hinton (Bass), Jefferson Fosbender (Drums, Vocals, and Harmonica), and Tom Madsen (Guitar, Piano, Mandolin, and Banjo).
They started off as a cover band but began writing original songs and released Between Now and November. The album contains thirteen songs and is mix between folk, americana and rock.
The band has some talent in a number of areas. I thought the songwriting was solid throughout and kept me interested. They start with with “Cross My Heart” which is revolves around a classic mix of harmonica, acoustic guitar, drums and bass. It’s a familiar sounding song with catchy melodies. For the most part the song delivers expect there are a couple instance where they do get out of the pocket.
Up next is “Cartographer” which is another catchy solid song while “Amelia” has contains heartfelt singing and handclaps. The songs are fairly consistent in terms of delivery and songwriting. They did a good job keeping me interested although you could make the argument thirteen tracks with no filler was a little long for this type of album. The vocal harmonies on “Monuments” were exceptional and enjoyed the nostalgia of “Waking Up”
The biggest issue I had was with the production/recording quality. Even with the most basic setup there are things you can do to help improve the mixes. The vocals were often on top of the mix instead of resting in it. This is a balancing issue that can usually be solved with a fader and a tinge of compression. That is just one example but my point is that one of their priorities on their next release should be improving the production/recording quality whether it's going into a studio or learning more about engineering.
Overall, I liked this album mainly because of the performance and songwriting. It wasn't the most original music I have heard in the last couple of months but fans of folk, americana and roots music will appreciate what is offered.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Sam Fritz Coping 3.3
Zero Detail Free You 3.8
Cloud Repair Space Suits 3.4
Cellophane Houses The Lonely Hearts 3.3
With Monika With Monika 3.5
Sprung From Cages Sprung From Cages 3.5
B.W. Johnson Together 3.7
Many bands these days, or in any generation, come and go as fast as the three-minute one-hit single they just released last week. Some bands stick around for a long time though, some longer than that. For four friends that formed their band way back in 1985-86, (regrouped in 2015 as a trio) longevity and friendship has been in their favor. The Gulf Breeze Florida trio known as UFO Messiah, released their follow up album UFO Messiah II last November. Consisting of Chris Phipps on keys, vocals, acoustic and the 12-string, Marcus Leahy on lead guitar, bass and vocals and Mike Morobitto on drums, this powerhouse group has an extensive biography on Facebook and their influences range from The Beatles and Badfinger to Pink Floyd, and one of my all time favorites – David Bowie.
To start off, “What. Where. Why” has an acoustic rhythm going on and a bright, clean lead mixed with some haunting background guitar. “California Dreamin’” is yep, you guessed it, the song that perhaps made the ‘60s supergroup The Mamas and the Papas famous. It’s always refreshing to hear new takes on old songs and the way UFO Messiah does it is pretty darn good. A lap steel (I think I got my instruments correct) is featured and their take has tenderness to it, not flashy like the original. The drums on “Hey Hey Bye Bye” are loud and boisterous and the lyrics and progression have that ‘old school’ classic anthem vibe to it. Quite melancholic too, as the song’s lyrics are about saying goodbye and according to the band’s bio, it’s about alcoholism and depression.
“Feels So Far Away” is a slow ballad with great vocal harmonies. To me, it’s kind of in the same vein as the hair band ballads of the ‘80s and ‘90s, minus the over-the-top, ear bleeding screaming. Moving on to “Animal Grace,” there are plenty of wah-wah effects done on the guitar and a forceful, solid beat to the drums. On “California” keys start right in as well as the singing. This one’s has more of a pop-rock flavor and has good harmonies too and fades out with a hushed ending. The next number “Runaway” was my favorite. It features heavy keys where parts sounded very progressive a la late Led Zeppelin (I’m thinking “In The Light”) or something from the Edgar Winter Group. I was expecting more singing but I didn’t mind either way, “Runaway” was musically well written.
“Television Truth” has a very live sound with its ‘trashy’ drums and all players sounding like they were recorded live in one large room. Strangely, this one reminded me of Alice Cooper or Spinal Tap, maybe it was the humorous lyrics. “Mr. Jones” was another favorite simply because as I mentioned before, I’m a Bowie fan. This lovely ode to the ‘Starman’ which features references to Bowie’s history and characters from various albums, made me stop and think to remind myself, that yes – this mammoth, groundbreaking artist left us a little over two years ago and there won’t be another one like him. “Mr. Jones” progresses nicely with acoustic guitar, tambourine and a saxophone, I think, or keys made to sound like a sax. Nicely done, fellows.
“If You See Me” is a classic love song of heartache and breakup. Here again, the trio has great harmonies accompanied with a screaming guitar solo. The last tune “Somewhere On The Mountain” starts off with a UFO Messiah sound and to me, feels like a ‘50s pop song that you’d play on your car radio during a hot summer night. Something within the melody reminded me of “Oh Donna” by Richie Valens or another song during that time period. All in all, UFO Messiah II has a little bit of everything, which reaches in to the band’s arsenal of styles both past and present. Even though they branched out for a time doing other projects and gigs with other bands, UFO Messiah’s latest effort is a testament to the band’s long, abiding friendship – here’s to wondering where their spaceship will land next among the stars.
Truth be told I have a little bit of an issue with cutesy type duos like Us The Duo. Us The Do are a couple in real life and also do the type of thing like look in their eyes while they sing and perform at their own wedding. It’s cringeworthy, saccharine and have to listen to the dissonance My Bloody Valentine or Oneohtrix Point Never to get the hokey feeling out of my mouth.
I was worried I might have a similar feeling in my mouth when listening to Make Christmas Last by Analisa & John. The duo is built on the same foundation but the saccharine melodramatic quality is absent. I’ll also admit I’m a bit of a sucker of Christmas albums.
Part of what makes this an enjoyable is the excellent jazzy guitar playing which is seamless, technically proficient and creative. I was expecting a good voice from Analisa and she delivered.
The album starts off with “what Child is This” which is an easy to appreciate carol. They do the song justice and don’t think anyone would have any objections to hearing this around the dinner table during that special time of the year.
“Make Christmas last This Year” is an original and is a nice tune but I do have some bad news. The laws of space and time currently restrict any event from “lasting”. The good news is Christmas happens every year. I thoroughly enjoyed the instrumental track “Up on the Housetop” while “O Come, O come Emmanuel” hits a different more serious and mystic vibe. They close with “O Little Town of Bethlehem” which was a sweet song to end with.
As far as Christmas albums go this one is top notch. Only ten more months to go.
Max Cohen and James Eidson are the members behind Noiseland. They released Unwelcome which is a five song EP. There is a clear indie post-punk vibe here. I would say the band Interpol came to mind and the predecessors that often get mentioned next to them like Joy Division.
I like the songwriting, lyrics and melodies. In all honesty I had a harder time getting past the lo-fi aesthetics which in all honesty need works even for something considered lo-fi. They open with a cover from a guy who is known for embracing lo-fi - Phil Elverum. The duo decides to give song an aggressive beat and layers of white noise. They hit more of a post-punk/shoegaze instead of the dissonant atmosphere you hear on the original.
It’s on “Half a Gulf” where I really heard the similarities to vocalists like Ian Curtis and Paul Banks with the latter being more prominent. The lyrics are interpretive. “Stuck in a home where I can't see the water/Stuck in a home where I can't leave the room/Looking to find an ice cube to bite on/Hear it crack under every chew”.
The highlight was “Walking Song” mainly because how infectious the vocal melodies are. I nervously laughed at the opening lyrics being sixteen years older then “Getting older stopped being fun when I was 23 now I'm almost done with my second drink and the room's still spinning”. And in my opinion your 30’s are great.
The band makes a stylistic leap into 80’s new wave. It’s not exactly Cut Copy but the song had its moments. “Night Light” is an overly distorted song that fell somewhere between Franz Ferdinand and Interpol,
I think the bands priority moving forward should be into improving the production/recording quality. The thing that's often harder to tolerate than just lo-fi recordings are inconsistencies between songs. That’s what you have hear on “Night Light” which has a very different sonic imprint then “Walking song."
The duo have some talent and skill and think with the proper production they can take the songs to the next level. I hope to hear that soon.
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