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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monika Borzym - Girl Talk

Monika Borzym - Girl Talk
2011, Sony Music

Monika Borzym’s heroes have always been trumpeters:  Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Terrence Blanchard were her gateway into Jazz.  While there, Borzym was captivated by the divergent voices and styles of performers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae.  The Poland-born crooner studied in the United States at Miami’s Frost School of Music, furthering her love and knowledge of jazz and classical forms under teachers such as Lisanne Lyons, Larry Lapin, Ira Sullivan and Shelly Berg.   During her time at Frost, Borzym met guest lecturer Matt Pierson (Joshua Redman, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny), who is Borzym’s primary collaborator on her debut album, Girl Talk.

 Borzym opens with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s "You Know I'm No Good", showing off a sweet and sultry voice that would be right at home in a 1930's gin joint. Monika Borzym delivers crisp lines with a polished presence that belies her 19 years, and her instrumental accompaniment is first class. "Extraordinary Machine" finds Borzym taking on a manic, talk-sing lyrical barrage in conjunction with a minimalist arrangement. The result is an intriguing tune that will leave you dizzy yet satisfied. "Even So" stands out from a string of exceptional performances, with Borzym imparting a mature presence and seasoned melancholy in dulcet tones that will have you quietly on the edge of your seat.

The opening cadence of "American Boy" (Estelle) carries vague suggestions of Jobim's "Girl From Ipanema". This is no retread, however, as Borzym launches into a modern jazz tune that remembers its classic heritage. Borzym digs into a 1970's singer/songwriter pastiche for "Field Below", which bears a vague musical resemblance to Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade Of Pale". The song is elegant and refined, with a gorgeous melody, and Borzym walks it home like a pro. “Appletree” (Erykah Badu) shows a more modern, soulful jazz sound. It feels as Borzym is a bit rushed by the arrangement here, but it all works out well in the end. "Down Here Below" (Abbey Lincoln) is a gorgeous, blue recitative that drips with regret. Borzym's voice is never lovelier, taking on a reserved air that is full of an eloquent and desolate beauty. "Gatekeeper" (Feist) is cut from similar cloth, but woven with more subtlety.

 Borzym goes Vegas on "Dry Cleaner From Des Moines", a frenetic little tune that borders on the vestiges of bebop. "Abololo" (Marisa Monte) slows things down, with a tentative piano leading the way for Borzym's lush vocal line. "Possibly Maybe" (Bjork) is well intended, but becomes something of an undirected mess in spite of Borzym's attempts to save it. Girl Talk closes on a positive note with an unconventional cover of Pink's "Thank You" that is true to the original but puts Borzym's distinctive stamp on the song.

Monika Borzym has a captivating voice, and a presence that's bewildering in one so young. This is the sort of album you simply can’t put down; Borzym’s call is like that of a gentle Siren, relentlessly pulling you in.  Girl Talk is one introduction you won't soon forget, as Borzym appears poised to become one of the next big names in vocal jazz.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Leah Thompson - The Magic [EP]

Leah Thompson - The Magic [EP]
2011, Leah Thompson

Carbondale, Illinois singer/songwriter Leah Thompson is back with a three-song EP, The Magic, the follow-up to her previous single, Misfire.  While the EP features a cameo from MC J-Biggs, Thompson plays a full stylistic hand across the three songs presented here.

The Magic opens with "I Love The Sun", a jazzy, soulful love song that makes the most of Thompson's smoky, resonant alto voice. The song carries an infectious groove that will have you dancing in place, or tapping your feet. "Magic", featuring MC J-Biggs is a lightweight pop/hop offering that's too generic to make an impact at commercial radio. Thompson's voice is pleasing in the process, but this is an album track at best. "Summer Song" is a sweet but messy little love song. Once again, Thompson's voice is sweet, but the songwriting is unfocused beyond the hooky chorus.

Leah Thompson has one of those voices you could listen to all day; built on great tone and unusual timbres that catch in your ear. The Magic is enjoyable for this reason, although the songwriting is widely variable and uneven across just three songs. Thompson's voice will carry her a long way and she shows enough potential as a songwriting to stick around for a long time if she continues to develop her craft.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at or  The Magic is available from Leah Thompson's Bandcamp page, and you can even name your own price!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jack's Mannequin - People And Things

Jack's Mannequin - People And Things
2011, Sire/Warner Bros.

Orange County, California rockers Jack’s Mannequin are living proof that sometimes your second thought turns out best.  Started as a side project from front man Andrew McMahon’s other band, Something Corporate, but has moved front and center since the band’s inception in 2004.  Rounded out Bobby Anderson (guitar); Mikey “The Kid” Wagner (bass); and drummer Jay McMillan, Jack’s Mannequin has gone on to release two Top-10 albums and a number of successful singles.  Their latest effort, People And Things, is Jack’s Mannequin’s most mature work to date.

"My Racing Thoughts" kicks off People And Things with a full-bodied, Adult-Alternative sound full of solid hooks and impassioned vocals. This is a great opener, full of big energy and a chorus that sings itself to you. "Television" has the majesty of a U2 tune, combined with an emotionally tortured mindset. The two build into in intensity, feeding off one another on a high-energy, mid-tempo chorus that is perfect for pop radio. "Amy, I" is a love song, overcome by intensity and lack of understanding. She's gone, but he's in the depths of love and dejection. The tenor of the song is upbeat, but the lyrics betray the darkness within.

"Hey Hey Hey (We're All Gonna Die)" is a great, swaying rocker that wants to be an anthem. The song manages to soar almost in spite of itself on superior songwriting, a phenomenal chorus and an honest nature that is impossible to resist. "People, Running" is a catchy number about the intrinsic pointless of what we do, and the entertainment it provides. It's a wonderfully catchy rocker that should fare well with commercial radio. "Platform Fire" fits well into the template of adult alternative pop that seems to be the model for People And Things, while "Hostage" is a solid expansion that dances on the edge of Americana song construction in the chorus while lapsing back into a solid pop chorus. Jack's Mannequin strips away the extras on "Restless Dream", a moving acoustic relationship post-mortem. Regrets roll through a sweet melody buttressed by gorgeous but sparse vocal harmonies around Andrew McMahon's affecting vocal line. People And Things winds down with "Casting Lines", a song about the inevitability of ending up back where you started, no matter the choices you might make. It's a gorgeous closer full of deep thoughts and deeper emotions.

Jack's Mannequin makes the most of People And Things, occasionally hitting a slow moment but generally getting the job down with a big, enjoyable alt-pop sound and the impassioned vocals of McMahon.  Lyrically there are some rough spots and occasionally uncomfortable metaphors or phrases, but in generally the songwriting is solid. Jack's Mannequin will do well with this one.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ravishers - Ravishers

The Ravishers - The Ravishers
2011, Timber Carnival Records

Portland, Oregon rockers The Ravishers are about to invade your ear space. Catchy tunes, well-honed songwriting and an acute attention to detail help The Ravishers grab your attention; the energy of their lives shows maintains that attention and turns it into ardor. It's no surprise that some of that energy should carry over into The Ravishers, the band's full-length debut album. Comprised of writer/vocalist Dominic Castillo, guitarist Jonathan Barker and a rotating cast of characters, The Ravishers appear ready to turn the Pacific Northwest upside down and head out to conquer America.

The Ravishers set out with "I'm Him"; a song sounds like it could have been co-written by Lyle Lovett and Elvis Costello. Low key but catchy, the song mixes a vague Americana sound with distinctive pop sensibility. "You Have It" mixes a quiet, singer/songwriter style with wonderfully jangly guitar-rock sounds. Don't expect to escape this song for the rest of the day once it's entered your brain. "The Chase" gets caught up in its own repetition, while "Cruel Love" is a bedrock album track dealing with the cycle of being lost in unrequited love. "Underachievers" is an intriguing musical allegory of itself. The arrangement is almost haphazard and messy; not ambitious enough to be called Garage Rock but certainly showing the intent.

"Keep You Around" is a half-enthused love song, with an intriguing alto voice joining the mix. The mix of voices works well over the minimalist rock arrangement. "My Thoughts Of Killers" are a catchy, yet low-key bit of anti-pop madness. The guitar part becomes more and more disconnected as the song progresses, with the entire song deconstructing into disparate parts at the end. "Lesson In Leaving" features an anachronistic arrangement that intrigues with strong guitar work. The Ravishers plod their way through "How I Feel About You", but recover with the impressive pop song craft of "Nobody Falls In Love Anymore". The chorus here is absolutely amazing, and the melody of this hidden gem shines. The Ravishers close solidly with "Happening", an intensely driven yet reserved rocker that's big on energy but constrained in delivery.

Mainstream media and pop outlets tend to ignore Indie pop and rock acts in favor of the canned drivel that is often the result of major label recording contracts, but The Ravishers are going to be hard to ignore. The Ravishers put a bit of the fun back into rock and roll, and as musical talents they are definitely on the map. The Ravishers has its moments of musical pleasure and pain, but this is the sort of debut that builds anticipation for the future.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lady Antebellum - Own The Night

Lady Antebellum - Own The Night
2011, Capitol Records Nashville

Multi-platinum recording artists Lady Antebellum suffer an identity crisis on their latest album, Own The Night, vacillating wildly between 1980's pop and thinly veiled 1980's pop thinly veiled as country music. The blend largely explains Lady Antebellum's popularity, as many of today's pop/country fans were Garth Brooks converts from the 1980's rock and roll they grew up on. Not there is anything wrong with any of these styles, but Lady Antebellum's latest plays more like a closely surveyed, market-designed product than an album of original art.

Things start out well with "We Owned The Night". The 1980's pop theme is definitely here, but it's accompanied by a memorable chorus and a great melody. Even "Just A Kiss" satisfies as the sort of love song you might have heard at a junior high dance circa 1985. Unfortunately, Lady Antebellum slip on their own formula and fall into the soup for much of the rest of the album, playing sounds and styles certain to register high for pop and country radio programmers, and forgetting the passion and energy that have made such stars so far.

It would be easy to blame this one on the greedy record labels. It would be entirely in character for a label to push an already uber-successful band to alter their sound to maximize the profit potential of an album, but it's a shame to hear a band with real talent give in so whole-heartedly to the corporate shuffle. There are moments here when Lady Antebellum shines like the sun, particularly on the track "Love I've Found In You", but there's an overarching feeling of cliché to Own The Night that's impossible to ignore.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rachael Yamagata - Chesapeake

Rachael Yamagata - Chesapeake
2011, Frankenfish Records

Rachael Yamagata has built a reputation on well-crafted songs, a stirring voice, and an Indie attitude toward making music.  Even when working with a major label throughout much of the last decade, Yamagata has always managed to do things her way.  Yamagata has come full circle.  2011 finds Yamagata shaking off the yoke of major labels and making her way under her own imprint, Frankenfish Records.  The first album under this new flag is Chesapeake, an inspired 11-song collection born of creating and recording the album at producer John Alagia’s Chesapeake Bay home.

Chesapeake opens with "Even If I Don't", a semi-generic pop/rock number that never quite reaches out to the listener. Yamagata warms to her task, however, on the soulful "Starlight", an edgy, mid-tempo ballad set to a dance beat. The dark timbre of the arrangement is appealing, giving the song a more urgent feel than it might otherwise have. Yamagata's easy vocal style appeals on "Saturday Morning", sounding a bit like a suburban slow jam set to a light dance beat. Things really click for Yamagata on "You Won't Let Me", a powerful ballad of helplessness from being shut out by the one you love. Yamagata emotes wonderfully here, telling the tale in a voice so real you can touch it.

"Miles On A Car" is a mellow folk/pop stumble that's a bit too drawn out for its own good. Yamagata's voice takes a sultry turn for "Stick Around", an invitation in song that's sonically pleasing and hard to ignore. Yamagata comes fully alive on "The Way It Seems To Go", a wonderfully catchy and quirky number that is certain to be a crowd favorite, and sounds like perfect soundtrack fodder. The bluesy arrangement is a treat, and Yamagata's vocals are spot-on. "Full On" is a soliloquy in song, and Yamagata offers her best vocal performance of the set. The song is thoughtful and sweet, with a deep air of melancholy. Yamagata closes with "Dealbreaker", a ballad of love's regrets and wishes for what might have been. Yamagata's pensive heartbreak is powerful, and the song carries an emotional wallop that sneaks up on you.

Rachael Yamagata has a talent for packing a lot of punch into little moments. Her voice is a bit off the charts; it's hard to say that Yamagata sounds quite like anybody, but in style she plays strongly on the same playground as many of the Lilith Fair artists of the last decade. Chesapeake is a bit too reserved at times, perhaps, but Yamagata makes per personal connection with all those who listen closely, and open themselves up to her deeply personal, emotional songs.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Anthony Toner - A Light Below The Door

Anthony Toner - Light Below The Door
2011, Dozens Of Cousins

Irish crooner Anthony Toner continues to impress with his second album, Light Below The Door. A smooth voice, a distinctive flair for 1970's style singer/songwriter, rock and soul sounds and solid songwriting make any concert or recording from Toner a treat, but he raises the bar a bit this time around. Opening with "All Of The Above", Toner sews a memorable melody into an arrangement that's a cross between Barry Manilow and early Chicago. "Gratefully" finds Toner using a talk/sing vocal style that is appealing. The song is intelligent and heartfelt, and is among the best that Toner has written to date. "East Of Louise" is a brilliant story song about a friend that is full of amazing imagery underscored by a subtle, acoustic-guitar driven arrangement.

"Way Too Dark" again uses stark imagery to build a picture of a single mom left high and dry in the listener's mind. The blues/folk blend in the arrangement is anathema to the neurosis and longing that fill this tune. This is an absolute "Wow" moment for Toner, and is worth a listen even if the album escapes your attention. "You're The One" is a classic, simple love song full of great poetry that shows off Toner's quieter side. "The Great Escape" tells the story of a family feud in a stirring rockabilly arrangement. Toner brings the characters to life in song in the way that only great songwriters can, and highlights the achievement with some impressive guitar work along the way. Light Below The Door bows with "Nashville Snowflake", the tale of a snowflake that wants to live together. Once again, Toner's melody and imagery are near-perfect.

If Anthony Toner was plying his trade as a singer/songwriter in 1975 he'd be signed to a major label and known all over the world. Today his material may sound a bit dated to some, but what doesn't change is that Anthony Toner is a world-class songwriting, with a voice that's eminently pleasant to the ear. Artistically he seems to be peaking right now, as well. Light Below The Door, consequently, is not an album to be missed.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at or  CD copies are only available from Toner’s website.  If it’s digital you crave:

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Hops - Won't It Be Fun

The Hops - Won't It Be Fun
2011, Front Leg Music

Chicago trio The Hops swing wide and free on their first full-length album, Won't It Be Fun. Middle-of-the-road alt-rock influenced by Garage Rock, punk, folk and jazz is the order of the day for Patrick Tinning (vocals/bass); TJ Walker (drums) and Cullin Kress (guitar); creating mildly catchy tunes that can be pleasant to the ear, but often struggle to gain real attention from casual listeners.

Won't It Be Fun shows a lot of potential. For a three-piece outfit, The Hops create some interesting sounds in their arrangements, filling up each song's core with a tight-yet-informal sound that's rough hewn and melodic. There's a lot of good energy on the album, but The Hops have a hard time pulling all of the elements together at one time. It seems as if when the melody and the arrangement are strong, the energy falls off, or the arrangement gets messy at times when the melody and energy are at their peak. Things start positively with "There's Something", a mild-rocker that's the most cohesive song on the disc. "Thermometer Splits" also works, combining an unpolished rock and roll sound with great energy and a solid, acoustic arrangement.

The Hops quickly sink into a bland rut, where vocal leads and harmonies struggle to stay in key as often as not, and songs that have the potential to be more than they are struggle with their own indefinite bland nature. The Hops show some writing chops that make them worth tuning in for on Won't It Be Fun, but have a hard time pulling all the pieces together into consistent song craft. It will be curious to see how the band progresses the next time around.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Hops at

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jeannine Hebb - Whileaway

Jeannine Hebb - Whileaway
2011, Jeannine Hebb

Jeannine Hebb has one of the best pure voices in Indie Rock. Her stunning debut EP Too Late To Change Me announced the Brooklyn based singer/songwriter to the world four years ago. It wouldn't have been surprising to see Hebb regress a bit on her second recorded effort, but Whileaway finds Hebb leaping forward rather than stepping back. Her penetrating voice, distinctive melodies and emotionally intelligent lyrics make for an unforgettable combination. Comparisons to Fiona Apple, Alexa Ray Joel and Tori Amos may seem appropriate at times through Whileaway, but it becomes eminently clear before long that Jeannine Hebb's sound and style are entirely her own.

Whileaway opens with "Call Him Out", a cute number written early in heartbreak. She wonders why no one intervenes. The effort is intriguing, and has the feel of a pop-opera or new Broadway composition. Hebb creates and enlivens a character here that's entirely believable in her self-pity and self-victimization. The melody is entirely memorable, and Hebb sings with a voice that could grace any stage. "I Believe" is a soulful ballad that shows off the many colors and gorgeous tone of her voice. "Back To Me Again" is written from a position of power, with a former, misbehaving beau trying to his way back into her life. The edgy rock arrangement almost seems to hide a country heart, but Hebb builds a wonderfully intricate chorus that will keep your toes tapping.

"Tell Me No" shows a wonderfully human bit of dysfunction, wrapped up in a theatrical aria that's absolutely unforgettable. The combination of neurotic need and honest vulnerability plays out perfectly against the simple piano-based arrangement. "Heartache" deals with the darkness that follows a relationship, with the resolution that she won't make the same mistake again. Once again, Hebb carries a stage presence into the song, and a diva-like voice that wends its way through the vaguely Mediterranean melody. Edge and beauty come together here, like the brittle, icy rim of a puddle on a frosty morning. "Don't" continues to dance on the emotional ledge, in that dark place between capitulation and recovery. Strength grows in the chorus, where she fights back against the causes of her heartbreak. Hebb's sense of composition here is amazing, using all of the instruments in her palette to build sound in waves that crash over the listener much as the emotions that inspired the song might once have engulfed her.

"These Days" is a melancholy exploration told in the form of a personal ballad. Hebb's (or her character's) personal thoughts born into song alongside a lovely, fluid melody, offer a wonderfully quiet yet powerful moment of pure emotion, and allow listeners a glimpse into Hebb's upper vocal range as well. "Goodbye" takes on a slightly edgier feel, as Hebb begins to separate herself from the source of her heartache. Unlike the songs that came before, there's more of an analytical slant this time around, as Hebb explains her reasons for going. In the process she builds gorgeous song architecture that befits the sprouting of new chutes into a bare emotional spring that must follow every winter.

"Tragedy" is a relationship post-mortem in the medium of bluesy pop. Hebb belts and croons her way through the moment, speaking not out of anger but out of fact. The dynamic arrangement is too complex for pop radio, but is very appealing nonetheless. "Low" alternates a workman-like verse with an airy, one-word chorus. The split is interesting, and the neo-baroque glue that holds the two distinctive pop styles together will keep listeners very much on their toes. Hebb closes with "Make It Right", a dark confessional that throws all of the previous resolution in doubt. What's appeared to be a general migration toward healing is left in the emotional turmoil of one who almost made it through, but is on the verge of getting sucked back in to the relationship that started it all. The personal appeal here is compelling, and Hebb delivers it with a voice and presence that combine all of the personal glamour of a big-time pop star and all of the pastiche of a veteran of the stage.

Whileaway is the sort of album you park in your CD/MP3 player and play again and again. Jeannine Hebb shows that her debut EP was anything but a fluke with a performance that is subtle and complex beyond her years, both musically and lyrically. With a voice that would be welcome on any stage, anywhere and an amazing depth of songwriting ability, it's hard to imagine Jeannine Hebb as being anything less than a star one day. Whileaway is nothing less than a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Jeannine Hebb at or 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Sean Morey as Milton - The Man Song

Comedian Sean Morey has been around long enough to be on The Tonight Show with both Jay Leno and Johnny Carson.  Starting out as a street performer in Boston, Morey found his way to L.A. and has won awards for both his comedy and songwriting (the two are never far apart).  I found this little video and thought I would share it with you all.  Enjoy!

Learn more about Sean Morey at

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9 Left Dead - The Wrong Things
2011, Dirtbag Music

Oklahoma City rockers 9 Left Dead recently dropped their debut album, The Wrong Things, on Dirtbag Music, following on the heels of a lot of buzz and active rock ads across the U.S. for the first single, "Put Your Guns Down". Starting out in 1999 as Harmful If Swallowed, 9 Left Dead has grown over the years, with former prison guards Travis Jones (vocals) and Jared Ellis (bass) joined by Kreg Anthony (lead guitar); Nathan Parrish (rhythm guitar) and Bryan Whitley (drums) to form the current lineup.

9 Left Dead plays modern rock that blends in nicely on active rock playlists. In fact it blends in so well it’s difficult to tell 9 Left Dead from a host of other bands in the same musical demographic, a point that becomes apparent very early on The Wrong Things. Jones has a solid voice, but lacks the power or distinctive sound to make him truly memorable, and 9 Left Dead's sound is homogenized to maximize attention from radio programmers but fails to distinguish the band in the process. The songs on The Wrong Things are fairly average for the genre, with the lead single "Put Your Guns Down" sounding like action-movie soundtrack fodder. The highlight of the album is a cover of The Doors' "People Are Strange", and even here the band sounds like they're running through the song on automatic.

9 Left Dead has something of a reputation for their live performances; but none of that energy or panache carries over into The Wrong Things. There's just too little differentiation both within the music, and between the band and other acts in their genre to really make a strong impression one way or the other.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about 9 Left Dead at or

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brandon Schott - 13 Satellites

Brandon Schott - 13 Satellites
2011, Golden State Music

California-based singer/songwriter Brandon Schott is a prisoner to his own passions.  The Berklee College of Music grad has never wanted to do anything other than listen to, create and perform great music.  Even a diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer couldn’t stop Schott, who continues to make deliciously child-like pop music with an intellectual edge.  Schott’s latest effort, 13 Satellites, features some of his most evolved songwriting to date.

13 Satellites opens with "Annie", a brief orchestral rock instrumental with non-lyric vocals that calls to mind The Beatles, The Beach Boys and baroque classical styles. The marriage of styles sounds uncomfortable, but Schott makes it work. "Early Morning Night" is an intriguing blend of singer/songwriter pastiche and British melodic rock. "Full Circle Round" heads out to a gentle gallop. The mildly catchy number reinforces Schott's deep Beatles influences and is quite an enjoyable listen. "This Is Home" is a love song with an easy feel and a great vibe. The gentle happiness in both the arrangement and the vocal line are palpable.

"A Daydream (...or a 2 AM Serenade)" is lovely; composed of a gently weeping arrangement and gorgeous vocal harmonies. You could add lullaby to the potential titles as well, as the rocking feel of the song has a calming effect. "Satellite" is wonderful catchy, if reserved. The arrangement offered here could easily have come out of a Beatles recording session, the melody sublime. "Exploding Angel" steps things up a notch, going slightly more upbeat with a vibrant, yet still reserved melody.

"All The Way Down" has a wonderfully dark undercurrent that runs throughout. The sense of melancholy here is ever-present, and the piano work speaks more or Rachmaninoff than of pop music instrumentation. Schott's vision is at once depressing, stirring and beautiful here. "My Love Won't Let Me Down" is a solid ballad with an eerily familiar melody that will stick to the inside of your skull and stay there for days. 13 Satellites closes with the rhythmic "Fading (Outro)", a sonic aperitif that includes drums, ethereal instrumentation and harmony vocals that fill in the spaces between. It's an aptly offbeat, primitive and lovely close to an album that quite lets the listener settle into one groove for too long.

Brandon Schott intrigues with 13 Satellites. His sense of melody is sublime, and his lo-fi perfectionism, distinctive compositional style and general sound smacks of mid- to late-career Beatles music, tempered with elements of Paul Simon. 13 Satellites deserves to be recognized as one of the most compelling releases of 2011, to date, and is certain to grace some top-10 lists at the end of the year. Don't miss out on Schott and 13 Satellites.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Human Switchboard - Who's Landing In My Hangar? Anthology 1977-1984
2011, Bar/None Records

No one will hold it against you if Human Switchboard has escaped your attention before now. Their debut album, Who's Landing In My Hangar? was released three decades ago, and the darlings of the early 1980's New York City punk scene never really created a national footprint, but their influence is still felt today. The Beastie Boys, Mark Lanegan (The Screaming Trees), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Kurt Cobain have all paid homage to Human Switchboard in the past, with Cobain referring to the band's "Refrigerator Door" as the "Stairway To Heaven" of punk rock. On October 24, 2011, Human Switchboard makes the jump to CD for the first time, with the release of Who's Landing In My Hangar? Anthology 1977 - 1984. The collection includes the complete original album plus various live and demo tracks. The 21-song CD also includes a download card that will allow listeners to download an additional 19 tracks on-line.
The disc itself shows a young band at the intersection of 1980's pop and punk, but affected by sounds of 1960's and 1970's rock and roll. The vocals are often pitchy, wavering from key to key oft times in the same vocal phrase, but the energy is great. There is a primitive feel to the album that is appealing; sounding more like a basement tape made by good friends than a professional produced album. Human Switchboard even work in the occasional Richie Cannata-style sax solo to complete the musical menagerie. Listeners will groove to the geek/pop/punk sound of "Who's Landing In My Hanger?); the bouncy energy of "I Can Walk Alone", and the Ramones-meets-The Knickerbockers sound of "(I Used To) Believe In You". Other highlights include "In My Room", "Shake It Boys" and "Fly-In".

Human Switchboard brings an American Primitive spirit to Basement Punk (the 2nd cousin to Garage Rock) on Who's Landing In My Hangar? Anthology 1977 - 1984. The additional tracks illuminate the best intentions of a band that might have done some great things over time, but the reality is that sometimes on solid album is the best hope of a band. It's hard to say Human Switchboard went out on top, but in an increasingly Indie music world, Human Switchboard gets many nods for being years ahead of their time in approach and style. The music of Human Switchboard is probably an acquired taste beyond its novelty and arguable historical value, but is worthy of some time and effort on the part of the listener.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Who's Landing In My Hangar? drops on October 24, 2011.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cowboy Junkies - Sing In My Meadows: The Nomad Series, Volume 3

Cowboy Junkies - Sing In My Meadows: The Nomad Series, Volume 3
2011, Razor & Tie/Latent Recordings

Canadian mellow-rock mavens the Cowboy Junkies offer up a different sound beginning on October 25, 2011, with the release of Sing In My Meadows, the third release in The Nomad Series. Going well off the beaten path of their past works, Cowboy Junkies venture into a world of low-fi, fuzzy electric blues and folk. The result is their most compelling album since The Trinity Sessions, full of the bluesy, breathy alto of Margo Timmins, minimalist arrangements and a lot of distortion. The bare bones approach to song construction allows for stark contrasts between Michael Timmins' fuzzy guitar work and sister Margo's unforgettable voice.

Breaking out with "Continental Drift", the band spends the first two minutes exploring the open spaces in the arrangement sans vocals before Margo Timmins slips in the back door with an icy, metallic vocal line that's both warm and cold at the same time. The blues influences come fully to the fore on "Sing In My Meadows", a dark and conflicted invitation that's both beautiful and disturbing at once. "Hunted" is perhaps the most wide-open song on the album, allow room for Margo Timmins to rant and wail and show a much more carnal vocal character than fans might be used to. The closer, "I Move On", sounds more like Chrissie Hynde jamming with Junkhouse than anything you might expect from Cowboy Junkies.

Sing In My Meadows has its ups and downs, but is a thoroughly compelling left turn for a band that honed its reputation on a smooth, mellow brand of anti-folk. Sing In My Meadows plays like the band's dark secret, hidden in a closet for all these years and finally let into the light. It's compelling; aboriginal and full of a dark energy that draws you in.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Cowboy Junkies at or  Sing In My Meadows drops on October 25th, 2011 on CD.  The Vinyl edition will follow on November 15, 2011.  Digital versions will be forthcoming through and iTunes, but are not yet available for pre-order.

            CD                     Vinyl

Please note that the prices listed above are as of the posting date, and may have changed. Wildy's World is not responsible for price changes instituted by

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sarah Jarosz - Follow Me Down

Sarah Jarosz - Follow Me Down
2011, Sugar Hill Records

Sarah Jarosz hails from Wimberly, Texas, and writes and sings with a presence, composure and sense of self that seems extraordinary for one so young.  The twenty-year old singer/songwriter is prolific, as well, recently releasing her sophomore album, Follow Me Down.  Jarosz pushes at the walls while paying homage to the music she grew up with, blending a style of Americana rock that’s fresh and exciting.

Jarosz opens with "Run Away", a quiet but powerful entreaty, played skillfully by Jarosz' tremendous voice. The subtle arrangement underneath is the perfect foil to her vocal presence. "Come Around" is presented in a stark, open arrangement full of quiet urgency. This is a true WOW moment, and Jarosz doesn't spare an ounce of energy in the vocal line. "Annabelle Lee" is classic Americana driven by a modern urgency and deep Appalachian roots. Jarosz explores the struggle between right and wrong on "Ring Them Bells", struggling to discern the proper path in a world complicated by emotions and influences that are often out of our control.

"My Muse" is an absolutely gorgeous love song; with Jarosz' voice floating over the arrangement like a cloud. Chalk up another WOW moment for the artist. "Floating In The Balance" is well written, but hard to even comprehend fully in the wake of "My Muse". It seems almost anti-climactic due to placement, but is well worth your attention on its own. Jarosz shows off her instrumental side on "Old Smitty", blending bluegrass, country, Americana and Celtic styles in a compact arrangement with soaring fiddle work overhead. If Jarosz makes a misstep on "The Tourist", it might be in the inexorable pacing, but the melancholic melody is full of an aching beauty that's impossible to ignore. "Here Nor There" sticks to the middle of the road, but Jarosz nails a note-perfect vocal performance, proving that sometimes less really is more. "Gypsy" finds Jarosz delving into quiet, observational poetry, in a down-tempo, low-key beauty of an arrangement, before closing out with the simple folk instrumental "Peace."

Sarah Jarosz' roots-based singer/songwriter material isn't the type that generally builds a buzz outside of internet radio, but Jarosz is in possession of tremendous songwriting skills and such personal panache that she's impossible to ignore. Follow Me Down is the sort of album that grabs you in the opening notes, wraps you its arms and refuses to let you go until it had its way with you. Even in her quieter moments, Jarosz delivers on Follow Me Down, whether with her voice, her songwriting, or her presence as an artist. More often than not all three are in play at once. When this happens, just stand back and listen. Sarah Jarosz is a force, and Follow Me Down is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Sarah Jarosz at or 
           CD                         MP3                     Vinyl                    iTunes

Please note that the prices listed above are as of the posting date, and may have changed. Wildy's World is not responsible for price changes instituted by