Archive for the ‘Local Music’ Category

CD Review – Demos Papadimas – “Waiting”

2016-11-04

demos-waitingLike many Midwest rust-belt former manufacturing hubs, the city of Warren, Ohio, doesn’t have much to hang it’s hat on these days, but it still is the home of the W.D. Packard Museum is also home to one of the most unique voices in music, Demos Papadimas, who’s unique take on Americana music is catching ears and making people pay attention.

His latest release and second full-length album “Waiting” is available for purchase on iTunes, and streaming on Spotify, as well as in physical form at The Record Connection in Niles, or his website; and it’s well worth your listen if you’re a fan of Americana and a man who knows his way around the bouzouki. This album has some great Greek-tinged Indie Rock with lots of harmonica, steel guitar, violin and solid drumming provided by violinist Sandi Quotson, Ralph Rich on drums, Nils Johnson on bass and pedal steel guitarist Al Moss, the 12 songs spanning 40 minutes leaves you wanting more and pressing the repeat button, much like his first release, “Wandering Through the Wilderness” did, which is why he was named one of Cleveland Scene Magazine’s 13 Bands to Watch in 2013.

“Waiting,” which was released on Record Store Day 2016, kicks off with “Just a Stranger,” followed by some slick pedal steel work by Moss on the tune “Second Street” which is one of my favorite songs on the album, along with “Little Sadie” and the closer “Who Would’ve Thought” that features some great finger-picking on the bouzouki. “Waiting,” the title track, features a lot of great finger=picking from Papadimas along with solid work from Quotson on violin. It’s a sound that’s hard to describe, or define, but it works.

“Restless Time” is the first single off the CD, and it has an video produced by Radio Lark‘s Chris Rutushin and Khaled Tabbara from The Zou.

Demos and the Band are playing in Youngstown on Saturday, Nov 5, 2016, at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts Downtown with Hayden Brooke, Watching for Foxes and Joshua Powell & The Great Train Robbery; The Elbo Room in Chicago on Nov 9 & 10; Rambling House Soda with Hedbo in Columbus on Nov. 12, and has a series of dates in Kent, Youngstown & Pittsburgh to close out the year. Do yourself a favor and give Demos a listen, live or on record. You’ll thank me later!

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CD Review: JD Eicher – “The Middle Distance”

2016-05-30

JDEicher

Yes, JD Eicher still has a band, and yes, they’re still top-notch, but with his forth solo album, “The Middle Distance,” released in May, the songs are so personal, so real, so individually focused, having it be a ‘band’ album wouldn’t have worked. At all.

This is an album about fear and failure; hope and belief; focus and finding what matters; and making it work.

The opening 53 instrumental seconds that start off the album build up to opening line, “There’s a song that’s still unsaid,” drawing you in to the world of someone who’s lost. Confused. Looking for the right path. It’s all internalized. These are issues we all have, conversations we’ve all had in our heads about romance, family, work, life. As the CD rolls on, the realization, the confrontations, the issues, and the reasons we’re on this journey all come clear (“Be Well” and “Lines In The Sky”).  So does taking time to focus on core beliefs (“The Middle Distance” & “Man of Faith”), finding what focus that energy on (in JD’s case, family, faith and his wife Cathi), realize it’s time to fight (“Not Everybody Runs”), pull it all together and realize what you have, and getting rid of those fears (“What We’re Not,” “This Love Is A Light” and “Not Afraid.”)

The album was recorded in JD’s home, using simple mixes, a great mix of falsetto vocals, layering and non-traditional song structures and it’s a solid ten-track, 40-minute album.  Favorite songs include “Be Well,” “Not Everybody Runs,” “What We’re Not” and “Not Afraid,” but the line of the album, for me, comes from “Man of Faith:”

“What if God were not one being doing good things
What if God were every good thing being done?”

I think it took me a good five or six listens to the entire CD to understand the concept of it, and when it all fell into place, for lack of a better term, it really blew me away how simple this CD was, how great a listen it is and how I think I could have written most album of this during many sleepless nights. Taken individually, the songs are very listenable, but in the album’s order, it’s a journey. And a pleasant one. If you’re looking for a new summer CD, JD Eicher’s “The Middle Distance” is my suggestion.

(“The Middle Distance” is available on iTunes or Amazon music, or from JD himself while he’s touring!)

The band is playing. Please be quiet.

2013-04-13

I’m not sure what exactly the medical condition is called that prevents adults, usually between the ages of 18-34, from being unable to refrain from talking for periods of 45 to 60 minutes when a band is on stage. And I’m no scientist, Jim, nor am I a doctor,  but I know for a fact it’s a real condition. I’ve seen it first hand, many times. I just don’t understand how some people just can’t stop talking to listen, especially when the band is playing. It’s annoying to me, and it has to be disrespectful to the band.

Some of us, if you can imagine this, love live music, and, well, geeze, maybe came to see AND hear the band perform their music live. No, really, what a concept. Live music. For 45 to 60 minutes. Played by actual musicians. RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. You can watch them play their instruments, tune them, tell you stories, and showcase some new stuff you’ve probably not heard yet … but all you can do is talk?

I’m not referring to “Oh, that’s a great lyric” or “Wow, what an amazing guitar lick” or “Damn, that rhythm section is tight” type of talk … this has nothing to do with the actual events on stage. These are just random yahoos talking about the random things that make up their random lives. I get clapping, cheering, yelling, showing the band you connect with them and their music and appreciate the vigor they bring to the stage while playing it for you. But just standing talking about work and the kids and TV shows and your new car? Nobody but you really cares about the banality of your daily life, and nobody outside of your circle of friends needs to hear about in a voice loud enough to be heard in a 10 foot radius.

Sadly, this isn’t a one-time event, or something that happens in one venue, or one city, or to one band. Tonight, I was standing 15-20 feet away from a stack of speakers that covered 72 square feet, pumping music at 128 decibels (thanks iPod app that pointed that out to me) and was rather pissed at the general din of the conversation not only being audible, but at many points overpowering the sound coming from the stage.

Yet I’m the bad guy when I politely ask, or, not-so-politely request, someone take their conversation elsewhere because, well, I paid to hear the band play their music, not you talk about your new cell phone (happened at a Cowboy Junkies show in Kent), or how the kids did in school (Red Wanting Blue, Pittsburgh), or how the local sports team won or lost today’s or this week’s game (numerous bands in numerous towns). Seriously … I do not understand why people pay to see a band and then proceed to talk the entire time the band they paid to see is on stage.

And after politely asking, or not-so-politely requesting, someone please be quiet because the band is on, I’ve been threatened, made fun of, pointed out to others as someone who’s bothered by people talking, and, at one show, almost had a sucker punch thrown at me as I walked away, until a friend told the dude, “Uh, he was in the military. And he’s from Youngstown. You might wanna reconsider that.” All because, oh, I wanna HEAR the band I paid to see, not hear you talk.

Tonight, the assclowns who were talking over the finesse band we saw proceeded to yell in my ear, ask if they could clap, try to goad me into an altercation and involve their friends in even more conversation after I asked them to take their conversation elsewhere because I didn’t pay to hear them talk, I paid to hear the band. All of this happened 20 feet from the stage in a venue that had more than 200 people inside.  And by finesse band, I’m talking a band with an upright bassist, cello player, banjo/uke player, drummer who spent as much time behind the kit as playing his cajon (aka slapbox) in front of it, and a lead singer who played acoustic guitar. So the sound was intricate. And layered, and often times very low volume, where all the conversations were drowning it out.

I’m not talking Ronnie James Dio at jet engine level blowing your hair back, whether you have hair or not. This is music that silence is a part of, and when you have dozens of conversations going on in the room, you just can’t get that silence.

Like I said … I just don’t get it.

What’s so hard about being quiet for 45 to 60 minutes when  a band is playing? Is it me? Do I expect too much?

Erica Blinn & The Handsome Machine

2013-04-07

Columbus, Ohio’s Erica Blinn and the Handsome Machine rocked Howlers Coyote Cafe in Pittsburgh on April 6, 2013.

Happy Dog Saloon in Cleveland is Dead to me

2013-04-06

There are very few thing I hate worse than piss poor band management by venues who book live, original music acts on a local, regional or national level. Because there are a great many people who like to see bands play original music, and who will hop in the car, dedicate a night, a few hours or a few hundred miles of drive time to go see a band they like who’s playing somewhere in their geographical reachable area. And usually it’s on a tight schedule … “If we leave by midnight, we’ll be home by 1:30 and I can sleep for six hours before work” kind of schedule. I’ve done it more times than I care to count, and enjoyed damn near every single lost moment of sleep.

And I’m not the only one. I have MANY, MANY awesome music-loving friends who’ve piled in cars, pinched pennies, scrounged for beer money and parking and tolls and cover charges and eaten the shittiest truck stop food to make the trek to see a band they love play live and spend the next day sore from sleeping in a car, cranky from not enough sleep in a car, and loving every minute of it.

Because most of the time, it’s worth the sacrifice.

To see the band. To live that moment. To be in that room. Whether it’s 20,000 fans at the arena; 15,000 fans at the amphitheater, 1,000 at the club or 10 of you in a dive bar, those are the moments where you connect with the music and musicians who matter to you, and nobody can take that away. It’s pure magic.

However, in the unlikely event of a water landing … when you don’t get to see the band through no fault of your own … shit get super serial. Super fast.

I’ve had any number of roadtrips cancelled for any number of reasons: Flat tire. Car problems. Work issues. Family crisis. Weather. Car accidents on your way to the venue blocking traffic for hours. Friends who promise and bail. Bank account issues. And honestly, I’ve had them all. And I hate it, but I suck it up, realize I missed them this time and promise to make better plans to avoid some or all of the above next time THAT BAND I HAVE TO SEE is anywhere near where I am.

But when the stars and planets align, and you have four working tires, good engine, you’re not working and not on call, have no family issues, beautiful weather, everyone is safe on the highways you travel, with a friend by your side and a positive bank balance with cash in your pocket and you get to the venue far enough in advance to get a prime seat or standing position close enough to satisfy your needs, desires and camera capabilities and the band you want to see isn’t playing until several hours AFTER their advertised time, and oh, they’re not the opener but the ‘closer’ now? Or they never play at all?

That, my friends, is a completely different story. And why I will never, EVER, go see a band at Happy Dog in Cleveland again.

About a month ago I got an email from someone who saw this here music blog, and knew it had a Columbus connection, and was playing the Tree Bar (great venue, great management) and asked if I’d share the word.  To be honest, I get, on average, 10 of these a week. Most of the time I have no idea who the band is, and they provide little to no information about themselves, their style, etc. They just want me to pimp their shows. And I listen to them, and don’t like them, and usually ignore the request, because if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all, right?

But Jeremy Porter was different. I read his email. He’s an old school 80s punk turned 90s rocker turned indie rock Americana guy. I dig that. That’s basically me. But with much more musical talent, as I learned after I went to his band’s website and listened to their music.

I liked it. Hell, I liked it so much I bought the new CD. Wrote a review. Promoted the Columbus show, the Cleveland show and the Pittsburgh show on this here blog, my other regular ass blog, and Facebook and Twitter. Because I really liked the sound of the band. Hell, I even created a Facebook event for the Cleveland show and invited about 60 of my Cleveland-area friends. Eight of which showed up at Happy Dog, Friday, April 5th at 9:00ish to see see Jeremy Porter & The Tucos.

Just like I did.

And after paying our cover charge about 9ish, and having a few fine craft beers, and some food, and listening to 90 seconds of the soundcheck, we were wondering when the band was going to start. Because at 9ish the place was about 80% full. Now it’s 10ish and it’s 60% full.  And it’s 10:30 and it’s 50% full. And still, no music.

So imagine our surprise when at 10:45 the ‘headliner’ (Bill Fox who was with a band called The Mice from 85-88, disappeared until 96, and after a few years disappeared again, only to re-emerge in 2007 … yet I’ve never heard of the guy, so I wasn’t there to see him) starts playing. After a good portion of the crowd that was there an hour ago has already left the building. And nobody’s paying attention.  (Sorry, Bill, I’m sure in a different venue under different circumstances I’d like you. Hell, GBV likes you. And Robert does no wrong, so odds are I’d dig ya plenty, just not tonight, man. Sorry.)

So I walk the 10 feet from where I’m sitting to where Jeremy Porter is sitting. We talked, earlier in the evening, I told him I was excited to see the show and had like 8 people there with me. He thanked me for that, for my review of the album, the Facebook event, blah blah blah … the mutual admiration society rules were in effect and we called it a draw.  So as I walked up to him at 10:45, those rules were gone. I was upset about him NOT opening. And said that.

Then, when he answered, I left upset behind and became hot pissed when I found out he not only knew that they weren’t playing first, he was fine with it. Yet he never took the time to tell that to anyone via Facebook, Twitter, or, oh, yeah, that dude who came to see us and brought his friends sitting 10 feet away from me. That’s just a shitty thing to do to someone who just became a fan, and promoted your shit.

So we left. Two songs into Bill Fox’s set and without seeing anything but 90 seconds of Jeremy Porter’s soundcheck.  Because, after driving 75 miles one way, dropping about $100 in dinner, drinks, tolls, parking and cover charge, hoping to see a band I wanted to see play at 10ish because I had to leave by midnight because of work, it sucked to realize the band I wanted to see wasn’t playing until about midnight because the ‘headliner’ or venue or booking agent or whothefuckever decided that a 9 pm show should start with the alleged headliner starting at 10:45 and the alleged opener should start at midnightish or later, we left.

Had I known that was the timetable, I’d have said Fuck Jeremy Porter and Fuck Happy Dog I would have driven an extra two miles down the road to Brothers Lounge to see Erica Blinn and the Handsome Machine who was allegedly starting at 9:15 … and well, holy shit, they actually started at … wait for it … 9:15.

See, that’s a good venue. And a good band.

So fuck you, Happy Dog. And fuck you, Jeremy Porter, for letting Happy Dog fuck you, and fuck me and 8 people I brought to see you.

Go back to that state up north.

Ryan Smith – Primary Numbers CD Review

2013-04-04

Columbus, Ohio’s Ryan Smith is an amazing lyricist. Soon after moving to Columbus, he was one of the first artists I first saw at Andyman’s Treehouse when he opened for somebody I liked. “Swimming” caught me. “Girls With Glasses” hooked me. His 2006 release “Neil Avenue” was among my  most listened to CDs of that year. I said his 2008 release “I Just Want To Feel That Way” “… could be the best six Paul Westerberg songs that Paul Westerberg neither wrote nor recorded.” (You can read that here.)

After taking some time off to get a rip-roaring DJ business started (and he’s awesome, too, so if you’re in Central Ohio, hire him), I was excited to get an email from him when “Waiting” was released in 2012, and it was rich in layering and some great studio work, and quickly added to the playlist, and became my third favorite EP released last year. In fact, I said in my year-end review (here), that it is “interesting electropop, taking generous use of looping, layering and a bevy of sounds that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, especially when listening with earphones, or in the car. It’s like a sonic treat for your brain.”

So I was excited to get an email from him with a link to his new album, “Primary Numbers,” before it’s released on April 23, 2013.  To be honest, Ryan’s always hooked me up with his stuff before it’s released, and I’m always glad to get new music. This was no different, i dove in, saw it was 11 tracks, so we’re talking full album, hit the download link, and started listening to it. The first track, “An Introduction of Sorts,” starts of with some interesting synthesized piano, which is in nice change from the guitars he usually uses. And as I sat there listening, I realized … uh … okay … must be an instrumental. With nice layering. Okay. That’s cool. Then “Just Enough To Make It Not Awkward” started playing. More of the same. Instrumental. Synthesized piano. Layering. Loops. For 11 songs. Yep.  Turns out the whole CD is completely instrumental. Which is cool, just not what I was expecting.

I love to see artists I enjoy grow, and evolve and stretch the envelope of their ability, challenge themselves and become more skilled at what they do, and I guess, since his lyrical prowess is already at a level with some of my favorite songwriters, this is a natural progression.

It’s a good album as far as instrumentals go, I’m just not really a fan of instrumentals. I like lyrics way too much, and Ryan writes great lyrics. Anyway, all that being said, here’s a link to the first single, “Simple Things” … you can give it a listen and form your own opinion of it. I’m hoping it grows on me.  “Simple Things” is available for a free download, as most of his music is.  I just feel that many Ryan Smith fans are going to feel the same way I do: Waiting to go back to Neil Avenue because I Just Want To Feel That Way I used to listening to Ryan Smith sing some words.  Now where’s my copy of “Girls With Glasses” at?

Right-Click to download “Simple Things” as an MP3.
(Courtesy of Ryan Smith. Probably until he reads this review.)

Jeremy Porter & The Tucos – Partner In Crime – CD Review / Tour

2013-04-03

jeremyporter

One of the cool things about JACOMB is hearing from artists who are putting out music that I might not find … the latest being Jeremy Porter & The Tucos. Hailing from That State Up North (but we don’t hold that against them), JP has been rocking and rolling the heartland in bands like The Regulars, SlugBug, The OffRamps, and Fidrych, as well as playing solo. He’s played Columbus before, sharing the stage with bands like Watershed and rocking out at Stache’s and the like … and now he’s back, with a new album, “Partner In Crime” and a mini Rust Belt tour that visits Ohio, twice: Thursday, April 4th, at the Tree Bar in Columbus; and Friday, April 5th at Happy Dog in Cleveland; and playing Rock Room in Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 6th.

The new CD, “Partner In Crime,” was released on New Fortune Records in March, and is a great piece of Americana. The 12 songs flow across 46 minutes of heartbreak, heartache, tales of falling for the pizza girl and lamenting about the one who got away. While those sound like pretty much every indie rock album, the music behind the songs, and Porter’s delivery, make them unique. From the rollicking “Pizza Girl” to sad-bastard “Barely All The Time” to the sadder-bastard “Wedding Day” this is a great collection of music, and I’m glad Jeremy brought it to my attention, and hope I can bring it to yours.  I know I’ll be at the Cleveland show … Come on out and support live music and hit the Rust Belt Tour!

Rust Belt Tour:

Thu Apr 4 • Columbus, OH • Tree Bar
Fri Apr 5 • Cleveland, OH • Happy Dog
Sat Apr 6 • Pittsburgh, PA • Rock Room
Fri Apr 19 • Mt. Pleasant, MI • Rubble´s
Sat May 11 • Detroit, MI • Lager House
Sat May 18 • Saginaw, MI • Hamilton Street Pub

JACOMB’s Best CDs of 2012

2013-01-09

My Top 20 Albums for 2012

Well, it’s that time of year again, and it’s been a good one for music, at least in my world. This year I’ve seen Watershed five times, Red Wanting Blue five times, the Clarks, and a host of other really great (and some not-so-great) supporting acts, new acts at Comfest and some bands from right here in Youngstown.  While my annual list isn’t as Columbus-centric as past lists have been, there are still some kick-ass Ohio bands that made the list.

So, with that in mind … here are the rules:

• Must have been released between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 (As listed on Amazon)
• Must be available for purchase via Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, CDBaby, Bandcamp or band’s website. Can’t pimp a CD that you can’t buy or download legally
• Must be longer than 30 minutes, or it goes into the EP category
• Must not be a live album
• Must not be a greatest hits package
• Must not be a box set or a collection of previously released material

My list, my rules. Don’t like it, make your own list,

1. Red Wanting Blue – From The Vanishing Point

I never really expected this album to be as good as it is, start to finish, and shame on me for that. I kind felt like a bad fan because it sat on my desk unopened for about three months. Why? Well, I had a digital download of five or six songs I got when I bought it in the pre-sale, and figured those were the best songs from the CD. I was wrong. I’ve played this CD so much if it was vinyl I’d be on my second or third copy. And their live shows … constantly improving, both with old songs and the new tracks. Seriously, if you’re a fan of Americana, you can’t go wrong with “From The Vanishing Point” and the best song, I think, is the ghost track, “My Name Is Death.”

Favorites:  Audition, Walking Shoes, Dinosaur, Ballad of Nobodies, My Name Is Death

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

2. Watershed – Brick and Mortar

I was excited to get a new Watershed album, and even more for the tour, but I didn’t expect the album to be as good as it is. It was a real tossup between “Brick and Mortar” and “From The Vanishing Point” … and I might flip-flop them, ya never know. But there’s nothing worse than a tie, so I had to move this to second place. There’s not a bad song on the album, in fact, “Manifesto (What I Like To Do)” might be my new favorite Watershed song, and “On A Broken Radio” and “Little Mistakes” are top 10, for sure. Joe Peppercon brings a host of talent to this band, and having Joe Oestreich’s chronicle of the band, “Hitless Wonder” (buy on Amazon) as summer reading made me realize how screwed up the music industry is when a band this good can’t catch on with the masses.

Favorites: Manifesto, Little Mistakes, On A Broken Radio, Words We Say

Buy on iTunes • Buy on AmazonBand Website

3. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

Aaron Tasjan turned me onto these guys sometime in 2008 and they just floored me. This album is easily the best thing they’ve ever done. My girlfriend says it’s her favorite of 2012 … and while it’s one of my favs, I just couldn’t move either of the two above it down, but I originally had it at #7 before listening to it again and realizing I’ve played it more than anything but the top two, so it got the year-end jump. I can’t find anything about this I don’t like … the banjo is absolutely amazing on “Live And Die” and the lyrics, start to finish, are spectacular.

Favorites: The Once and Future Carpenter, Live and Die, Pretty Girl From Michigan, Winter In My Heart, February Seven … really, the whole album.

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

4. Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur

There’s nothing I’ve ever heard from Kathleen Edwards that I’ve not immediately liked. This is her fourth studio release, and she just keeps getting better, every time out. The lyrics, the music, the layering, everything about this album shows her growth and desire to make the next one better, not just make it. “A Soft Place To Land” might be my favorite song of the year.

Favorites: A Soft Place To Land, Chameleon / Comedian, Pink Champagne

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

5. Dar Williams – In The Time Of Gods

I think my biggest regret of the summer was not seeing Dar Williams at The Kent Stage. This album is so good, it’s hard to believe she’s had eight other studio albums. How she finds the ability to pull out new songs, ideas, stories and song structures shows the amazing talent she is. The opening song is a crazy parental look around the world, and it just gets better from there. I think Dar Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter are the two greatest female Americana singers in this generation.

Favorites: “I Am The One Who Will Remember You, Write This Number Down, You Will Ride With Me Tonight, I Have Been Around The World

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

6. Steven Wright-Mark – My Plastic World

Steven Wright-MarkI reviewed this album on the blog. That’s here. This is from it:
If you’re a fan of the sweet lyrical hooks of power pop powered by amazing guitar riffs and changes you don’t see coming, “My Plastic World” will score well in your real world. It’s ready, and able, to be on your turntable. It may not go straight to number one, but Steven Wright-Mark’s “My Plastic World” would be a welcome addition to anyone’s playlist.

I wrote that in August. It still holds true today. This is a great album.

Favorites: My Friends Are Trash, Almost Summer, Imaginary Friends

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

7. Enemies! – Desolation Dream

Desolation Dream - smallIn addition to putting out two EP’s and touring all over the country, Aaron Lee Tasjan managed to get a full-length album out, too, with this Madison Square Gardeners side project with Rich Hinman, Mark Stepro, and John Kengla. Twelve songs of music that rocks you out of your seat, or gives you a beat to relax to when they slow the tempo down, including the album’s opener “Apathy Junkie,” which is going to be featured in “The Way, Way Back,” a movie starring Steve Carrell and Amanda Peet. That’s pretty sweet, if you ask me. Always happy when good things happen to good bands!

Favorites: Weird Ohio, Apathy Junkie, Summer of Legs, Fighting For The Rock ‘n’ Roll

Buy on Bandcamp • Enemies! Facebook Page

8. Two Gallants – The Bloom and The Blight

An aptly named album if there ever was one … this is all sorts of sonic noise and amazingly soft quiet tunes with a flow that just made this an album you listen to, not a collection of songs. Not a concept album, but expertly tracked. As gruff and chaotic as it is at times, it’s just as surprisingly slow and sweet at others. I liked this a whole lot more than I thought I would based on what I’d heard from others about it. Hope they tour out on this side of the country.

Favorites: Willie, Sunday Souvenirs, My Love Won’t Wait

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

9. Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?

Yes, she’s still making music. And yes, it’s still really good. This is her ninth studio album and her voice is still just as sharp and identifiable as ever, and her lyrics are just as haunting. “Queen of Denmark” might be my favorite song she’s ever done, and that’s taking the crown from “Jackie,” from her debut album, so that’s saying a lot. While this is a whole lot less angry on the surface that some would expect, she’s still simmering, just presents it better.

Favorites: Old Lady, Back Where You Belong, The Wolf Is Getting Married, Queen of Denmark

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

10. Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives

Someone gave me a Postal Service CD at a show in Columbus in 2005. “Listen to this. I think you’ll like it.” That was my introduction to Benjamin Gibbard. I hadn’t heard anything from Death Cab For Cutie, simply because the name sounded like something I’d not like at all. Granted, that changed after I listened, and when I heard he was putting out an album of songs that have been stuck in his back pocket for years, I was pretty exited. Like Greg Joseph’s “American Diary,” sometimes when you’re in a band, you have songs you write for yourself. This is like that. Said Gibbard, “‘These songs span eight years, three relationships, living in two different places, drinking then not drinking. ‘They’re a side story, not a new chapter.” What’s funny is the first single, “Teardrop Windows,” is like my third favorite song on the album. “Bigger Than Love” and “I’m Building A Fire” are better, in my opinion.

Favorites: Teardrop Windows, Dream Song, Bigger Than Love, I’m Building A Fire

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

The rest of the Top 20

… in list form, because this is late and I’m lazy.

11. Todd Snider – Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables

Favorites: In The Beginning, New York Banker, Digger Dave’s Crazy Women Blues

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

12. Harper Blynn – Busy Hands

Favorites: In Another Life, Knife, Summer in Exile

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

13. Bob Mould – Silver Age

Favorites: Star Machine, Round The City Square, First Time Joy

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

14. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Favorites: Hold On, You Ain’t Alone,  On Your Way

Buy on iTunes  • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

15. The Whiles – Somber Honey

Favorites: So Sweet, Mouth of the Wolf, Seem So Long Ago, Somber Honey, Leaving

Buy on Bandcamp

16. The Lumineers – The Lumineers

Favorites: Dead Sea, Ho Hey, Stubborn Love, Morning Song

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

17. Alberta Cross – Songs of Patience

Favorites: Magnolia, Ophelia On My Mind, I Believe In Everything

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

18. Keane – Strangeland

Favorites: Disconnected, Silenced By The Night, Sovereign Light Cafe, It’s Not True

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

19. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Favorites: Handwritten, Too Much Blood, Biloxi Parish, Mae, National Anthem

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

20. Green Day – Uno, Dos, Tre (combined)

Favorites: UNO: Kill The DJ, Oh Love, Angel Blue;  DOS: Baby Eyes, Amy, Makeout Party; TRE: 8th Avenue Serenade; Amanda, Walk Away

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon (Uno, Dos, Tres) • Band Website

Bonus: Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Favorites: Land of Hope and Dreams, Death To My Hometown, Rocky Ground

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website


Agree? Disagree? Leave me comments about what you think I missed.

The Best EPs released in 2012

2012-12-31

Every year I try to release my Best of list of the best music I’ve found in 2012, and every year the list gets bigger. This year I’m breaking it up into two lists:  EPs (which I consider to be less than 30 minutes) and full albums. This is the list of EPs. Here are the rules:

• Must have been released between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 (As listed on Amazon)
• Must be available for purchase via Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, CDBaby, Bandcamp or band’s website. Can’t pimp a CD that you can’t buy or download legally
• Must be less than 30 minutes, or it goes into the full-length category
• Must not be a live album
• Must not be a greatest hits package
• Must not be a box set or a collection of previously released material

Those are my rules. Disagree? Make your own list! With that in mind, here’s my favorite EPs released in 2012:

1. Aaron Tasjan – August Moon & The Thinking Man’s Filth

Aaron Tasjan - August Moon

No, having “August Moon” on this list doesn’t go against my rule of previously-released material, as these are new recordings, and great ones at that. Keys by Bryn Roberts, strings by Eleanor Whitmore. Drums and percussion by Mark Stepro. Guitars by Aaron and and Chris Masterson. Background vocals by Mark Stepro, Eleanor Whitmore and Aaron bring new life to classics like “Life Is A Movie,” this might be the best version of this song I’ve ever heard. “The Thinking Man’s Filth” is more rocking than “August Moon,” especially the blistering guitars on “Hole In The Wall” and “Dirty Angel.” And like “August Moon” … this rerecording of “My Camera” might be my favorite version of that song.

Favorites: Fake Tattoo, Life Is A Movie (August Moon); Dirty Angel, My Camera (The Thinking Man’s Filth)

Both EPs are available on his Bandcamp site

2. Phantods – Music Is Dead

Phantods - Music Is Dead

It’s hard to include this on my list as the band has gone on hiatus, but damn, for three and a half albums, they were amazing. This short, three-song release was in conjunction with a final show in Columbus, and a screening of a documentary called “Meet The Phantods.” As creative as the band’s members are, they will show up down the road in another Columbus band, but it was a joy to see them on stage and I still smile whenever a Phantods song hits my iTunes playlist.

Favorites:  All three songs are great.

Buy it at Bandcamp for a $1. Yep. One dollar.

3. Ryan Smith – The Waiting

Ryan Smith - WaitingAnother Columbus artist here who makes some interesting electropop, taking generous use of looping, layering and a bevy of sounds that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, especially when listening with earphones, or in the car. It’s like a sonic treat for your brain. And wallet, because he’s posted it for free on his Bandcamp site. And the only thing better than free music, is good free music.

Favorites: Four Letter Word, Give Me A Sign

Download it for free from his Bandcamp site.

4. David Ford – Austerity Measures & Ford 4.2

David Ford - Ford 4.2

As long as David Ford keeps releasing music — either full albums or EPs, he will find a spot on my favorites. “Austerity Measures” starts off rocking and remains true for all five songs, whereas “Ford 4.2” starts off with a short instrumental called “Overture” before getting into Ford’s typical singer/songwriter stuff, but “Ford 4.2” is much softer and piano-oriented than his usual guitar and layering stuff. Shows great growth and belief in letting the words rise versus the layering and sequencing he’s done in the past. “Austerity Measures,” on the other hand, rocks.

Favorites: “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Credit Card” and “Life Is Good” from “Austerity Measures” and “What’s Not To Love” and “Philadelphia Boy” from “Ford 4.2”

Buy both on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • David Ford’s Website

5. We Are Public Radio – We Are Public Radio

A great band from Akron that opened for The Clarks at Musica. At the time I didn’t recognize Andy Dolson (formerly of Dolson, a band I’ve seen open for Red Wanting Blue twice, I think. Regardless, this collaboration with Patrick Boyle resulted in a great six-song EP and some airplay on The Summit. The keys and guitars make a great mix. My only wish was this was longer than 23 minutes.

Favorites: Hurricane, Lonely September, Could Be You

Buy it on their Big Cartel site • We Are Public Radio’s website

6. Amos Lee – As The Crow Flies

Amos Lee - As The Crow FliesEverything this guy does winds up on my list, every year. He’s just amazing. From the lyrics, to the delivery, to musicians he has in the studio with him (last year’s ‘backing band’ for his “Mission Bell” album was Calexico). This EP is some of the songs that were recorded for that CD but never released, and feature Joey Burns and John Convertino from Calexico, so if you liked “Mission Bell” you’ll probably like this as well.

Favorites: Simple Things, Say Goodbye, May I Remind You

Buy it on iTunes • Buy it on Amazon • Amos Lee’s website

Think I missed something? Let me know and I’ll give it a listen.

My Top 21 Albums of 2010

2011-01-22

#1 without a doubt and no, it wasn’t even close … my favorite album of 2010:

Two Cow Garage – Sweet Saint Me

Once again, this band blows me away by constantly and consistently upgrading the quality of their music.  2010 was a HUGE year for this band from Columbus, Ohio … from bassist Shane Sweeney discovering the joys of fatherhood to Micah Schnabel releasing a solo album (see “When The Stage Lights Go Out” below for more on that) to blowing up SXSW and leading an impromptu parade through Comfest and two tours that crossed the country, these boys were never home.  Now that the line-up is complete and they’ve been playing together for two complete albums now, Cody Smith (drums) and Andy Schell (keyboards) round out the amazing sound of the fifth full-length release from the best band you’ve probably never heard of.

Highlights: Jackson, Don’t You Worry; Sweet Saint Me; What Dying Is For; Brothers In Arms

http://www.twocowgarage.com

#2 .. only because #1 was so great:

The Madison Square Gardeners – Taste The Thunder & Tune It Up, Dime It Out

Released as two separate EP’s in 2010, the six-track “Taste The Thunder” and the five-song “Tune It Up, Dime It Out” make a terrific 43-minute trek through the greatness of this band. Aaron Tasjan’s lyrics continue to grow and I’d listen to Rich Hinman play me anything on that slide lap steel guitar he has.  They’re spending December recording new tunes and playing a residency at Rockwood 2 in New York City; and I can’t wait to hear what goodness comes out of these sessions.

Highlights: Blessing; Shoe Gaze Band; Everybody’s Girl; Cross The Line; Love’s The Only Way

http://www.facebook.com/madisonsquaregardeners

The rest of the Top 10 … in no particular order:

David Ford – Let The Hard Times Roll

My favorite troubadour is back again with thirteen more tunes that have been in heavy rotation in my iTunes/iPod since earlier this summer.  He’s had some problems with his record companies seemingly closing up shop overnight, but continues to putting on shows, working his way across America and his native UK.  The lyrics keep getting better, starting with the CD’s first song, “Making Up For Last Time” and “Nothing At All” … introspective, outlandish and socially commentary all at the same time.  It’s nice to see him continue to evolve and keep his fires burning.

Highlights: To Hell With The World; Making Up For Lost Time; Nothing At All; Hurricane

http://www.davidfordmusic.com

Semi-Precious Weapons – You Love You

I was hesitant to put this on here because it contains four previously released songs from their two independent releases, but they’re still opening for Lady Gaga, they’re still delivering the glam and the glitz and showbiz to people who either love them or hate them.  The new material is good, I really love “Leave Your Pretty To Me” … in the words of frontman Justin Tranter, “The Midwest loves a fucking power ballad.”  Same with “Look At Me” … but “Sticky With CHampagne” and “Statues of Ourselves” are just kick-ass fun tunes about living a rock-n-roll lifestyle on the glamour side of the tracks.  Subtlety is not his strength, so listener beware!

Highlights: Look At Me; Statues of Ourselves, Put A Diamond In It; Her Hair Is On Fire (2010)

http://www.semipreciousweapons.com

Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Age of Miracles

I’ve been an MCC fan going on 20 years now (thanks, neighbor who turned me on to her) and am glad she continues to make great American music that’s no longer classified as ‘country’ … it’s more folk, alt-countrish … what we now call Americana.  This 13-song collection features a lot of stripped down acoustic tracks that let her voice, and her lyrics, shine.

Highlights: I Have A Need For Solitude; We Traveled So Far; The Way I Feel; Zephyr

http://www.myspace.com/marychapincarpenter

Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

It’s not as great as their first release, “The ’59 Sound” … but it still has been rocking my world. They’re so throwback to when all you needed was three verses, a bridge, a catchy chorus and a great hook and riff. This album brings all that.  From the title track to “The Queen of Lower CHelsea” to “Old Haunts” …. there are tracks here that will stay with me my whole life.  “I called for my father but my my father had died. And you told me fortunes in American slang.”  … fucking genius.

Highlights: American Slang; We Did it When We Were Young; Queen of Lower Chelsea; Boxer

http://www.gaslightanthem.com/

Chumbawamba – ABCDEFG

Say what you will about how tired you got of “Tubthumping” … you still sing it.  That was really NOTHING like the band is about (as the disappointing album sales to folks who love/loved that song show). I’ve played songs of this CD for people and they all say the same thing … “I like this, who is it?” followed by “Really? I never would have guessed that.”  They’re really rather mellow and fun to listen to. This album includes such fun songs as “Torturing James Hetfield” by forcing him to listen to their greatest hits album (to which Hetfield sings along); “Dance, Idiot Dance” and “The Same So-So Tune” … none of which have any resemblance to “Tubthumping” …

Highlights: Torturing James Hetfield; Dance, Idiot, Dance; Singing Out The Days; Missed

Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

I had no real desire to listen to this CD … a friend asked me if it was on my pirate sites … so I broke all sorts of international copyright laws and downloaded it for her.  After I delivered said pirate CD she asked if I had listened to it .. I said “No, I’m not a fan of Gnarls Barkley.”  She gave me the STFU look and said, “You really need to listen to this.”    So I did.

And then I decided that Cee Lo Green was the love child from an orgy of The Temptations, Gladys Night, Aretha Franklin, all the original members of Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, and several members of the Pips.  It’s all sorts of 70’s soul and the Motown sound mashed up with all that’s good about today’s rap/R&B that doesn’t involve autotune.

Yeah, I was floored.

Highlights: Fuck You; Satisfied; I want You; Fool For You; Wildflower

Victoria Vox – Exact Change

Step by step, left right left, this CD just hooked me with the multitude of hooks in songs, choruses, bridges and verses in a way that no other album did in 2010.  Victoria’s approach to songs, songwriting, singing and performance blew me away when I saw her in Columbus. She’s a blast to watch live for both the ukulele and mouth trumpet.  She love you. And she sings songs in French.  Without surrendering to invading German armies.

Highlights: Oh I Wonder; Technicolor Way; Make  A Mess; Shake It Up; Shake It Up

http://victoriavox.com/

Patrick Park – Come What Will

I don’t know how or where this CD came into my collection … all I know is it really blasted me out of some unhappy mindframes to some happy mindframes.  That’s what I love about music .. that ability to transform my mood from shitty to perfect with just a guitar and some words.  “You Were Always The One” is my song of the year for 2010 … because … well … yeah … it so fits my life and makes me smile. Because I found my one. And lost her. And found her again. So yeah … when he sings this, I get it:

“Now mistakes it’s true I’ve made more than a few
and I’m goin to make many others
And it’s hard to see why we go through this sometimes
All the things that we do to each other
And I don’t understand while I play these games and I trade the truth for lies
Cuz you’re always the one I was looking for babe, it just took time to realize”

Highlights: You Were Always The One; You’ll Get Over; Silence and Storm; Starry Night

http://www.myspace.com/patrickpark

Bonus CD:  Emma Pollock – The Law of Large Numbers.

She’s Scottish. She writes killer lyrics. She sings like she’s chasing Satan back to hell to take over. She doesn’t give a shit what you think.  I wanna have her babies. That’s why she gets the Bonus CD

Highlights: I Could Be A Saint; Letters To Strangers; House On The Hill; Hug The Piano

The Next Ten:

Doug Keith – The Lucky Ones

Dar Williams – Many Great Companions

Bookmobile – The New Patriot

British India – Avalanche

Ed Kowalczyk – Alive

Steven Page – Page One

Spoon – Transference

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

Lady Antebellum – Need You Now