Archive for the ‘National Music’ Category

My 2017 Grammy Picks


So, the 2017 Grammy Nominations were released today. Couple of unexpected things, including Sturgill Simpson’s “Album of the Year” nomination and FIVE nominations for Twenty One Pilots, but most of it was expected. Well, other than Beyonce in a rock category, but hey, good on her. I don’t listen to a lot of music in the pop, rap, r&b, country, Latin, classical, or whatever all the rest of those categories are, but here’s a few picks for you.

Album of the Year
Who I’d Pick: Sturgill Simpson “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” (Pro Tip: When Aaron Lee Tasjan says “Buy this album,” just shut up and hand over your money.)
Who Will Win: “25” – Adele. Adele wins everything.
Number of these I have heard: 1 – Sturgill Simpson
Number of these I really own: 1 – Sturgill Simpson

Record of the Year:
Who I’d Pick Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots (Columbus, bitches!)
Who Will Win Hello – Adele (I wish they’d play it at the proper speed) Adele wins everything.
Number of these I have heard: 3 – Twenty One Pilots, Beyonce, Adele
Number of these I really own: 1 – Twenty One Pilots

Song of the Year:
Who I’d Pick None of them.
Who Will Win Hello – Adele (I wish they’d play it at the proper speed) Adele wins everything.
Number of these I have heard: 2 – Adele, Beyonce
Number of these I really own: 0

Best New Artist:
Who I’d Pick: Maren Morris
Who Will Win: Whoever’s gonna disappear the fastest, so probably the rapper or the DJs.
Number of these I have heard: 1 – Maren Morris
Number of these I really own: 1 – Maren Morris (“Rich” is a great song!)

Best Pop Vocal Album:
Who I’d Pick: “This Is Acting” – Sia (because Zero Seven was the bomb!)
Who Will Win: Ariana Grande or Adele. Adele wins everything.
Number of these I have heard: 2 – Sia, Adele
Number of these I really own: 1 – Sia

Best Pop Solo Performance:
Who I’d Pick: None of them.
Who Will Win: “Hello” – Adele. Adele wins everything
Number of these I have heard: 1 – Adele
Number of these I really own: 0

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:
Who I’d Pick: “Stressed Out” – Twenty One Pilots (Columbus, bitches!)
Who Will Win: No idea.
Number of these I have heard: 3 – Twenty One Pilots (Columbus, bitches!), Lukas Graham, Sia
Number of these I really own: 1 – Twenty One Pilots (Columbus, bitches!)

Best Rock Performance:
Who I’d Pick: “Heathens” – Twenty One Pilots (Columbus, bitches!)
Who Will Win: “Blackstar” – David Bowie. Dead always wins.
Number of these I have heard: 4
Number of these I really own: 4

Best Rock Album:
Who I’d Pick: Weezer
Who Will Win: Blink-182
Number of these I have heard: 3
Number of these I really own: 2 – Cage The Elephant & Weezer

Best Alternaive Album:
Who I’d Pick: “The Hope Six Demolition Project” – PJ Harvey
Who Will Win: “Blackstar” – David Bowie. Dead always wins.
Number of these I have heard: 5
Number of these I really own: 3 – Bowie, PJ Harvey & Radiohead

Best American Roots Performance:
Who I’d Pick: “Ain’t No Man” – The Avett Brothers
Who Will Win: “Ain’t No Man” – The Avett Brothers
Number of these I have heard: 4
Number of these I really own: 2 – Avett Brothers, Sarah Jarosz. Both Aaron Lee Tasjan recommendations.

Best American Roots Song:
Who I’d Pick: “Wreck You” – Lori McKenna
Who Will Win: “City Lights” – Jack White
Number of these I have heard: 5
Number of these I really own: 2 – The Time Jumpers & Lori McKenna

Best Americana Album:
Who I’d Pick: “True Sadness” – The Avett Brothers
Who Will Win: “Kid Sister” – The Time Jumpers
Number of these I have heard: 5
Number of these I really own: 3 – The Avett Brothers, The Time Jumpers & Lori McKenna




CD Review: JD Eicher – “The Middle Distance”



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.


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


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


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.

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



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


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


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.

CD Review: “My Plastic World” ~ Steven Wright-Mark


Steven Wright-MarkI have a funny story to tell you about music piracy: Sure, it’s wrong, and in some way we’ve all done it … whether it’s mix tapes and CDs to Napster to any P2P or torrent site you know of; trading with friends, etc. And we’ve all heard about how it’s taking money from artists in the giant-trickle-down of the business of making and making money from albums, but sometimes, piracy has just the opposite affect … it creates fans. This is how I discovered, became a fan of Steven Wright-Mark. A guy who I can say I’d probably never have heard of if not for piracy.

After downloading his first CD — quite by accident, thinking it was the comedian Steven Wright — I gave it a listen and was completely blown away the first song, “Pawn Shop Crystal Ball.” Completely hooked me, and by the end of “Pop Motel” I became a fan. In the five years since then, that song has entered my Top 50, ever. It’s a well done power pop song with super catchy lyrics and hooks.

Since then, I’ve actually purchased both of his first two albums; and started following him on Facebook, Reverb Nation and Twitter … and was surprised when he not only followed me, but was active and engaging in conversations, debates, shared dislike of several bands I won’t name, and was surprised to get a direct message offering to send me the new CD, which I received a couple of weeks ago and have been listening to repeatedly.

“My Plastic World,” was released August 28th on Amplifrier Music Co, and is available digitally via iTunes. or Amazon if you want a physical copy, or if you’re a Spotify fan, you can stream it there, too. It quickly found a regular spot in my playlist, and easily one of the top three CDs I’ve heard in 2012. The lyrics are nicely woven little gems of power pop hooks, but what sets this album apart from his previous two are the guitar riffs. Flying out of nowhere and taking the songs a different — and better — direction musically. I mentioned that in a tweet, Steven replied, “Yeah, been getting into heavier guitars since playing more live. It’s simply fun to do!”

The 11-song album gets rolling with a 43-second distortion-microphoned intro and then the guitars kick in on “I Wanna” … which also features great vocal layering. That’s gonna be a fun one to see live, for sure.

“On Your Turntable” and “Almost Summer” show off the lyrics, including this gem from “Almost Summer”

“She hides intentions like her toes beneath the sand
One wiggle and it’s there to see”  ~ Almost Summer

A sad-bastard girlfriend-made-good song, “That Star” follows, then things get rocking. “My Friends Are Trash,” “The End Of Another Year,” “Imaginary Friends” and “Your Name” are four of the last six on the CD and the best four songs on the CD, in my opinion. Makes me remember the days when albums (and cassettes) had the A-Side and B-Side … and how one was always so much better than the other. For me, the B-Side of “My Plastic World” is far superior.  In all honesty, the entire 11-song, 41-minute CD is a home run, I just prefer the second half to the first half.

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.

And if you do check it out, toss down the money. Trust me. As I guy who discovered him through piracy, I have no problem dropping a Hamilton for a great CD.

Dear eMusic, I’m sorry, but we’re breaking up.


Look, I know we’ve had a great relationship for going on five years now, and I know that we’ve both changed in that time, but after today’s visit, I’m afraid I don’t know you anymore.

It really comes down to the money.  I used to get a lot of bang for my buck with you. In fact, when I started, we’re talking songs were as low as 17 cents … based on how I purchased and paid … and there were lots of other options.

Lots of great music at cheap prices … albums as low as $3.00 and exclusive tracks that nobody else had, not to mention that there were bands that nobody else had in a digital format.

Then, as you grew, you got more expensive .. but you were still the best bargain around … even at 40 or 50 cents, you were great.  Your catalog was expanding, your exclusive tracks and impressive collections of whole discographies were amazing to me.

Then you had to big-time us.

Adding Columbia and RCA and all sorts of major labels that, quite frankly, none of us wanted.  As a bunch of introverts who would stare at our own shoes, mixed with the occasional extrovert who stared at other people’s shoes, we wanted our indie rock legal, and cheap.

We wanted Ryan Adams, not Bryan Adams.  Bruce Cockburn, not Bruce Springsteen.

The final straw, though, was switching from download credits to actual cash … I’d rather get my 30 credits at 50 cents a month than a flat out $12 dollars and 89 cent songs.

You’ve become Amazon without the selection. iTunes without the iPod. I see you heading down the same road as the download services once offered by WalMart and Sony and Napster … you went from a niche player that ruled your market to the smallest fish in your pond.

And I’m taking my tackle box and leaving.  Good luck to you.