Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Best of 2011: Intro and Rules

Yes, people, it's that time of the year again! I would like to apologize for missing 3/4 of the year in terms of blogging, and I know I always say I'll change and I never do, but as I've said before, 2011 is a turning point in my life away from PRN. PRN is important to me, yes, but I have a life away from this as well, and there are so many things I have to do before PRN becomes my entire life (3 1/2 years to go!), so please bear with me while I sort things out.

That said, TIME FLIES SO FAST! I honestly can't believe it's year-end list time, I just blinked and we have to go through the rules all over again! I've made some major revisions to the rules, and I've also added new rules to better explain everything, as well as to adapt to new trends in k-pop. But before that, a little introduction for those who just started reading PRN this year.

December for PRN has always been year-end countdown time. Every year, without fail, I chose my favorite songs from the past 11/12 months and featured them on the blog. In 2008 I made a list of 70+ songs and chose my favorite song, in 2009 I had this whacked out format which even I don't understand anymore, and in 2010 I decided to keep it simple by counting down my 50 favorite songs from the year.

This year will be a lot like 2010 in terms of format, because 50 songs is a realistic number and accurate enough to cover a year's worth of releases. That said, I would like to stress a few things about this list, or special, or whatever you'd like to call this. First, this is in no way a definitive list of the "best songs of 2011", because I didn't hear every single release this year and I am in no position to call my favorites "the best". The songs featured here are my personal favorites and the rankings have no factual basis, they are ranked by how much I like the songs.

That said, because I am only covering 50 songs, that does not mean that, one, I didn't hear certain songs, and two, I did not like more. They are the top 50 songs, but I didn't only like 50 songs this year. This list initially had 136 songs that all followed the rules stated below, but had I featured all of them I would've died trying to put all the posts together, so I trimmed it down to 50, and by November 25th I locked the list, with 50 songs, from any edits.

1. The song must be on an album, single, EP (mini-album in Korean vocab) or digital single released and promoted anytime between January 1, 2011 and November 25, 2010.

2. The song must have been either written, composed, performed, or any combination of, by a Korean artist, songwriter or composer, regardless of the territory it was released in, e.g., Japan, US, etc. For example, KARA's "Winter Magic" was written by Japanese, however KARA themselves are Korean, so the song is eligible.

3. One UNIQUE entry per artist, per territory/country/language. However, this does not mean that the artist only had one good song this year, he/she/they could have had a whole album full of fantastic songs. The purpose of this rule is to show the variety in pop this year. I'm sure you wouldn't want to see the list full of DBSK. So for example, SNSD had Japanese, Korean and English releases this year - the list allows one song per language/country.

4. Solo and sub-group work by (an) artist(s) in a group is eligible, and will be counted separately from whatever material the group releases in the same year. For example, JYJ released "IN HEAVEN" as a group this year, but all three members also recorded solo songs for Drama OSTs. All three solo songs are eligible, and so is any song from "IN HEAVEN". Also, After School Red, After School Blue and Orange Caramel are counted independently of After School, so "In The Night Sky" and "Wonder Boy", "Shanghai Romance", as well as any After School song released this year, are *all* eligible.

5. Duets are not given special exception. For example, "Journey", HoMin/DBSK's duet with SNSD's Seohyun for "Paradise Ranch", counts as a Korean release from DBSK, and Korean solo work from Seohyun, therefore if "Journey" is on the list, "Dreams Come True", Seohyun's duet with Donghae, and any other Korean song from DBSK (as a duo), are no longer eligible.

6. If an album released prior was given a re-release in 2011, only the singles released for and after the re-release PLUS the added tracks will be eligible. Tracks that were on the previous album released before 2011 will be disqualified.

7. Japanese releases of songs originally released prior to 2011 are eligible as well, as long as the original Korean version was officially released before January 1, 2011. For example, the Japanese version of After School's "Bang!" is eligible because although the Korean version was a 2010 release, the Japanese version was released in 2011. However, if, for example, I choose to put in the English version of "The Boys", the Korean version is no longer eligible, and vice versa, because they were both released in 2011.

8. Live performances are eligible only if they are featured on an album officially released by the record label or can be bought via iTunes or other digital music stores.

9. Covers and songs from compilations are also eligible, however all previous rules still apply.

Phew. I hope the rules are clear to everyone, because we start with song number 50 tomorrow, and finish with my favorite song of 2011 on New Year's Eve, December 31. Here we goooooo!

This is a little more serious than usual, but of great importance to me.

I'm only now writing this because never did it cross my mind that people who judge writers just because they're young existed. I've been under the impression that on the internet, age is merely a number and talented writers can get jobs, regardless of their age. And to know that people actually discriminate against young writers, in all honesty, sickens me to the bone.

Now that I'm somewhat in a position of influence (I hope!), this is something that I have always believed in -- that the younger you start writing, the more leverage you will have over other writers in the future.

In 2007, at 13, I began taking writing seriously. Throughout grade school I had been praised for my English skills, but I never really took it seriously, until I needed it the most. 2007 was my first year of high school, and simply going from a star student in grade school to someone who just got by in high school was enough to bring me over the edge, but I also experienced a lot of hatred and hurt, from someone I regarded as a friend.

Because of that, I took to writing -- it was the one thing that allowed me to close myself off from the world and just be myself. I wasn't judged by my class rank or my looks, because paper never talked back to me, and never has. Putting my thoughts down on paper was not only a way to let them out, being the introvert that I am, it let me be myself, amidst all the dirt high school was throwing at me.

However whenever I wrote, I always had my iPod in tow. My trusty first generation iPod nano was my best friend during that time, playing songs I liked, and songs that matched my mood. It was during all that time alone that I began thinking of music as more than just something I was forced into.

It was only in early 2008 though that I got the message. I loved to write and I not only loved music but knew so much about it, that I would've been crazy not to think of putting my knowledge and my passion together into one venture. That venture was Pop Reviews Now.

I was still 13 when I started PRN in 2008, but even then I knew that I was diving into the unknown -- there was a HUGE possibility that this new venture of mine would never see the light of day, and I would eventually tire of it.

Well, did I? Of course not. I'm still here, aren't I?

Less than a year later, in 2009, I had established PRN among other, bigger and older music bloggers. I was part of an elite circle of writers, critics and generally amazing people, and I was barely 15. Needless to say, I was the youngest of them all, but I was just a little behind, if not equal, to them.

Finally, later that year in October, Pop Reviews Now was named one of the top entertainment blogs in the country. Top. In the country. I had just turned 15 then, and trust me, that was the best 15th birthday gift ever, to know that a year's worth of hard work was not in vain. After my win, I began writing, as a permanent senior editor, for omgkpop, a major Korean entertainment news site. I had gotten that job because of my credentials with PRN, and my then-recent blog awards stint. I kept that job for 6 months, before stepping up as editor-in-chief and network administrator of The Kpop Nation, a major Korean entertainment network, in 2010.

I turned 16 in 2010, and it so happened that 2010 was also an eventful year for me, away from my awarded blog. I started my senior year of high school, and in the Philippines that was the time when we all took entrance examinations for major universities in the country. I only took two exams - to THE two top universities - University of the Philippines and Ateneo De Manila University. The pressure to get in to these schools is immense, as literally every valedictorian, every whiz kid and every single high school senior vies for the limited slots in these two universities.

You can imagine the stress I was going through, just trying to prepare for these tests. But it got worse. At the beginning of the school year, less than 2 months before I was to take the exam of my life, my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. We spent countless nights at the hospital, and I suddenly let go of my studies. I collapsed in school due to stress and fatigue, I'd get panic attacks left and right, and it was all too much for me.

So what did I do? I turned to writing. Like always. I let everything out, then shut the world out. For a few hours at a time I'd just make myself oblivious to everything, and it helped. It helped me get through my grandmother's death, it helped my stay strong for my mom, and it helped me ace those exams. The top two universities in the country admitted me to their prestigious literature programs in early 2011.

Which brings us to now. It's 2011, and I'm now studying Comparative Literature with a concentration in Asian Literatures at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, the university's flagship campus. I'm also a columnist for, one of the oldest and biggest K-pop entertainment networks. A few days ago, I found out that I'm nominated for not one, nor two, but THREE Philippine Blog Awards, alongside some of the most established blogs in the country. Because you know what, Pop Reviews Now IS an established blog.

But wait. Why am I telling you my "life story"? Because I did all that. Because I was THIRTEEN when I started writing, and look where I've come.

The reason why K-pop news is like that is because people put down other writers just because they're young. Just because they "have no experience" and "are kids". As someone who was, and IS, a young writer, I am so, so, offended when people look down on me just because I'm "only 17". Where do you think we're going to get the next generation of news writers?

Unlike other fields, in the arts, the younger you start, the more extraordinary you are, and the more time you have to home your craft. Do you honestly think I got to where I am now by just sitting in a classroom all day and solving math problems? No. I got here because I worked hard for it. I'm a competent writer now because I started young, and because I dared to enter a world dominated by people older than me. The internet allowed me to be judged by my writing, not my academic achievements or my age, and it should stay that way.

If you start young, you get ahead -- you get experience before everyone else does. Do you want to write for a site that requires strong credentials? Start early, build a portfolio, win awards. I don't mean to brag or anything, but after writing for all these years, my credentials fill an entire page. If I only started writing this year, my resume would be blank, but it's not, and now I can get virtually any writing job I want with the drop of a hat.

Your age has nothing to do with your abilities -- if you're a good writer, you're a good writer. Of course, as you grow older your writing will change (most of the time for the better), but that's another reason why you have to start young -- you have to keep writing so you keep getting better.

To everyone who has ever looked down on me, or other young writers, and called people like me "naive" or "inferior", this is for you. I hope this is a slap on the face to you, because that girl who was looked down on for being a kid, just got nominated for three national blog awards.

People looking down on you are never right about anything - they don't have to be the reason why you stop writing, they can be the reason why you keep on writing. So before you have doubts about pursuing writing just because of your age, remember that there's no harm in trying, and that you will get somewhere with a bit of talent and a lot of hard work. Please, we need more good writers around.

Landmine Marathon - Gallows

Landmine Marathon.  On the surface, that doesn’t sound like much fun.  26.2 miles of running through landmines?  No, thank you.  Fortunately, the band is a lot more enjoyable than that.

I have heard a lot of good things about this band over the last few years, but somehow, despite the numerous metal shows I have attended in that time period, I’ve never seen them live and I’ve never picked up one of their previous releases.  So this won’t be one of those reviews that compare this to earlier releases or talks about their progression, or anything like that.  I’m doing this with virgin ears.

“Gallows” is the 4th album from Landmine Marathon, and it’s a good one.  The first track, “Three Snake Leaves”, reminds me somewhat of fellow Arizonans Job For A Cowboy, and my first thought was that this could just be some trendy Arizona deathcore thing.  But fear not, there is a lot of variety here.  Well, at least as much variety as you get with death metal.

“Knife From My Sleeve” is one standout track for me.  There are some nice tempo changes in which you get pounded slowly, or absolutely pummeled at about triple the slow pace.  Good stuff indeed.  “Beaten And Left Blind” is another favorite.  It gallops right along and you feel like you’re taking body shots from Manny Pacquiao at a rate of, oh, 100 punches per second.  That is how death metal is supposed to feel, at least in my book.  It’s not called flower metal after all, if it’s got the word “death” in the description, it ought to feel like it’s ripping the life out of you.  Or maybe make you feel like you want to rip the life out of someone.  Not that we condone that.

This is a very solid album and if you are a fan of death metal you owe it to yourself to check this out.  A lot has been made of the fact that frontwoman Grace Perry has been with the band since 2006, but is it really that big of a deal if a metal band includes one or more females?  She turns in an amazing vocal performance on this release and the entire band has the sound of a band on the rise.  You can hear that they have paid their dues, put in the hard work to become a unit, and they are ready to make some moves.  I will definitely be checking out the back catalog on the strength of this album.

If you’re not a fan of death metal, “Gallows” probably won’t change your mind.  But if you dig the sound of an apocalypse set to music, if you like your tunes nice and brutal, or you want the aural equivalent of being worked over with a baseball bat, this is your shit right here.

--  ODIN

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Charles Mingus - Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus

(another album the Ripple crew loved so much, it had to be reviewed twice.  you can read the earlier review here)

Some musical minds are beyond description.  Charles Mingus had one of them.  A jazz musician (a pioneer in double bass technique), a composer, a bandleader and a civil rights activist with a truly American story.  He recorded from at least 1945 through 1977 which was two years before he died of ALS.  He appears on over 100 recordings.  His own music tends to fuse gospel, smooth and free jazz and the big band sound.  The result is an infectious instrumental hard bop.

One of my favorite Mingus masterpieces is all about him - Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus.  Here was Charles Mingus near the crossroads and at the top.

Mingus was forty-nine years old at the time he released Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. Mingus.  It was 1963.  Here was a man born in Nogales, Arizona, raised in Watts in Los Angeles in the 1920’s, who by the early 1930’s was studying bass with the principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic. By 1943 he was touring with the Louis Armstrong Band. The man was hot.  So hot that due to his temper Duke Ellington personally fired him after an onstage fight with Juan Tizol, the Duke Ellington Band’s trombonist. 

By the 1950’s Mingus was recording with the “creme de la creme” of modern jazz - Red Norvo, Tal Farlow. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, . . .   He co-founded Debut Records with jazz drummer Max Roach and formed his own hard bop jazz quintet.  He also began a rotating group of musicians who played and experimented together known as The Jazz Workshop.

By 1963 Mingus was ramping up to a frenzy of creation.  He released four albums in 1962, four in 1963 and twelve in 1964.  This was a perilous time in American History.  The country was in a “police action” in Vietnam and faced a showdown over annihilation with Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis   Martin Luther King marched on Washington and, just before Thanksgiving 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

It is on Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus that the Charles Mingus of the 1960’s can be put in proper perspective.  The album consists of eight tracks.  A theme develops throughout the recording.  This is music with a purpose. 

The album begins with the soulful deep bass strains of “II B.S.” and is followed with a dissonant wail on “I X Love,” There is syncopation and sorrow within the track “Celia,” Even Mingus’s classic bass rendition of Duke Ellington’s and Boony Bigard’s “Mood Indigo” manages to release the soul and elevate the spirit.  Nowhere is that ability of Mingus’s music more evident than in the wild fast-paced soul music precursor “Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul.” His virtuosity is confirmed with the frantically-paced plucked bass on “Hora Decubitus.”  Mingus also takes the time to pay tribute to an early contemporary, legendary tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Lester Young, in his composition “Theme for Lester Young.”

The final cut has a decidedly preachy message. The song “Freedom” is the only track on the entire album that has lyrics. In its day the track was so controversial that some copies of the album released by Impulse Records contain one of several alternate tracks. Yet these alternates eviscerate the album as a period piece. 

Freedom is the entire point of Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. It is a vision of an all-encompassing vision of freedom - not just for African Americans.  It is about political, social, economic and musical freedom.  These themes resonate today in every Occupy Wall Street enclave.  It is because the message of Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus is as old as Moses.

- Old School   

Soul Cycle - S/T and Oresund Space Collective - Dead Man in Space

Simply put, I love instrumental music. But I've been asked many times, "How can you listen to that?" There's no lyrics. No voice to tell you the story.  Exactly. The instruments tell the story for me; they guide my journey. Half the time I may be hearing a band's vocalist but I'm not necessarily listening to every word he or she says. For me, it's all about the music.

"Take away all the vocals and it's still music," I tell people whenever I'm questioned about my love for instrumental rock/metal. I understand that everyone has different tastes and a lot of people insist on a vocalist. For those who don't, I have a couple of excellent instrumental bands/albums I've discovered recently and I thought I would share them with you in case you don't know already. I'm just that kinda guy.

The first is the self-titled, melodic metal debut by Soul Cycle, available at Bandcamp. I can't stress enough how much I'm loving this right now and I have to thank fellow music lovers at The Number of the Blog for giving me the hint.

"Melodic metal...with MORE BALLS!" That's how Soul Cycle founders and underground metal producers Chris Catharsis (Sonorant) and Mark Hawkins describe their music. These guys have several more thrash/death metal projects but Soul Cycle is more my style. No Cookie Monster vocals here.

I'm a huge Joe Satriani and Steve Vai fan but I'm going to be honest with you once again. Soul Cycle has made me shelve both of their entire discographies for the time being. The guitars are THAT good and so are the songs. Neither Satriani nor Vai were ever this heavy. Plus, they're getting old like me. Catharsis (composition, rhythm/bass guitars, drum programming, production) and Hawkins (composition, lead guitars) are my new guitar gods.

Influences: Catharsis and Hawkins mention bands like Soilwork, Devin Townsend, In Flames, Sevendust, Sikth, Misha Mansoor, Chimp Spanner, Tool, Meshuggah, Threat Signal, Mnemic, Rage, Misery Inc., One Way Mirror. "And those are just the ones that comprise the majority of our sound!"

Soul Cycle are making their finishing touches on Soul Cycle II right now. They've been posting teasers on their Facebook page recently and it's driving me crazy! I want more! I can't do anything but wait and keep hoping the release date is sometime soon. Until then, I'll keep listening to their debut. You can, too. Just stream the entire album and get your own copy at Bandcamp for whatever you want to pay.


I'd like to thank the Prog Sphere music blog for hooking me up with Oresund Space Collective and their "totally improvised space rock".

Wow. I can't say much else but these certainly are the perfect, laid-back and tripped-out, lava lamp jams I can love so much. Turn down all the lights and let the music take you on a journey through the ethereal cosmos - through the final frontier. I'm down with that.

Partial bio: Øresund Space Collective is a group with members from many different Danish and Swedish bands; these include The Carpet Knights (Malmö), Siena Root (Stockholm), Mantric Muse (CPH), The Univerzals (CPH), Bland Bladen (SE) and many others. The instrumental, psychedelic rock band has a shifting line-up and an extensive catalog; to date, I think they've released about 8 CDs and 3 vinyl records and I'm lucky enough to have a digital copy of their latest, Dead Man in Space (Feb. '11). I'm considering it some of the finest space rock available in this galaxy.

What amazes me so much about this Scandinavian supergroup - aside from the music - is the fact that all their recordings are totally spontaneous. There's no rehearsals. No preconceived notions of a song's structure. Like they say, it's all improvised at that moment in time. They're playing what they feel when they feel it. I sure can feel it too, man.

You can listen to Dead Man In Space and other releases by Oresund Space Collective at Bandcamp. Check them out for sure.


Monday, November 28, 2011

A Ripple-full of Blues; featuring Roy Roberts, Sista Monica Parker, Gina Sicilia, and Paxton Norris

Any regular reader of the Ripple (affectionately known as a waverider) will know that its usually Old School who regales us with tales and reviews from the blues scene.  Unfortunately, due to some personal matters, our brother Old School won't be able to join us for a while, so Penfold and I are going to stretch ourselves and pick up some of the music that Old School would normally review.  In the meantime, our prayers go out to Old School.  We're here for you, brother!

So, with that said, it's time to delve into this stack of blues CD's covering the far corner of my Ripple desk.  Now, when it comes to reviewing the blues, I can't claim to be an expert.  I don't really know my Chicago-style from my New Orleans from my Texas blues.  I got an idea, but I'm not one to toss out references like some blues-Einstein.  But that doesn't mean I don't have a love for the blues.  Besides being the roots of rock n roll, I developed my bluesy taste when I lived in Texas.  There, the long summer nights just couldn't pass without a cold beer or a lemonade, sitting out on a deck at midnight while some blues axeman made his guitar cry and wail. I've been to blues clubs throughout Texas, Chicago, San Francisco, and New Orleans, and the world, always on the lookout for that moaning guitar.  My greatest blues moment came when I stumbled into the long-departed Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street one late night.  The club, more than half empty, was the home of Brian Lee, a blind guitar-smith who blew the hair from my head with this searing guitar tone and whiskey-soaked vocal chords.  Just me and Brian.  Hour after hour.  Heaven dropped to earth.

With that said, reviewing blues CD's isn't easy for me.  Blues, more than any other music, to me, is a live music.  It's meant to be heard after dark in a smoke-filled tavern.  It needs to be felt to be appreciated.  So, as I go through these CD's, what I'm listening for, what I'm imaging, is how the music would sweep over me in a live setting.  That, for me, is the blues.

Roy Roberts - Strange Love

Blues veteran, Roy Roberts, lays down the groove, soulful and funky on his latest outing, Strange Love.  Like a bridge between Memphis Soul and modern Blues, Roberts blends in a Staxy-horn section, some bopping beats and a searing guitar into his soul-blues amalgam.  With a smooth singing style reminiscent of the under-appreciated Robert Cray, Roberts brings a soulful vibe to his muse.  "My Love Bone," is pure soul funk with a bluesy vibe, bopping and sauntering out of the speakers all sexy and sultry.   Roberts is restrained on the six-string here, but when he does turn it loose, his tone is like a slice of custard pie, all creamy and sweet.   "Hey Baby," is a swinging blues shuffle with some tasty guitar licks.  Yep, this would get the crowd out onto the dancefloor.  But the highlight is the intense Cray-like title track, "Strange Love."  Here Roberts perfectly blends his Cray influence with some deep soul and a wailing guitar that cuts through the smoke in the bar like a laser.  Live, I'd be eating this one up, ordering my fourth whiskey and just letting it flow right over me.

Sista Monica Parker - Living in the Danger Zone

Gotta admit, one look at the low-budget cover on Sista Monica's CD and I just wasn't expecting much.  Let's face it, anybody can assemble a band and call themselves a blues artists.  But, lordy, Sista Monica has made a believer out of me.  First of all, her band really rocks.  I mean, they roll with the fervor of a freight train.   Mike Schermer's lead cuts are so tasty, their finger-licking!  And when Andy Just lays into his harmonica like he does on the opener "Hug Me Like You Love Me," we got us blues delight.  Whether jamming it out, funking it up, or gospeling it down, Sista's band are the real deal  Then there's Sista Monica herself. The opening track doesn't really bring her to the forefront, but by that second track "Living in the Danger Zone," Monica just busts loose. Bringing a deep female tenor to her blues, Sista's voice is full and resonant, deep and moody.  When she digs down into her chords it's like manna from heaven.  If I was sitting in the club . . . well, I wouldn't be sitting.  My hands would be above my head, flapping and giving thanks.    Sista Monica and her band are from SF, so if you're in the area, make sure you look em up.  Your soul will thank you.

Gina Sicilia - Can't Control Myself

Another disc that caught me way offguard.  Nothing about the coquettish-looking 25-year old woman on the cover could prepare me for the gritty and downright grungy-blues of Gina Sicilia's music.  Blessed by the production, engineering and guitar work of Dave Goss, Gina's vocals pour over these dirty blues cuts like molasses dripping over sweaty, sex-satiated skin.   Hot and steamy, "Addicted," is the moaning of a woman singing sex.  Just pure sex.  Her voice is full and throaty, full of bourbon and cigarettes, and best of all, she's not afraid to let it be not perfect.  I love a voice like this when it cracks and wails with emotion.  "Crazy About You Baby," reminds me of the best of another gutsy blues legend, Bonnie Raitt, who I'm sure Gina would hail as an influence.  Here, she takes the Willie Dixon standard and twists it into a modern ode to seduction and desire.  Hot.  Totally hot.  Now, none of this talk of sex is meant to imply that Gina is a mad seductress.  That ain't what she's about.  Still she exudes a natural sexuality that bleeds through her voice.  Not every track clicks here for me.  I think the reggae vibe of "Before the Night," is a miss, and I prefer her rocking tracks to her ballads, but when it all comes together, like on the jazzy, latin-tinged "Wish the Clock Would Stop," we got something special.  

Paxton Norris - Something's Gotta Give

Don't know if I'm saving the best for last or not, but I'm definitely saving the most rocking for last.  You like blues guitar, but you like it with savage fury and fire?  You like it to rock the f*ck out?  Here's the answer.  Just add the name Paxton Norris to your list of six-string wielding axemen.  Still steeped in trad blues, this isn't rocked out blues a la Joe Bonamassa, this is more like Corey Stevens best.  Thick and ballsy blues tracks laying the foundation for Paxton's guitar to set fire to the plantation.  Nothing about this disc sounds like a debut album.  Paxton's tone is so confident and assured.  His vocals are laid down full of guts and soul.  Even his songwriting seems world-weary and veteran, laying down lyrics about the tough times we're all living in.  "Something's Gotta Give," is a blues rocker ready to take its place in the pantheon of great cuts.  "Living Tight" sears with is guitar attack, while "Going to Pensacola" rocks with a ZZ Top fever.  This track alone should introduce the world's rock fans to the new-found talent that is Paxton Norris.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Sunday Conversation with Pile

How’d you come up with the name Pile?

The band started just as a solo thing and none of the songs were really congruent with each other so they just seemed like a pile of songs. It also lent itself to being referenced as a pile of shit, which tickled me.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

It’s hard to say. I don’t remember any that changed the way I listened to music. I do remember when I was about fourteen and I listened to NOFX’s ‘So Long and Thanks For All The Shoes.’ I had never heard them, but people that I thought were cool wore their t-shirts. I bought that CD and put it in my boombox and with my face five inches away from the thing and listened to ‘It’s my job to keep punk rock elite’ and it just made me excited about music. I hadn’t really heard stuff that fast before. That’s the most vivid one that I can remember right now. Ah, and Bob Dylan. The first time I heard Freewheelin I lost my shit.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Any or all of those things could be the start of it. I like it not being all that methodical.

Who has influenced you the most?

I don’t know. That’s a tough thing to quantify. Probably my friends.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Shit changes all the time. Sometimes it’s frustrating to not have any inspiration, motivation or ideas, but if I force it, then it feels contrived. I’ve just been trying to relax these days.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

I’m pretty close to it so my opinions or my labels don’t really matter. When people ask, I usually just say ‘loud rock & roll’ these days, and then they laugh, and then they don’t ask anymore.

Where’d the title “Magic Isn’t Real” come from?

Becker came up with it. I forget what we were talking about, but it came up as a joke in conversation.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

My current musical intention is to quit my job, and get better at whatever it may be I’m trying to communicate.
As far as what other people get out of it, I can’t control that, and I’ll do my best to never start to try. But I do hope they get something out of it.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

I’ve actually only seen bits and pieces of Spinal Tap. And I’ve never seen the Blues Brothers. I’m not proud of it, it’s just something I have to accept about myself.

What makes a great song?

I’ve been trying to figure that shit out for years.

So you're recently signed to Exploding in Sound Record Label, how's that going for you?

Seems to be going pretty well. Dan's working really hard already which is encouraging. We (the band) haven’t done anything yet, though. We still have to record the album.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

The Beach tape. I listened to it recently and I like more about it then I remembered. I recorded some very partially finished songs at a beach with a tape recorder a few years back.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Sean from Fat History Month, Sean from Ugh God, Ryan Davis from State Champion, Frank Hurricane from Hurricanes of Love. I can’t say why. That’s your job isn’t it?

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Eh, any of em are fine. All of them avail themselves in different ways for certain moods.

You guys have played a ton of house shows around the country; do you prefer DIY venues to legit clubs/bars?

Sorry for being so aloof and circumlocuitous in each question depends. Some clubs are sweet and they treat bands really well. But if I had to give an absolute answer I would say houses and galleries and whatever are more fun because there’s no overhead bullshit (most of the time).

Any upcoming touring plans?

We’re going out for two weeks on the east coast after Thanksgiving. Then we’re gonna hit the road for bout a week with the aforementioned Fat History Month out to Chicago and back. Hopefully Europe in the fall.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice

Red wine. Drinking it now. And it’s 11AM. And I’m at work. Wearing a wig.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Ballston, Massivetwoshits is where we hail from and I don’t know about record stores. I use the internet or borrow my friends’ records. However, you could lose yourself in some shows if you check out They keep pretty good taps on what’s happening around town in terms of where good bands are playing.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Listen to Kool Keith

No Turning Back - Take Control


Lately it seems my musical tastes have been changing. Almost to the extreme of changing on a daily basis. Sunday: bands like The Smiths, Elliot Smith or City and Colour. Monday: bands like The Black Dahlia Murder, Converge or The Faceless. Thursday: Heartsounds, Operation Ivy, Big D and The Kids Table. You get the idea. On this day all I have been listening to is hardcore bands. At the forefront of my day has been the band No Turning Back and their album Take Control. This is one of the best hardcore albums I have hear in quite sometime.

Take Control sets things off with the instantly in your face track, “In Your Maze”. This is a song about the heartbreak you feel when someone you think you have known for a long time changes on you in the blink of an eye. Instead of being sad about the situation, No Turning Back goes the opposite and get fucking pissed! This is defiantly something I an relate to and a song that I probably something similar to what I would of written myself. 
“There you go walking by, turn your hair 
I just sigh
Purity in your eyes, messing up my lines
I still can’t believe how it turned out to be
All the changes lost so relentlessly
In retrospect I must regret
Losing the Life I could have had
Recollections of better days
When you trapped me in your maze
In your maze
To those who know what it’s like 
When feelings can’t be denied
And when you’re trying to hide
Get betrayed by your pride”

My favorite and third track on the album is the song “Remain”. A brutally intense song about selling out.
 “Here I go again losing everything
Fucked up game called life let the hate begin
What I had, what I stole, feeling left nothing out all alone
Time to realize, bitter fucking end
Bitter end
The faces change
But it’s still the same
Forget your name
Who I am
I am
You see
Is what you see
Troubled soul insanity
See you standing there, bow your head in shame
Did it all for the money, for your name
Nothing changes, give in to destiny
Instead of crying on your knees
On your knees”

Another great track is the extremely positive, “Take The World”. One of my favorite things about the hardcore scene is positive hardcore songs. It goes to show you it’s not all about “hey fuck you!”, it’s also about coming together and being positive. 
“Destiny a state of mind
Check yourself, are you all right?
Destiny a state of mind
Check yourself, are you all right
Is this who you want to be
Do you think you’re really free
In times of trouble and distress
Head up high, don’t settle for less
Follow the path that you have chosen
Tell yourself you can’t be broken
Gotta do what you gotta do
Believe in yourself
Make it through
Take control
Take a stand
Take the world
In your hand”

No Turning Back is set up to be one of the leaders in the ever changing hardcore scene. Gang vocals, positive and harsh lyrical content make them stand out. If you’re a fan of hardcore pick up this album.

No Turning Back goes good with: End Times, Power Trip, Death Before Dishonor, Cruel Hand, Hoods, Guns Up, Grave Maker, Madball



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Awards all around!

Edit: If you'd like to vote for Pop Reviews Now (only if you want to!), simply like this photo on Facebook! Aaaaaaaaaaaand, PRN is also a finalist for not only one, or two, but THREE awards! If you have your own blog, here's how to vote for PRN! Voting ends on December 2, 11:59PM Philippine standard time.

Before you all kill me for disappearing again, and before you all hound me with questions about the year-end special (which WILL push through), I'd like to announce something big. Really big. And unexpected.

As you know, in 2009 I was a finalist for the Philippine Blog Awards. I didn't win, but simply becoming one of the top ten entertainment blogs in the country was something huge, and something that pushed me to do even better. In 2010 I didn't get past the initial stage, but of course that didn't stop me from trying again this year. And succeeding.

Although the finalists for the other, non-voting, awards haven't been released yet, the list of finalists for the 2011 Philippine Blog Awards Bloggers’ Choice award have. And Pop Reviews Now is on it. And I freaked out this morning. And I almost died.

The award is special because this is where bloggers vote for bloggers. In short, it's an award given solely by my/your peers. Even if I don't win (because let's face it, not a lot of people are gonna vote for me), it's an honor simply to be a finalist for such an important award.

But none of this would've been possible without you guys constantly badgering me to write more and begging me to do more vocal commentaries (I'll get to them, I promise. and/or hope), and basically driving me to actually bring PRN places.

If I'm a finalist again for any of the other categories, I swear I might just die. ;D

But I'll see you guys on December 1, when I kick-off my countdown of my 50 favorite songs of the year!

Head Cat - Walk the Walk...Talk the Talk

There are a handful of music icons simply known by one name. Some of these mononymous people include renowned legends Bono, Elvis, Madonna, Prince, Flea, Slash, Ozzy and of course, Lemmy. Every time you utter Lemmy it’s hard not to imagine the legendary badass lead singer and bassist of Motorhead rocking out on stage. His larger than life persona has only been catapulted by Pop Culture like in the movie Airheads with the now famous question “Who would win in a wrestling match: Lemmy or God?”

Despite never changing his act or regiment, Lemmy appears to have never aged a day and can still be found hanging out at The Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip when he isn’t touring with Motorhead. As even the documentary film, Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker 51% Son of a Bitch, illustrates, Lemmy is just a down-to-earth rockstar who continues to live life the way he wants.

Recently I was turned onto the rockabilly supergroup Head Cat, which consists of Lemmy (Motorhead), Slim Jim Phantom (The Stray Cats) and Danny B. Harvey (Lonesome Spurs, 13 Cats and The Rockats). The name Head Cat comes from the combination of Motorhead, The Stray Cats and 13 Cats. The band formed while recording the Elvis Presley tribute album Swing Cats: A Special Tribute to Elvis. The trio stuck around after the recording session and goofed around by playing classic rock songs they knew. In 2006, Head Cat released their first album Fool's Paradise and their second album, Walk the Walk…Talk the Talk was released earlier this year and contains original Head Cat material.

Lemmy (vocals, guitar, bass, and harmonica), Slim Jim Phantom (drums, percussion and additional vocals), and Danny B. Harvey (double bass, guitar, keyboard) deliver a delicious and delightful album filled primarily with cover tunes along with two new awesome rockabilly songs, “American Beat” and “The Eagle Flies on Friday.”

Head Cat celebrates rock’s roots with new interpretations of classic songs from the 1950s and 1960s. This celebration of songs from yesteryear feels and sounds like a perfect fit for Lemmy as his distinctive voice oozes appreciation for these classics such as Larry Williams’ “Bad Boy”, Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” and Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else.”

Walk the Walk…Talk the Talk also includes the delightful “Say Mama,” “I Ain't Never,” “Shakin' All Over,” “Trying To Get To You,” the John Lennon/Paul McCartney “You Can't Do That,” “It'll Be Me,” and “Crossroads.” For half an hour, these 12 songs will entertain you from beginning to end. It’s truly remarkable how well Lemmy’s voice accompanies Head Cat’s sound and is the perfect fit as the lead singer for this rockabilly band.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Sunn O))) - ØØ Void


Is that enough "insert symbol"-type symbols for ya? I know I'm all set.

Sunn O)))'s second album, ØØ Void,  originally released in 2000, has been reissued...!

Quick, Robin-- to the review!

Track one, "Richard" is intestinal rumbling as a mantra, from the bowels of the Earth, using (cause it don't need no drums; in terms of drums, Sunn O))) ain't care!) what may or may not be a synthesizer as what effectively works as a "count," the way a drummer would use a ride symbol or hi-hat to most obviously count time... at around 8:00 a sitar or bagpipes enters, and not incongruously.

Track two, "NN O)))" (I said I was all set with the symbols!) is the most obvious use, as is the whole album really, of Sunn O)))'s modus operandi (which they expanded upon stylistically with later albums, adding textures, tones, timbres, all the Ts really-- whereas this is pretty much as stripped down and simple as heavy music gets):

The glory of SOUND (i.e., not specific notes) for its own sake: sound for its purely physical effects (and not intellectual ones, that might be concerned with, say, lyrical content or melody)--

--and with lots of space to think.

Music that breathes so slowly you might forget it's breathing-- like a blue whale that only needs 5-10 heartbeats a minute to maintain its bulk, that of the largest animal thought to have ever existed on the planet.... Yeah. That simile totally works.

Track three, "Rabbits' Revenge" (if their punctuation is deliberate, there are several members of the Lepus family taking vengeance, a scary thought) opens as a bass pulse under some guitar feedback's skin-- a massive, breathing (there's that adjective-sometime-gerund again) sonic organism... this track is like the constant bending of a cane reed into the correct pitch-- then made massively monolithic.

Alliteration free of charge. Horn's here to help.  That second alliteration? Gratis as well!

Final track (and in my opeez the best), "Ra at Dusk," synesthesia-stically speaking, has a "monochrome" texture; one chugging guitar acts as the count here while another plays a simple recurring dirge-like ostinado... and again all the percussion instruments are effectively some type of guitar.

ØØ Void might be a great introdution to Sunn O))) if you're not familar with them-- there's no curveballs here. It makes Dopesmoker sound like Paganini. If you already like/ love them, then this one'll be easy to digest and will go down smooth.

Quick Robin-- to the Batgirl!


Thursday, November 24, 2011


Too much free time on my hands is a dangerous thing because that means I can check ALL of the bins at used record stores. The kids today are buying lots of vinyl, and that's a good thing, but an even better thing is that they're ignoring all the great classic rock albums they've never been exposed to. This is where I come in. Used Johnny Winter and Joe Walsh albums for 3 or 4 bucks in decent shape - how can I not give them a good home next to their long lost friends Robin Trower and Mountain? So when I found this very nice copy of Humble Pie's Eat It for about 10 bucks there was no hesitation. It needed to be reunited with of Smokin, Thunderbox and, of course, Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore on my shelf. Eat It was released in 1973, a year that I've gone on record here many times saying it might be the best year for rock (Tres Hombres, Raw Power, Billion Dollar Babies!). Eat It is not as monumental as any of those records but it's still a great album and one that deserves a place in every heavy rock fan's library. Each side of this double album is a different thing. Side one is all hard rock songs, side two is covers of soul tunes, side three is acoustic and side four is live and loud in concert. No matter what kind of party you're having, Humble Pie have got you covered.

Side one rocks hard with kick ass songs like "Get Down To It" and "Good Booze and Bad Women." These are very much in the vein of the songs on 1972's great Smokin' album. "Is It For Love" is a moody R&B influenced song and "Drugstore Cowboy" is faster and funkier. Steve Marriott's vocals are excellent as always and the band really grooves. Very few English bands could play authentic R&B and a lot of that has to do with the Pie's killer rhythm section of Greg Ridley (bass) and Jerry Shirley (drums). These guys can really swing. Clem Clempson and Steve make a great guitar team.

Most rock bands trying to play soul music is pretty much a joke, but Steve's vocals have the range and expression needed for the material. Ike & Tina's "Black Coffee" is given a real workout. What a groove! Edwin Starr's "Shut Up & Don't Interrupt Me" is a lot of fun. There are also dramatic versions of the Ray Charles classic "I Believe To My Soul" (also covered by the MC5 in their live show) and Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is." Good side for when you're trying to convince a lady to move to the backseat of your car. If that doesn't work, side three might do the trick. Four acoustic, bluesy songs all written by Steve Marriott. "Say No More," "Oh Bella" and "Summer Song" are more back porch than the kind of mystical acoustic stuff that Led Zeppelin would do. The last song "Beckton Dumps" is more uptempo and has some electric guitar on it.

Once you drop the young lady off at the end of the night, it's time to CRANK UP side four and rock the fuck out. Recorded live in Glasgow, this is Humble Pie at their finest. "Up Our Sleeve" is not only one of Humble Pie's greatest songs, but it's also one of the most kick ass jams you will ever hear. Flat out, balls to the wall, driving rock n roll. This version is slightly less ferocious than the one that was later issued on Humble Pie's awesome King Biscuit CD recorded on this tour. The rest of side four is taken up with a  good version of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" and an extended jam on Junior Walker's "Road Runner."

Humble Pie rocked like no other. They were such a potent band, it's a shame that they don't get more recognition. The domestic CD of Eat It is out of print but the import is still available. But the best way to experience this is on vinyl. The double album comes with a very cool booklet glued inside the gatefold sleeve with illustrations and action live shots. Musically, it also makes much more sense when you change the sides. Either way, it's a great record. And if you don't like it - EAT IT!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Confused Little Girl - Southern Gentlemen

 Southern Gentlemen

 (this album had such an impact on the kiddies in the pool, that two writers decided to review it.  you can check out the other review here)

I run into people all the time who absolutely hate working these academic fairs.  They loathe what they believe is the false process of fishing for prospective students.  I suppose they believe that their school’s/employer’s name should lend enough weight by itself to separate new students from their hard earned money.  Huh…Northerners.  As for me, I have no idea what is not to like!  I love being behind the Ripple University table.  I love conversing with people, letting them know that they could find a home at Ripple U.  Perhaps being a Southerner imbues me with a more easygoing nature?  Or maybe the fact that I’m always polite to the prospects garners a lot of positive energy in return.  Take what happened earlier today for example when I conversed with a young woman who moments before had stormed away from a table several feet away from my own.

 “Excuse me miss.  I couldn’t help but overhear the end of your conversation.”
“My conversation?”
“Yes, ma’am.  The one you just finished with that recruitment agent over there.  You know, the one which ended with you yelling some rather strong statements her way?  I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but you seem upset.”
“Upset, huh?”
“Yep.  I’d say so.  Would you mind if I asked what that recruiter said that pushed you over the edge of civility?”
“If you must know, she accused me of being a confused little girl.”
“A confused little girl?”
“That’s right.”
“I see.  What did she think you were confused about?”
“Life in general apparently.  She said my interests were unladylike.”
“Any interest in particular?”
“Yes.  I told her that I wanted to study music in college.  She began listing off the numerous awards and honors her university’s music school has earned, but when I explained that I didn’t wish to study classical music and instead focus on rock n’ roll all the color drained from her face.”
“Hah!  That’s hilarious!  The only thing better would be if she had actually passed out.  Say…that’s a nice backpack you’ve got there.  Any chance those patches sewn into it are indications of what music you like to listen to?”
“Oh yes sir!  Those patches represent my favorite bands.  I’m really into classic southern rock like Lynard Skynyrd, ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers Band as well as heavy metal like Corrosion of Conformity and Down.  Honestly I listen to other types of music, but…hey, what’s so amusing?”
“The hands of fate at work my dear.  I believe it was predestined that I would run into you today.  You will be a perfect fit at Ripple U!  We don’t put limits on what kind of music you can study.  And while our music department isn’t littered with golden chalices, I can tell you that every one of our graduates has had success in their chosen field.  Now I want to ask you one very important question.”
“Okay, shoot.”
“As far as Corrosion of Conformity goes, do you prefer Deliverance or Wiseblood?”
“It’s close, but I’ll have to go with Deliverance.”
“Miss, I’m afraid that advisor was right.  You are indeed a confused little girl.”

Waveriders, today we’re going to discuss a little album called Southern Gentleman by the band Confused Little Girl.  Now I know what you’re thinking but relax.  Have no fear.  There is absolutely no confusion regarding the merits of this band, this album, or the manner in which the band goes about their business.  None, zero, nada.  What we have here is a confident group of musicians determined to crush mountains into rubble with their powerful sound.

Confused Little Girl is made up of four people; Billy Van Muddlestein, David Washburn, Red Reilly, and Josh Henry.  While their bio lists Orlando, Florida as their hometown, I’m pretty sure that this group lives well outside of the downtown metropolitan area.  In fact, my guess is that their actual home is located deep inside the Everglades.  Why?  That’s easy.  Not only do they come right out and say repeatedly in the album’s first song that they ‘come from the swamp’, but their music contains all the hallmarks I would expect from swamp dwellers.  It is marvelously sludgy like a swamp’s muddy landscape.  Also, there is tremendous muscle behind the aggressive instrumentation.  This muscular sound will envelop the listener like an alligator’s jaws, and it won’t let go.  Lastly this band is very deliberate with their music.  They never seem to be in too much of a hurry.  Putting a foot wrong in a swamp can be very hazardous to your health.  The composition of these songs seems to incorporate this valuable lesson.  So what about those songs?

Southern Gentleman tears your speakers asunder with one of the most thunderous opening tracks I’ve listened to in some time.  Seriously, I may not have come across an opening salvo as righteous as this one all year.  Confused Little Girl means business, and “I’d Rather Booby Screw A Walrus” is there to sledgehammer that point home.  That’s right.  Awesome song title, amps to eleven, bowel-shaking main riff and choruses; it all adds up to transform the listener into a grotesque bobblehead attempting to forcefully detach its head from its neck!  Thankfully my head is still attached because I need to further compliment this band.

The low end stomp Confused Little Girl possesses is a thing of beauty!  Thick as molasses guitar and bass tones deliver devastating body blows to your eardrums on songs such as “Hookers On Horseback”, “Books and Guns”, and “(Hey Dad) Stop Looking At Porn On My Computer”.  The band is not content being a one-trick pony either.  They switch things up by throwing in the mostly ballad-like “Ink To Paper”.  Another added wrinkle is how they take different vocal approaches such as the ethereal singing during the choruses to “Jordan Catalano Needs To Break Up His Shitty Band” or the cleaner, twang-heavy vocals during “Vegetarian Homeless People”.  One last note.  If you hadn’t noticed, this band comes up with some outlandish song titles.  If the ones I’ve already mentioned haven’t convinced you of that, how about “Honestly, Who Gives Their Genitals Pet Names”?  Simply stunning!

The bottom line here is that Southern Gentleman is an album you need to hear.  If you love southern metal like Corrosion of Conformity or Down, or just stupendous riff-machines like Clutch you can’t go wrong with Confused Little Girl.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to finish filling out this rental agreement for an airboat.  The swamp is calling.  Rock on and rock out! 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Confused Little Girl - Southern Gentlemen

Skeeters are snackin'. They're as big as half-dollars and they'll bleed you dry if you let 'em. The gators are patiently waiting. Some are stalkin' their prey. Shine a light and you can see the battalion of reptile eyes, like fallen stars strewn across the water's surface. Yes, we're in the icky Florida swamp, where it's scary-dark and it's nasty. I lived there once, and it's also where Confused Little Girl  and Southern Gentlemen rose from the filthy muck.

I told Racer that I've been listening to the independent release of this album for almost a year but I clearly wasn't the only one. Rotten Records took notice and signed the Orlando-based group, turning out Southern Gentlemen internationally on Oct. 11. They brought an exceptional and original rock band on board, in my opinion. Here's some information from their bio for those who haven't heard about Confused Little Girl yet.

"Confused Little Girl are a four-piece, deep-fried, southern swamp-rock band from Orlando, Florida. Their songs are filled with themes of drinking whiskey, murdering people and burying them in the bellies of alligators, pigs and the bottom of the water in the Everglades, and of course, selling your soul to Satan. The music that accompanies this subject matter is filled with loud guitars; heavy, groove-based big drums and enough fat-bottom for even Freddie Mercury to be disgusted. Since 2005, these beloved bastards of rock have been working tirelessly to shove their brand of heavy rock and roll down the throats of as many people as humanly possible."

Influences include: AC/DC, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Down, C.O.C., Clutch, and Queens of the Stone Age. What more do you need to know? Want details? Too bad. I don't know much else about Confused Little Girl, aside from the fact that Billy Van Muddlestein, David Washburn, Red Reilly and Josh Henry like booze, bitches and barbecue. Hell, who doesn't?

"We come from the Swamp," Confused Little Girl says. "We play rock-and-roll music. Loud, angry, drunken rock-and-roll. Being from Florida, where tons of southern rock bands came from, we have southern music in our hearts. The details about how we met and who we've played with and all of that bullshit isn't important. It's music, you listen to it. So listen to it. "

I have listened to Southern Gentlemen - many times. Too many to count. I'm listening again right now and I'll tell you something: it never gets old. Like I said before, I've been playing this release since the beginning of the year and I'm not stopping now. I won't bother with trying to describe every song because it's all good. The guitars are southern-scuzzy; the vocals are hefty and raunchy, but they're definitely still clear enough for me. The bass and drums are just monstrous. It's everything I love about swamp rock. No wonder I can't get enough.

Oh. And the song titles. Don't get me started on that. "I'd Rather Booby Screw A Walrus" is a favorite, along with "Honestly, Who Gives Their Genitals Pet Names". "Hookers on Horseback", "(Hey Dad) Stop Looking at Porn on My Computer", "Jordan Catalano Needs to Break Up His Shitty Band" and "How Satan Stole My Heart". C'mon. Aren't those some of the most interesting song names you've ever heard? Just reading those names makes you want to listen, doesn't it? Go ahead. You'll be happy you did.

The sick, 12-song Southern Gentlemen was sort of an obscure title earlier this year. Well not any more. I'm glad to see Confused Little Girl get signed by Rotten Records. Now the world has a better chance to hear the swamp-rock I've been trudging through for months. Head to the Rotten Records site for this record and get your copy NOW.

Hail the swamp!


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Heavy Company - The Heavy (Please Tune In . . .)

It's Sunday morning. Third cup of coffee is already drained but the desired caffeine effect is evading my brain. Hiding from my cortex as if I was a movie slasher and it was my prey.  Details are hazy, but I remember last night something about some Gin.  And some Bourbon.  There may me more to the story, but until pictures appear on Facebook or an embarrassing video on YouTube breaks 1,000,000 hits, I'll deny it.

Just setting the stage here.  Giving you a peek into my brain as I plop down at my Ripple desk.  There's submissions to go through, reviews to write, and the ever present threat of needing to catch up with the Record Label accounting.  I need some music to get my brain moving. Something heavy but not damaging.  Something with enough energy to clear the cobwebs and kick that caffeine into effect, but not enough to make my eardrums shudder.  I want it slightly dark, definitely psychedelic.  I want some bleeding guitar effects to swirl through the clouds in my mind but enough of an edge to cut through that haze like a ray of sunlight blitzing down from the heavens.  I want it to light up my brain.

I want The Heavy Company.

Metaphysical psychedelia is the name of the game here and The Heavy Company do it just about as well as anybody out there.  First and foremost is the understated, yet always effective guitar work of Ian Gerber.  Psychedelic rock of this irk has a tough fence to straddle.  Somehow, the guitarist has to find a way to evoke the hallucinogenic dreamscapes that he sees in his mind, layering his tone with effects and variety, yet never lose himself up his own ass.  Too much masturbation and the music become boring.  Not enough variety and it feels empty.  Ian finds that place.  Each note seems perfectly chosen; not necessarily planned--because that would lose it's spontaneity--but felt perfectly in time with the music and the flow.

Behind Ian, Jeff Kaleth on drums and Ryan Strawsma on bass propel the compositions forward, filling in the spaces between the strobe-light guitars and smoky haze.  Again, no over playing here.  No bass lines trying to compete for attention.  It all just flows into one seamless swirling flow.  One kaleidoscopic river, currents of sound and colors, smells and visions.  A mushroom trip of music.  Perfect.

I suck again at my empty coffee mug.  Nothing but air.  Yet, I'm feeling better.  Somewhere within the six songs of this free EP, I've started to revive.   "Please Tune In . . ." opened the doors for me slowly, an introductory opium den of gentle drums and cloud-puffs of guitar.  Nothing too harsh, just an invitation for what's to follow.  Then somewhere during "The Heavy," my brain starts to awake.  Slowly, nothing jolting.  Ian's guitar reminds me of passages of Colour Haze or My Sleeping Karma.  Spartan and clear, tracing out a delicate harmony.  Vocals are a bit buried in the mix, but by the time they come in, something new is hinted at.  Maybe it's because the boys come from Lafayette, Indiana, but there's a definite earthiness to the song.  A lone cowboy riding the prairie feel.  Western-tinged, rootsy, yet still defiantly psychedelic.  That's not a mix I'd heard too often and lays claim for new territory.  Like a prospector staking out a claim, The Heavy Company have declared their piece of land.  Midwest psychedelia.

"Black Tuesday," adds a touch of classic 60's-70's rock to the mix.  I hear a touch of Bad Company in the main riff, while the bass percolates behind, before the song wanders into pure jam territory.  Bring that harmonica in, let the riff dirty up a bit, pick up the pace.  Yep, I'm feeling stronger now.  Maybe I'll actually be able to face the day.   "Wormweed," brings in even more muscle to the tone, effectively toughening up the sound, getting my heart beating just a bit, pumping that long-awaited caffeine to my limbic system.  It's all been a perfect progression from the haze to the rock, as if the whole EP tells one singular story.   "Monsignor Charlie Bird," brings the sky down, the requisite coolness, before the final cut "Caged Bird," kicks my mind back into regular time.  A chugging guitar riff, still earthy and classic.  Good stuff.

The Heavy Company find that rare balance for many psychedelic bands, effect-laden and THC-adled, yet still focused and rocking.  I dig the rootsy-vibe under the fuzz, it keeps the album rooted in terra firma even as they float off and explore.  The riffs are driving enough to keep the song moving, the jamming is spontaneous and extended enough to fuel the imagination synapses.  Dig into this album for your own hangover, or make it the focus of your future hangover to be.  Heck, get the hangover out of the way completely, just dig into this album.  If you're a fan of the Elektrohasch label brand of darkened spectrum psychedelia, this album will hit your sweet spot.

Download it all free here


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shovel's Unearthed Treasures - free music for your ears

Five more bands that you should take note of.

Traitors return to earth - Columbus, Ohio's purveyors of downtuned sludge assault. Running the full gamut of classic heft: Name your price @

Fire Spoken By The Buffalo - If you like Russian Circles, Pelican, Explosions In The Sky then this will be right up your street. Name your price @

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Green Day - Awesome As Fuck

Rarely does an album title ever perfectly capture how well an album truly is and Green Day’s latest album Awesome As F**k (the band’s fifth live album) does just that. Even as their song “Fashion Victim” (from their album Warning) says, “What’s in a name?” Green Day knows how to make an awesome album with a killer title. Ever since I could remember I have always been a huge fan of Green Day. Strike that. Since 1994, when I first heard Dookie, I have been a huge Green Day fan. For the past decade I have received the strangest looks from people when I proclaim this. Usually, there is some kind of remark along the lines like “How could you support those ‘Anti-Americans’?” or “Why would you support a band that ‘sold out’?” To those naysayers I simply say, “I will always remain a faithful fan through thick and thin because I truly love Green Day. Besides how many bands do you know can say they have made two iconic albums in two different centuries (Dookie and American Idiot)?”

Since my introduction to following bands/music I have noticed an unusual trend amongst music fans or rather I have actually paid attention for the first time. Most individuals are “casual music fans” and only listen to bands that are “hot at the moment.” Only the true and diehard fans follow a band when they appear/disappear from the limelight and never give up on them. I can honestly trace back the moment when I first heard Green Day. It was in Mrs. Jones’ third grade class at Grace Brethren Elementary School and my classmate Chad introduced me to the awesomeness that is Green Day. Thank you Chad, wherever you are.

Over the years I have loved discussing my affection and admiration for Green Day. While at concerts I will usually interact with other fans discussing their past albums, side projects (such as the Foxboro Hot Tubes) and describe how we were first introduced to the band. After a while I noticed a pattern amongst the “older fans,” who were  introduced to Green Day prior to American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, which I like to call the Dookie situation. The reason I call it the Dookie situation is because most diehard Green Day fans categorize people into two categories: 1) Fans of Green Day before Dookie and 2) Fans of Green Day after Dookie. Basically, their argument is always “Were you a fan before or after they found mainstream success?” My counterargument has and will always be, “I discovered Green Day because of that album. What’s wrong with that?” That’s usually fine, but if they have an attitude I add, “Excuse me if I was only in the third grade when it came out and weren’t able to check them out in the East Bay in the early 1990s.” Luckily, that has rarely happened.

Still, my passion runs deep for Green Day. As a matter of fact I plan on attending American Idiot, their musical once it opens in Los Angeles Spring 2012 with some fellow diehard Green Day fans. When Rock Band released the Green Day videogame I immediately marked my calendar and rushed out and bought it the morning of its release. Needless to say I’m a fan regardless how old I get.

Awesome As F**k is what a live album should be: fun, fresh and fantastic. As the title even alludes to its f**king awesome and the album immediately drops you into that concert environment. The last two times I saw Green Day was during the first leg of the 21st Century Breakdown tour with their final show at The Forum and during “New Years” at L.A. Live near the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Both times, they sounded fantastic, but the “New Years” gig was even more amazing. At that show, they primarily played their old stuff from Kerplunk, Insomniac, 39/Smooth and a handful of “current songs” from American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown (maybe three or so during a 90 minute set). The raw energy they infused the audience with at each show created two great memories for this Green Day fan.

That same energy can be seen in their latest effort Awesome As F**k. The album kicks off with “21st Century Breakdown,” the titular track from their platinum selling studio album, and for the first few seconds all you hear and feel is the crowd going wild. There is nothing more exhilarating than an audience picking up your intensity and getting your blood pumping. Immediately I was brought back into that environment as though I was at the concert. That’s when you know a live album is great- it brings you into the concert.

The intensity continues to build throughout the track and even more enthusiasm erupts when the explosions go off before Billie Joe Armstrong starts singing. Once Armstrong belts out the lyrics, it’s nonstop fun. The very first time I listened to this album I had goosebumps all over my body. Around the 2:20 mark, you hear Tre Cool’s awesome drumming in the background as Armstrong riles up the crowd before the crowd’s intensity blows up. Then a minute later all hell breaks loose and the energy goes up a whole another notch. That’s what a great band does- pumps up its crowd’s energy to the max and then some.

Where “21st Century Breakdown” leaves off “Know Your Enemy” picks up. These first two tracks highlight the raw energy of Green Day fans much like the KISS Army on the KISS album Alive! and Cheap Trick’s Cheap Trick at Budokan. This irresistible live track makes you want to clap and scream along with as though you were there.

Much like their last album, “East Jesus Nowhere” is my favorite track on Awesome As F**k. Armstrong illustrates what a fun, fantastic frontman he truly is by getting the entire crowd involved with repeating the intro. Once the guitars and drums kick in, “East Jesus Nowhere” highlights how talented Green Day is with creating catchy, energetic and effective songs filled with messages.

With lyrics like, “A fire burns today/ Of blasphemy and genocide/The sirens of decay/Will infiltrate the faith fanatics” it’s no surprise Green Day has been successful for over 20 years. Still, my favorite part of the song is when the audience sings the part, “Don't test me (Pause)/ Second guess me (Pause) /Protest me” by themselves. Overall, a fantastic live version worth checking out.

The song smoothly transitions to one of the most popular and enduring songs from American Idiot, “Holiday.” It’s so flawless, much like a concert, that for a few seconds you forget it’s a whole new song. For almost the past decade, this politically-charged song has inspired, infuriated and increased awareness for many people around the world. Most people tend to forget the only musicians who openly condemned and criticized President George W. Bush’s actions with the War in Iraq from the very beginning were Green Day and the Dixie Chicks. This song still sounds fresh and effective almost a decade later. Hearing the audience shout back “Amen” is intense and inspiring, mostly due to Dublin’s unbelievable energy. Every time I hear this song I can’t help, but get excited. This live track just adds to my enjoyment even more, especially when the crowd sings along to “Zieg Heil to the President Gasman/Bombs away is your punishment/Pulverize the Eiffel Towers/Who criticize your government.”

The more relaxed “¡Viva La Gloria!” follows and shows the softer side of Green Day for a few tender moments before blasting off to the hard sound we have been accustomed to for their entire career. Much like their previous live album Bullet in a Bible, Green Day’s Awesome As F**k primarily focuses on songs from the previous album (21st Century Breakdown features six songs), but do include some awesome tracks from their back catalog.

At the tail end of “¡Viva La Gloria!” around 4:03, Billie Joe Armstrong announces to a Dallas crowd, “We are going to play a brand new song,” which the crowd rejoices to before Armstrong adds, “It ain’t that brand new.” The song transitions unnoticeably (from Dallas to Phoenix) with “Cigarettes and Valentines” officially beginning with Armstrong saying, “This song is called ‘Cigarettes and Valentines.’ Let’s Go!” Surprisingly, there is a good amount of fans who already know some of the lyrics and it makes you wonder what could have been?

For those unfamiliar with what I am getting at, let me give you some insight into Green Day history. Green Day was following up their album Warning with an album called Cigarettes and Valentines in 2003. Near the end of their sessions, the master recordings for the twentysomething tracks were stolen and the band was left with two options:  rerecord everything or start from scratch. Green Day chose the latter and history was made. The band recorded the rock opera American Idiot and created one of the most iconic albums thus far in the 21st Century. Even my Baby Boomer parents know who Green Day is because of American Idiot. I heard “Cigarettes and Valentines” for the very first time because of this live album and it’s exactly what I want in a Green Day song.

The classic Dookie song, “Burnout” has become a staple at shows and you can see why. Everyone from Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, Mike Dirt, the rest of the touring band (Jason White, Jason Freese, Jeff Matika) and the crowd’s excitement fuels the intensity of an already splendid song. Even when you see Green Day live, it’s nice they enthusiastically still play their classic songs that gained them national exposure. They follow up with an oldie from their debut album 39/Smooth, “Going to Pasalacqua.”  Like most live albums, this one keeps giving with another rare track, “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)," from the movie soundtrack Angus and besides the aforementioned soundtrack was only featured on the greatest hits album International Superhits! These gems supplement this stellar album, which proves even superstars like Green Day aren’t afraid to play their back catalog and still love playing their classics.

“You guys want to hear some more old shit or what?” Billie Joe Armstrong says before opening the track “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” and adds after strumming a few notes, “This song is my favorite song from Kerplunk by the way.” Armstrong’s energy and enthusiasm pumps me up every time I listen to this part of the album. Much like attending one of their shows, Green Day keeps you entertained and somehow builds upon your excitement with each subsequent song. The album Insomniac is finally represented with “Geek Stink Breath” and like the previous five songs, a classic song will always be great no matter what.

Then it really gets crazy with “When I Come Around.” Besides “Basket Case” (my all time favorite Green Day song), “When I Come Around” is definitely in my top three songs from Green Day. Once again, they deliver another amazing live version and you can’t help, but sing along. However, my only complaint about this entire album is the Berlin audience’s lack of enthusiasm and knowledge of the lyrics to this Green Day classic. At times, you can’t even hear them sing the lyrics, which is disappointing.

Luckily, Brisbane’s audience picks up the pieces and gives great enthusiasm for “She.” Three of Green Day’s most popular recent songs “21 Guns,” “American Idiot,” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” follow. Like everything preceding these tracks, Green Day remains full of fun and energy after playing these songs essentially nonstop for the past seven years. Hearing the entire audience sing the opening chorus, “Don't want to be an American Idiot/Don't want a nation under the new media/And can you hear the sound of hysteria?/The subliminal mind fuck America” is beyond amazing. It honestly doesn’t get any better than that.

The standard edition of the album closes with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which feels like the perfect bookend to Awesome As F**k. As the lyrics suggest I “had the time of my life” enjoying this album. If that’s not enough, the album includes a DVD with concert footage from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Talk about an extra hour of awesomeness! Awesome As F**k is easily one of my favorite albums of the year and in my opinion the best live album of 2011! I wish more albums were filled with so many goodies.