The Daily News - Pittsburgh - Ken Phillips Publicity Group


The Daily News - Pittsburgh - Ken Phillips Publicity Group
SLEEPING BAG, self-titled
(Joyful Noise) ✰✰✰ — Indie trio
Sleeping Bag began as a solo drum
project for Dave Segedy, but soon
morphed into a promising full band.
Their self-titled debut has some fantastic moments, and while it falls short of
being an essential addition to your collection, there’s enough to like about Sleeping Bag to have
me excited about what comes next.
The 11-track release gets off to a fast start with keepers
“Slime,” “Sunroom,” “Rental” and “Beside” before the
momentum starts to wane. The back half of the platter is
not as effective, though the fellas come through with solid
efforts in “Someone” and “Another Time.” Fans of early
Weezer and ’90s bands of that ilk might want to curl up
in this Sleeping Bag. ((JS)
DRIVE A, “The World in
Shambles” (Dead Conflict) ✰✰✰1⁄2
— Having made a nice splash with their
2009 “Loss of Desire” debut, which
spawned the single “Are You Blind,”
Los Angeles punk outfit Drive A return
with an even more promising sophomore slab in “The World in Shambles.”
The guys power their way through the 13 songs in a
shade over 30 minutes.
Among the high-octane highlights here are “Revolt!”,
“C*nt,” “Belligerent Time Bomb,” the title track, the
fantastically profane “Shallow Security” and set closer
“Salvation.” Drive A aren’t an especially original collection
of musicians, but they are very good at what they do. ((JS)
(Stonehall) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — Like a cold
glass of lemonade on a scorching summer afternoon, the music of Liana
Conway is soothing and, more times
than not, seems to hit the spot. The
Massachusetts native scores on her
“Sunrise” full-length debut with a cycle
of songs every bit as lovely as she is.
The delightful midtempo “Day Dreamin” gets the set
off to a solid start, but Conway really finds her groove on
keepers “August Rush,” “You Baby,” “No Turning Back,”
“Walk in the Sun,” “I Like You” and “Callin’ You Baby.”
This is one talented young singer/songwriter. ((JS)
“Imaginary Monsters” (Metropolis)
✰✰✰ — I never know exactly what
I’m in for when I pop an EP into my
CD player. Maybe a band has crafted
a handful of tunes that either whet
the appetite for their next (or sometimes first) full-length, or perhaps the
EP serves as little more than a placeholder until a group
focuses their full attention on the next project.
After, uh, killing it last year with “Pins and Needles,”
Canadian rockers the Birthday Massacre seemed on the
verge of a breakthrough. That breakthrough may still
happen, but don’t expect a whole lot out of “Imaginary
Monsters.” It’s a slightly-above-average eight-track EP
with three new tunes and unnecessary remixes of a few
“Pins and Needles” tracks thrown in for good measure.
“Forever” and “Left Behind” are the new tracks worth
revisiting, but I prefer the original incarnations of “Pale,”
“Shallow Grave” and “Pins and Needles.” ((JS)
THE HORRORS, “Skying” (XL)
✰✰✰1⁄2 — Another album, another
sonic shift for British rockers the
Horrors. After dabbling in gothic punk
on 2007’s “Strange House” and then
exploring Krautrock and shoegaze on
2009’s “Primary Colours,” the band
has tried on the post-punk sound of
the mid-1980s for size on the excellent “Skying.” With
a collection of 10 tunes that fit in alongside the work of
the Psychedelic Firs, Thompson Twins and Echo & the
Bunnymen, this may be the Horrors’ most accessible
effort to date.
It takes a little while for the guys to hit their stride, but
they are at the top of their game on keepers “I Can See
Through You,” “Endless Blue,” “Still Life” and sprawling
tandem “Moving Further Away” and “Oceans Burning.”
If you’re feeling at all nostalgic for the “Me” decade, give
the Horrors a listen. ((JS)
FRUIT BATS, “Tripper” (Sub
Pop) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — After a decade of
operating as the one constant and driving force behind Fruit Bats, it should
come as little surprise that singer/
songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Eric
Johnson has things down to a science.
“Tripper” is the follow-up to 2009’s
awesome “The Ruminant Band,” and again finds Johnson
front and center with his falsetto vocals.
The long-gestating, based-on-a-true-encounter “Tony
the Tripper” gets the album off to a tremendous start,
and Fruit Bats additionally soar with “Tangie and Ray,”
“You’re Too Weird,” “Heart Like an Orange” and “Wild
Honey.” Some might be a bit put off by 40-plus minutes
of Johnson’s falsetto — but if that’s the case I recommend
you swallow “Tripper” in smaller (though no less entertaining) bites. ((JS)
DEHLIA LOW, “Ravens &
Crows” (Rebel) ✰✰✰✰ — It’s been
a while since I’ve found myself as
enthralled with a bluegrass record as I
am with the latest from string collective
Dehlia Low. The Americana-leaning
“Ravens & Crows” is anchored by the
vocal interplay between Anya Hinkle
and Stacy Claude, as well as the mandolin wizardry of
Bryan Clendenin. Though they’ve only been together
since late 2007, Dehlia Low sound like they’ve been playing music with each for all their lives.
The finger-pickin’ follies get under right away with
“State of Jefferson” and the fun continues with standouts
“Goin’ Down,” “What Do You Think of Her Now?”, the
title track, “Change Up,” “Drifting on a Lonesome Sea”
and closing gems “$40 Chain” and “Cannonball Blues.”
Enjoy, y’all. ((JS)
In Tune
Page 21
The Daily News
Rabbit redux
Pepper Rabbit refine skills
on their sophomore release
PEPPER RABBIT, “Red Velvet Snow Ball”
(Kanine) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — When I reviewed Pepper
Rabbit’s “Beauregard” full-length debut earlier
this year, I was somewhat torn. There was something undeniably intriguing about the band’s
mix of dreamy pop and indie folk (and bonus
points for utilizing unexpected instruments such
as xylophone and clarinet into the proceedings),
but I found it difficult to make it through the
entire record in a single sitting.
On sophomore effort “Red Velvet Snow Ball,”
Pepper Rabbit have fine-tuned their skills to a
certain extent. And while the album just misses
“great” status, it’s a noticeable improvement.
Tunes such as “Lake House,” “Allison,” “The
Annexation of Puerto Rico,” “Murder Room”
and “Dance Card” showcase the band at their
quirky best. If they take similar strides next time
out, the results could be special. ((Jeffrey Sisk)
MOONFACE, “Organ Music
Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped”
(Jagjaguwar) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — Don’t let the
modest number of tracks fool you. The
full-length debut from Moonface (aka
Spencer Krug) is a five-track collection
of densely-layered, complex electronic
pop tunes that demand your full attention. And the best part is the fact that “Organ Music Not
a Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped” is well worth the effort.
Amid the myriad of synthesizers and programmed
beats are Moonface’s unexpectedly compelling lyrics on
standouts “Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor,”
“Whale Song (Song Instead of a Kiss),” “Fast Peter” and
“S**t-Hawk in the Snow.” Only set closer “Loose Heart
= Loose Plan” fails to hit the mark. ((JS)
“Live at the Atlantic” (Tee Pee)
✰✰✰✰ — After a few spins of this
split concert LP from Kentucky hardcore outfit Coliseum and Canadian
thrashers Burning Love, I’m guessing
those in attendance at the Atlantic in
Gainesville, Fla., on June 27, 2010, left
the venue with their ears ringing. The bands tore the roof
off the joint and “Live at the Atlantic” captures much of
that energy over the course of 18 combined tracks.
Coliseum start things off and roar their way through
a 10-song set highlighted by “Skeleton Smile,” “Lost in
Groningen,” “Cloaked in Red” and “Man Was Never
Meant to Fly.” Things got even louder, believe it or
not, when Burning Love took the stage for their blistering eight-song performance. Though I prefer the
former’s music to the latter, Burning Love catch fire with
“Memento Mori,” “Curse Breaker” and “Mess.” This
one’s sure to get the adrenaline pumping. ((JS)
WEIRD OWL, “Build Your Beast
a Fire” (Tee Pee) ✰✰✰1⁄2 — If you
just can’t get enough stoner rock in
your life, I’d suggest you check out
Brooklynites Weird Owl, who continue
to hone their sound on “Build Your
Beast a Fire,” their third and most
enjoyable slab.
Vocalist/bassist Trevor Tyrell and his mates have had
their sound described as “a sonic mind fog” and that
sums up things nicely. Keepers abound on the (slightly
overstuffed) 15-track release, including “No Time Nor
No Space,” “Stral Proj,” personal favorite “Tiny Sleeping
Animals,” “Skin the Dawn” and “Mountains on Top of
Buried Stars.” Old-school hard rock with a modern flourish. ((JS)
Red Rocks” (ATO) ✰✰✰✰ — Long
respected players on the jamband
scene, the John Butler Trio soared to
new career heights in June 2010 with
a headlining performance at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater in
Morrison, Colo. Playing before their
largest audience ever, JBT delivered an inspired 140-minute concert that was captured in painstaking detail on this
dynamite two-CD/one-DVD set.
Butler was at his very best that night, as evidenced
by the stirring 22-song performance. Among the more
memorable efforts are “Used to Get High,” “I’d Do
Anything,” “Betterman,” “Revolution,” “Treat Yo
Mama,” “Ocean,” “Good Excuse,” “Peaches and Cream”
and “Funky Tonight.” The DVD includes every last note
of the concert, in addition to the requisite behind-thescenes footage and a video of “Revolution.” Pony up for
this one, folks. ((JS)
Kickback” (Sphinx/319) ✰✰✰1⁄2
— Just when it appeared SoCal rap
outfit Cali Swag District were about
to become bona fide hip-hop stars,
tragedy struck. In May, Montae “MBone” Talbert was killed in a drive-by
shooting, leave CSD’s future in doubt.
The youngsters scored a club hit last year with “Teach
Me How to Dougie” and expectations were high for their
full-length debut.
While the remaining three members were dealing with
their grief, “The Kickback” came out as planned and,
truth be told, it’s a rock-solid rap platter. In addition to
“Dougie,” Cali Swag District score with “Roof Back,”
“Disgusting,” “Kickback,” “Hip Hop Fiend” and the
witty “Back It Up and Dump It.” Here’s hoping they’ll
overcome the tragic loss of their pal and continue to make
entertaining records. ((JS)
Session” (self-released) ✰✰✰✰
— I’ve been a huge fan of the
Decemberists for the better part of a
decade and the Portland, Ore.-based
collective would be hard-pressed to
make a record that I don’t thoroughly
enjoy. That being said, Colin Meloy
and the gang have done themselves proud with the digital-only “iTunes Session.” The eight-track release includes
stripped-down versions of six Decemberists tunes, plus a
couple of well-chosen covers.
They dip as far back as 2003’s “5 Songs” EP for
“Shiny,” include a trio of tunes — “Calamity Song,”
“June Hymn,” “This Is Why We Fight” — from this
year’s “The King is Dead” and serve up stellar renditions of “Shankill Butchers” and “The Hazards of Love
4 (The Drowned)” from 2006’s “The Crane Wife” and
2009’s “The Hazards of Love,” respectively. Sprinkled in
are first-rate covers of Leonard Cohen (“Hey, That’s No
Way to Say Goodbye” and Fruit Bats (“When U Love
Somebody”). ((JS)
Ride Bicycles” (Green Label Sound)
✰✰✰1⁄2 — Alternative rap duo the
Cool Kids (Mickey Rocks and Chuck
Inglish) met on MySpace a few years
ago and quickly bonded over their
shared love of old-school hip-hop. They
started making music together, and
after assorted mixtapes and Internet-only tracks, the Kids
serve up a proper debut in “When Fish Ride Bicycles.”
It’s an enjoyable gathering of 11 laid-back tracks that
features an impressive roster of high-profile collaborators. Highlights include “GMC,” “Sour Apples” (with
Blink-182’s Travis Barker), “Penny Hardaway” (featuring Ghostface Killah), “Gas Station” (with Bun B),
“Swimsuits” (featuring Mayer Hawthorne) and “Roll
Call” (with Asher Roth). The future’s bright for the Cool
Kids. ((JS)
GROOMS, “Prom” (Kanine)
✰✰✰1⁄2 — Experimental rock trio
Grooms released their “Rejoicer” debut
a couple years ago and soon were being
mentioned in the same breath as Sonic
Youth and Pavement. It’s way too early
to put the talented Brooklyn outfit on
that high a pedestal, but they’ve built
on the strengths of their first record with sophomore slab
Guitarist Travis Johnson lets bassist Emily Ambruso
utilize her vocal abilities on occasion here, making the
10-track album more listener-friendly than its predecessor
without sacrificing the dissonant guitars and avant-garde
approach. Keepers include the title track, “Skating With
Girl,” “Aisha,” “Into the Arms” and the wonderfully
titled closer “Don’t Worry, You’re Prettier.” Though not
for all tastes, Grooms won’t leave you stranded at the
altar. ((JS)
MOAB, “Ab Ovo” (Kemado)
✰✰✰✰ — LA trio Moab’s debut
record “Ab Ovo” is a powerful throwback to ’70s guitar rock glory, with
layers of psychedelics and stoner haze
added for good measure. This 10-track
crusher should remind listeners of early
Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone
Age, and Wolfmother (at least philosophically … Moab
are way better) and sounds custom made for “Rock Band”
Vocalist/guitarist Andrew Giacumakis regularly hits
high register on these tracks, while his work slinging the
ax is bluesy and scintillating. The rest of the band does a
fine job hitting a smoking groove, and these guys hit the
nail on the head on “So On,” the awesome “Sated,” the
dual “Staring Wall” cuts, and stomping “Fembot.” The
record loses a little steam in its second half, but not so
much to prevent deeming this first salvo anything short of
awesome. (Brian Krasman)
VALE OF PNATH, “The Prodigal
Empire” (Willowtip) ✰✰✰1⁄ — Vale
of Pnath (yes, it’s a Lovecraft reference) have landed in the right place in
order to spread their horrific, technically sound death metal to the masses.
There’s a lot of promise on this debut
album, but they have a little bit to learn
as far as keeping things interesting and sonically varied.
Luckily they have time to work out the kinks.
The quartet blows through these speedy, savage numbers with amazing precision, and people who are into
this style of death metal and/or Willowtip’s roster should
fine value here. “Legacy of Loss,” “Brain Butchers,”
“Poisoned By Prosperity” and closer “Cerulean Eclipse”
are strong enough and show a band with real promise.
Perhaps after spending time on the road and strengthening their songwriting chops they’ll become true monsters.
★ — Run for your life ★★ — Not awesome ★★★ — Not too shabby ★★★★ — Pretty sweet ★★★★★ — Awesome