Boomerang is a new album from Itamar Borochov, a world renowned jazz trumpet player. The listener will immediate recognize aura of professionality that is apparent immediately with the poignant first track, Tangerines. The sound is incredibly smooth and soft while maintaining a lively pulse. The pacing is more fevered and animated in later pieces like Jaffa Tune. Part of what Itamar celebrates in his music is the eclectic blend of different cultural influences and fashions which give take a little bit of the best of everything. The tracks are a musical representation and culmination of his experiences and absorptions. The result of this is an incredibly radiant recording, which is excellent at all levels of production and performance. Usually I can find something in a musical release to criticize, but every composition on Boomerang is top tier for this genre of music, in which there is little margin for error. These songs are meticulously constructed and performed with style.
Caterpillars(from the album “No Mud in Joyville“) is a new track from Boulder, CO based indie folk rocker J.W. Schuller. It should be mentioned also that a host of other artists are credited with contributing backing vocals, drums and other instruments. J.W. Schuller’s everything but the kitchen sink approach gives the song a much fuller sound than one would get from an ordinary “guy with an acoustic guitar” project. Somehow he manages to juggle all these sounds to keep the song tight, organized and impressively coherent. Caterpillars is delightful, peppy and brimming with positive energy. I really like the vocals on this track. The singer is originally from Minneapolis, and his vocal style has a similar quality to other notable bands from the Minneapolis indie / punk scene like The Siren Six. Something has to be said for the guitars too, which are terrific both in terms of tone and performance. J.W. Schuller plays volunteer gigs at retirement homes, and I could see people of all ages tapping along to this jam and gaining a bit of vitality in the process.
Rainy Day Crush, a veteran midwestern band that falls somewhere in between indie, pop, punk and alternative rock has a new EP out titled, I’m Still Alive. It’s an appropriate title, given that the band has appeared, disappeared and reappeared in many incarnations an forms over the years, going back to the 90′s when they were known as “The Other Side.” It’s great to see musicians displaying such tenacity and continuing to come back to what they love and do well.
The band features good clean guitars and a solid vocalist. One of their newest songs, Heartbreak (or How to Get Over It) could almost be described as “adult pop punk” but without whiny vocals. The singer is very good in fact, giving the track a dynamic and full quality which enhances the melody of the song rather than merely going through the motions. The tracks on this EP could very well qualify as potential pop hits, if we were still living slightly in another time when bands like Third Eye Blind were in high demand and before we entered the terrible era of garbage pop music we’re mired in now. I”m Still Alive is essentially indie music that’s produced at radio quality, released at a rather unfortunate time. There is always room somewhere for high quality music made by professionals, though. I’m pleased to say that Rainy Day Crush is operating in that space, filling the void with these catchy and coherent jams. They also have a cool album cover imo.
I used to always hear this song in department stores and never realized who sang it, though I recognized the singer’s voice as being similar to the girl who sang the “I Know What Boys Like” song, (which I hated and would instantly flee the dance floor when it would be played at mid 00′s hipster DJ nights.) Well, turns out it is the same singer and band, and I just couldn’t compute that a band that played a song I despised so much could have created one that is an absolute masterpiece. Christmas Wrapping is an amazing song, maybe the best Christmas song ever. Patty Donahue unfortunately died at a young age (only 40.) RIP
2. Taylor Swift – Last Christmas
I know I know, but seriously I prefer this version to the Wham! version. This song is just better with a female voice and preferably one that doesn’t morph it into some kind of excessive adlib R&B monstrosity with all kinds of extra eeee’s and aaaaaah’s (like what is commonly done to the national anthem when singers get unnecessarily creative.) Anyway, the first time I really began to appreciate this song was in 2012. I was in Las Vegas alone and miserable on Christmas that year in what I look back on as my favorite vacation of my life, and there was a band on Fremont St called “Candy and the Canes” which was playing this song in the Taylor Swift style. Now whenever I hear it, it takes me back.
3. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Christmas All Over Again
Admittedly, I have never been much of a Tom Petty fan. His songs typically remind me of a really horrible era in the early 90′s where kids in my class would randomly belt out lyrics to Free Fallin’ in phony southern accents. It was a dark time period. Christmas All Over Again on the other hand conjurs up an entirely different memory. In the winter of 1996, I was living on my own in Phoenix, coming into my (now long gone) prime as a young man. This song would play in a jam packed, Paradise Valley mall (now almost literally a shadow of its former self.) Melrose place reruns aired daily on the E! Channel, and most of the people in my family were still alive back then. What an exciting time it was. Also, RIP Tom Petty.
4. Captain Sensible – One Christmas Catalogue
Not much to say about this one. Another department store classic. I don’t have any personal anecdote that colors my perception of this song. It is just a really great song, and just has that “1980′s lost in thought on a drive in the middle of the night through the city” feel to it. If you know, then you know.
5. Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters – Mele Kalikimaka
Of course, this song always reminds me of the diving board scene in Christmas Vacation. That is reason to like it in and of itself. It’s also one of those songs where everyone butchers the lyrics and just mumbles something random at the “mele kalikimaka” part. What most people don’t realize though, is that this is a great tune to repeatedly sing when you want to annoy your girlfriend (perhaps second only to pretty much any song by Edd “Kookie” Byrnes.) I only say the main part correctly about 3% of the time, but she rolls her eyes, and pleads for me to stop (in an exasperated tone) no matter what kind of gibberish I try to pass off as the chorus.
Well well well, what a pleasant surprise this is. It’s not every day that I’m fortunate enough get to review something that I personally would listen to, but this is just one of those days. hERON is a collaborative effort between Progeny of Chisme/Ghost Palace (MPC, guitar, records) and Rob Castro of Grayskul/Chisme/Ghost Palace (bass.) It is also long distance musical project between Seattle and San Antonio.
hERON has released a self titled album,(12 songs) and it’s damn good. It has a very authentic 60s-70s psychedelic vibe. The sound and production give it a very retro aesthetic but not in a tryhard way. It’s like if someone recorded an album on an old analog 4-track, but they really knew what they were doing so it came out better than 99% of major label releases.
The opening track is titled “chillmode,” a nice little scratchy instrumental jam that would not seem out of place on practically any 1970s Japanese film soundtrack. I thought for a minute that maybe the whole album would be instrumental only, but some tracks like “Kissed Dreams” include vocals, which have a nice warm “AM radio” tone. My favorite song on the album is probably “Flipout,” which could best be described as elevator muzak you might imagine yourself hearing while wandering through a haunted dead mall, and I like elevator muzak.
Anyway, there’s a lot of good stuff in here, so I recommend you check out hERON if you have good taste. This bad boy is available on cassette and vinyl as well as digitally.
Chapter X is a new release from Audiobreeze, an artist based in Sofia, Bulgaria. The song bills itself a “melancholic piano piece,” but really it is so much more. The tone may be evoke emotions of sadness, yet it comes in the form of a lovely and elaborate musical composition. Chapter X is pure ambiance. The slow piano pacing, deep space sounds and rain (yes, the song actually has rain,) provide the track with a brooding atmosphere. It all has a very “cinematic” feel to it. While I listened to it, I actually pictured sad, contemplative scenes from various films I have seen. Though it’s only one track, this is a very professional release, and hopefully we’ll see more from this artist.
Barcelona based duo, Voluptas Mors have created an eclectic electronica musical experience with their recent releases, which blend many styles of music to formulate a sound that is both familiar and original. One of their latest releases titled “Imagination” combines 80s synth vibes with contemporary sounding indie vocals. It’s a good combo, creating an energetic and lively brand of indie pop. Their simple yet peppy song “I Love You,” provides the best example of this. This music belongs on a movie soundtrack, (hopefully a movie good enough to deserve it.)
Another one of their jams released earlier this year, “intelligence” is more chill and laid back. The best way for me to describe the song would be as a form of “futuristic lounge music.” Beautiful female vocals with an slow and ambient synth backing.
Rhett Retko’s “And I Told Her So” (From the EP Thnx For The Ride) fuses classic rock’n’roll with contemporary style. This is impressively achieved without coming off as a throwback or “retro” novelty band. The musiciansmanship here is excellent, and the band works well together as a cohesive unit. It’s almost like they held a casting call / audition like The Monkees and got the best people they could find for each available spot in the group. Both performatively and aesthetically, they all seem to be on the same page, too. The music comes of as a cross between 60′s garage rock and 90′s alternative, with some contemporary influence as well. “And I Told Her So” features charismatic performances and quite nice technical guitar work. The vocals are on key and fairly dynamic, right where they should be (and I’m even basing that on the live version.) The energy and enthusiasm of Rhett Retko are contagious.
“Dark Matter” is the fourth album from Nega Blast X (a trance, techno and industrial music project formed in 2010 by Burbank Music Arranger, Author and Digital Artist Dominic R.) The album gets right down to business with the opening title track, which is high octane dance music, with an edge. It is a solid club jam, the kind of song that makes you feel like you just downed an energy drink and are off to hit the dance floor.
The album stays fairly consistent throughout, with a few nice twists. “Cutter” for example is one of those more uplifting techno songs that’s a little more cerebral, yet just when you think you have it figured out, the track transitions to some NES-like, chiptune music. I can’t explain how or why it works. It just does. “Electric Rain” has a more serious quality to it. It opens like an epic opera would be very good for a late night chase scene in a film. “Fire Bomb” and “The Fifth” are the darkest songs on the album. They’re just plain badass.
What impresses me about this album is the way the artist is able to generate emotion, mood and ambiance without lyrics or vocals to direct you. I mean maybe it helps if you have an imagination, but there’s no denying that these songs make you “feel” something and tap into your central nervous system. There are some powerful forces at work here, dark forces. My favorite song on this album, is probably “Electric Rain,” which is a beautiful musical composition and adds another dimension to this project.
Black Bluebirds describe themselves as “an electrifying power trio from Minneapolis, Minnesota.” One of their newest tracks is titled “Love Kills Slowly” and is featured on their new album “Like Blood For Music.” The style and sound is low-key reminiscent of Bowie or Freddie Mercury, but darker, more avante garde and overall a little less flamboyant. The song features some really impressive singing, with the vocalist really going all out in ways that would have given Iron Maiden a run for their money. The whole thing is a nice eclectic mix of synthpop, indie rock and (glam?) metal, performed by some real professional musicians that know what they doing.