Category Archives: Indie

Album Review: Johnathan Richman – SA

Sometimes you forget about things because you’re  just so preoccupied with life.

That normal routine, if you’re like me, starts with coffee and ends with exhaustion.  What I’m basically trying to get at is that I forgot to do something.  It was an honest mistake though.

I forgot to take a few moments to myself and write about the latest release by Johnathan Richman titled SA.

SA is Richman’s 17th album as a solo singer/songwriter.  Once again on Blue Arrow Records, Richman has recorded an eccentric yet honest, poetic album where he sings about everything from love, dancing, and even a creative point of view from a dog.  It’s simply art put to music.

According to Blue Arrow Records on their Bandcamp site, “SA, the root note in Indian ragas, was what Ramakrishna,
the much beloved mystic, told his spiritual students to search for underneath all things of this world.”  Chances are if you are reading this, you know Richman and why he would reference such.

Album title track “SA” opened up with a relaxed, island-y feel and had Richman singing of focus and love without hesitation.  The sitar, at least that is what it sounded like to me, complimented Richman’s strumming.

Subtle quirks were heard in Richman’s pitch throughout “The Fading Of An Old World”.  This track really had a lot going on musically when you sit back and listen.  On top of it, Richman did what he does best in flowing ample and intense lyrics throughout.

“O Mind! Let Us Go Home” held as an eccentric tune that had some likable psychedelic qualities.  The jazzy drumming behind the tambura playing kept things beyond mysterious.

Richman sounded so youthful in “O Mind! Just Dance”, a track that seemingly was a continuation of the previous ‘O Mind’ track.  This experimental track became one of my favorites the moment Richman just started opening up and going on a positive tangent about not worrying.  I loved how he seemingly turned his attention and spoke to the audience halfway through asking everyone to forget and dance.

“¡Alegre Soy!” was just amazing as it was a peppy, cheerful song.  Sung mostly in Spanish, the song really just built up so well.  I instantly adored the track the moment Richman just started doing a spoken word about how happiness surrounded his life.  I could hear him smiling as he spoke about always being happy in his life for the most part.  Once the track ended, I was just left with such a good feeling in my heart.

“Yes, Take Me Home” was easily my favorite track off this release.  As someone who has rescued a dog more than once, I because almost a little emotional listening to Richman speak as a sheltered canine with an undisclosed past.  I loved the harmonium playing accompanying Richman’s guitar, but I just wish I knew if the dog was taken home.

“And Do No Other Thing” was an instant classic for me.  Songs like this one were what turned me into a Richman fan in the first place.  It was romantic yet blunt with completeness especially when everyone came together at the end.

This album, in my opinion, was far more entertaining and good-spirited than the last making for a great listen.  Richmond, at times, sounded as if he got lost in the moment more than once and did not once chance his approach at what he was born to do: Entertain.

I should note that Richman and Tommy Larkins currently are on tour in support of SA.  I was lucky enough to catch them a few weeks back at the Grog Shop in Cleveland  and I will tell you, it was probably one of my favorite intimate performances that I have ever seen.

I went to that show purely as a fan and not to review it and left with a happy vibe that lasted well past the car ride home and the next work day.  It was my first time seeing him live even though I have been a fan for longer than half my life.  He was everything I had hoped for.

With that said, if Johnathan and Tommy made it to your neck of the woods during this tour or even the next, just go.  You will not be disappointed.  Even if you are not terribly familiar with his material, I can honestly say you will be entertained by one of the best.

SA is available on CD and for download on Bandcamp.  Look for a cassette and LP release in early 2019.

Album Review: Restorations – LP5000

I might as well disclose that Philadelphia’s Restorations are easily one of my favorite bands out there.  So if this review sounds biased, well…it is.

Keeping along the lines of a pre-famed Gaslight Anthem and The Menzingers, I have always been attracted to what Restorations produce album after album.  I owe it all to the band’s former and current label Tiny Engines actually, as they were the ones to introduce me to them many years back by just tossing me an EP my way to review.  The rest is history for me as a fan.

LP5000 is the band’s 4th release and to be perfectly honest, this might be their best one yet.  It’s a quick one which sucks because you know, I wanted more, but it’s full of some memorable tracks with equal impacting lyrics and music.

“St.” started off the album with a powerful jam with Jon Loudon and his all too welcoming raspy vocals.  This was kind of a triumphant introduction with haste and honesty thrown hard.  This song’s best moments where when the band came together with force.  It was a perfect indication that this album was going to rule.

“Nonbeliever” followed with more of a political approach about personal current affairs and life in general.  With lines like, “if you burn all the fires, they’re going to make you the king” and the all too close to home “got a partner for starters and a kid on the way/can’t be doing this dumb shit no more.”  The song manages to hit the head on so many points as it progressed onward.

“Remains” was a rocker touching on past memories that probably would have best been buried rather than unearthed due to such disdainful change.  The track carried a great 90s alt-rock feel to it even if it make me want to hang my head low.

Loudon repeating ” no I don’t want to hear that name again” on “Melt” just added to an emo track of sorts clearly about someone once held in a higher regard.  This track was beautiful and dreary at the same time with electronic sounding beats layered behind simple guitar picking.

“The Red Door” was incredibly athematic and contained a guitar solo that easily could suck in some well-deserved attention.  Add to the catchy drumming and bass-line, and you have yourself a quality track that really showcased the talent this band carries.

“Eye” was more Postal Service sounding at first with the electronic noise but was not at all discouraging.  This song was not like the others and was well-received by this listener.  I loved the more experimental approach and word has it that there is a locked grove that permits this song to loop infinitely.  I can not wait for my copy to get here so I can see if there is truth to that.

I have listened to LP5000 over and over (easily 20+ times now) since it’s release and have not gotten tired of it once.  I will tell you it is a lot different from their earlier stuff and is just the cause of maturity and experimentation.  Personally, I adore this new sound.

Of course LP5000 is hitting my best of list for 2018.  Albums like this are the ones I hold onto for the rest of my life and sporadically will spin when I just can’t seem to find anything else to listen to.

I lucked out and caught them on tour a few weeks back when they played the Grog Shop in Cleveland with my pals Signals Midwest and let me tell you, they are even better live.

Anyways, I feel like I do that whole “do yourself a favor and check this band/album out” shtick of a closing sentence, but I am dead serious this time: This band is far more talented than I feel they are credited for and I’m fairly sure you will agree with me upon listening.

Album Review: Curtail – All Your Luck

I’ve known Jesse Sloan for a while now thanks to places like The Gurley House and It’s a Kling Thing.

I was a big fan of his two-piece Cherry Cola Champions and remember when he pulled me aside at some local show telling me he had something new he was working on and could not wait to share it with me.

Mind you that was a year or two ago, but I was intrigued the moment he told me of what he was working on.  My curiosity was finally satisfied when he told me about Curtail, a new band featuring some other familiar names in acts I adore including Eric Sandt (The Ground is Lava), Dan Corby (Bethesda), and Ben Hendricks (Annabel).

Cleveland’s Curtail dropped their debut All Your Luck at the end of May on Skeletal Lightning Records.  A supergroup of sorts with all angles of talent combined resulted in a hell of a listen.  I hate that I am just getting around to talking about it when it has been on regular rotation since it dropped over a month ago.  Still, it needs to be noted.

“Rush Hour” started the album off a bit reserved but with good measure.  Half way in, the song kicked it up a notch and made for a great listen overall.  “Smile” continued with the trend and the group vocals mad it so much more fun to nod my head to.  I especially loved Sloan’s erupted singing style throughout.

“The Lesson” is the track that completely won me over.  Taking queues from 90s alt- rock past, this song ruled in so many ways. This  is what New Radicals would have sounded like if they were an emo band.  Please note that I adore the 90s one hit wonder Gregg Alexander band so this is not a diss at all.  This song was catchy, emotional and perfect for summer listening.

I loved hearing “Good Year” as I felt I really related pertaining to the ups and downs throughout life.  This emo jam intermittently erupted into a grudge track  this former flannel wearing teenager approved of.

“Come Around” was an uppity, fuzzy jam that reminded me some of The Promise Ring.  Clearly the content was about overcoming, but brought forth in a positive way – at least musically.  This was one of my other favorite tracks on the album.

“Sleight of Hand” was another favorable song for me.  You could just head the fun Sloan was having singing this song.  I loved the many references only Northeast Ohioans would appreciate.

“Glow” completely moved into more of a chilled out that probably would have faired well to a crowd in a smoky, cramped venue in the 90s full of thrift store cardigans and Doc Martins.

“Skyscraper” easily could have been a Sense Field track that never was released.  This post-hardcore closing track was good on so many levels from the singing, the drumming, and of course the guitar playing that eventually faded out in a fuzzy departure.

For someone like me who grew up in the 90s and was obsessed with indie and alternative rock, All Your Luck really brought me back some.  Sloan and crew really dropped something special that deserves all of the attention of music fans.  Give it a listen, I highly doubt you will be disappointed if you still think music from the 90s was the best.

Check Curtail out on BandCamp and support the living daylights out of them by downloading All Your Luck.  I hope I can check them out live so I can give them all hi-fives for dropping one of my favorite releases of 2018.

 

 

Check It Out: Sweet Apple’s Music Video For “A Girl and a Gun”

As someone who grew up in the 90s, I have a strong appreciation for bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Guided By Voices.  It really should come to no surprise that I am a huge fan of Sweet Apple.

Sweet Apple features local heroes John Petkovic (Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde) and Tim Parnin (Sons of Elvis, Cobra Verde) along with J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr., Witch) and  Dave Sweetapple (Witch).

Sweet Apple’s 2017 release Sing the Night in Sorrow was one of my favorite albums of the year.  If you have not listened to it yet, you really should change that.

Today, the band dropped a crazy video for “A Girl and a Gun”.  You know the video is pure gold when you hear that Petkovic was actually arrested while making it.  I’d like to hear the details on that…

Check it out:

While you are at it, check out the video they released a few weeks back for “Everybody’s Leaving” starring Mark Boone Junior:

Check out Sweet Apple via the following links:
Facebook: facebook.com/sweetapplesongs
Twitter: twitter.com/sweetapplesongs
Website: sweetapplesongs.com

BHP Best of 2017

It’s crazy that 2017 is coming to an end already.  I feel like I always seem to say that around this time of the year, but it’s true.

It feels like it was just yesterday that I turned into a 40 year old.  Let me tell you, that was kind of a big change for me and I might have sulked about it for 7-8 months.

More importantly, my wife and I welcomed our amazing, chill little daughter to the world in July.  She is the coolest, but don’t tell my son I said that.

Clearly dadage life takes up most of my time these days and this blog is not what it used to be, but I still try to crank out reviews and whatnot when I can because I love it.

I may be busy with life, but I am always listening to music and have checked out tons of albums by amazing bands and artists.  Where I wish I could review everything that I have come across, I simply have to pick and choose when I can.

It’s been a tradition of sorts for me to do a Best Of post, and there is nothing I would rather do that share with you some of my favorite releases of 2017.  So, without further delay…[well maybe some as I am trying to narrow this down to just 20, but who am I kidding???  Edit: I might have added to this best of list a few times now…]

I ‘m super proud to say that four of my favorite releases in 2017 are all Cleveland bands so they obviously need to be mentioned first:


Heart & Lung – You Wanna Know the Truth?
This is the album that caught me by complete surprise.  My pal told me to check them out and I did and I loved this entire pop punk jam of an album to the point that I still listen to it almost daily.  If I was able to sign them and put out a record, I would have already.  This band has so much potential to be huge.


Heart Attack Man – The Manson Family

Words can really not express how great this album is.  It’s punk, it’s grunge, it’s good, and it’s comprised of great folk.  Do not sleep on this one.


Two Hand Fools – Falling In / Falling Out
I was lucky enough to hear this album over the summer and was beyond blown away by how amazing it was.  It is seriously the best thing the band has done so far and I adore it from start to finish.  This is one of Cleveland’s best bands if you ask me.


Warbrides – Regrets

Oh man this album rips…

Of course there were others too…


Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here

Do I really need to even say anything?  This album is damn near perfect.


Smith Street Band – More Scared of You Than You Are of Me
These Aussies have put out one of my favorite albums of the year.  I loved how catchy, fun, and overly personal it was.  I still have intentions on getting one of the lyrics off this album tattooed on me. I also need to buy the damn record already for my collection.


Propagandhi – Victory Lap 
It should say a lot how politically charged this album was from a Canadian band about the US mess we are in.  I really adore this album from start to finish.  It’s damn perfect.


Hot Water Music – Never Going Back
The more I listened to this album, the more I appreciated it.  It is a wiser, more mature release by this iconic punk band.


Scorpios – Scorpios Vol. 2

When Joey Cape told me in an interview that Scorpios might just return and someone with the initials C.C. would take over where Sly left off, I was beyond stoked and instantly knew it was Chris Cresswell.  This is one of the albums this year that everyone needs to just give a chance.


Demons – Embrace Wolf
I just found out about these guys from a good friend recently and I have listened to their debut release almost daily since.  This band packs a severe punch with their post-hardcore greatness.


Ho99o9 – United States of Horror
Hardcore punk mixed with hip hop?  Yes please.  This album was beyond insane.  Death Grips ain’t got nothing on these dudes.


Frank Carter and the Rattle Snakes – Modern Ruin
I miss Gallows so much, but what Frank Carter and crew released has me happy that he still puts himself out there for everyone to hear.  This is more of a rock album but it’s so rad.


Sweet Apple – Sing the Night in Sorrow
I was not sold on my first listen, but after a few more I realized I should have paid more attention the first time.  Remarkable release by some amazing musicians.


Anti-Flag – American Fall
I do not really care with anyone thinks here, Anti-Flag released a political, poignant album that everyone who has a clue needs to check out.  They have perfected their sound so much on this album.


The Flatliners – Inviting Light
Upon first listen I was not totally sold on the band tapping their brakes compared to previous releases, but the more and more listened to it, the more and more I appreciated what they had to offer.  This really is a hell of an album.


Fred Thomas – Changer
This man can do no wrong.  I love his style and uniqueness and the fact he gets excited about my Instagram posts every once in a while.  His latest release just hit me as it encompassed change.


Body Count – Bloodlust
Back in ’93, I was a huge Body Count fan.  I am sure I can still recite most of the lyrics off their debut.  After that first album, I just never got into them the same.  Then Bloodlust came out and once again they have grabbed my attention.  Ice T, Ernie C, and crew really delivered a heavy ass album with plenty of special guests.


Menzingers – After the Party
I feel like every album they release I am putting it on my best of list, but hey, it rules and deserves to be noted.


Ride – Weather Diaries
This album is incredible from start to finish.  I honestly was not expecting this seeing how the band hadn’t released material in over 20 years.  Clearly I am dumb for thinking that.


A Giant Dog – Toy
This band is straight up insane and I love the hell out of them for that.


Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One)

I was strangely fascinated with this kid and his emo rap to the point that I was listening to this album almost daily.  I could not stand some of the topics he was singing about and just felt like I was too old to even admit I was listening, but I loved the music and his overall singing style.  Sadly he OD’d last month so the world will never know how big he could have gotten.  I really felt this kid had so much talent.


Tim Barry – High On 95

Once again this man has taken his honest music and beat up all the emotions inside of me.  Working class hero musician with storytelling abilities like none other.


Quicksand – Interiors
I honestly was not anticipating this release to be as good as it is.  I hate to be that guy, but I was not impressed with the couple of tracks the band released prior to the album.  Little did I know they were just puzzle pieces to a killer album.


Iron Reagan – Crossover Ministry
So much thrash goodness here.  Also, best album cover too.


Needles // Pins – Good Night, Tomorrow
I am thinking that a lot of people might not have hear of these guys here in the states, but you can change that.  This punk rock group released a great album.  Note to self:  Buy the LP already!


The Electric Grandmother – Cancelled.
There is no way I was going to overlook this concept album by two very close friends of mine.  Even if they are too good to play a Cleveland show, I love them dearly and am amazed with Cancelled.  It’s the best thing they have done to date in my opinion.

Honorary Mentions:

  • Choke Up – Stormy Blue
  • Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Warriors
  • Shedders – Dangerous Jumps
  • Rancid – Trouble Maker
  • Gorillaz – Humanz
  • The Afghan Whigs – In Spades
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In:  The Greatestest Hits
  • Ethan Danial Davidson – Crows
  • No Use For A Name – Rarities Vol. 1: The Covers
  • Stutter Steps – Floored
  • Western Addiction – Tremulous
  • Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
  • Japandroids – Near To the Wild Heart of Life
  • Swingin’ Utters – Drowning in the Sea, Rising with the Sun: Best of Swingin’ Utters
  • TSOL – The Trigger Complex
  • Greg Graffin – Millport
  • Powerflo – Powerflo
  • Quicksand – Interiors
  • Beck – Colors

As always, this was fun to take some time and think about all the great releases that came out over the past year.  I probably could have put even more up here, but the ones listed (along with the honorable mentions) are the ones that impacted me the most.

I’m glad I did not sunset this site as I actually thought about over the summer.  I’m going on 10 years now and after careful thought have no intentions of closing shop anytime soon.

A big you to all the bands and the great PRs who have even thought of asking me to check something new out.  I am sorry I can not always get the review out, but I promise you, I listen to just about everything that is sent my way.

Thank you to you if you are reading this for checking out my site.  Whether you are new or visit often, I appreciate you for checking me out.  Without you, this site would be meaningless.

Happy Holidays to you and yours and all that jazz.