Tag Archives: Music

EP Review: Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)

It seems like every punk band out there is dropping acoustic albums as of late.  This facade may come off as lazy or desperate to some, but when stripped down right, it makes so much sense.  Still, it is easy to just dismiss them because of how many are out there.

I have to give it to Unwritten Law though who first captured my fascination with the whole punk rock bands doing acoustic renditions of their songs years back.  I remember hearing Music in High Places and becoming obsessed instantly.  Then Rancid busted out an acoustic set in front of me live once at one of their shows and I adored it.  Perhaps this aging punker just enjoys slowing down things a little bit.

When I heard Face To Face was releasing an EP of acoustic versions of their songs over the years, I was nervous.  Mind you Face To Face is easily one of my all time favorite bands from my 90s, I was worried that it would not go well, but I couldn’t have been so wrong.

Hold Fast simply is songs from Face To Face’s 30+ years (with a slight hiatus) career put into an acoustic style.  Perhaps sparked from their “Econo-Live Tour”, the band decided it was their turn to try.  Actually, Face To Face did acoustic sets years back as I remember a friend’s band opening for them and quickly having to learn how to relearn their songs so they could stay on the bill with them – Back to this EP though.

Hold Fast is listed as an EP, but at 33 minutes, it could easily be an album.  I was impressed to see 10 songs tracked on the Fat Wreck Chords release and was more impressed with where they call came from on their discography.

“All For Nothing” started off the EP with an alt-country twangy version of the catchy Laugh Now, Laugh Later track that I am sure Lucero fans would totally appreciate.  I quickly realized after this song alone the amount of time put in by Face To Face to transformed them into a completely different style.

“Disconnected” was the song I was most worried to hear.  This radio-friendly track that caught the most attention on Big Choice was part of the soundtrack to my life in the late 90s and I’m still quite fond of it to this day.  I held off listening to this song at first and waited until the album came out to take it in.  I had nothing to worry about.  This song was perfected transformed from a pop punk jam to an acoustic masterpiece.  I loved everything about this song from Keith’s slowed down singing to the backing vocals and even the guitar playing.

I was kind of shocked to hear “Keep Your Chin Up” the EP as it was a new song, but as soon as the chorus started I immediately understood.  It fit perfectly.

“Don’t Turn Away” was completely dissected and put together as one hell of a track.  The lyrics remain the same, but everything else about it screams alt-country with even some rockabilly qualities to it.  This was such an enjoyable track to rediscover though a different genre.  Just wait for that guitar solo.

“Aok” was another version I just absorbed and adored instantly.  This is one of those other songs that was part of the soundtrack of my life and hearing it on a different caliber was just so appreciated.

I can not say every track on the EP blew me away as some were at status quo like “Ordinary” and even “Velocity”, but I did not skip past a single song.  Nothing was completely unbearable which led me to believe the band truly gave it their all.

I truly feel Face To Face did this for the sake of trying something new and not looking for a quick paycheck (leave that to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes).  These So. Cal. punks have matured so much since back in the day and clearly have moved past their punk rock roots musically.  I really think people who never were into Face To Face are going to hear this and become fans of these renderings.  I am also hoping they just decided to make new music in this style.  I have the feeling it would be amazing.

Don’t dismiss this EP at all folks.  Face To Face is far more talented than you think, especially if you just assume they are just some aging punk rock band looking for a quick payday.

Album Review: Johnny La Rock – Gold Codes

I hate to break it to you, but summer is almost over.  Soon it’s going to be cold and miserable out.  

No need to get depressed just yet though as there is still plenty of time to get rad.  Luckily Johnny La Rock is here to add fuel to that fire with his debut, dance-your-pants-off release titled Gold Codes.

Cleveland native La Rock, aka Eddie Fleisher, once showcased his talent in hip-hop duo Johnny La Rock & Mushmouth as well as Presque Vu, but has taken an entirely new approach that surely will appeal to all those looking for a good time. 

Gold Codes is La Rock’s solo debut album that is more or less a “life can’t get any worse, let’s party like those people did in Independence Day on top of that skyscraper before the aliens blew that shit up” album.  Yeah, I just said that.  It’s pop, it’s soul, it’s electronic, and most importantly, it’s good.

“Dance to the Rhythm (Party Time)” started things off just right with a body-moving jam complete with a little 90s inspired hip hop enthusiasm.  This was a sincere as hell track that really will make you want to get down.

The inspirational “210 and Mustache” more or less punched negativity in the throat and walked away proud with your head up high.  If you do not know what 210 refers to, go ahead and just Google that along with Urban Dictionary.  

“Swipe Left” is a honest yet candid track about the norm that is called online dating.  I loved the line “you seem cool on the internet, in real life you’re insane.”  I loved the vintage video dating samples, it accompanied perfectly.

“Keep On Keepin’ On” was a fun instrumental jam as was the 80s thriller sounding “Phantasm”.  It was cool to have both songs just change things up for a moment without losing momentum.  Least I not forget about “Lumin8”, that was solid too.

“Blue Away” was an uplifting alternative to shake off any funk currently holding anyone back.  No lie, this song cheered me up.  I think a music video is in order for this one (hint, hint).

“Gold Codes” stuck on me for some reason.  I think it was more or less because I’ve felt what La Rock sung about on a few occasions over the past 20 years.  This was the fight jam I needed to remind me that retaliation happens in many forms as long as you don’t give up.

I’ve seen La Rock live a few times when he focused on rap and most recently with programmer Furface and I have to admit, I am a bigger fan of his solo stuff than I thought I would be.  At first I was set back because I was expecting the hip hop, but when the soul-pop dropped, I was an instant fan.

I have to note that this album fueled my recent trip to Vegas and if I had it my way, I would have played it for everyone around me at all hours.  The release has jumped up high as one of my favorites of 2018 and I’m not sure any music quite like this will be topping it.  I speak high praises because I thoroughly enjoyed almost this entire album from start to finish many times over.

La Rock is the Har Mar Superstar of Cleveland and even manages to keep his clothes on during live sets.  

Interpersonal ,humorous party vibes a al Electric Six, La Rock knows how to deliver a good time to all his fans.  

Check out what La Rock has to offer below and hopefully you’ll agree that it does not disappoint at all.

Album Review: Kali Masi – Wind Instrument

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this excited by a new band.

You know that feeling, music that once it hits your ears, it’s pure gold.  It catches you off guard in a good, good way and all you can do is just enjoy it over and over and be thankful you were introduced to them.

Kali Masi, hailing from Chicago, dropped an album on Take This To Heart Records that so good that I’ve been listening to it non-stop for about two weeks now.  I found myself instantly a fan of them and each time I listened to their release, I appreciated it more and more.  I hate that it took me this long to learn about them.

Wind Instrument is the foursome’s debut release, but from the sound of it, you’d think this band has been around forever.  Full of energy and hard-knocked feelings meshed with catchy as hell punk rock tunes is probably the best way to describe these guys.  Think Luther meets Smoke or Fire and Restorations.

“Some Friends” opened up the album not holding back one bit with  “you’ve got a funny way of coming clean” immediately targeting someone who needed to be called out for who they are.  This track blew me away and I immediately knew that I was going to love this album.

“Her Palms Were Read” continued with intense, honest recollections of relationship truth.  The chorus proved that with a stern “If I could count the ways I need you, am I just wasting all my time?”  Everything was likable on this track, especially the guitar playing at the end.  I always appreciate a good rock out.

“Powerline Days” ruled.  The music and lyrics were so damn catchy and perfect all revolving around love.  My favorite part was the harmonies added with the hooks in the middle followed by a simple guitar solo.  The video was top-notch too (check it out below).

“Love is unconditional but I’m in no condition to love” as heard on “Jejune” was such a brutally honest lyric on this self-destructing track.  Once I heard it, it just stuck with me and all I could think of was how I once identified with that statement.  Heartbreak of any type hurts and you can hear it in this track.

“Recurring (II)” was full of hooks and catchy singing that anyone would find themselves getting into.  “Ghost (The Pottery Scene)” carried the same likable qualities after but slowed things down some with a ton of reminiscing, slight regret, and brutal self-actualization.

Listening “Your Other Left” brought back a lot of buried memories from past relationships.  I have got to hand it to Kali Masi, these guys really know how put their lyrics together providing for explicit visualizations.  I can not say the memories were ones I wanted to recall, but I can tell you, I appreciated hearing them as told from someone else.  Musically, this track was amazing to listen to with a slight eruption towards the end.

Finishing up the album was “C.A.”, a punk rock balled of sorts.  The whole band really came together on this one making for an incredible listen.  Right when I thought it was over, the band dug deeper into their pocketful of feelings and belted out “what kid of fool would fall in love with someone who gave up on themselves?  What it takes to be happy, I don’t know.”  This was the moment I knew this band was destined for greatness.

Wind Instrument was the surprise release I have been looking to hear for a long time now.  Kali Masi pretty much has gotten me just as excited as when a young Menzingers released Chamberlain Waits.  Just by one album I knew they were striving for greatness and I hope to hell Kali Masi does the exact same, these dudes have serious potential.

I hate that I missed these guys last year when the album dropped as they would have shot to the top of my Best Of List, but honestly, these guys are going to be in my regular rotation for some time to come.  Do yourself a favor and check them out.  I hope you will appreciate them as much as I do.

The Most Underrated Rock ‘n Roll Artist in the Past 5 Years – The White Buffalo

[It’s been a while since one of my pals has guest blogged on this here ol’ site, but when Frank reached out to me recently with something he wrote asking me to check it out, I just had to share it.  Great read by a great dude. – Brian]

As we gingerly step into 2018, our world has become consumed by politics.  Our news are politics, our “Funny-Shows” are politics, our comedians are politics, and with all of this, our world has become a house divided.  Before all this though, there was an even greater divide happening in a much more important arena, the music arena.

Over the past five years, rock ‘n roll has been the passenger on a downward trend, taking it further and further from the main-stream, and closer to obscurity. Some would debate that the greatest reason for this is the general malaise and declining quality of the rock ‘n roll form, while others place their bets behind the “Only Big Enough for One of Us” philosophy regarding the rap vs. rock debate.  Despite all the bluster and hot air one thing is quite factual, that as of last year, it is documented that hip hop has taken over the head of the pack in the music world.

With this seismic change in the musical landscape, artists that should have been on the fast track to super-stardom and all that entails have been pushed down into what was characteristically deemed the “independent” group.  Artists that should get the elusive radio play and playing to thousands of people at a time are lucky to get on college radio and play the back rooms of the established venues.  Those that should be in the limelight, have transitioned into unknown or the tombstone title of “niche”.

One artist that doesn’t belong in any of these secondary groups, one artists who stands on musical talent rather than glitz and bling, the most underrated artist in recent memory is The White Buffalo.

The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith, can undoubtedly be placed at the top of the list of underrated artists in the shrinking rock genre of today’s musical society.  With vocals that range from haunting, as heard in “The Whistler” and “Come Join the Murder”, and travel up the spectrum to romantic, spotlighted in “Love Song #1”  and “Come On Love Come On In”, all the way to a tone that could be called soulful and introspective, divinely illustrated in “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or upbeat, like “Avalon”.

Smith’s music cannot be classified and gently placed into a nice tight fitting box.  It can go from straight rock ‘n roll to a little bit of twang, from bordering country to in your face melodic yelling.  And maybe there’s the rub – because with the push he’s gotten, it doesn’t make sense that he’s being pushed down into the lands of obscurity.

Case in point, ask the average, run of the mill, rock ‘n roll fan, what is the most popular show that they have watched in the last 10 years, that they still watch on Netflix, the show that had one of the best soundtracks ever, that they owned the t-shirts, the hoodies, the hats, and the merch, that they watched or recorded or DVRed EVERY TIME IT WAS ON TELEVISION, and most of them will say the same thing: Sons of Anarchy.  And this juggernaut of a show, Sons of Anarchy, was the first introduction for the White Buffalo to the masses.

Smith’s music accompanied some of the most disturbing, some of the most poignant, some of the most influential, and some of the most powerful scenes of the entire show.  When Clay gets his back tattoo blacked out in shame, enter “The Whistler”, or when Tara, Jax’s wife realizes her negative transformation and pulls a gun on Jax and then leaves him, scored by “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or arguably the most powerful moment of the show, when Jax rides his bike to certain doom in the series finale, there was only one song that could properly usher this show out and push the main character off of this mortal coil properly, and it was “Come Join the Murder” by the White Buffalo.

Smith had a spotlight shone on him from one of the most heavily watched shows of the decade, his music led in scenes that there was no going back from, and his music was the prototype for the entire soundtrack, and yet for some reason he is not shining his Grammys or counting his movie credits.  And there is no reason for that.  Other than the fact that he has been criminally underrated by the powers that be in the music industry, and this fact is in fact, a crime.

Since his contributions to SOA, he has not rested on his laurels, nor has he let the show define him.  He has put together three stellar albums: Shadows, Greys, and Evil WaysLove and the Death of Damnation, and most recently Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, which illustrates his stunning mix of the rock ‘n roll, deep, deep blues, and outlaw country.

Smith continues to prove that he is actually the preeminent musical story-teller in music today.  The White Buffalo’s music gives listeners a constant reminder that although one might look brash and gruff on the outside, the inside can be a cauldron of emotions and feelings and thoughts and ideas.  Every album is a different trip to a different place, exploring different roads to get to the destination.

The masses are missing some of the greatest rock ‘n roll that has ever been produced, and what is ever more disappointing than that fact, is that they don’t even know it.  The White Buffalo entrusts personal stories to the listener, that many people could relate to and enjoy.  The White Buffalo is the everyman, with a badass growl, a tender soul.  He’s someone you’d have a beer with anytime and the most underrated rock ‘n roll musician in recent history.

Seek him out, watch him, listen to him, go to his concerts – just do yourself a favor and enjoy his work.

-FS

 

Check It Out: Alkaline Trio Announce Past Live Box Set Pre-Order

New year, new reason to spend money you should be paying your heating bill with.

Alkaline Trio has announced they are dropped the mother of all boxsets in 2018 to celebrate their band turning old enough to buy a 6-pack of Black Label legally in the state of Ohio.

Past Live is the bands full catalog but live versions that were recorded in Chicago over the past couple years in audio and video versions.

The bundles include:

Past Live Box Set 8xLP (Colored Vinyl):

  • All 8 LPs collected together in a box that is exclusive to the Past Live Deluxe Bundles. All LPs pressed on limited edition colored vinyl.

A 4 disc Blu-ray set features the band performing all 8 albums live in superior 5.1 audio for your listening and viewing pleasure:

  • Disc 1 – My Shame Is True – Goddamnit
  • Disc 2 – This Addiction – Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
  • Disc 3 – Agony & Irony – From Here To Infirmary
  • Disc 4 – Crimson – Good Mourning

The albums will be sold separately as will the blu-ray set.  The boxset however is only available though a bundle.  I have this feeling this will sell out fast.

Here is what the band had to say about this awesome collection:

We are proud to unveil a project we’ve been working on for a while now: Past Live. We recorded all eight studio albums live at our show at the Metro in Chicago, and now we bring it to you ONLY for limited time preorder (order by Feb 9). Each album will be a different colored neon vinyl to match the album cover. Additionally, we have a four-disc Blu-Ray (2 albums on each disc) that was recorded in HD and mixed in 5.1 surround sound. For our Super Deluxe bundle we’ve taken our old backdrops from over the years and crafted them in to large tote bags with a zip top and side pocket. Plus you will receive a custom sleeve for all eight vinyl, a band signed 12″x12″ screened and numbered art poster and a Past Live T-shirt.

These limited quantity super deluxe bundles will sell for $315. We will also offer the Deluxe (everything but the backdrop bag), for $275. Individual albums on vinyl and the Blu-ray are available to purchase ala carte.

Preorder yours now.  You have until February 9th to do so.  You can skip rent for a month, your landlord would understand.

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