Tag 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.

 

 

Album Review: Two Hand Fools – Falling In / Falling Out

Cleveland’s Two Hand Fools are back and have dropped their most important album to date in my opinion.

I’m sure you’ve heard this statement about various bands over and over by people, but honestly, I am dead serious stating this.

The rust-belt punkers are on top of their game in Falling In / Falling Out, putting out a release that has quickly jumped to the top of my best of 2017 list.

Comprised of quality dudes including Ryan Johns (guitar / vocals), Adam Paduch (drums), Tyler Sickels (guitar) , and Nick Schmitt (bass), it’s been 4 years since the band has dropped something and this specific release has actually been 2 years in the making.

With Paduch and Sickels focusing on Heart Attack Man most of the year, Falling In / Falling Out was put on hold until everyone could come together to support it together once it dropped.  Smart move if you ask me.  Hopefully the album releases soon as the band was not able to tell me an exact release date just yet.

I absolutely should mention that the cover art for this release was created by Cleveland artist John G.This is the band’s second full release.

At less than 30 minutes, this album sucked me in and had me wanting so much more by the end.  “Falling Out” complete with some sexy saxophone really got me excited (not in that way you perv) for the rest of the album and then suddenly “Spinning” started and I was sold.  I knew i would adore the rest of this album just after that song.

“Young Again” I think was written about a 40 year old blogger from Cleveland.  I kid about that, but this track had me reminiscing while listening to the harmonic track full of emotion and realistic thoughts.

I loved the compelling “Geraniums”, a track about self-realization and moving on. It’s not a very long song, but carries a sweet set of riffs, spot-on drumming, and is just fun to jam along with.

Following was “(Transitions)”, an instrumental tune that easily could have been pulled from the 90s.  This is the track that had me thinking to myself how mature this band has become.

The saxophone made a return in “Falling In”, an interlude of sorts and it was equally as sexy-sounding as the beginning.  This track moved into “Raindrops”, another short and sweet track that left a bite mark.

“Cut You Up” once again had the band doing what they do best – play together.  This was so genuine sounding and probably my favorite on the album that was far from being over-produced.  Perhaps a little deranged lyrically, I share that sentiment so naturally I dug this.

“No Tip” wasn’t too technical and because of it, it was an entertaining listen even if the somber track reflected a miserable serving.  Add in the ever important group vocals, and you have a damn fine song.  This was one of those emotional tracks that was just infectious to hear out.

“RGB” had some, you guessed it, sexy saxophone playing.  I clearly am joking about the sexiness and should say effectiveness because this song was 400 times better because of that woodwind playing throughout.  This was a hell of a track to end the album with.

I need to admit, the first time I heard Two Hand Fools years back, I was not sold.  In fact, I remember telling myself that they need to rearrange.  Who the hell am I to judge a hard-working group though?  I kept those comments to myself and kept on checking them out when I could.

I am glad I never dismissed them completely because since then they have become one of my favorite Cleveland bands.  I have watched them grow up and embrace who they are as musicians and to me, that is pretty goddamn amazing.

Falling In / Falling Out should serve as a solid testament of accomplishment to some pals who have been in it for 10 years now.  They really impressed me with this one.



Two Hand Fools play Mahall’s on Friday, Oct. 27 in support of this new release.

Album Review: The Electric Grandmother – Cancelled.

There’s great comfort in knowing how in this crazy ass world, two amazing people met from different timezones back in the mid-90s, fell in love, got married, and eventually had kids …a band.

The history behind The Electric Grandmother pretty much revolves around Pete and Mary Alice’s love for 80s and 90s sitcoms as well as absolute love for one another.  It is pretty inspiring where I sit here and think about it.

They are band-mates for life and two of the most genuine people I have gotten to know for over the past twenty-five years.  One grew up in Ohio, the other in Hawaii, it is like a living sitcom when you think about it.

Pete and Mary Alice were actually with me the night the Menzingers had to cancel their Kentucky show due to food poisoning and I miraculously got them in touch with Kent, NOFX’s manager.  I only mention that as they both thought I was the man that night for getting things right.  What can I say?  I’m a legend in my spare time.

In the past, I’ve failed to make mention of their releases as I had this moronic thought process where I would not review material from friend’s bands.  Clearly that has changed within the past couple of years.

I am not sure why I chose that route, but I can say that I almost would prefer to share the talent of those I know and love rather than keep it all to myself.  I am surrounded by some amazing people and it would be unfair not to share what I hear.

Enough about me, let’s talk about The Electric Grandmother some more.

Originally starting in Columbus back in 1999, the duo moved to D.C. and kept on a truckin’.  Their live shows are not to the norm and usually come with a slideshow and bubble machine.  I’ve never met a person who has not gotten a kick out of their shows.  Even the metalheads in Canton at some bizarre house-venue adored them.

The Electric Grandmother is not really for those who carry boundaries on their music genres or lack a humorous imagination.  To be a fan means you need to carry appreciation for experimental approaches and a love for sitcoms.  After all, this is the band that dubbed themselves “sitcom-core”.

Cancelled is a concept album of sorts about a man whose sanity is compromised by the cancellation of his favorite cop TV drama program by a new one.  The album digs far deeper with emotion than previous albums have as duo Pete and Mary Alice take a new approach at their appreciation for television by speaking of a man whose life is affected by change.

In fact, I will just let Pete and Mary Alice explain it a little more:

“Cancelled is this story of a man’s descent into madness following the cancellation of his favorite cop-drama. This is the unfortunate feedback the man received at his office, the mindless reaction to the shallow “Cop Force,” the show that caused “Police Department” to be pushed aside.”

With that said, I’m hoping you can understand the originality of this band and can appreciate the story that surrounds this album.  I know I did.

“TV” was the first track on the album with Pete singing and Mary Alice providing background vocals.  This track was pretty intense to listen to all due to distorted ambient sounds that supplied the introduction to the story of a lonely man and his beloved TV show.

I actually heard “Police Department Theme Song” a few weeks back on and adored it.  This track shed light on how someone could be so obsessed with a show.  It was the intro music for the show that the man more or less worshipped.

“Radial Sunrise” was a happy-go-lucky song showcasing the man in positive spirits thanks to said TV show.  Pete’s quick singing on this track was just great.  Pay attention though, or you might miss something.

“Feedback Lives” is the absolute change in the story where things start going south.  Even the music sounded concerning as well as the signing about two new dudes who change everything.

This change continued with the downward spiral of “Cancelled”.  This track had Pete and Mary Alice taking turns telling the story from the man’s angle as well as the network’s.  I really loved the music on this one too, it was all over the place.

I am not going to sit here and tell the entire story, you will have to hear it for yourself.  I will say though by the time “The End?” came on,  I could gauge a level of uncomfortable restlessness by a man who could not adapt to change.

This songs on album are so much more in-depth than from what I recall their previous albums containing.  It’s like Beck, Cibo Mato, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, Postal Service, Mike Patton, and Bran Van 3000 all got in a huge ass fistfight.  That’s probably a complete crap shoot there, but at least I got to say crap shoot here on this good ol’ blog.

Seriously though, I was super intrigued throughout the album and loved the variety as well as the overall story.  I was impressed with the music Pete and Mary Alice created as well as their vocals.  They both really have matured into some pretty amazing musicians.

On top of a great idea of an album, there are also music videos for a couple of the songs to give you even more of a visual.  Check them out below and enjoy.

If you have the slightest curiosity about this album, just click play below already.  The Electric Grandmother have hopped boundaries and borders this time.  It only makes sense considering the adventure they have been on from the day they caught each other’s attention.