Tag Archives: Acoustic

Quick Reviews: Sh*t Robot, The Chemical Brothers, J. Tillman

I have been getting tons of material lately for review consideration so I thought I would try something new and shrink down my usually lengthy reviews.  Nothing fancy, just trying to get the word out on some amazing bands and releases.  Enjoy.

Sh*t Robot – From The Cradle To The Rave

Marcus Lambkin, aka Sh*t Robot, has taken his time releasing his debut album – literally it has been 20 years in the making.  The Irish born punk rocker turned DJ has made a name for himself in the NYC club scene and even though has never recorded an album before has made a huge name for himself by just doing his thing.  I should also mention that Lambkin helped build that which is now DFA Records from the ground up.

From The Cradle To The Rave reflects Lambkin’s life as a DJ and more.  Opening track, co-written by LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy, “Tuff Enough?” is an electronic anthem of sorts with simple beats and synthesizer that was actually written about an upcoming expectancy.  “Losing My Patience” featuring Hot Chip‘s Alexia Taylor was a fun track that I think many of the dance clubs will have no problem spinning. “Simple Things (Work It Out)” was an entertaining experimental dance track of sorts with almost a spoken word feel to it.

My personal favorite cut on the album was “Take ‘Em Up” featuring another musician from LCD Soundsystem, Nancy Whang.  This song not only screamed retro 80’s but also heavily reminded me of what would happen if Daft Punk decided to sample a Sonic The Hedgehog soundtrack.  Whang’s vocals are perfect for this track more suitable to be played at a roller rink.

From The Cradle To The Rave is proof that sometimes taking your time is a good thing.  This release is for all the folk out there that still enjoy the clubs.  Full of electronic goodness that reaches back to the days when techno was all the hype in the 90’s as well as hints at some Kraftwerk.  The album is solid front to back without over doing it.  Where I don’t frequent those types of clubs anymore I still got a kick out of that which is Sh*t Robot.

The Chemical Brothers – Further

Seeing a band like The Chemical Brothers come out with new material makes this guy right here happy.  As a longtime fan of the British duo (Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons), I was thrilled when Further was released and even more intrigued when I heard that alongside the album would be visuals to accompany each of the songs. While I still have yet to obtain the videos I can tell you that they are available on DVD and iTunes for download.

Further is different from previous releases as it is mostly instrumental with Rowlands taking it upon himself to sing on a couple tracks as well as features Stephanie Dosen (Massive Attack) who lends her vocals as well.  I honestly prefer when they collaborate with other musicians on their previous releases but still enjoyed listening to tracks like “Escape Velocity” and “Another World”. “Swoon” was a trip in itself that I could not help but tag along with.

Heavy on the synthesizers and easing back on the drum machines throughout make for a very chill album to listen to.  This is one of those types of albums I can see myself not growing tired of anytime soon.  For those of you out there that still has a soft spot for the duo who hit the charts with “Block Rocking Beats” back in the day don’t hesitate to pick up Further.  The duo still has it and has dropped one great album to dance the night away to or even just sit back and get lost in.

J. Tillman – Singing Ax

Beautiful is just one of the many words that can be used to describe J. Tillman‘s latest release Singing Ax. Not just a member of Fleet Foxes, the folk artist has been very involved in recording material with others as well as himself since around 2004.  His latest offering is a vinyl only release that was recorded by Tillman almost entirely by himself in just three days.  The result is a calm yet captivating collection of songs that couple compliment any campfire gathering or just a quiet afternoon of solitude.

Opening track “Three Sisters” pretty much set the bar up high for the entire album for me.  While listening to TIllman’s singing I could only anticipate on what he was going to sing next and patiently waited the story, backed by acoustic guitar playing and drum machine, to unfold.  “Diamondback” continued with a calm retreat of a pleasant tale that had me closing my eyes and absorbing the intimate song.  In fact I found myself doing that a lot while listening to Singing Ax.  Later on I was treated to the album ending “A Seat At The Table” a song, to me, that almost was a musical rendition of a storm rolling in complete with thundering drumming towards the end of the track.

Tillman dropped an amazing album that barely carried any further supplement aside from his singing and acoustic guitar.  Honestly nothing more was needed as the folk chill release was presented perfectly.  I can only imagine what a live performance would entail.  Luckily for me he is touring with Phosphorescent and is making a stop in Cleveland in just a short couple of weeks.  Fans of Nick Drake and even a younger Neil Young I think will really enjoy this album as well as anyone out there that is just looking for a musical form of relaxation.

Sundowner – We Chase The Waves – CD Review

A sundowner can be a lot of things (a car, drink, plane, type of wind), but in this case the Sundowner I am referring to is an amazing solo project by Chris McCaughan, the guitarist and vocalist of punk act The Lawrence Arms.  

We Chase The Waves is Sundowner’s second album and like the first, it is far from punk rock and more of a brush with folk music that brings forth good moods and instant sing alongs.  Recently dropping on Asian Man Records, We Chase The Waves might just be the album that gets me through the rest of the summer.

Starting as a side project, McCaughan wrote a few songs in his free time and played intimate shows around the Chicago area taking the moniker Sundowner.  With help from fellow band mates and friends the project turned into a band of sorts with Sundowner’s debut being released in the spring of 2007 on Red Scare Records.  Just three years later McCaughan and friends decided for a follow-up and recorded We Chase The Wave in their homes, literally, in just eight months.

Passionate and compelling are the two words that describe McCaughan’s wiring styles on the CD.  The guy is a natural storyteller and just has a way with words. From the moment “In The Flicker” started off the album I was beyond mesmerized.  The song was nothing more than an acoustic jam amongst friends but I was addicted, I wanted more, and before I knew it the ten track album was wrapping up.

Tracks like “As The Crow Flies” impressed the hell out of me even though the song was nothing over the ordinary.  The way the song presented itself to the listener, told the story, and ended it on a positive note not only begged for another listen but might have very well inspired a certain someone typing out this review…

“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” took words from the 1910 poem of the same title by Franklin Pierce Adams telling the tale of the Cubs succeeding over the Giants thanks to a game winning double play (the only way I ever would have known this was by reading the CD insert and Google).  As an ode to McCaughan’s beloved Chicago Cubs he did a great job rendition of the classic poem.

“Mouth Of A Tiger” was a stern and ever so low opinionated track with lyrics like “I’m as lucky as a funeral” and “I’m not looking at the glass half full”.  I adored the singing style on the song match up with the acoustic and lap steel guitar playing.  Full of everyday truth and plain old honest opinions, the song begged to be played on repeat.

We Chase The Waves was an amazing start to finish album with no lulls in between.  McCaughan nails it dead on with his catchy melodies and fine storytelling that will grow on you regardless if you are a fan of him, The Lawrence Arms, or not.  Don’t look at Sundowner as a side project by a punk rock guy, look at it as a talented musician who has created something that more people need to know about.

Tony Sly – 12 Song Program – CD Review

After 20 years of fronting well known punk rock act No Use For A Name (NUFAN), Tony Sly continues his passion for music with a different approach by releasing his first full-length solo album.  Last month 12 Song Program dropped thanks to Fat Wreck Chords who have been associated with Sly for most of his career.

Having teamed up with Joey Cape on the 2004 split release Acoustic this is not a new territory for the seasoned punk rocker but is something that he has wanted to do for a couple of years now.  Writing songs in the past that did not fit the NUFAN slot, Sly took recent down time from his band and started recording original material that ranges from folk to pop all with help from his trusty acoustic guitar.

Not going at it all alone on the album Sly received some help from other Fat Wreck musicians/friends including Fat Wreck owner himself Fat Mike as well as Dance Hall Crashers’ Karina Denike who lent her vocals to many of the tracks.  The more mature approach was stripped down and not over produced full of many songs that would be perfect for an unplugged show at a local bar.  With sing along qualities and in depth lyricism this album has a repeat playability written all over it.

Opening track “Capo, 4th Fret” brought back memories of my obsession I had when I first heard the split album with Sly on his acoustic guitar.  The track emulates that of a NUFAN song but of course slowed down and more personable with Sly almost giving reason why he is doing what he does.  “I would live for the sake of others so they could do the same” finished the very lonesome track.

The more upbeat “Via Munich” carried along happy tune about feel good  relationship while away.  Quick and to the point, the track featured Swingin’ Utters‘ Darius Koski on violin.  “The Shortest Pier” jumped back to a miserable feeling of hopelessness.  “AM”, featuring Fat Mike, was one of the songs that stuck in my mind after hearing it.  The song strayed away from sounding like the other tracks on the album with Sly singing at perhaps his most sincere.

“Expired” was an acoustic plucking jam that easily could aid in a drinking problem.  Denike’s beautiful voice matched up with Sly’s towards the end followed by a sample taking from Taking Arizona all surrounded with piano.  This was one of those tracks that deserved another listen immediately.

“Keira” was a likable whisper of a lullaby written by Sly for his daughter.  “Toaster In The Bathtub” was full of witty comparisons to assist in cheering up a certain someone.  This is one of those songs that is best sung with friends loudly whether Sly himself plays it or if it pops up on the jukebox.

“Love, Sick Love” was another choice track of mine on the album even if it was about going different ways.  I could not tell if it was a flute or an organ but whatever instrument was used in the background just kept a certain chill throughout the song with Sly and Denike’s singing.  The lyric in the song “putting out a fire with a flamethrower is strange” might be one analogy I should reference to more often.

Joey Cape helps Sly with vocals on “Amends” and as good as it sounded I was so disappointed with how quick the track was.  At just over 2 minutes I was kind of hoping for a more extended cut of this track as I love hearing the two sing together.  Honestly thinking about it, that would be my only complaint with the entire album; it was too short.

Closing song “Fireball” showcased Sly singing his loudest and perhaps most heartfelt over the other tracks.  The sad song reflected hardship on someone who clearing was without home and had a void in their heart.  The singing matched with the heavy strummed acoustic guitar playing made for one powerful song.  If only there were more tracks on the album to keep that momentum going.

If you were a fan of the Sly/Cape split Acoustic, you will be a fan of 12 Song Program but if you are looking for an extension of NUFAN chances are you will not appreciate this album one bit. It is a punk rocker making music but to a different caliber.

Sometimes punk rockers who grow up trade in their beat up electric guitars and mellow out for a good reason.  It’s not because they are giving up, it’s because they refuse to quit on all the talent they are capable of even if it means slowing down a bit.  Case and point with Tony Sly who dropped a really great release start to finish.  One needs to remind themselves that this is a personal Sly project full of his likable melodies and will rub off a little more unique than when he is with his band that finds a name not that important.

Download This! Tony Sly ‘Via Munich”
Download This!Tony Sly “The Shortest Pier”

Look for Tony Sly to be touring throughout the spring with other Fat Wreck Chords alumni including Teenage Bottlerocket and NOFX.

03/20/10 Austin, TX – SXSW Music Festival w/ Riverboat Gamblers, Teenage Bottlerocket, Cokie The Clown, Dead To Me, Smoke Or Fire, Banner Pilot, Cobra Skulls
04/21/10 Eugene, OR – McDonald Theater w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
04/22/10 Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
04/23/10 Billings, MT – Shrine Auditorium w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
04/25/10 Saskatoon, SK Canada – Odeon Events Center w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket ****SOLD OUT****
04/26/10 Winnipeg, MB Canada – Burton Cummings Theater w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket ****SOLD OUT****
04/27/10 Fargo, ND – The Venue w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
04/29/10 Milwaukee, WI – The Riverside Theater w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
04/30/10 Covington, KY – Madison Theater w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
05/01/10 Sauget , IL – Pop’s w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
05/02/10 Kansas City, MO – The Beaumont w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
05/04/10 Fort Collins, CO – The Aggie w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
05/05/10 Albuquerque, NM – The Sunshine Theater w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
05/06/10 Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theatre w/ NOFX, Teenage Bottlerocket
05/07/10 Las Vegas, NV – Sunset Station Amphitheatre – PUNK ROCK BOWLING w/ NOFX Teenage Bottlerocket, Fucked Up, Youth Brigade, Guilty By Association
05/19/10 Perth, Australia – Amplifier w/ Joey Cape
05/20/10 Adelaide, Australia – Fowlers Live w/ Joey Cape
05/21/10 Hobart, Australia – The Brisbane Hotel w/ Joey Cape
05/22/10 Melbourne, Australia – Corner Hotel w/ Joey Cape
05/23/10 Wollongong, Australia – Uni Bar w/ Joey Cape
05/26/10 Sydney, Australia – Annandale Hotel w/ Joey Cape
05/27/10 New Castle, Australia – Cambridge Hotel w/ Joey Cape
05/28/10 Caloundra, Australia – Kings Beach Tavern w/ Joey Cape
05/29/10 Brisbane, Australia – The Zoo w/ Joey Cape
06/02/10 Wellington, New Zealand – Bar Bodega w/ Joey Cape
06/03/10 Auckland, New Zealand – Thirsty Dog w/ Joey Cape

Mike Doughty – Sad Man, Happy Man – CD Review

(*Editor’s Note – Thanks to my reliable laptop crashing this was postponed for quite sometime.)

Before I even start I would like to publicly kick myself in the ass for not attending last night’s Mike Doughty concert at the Beachland Ballroom (Oct. 10th).  I know I missed a good time and I am the one to blame for missing it.  I just had too much going on and not enough green paper in the wallet so I decided to sit it out and today am regretting it.  I also had the flu of sorts so it just was not happening.

Luckily I got my hands on his new album so at least I have something to listen to and talk about.

I always admire the musicians out there in the world that have overcome hardship and feed off the fan reaction rather than make music for pure financial purposes. One performer in particular that comes to mind when I think about a hard working true music maker is Mike Doughty.  Doughty, as many know, was the lead man of the 90’s alt rock act Soul Coughing.  Sadly the band called it quits thanks to constant battles with drugs and also financial hardship but Doughty kept going on doing his own thing.

He started recording solo material and soon had a cult following who worshiped his every word and sang along with to every song.  I was one of those folk who took a huge liken to him.  I loved seeing Doughty on stage alone with guitar in hand singing folky and rocky songs to an ever loving crowd.

Doughty took his fan’s reaction to his 2008 solo release Golden Delicious and used it to mold his next release titled Sad Man, Happy Man.  Some of the fans loved the rock pop heavy Golden Delicious while others hated it.  Perhaps the dis-likening came from the more upbeat fun styles that were bursting from the tunes over former albums.

Having such a huge step up from his widely known solo material was credited with Doughty’s “dude theory”, an idea of recording music that sounds like a bunch of dudes playing music for the fun of it. The result of his dude music won new fans and also caused some of the more so diehard fans to go so far as calling him a sellout for doing what he did. Not taking the negative reactions personal he used it to his benefit and began a different approach when creating new material.

In fact he used the responses as a fuel of sorts to making something better in his current release and admitted that his previous album sparked an array of feelings by saying:

“…some hated it, some loved it better than Soul Coughing.  I tend to take sharp left turns. Every time I put out a record, the audience seems to like what I did two years ago better. You’d think I could shrug it off because that’s what always happens, but it always gets to me.”

As a fan of everything Doughty has done since the days of Soul Coughing I have to admit that I was one of the fans who liked Golden Delicious. It was a change in his style but still catchy to my ears.  Just check out my review I did on it.  I was happy from start to finish and the album is still played here and there when I am looking for something fun to jam out to.

When I heard that Doughty was going back to his roots when recording Sad Man,Happy Man I was eager for the release.  After hearing listening to it (over and over I might add), it is clear that Doughty reached back to his solo roots as well as the days when he was in the popular 90’s act and pushed aside that poppy feel Golden Delicious had going on.  This time around there is more of a Soul Coughing vibe and less of the more pop rock he achieved previously.

“Nectarine (Part II)” sequel to song on Golden Delicious was acoustic with a brief add of Irresistible Bliss horns. “(I Keep On) Rising Up” continued with Doughty’s signature raspy hypnotizing voice moving through a more personal jam (he wrote it during hardship in a relationship).  Just after a couple of tracks and it was perfectly clear he was stripped down and focused on the acoustic.

“(You Should Be) Doubly (Gratified)” was a nice smooth rock song with long time touring pal Andrew “Scrap” Livingston taking bass duties.  I should add that this album is just Doughty and Livingston with Doughty providing not just the singing and guitars but also the drum programming and keyboards as well.

“(I Want To) Burn You (Down)” was a poignant acoustic jam reminiscent to the days when Doughty would play shows and would sell CDs himself from the stage after wards when he was trying to get back on his feet. “Pleasure On Credit” clearly reached back to his witty Soul Coughing days. I don’t think it was possible for me to enjoy this song more so than I did the first time I heard it.

Ending the CD with a Daniel Johnston cover completed this album for me. Hearing Doughty’s take on “Casper The Friendly Ghost” had me smiling.  The version was not nearly as depressing as the original schizophrenic take but still held on to Daniel Johnston’s eerie original.

It’s great to see that Mike Doughty keeps on going and Sad Man, Happy Man shows no form of slowing down.  It sounded throughout the album as if he was just having fun without getting too serious and to me that is what I admire him most for.  With all the hell the man has been though he never seemed to stop having fun doing what he loved – play music, and loving it while doing so.

Not just a musician but also an outspoken blogger.  Check out Mike Doughty’s blog site.  He’s not just a clever song writer you know…


Looks like I missed out on a little Q&A at the Beachland…  The tour was called the Question Jar Tour.  Looks like they took it very literally.  Damn me for getting sick!

Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed – CD Review

Folk/punk/rock has never sounded so good thanks to former UK post-hardcore singer Frank Turner who took elements of the genres and self-formed it into something simply wonderful on his latest release.  Not to be considered a solo attempt this round, it is clear throughout the album that he has an amazing backing band that helped him and perhaps even added a little of their own style to it.

Having been in multiple bands over the years and working non-stop while doing so, Frank Turner continues his desire to be an amazing musician.  After what seemingly felt like an eternity since I first heard word of the release, the hardworking Frank Turner has finally dropped Poetry Of The Deed in the US thanks to Epitaph Records.  How hardworking you ask?  This will be his third release in three years.

“Live Fast Die Old” starts of the album full forced with more so of an indie rock that immediately captured my attention.  As if his singing was not an attraction enough, the supporting music from the full band including keyboard and back up harmonies just seemingly invited me into his world and I must say I felt welcomed.  It’s the type of song you tap you foot to and bop your head as well.

“Try This At Home” had a slight upbeat feel that exploded with great, well thought out lyrics about the real DIY musicians in the world who care and work for what they believe in and called out the superficial money hungry performers.  One line in particular that stood out over the rest to me declared that there is “no such thing as rock stars, they’re just people who play music, and some of them are just like us, and some of them are dicks.”  Well said Mr. Turner.

“Dan’s Song” is the type of song I could only wish was written about me.  The reminiscent jam goes from past history to future with sick harmonica playing. “Poetry Of The Deed” to me sounded like a heavy Avett Brothers song with Frank Turner repeatedly bolting out “life is too short, to live without poetry, if you’ve got soul darling, now come on and show it me” at the end of the track.

“The Road” was a sing along favorite of mine on the album.  Heavy on the folk and added country twang made for a catchy and happy listen.  I especially enjoyed the end of the song that almost sounded like and excited Frank Turner was not done recording the track when everyone else was.

“Our Lady Of The Campfire” had some fun percussion backed with strings reminding me of the folk that helped Frank Turner make this album what it is. The song is well thought out lyrically and musically and there was just so much going on but it fit so well.

Some of the songs seemed to slow up towards the conclusion of the CD as compared to the first half but they were still great listens.  The soothing keyboard playing and acoustic strumming were enjoyable especially during “Sunday Nights” and the album ending “Journey Of The Magi”.

I’m serious when I tell you I got a good feeling throughout when hearing this release, the kind of feeling that keeps me going back for more.  I remember the first time I heard bands like the Avett Brothers, Gaslight Anthem, Ben Folds, Joe Strummer, and Wilco (just to name a couple) who I knew instantly I would love and cherish for the rest of my music listening years on this planet because of what they created and how they executed it.  I can now add Frank Turner to that list because his music just had such an amazing effect on me.

I admit, I had never heard of Frank Turner until just before this album was released.  When I started hearing about the hype about him from various musicians and music fans, my curiosity led me to a YouTube video (see below) of him playing an after-party in someone’s house.  Just by seeing that one acoustic jam he played surrounded by singing and screaming fans I understood why so many have been talking him up.  He is that talented and with help from an amazing backing band Poetry Of The Deed was worth all the hype.

I expect big things from Frank Turner in the following months even years to come.  Slated to be touring with the Gaslight Anthem this fall as well as just finished a tour with The Offspring I think it is pretty clear he is starting to make a bigger name for himself here in the US and very quickly at that.

This is one act fans of music need to at least extend an ear out to even if punk or folk is not your thing.  It is that damn good.

DOWNLOAD THIS! Frank Turner – “The Road”