All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tom Levin - Them Feet

Tom Levin - Them Feet
2014, Cut The Mustard

Tom Levin just keeps rolling.  After an accidental fall into a musical career that involves a shower concert and an exchange student program, Levin has led something of a charmed life.  His first band, Tennis, scored a top-10 single in his native Sweden in 1996 with “Shyway”.  Levin was just getting started however.  In the intervening years he has dropped six solo albums, showing steady growth as a songwriter and performer while continuing to refine his stage presence and his craft.  Levin’s latest effort, Them Buffalo is something of a companion album to his January, 2014 release, Them Feet.  Steeped in stripped down rock and Americana styling, Levin reveals himself to be a master story teller with a deep understanding of melodic nuance and rhyme.
Them Buffalo opens with “Thunder On”, something of a musical bridge from Them Feet.  The opener is a sharp and catchy rock and roll song with country flavor.  Levin’s voice is not a purist’s voice.  It’s full of rough edges and color and has an almost talk-sing sway to it at times, but he wields his voice like a finely tuned instrument, injecting personality and presence like a grand showman where the lines thin.  The result is a captivating sound that leaves fans and critics alike captivated and willing to listen long into the night.  “Mind’s Eye” opens in the style of an aboriginal tribal chant, and becomes a Utopian paean that’s catchy and well-written.    Wrapped up in the song’s core is an element of faith; a theme that recurs often through Them Buffalo in different forms.  “Everyday” is about finding your way by paying attention to the little things.  Questions of right and wrong swirl around the edges of this song; not in a judgmental way, but in the form of diving next steps.  The song has an earthy and urgent feel that is brilliantly understated and full of a primitive beauty.
“History, Beliefs and Bearded Men” takes on the concept of right and wrong between religious cultures from a very personal perspective.  The ancient argument between absolutism and relative truths wage quietly here, with Levin opting for an informed conscious to make out the difference in all of us.  In truth, there is a fatalism here that is appealing.  Levin doesn’t seem to be eschewing any side of the argument, in the end.  Opting for the sense that nobody really knows, so let’s all do the best we can.  This is a pensive number that’s prayerful in attitude and hopeful in heart.  It sets the stage well for “Different Drum”, a paean to being you no matter what.  The swaying rock anthem is typically understated but somehow more powerful for it. 
When it comes to love songs, the genre is thoroughly overdone.  Some overdo, some try to almost make fun of the genre.  Levin bypasses it entirely in recreating it for a new age.  In “More Than A Song”, Levin uses the ancient art form to decry its insufficiencies while delivering a message of deep love and intellect all at once.  It’s a thing of beauty that bypasses syrup but sticks to you nonetheless.  Levin engages in affectionately humorous misdirection on “Girl From Nova Scotia”, a tribute to Canadian songstress Mo Kenney.  If you’re not listening carefully (I honestly wasn’t the first time it played) you’ll think Levin’s engaging in vitriol, but there’s a deep admiration in the line “I hate you in a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful way.”  The underlying theme here is the mix of admiration and jealousy an artist might feel in hearing another artist create beauty.  It’s real and honest and powerfully alive.
Levin heads for home with “Schizo”, “Summered” and “Margaret’s House”.  The first delves into the push and pull of different parts of a personality.  There’s a bit of Randy Newman-style self-parody here, alongside Tom Wait’s biting poetry.  “Summered” is probably my least favorite track on the album; That is to say it’s really well-written, but perhaps just a bit out of place with this cycle of songs.  Levin bows with “Margaret’s House”, with the help of vocalist Aimee Bobruk, whose dulcet voice is a perfect blend to Levin’s understated drama.  This pensive duet is full of a quiet reverie, and is the perfect annotation for an album steeped in thought, wisdom and the slow wearing of time on memory.
Tom Levin continues to grow into his prodigious talent as a songwriter and performer.  It’s hard to say if he’s approaching a zenith or continuing a long slow build to something even more renowned, but the fact that he has hit new heights is inescapable.  In spite of several releases from artists I absolutely love in 2014, it is not stretching the point to say that Tom Levin’s Them Buffalo is the finest album I have heard in 2014.  You will be hard pressed to disagree.

Rating:                  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lindsay Mac - Remember (single)

Lindsay Mac – Remember (Single)
2014, Lindsay Mac
You might remember hearing about Lindsay Mac’s 2008 release, Stop Thinking.  We wrote about it here, and the album generated a lot of buzz in the Indie music press because of her innovative use of a cello (played like a guitar) in folk/pop songs.  Lindsay Mac’s background as a classically trained musician leads some to believe that she is all about breaking down musical barriers, when in truth she is just marching to the incessantly syncopated beat of her own drummer.  Lindsay Mac tries knew things not shock or are others, but to please her ever curious and creative mind.  That being said, you might wonder to what uses she is putting her cello to these days?

On her latest single “Remember” (from the album Animal Again), Lindsay Mac leaves the cello behind, delving into a resilient blend of electro pop and dance.  “Remember” is as aesthetically pleasing as anything you’ve heard on the radio this year, with a joyous sense of melody and rhythmic poetry.  You will want to move your feet, but Lindsay Mac is an intelligent poet in dance diva clothes, and wends her way with intellect through the sweet and inspired love song that she crafts.  The topper of it all is Lindsay Mac’s voice.  She cants with a brilliant sweetness here, and you’ll find yourself putting her album, Animal Again, on your wish list.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at

Buy “Remember”:    iTunes   

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Aaron Comess - Blues For Use

2014, Innsbruck Records

The Band
Aaron Comess came to fame playing drums for the Spin Doctors.  While that wild ride continues, Comess has also made a name for himself from his solo work, which blends rock, pop, jazz and world sounds into his own distinctive sound.  Comess’ most recent work is in collaboration with Teddy Kumpel and Richard Hammond.

The Album
Aaron Comess released his third solo album in May, entitled Blues For Use, consisting of 12 instrumental tracks.

The Buzz
Comess, Kumpel and Hammond are consummate professionals, and the music on Blues For Use is demonstrative of that fact.  The album waxes and wanes from aggressive to pensive.  Comess’ talents as a composer are often overlooked, but he drives the creative process here. 

“Hard Ball” focuses on the rhythm section in a percussive arrangement that sounds like an early outtake from Rush crossed with Pink Floyd.  “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” works a long, slow build into a plaintive yet ear-pleasing chorus.  The tight instrumental interplay is key here, with a subtle guitar lead that fluctuates in intensity.  Comess and company engage in a brilliant piece of non-visual art in “Sunrise”.  It’s a lazy, rolling number; the melody is a dog lying in the summer sun, occasionally rolling over to scratch its back in the dirt.  “Bajelirious” plays like an alternate James Bond theme.  The band is at their best here, with all cylinders pumping. 

There’s little negative to say about the album.  There are slower moments, but they are part of the ebb and flow of the album.  There is definite inspiration here, but it is sometimes of the quieter, pensive kind.  Subtlety abounds.

The Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Surprise, Pt. 1
Hard Ball
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Casa Colonial
Blues For Use
Surprise, Pt. 2

Where to Go

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014

Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014

Delta Rae released their debut album, Carry The Fire, in 2012, and it was a musically mind blowing experience.  The intensity and quality of the music were breathtaking, and the album earned Desert Island Disc status.  I knew all of this walking into The Tralf last night, and yet I was not in the least prepared for the reality of Delta Rae on stage.

That intensity that comes through in the studio recording is a mere echo of what the band brings on the stage; and there the musicality of the band is absolutely unquestionable. Opening with a blend of “Dance In The Graveyards” and “Run”, Delta Rae established a surprisingly aggressive energy level from the get go.  And while it took the sound board the first song to get the vocal mix right, the band was nothing less than amazing out of the gate.  Up next was “Better Off Alone”; another knockout performance.  A brand new song, “Better Off Alone” followed, with Ian Hölljes opening up his impressive voice for the crowd.  It was an amazing moment; the first of many.  This led into a composite of “Is There Anyone Out There” and “Morning Comes”, which seemed to be a musical launching pad for the band.  Everything to this point was musically pristine and full of energy, but bar was about to be raised.

It began with Brittany Hölljes tackling “Bottom Of The River” like a woman possessed.  The entire band was taken with the primal rhythms of the song and it turned into not just a performance but an experience.  Liz Hopkins took over the mic for a cover of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith’s “Because The Night” and blew the roof off the place.  Her intensity and tone were amazing, and the band matches her step for step.

The band went off mic for a new song; a moving and impressive turn entitled “Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”.  Eric Hölljes took the lead this time, and the band backed him with a vocal collage that was unforgettable.  Up next was another new song, “We All Want Love”.  This time is was Ian alone on stage with piano for a lyric ballad that ought to see Delta Rae climb the charts when the song is released on the next album.  This was an absolute “Wow” moment. 

Liz Hopkins came out front again for “Chasing Twisters”, and once again raised the roof with a powerful and compelling performance.  As good as this was, it was a mere appetizer for “Bethlehem Steel”.  Delta Rae rocked the stage, the rafters and the very foundations.  Brittany’s vocal was incomparable as she prowled the stage like a woman possessed.  The song was based on the experiences of the Hölljes siblings’ father, who worked for Bethlehem Steel for many years, and laments the loss of factory jobs in a declining America.  Liz Hopkins kept the energy going with an intense and powerful “If I Loved You”.  This is one of my personal favorites from the debut album, and Delta Rae did not disappoint.  Brittany came back out front to close the set with “I Will Never Die”, from the band’s Chasing Twisters EP.  You couldn’t blame the band for letting up a bit at this point, but the energy and intensity of the performance never flagged.

The small but devoted crowd demanded one more song.  Delta Rae accommodated the applause and chants with two.  The first, “After All”, is a new song that will be on the new album if the band is wise.  The Hölljes siblings and Liz Hopkins were all featured on vocals this time around, and the music was a piece of pure beauty.  Delta Rae closed out the night with a buoyant take on “Dance In The Graveyards” that had the entire club swaying along.  It was a knockout blow worthy of one the most vibrant and musically apt bands working today.

Opening act Gabe Dixon was a revelation in his own right.  Even Ian Hölljes said that Dixon is writing some of his favorite music right now, and Dixon did not disappoint.  Trading back and forth between piano and guitar, Dixon traded ballads and blues-infused rockers that recalled past greats such as Billy Joel and Ray Charles.  Highlights included “Disappear”, “Runnin’ On Fumes” and the delicious piano work of “Till You’re Gone”. If nothing else, make sure to download his track “All Will Be Well”, a “Wow” moment all its own.

Both Delta Rae and Dixon were available and accessible after their sets.  Delta Rae came out and signed at a table after the show, but unlike many acts, each member took the time to greet and get the name of each person walking by.  It was a great dose of southern hospitality, and will pay dividends to the band from the personal connections they made.

Delta Rae’s tour continues tonight at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.  Dates for the summer tour are currently scheduled through August 3rd.  Check out for more information, and go see them live if you get the chance.  You won’t be disappointed.

Gabe Dixon will be opening for Delta Rae through July 9th, and is currently booking shows for his Gabe Dixon band for the summer.  Get more info at

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Broken Quote - Foreshadowing Sunlight

Broken Quote – Foreshadowing Sunlight
2014, 563026 Records DK

The Band
Broken Quote is a multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer from Houston, Texas who has been creating music since he was a small child.  A self-taught musician, Broken Quote showed a distinctive ear early on.  While the lack of lessons would be a roadblock to some, it became an open playing field to Broken Quote.  Broken Quote credits influences such as Bjork, Eyedea, Beck, Radiohead, John Cage and Parliament Funkadelic, among others.  His musical milieu continues to grow and evolve, but his current sound is something of a stew of ambient funk, trip hop, electro rock and acid jazz.
The Album
Foreshadowing Sunlight, a five song EP, is Broken Quote’s first release.
The Buzz
Broken Quote is all about minimalist atmospherics.  Electronics and ambient sounds are the core of the sound on Foreshadowing Sunlight, but the focus is less musical than it is of painting collages of sound. 
“Late Night Ocean” has an intriguing rhythm and life all its own.  The overall effect is more distracting than cohesive, but there is a musical statement to be made here.  “Glass Ceiling” is similarly unsettling.  Angst-filled piano gives way to a slowly growing cacophony of rhythm, as Broken Quote seeks to unsettle all who would listen.

The energy throughout Foreshadowing Sunlight is minimalist by intent, but the effectuation is downright painful at times.  Angst and ennui are the core emotions, and those vibes are imparted to the listener like a cudgel.  Effects very often rule the day, covering the gaps that are left behind by songs that are thought out and through, but often not fully.

The Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Ghost Crowd
Late Night Ocean
Glass Ceiling
Sparks Water The Seeds

Where to Go

Monday, June 23, 2014

Corvus - Never Forget

Corvus – Never Forget
2013, Corvus

The Band
Corvus is one of the most prolific American metal bands of the last five years, completing six full-length albums in that time.  Heavy guitar riffs, melodic solos, pounding rhythms and deep melodies have blended with an electric live show to charge up fans across the U.S., and have led to tours with Trapt, Mushroomhead, American Head Charge and Hed P.E.  The lineup includes:
Brock Brown – vocals
Josh Brown – bass
(v)att(v)an – electric guitar
DH – drums
Isadora Bevins – electric guitar
Sunny - keyboard

The Album
The latest effort from Corvus is Never Forget, a dynamic and powerful mix of metal and classic rock with distinctive pop undertones.

The Buzz
Corvus takes listeners on a schizophonic buzz fest across the thirteen songs on Never Forget.  Crushing guitar riffs, rapid-fire rhythms and high precision will appeal to metal fans.  The band also delves into Top-40 blends that feature hook filled choruses and even a power metal ballad or two.  The changes back and forth happen so fast at times that listeners may be subject to aural whiplash.  The guitar work is strong and the vocals are more than competent.  At the same time, Corvus seems to be trying to be too many things to too many people.

“Hear No See No Speak No” is a quintessential pop/metal blend, featuring big guitars, a bigger rhythm section and the screaming/chortling vocal that’s come to epitomize heavy metal music.  The band settles into smooth sailing mode with an Edge radio style chorus that totally changes the momentum of the song, but this sudden change is compelling.  “Sweet Revenge” is a delicious mix of angst and anger, contained in the bulging arrhythmia that Corvus builds around it.  “Déjà vu” is a theme song for the seriously depressed or paranoid.  The downward trajectory is represented here as inescapable.  Big powerful, powerful rhythms and an innate musicality make this a winner in spite of the compellingly dark outlook.  “Never Forget” could have been written by Dante himself: a monologue by Satan himself full of short-sighted hubris and pride.

When Corvus is on, they are on.  But there is also a distinct push toward commercial viability on Never Forget that makes the band sound unsettled and uncertain of whom they are.  There’s nothing wrong with going for the brass ring, but the efforts here are so transparent and so different from their natural sound that the gap is glaring.

The Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Hear No See No Speak No
Sweet Revenge
Through Dead Eyes
Soldiers On Demand
Déjà vu
Plastic Skies
My Greatest Mistake
The Spider And The Fly
Food For The Gods
Never Forget

Where to Go

Friday, June 20, 2014

Matty Ride - Matty Ride [EP]

Matty Ride - Matty Ride [EP]
2014, Matty Ride

Disco, pop, hip-hop and soul.  Welcome to the world of Matty Ride, a retro-pop musical chemist based out of Nashville, Tennessee.  With a pleasing voice and an effervescent energy, Ride revives and blends pop music styles from the last 30 years into an eclectic, yet still relevant, ganache.  His latest effort, a five-song self-titled EP, shows why there is room for guys like Matty Ride in today’s dance clubs and on the charts.

Ride opens with the wispy pop confection "That Girl", which has enough snap to be danceable but is light enough to get caught up in the pop ether of Top 40 radio. The songwriting is compact and driven by an infectious hook that will keep calling listeners back. The only downfall is the breakdown in the last 45 seconds of the track, which could (and should) be cut from a single release without any loss to the listener.  "All Over Again" is straight ahead, angst-filled pop. It's solid album material with a bit of Matthew Wilder flair. "Come on and Dance" is as flagrantly bubblegum as 1980's soul/pop ever was, and is likely to inspire seriously mistaken déjà vu or those who grew up in the 1980's.

"First Day of Summer" is an overexcited piece of fluff that tries to sound modern but ends up very dated. There is serious hook action at work here, but the song is almost a caricature of 1980's dance/pop acts. The video, on the other hand, will give the song serious life.  It’s a fun little cinematic escape that features miniature musicians, flying cars and a uniquely comic sensibility that chronicles what happens when geek meet chic.  Matty Ride slows it all down for the closing number, "Hold Me Closer". The ballad is a sleepy affair that sounds melancholy in spite of its protestations of undying love. Ride does a pretty decent job on the vocal, but there's no vitality to the arrangement.
Matty Ride is a serious musician, but at the end of the day he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  The Matty Ride EP is a fun excursion of retro pop with a modern edge.  There are a couple of missteps here, but nothing overly critical.  Fans of pop, dance pop and light soul are going to dig this big time.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at  In the mean time, check out Matty Ride's video for "First Day of Summer"!