REVIEW: Tom Dyer’s New Pagan Gods’ “History Of Northwest Rock Vol. 1 (1959-1968)”

Tom Dyer photo TomDyer_cover_zpsccugrsdl.jpg For Tom Dyer’s new album, he has gathered a few musicians, called them the New Pagan Gods and paid tribute to the old Pagan Gods, specifically the Gods of Seattle rock’n’roll at the dawn of the music up here in the Pacific Northwest.

If you are a longtime resident of the Northwest, you have no doubt heard many of these songs Dyer and friend have chosen to cover on History Of Northwest Rock Vol. 1 (1959-1968), and there may even be a few that you didn’t know had a connection to the Pacific Northwest. He begins the album with a nice version of The Sonics’ “The Witch”, which was also covered nicely by The Mummies. You might see the title “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and think “wait, Ringo wasn’t from the city of Bremerton” but instead, this rare song was originally performed b Tiny Tony & The Statics on an obscure 45 many collectors continue to hunt for. “Dirty Robber” is attacked quite nicely and fans of The Mummies will also recognize this song too. Here, Dyer pays tribute to Tacoma and the group who made it first, The Wailers. They are given a double tribute with a rendition of the beastly “Out Of Our Tree”, also covered nicely by The Mummies.

The album ends with an awesome version of The Dimensions’ “She’s Boss” but by going through these songs, it’s a way to hear what the Pacific Norhtwest music scene was as it managed to keep itself within semi-obscurity for a few decades as it recorded some of the best songs by some of the best people around. Dyer gets a chance to honor those who came before in the hopes younger audiences will continue on with their new spirit for the future. The album is not only a celebration of incredible garage rock, but rock’n’roll in general, pre-B.S.

REVIEW: Jimm McIver’s “Sunlight Reaches”

 photo JimmMcIver_cover_zpsc1varpwl.jpg Jimm McIvey has finally released his new album called Sunlight Reaches (Green Monkey) and while I was given a few hints for what he was coming up with, this one is a bit eased up than I expected, but that’s a good thing.

It has been a decade since McIvey released his last album but Sunlight Reaches merely sounds like the kind of music that had been there waiting to be brewed and surfaced, and it’s here. It’s the kind of well written songs with a nice rock and pop blend that comes from someone who truly has a love for the music and the craft in putting it together. It doesn’t have an eclectic side that Todd Rundgren is known for but they both share some of the clever characteristics that you can also hear in music by Marshall Crenshaw and Let’s Active. The songs tell everything about love found, love seeking, life stretching and life living, you could easily imagine someone like Paul McCartney wanting to come over to his house and say “I really enjoy what you’re doing, mate.” Whatever sunlight McIver hopes to reach, the walk towards feeling the warmth is what makes this work very well.

REVIEW: Tunto’s “Huvi”

Tunto photo Tunto_cover_zpszp43nixo.jpg While one website I spotted this album on called Huvi (Aani) weird jazz, I call the music by Tunto exploratory jazz, for this is nothing close to what I would call weird. Adventurous? Yes it is.

If it is indeed different, it has to do with the type of instruments played. You will hear the charango, a balalaika, and a baglama along with an ‘ukulele, clarinets, mandolins, and guitars, a nice blend of the traditional and the atypical. It comes off like a bunch of guys walking to a folk festival, wanting to sit around and jam and no one knows what they’re about to do. What they do is make music that sounds festive and filled with elements that are true to the standards of jazz while being culture as well, showing their Finnish origins. You might wonder what it would sound like to dig your head full of ukus but you get to enjoy the possibilities with “Lice Picking Music”, or enjoy what it means to get down with “King Kong Music” or “Couscous Music”. The titles are just as unpredictable as the music itself and while it may make you question of its origins, you just take it in, consume, and relax into things. The next time you hear from Tunto, they may end up doing something completely opposite, whatever the opposite of anything is.

REVIEW: Craig Marshall’s “After All”

Craig Marshall photo CraigMarshall_cover_zpsggtbe8o2.jpg Austin, Texas musician Craig Marshall has released his new album (his sixth) called After All (Big Ticket) and if you are someone who likes their brand of music on the down home side with hints of country, folk, and an acoustic spirit, you’ll really like this.

What I like about this is it reminds me immediately of music I am familiar with and enjoy, be it Neil Young, Wilco, Little Feat, and Wilco, and it leans very much on the country side of things, or what many will call Americana, an old school spirit. These are songs that are well written and produced, and they tell the kind of stories that you want to believe not only to hear it from Marshall, but because they feel like something you can relate to it because they’re a part of your story too. He cites Bucks Owens and Merle Haggard as influences and as someone who is a huge Owens fan, I can hear it in songs like “The Only Sound” and “In Can’t Begin To Know”, where the adventures told are part of the experience, the other is to hear how the stories are explained. The songs that I got into are those featuring harmony vocals from Betty Soo, those stood out beautifully well (including the opening cut, “Standing Still”) but you’ll also hear Marshall joined with Jason Garcia, Shane Cooley and Noëlle Hampton throughout.

As the bio for the album states, this is song-driven music, for those who still believe in the power of a song that moves you. After All will become the album you’ve been searching for for awhile.

(After All will be released on August 7th.)

REVIEW: Snow In Mexico’s “Juno Beach” (EP)

Snow In Mexico photo SnowInMexico_cover_zps1crvyve7.jpg The music on a new EP by electronic duo Sonw In Mexico sounds like a mixture of early New Order with Giorgio Moroder, easily dancefloor friendly will being something that has the potential of being used in motion pictures. That’s what makes up the songs on Juno Bleach (Saint Marie), where things can be considered luxuriously haunting or eerily beautiful. Most of the vocals are a bit distant, they are clear but they are not upfront or always obvious. It’s packed with echo and reverb so it’s deliberately away but you bring in the songs to know what they’re saying. I’m not sure what they plan on doing in the future but I’ll be here to find out where they go to next.

(The Juno Beach EP can be ordered in a number of formats directly from Saint Marie Records)

REVIEW: Faith No More’s “Sol Invictus”

Faith No More photo FNM2015_cover_zpso9cyumxn.jpg Considering their last album had come out in June 1997, one of the questioned asked was “how does Faith No More sound in 2015?” It depends on what angle you’re listening with. Let’s try to talk it out a bit.

Faith No More became one of the hottest bands of the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s with incredible music throughout their discography. The arrival of Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton into the group strengthened their music as a whole, not bad for a band who only made four albums with Patton as the lead. You can say his arrival was similar to Bruce Dickinson replacing Paul Di’anno in Iron Maiden. or Joey Belladonna replacing Neil Turbin, it was very necessary. Of course, Patton has not stopped since he entered the world of major labels, finding himself involved in projects by Fantomas, Tomahawk, Lovage, Peeping Tom, and whatever he feels like doing at any given time. He has become one of my all time favorite vocalists but all of these tidbits doesn’t answer the question “how does Faith No More sound in 2015?” We begin to talk about it with paragraph #3.

Sol Invictus (Reclamation) is the band’s first indie album since 1985’s We Care A Lot, but we know the group have progressed big time since them. Musically, they are a progression of what they had become by the time they released their last album, Album Of The Year. The guitar riffs remain strong courtesy of Jon Hudson, who was first heard on the Album Of The Year album. He’s a very different guitarist from what Jim Martin was with The Real Thing and Angel Dust but they have become a different and stronger band since then. Everyone else in the band remain as solid as they’ve ever been, the intensity is even more powerful and upon hearing it, you know it’s a trademark FNM album.

As for Patton, you can say some of the tracks sounds a lot like what he did on the last Mr. Bungle album, California, where there are unique influences that would not have existed before. It may be a hint of easy listening, it may be jazz, or it could be country. Nonetheless, it’s there and his voice never lets go of its elegance. The band is gelled beautifully and it makes you want to see them live not only to hear their favorites, but to hear how they pull these songs off live. It’s that kind of an album where you know you’re hearing an incredible hard rock album with one of the best singers in the business.

Sol Invictus is an album that is necessary in the marketplace and for those who still salute the power of a great rock band, this must be heard. The band continue to be on their own path, fans can only join along or wave goodbye to what you just missed out on.

REVIEW: Bvdub’s “A Step in the Dark”

Bvdub photo bvdub2015_cover2_zpsgz8ufayl.jpg A Step In The Dark (AY) is the new album by Brock Van Wey, this time under his “normal” moniker, Bvdub, but where is he at this time? His music is pretty much more of the same, where he’ll carry the listener into a zone and keep you there in a repetitive yet meditative state, feeling lost in the emotions he is creating but being elegant in how he does it. Some of the elements in this song could be considered electronic easy listening, but then again he has never hesitated to step into that relaxed state and allow himself to play in that style of creaminess. I enjoy how he’ll take a line or quote someone sings and just make that the melody for a healthy portion of the song. On this 78 minute album, six of the seven songs carry you over the ten minute mark so he holds himself in what he is known for, making it feel as if you are enjoying the ripple effect. It’s the ripples that you look forward to, to find out if you should go deeper or remain on the surface. The repetition of his minimalism is quite seductive, which continues to keep people lost in the eternal musical ripples that help him who he continues to be.

REVIEW: Nicolay’s “City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto”

Nicolay photo Nicolay2015_cover_zpscujpelif.jpg Go to any part of City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto and you may mistake this as something by Jazzanova or Mondo Grosso/Shinichi Osawa. The reason for that is because of the musicianship, the arrangements, and complexities but with any musician, it’s all in the composition and presentation that may make it seem complex and it may very well be as easy as a coloring book. For Matthijs Rook, it may very well be effortless but the easy in how he does it is because it’s true to him, his creations and playing come from the heart. As Nicolay, he continues on his worldly travels, in a real sense or metaphorical/musical. In the words of Elvis Costello, “if you’re out of luck or out of work, we can send you to Johannesburg.” For Nicolay, the inspiration is to take himself to Johannesburg and find an essence to some of his creations.

City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto is a nice blend of vocalized song and powerful instrumentals, with easy song being a diary of sorts on the journey of his existence and experiences. As the voice says in “Sun Rings/Uprising”, direct language is all about being literal, to be honest in front of you without fear, of what you see and hear. You can then say that Nicolay’s music on this album is very much performed without fear and doesn’t hide anything, for what he feels is what you hear and thus visualize upon listening. You may bring to mind your own tales or for the songs with lyrics, escape into their worlds for a few minutes. What you’re hearing is the sensibilities of multiple heart beats and despite each one being individualistic, they are somehow connected, his musical painting of what he felt over the years while visiting Soweto. One may hear the name of the city and think of the Malcolm McLaren song of the same name but Nicolay creates a much stronger picture, vivid and utterly passionate in its execution.

Vocalists Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden make their presence known but for me, I don’t mind saying that when it comes to Nicolay, I want to know what Phonte Coleman is doing and where he plays on taking me with his performances. The duality of the Foreign Exchange union continues to thrive and while both of them are more than capable of carrying something unique on their own terms, there is a sense of magic that may be unknown but it is felt. It’s something to listen to, sit back and just say “this is what it’s all about.”

As with much of Nicolay’s work over the years, as the album goes on, there’s a sense that the travels will go further for many ears to come. As with any true musician and composer, he plays with a sense in making his music open-ended in a Duke Ellington manner, as if to say “to be continued”. You hear a song like “There Is A Place For Us” and know he’s about to pull you towards the finish line. However, you know the end as nothing more than the beginning of another path towards a new race to take yourself to, another challenge forthcoming. It may not be an actual battle against anyone but ones self, but it can be all about the survival of the fittest. When you are balanced with ones sense of self, it becomes automatic. Effortless. Easy. Another page in Nicolay’s diary has been turned. To be continued…

REVIEW: Blueprint’s “King No Crown”

Blueprint photo Blueprint2015_cover_zpsbmab8nch.jpg After listening to Blueprint’s brand new album King No Crown (Weightless), it made me ask something: has he changed? What prompted me to say this? A few things. For one the Printmatic one continues to be one of the most solid rappers out today, and has been this day since I first heard him 14 years ago in the song “Time To Unravel”. It was his verse that made me go “holy shit, who is this?” Ten years ago, I stated his 1988 album was one of the best of 2005 and ten years later, I still feel that way. I’ve enjoyed his work over the years so what made me feel he has changed in any way?

For one, he continues to develop and polish, if not fine tune his matter of speak, which means he does not want to sound exactly the same with every release. He is consistent but on this album he sounds more like someone who could easily be alongside the likes of Talib Kweli. Blueprint’s lyrics continue to be personal and while some of the metaphors can be heard within, it’s less about darting around the issue and being direct and to the point, whether it’s about a relative or his own progression in life. The type of flow I’ve always enjoyed from Blueprint happens in the title track around the 3:14 mark and it made me go yes, and while it is the only part of the album where he does this, it at least showed me he isn’t afraid to do that style that was a big part of what also made Greenhouse Effect great. What works on this album is that he shows more growth and maturity, to let people know where he came from, how traveling is a big part of his life and career and that he isn’t willing to keep himself back in time for anyone.

With a hint of ego and pride, Blueprint says he is more than willing to be the voice of a generation. He should be but the lack of a major label contract has kept him out of the loop. He is someone who not only has something to say for a younger generation but for older fans who simply want to hear the music continue as a vibrant artform that grows along with themselves. He is someone who has always understood how he wants to be heard by continuing to produce his own music, so what you listen to is the creation of the mind of Albert Shepard. Regardless of level of status, Blueprint remains a voice that continues to be a force that never loses its passion, and it’s from the heart that makes him move forward with new stories to share.

REVIEW: Tyler, The Creator’s “Cherry Bomb”

 photo TylerTC2015_cover_zps7n3qqcr1.jpg Cherry Bomb (Odd Future/Sony) is the brand new album from Tyler, The Creator and considering what has happened since its release, maybe some are asking about the future of Tyler, or the future of Odd Future.

This is what we know. Odd Future as a collective are no more. Earl Sweatshirt seems to not be part of the camp. Other people who were within the camp have released music recently. Tyler, The Creator is still creating and on Cherry Bomb he shows why he is one of the best MC’s around and one of the best artists out today. If you feel that Tyler is trying to create music that is accessible to more people, then be free to say that. However, Tyler never does anything regular despite the fact that some of the songs here are more developed and arranged than his previous works. It’s a more in-depth Tyler, and it’s nice to hear him go off in that way. If he’s trying to answer to the current vibe of hip-hop, he does that in a number of songs. Yet there are times when he’s not only answering back, but adding his own sidebars and information to let people know he is in control of his destiny, he’s not trying to comply or simplify. There are tracks where he actually sings and jokingly says he can’t sing at all.

What I really like is when a song may have two, even three different arrangements so waht looks like an 11-track album may have 15 or 16 songs total. Some of it comes off like mini hip-hop operas in the vein of Beastie Boys’ “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” or Siah And Yeshua Dapo ED’s “A Day Like Any Other”, where you’re unsure where a part of a song will drift to until you listen to it in full. Even that will lead listeners to want to listen to it a few times to get a grip. While Cherry Bomb shows hints of where he came from, it very much shows a path he is ready to explore, where it’s the unpredictability of something along the lines of Divine Styler or maybe twist and get into MC 900 Ft. Jesus mode, all while showing a solid style that shows he’s more than capable of dropping in a hardcore way without getting freaky or eccentric, all while being that freak and eccentric rapper he is known as. The album is a nice balance of the known and previously unknown, so I hope he will continue to balance on that fine line for projects to come.