REVIEW: The March Divide’s “Billions”

 photo MarchDivide_cover_zps7389953f.jpg As I was listening to The March Divide‘s Billions (self-rleeased), I tried to hear their brand of pop/rock a bit more abrasive, as if they were trying to be a younger version of Green Day, Offspring, or any other band with a bit of punk pop power to it, but they don’t quite get there. That’s not a complaint, that’s actually a good thing and while the music would have welcomed a harder sheen, I like what they do here for they’re open to bringing in country, folk, and Americana influences that might have been overlooked if they did it in a different way. Some of it sounds like Lenny Kravitz if the style of rock he grew up with were a different set of bands, and that’s due to how Jared Putnam uses his voice. When the songs are more pop friendly, he could easily become a new heartthrob if he wanted that, but I don’t know what the ladies (or men) would think of him being a hunky vocalist. I think what carries the spirit throughout Billions is how the music drives from beginning to end and sometimes within the verse/chorus/verse structure, because they’re well written and done in a way that has a lot of thought.

REVIEW: Melvins’ “Hold It In”

 photo MelvinsHII_cover_zpsc7b39747.jpg What can you say about a band who has made over 5392 albums in their career, and they decide to release another one? You dive in to fine out what happens. In truth, you can say that Hold It In (Ipecac) is Melvins’ nth album, and to be honest I’ve pretty much lost track of how many albums they’ve released so far. What I can say that for this album, Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover are joined by Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus to create music that sounds distinctly like Melvins music, a pinch of the Butthole magic, but also something else entirely. WHat makes this magical in a Melvins sense is that it retains the heaviness and sludge everyone has come to know and love but for these recordings, some of the songs reach a level not unlike the Foo Fighters or Queens Of The Stone Age, in that they’re, dare I say it, almost accessible. That comes through how Buzzo sings in portions of the songs, as if he’s trying to present himself as an all new man. Well, at least for some songs. What also makes this work is how Pinkus and Leary also share lead vocal duties, which also helps bring it a Foo/QOTSA vibe partially because it doesn’t stop stereotypically Melvins-ish, if that makes any sense. All of a sudden, they’re turning themselves inside out to do a country song. With songs like “Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad”, “Sesame Street Meat”, and “House Of Gasoline”, you feel like it is an “anything goes” thing but it’s a Melvins album, you have to come in expecting unpredictable titles, stories, and arrangements.

Loosely, you could say that this is the album Melvins has been holding back from releasing, if they wanted to make big hits. Want to hear the Kiss influences? It’s still there. Want to hear something on the level of The Swans? Still there. Then again, this is Melvins, they’re far from the big hit band and yet they know they’re capable of doing something on that level. A part of me wants to say they’re holding back from being a hit machine but they’ve done the major label thing before, and I think at this point in their careers, as long as they’re still having fun, they are going to churn out whatever they want. They could be funky and groove happy like Big Chief for the next album, or do some music that sounds like a cross between Paula Abdul and Kim Gordon on the next one. No matter, for if you love Melvins, it doesn’t matter what they’ll do next, you’ll bow down and follow, as we all should on a regular basis. Hold It In is what it sounds like if they allowed themselves to let go for awhile. Like a wet water hose.

AUDIO: Rachel Potter featuring Joey Stamper’s “Boomerang”

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Out of Nashville is a new country pop artist making a name for herself, and she goes by the name of Rachel Potter, who became known nationally after making into The X Factor‘s Top 12. Rather than wait around, she decided to take her dreams to a new level. She has appeared in Broadway productions of The Addams Family and Evita and now will be releasing an album next year called Not So Black And White. The first single is a duet with Anthem Lights’ singer Joey Stamper called “Boomerang”, preview the song over at iTunes and see if you will be the one to come back to it.

REVIEW: Hook & Anchor’s self-titled debut album

 photo hookandanchor_cover_zps3897d48c.jpg During a time when it seems the most of today’s pop artists aren’t telling or even creating stories, it’s nice to hear a set of music that does it and still knows how to. The self-titled debut by Portland’s Hook & Anchor (Jealous Butcher/Woodphone) is storytelling done very well, played in a way that is intricate to what is being said and why it’s being said is all a part of listening, you want to react and listen to more to know more. Kati Claborn is the core, the “Hook” if you will, but along with Erik Clampitt, Gabrielle Macrae, Luke Ydstie and Ryan Dobrowski, the “anchors” of this ship, they all display why this union works perfectly, how they all play an equal role that plays music that’s equally sound and in time, profound. Initially the album begins like a great pop albums from the mid to late 70’s or 1980’s, almost like what Bonnie Raitt is capable of doing, before there are string of country and even the blues. A slight twang of the guitar or a roll of the drums help to decorate the atmosphere but regardless of the coloring involved, it’s the stories that you want to listen and keep to, just so you’ll remember it and find a way to relate to, if they don’t immediately do so upon first listen. Hook & Anchor play music for people of varied tastes, listeners will find something of interest while at the same time finding something new that will eventually be satisfying to the ears and mind. Whether it’s country or the pop sentiments that capture people first, it’s the rest of it that will keep everyone around for a long time.

SOME STUFFS: New Zealand’s Rachel Dawick to make an impact with new double album

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New Zealand singer/songwriter Rachel Dawick will not only be releasing a new album next month, but this effort happens to be a double album. The Boundary Riders will be out on September 19th, just in time for the new season of spring (in the southern hemisphere, that is) and to hear the influence country and Americana music has around the world, look no further than here. The first single from the album is called “‘Biddy Of The Buller”, which will be released next week Monday. You may stream it in full below or purchase it when the 1st of September arrives. As for the topic of the song, Dawick says it refers to Bridget Goodwin, who was “one of the six women who lived in NZ in the 1800s whose journeys are followed through the course of the show album. Biddy was a four-foot, pipe smoking goldminer who lived with two men in a shack near Lyell along the Buller River. She was a tough character working and living alongside two men in water up to her hips, panning for gold every day. She defied the notion of what a woman in Victorian society should be like trying to survive in a newly settled colony in a man’s world. She was a generous, whisky loving, hard working, Irish born woman whose way of life helped paved the way for women in NZ to gain the vote on the 19th September in 1893.

REVIEW: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “CSNY 1974″

 photo CSNY1974_cover_zps99f6e99f.jpg Rhino Records have released three different Crosby, Stills & Nash box sets highlighting each member, as a group, with collaborations, and solo projects. Now there’s a fourth box set, but this time welcoming in Neil Young and highlighting the reunion tour they did in 1974. CSNY 1974 (Rhino) is a way to not only hear again the songs CSN and CSNY did as a group, but to also check out their solo material performed in a group setting. These include “Don’t Be Denied” (from Young’s great live album Time Fades Away), “Military Madness” (from Nash’s Songs For Beginners), “Almost Cut My Hair” (from Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name) and “Love The One You’re With” (from Stills’ debut solo album). Even if you know these songs in their original form or live recordings they may have done on their own tours, it’s nice to hear them in the CSNY setting, especially when the harmonies kick in.

Even if you’ve bought bootlegs or downloaded ROIO’s over the years, it’s nice to hear them nicely mixed, complete with in between dialogue that had often made those shows interesting to listen to along with the songs in question. Then there’s the guitar work from both Young and Stills, each with their own distinct way of playing but when they were together, it worked nicely. Despite the inner bickering they may have had with each other from time to time, CSNY 1974 shows that when it was possible, they were able to work together in beautiful harmony.

REVIEW: The Duhks’ “Beyond The Blue”

 photo DuhksBTB_cover_zps3e268e50.jpg The Duhks were great when they made themselves known in the last decade, with people falling in love with their brand of music, a cross between traditional country and Americana, along with the style, grace, and strength of vocalist Jessee Havey. When she left in order to create music under her own name, it seemed a healthy part of The Duhks’ following left with her, despite the fact she was still making powerful music. After a brief split between one another, Havey rejoined The Duhks and it has lead to their brand new album, Beyond The Blue (Compass).

If anything, the group sound as moving as they’ve always been and hearing how well they sound together, we realize how much we missed them. With tracks like “Banjo Roustabout”, “Suffer No Fools”, and “Black Mountain Lullaby”, we’re also realizing how much we miss hearing songs like this, even if it is the type we enjoy listening to on a regular basis. There was a time when people like Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones could be heard releasing this and having hits but these days, not so much. I think what we enjoy about hearing Havey’s voice is the richness in her tones and the interpretation of the definition of the lyric, whethere there is happiness in the sorrow or a bit of sadness meant to be hidden. Perhaps this is why the album is called Beyond The Blue, as a way to say we must go on and look for something else that is brighter and better, even when it feels as if it doesn’t currently exist. Perhaps this album could be a new hope for everyone who listens to it.

AUDIO: Larkin Poe’s “Crown Of Fire”

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When I was listening to Larkin Poe, what I loved the most was the harmony vocals the two singers shared during the chorus. Upon further research, I discovered they are sisters, which is something you can’t beat. Rebecca and Megan Lovell are from Atlanta and upon hearing their individual voices, you’ll know why they make music. Then they sing together and for me at least, I was taken aback, a very nice “whoa”. They’ve released their debut album, Kin (RH Music). a culmination not only of their many musical interests but also the styles of music they now find themselves comfortable in, so while you may not hear Pink Floyd directly, listen to the harmonies again. In time, you’ll get it, but they have all the time in the world.

REVIEW: Hook & Anchor’s self-titled debut album

 photo HookampAnchor_cover_zpseaa62837.jpg What is American music in 2014? Ask anyone and you’ll get a multitude of answers but regardless of what style it is, it is rooted in the earthiness of the stories and the voices that tell them. This is what Hook & Anchor are about and what they share on their brand new, self-titled debut. Their style of music is a mixture of country and bluegrass, but they also go towards the Americana way of life, which means you may hear a bit of Black Crowes, a pinch of Wilco, maybe even some Black Crowes in how they present their songs and all comparisons would be close-to-accurate. The songs not only tell stories, but you want to be able to figure out the stories not only as they’re told, but how you’ll interpret them into your own life, along with those you’re closely associated with. Maybe this is what would be distinctly Americana music but it is a part of the fabric that partly makes us who we are, a mixture of the happiness, the sorrow, the hopes, dreams, and anticipation of a better tomorrow. These guys very much pull their moniker towards their listeners and hope you’ll stay with them throughout their duration. I look forward to more music from them in the years to come.

VIDEO: Sugarplum Fairies featuring RT Valine’s “Escondite”

Director/cinematographer Roman Jakobi is responsible for creating “Escondite”, the new one from Sugarplug Fairies. If you’ve been keeping track of their latest string of videos, “Escondite” is the third in a trilogy of videos where each one is put together by a different director as part of their latest album, Godspeed & Silver Linings (Starfish).