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REVIEW: Casual Strangers’ self-titled debut

 photo CasualStrangers_cover_zps8902c7ef.jpg The first album by Austin, Texas’ Casual Strangers (self-released) tends to make it sound grander than it really is, especially when it tries to push the experimental guide, which I don’t hear. What I do hear on this album is a powerful piece of durable rock with a bit of depth and magnitude that is regularly not found in what passes as pop rock these these, and I like it. The group are fronted by vocalist Katey Gunn, who enjoys decorating the songs with different textures, pulling the listener in and then going in for the kill at the right moments. The same can be said for guitarist Paul Wacklawsky, drummer Jake Mitchell, and bassist Jaylinn Davidson, who enjoy exploring the arrangements of the songs, equally balancing what Gunn does with definition and space. Waklawsky also takes the microphone a few times, and what you had expected for some elements suddenly changes. Some tracks sound like durable new wave while other moments sound like the progressive things that some bands of the 90′s enhanced and made it their thing, or part of a thing that made these alternative bands so great, as if they heard different things and wanted to expand on things to take it one step further. I hope Casual Strangers are able to take the casual strangers known as their fans to new places and worlds.

(The self-titled Casual Strangers’ album will be released on July 22nd.)

BOOK’S JOOK: The Black Crowes’ “Remedy”

  • Book’s Jook is a column dedicated to placing a record within my dream jukebox, if I were to have one. The Seeburg jukebox shown below is similar to the one I have wanted since I was a kid. To read more on why I started this column, click here.

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    Shake Your Moneymaker (Def American) may have been the album that introduced the world to The Black Crowes, but the album I loved the most was their follow up, The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion (Def American), primarily because of the first single and video for it. “Remedy” just hit me in the right way, as the song was a sheer rocker, Chris Robinson had the right attitude vocally, and the whole attitude of the band in the song and video just made it sound right for me, if “sounding right” can actually exist. It felt right to me, and the video was easy going, laid back, and just felt like a party video, or at least you’d wish to be in the room with these guys to watch and listen to them right out. The strut from Chris Robinson, barefoot and all, was awesome, and the man had a bit of swagger, however nerdy it might’ve seemed.

    The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion also had great songs like “Sting Me” (the B-side to “Remedy”, along with the two videos that came along with it, “Thorn In My Pride” and the awesome “Sometimes Salvation”. In fact, I would’ve loved it if “Sometimes Salvation” and “Remedy” existed as the perfect A/B but by 1992, major record labels were no longer waiting around to release oldies-but-goodies singles, where they could put out back-to-back records. In fact, “Sometimes Salvation” was not released as a vinyl single in any country, which is mind blowing considering how great this song was and still is.

    Years later, I realized “Remedy” sounds a bit like Chicago’s “Feeling Stronger Every Day”, at least the initial hook before Chris Robinson starts the vocals. I had wondered if I had liked “Remedy” because of the similarity to “Feeling Stronger Every Day” and decided that no, I love “Remedy” as is. I’m also glad that this is one of the Black Crowes songs that gets a lot of classic rock airplay today, twenty-two years after the fact.

  • BOOK’S JOOK: Chicago’s “25 Or 6 To 4″ b/w “Make Me Smile”

  • Book’s Jook is a column dedicated to placing a record within my dream jukebox, if I were to have one. The Seeburg jukebox shown below is similar to the one I have wanted since I was a kid. To read more on why I started this column, click here.

    Last week I posted a new edition to my dream jukebox but as I was reaching the last sentence, I began to question myself. Should the “Colour My World”/”I’m A Man” 45 by Chicago be in there, because I realized I had a slightly more powerful record, also by Chicago, in mind. I decided to leave it alone and post the article but when I did, I came up with the conclusion I may have been wrong with my initial decision.

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    As much as I like the softer, more delicate side of Chicago’s music, it was the rockers that always got to me first, and “25 Or 6 To 4″ is my all time favorite Chicago song. Say what you want about where Peter Cetera’s career went to in the 1980′s, but in 1970, he belted it out with passion and of course, his bass work was powerful and incredible. You can’t help but hear a song where I wondered “what are they talking about?” Is it about drugs? Is it about something else? Or is it some guy who is up at 3:35 in the morning, unable to finish a song and realized “maybe I should just write a song about how frustrated I am by not being able to complete this.” It made for a good story, whatever the story is. On top of that, you have the majestry of Terry Kath’s guitar work, and while the 45 single edit removes the part where he hits the wah-wah pedal for a wicked run towards the finish line, the single edit seems to shorten this song nice and promptly. The single edit does remove a verse, but my introduction to the song was through the edit and I was content until I bought my own copy of Chicago II and learned there was about 90 or more seconds extra.

    This 45 too was part of Columbia’s Hall Of Fame series, offering two hit songs on the same record so the B-side had another song from Chicago II, “Make Me Smile”. It sounded funny to me, not as full as “25 Or 6 To 4″, and I would later learn that the original safety masters were destroyed so it sounded like someone used a cassette dub of a cassette dub of a cassette dub, where the quality sounded muffled. This was a mean rocker too, with Kath handling the lead vocal duty, and I would learn that this too was a short edit of the original song. I would also later learn that the single edit of “Make Me Smile” actually spliced a part of the original and “Now More Than Ever”, which then made me learn those were part of the mini-opera known as “Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon”. These two songs were the ones that made me want to know how much more music Chicago had made, outside of the popular songs I heard on the radio. The old Chicago was far better than the then-latest Chicago but I wanted to like them all. I’m glad I did.

  • SOME STUFFS: King Buzzo streams solo album a week in advance

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    Melvins fans have been excited by the material and live performances from Buzz Osborne as a solo artist, and now the full album will be out next week Tuesday via Ipecac Records called This Machine Kills Artists. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait seven days to hear it for King Buzzo is allowing the album to stream in full a week beforehand, and you can listen to it now by heading to DangerousMinds.net. There are sixteen songs on this beast, so have a listen and see what Osbourne has to offer.

    BOOK’S JOOK: Chicago’s “Colour My World” b/w “I’m A Man”

  • Book’s Jook is a column dedicated to placing a record within my dream jukebox, if I were to have one. The Seeburg jukebox shown below is similar to the one I have wanted since I was a kid. To read more on why I started this column, click here.

     photo ChicagoColourIAM_label_zpsdf8f93c2.jpg

  • If there is a place where my love of Chicago started, this is one of the first places. I was always told that my Uncle Wayne loved “Colour My World” and that it was one of the easiest songs to play on piano. My next door neighbor had a piano so when I was able to pay a visit, I tried it out. I realized it was very easy and in my mind, I knew how to play the piano. It was about the song that made me like it, from Terry Kath’s sensitive vocals to Walter Parazaizer’s flute solo, that just set it off for me.

  • This pressing is notable because it’s part of Columbia Records’ Hall Of Fame series, which was a part of their “Oldies But Goodies” series where music fans could have the hits “back to back”, or have two older hits on the same record. There was a special section near the regular 45′s where you could specifically buy the older material, and it seemed like a bargain because you were getting two popular sons on one 45 opposed to the hit plus “a piece of junk” on the B-side. This was a mentality before I got into collecting and realized the B-side can sometimes be where the true winner is. Anyway, it was a chance to have two Chicago hits on the same record, so I was happy.
  • The B-side of this record had a solid rocker, and I believe I heard this version of “I’m A Man” before I heard The Spencer Davis Group’s original version of it. While the label listed it simply as Chicago, this was done by Chicago Transit Authority from their debut album, I knew that before I even had the full album because my neighbor had the CTA album plus CHICAGO II. “I’m A Man” was awesome not only because it’s the one Chicago/CTA song sans horn section, but because of the drum break from Daniel Seraphine. I loved how jazzy it was, even though I wasn’t aware at the time of his jazzy roots, it just sounded like something I might’ve heard on one of my uncle’s jazz albums, yet there was something else about his drumming too. As a kid who admired the drums and wanted to play the drums so bad, I’d find myself playing this song over and over and doing air drums to it, properly accurate to the 45 edit on the record. When I bought the CTA album, I realized there was three extra minutes, which means more air drum learning.

  • The record seemed perfect: delicate ballad on the A-side, mean rocker on the B. At the time, Chicago’s bit hits were “Alive Again” and “No Tell Lover” and I wondered “how come the Chicago on my record sounds better than what’s on the radio?” In time, it would lead me to buy Chicago’s entire U.S. discography, all except Chicago 21. Yet. As I’m wrapping this article up, I was positive that this was my formal introduction to Chicago but I realized that it was not. It’s a respectful introduction but I now know that my parents showed me the yellow brick road with a different Chicago record. I’ll share that title next week Monday.

  • DUST IT OFF: Prince’s “When Doves Cry”…30 years later

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    This was something I looked forward to. I knew the 30th anniversary of this was on its way this month, but Wiki, Discogs, and Prince.org lists it as either May 9th or 16th, 1984, which is wrong since both dates are Wednesday. While I know Wikipedia tends to cater to the UK release date, both dates would still be wrong. Anyway, regardless of the actual release date, we are now 30 years beyond the impact of this song. It’s a bit significant for me, as it’s the last Prince song I heard as a resident of Honolulu before I moved a little over three weeks later. I had been a Prince fan since I saw the video for “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on public access, which lead to me buying the 45 at Music Box in downtown Honolulu. I knew of Paul McCartney playing all of his instruments but I had never seen a promotional film clip of anyone doing the same. I was hooked and loved the song. Sadly, due to radio genres and formats, I didn’t become aware of Prince again until “1999″ and “Little Red Corvette”, and that was because MTV had played him. I want to say I heard “Controversy” back then too but I honestly don’t remember. Nonetheless, when “When Doves Cry” was released, this was just a new Prince single, sounding uniquely different from “1999″ or “Little Red Corvette”. It sounded like Prince was going to change his method a bit, but we weren’t sure why. A month later, a soundtrack album arrived, and we all knew a movie was going to come out. Little did we know how big this film was going to be not only for him, but 1984 as a whole. I wasn’t able to see Purple Rain at the theater because it was Rated R, and while my mom had no issue with him, I don’t think she wanted to take me to the theater to see the movie just because. I ended up renting the VHS for Purple Rain before we even had a VCR, I was that advanced and dumb at the same time. When I hear “When Doves Cry”, I hear a bit of sadness from someone who was about to move away from home and discover new people and scenery. I found a way to relate to “how can you just leave me standing alone in a world so cold” because I was about to leave behind everything and not sure what the future would offer However, in the album version of the song, the courage came back through that guitar solo. For me, I guess the song was the start of a new way of living for me, and little did I know how much it was going to change me, discovering many things the hard way.

    SOME STUFFS: Turchi release new album this week, record release shows begin tomorrow

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    Can’t Bury Your Past is the latest album from blues rock friends Turchi, who released it yesterday on the Devil Down label. Fronted by Reed Turchi, Turchi show what it means to get back to the roots of the music, whether it means rediscovering the blues, country, or whatever you can find when walking through the woods barefoot with a guitar in your hand. It’s what it means to be a North Carolina resident, at least for Turchi, and he and the band are ready to share that feeling with you. Listen to how gritty they are with “Take Me Back Home”.

    They will be doing a number of shows in the coming weeks, check them out and show up early. Shows in June will also include fellow North Carolinians Campfires & Constellations:
    April 24… Chapel Hill, NC (Local 506)
    April 25… Durham, NC (Blue Note Grill)
    April 26… Cape Charles, VA (Kelly’s Gingernut Pub)
    April 27… Wilmington, NC (Lagerheads)
    June 21… Lafayette, LA (Artmosphere) Ҽ
    June 26… Nashville, TN (Soulshine Pizza Factory) Ҽ
    June 27 & 29… Cape Charles, VA (Kelly’s Gingernut Pub) Ҽ

    Ҽ = w/ Campfires & Constellations

    Reed Turchi will also be doing two solo performances, both at breweries:
    May 3… Waynesville, NC (Tipping Point Brewery)
    May 23… Waynesville, NC (Frog Level Brewery)

    VIDEO: Milagres’ “Jeweled Cave”

    Milagres are back with a new album called Violent Light (Kill Rock Stars) and with it, the first of hopefully many videos to come, this one for a tune they call “Jeweled Cave”.

    VIDEO: Boogarins’ “Erre”

    Boogarins’ brand of trippy rock’n’roll gets visually turned into something that is very much eye candy, as the sound is ear candy for anyone who listens to this band. “Erre” is the song, As Plantas Que Curam (Other Music Recording Co.) is the title of the album, and Brazil… well, you know.

    What you will find out are tour dates, as Boogarins will be hitting the road starting tomorrow. This will definitely be a must-see concert and tour, do not pass this up. If you are going to SXSW, head to their performances.

    March 2… Goiania, Brazil (Grito Rock Festival)
    March 4… Recife, Brazil (RECBEAT Festival)
    March 7… Goiania, Brazil (Metropolis)
    March 12… Austin, TX (Casa Brasil)
    March 12… Austin, TX (Trailer Space Records) (Burger Records Day Party)
    March 12… Austin, TX (Icenhauer’s) (Sounds From Brazil)
    March 13… Austin, TX (Whip-In) (Burgermania)
    March 13… Austin, TX (Hotel Vegas) ((Levitation Austin)
    March 13… Austin, TX (Red 7) (Ground Control Touring)
    March 14… Austin, TX (Uncorked) (Seaport Music Festival / Paper Garden)
    March 15… Austin, TX (Hotel Vegas) (Burgermania III)
    March 16… San Antonio, TX (The Limelight) (Burgerama Hangover)
    March 17… Tucson, AZ (Distant Tavern)
    March 18… Tempe, AZ (Yucca Tap Room)
    March 22… Santa Ana, CA (Observatory) (Burgerama III)
    March 23… Washington, DC (DC9) *
    March 25… Brooklyn, NY (Glasslands Gallery) *
    March 26… Philadelphia, PA (The Barbary) *
    March 27… Athens, OH (The Union Bar & Grill) *
    March 28… Cleveland Heights, OH (Grog Shop) *
    March 29… Toledo, OH (Frankie’s) *
    March 30… Columbus, OH (Double Happiness) *
    April 1… Atlanta, GA (The Earl) ^
    April 2… Charlotte, NC (Snug Harbor)
    April 3… Carrboro, NC (Back Room @ Cat’s Cradle) %
    April 4… Harrisonburg, VA (MACRoCk Music Festival)
    April 5… Asheville, NC (The Mothlight)
    April 6… Winston-Salem, NC (Phuzz Phest)
    April 8… Cardiff, UK (The Moon Club) +
    April 9… Liverpool, UK (The Shipping Forecast) +
    April 10… Manchester, UK (Band On The Wall) +
    April 11… London, UK (The Shacklewell Arms)
    April 12… Norwich, UK (Epic Studios)
    April 13… Ghent, Belgium (Charlatan Democrazy)
    April 14… Brussels, Belgium (Botanique Witloof Bar)
    April 15… Liege, Belgium (Mad Museum)
    April 16… Utrecht, Netherlands (DB’s)
    April 17… Amsterdam, Netherlands )Paradiso Basement)
    April 18… Lille, France (TBA)
    April 19… Paris, France (Espace B)
    April 20… Lyon, France ((TBA)
    April 21… Modena, Italy (Osteria del 32)
    April 22… Milan, Italy (Magnolia)
    April 23… Ravenna, Italy (Moog)
    April 24… Genova, Italy (Teatro Altrove)
    April 25… ZUG, Switzerland (Le Coq d’Or)
    April 26… Zurich, Switzerland (Langstars)
    April 30… St. Louis, MO (Firebird) #
    May 1… Kansas City, MO (The Record Bar) #
    May 2… Dallas, TX (Club Dada) #
    May 3… Austin, TX (Austin Psych Fest)
    May 4… Baton Rouge, LA (Spanish Moon) $
    May 5… Pensacola, FL (Vinyl Music Hall) $
    May 6… St. Petersburg, FL (State Theatre) $
    May 7… Miami, FL (Grand Central) $
    May 8… Orlando, FL (The Social) $
    May 9… Charlotte, NC (Chop Shop) $
    May 17… Goiania, Brazil (Bananada Festival)
    May 22… Brasilia, Brazil (TBA)
    May 23… Sao Paulo, Brazil (TBA)
    May 28… Barcelona, Spain (Global Music Network Showcase)
    May 31-June 1… Barcelona, Spain ( rimavera Sound)

    * w/ Vertical Scratchers
    ^ w/ Dean & Britta
    % w/ Dean Wareham
    + w/ Lumerians
    # w/ Temples
    $ w/ Of Montreal

    SOME STUFFS: James end their six-year hiatus with new album

     photo James_old_zps2583e171.jpg
    James are: Tim Booth (vocals), Jim Glennie (bass), Larry Gott (guitars), Saul Davies (guitar, violin), Mark Hunter (keyboards), David Baynton-Power (drums) and Andy Diagram (trumpet). They’ve been around since 1982, which seems like a millennium for those who believe in such things as time. After taking a break for six years, the band are ready to release a new album on June 2nd called La Petite Mort. Singles have already been selected for the album, so remember titles like “Moving On”, “Curse Curse” and “Frozen Britain”. So far, James have two festival appearances scheduled:

    July 11… Manchester, England… Castlefield Bowl (Summer In The City Festival)
    August 1… Dorset, ENgland (Camp Bestival)

    More festival spots will be announced soon and they will be doing an arena tour in the UK as well. No North American dates as of yet.