MUSIC REVIEWS by Kent Manthie

MUSIC REVIEWS by Kent Manthie

Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl Records)
I’ve been waiting for Kevin Barnes to come out with a new Of Montreal CD for some time now, ever since I reviewed his previous opus, “Satanic Panic in the Attic” in 2005. Well, it was worth the wait and then some. “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” shows Barnes and company maturing and evolving, not merely staying in a box, playing staid formulae. If you were enchanted by the dreamy sweetness of “Satanic Panic…” you will be even more ecstatic over “Hissing Fauna…”; it’s got equal part sweetness & light as well as hipster “soul power”, intricate little hooks as well as seemingly endless layers of music and the more times you listen to the CD the more you uncover.
The CD cover is as unique as the music– the CD comes in a tagboard jewel box with four flaps on the front that open up like a blooming flower, containing the disc therein. When you open all the flaps each one has a unique kaleidoscopic pattern, four of them, plus one on the disc, which sits in the middle of the four surrounding flaps. I know that sounds complicated, but believe me, once you experience it, you’ll understand what I mean.
“Hissing Fauna…” is so luscious you get a sugar rush from listening to it. The first half of the CD is lively and effusive; songs like “Sink the Seine” and “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse”, for example, are upbeat, sunny-day songs; fast-paced, dance-y sugar-smacks and not at all saccharine, syrupy or silly.
The latter half of “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer” starts to dig deeper: the mesmerizing 11+ minute-long gem of the CD, “The Past is a Grotesque Animal”, a mindbending ‘wow’ of a song, shifts the groove to a slightly different course; it gets less bubbly and more soulful. The vibe gets more funky: for example, check out: “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider” or “She’s a Rejecter”. To me, it’s as if the first half of the album represents daytime and the latter is nighttime.
I’ve been dying for something new and exciting to listen to and “Hissing Fauna…” is a great start, but then again, that’s always the case with Polyvinyl Records, a Chicago-based label that is, in my opinion, on the “cutting edge” of the best of indie music. I’m excited every time I get another package of new CDs from the chix & dudes at Polyvinyl because no matter how many more emo bands keep coming, I know if it comes from PVR it’s going to be at the very least original-sounding and more often than not it’s a great thing to be able to listen to. Check out the website to see more of their stable of bitchin’ bands at: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com – KM.

Shineola Cream of the Slop (Hellam Records)
Shineola is a punk duo consisting of two brothers: Peter and Joe Belz. Brother Peter sings and plays guitar and Brother Joe plays guitar, bass and drums. I’d assume they have at least one other hired hand when they play live, since it’s hard for two people to play drums, bass and guitar. But in the studio anything’s possible; you can even take some tone-deaf girl and make her sound like a pop princess, but I digress – anyway, Shineola surprised me a bit – or maybe I just didn’t know I had it in me anymore, but once the album got going I found myself being irresistibly drawn into it, instead of initially flipping through the songs I just left it alone and listened to it all the way through a couple times in an afternoon and I found myself tapping my foot to the beat, snapping my fingers and generally getting into it all.
The music is a down and dirty punk-rock – no power pop or garrulous metal burnouts, but some ballsy rock & rollers with a fiery attitude. “Cream of the Slop” has some rolling, tumbling, gutter-splashing jags played to a fast and furious beat. Plus, it’s not too long, which makes for a nice album; it sucks when bands makes CDs with far too much stuff on them. My feeling is: if you don’t have 75 minutes of great stuff to put on a disc then just put 55 minutes, or 45 minutes – you don’t HAVE to fill up every second of the CD just for the sake of filling it up. Sometimes less is truly more and thank goodness Shineola stayed true to that maxim.
I thought the two covers they did were not too bad as far as covers go – they did a fast and furious version of “Street Fighting Man” and the CD closes out with a rumblin’ “Highway Star”. Now as far as their own stuff goes, I thought that “Bad Taste” was a winner, it has a cool vibe to it, a catchy refrain and it sticks to your brain. http://www.hellamrecords.com – KM.

Over It Silverstrand (Virgin Records)
Emo: I’m so Over It! How much more of the same old thing can people take? It seems like 90% of bands that form end up doing the same old thing that 100 other bands are playing because at the time that particular style/fad is getting played all over modern-rock radio. “Over It” is an album by another bunch of emo-scenesters on a major label (Virgin/EMI) – ‘nuff said. Seriously, though, I need to hear another shallow, whiny, emo band like I need a hole in my head. These songs are all formulaic, unoriginal, uninspired and not at all good. There is not a shred of musicality in this album. It is a tired, trite marketing device, sold to kids like so much hair gel and none of it’s ever been very good to begin with. OK, I’ll say something nice: they can play their instruments well, they’re not without talent, which is probably even worse, since they could be so much better, yet they chose to make money instead. If you want to read a review of these guys, go find write-ups for Jimmy Eat World, The Used, Good Charlotte and myriad icky bands like that. http://www.overit.com – KM.

Triclops Cafeteria Brutalia (Sickroom Records)
Rock on! Triclops is the rock & roll-messiah (for 2007, at least). Hailing from the incomparable Bay Area, these guys really exude a certain je ne sais quois that comes from living in San Francisco. You seem to get this aura about yourself after being in San Francisco for enough time. You stop being all uptight and slowly, one by one, your hang-ups disappear. After you’ve been in SF long enough too the asshole-ishness that you brought with you from the East Coast or the prudishness and right-wing tendencies that came with you like a stigmata or a yucky skin disease will melt away once you get imbued with the air that envelopes that very special place – the best city in the world.
“Cafeteria Brutalia” is a hard-hitting thingamajig; something that goes round and round in your head, a swirling mania, a jangle of pleasure. The music has interesting time changes, unpredictable syncopation and hipster beats, which is what makes it so interesting to listen to. Unfortunately it’s only an EP, with just four tracks on it. I wish there was twice as much music on here, but I suppose that makes these four songs that much more pleasing. The second cut, a love letter to the East Bay, “Jewel of Oakland” is a schizophrenic mélange that bounces all over the place, with no seemingly fixed time signature, the timing is all in the heads of the four beatniks who make up Triclops: Christian E. Beaulieu on guitar, Phil Becker on drums, Larry Boothroyd on bass and the interestingly named John Geek on “vocals and noise”. “Bug Bomb”, though, is the definite jewel of this EP: it’s an almost 11 minute-long freak-out that really awed me- it has a novel sound while at the same time evoking some wild experimental stuff I’ve heard that goes back to the late 60s and 70s, a mixture of progressive, experimental, underground stuff along with punk rock, with grungy-punk sludge guitars, some low-fi sentiment but big sound, crunchy riffs and a growling that was kept at a slight understatement for that effect of tension just below the surface, about to explode.
This quick little tease was recorded at Lucky Cat studio in San Francisco which, like a lot of small but great little recording studios all over SF, offers individualistic little places to hone some really great independent music far away from the reach of sleazy, corporate goons.
The intensity of Triclops at times recalls the brashness and in-your-face-ness of Rage Against the Machine, but without their heavy-duty politics; they have a jazzy syncopation and in-and-out-of-time-changes going on, a la Minutemen, but with a harder edge to the music. Don’t get me wrong, though; Triclops are their own band, not a bunch of copycats. I am damn glad I found this CD and I’m going to keep my ear to the ground and hope that they’ll play live around here soon. Check out their website, for more dish on these cats: http://www.triclopsband.com – KM.

The Powerplant The Stars are Suns
Some really interesting cats from Iowa recorded this CD all by their lonesome selves (with no label involvement) and, as usual, you never know what to expect; the independent world of music is a dangerous, mixed-up netherworld of high expectations and realism that hurts. Take The Powerplant: their latest DIY release, “The Stars are Suns” is a strange CD – At first it sounded really cool; there was this Fripp-style guitar noodling, the music was really something on the first cut. But then they had to go and ruin it by adding some very obnoxious growling. The vocal person toned it down for a spell on “Poor as Dirt” and part of “The Price of Life is Death”, but mostly, “The Stars are Suns” is marred by a huge mistake- the vocals. I don’t know what genius told them that it’d sound cool to stick the microphone in the singer’s mouth and scream or that it would add anything of value to the music, but whoever it was ought not be allowed back into a recording studio.
But listening farther I could tell that The Powerplant is a band that’s still trying to find itself, to define their identity and settle into something- close, but not yet. The more I heard, the more I was validated in this thought. It reminds me of a group of headbangers who’ve recently discovered King Crimson. Hopefully the Powerplant will grow a bit between now and the next CD they record and will decide to either get a real singer or else just play instrumental. The Powerplant don’t have their own website, but you can reach them at MySpace, by going to http://www.myspace.com/powerplantband – KM.

Run Barbara Run: And It’s The End (Zen Whisper Recordings)
What we have here is a cranked up mojo-hootenanny. Run Barbara Run is a lowdown combo of punksters; “And It’s The End” is a beer-soaked holler-fest, a smattering of evil genius with chips and it is on the brand new, out-of-nowhere record label, “Zen Whisper”.
“Brains” is a cult-classic-in-waiting, while “Massacre” is a desperate cry for help. This whole CD is a barn-burner, literally. Unfortunately, their spelling lacks a certain, uh…correctness, as they misspelled HEIST in the title of the fifth cut, “Great American Hiest [sic] of 1995” – oops! Well, hopefully this’ll serve as notice that it is so; fix it, OK?
Bands like Civet, The Wastrels and the Screamin’ Yee-haws are musical cohorts of RBR; if you’ve ever dug the Zombie Lounge in El Cajon then you already know what I’m talking about. Well, now you can go out and get this album to add to your already overburdened CD collection. There are some badass, meaty hooks and bellicose beats to thrash the hell out of your speakers. It’s got a super-cool vibe all the way through, no letting up; no pussy ballads and no power-poppin’ emo crap either, just straight-up brass knuckled rock & roll. Another good thing about “And It’s the End” is that, before you know it – it is the “end” – i.e., it isn’t too long. It’s just a little over 35 minutes; 10 songs squeezed into 9 tracks: #9 ends after 3.5 minutes, dead air for about 30 seconds and then a “secret” song pops up, a nice little acoustic ditty, just the guitar and singer. I think it’s called “(I Will) Never Be Free” or something like that, one can only guess because it’s a secret song.
So don’t hate RBR just because they’re from Lemon Grove, dude, we love the LG http://www.zenwhisper.com – KM.

Wensday The Other Girl Next Door(Desert Dreams Records)
Polished and super-slick songstress, Wensday is making some wild and crazy dreams come true for herself; but remember the old maxim: careful, you might just get what you wish for!
On “The Other Girl Next Door” (produced by session man extraordinaire, Dick Wagner), Miss Wensday has put forth much effort in expressing her sweet self with some powerful lungs that showcase quite a voice, a wide-ranging, versatile voice with much depth to it. I can just picture her singing in some beautiful, intimate venue someplace in L.A., crooning to an appreciative audience.
The music is soft, sensual crooning; easy listening, jazzy cocktail music, with a cool, carefree elegance that looks easy, but belies a hard-working honing of the craft. Wensday has a really good voice-did I mention that? I mean, she could be singing in the theater or something, she has a powerful, projective kind of voice, maybe not quite an opera diva, no, she’s more of a sultry crooner that can really soothe one’s mind and clear it out of messy thoughts and stuff. “Bulldog Blues”, “The End of the Highway” and the opener, “Arizona Man” are all examples of the depth and clarity of Wensday’s voice and she even does a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed”. This could be a CD from which you may hear stuff on your local smooth jazz radio station in a not-too-distant future. Go to these websites, for more info: http://www.wensdaymusic.com http://www.desertdreamsllc.com – KM.

neonthief Stranded Strangers EP (Loud and Clear Records)
The things that one comes across…I’ll tell ya: sometimes I get some really awful crap, other times I get some unbelievable stuff – way-out-there music that is a joy to discover. Neonthief falls into the latter category: they are some unique individuals who actually put some effort and care into their music. “Stranded Strangers” is an EP that made me hungry for more. I was lulled into a quiet frame of mind by listening to neonthief’s graceful, tuneful and almost folksy music. I wouldn’t call it folk, though, it’s just that they have this quiet, acoustic way about them, their music has more of a modern-rock sensibility to it, if you know what I mean, but it’s NOT emo. “Stranded Strangers EP” has poetically written lyrics, jingle-jangle pop hooks and an attitude of sentimental antisentimentality. I wish it were longer, though. This should be a full-length CD, not just a little tease of a thing. I hope that Neonthief gets back in the studio soon, while this ability to create nifty music is still in them; people sometimes change over a period of time and so the person who makes their fifth album at age 35 is much different than the one who put out a debut at 23.
The opening song, “Ricochet” pulled me in, grabbed me and with its beautifully layered beauty it hypnotized me into sitting still for the rest of the EP. http://www.merchlackey.com/loudandclear/

Boney James Shine (Concord Records)
Mr. Smooth-jazz, Boney James, is back with “Shine”, another in a long line of CDs that all have that soft & snuggly feel of velvet molasses. I think that GRP was the record label that perpetrated this kind of stuff on the public, back in the 80s or something like that, during the rise of the leaders of the cadre of smooth jazz: Kenny G, Lee Ritenour and Dave Koz – yow!
“Shine” has its moments, though; I mean, it’s not a sadomasochistic experience, Boney James blows some melodious riffs, creating art painted with colorful notes. “Shine” is a suave musical undercurrent to augment a romantic evening or just a good ambience to which one can read or meditate or think about sex. http://www.concordrecords.com – KM.

The Ghouls Stand Alone (SOS Records)
It’s nice to see that hard-core punk is still alive and kicking. What sucks is that if one only listened to commercial rock radio to get one’s tastes, which is kind of pathetic to begin with, one would think that the punk genre consisted of Green Day or The Used or one of those funny-hair emo bands, or power-pop trios.
The Ghouls have been hard at work, lately, honing their sounds, writing songs and fixing their Mohawks. On “Stand Alone” there is a real thing that is evoked – I forgot what it was but it was really super-deep. Solid punk grooves throughout “Stand Alone”. Sounding a little like Rancid would if Rancid weren’t so pop, the Ghouls aren’t as hardcore as MDC or CRASS but they exude a fast-and-loose ebullience, tempered by cheap beer and homegrown weed. I don’t hear a lot of pent-up anger here, or any political rants or nihilistic screeds, there are just a bunch of fast-paced punk anthems sliced through with a razor-sharp guitar, not just sludgy barre-chords, but an actual talented guitarist, what a novelty. I’ll take this over anything played on the radio today, except KXLU, 89.3 Los Angeles or KUSF, 90.3, San Francisco – 2 awesome college radio stations. To get an eyeful of SOS Records, click on this website: http://www.sosrecords.us – KM.

Lee Ritenour Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors (Peak Records)
Another smooth-jazz-man, Lee Ritenour has put out, like, 10,000 CDs, I think. I see this guy have new releases like every other week or something; it’s amazing how much stuff this guy does. He must live in a studio or have a studio where he lives.
“Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors” is the latest – the 10,001st release from this milquetoast jazzbo; it’s got some easy listening delights for you office workers and old folks. There are some highlights here, though, which include a version of a Freddie Hubbard song called “Povo”, which really grooves; another one is an old Bill Withers song called “Lovely Day”, changed over into an instrumental interpretation, winding along in a colorful way. Also nice is Lee’s own “Capetown”, a silky paean to that sunny place way, way down south (Africa, that is). “Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors” will never offend, never grate on you; it’s a happy, unobtrusive soundscape that never wears out its welcome, so have it over and let it entertain you. http://www.leeritenour.com, http://www.peakrecords.com – KM.

Fred Martin & the Levite Camp Some Bridges (Concord Records)
I haven’t heard or seen much of Jackson Browne lately; I think he was on tour a couple years ago, wasn’t he? Like maybe out on tour with some other holdover from the 1970s era. Well, anyway, you can put all your worst fears to rest: old Jackie’s doing just fine; no he hasn’t been killed in revenge by a battered ex-girlfriend or blown up or asphyxiated in his 1967 Malibu. In fact, Browne’s turned up on this new album by Fred Martin and the Levite Camp – a mellow, jazzy sunburst of pure cool energy, called “Some Bridges”; Jacksy’s the co-producer, along with Martin. Browne also shows up on a few tracks too singing a duet or with Fred or at the least backup vocals or whatnot.
There is just cut after cut of fine musicianship here, a bevy of belle époques that have a sheer-pleasure factor of about 8 _. The first song on the album features Jackson Browne on vocals, which is fitting, since it is one of his songs that is being covered here: “World in Motion” – the title track from his nineteen-ninety-something album, but the song is actually a mini-medley, that goes into a song called “Yes We Can”; Jackson shows up on a few other tracks as well. Another of Browne’s songs is covered on this CD: “Lives in the Balance”, but not sung by Jackie-baby; this version is a soul-sparking, passionate intonation, with backing from Ozomatli and with lead vocals by four golden-voiced women, Nykol Burns, Chavonne Morris, Asdru Sierra and Alethea Mills. Two other fabulous cuts are “The Next Voice You Hear” and “About My Imagination”. Also on “Some Bridges” is a lush, blissed-out cover of “Crossroads” that (on the same track) goes into an old gospel song, “Until I Found the Lord”.
“Some Bridges” is on Concord Records, home of smooth jazz artists, for the most part. Fred Martin & the Levite Camp would probably not be out of place on your city’s local smooth jazz radio station, but it the album has more soul than most of the stuff you’d hear on a station like that. These guys can go from a smokin’ bluesy jam to a jaunty, heartfelt ballad to a noodling quiet storm that gets you lost in a blue note http://www.urbanentertainmentinstitute.org or http://www.concordmusicgroup.com – KM.

Mellowdrone Box (Columbia Records)
When I was in first and second grades my best friend in and out of school was a kid named Jonathan Bates, his dad was a part-time actor named Allen Bates – not the more famous English actor, Alan Bates – and the last time I saw him his family had just moved from the sprawling lush suburbs to the inner city, but a nice part of the city, in a nice big old house. Last I heard of Jon Bates he had a mental breakdown in seventh grade and was put in a psychiatric hospital for a spell. That is the last I ever heard of him.
When I was listening to this new CD by an outfit called Mellowdrone, “Box”, I opened up the CD booklet and read the liner notes and lyrics and that’s when I learned that Mellowdrone consists of one sole person – a guy called Jonathan Bates. I couldn’t help wondering if this is the same Jonathan Bates that I knew from way back when. It’s a small world, after all. So, anyway, Bates wrote all the songs, plays almost all the instruments and sings and produced and engineered “Box”. Mellowdrone is a highly crafted and perfected effort, one that would come off quite differently live on stage, I mean, it could be done, though, but I think there’d be a different vibe to a live show than the polished studio crafts – not better or worse but a different mode of expression.
Anyway, I liked “Box” – it’s sardonic, it’s cool, it has a stark lushness and an icy coating of glass. The singing has a sugary plaintiveness; it’s a crisp off-set to the quiet ambience of the music.
“Box” is on Columbia Records, so naturally they’re going to push this thing to get it played on modern rock radio or sell CDs, et cetera and so they have a single they’re trying to spring on the masses. If you must know, it’s track #2, “Oh My”, as if people need to be directed, told what song(s) to like the most: “Achtung! Zees is vot you veel lee-sen to!” a nice little thing, but not necessarily the best song on the record; singles rarely are the best song on a given CD. The album fades out to the horizon with “Limb to Limb” a hypnotic lullaby that takes you out of the album’s realm with a gentle descent, down from outer space, safely back to the mundane. http://www.columbiarecords.com – KM.

Bridge to Terabithia Movie Soundtrack (Hollywood Records)
If you saw this sappy movie version of an almost unreadable book for teenage girls that I was forced at gunpoint to read in elementary school, you no doubt heard all these sappy songs except for the two that are on here that were not featured in the film. Wow. I haven’t heard of one single “artist” – singer, more accurately, featured on this soundtrack: there are people on here with names like Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Camp, Aaron Zigman and someone with the unbelievably pretentious name, Annasophia Robb. Ugh, I’d rather not have anything to do with the movie, the book or this soundtrack – http://www.hollywoodrecords.com – KM.

Rum & Rebellion
Rum & Rebellion are an inspiring trio from Salinas, CA, where the lettuce in your salad came from. They play an invigorating brand of punk-rock; not a thrashing, hard-core, in-your-face punk-rock, but more of a laid-back, Minutemen style of punk – a working-class band that is bringing their brand of politics to the stage, something that has all but disappeared in this age of permanent “war” and the slipping away of liberties in the name of “security, wherein you inevitably lose both. R & R aren’t an anti-war band, though, they’re more about a general lefty sensibility and being based in the Salinas area, they’re obviously very conscious about the plight of migrant workers and the labor movement – or the lack of a serious labor movement anymore in certain sectors of the economy.
It seems that since about the early 1980s or so there has been a dearth of political messages in both punk and “alternative” rock, instead the main message underpinning modern rock – especially American indie alt-rock, punk, DIY stuff was a silly kind of solipsism that was all about “Me! Me! Me!” There was perpetrated a faux-angst and bogus melancholia that very quickly became contrived and hollow. Teen-angst was magnified into a shallow existential drama that played out in the time it took to listen to a CD. For me, one of the most egregious examples of this was the release in 1996 of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”, Smashing Pumpkins’ third release and the follow-up to the incredible “Siamese Dream”, which they were, in the end, obviously unable to match ever again and so broke up. “Mellon Collie” is an almost unlistenable double-CD; they used every available second to fill it up with a lot of insufferably boorish navel-gazing, whiny little crying games by Billy Corgan. It was like he was trying to purge his soul of the anguish of 50 neurotics.
Anyway, back to Rum and Rebellion – this is a tight, concise, smart album full of intelligent songs about life in the good ol’ US of A in the 21st century and it has a sharp eye and brings off some rippin’ good tunes as well, not unlike the style of the Minutemen, the San Pedro blue-collar punk band that was tragically cut short by the untimely death from a motorcycle crash of D. Boon, the charismatically uncharismatic front man/guitar player. Some highlights of the album include “How Will You Choose?” “Byline (Song for Gary)” and “Right to Revolution”. There are more good tunes on here, but you’ll just have to go and buy the CD to hear them all. It is a total DIY effort – no label involvement here – who needs ‘em, right? So, if you want to find out how to get their albums or learn more about them, check out: http://www.rumandrebellion.com – KM.

Eight Cubed Simple Dance
This mesmerizing electronica disc, entitled “Simple Dance” is the product of the mind of one man, R. Esposito, from Toronto, Canada. Mr. Esposito goes by the moniker ‘Eight Cubed’.
I was pleasantly surprised when I played “Simple Dance”, an independently produced, DIY disc; for some reason, I kind of expected it to be a more saccharine, vapid dance music showcase, you know, that sugary “Pump Up the Jam”-type of plastic bubble-gum pop music set to a dance beat or an R & B blackdrop with hip-hop beats, what you might hear at a cheesy nightclub downtown on a Friday night. Fortunately, Eight Cubed is groovy instrumental electronica hypnotism, a bit darker, with more of an underground techno-style. There are 9 tracks that segue into one another and keep the listener spellbound. I was hooked from the first listen. The music has an icy starkness to it with austerity layered over with waves of synthesizer that create lift and sparks of life for the record. I wouldn’t say it all sounds alike, but at first, until you get familiar with it, the songs do lack a kind of solid form, but that vague mystery is what the listener keeps coming back for again and again – drawn into the unknown. http://www.eightcubed.ca – KM.

Davison/Coleman Forward Motion (DHW Records)
If you’re into folksy/new-age-y/introverted kind of music, this one’s for you. Cole Coleman and Lynn Davison, a couple of odd-bodkins, put their heads together and whipped up some exotic, medieval-tinged ditties. Let me put it this way: the cover they do of Cat Stevens’s “Moonshadow” is not at all out of place on this CD. The music is fancy, intricate and mellow as hell – but it’s all done with such aplomb – these two are not talentless hacks. Cole Coleman is into playing these archaic, hard-to-find string instruments and on “Forward Motion” Coleman plays a lute-like wooden string instrument called a ‘laud’; he also plays the regular, garden-variety guitar and keyboards and sings. I know that laud sounds like a mandolin, but it’s not. Lynn Davison is a great complement to Coleman. She sings and plays keyboards as well, being the vocalist on the majority of the songs. Their tranquil musings are a sleepy diversion from the mad rush of industry outside. Picture the two of them strumming away on a little stage in a claustrophobic coffeehouse in downtown, Hip City, USA. http://www.davisoncoleman.com – KM._

Sony Holland Out of This World (Van Ness Records)
Whoa, where’d you come from? Jazzy chanteuse, Sony Holland is just the sort of balm that will soothe your aching head or melt your troubles away, after a long, stressful day.
On “Out of This World”, Ms. Holland performs 13 jazz standards with a silky, caramel voice; songs like “Old Devil Moon”, “Come Fly With Me”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “In a Sentimental Mood”, just to name the better-known numbers. The songs all clock in at an average of about four minutes, nothing too long but not so short as to be just a tease, but hell, you’ll still be wishing for more by the time it ends.
Not only is Sony a dazzling songstress, but the band backing her up is phenomenal, featuring the likes of Charles McNeal, Jim Nichols and John R. Burr, among others. The jazz is a smokin’ bop from days gone by, no pretentious noodling or over-synth’ed studio-killing production, they were just left alone to be heavenly – for more about Ms. Sony Holland, check this out: http://www.sonyholland.com – KM.

Lindsey Buckingham Under the Skin (Reprise Records)
Well, look who’s back; the old L.A. wunderkind who, with his ex-girlfriend, Glenda the Good Witch, took over Fleetwood Mac in the 70s after they had already begun a shift from a hard-core English blues band into a lazy, So-Cal pop band after LSD-addled Peter Green went off and joined the Children of God (now known as “the Family”), soon to be followed by co-guitarist Jeremy Spencer. The L.A. incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was only good for the time when ex-Paris vocalist Bob Welch was in the band starting in 1973, e.g., on albums like “Bare Trees,” “Heroes Are Hard To Find” and “Mystery To Me”, which has on it one of the coolest songs ever: “Hypnotized”. But Bob had better things to do and by 1975 Fleetwood Mac was the backup band for a So-Cal duo called Buckingham/Nicks.
Anyway, life goes on; nothing ever stands still, not for aging pop stars or anyone else. “Under the Skin” is the first solo album that Mr. Buckingham has put out in some time. I think there was an effort about four or five years ago, if I’m not mistaken, but it didn’t really take off. To tell you the truth, though, I don’t think Lindsey-baby really gives a good goddamn if it takes off or not. He just wants to make music and get back to what really matters after all the craziness, the booze, the coke, the chicks, the dudes and the ‘ludes. Nowadays, Lindsey just wants to keep his mind busy and not let it atrophy and go to waste, so he gets cleaned up, talks to the label and works this thing out to whip up some bitchin’ tunes, such as “Not Too Late”, “Shut U Down” as well as the title track. As soon as the insurance folks OK’d everything, the deal was set and the next thing you know, the L-dude is shaved, showered and ready to go to work. For you freaky celebrity geeks, information hounds and bored people, the websites are: http://www.lindseybuckingham.com or http://www.repriserecords.com – KM.

Aaron Trumm Bleed (NQuit Records)
A CD called “Bleed” – surprise! Aaron Trumm is a rocking guy. He plays most of the instruments himself, with some help from his homies on a few tracks. The thing is sort of schizophrenic – it rocks, hard style, in places and then it dives into a mellow chill-out thing here and there, but on the whole it’s rather groovy. All through “Bleed”, one thing is consistent: Trumm has a knack for crafty lyrics; clever turns of phrase and a vividness of description. My favorite two songs on here are “War”, an anti-war rant and also “10,000 Mirrors”, a rockin’ little number. All in all “Bleed” is an entertaining, rockin’ CD; so I guess that’s about it, then – check please… http://www.nquit.com/aarontrumm – KM.

Joanne Olivieri Serenity (Shadows Ink Publishing)
I’m not usually into reviewing poetry books, but somehow this one was sneaked into a pile of CDs and, well, here we are. Joanne Olivieri is a San Francisco-based poet and writer; she slipped her slim volume of poems in with her girlfriend’s CD – Sony Holland, the blue-noted ingénue. “Serenity” is chock full of short, introspective little verses that tell of a whimsical life, one filled with ups and mediums. The meters are not too complex, the verses don’t get over-syllabified which makes for a clearer picture and a smoother reading experience. Hey-ho/Let’s Go! If you like poetry then by all means go out and find this book. I’m sure you can locate it if you go to the website of the publisher, http://www.shadowpoetry.com – KM.

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