Just two tracks into Umpteenth, the sophomore LP from Brooklyn-based Onesie, you’d swear this was an early ‘90s college radio rock find, sandwiched between Pavement and The Breeders. Across 11 tracks, the band play a beautifully-cohesive brand of Power Pop, but it’s clear they also have a strong affinity for some of the classic Glam and 1970s rock bands as well after listening to the chugging guitars on a song like “Customers,” “Coin Op” or “Amour Phuss” (it doesn’t hurt that Ben Haberland put in his time with punk bands years ago).
One of the main appeals of Umpteenth is, despite being tethered to Power Pop, there is plenty of experimentation here, with synths popping in and out of songs and a violin that makes a cameo on “Final Days of Nineteen” (lyrically a song whose vagueness would impress even Michael Stipe). The downside is that not every track here is bound to please everybody. But fuck it, playing music strictly to appeal to the general masses is hardly something to be proud of.
Onesie – Umpteenth/11 tracks/Dadstache Records/2019 / Bandcamp / Facebook
breaking up nearly 10 years ago, there are still few bands from the
‘80s and ‘90s that can still command allegiance from the masses like
R.E.M. Sure there are a slew
of groups from that era that can brag about cult status, but R.E.M is
among the few who have managed to hold on to their core early adopters
from their I.R.S. years and bring along an entire generation of new fans
when they moved onto the much larger Warner
Bros label in 1988. Which brings us to this stellar vinyl reissue of In Time their best of 1988 – 2003 collections.
The set, released less than six months after the band’s
Reveal album, covers their time on Warner from 1988’s Green
up to this point. The label Craft Recordings, like they have with other
R.E.M. vinyl reissues, have done a brilliant job. Released on 180-gram
vinyl, they made a limited run on translucent
blue – simply stunning. This marks the first time in 15 years this
record has been out on vinyl.
The double LP set includes 18 songs, including two from soundtracks (the so-so “All The Right Friends” from
Vanilla Sky and the stunning “The Great Beyond” from Man On The Moon) as well as two previously unreleased tracks, “Animal” and “Bad Day”. The records are
housed in a deluxe gatefold jacket. Unlike many of the quickly thrown together vinyl re-releases
that are almost routine nowadays, In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003,
along from being crammed with great songs, is gorgeously designed, befitting a band as important
R.E.M. – In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003/18 tracks/Craft Recordings/2019 / Twitter /
Make no mistake, Portland’s TK & The Holy Know-Nothings are above all else a bar band. And quite possibly one of the best bar bands going at the moment.
From the tear in your beer opening track, “Alone” to the boogie woogie vibe on a song like “Good Stuff,” there’s a song on
Arguably OK to speak to just about anyone inside the bar.
Elsewhere on the album, “Emanuel,” is likely the slowest, savviest song
ever written about pills and caffeine, while “The Devil’s Point” is
witty enough to impress Kris Kristofferson. The five-piece
turns in a groove-heavy, almost dream-like record with remarkably
insightful lyrics that owe quite a bit to the Outlaw Country sound of
the late ‘70s. The only track here that doesn’t catch right away is the
dark, “Had It Coming,” a challenging song compared
to the others here.
Coming in at nine songs, Arguably Ok is the perfect length: long enough to showcase the band’s impressive depth and range, while still managing to leave you wanting more.
TK & The Holy Know-Nothings – Arguably OK/9 tracks/Mama Bird Recording Co./2019 / Domain / Facebook
Jersey and Philly bands have long had a contrarian streak of playing
music with no obvious allegiance to current fads or trends. The
unfortunate mid-to-late ‘80s aside
– a time when the region was deeply in the throes of hair metal –
groups from Philly and the nearby Camden, NJ area have focused more on
simply writing great songs, genres be damned, and creating intimate
tight music scenes as a result. The Gloucester City,
NJ-based four-piece, The Warhawks are no different. On their debut LP, Never Felt So Good,
the band charges through a mix of strong influences, from Bouncing
Souls-worthy punk on “Don’t Give a Fuck,” to jangle pop on “Nothing to
Do,” and ‘90s college
radio rock on “Change.” The band confidently and seamlessly slips in
and out of musical styles throughout.
The only weak track here is the album opener “Not a Problem,” a decent, but somewhat generic hard rocker that only stands out in comparison to how satisfying the rest of the album comes off.
The Warhawks – Never Felt So Good/Self-Released/2019 / Bandcamp /
artist Lucette has surrounded herself with some of the most talented
names in modern Americana and country music – working with Dave Cobb on
her 2014 debut and grabbing
Sturgill Simpson to producer her latest record – but to call her music
Americana or country would be a gross misstatement. Yes, there are hints
of both here and there spread across
Deluxe Hotel Room, but there’s also more liberal amounts of Soul, R&B and Indie Pop covering all nine songs.
one constant on each and every track is Lucette’s hauntingly beautiful,
often melancholy vocals that evoke memories of fellow Canadian artist,
the late Leonard Cohen. Few
others can emote so much with seemingly stark lyrics and often stripped
down music, like the title track and the closing song, “Lover Don’t
Give Up on Me”. Elsewhere, on songs like “Angel” and “Fly to Heaven,”
she goes full R&B complete with sax, and while
not exactly jubilant, she comes off sounding impressive, nonetheless.
Given how compelling Lucette is not only as a singer, but a songwriter as well, it’s pretty obvious why both Cobb and Simpson wanted to work with her.
LUCETTE – Deluxe Hotel Room/9 tracks/Rock Creek Music & Thirty Tigers/2017 / Facebook / Domain /
With his skin tight black jeans, leather biker jacket and Little Lord Fauntleroy jet black hairstyle, Brad Marino comes off one of the long lost Ramones on the cover of Extra Credit, his debut solo record.
And the look is a pretty apt, as his
songs can clearly match the Ramones
in terms of catchy earworms. But unlike the boys from Queens, Marino
digs much deeper into the crates for influences and comes up with a
near-perfect Power Pop record. There are snatches of punk rock attitude,
some garage rock chords, but the overall vibe
is so much catchier – think a caffeinated Big Star or Material Issue –
big fat song-along choruses that stay with you long after you’ve turned
off the music. As co-founder of The Connection, that garage rock
influences are a given, but Marino let’s his pop
instincts shine through on tracks like “Fit to Be Tied,” the infectious
“Broken Record Baby” and the commendable Chuck Berry cover “Bye Bye
Impressively, Marino plays just about all of the instruments on
Extra Credit. Even more impressive is the fact that he has
managed to cram 15 songs onto the album and the momentum doesn’t fade
until the last chord rings out on the final track.
Brad Marino – Extra Credit/15 tracks/ Rum Bar Records /2019 / Facebook /
Megg Farrell readily admits it’s a
crooked line that brought her to the
sound she has now. She grew up a kid in New York jamming to indie rock
and Riot Grrrl bands like Sleater-Kinney. A little later, camping and
rafting through the South turned her on to Bluegrass and introduced her
to the finger-picking style. Back in the Northeast,
she started a band playing venues up and down the coast before she
decamped to France to study Jazz.
Back in Brooklyn now and fronting the
aptly-named Megg Farrell & Friends,
she has landed on an irresistible brand of Americana that essential
draws on that lifetime of musical influences. In just nine songs,
Farrell and her partners are able to succinctly and seamlessly tear
through those influences for a wildly original album,
that grabs attention with just a single listen. The record starts off
with “Feelin’Single,” a Hank Williams-worthy country romp with whip
smart lyrics, followed in quick succession by the banjo-driven stand
outs “Lovesick Harmony” and “New Orleans Waltz,”
a song that screams classic. From there the vibe mellows out a bit,
eventually closing with “If I Were a Woman,” a beautifully contemplative
ending to a remarkable record.
Megg Farrell & Friends – Self-Titled/9 tracks/Self-Released/2019 / Domain / Facebook /
It’s hard to believe that Change of Pace, Andy Frasco’s latest LP comes on the heels of a break up and a realization that his cocaine-fueled lifestyle may need a little adjustment.
From the opening funk-drenched title
track and throughout most of the other
10 songs here, Frasco and his band have the same party vibe that has
quickly attracted audiences across the globe over the past few years.
But if you listen to the lyrics, especially on songs like “Love, Come
Down,” “Let Your Mind Be Free” and the mellower
“Somedays,” you can hear the change in a much more thoughtful Frasco.
The irresistibly fun vibe is still there,
but a little more mature and even
contrite with this go round. The horns – always a strength and a
standout in his sets, can still be heard loud and clear on “Find a Way”
and “The Walk,”
but the best song here is the
closing “Don’t Let the Haters get You Down,” a
two-middle-fingers-in-the-air rousing anthem to assholes everywhere.
Andy Frasco & The U.N. – Change of Pace/11 tracks/Republic of Music/2019 / Domain / Facebook
It’s been nearly 20 years since the Italian four-piece Peawees turned in their fantastically succinct argument that stellar garage and punk rock doesn’t belong to the ‘60s and ‘70s; Dead End City was a near-perfect expression of frenetic joy, anger, optimism and cynicism all trojan horsed in a dozen tracks.
released in 2001 on a small indie label in the Netherlands, it was
tragically overlooked by just about most in this country (though I’ll
bet you a pack of brand new
record sleeves more than a few music geeks and record nerds claim to
remember the initial release…).
That’s where the hero on the White Horse enters the scene; Lou Mansdorf owner of Boston-based Rum Bar Records is re-releasing
Dead End City and tacking on three bonus tracks to make up for the wait. The album is coming out on CD and vinyl.
Dead End City
is a tight explosion of two-and-three-minute bursts of machine
gun drumming, distorted power chords and snarled vocals with singalong
choruses that stick in your ears long after they’ve stopped ringing.
There are the obvious influences like The Clash, The Ramones and Social
Distortion, but also plenty of other more subtle
influences, like T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
Whether bashing through their originals, like the defiant, addictive “‘Cause You Don’t Know Me” or covering a classic like Fogerty’s “Proud Mary,” the band delivers a classic in the making that was well worth the wait.
PEAWEES – Dead End City [Reissue]/15 tracks/Rum Bar Records/2019 / Domain
Country music has gotten some bad press over the past few years because… well,
it’s bad, sometimes dreadful. For the most part, it relies on clichés and
unimaginative recycled themes and lyrics that appeal to the broadest, most unimaginative
audiences out there. But then there’s those musicians that live in the shadows
of Mainstream Country music – the authentic Americana bands, the Bluegrass
groups that don’t give a shit about radio airplay and the Outlaw Country acolytes
who worship at the altar of Willie, Waylon and Bobby Bare, but wouldn’t know a
Luke Bryan or Kenny Chesney from either member of Wham!
(probably best known as Freakwater’s Morgan Greer) is one of those musicians
thriving in those shadows, turning out one great record after another with
little attention from Mainstream Country Radio or the producers of Ellen. And
his fifth offering, Cordelia Elsewhere,
is his best to date.
Across 10 tracks,
from the almost jubilant ode to bad decisions and bad luck, “Four Leaf Clover”
(easily the best song yet about kids losing their parents to a bear attack),
the opening, rock-infused “Into the Water” to the sanguine, surprisingly deep
“Time to Go,” Drunken Prayer offers one of the best arguments yet for Country
fans to turn off the radio and head into the shadows for the good stuff.
Drunken Prayer – Cordelia Elsewhere/10 tracks/Deer Lodge Records/2019 / Facebook /