Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song (CD)

There’s something about acoustic guitars that draws former punk rockers like moths to a flame. Frank Turner, former member of Million Dead, unplugged after his band dissolved about three years ago and decided to go the route of Billy Bragg, writing lyrically smart, occasionally politically-tinged folk rock songs.

On Love Ire & Song, his second full length (he’s also released a couple of EPs and a new LP is just months away), Turner offers a fantastic collection of brilliant sing along songs that practically soar out of the speakers. Turner tackles a plethora of topics on his latest, everything from growing up (“I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous”), right wing politics and screwed up teens (“Thatcher Fucked the Kids”), sometimes cramming all the themes into one song (like the title track).

Brimming with 14 tracks and clocking in at over 45 minutes, the record still manages to keep from dragging on, a feat most modern bands would be wise to learn. From somber (“A Love Worth Keeping”) to upbeat (“Reasons Not to Be An Idiot”), he covers the spectrum with Love Ire & Song, offering a track or two for just about every mood. Turner may have a quieter sound now, but his words are still as confrontational as the punk rock he started out with.

Top tracks: Too many to count, but try “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous,” “Thatcher Fucked the Kids,” and “Reasons Not to be an Idiot”

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song /CD/2009/12 tracks/Epitaph Records /

Lowside of the Road: A life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns (Book)

It’s amazing this book ever made it to print. Music writer Barney Hoskyns was shut out at just about every attempt to interview anyone who was even remotely close to the notoriously media shy Tom Waits. In fact, the end of the book comes with a collection of often humorous e-mail transcripts from a slew of Waits’ friends, collaborators and associates explaining why they would not be able to answer any questions despite having great respect from the writer. Continue reading “Lowside of the Road: A life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns (Book)”

Black Whales – Origins EP (CD)

With just seven songs, the Black Whales manage to make a damn fine introduction to the world. With influences that are as varied as The Clash, The Beach Boys, Talking Heads and The Kinks, Origins manages to incorporate a myriad of influences while still sounding starkly original. Continue reading “Black Whales – Origins EP (CD)”

Reno Divorce – Tears Before Breakfast (CD)

It’s been six long years since their last release, but Reno Divorce has made the wait more than worth it. On Tears Before Breakfast, their third record, the Denver-based foursome plays blistering punk rock better than most of their contemporaries. Continue reading “Reno Divorce – Tears Before Breakfast (CD)”

Steve Singh – Heavy Metal Sunset (CD)

Toronto-based musician Steve Singh has taken the DIY ethos to heart. On his latest, Heavy Metal Sunset, the singer/songwriter wrote, performed, mixed and produced all 10 songs. Mining a stellar list of influences as varied as Stevie Wonder and Glenn Tillbrook, Singh makes pop music like no one else performing today. Continue reading “Steve Singh – Heavy Metal Sunset (CD)”

Cool Devices – Self-Titled (CD)

Just seconds into Cool Device’s self-titled debut, through the blistering gnash of distorted chords, its clear front man/guitarist Jason Frederick has some demons to exercise. You can’t blame the guy; the whole reason he started Cool Devices was a reaction to news that his old Columbus, OH-based group The Means were getting back together without him. Now based in Chicago, Frederick’ new band Cool Devices manages to rip through seven post punk-fused, garage rockers with the intensity of rabid raccoons. The result, though a bit repetitive by the last couple of takes, is admirable in its intensity, both sonically and with Fredrick’s vocals. The album opener, “(This is Not a) White World” shows the band at its best, with sharp lyrics and a fantastic rhythm section backing up the rants. The record’s swan song, the aptly-titled five minute “Someone Stop Them,” is about one song too late.

Top track: “(This is Not a) White World”

Rating: 7 out of 10

Check out for a copy of this album.

Cool Devices – Self-titled/CD/2009/7 tracks/Power Recordings/

The Jayhawks – Music From the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology (CD)

Despite releasing seven studio albums, and a catalogue of truly great alternative country songs, The Jayhawks were never able to move past the cult band status before going on hiatus in 2003. Listening to their just-released anthology – 20 songs culled from all of the band’s records – it’s a bit surprising that the Minneapolis band never reached rock star status. Continue reading “The Jayhawks – Music From the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology (CD)”

Roman Candle – Oh Tall Tree in the Ear (CD)

It took a few albums, but Chapel Hill’s reining alt country heroes Roman Candle have just turned in their iPod killer – not a single track is worth passing over. Oh Tall Tree in the Ear is 11 tracks of beautifully-crafted, well-written country-fused, roots-based indie rock reminiscent of some everyone from classic Big Star to the first couple of Wilco records. Continue reading “Roman Candle – Oh Tall Tree in the Ear (CD)”

Richard Swift – The Atlantic Ocean (CD)

Richard Swift has the sound, voice and influences an artist who’s been around for at least the past three decades. Lyrically, you have to go all the way back to Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman in the 70’s to find an appropriate contemporary and his music picks up where Jeff Lyne left off, boasting a brilliant knack for weaving literate pop sounds that go down smooth. Continue reading “Richard Swift – The Atlantic Ocean (CD)”

Girl in a Coma – Trio B.C. (CD)

What a difference two years make. On Trio B.C., the band’s sophomore record, San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma has matured greatly, both musically and lyrically. It’s not that their debut was bad, just very clear that the band grew up listening to The Smiths and not a whole lot else. Continue reading “Girl in a Coma – Trio B.C. (CD)”