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Posts tagged “alternative rock

FRESHMEN NO MORE: After 13-year hiatus, The Verve Pipe returns with Overboard June 17th

I’ll admit that Brian Vander Ark’s vocals on the entirety of Villians soundtracked my early high school years, giving me plenty of reason to play the album and dozens like it on repeat as I navigated teenage awkwardness. Unfortunately the ’90s alternative rock scene wasn’t built on longevity, at least where myopic, aurally insensitive radio execs were concerned, and bands like the Verve Pipe, Harvey Danger and Semisonic never got the long-term traction they so richly deserved. It wasn’t that they couldn’t write another hit, but rather that radio and label honchos wouldn’t have known said hit if it broadsided them.

Thirteen years after their last full-length rock album, however, The Verve Pipe returns June 17th with Overboard, an album which relights the fire under their blend of well-crafted pop and catch-you-off-kilter rock. With “Crash Landing,” the album’s first promotional single, they show you really can’t go back again — this is no “Villians” or “Photograph” — but you can put a new spin on something and reinvent yourself in a way which is refreshing and well worth the listen. “I’m hearing words no one’s spoken,” he sings.  “And I can feel my heart beat though I know it’s broken. Nothing is the way it seems, like being awake in a dream.” The chorus then crash-lands with an impact that launches this song instantly into the memory banks.

If you’re looking for the band to tread water through nostalgic carbons of what you heard while walking those sophomore hallways, you may be disappointed. But it’s refreshing to hear a band return after all these years, arriving with the verve to sound as fresh in the current musical climate as their alt-grunge did when we first heard it in the early ’90s. That the band’s songs feature hooks as brilliantly singable even after a decade and a half in limbo is the icing on the cake. Overboard is the most pleasant surprise of the summer so far, and it’s an album you shouldn’t miss.

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06 – Interview: Midnite on Pearl Beach

This week on the “Hear! Hear!” and Now podcast I sat down to talk with Justin Jahnke, the brains behind Midnite on Pearl Beach, to discuss the band’s album Lamplighter, which officially came out this week. Stay tuned after the interview to hear “Name of the Game,” Justin’s favorite track off the album, in its entirety.

To suggest artists for potential inclusion in a future feature or interview segment on the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, please email kroessman@gmail.com.

MELLOW GOLD: Slippertails’ There’s A Disturbing Trend sludge-rocks its way into your soul


Si, soy un perdedor, but I’m loving how much fun Slippertails are making out of my eternal nostalgia for early-90s alt-sludge.

These New Jersey-ites have soaked in everything that made Beck’s Mellow Gold and Nirvana’s Bleach so mind-bendingly addictive and they’ve put it through a punk-rock blender, creating a photocopy of their own “Garden State of Mind.” However you look at it, songs like “Hip New Jerk” require one to immediately forego the headphone treatment, instead blasting these sludgy, instantly deep-grooving tracks to the masses, demanding they pay attention.

You can stream the entire album now on the band’s Bandcamp page, and you should do so quickly, for There’s A Disturbing Trend serves to showcase just how good modern alternative music can be when you forget about trends altogether and simply rock. Now that’s a novel idea!

Don’t be afraid to Crash and Burn this Christmas, thanks to Four Nights Gone album giveaway on Bandcamp

I featured their single, “Crash and Burn,” on this site last September, writing that “everything about the song would have been a smash hit if it’d been released in 1998, but there’s nothing here which sounds out of place in 2011 either.” But if you missed all the fun that is Four Nights Gone, they’re still looking to win you over. For two days only, you can stream and then download their full five-track EP Crash and Burn for free at Bandcamp, though only 200 copies will be given away for free December 24th and 25th. Here’s your chance to hear solid alternative rockers on their way up — if “The Scars Remain,” their latest single, is any indication, they’re definitely ready to jump to that next level.

Turkish Delight: Canadian rockers Oldnfade do it “for the love” on righteous new hype single


I am not a politician
I am not a hypocrite
We are here making music
Our name is Oldnfade
We will destroy the stage
There is nothing wrong with what we do
No one ever tells us what to do
Life is too short, no worries
Keep it up, watch, enjoy with me

This may be the best pure hype single since Tenacious D first vowed to rock our socks off. Oldnfade, a Canadian rock band featuring a Turkish-born lead singer proves their mettle through catchy rock riffs — the lyrics matter little beyond proving they’re here “doing it for love,” and that they have no political motivation. They don’t take themselves too seriously, but rather simply want to make sure we know who they are and that, whatever happens, they’ll be sure to rock without pretense. Life’s way too short for anything else.


With a self-titled EP and rocking Oasis-inspired track “My Heroes Are Dead,” The Rebel Light shines brightly indeed

The first thirty seconds of “My Heroes Are Dead,” the latest single from Los Angeles-based The Rebel Light, flashed me back so abruptly to classic Oasis, I could all but smell the beer spilled during a Gallagher brothers’ throwdown. No that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, but it definitely sets the aural scene.

The band recorded the album completely on their own dime, tracking vocals in their bathroom and the drums in a woodshed, “in the spirit of all that is indie and good” as they succinctly put it. Whatever your musical tastes may be, this four-track EP, available at Noisetrade on a “name your own price” basis, has more than its share of great hooks. Just like a musical dealer, they reel us in with free product and then jack up the price once they’ve got us on the hook. “Heroes” in particular is so unrelenting in its addictive qualities, I’d mainline it if I could only find a bloody vein.

Texas songwriter Justin Soileau hits the mark with honest nostalgia of “Loneliness and Wine”

Justin Soileau

I’ve been listening to Justin Soileau’s magnificent new self-titled album for several weeks waiting for the right opportunity to write something about it, and it took a listen to “Loneliness and Wine” to open the floodgates. This song encapsulates exactly what makes Soileau’s music such an engaging listen. Blending the seemingly effortless hooks of Will Hoge with whipcord-smart lyricism which rivals Josh Ritter, the song delivers on repeated listens, much as the remainder of the album does. If you haven’t had the chance to hear him, check it out. You won’t go back disappointed.

Need a wake-up call? Man Made Sun is ready to deliver

Man Made Sun

If the madman behind King Missile happened to create a brand-new supergroup with Serj Tankian, the resultant mind-fuck would surely resemble what is presented on Man Made Sun’s EP More A Devil Than A God, which thankfully is available to enjoy via Bandcamp in all its glory. “God vs God” and “Belief” open the proceedings with such wild abandon it’s impossible not to be sucked into what this band has to offer. These New Yorkers are sure to make a splash once their music finds a wider audience online. Listen to the entire EP below, and if you dig it, you can support the band by buying it as part of a “name your own price” deal. Trust me, it’s worth the time!

Dublin-based Trap Door issues new single, “Wake Up,” echoes raw energy of Joe Strummer

Trap Door

Dublin’s Trap Door brings the goods.

I’ve got a reason for believing
That just dreaming gets you through
Stop complaining, you’re always blaming
We can get them, me and you

Dublin’s Trap Door hits hard from the word “go” with their just-released single “Wake Up,” an alterna-ska romp which echoes the late Joe Strummer mixed with elements of Australian hip-hop outfit the Herd. The resultant hook-filled four minutes succeed, drawing listeners in to an instantly repeatable trip through alt-rock, ska and retro-punk. The song’s available on the band’s EP Lata Town, the title track of which proves the new single is no fluke. These guys know what they’re doing, and they’re easily on the verge of wider exposure. Forget “Dublin’s lost and found” — ” Trap Door’s ready to cross the ocean and give America a run for our musical money!

Throwing deft lyrical punches, Jason Myles Goss is alternative music dynamite

Jason Myles Goss

Of bad nights and bruises, Jason Myles Goss’s songs show, rather than tell.

I was born in the gutter from a mother just seventeen
No father or a brother in a world so hard and mean
I learned to fight before I learned to read
I could could throw my hands with a devilish speed
And someday, Mama, you’ll see I’m gonna be somebody

For this 90s-music veteran, having cut my teeth on Counting Crows’ August and Everything After and whetted my appetite for roots-alternative via the Wallflowers’ Bringing Down the Horse,  it’s refreshing to hear a songwriter with the honest songwriting ability of Jason Myles Goss. The Massachusetts songwriter who is equally indebted to similar influences, owes a great deal to the former Dylan’s ability to craft a memorable lyric, coupled with Joe Pug’s amazing modern folk delivery. Couple that with an amazing pop-rock hook which instantly reminds of Tonic’s Emerson Hart, and “Black Lights” is a stunning discovery which serves as a perfect introduction to the songwriter’s fourth album, Radio Dial, an album which works as hard as this song’s boxing protagonist to craft meaningful music which resonates like a brutal right-hook.

All I have are bad nights
Wrapping knuckles, taping hands tight
The calm after a fistfight is the hollowest sound I know …

Almost like the hollow sound you’ll briefly hear between your ears before you hit play and dig up a copy of this stellar album so you can hear a dozen more just as good.


Check out the All Ways on America’s Got Talent!

The All Ways Got Talent

The All Ways definitely have talent … but will America fall for them?

I have been a fan of the All Ways ever since I first heard their cover of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” last year and wrote them up here at “Hear! Hear!”twice! They auditioned for America’s Got Talent by performing the Adele cover … a smart move, considering it’s their big claim to fame. But it’ll be interesting to see if America buys in and falls in love with the band when they start playing their own songs. My vote is for “Jaguar,” their latest single, which is catchy and upbeat, bringing together the band’s obvious love for eighties rock with their more modern pop-punk leanings. Either way, it ought to be fun to see a “Hear! Hear!” Artists To Watch act making good on national television. Hopefully this will put them a step closer to recording an album for national consumption.

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How far do you think these guys will get in the competition? Sound off in the comments below! You can catch them live on America’s Got Talent on Tuesday the 10th at 8 p.m. EST, the first of the top 48 voting rounds.


Sarah Fimm

Singer-songwriter Sarah Fimm

If you enjoy your piano-based alternative with plenty of Fiona Apple meets Under The Pink-era Tori Amos, Sarah Fimm brings plenty to the table you’re sure to enjoy. “Everything Becomes Whole” has a self-destructive sense to it, as Fimm voices the frustration with the fear that the only way she’ll ever feel whole is through her own demise. She’s been recording under the radar for more than a decade, earning praise from Rolling Stone and Billboard, and though her songwriting still showcases a deep respect for the artists of the 90s, there’s also a deep vein of twisted confusion to this music. Hints that she’s equally influenced by the likes of Lisa Gerrard or Maynard James Keenan abound, making for a surprisingly varied listening experience.

Fimm’s upcoming EP Barn Sessions was recorded in upstate New York, and will be released in physical form on a wooden flash drive complete with videos and photos captured during the creative process. The EP features stripped-down versions of rock-oriented material from her last album, Near Infinite Possibility, along with covers from artists as varied as Neil Young and David Lynch. You can’t buy it until next week, but enjoy the video for “Everything Becomes Whole” below and let me know what you think. Is this something worthy of wider exposure?

FEATURED SONG: Clockwork Radio – “Feel It Up”

Clockwork Radio

Clockwork Radio

Clockwork Radio

Something about this new song “Feel It Up” by Clockwork Radio makes me think of a sonic alliance between Vampire Weekend and Crowded House. It’s an invigorating pop listen which builds its reputation more and more as you play it. Featured prominently on their new EP Unbuntu, which is available via purchase at Bandcamp, or for free if you choose to “Pay With A Tweet” by sharing the EP on Twitter or by suggesting the EP to your friends on Facebook.These alt-rockers, based in Wales, have had a measure of success in parts of Europe, but to this point have been an undiscovered gem here in the States. Here’s hoping they don’t stay that way for long — songs like this need to be spread around!

ALBUM REVIEW: Our Lady Peace – “Curve”

OLP Curve

Unless we’re all expected to grade future OLP albums on a curve, this effort by the venerable Canadian band can only be seen as a bitterly disappointing pill to swallow.

Album Review
Our Lady Peace – “Curve” (2012, Warner)

As a long-time fan of Raine Maida’s music, I give him a lot of credit for being willing to push his band in varied directions over the years even when they were internationally dismissed as being just another Nickelback — alt-rock by the numbers. The band’s early albums from 1994’s Naveed through 2000’s Spiritual Machines stand among the best of the genre. They’ve simply lost their way somewhat in the current decade, as their shifting sounds frequently take a back seat to Maida’s off-kilter political diatribes.

Having interviewed both Maida and the other members of the band separately, I have the distinct impression that the two sides don’t necessarily always work in concert, which may explain albums like Burn Burn and Curve, which suffer from overblown lyrics and a sense that the musicians involved are treading water. The more control Maida has wrestled away from the band’s record companies, the freer he’s been to bog down these albums in sanctimonious bloat and lyrical nonsense, leaving the other members to simply come along for the ride. Maida has said Curve was an attempt to go back to the sounds they’ve mined on Clumsy and Spiritual Machines, but the music lacks the strong concept of the latter, and the hooks never come close to the former.

“Fire In The Henhouse” and “Heavyweight” provide the closest thing the album has to a decent pop-rock hook, and both are bogged down by indecipherable lyrical bloat: “Fire in the hen-house, protests in the deep south … it’s Shangri-La in reverse, time to call the wet-nurse,” Maida sings on “Henhouse,” before bogging us down in the chorus, rhyming change with accelerate, hesitate and calculate in an oddly syncopated stutter-step of banality. No one’s going to sing along with this, or likely even remember it beyond a casual listen.

And “Heavyweight” collapses beneath the forced metaphors of boxing and a world on fire, never really gelling around a concept listeners can fall behind. The chorus, where all should fall together, is a mess of babble: “When all these stars hit the ground, they’ll wake us; we fight not to be weightless.” Even a veteran of Raine-speak has to be baffled hearing him compare this to the depth and experimentalism of Spiritual Machines when there’s nothing to the bulk of the album to back up that comparison. It’s depressing to think he’s so far from reality, imagining this work is even close to on par with the albums which supposedly inspired it.

From there, Curve never finds its footing. These ten songs try to say something worthy of a repeat listen, but continually flop around as they struggle to suck air. “As Fast As You Can” tries to combine TV on the Radio with Arcade Fire with a stunningly toothless hook. “I’ve got a girl got a long snake moan,” he sings. “Got the voodoo in her hips and a God-shaped hole. I’ve got a feeling that the kids don’t know. What the kids don’t know the kids don’t mind, we all work on borrowed time.” Ugh, what a hot mess. If this is the best he can muster maybe it is time for Maida to hang up his pen for a bit and let someone else in the band a try. It can’t get much worse.

“I could be the greatest accident,” Maida sings on “If This Is It,” the album’s closest thing to a “Car Crash” or “4 AM” moment. “I just want to breathe you in.” Those of us who have followed the band for years, we have to hope the band still has something more to say, looking to the future more than they look so depressingly at their past, unable to recreate what made them tick in the first place. Unless we’re all expected to grade future OLP albums on a curve, this effort by the venerable Canadian band can only be seen as a bitterly disappointing pill to swallow.



Leeds-based rockers Frenetics revive the classic muscular rhythms and ear-catching melodies of 70s era garage punk. In turn they’re dragging their influences, everyone from Television to Iggy Pop, kicking and screaming into the modern rock world. “Ella” is a single which sticks to the inner reaches of the skull upon even a cursory listen, and though there’s nothing particularly forward-reaching about the single, the band clearly romanticizes those figures of the British music scene who played a huge role in developing punk music in the first place. So bringing some attention back to the sounds of a genre’s birth seems appropriate if they’re soon to be taking the lead in pushing said music into the future.

The band’s EP Broken Hands will be released on June 11th, and it further showcases their musical direction. “Satellites” is a tight production which owes more to bands like the Hives in the way they craft the ear-catching hook at the chorus. “See You On The Other Side” features blistering guitars and a wall of thundering percussion to back up the immediately singable title line. But it’s the unforgettable “Swing Kids” which will draw you in for good — given the chance to slow things down and illuminate the depth of their musical chops, it’s hard not to think of bands like Oasis, who were as capable of looking to the past for inspiration as they were at pushing modern alternatives to fans ready and willing to rock. This is definitely a band you’ll want to keep on your radar.

ALBUM REVIEW: My Arcadia – “Stay EP”

My Arcadia, particularly on their single “Sail On,” brings to the table a particularly fresh blend of alternative pop which bridges the gap expertly between melodic punk and vocal elements as far-flung as rock and alt-country. In short, this is an EP which will surprise first, then convert instant fans.

Album Review
My Arcadia – “Stay EP” (2012, Independent)

 New York’s My Arcadia hasn’t wasted a lot of time fighting for major-label deals or other outside bullshit. Their latest EP, Stay, establishes the band as one focused fully on the music itself, dedicated to pushing their sound in a direction few of their peers have attempted. Led by the fearless, peerless vocals of Jacqui Sandell, the band merges hard-hitting melodies with vocals of surprising depth and variance. My Arcadia, particularly on their single “Sail On,” brings to the table a particularly fresh blend of alternative pop which bridges the gap expertly between melodic punk and vocal elements as far-flung as rock and alt-country.

In short, this an EP which will surprise first, then convert instant fans. “Sail On” is the immediate highlight, but the title track allows the band, and Sandell in particular, to put an immediate stamp on what their music can be when everything comes together at one place and time. “Dreamer, keep on dreaming,” she sings. “I swear we’ll press on.” This is music for a generation weaned on alternative rock, still looking for bands willing to take a risk and write music they believe in rather than playing to current trends. When the band finally gets the exposure they deserve, it’ll be for this anthem. Here’s hoping Stay is just a glimpse of what My Arcadia still has up its sleeve.

ALBUM REVIEW: Counting Crows – “Underwater Sunshine”

Counting Crows Underwater Sunshine

Album Review
Counting Crows – “Underwater Sunshine” (2012, Collective Sounds)

Counting Crows completed their deal with Geffen Records in 2010 with the release of Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, which revitalized their career and featured the band sounding as good as ever. Two years later – which is an incredibly quick turnaround for the band, all things considered – they’re back with Underwater Sunshine, a live album which manges to sound as good as any album of original material the band has produced thus far as they enter a third decade of recording.

The secret? Adam Duritz has been unleashed to cover his favorite songs, but with only a few exceptions he’s chosen to focus on hidden gems. The songs on Underwater Sunshine are, for the most part, songs you probably haven’t heard a lot in recent years. Hearing them together in one extended listening session, however, reveals instantly just how brilliant Duritz is at taking any song and cutting right to the quick. Whether he’s doing a relatively by-the-numbers version of Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” (the most recognizable song on the album by a long shot) or rocking the hell out of “Untitled (Love Song”) by relatively unknown act Romany Rye, he’s immediately able to become part of the song through his unique vocals. And the band picks up the pace right behind him, developing this song cycle of covers into a cohesive Crows album on par with the best work the band has produced.

In today’s musical climate the important thing is the music. If the music is good, fans will spread the word and even a band like Counting Crows can survive as independents, free of the constraints a label places on what music eventually is released. In Duritz’s case, leaving Geffen and setting his own course could be the best thing to happen to the band since Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings brought their music full circle back to the rock of Recovering The Satellites and the roots-inspired sound of their debut August and Everything After. Here’s hoping the band’s next album of original material keeps going in this same direction, because for one happy moment it sounds like Duritz has put aside his fear of mainstream success and simply started having fun for a change.

Above: Counting Crows perform “Like Teenage Gravity” by Kasey Anderson, featured on Underwater Sunshine.

FEATURED SONG: Lonely Patrol – “Bittermint”


Lonely Patrol

Tell City, Indiana's Lonely Patrol

Somebody sign this band! Call it a Facebook Find, but I stumbled today upon one of the best hidden treasure bands I can guarantee you haven’t already heard. But you NEED to hear them. Open with the fuzzed out bass which introduces “Bittermint,” which sounds like it came straight out of 1995. By the time Sam Snyder’s vocals come in and the drums ratchet up to full throttle, you won’t be able to get this one out of your head. The song doesn’t come even close to wearing out its welcome; by the time these 135 seconds are over you’ll be hitting repeat and wondering where this band’s been all your life.

ALBUM REVIEW: She Makes War – “Little Battles”

She Makes War

Album Review
She Makes War – “Little Battles” (2012, Independent)

Laura Kidd, otherwise known as She Makes War, lives up to her name with this tightly wound example of exceptional alternative rock. Like a cross between Juliette Lewis and Juliana Hatfield, Kidd loads the 15 tracks on Little Battles with delicate vocals which anchor the crunching edge of the fully-loaded aural backdrops

“Exit Strategy” is the album’s brooding center: “Sometimes I’m only talking to myself,” she sings as thundering percussion, guitars and dueling synth effects create a wall of ear candy. “So I face my pretty tragedies; I contrive, survive little battles in my mind. I make my exit strategy — I deny I don’t try!” The album lives up to the battle-cry, each song building upon the last through shifting dynamics and edgy, confident songwriting, to create an album worthy of close headphone listening.

If you go into the album, however, expecting 15 variations on the theme of “Exit Strategy,” all with the same thundering punch and similar dynamic expressions, you’re going to be disappointed.Little Battles wins the musical war by dancing around expectations, building an album which stands strong because it’s so varied and adventurous.

“Magpie Heart” is a perfect example. The song initially sounds like a brooding singer-songwriter acoustic track, but builds its tightly-controlled fury through shifting highs and lows; by the time we reach the chorus and are then gently pulled back, the song has me thinking Smashing Pumpkins for all its twists and turns. This isn’t music for the lazy, but the rewards for those who dig deep are more than worth the effort. “Delete” then immediately twists expectations, providing an oddly structured, mind-bendingly addictive purely vocal example of what Madonna could be doing in the modern musical landscape if she was as willing to not repeat herself as Laura Kidd seems to be.

She Makes War’s Little Battles is already the most innovative rock record of the year, an album which plays well from front to back because of the artist’s intense commitment to tying each of these tiny masterpieces together into a cohesive whole. Each song works well on its own, but they rise to fuller heights as the individual pieces of a bigger puzzle. This album deserves to be the topic of every conversation about amazing, genre-bending music this summer. Here’s hoping She Makes War finds the audience it richly deserves.


Holy Esque

Scottish indie rockers Holy Esque

With a self-titled EP coming out April 23, Scotish indie-rockers Holy Esque are readying a full-scale assault on the American audience, with “Rose” leading the charge. Bringing the best of melodic Snow Patrol with vocals which remind this critic of the band Gomez, lead singer Pat Haynes delivers his band’s message with intensity and verve, and the rest of the band backs him with atmospheric arrangements suitably furious and raw. The result is fresh and definitely worth the listen.

For those of us who love 90s alternative music, Holy Esque is the perfect way to get our fix without feeling like we’re stuck in a world of nostalgia — this, my friends, is not backward-leaning music. “Rose” shows Holy Esque grabbing alt-rock by the ears and dragging it dramatically into the new decade. With any luck we’ll be hearing this on the few remaining terrestrial rock stations in America really soon, played on repeat. Until then, eagerly await the EP and spread the word!

FEATURED SONG: Secret Colours – “Faust”

Secret Colours

Secret Colours are coming for you ... resistance would be counterproductive.

Watch the video first, before you read anything I have to say:

Three words …. what the fuck? This may be the most awesome video I’ve seen in months, a visual experience which matches the aural twists and turns the music already provides. On this basis alone I immediately know I want to hear more, and quickly! The song leads off the band’s latest release, EP3, a five-track extravaganza blending serious psychedelic insanity with the guitar-wielding crunch of modern acts like the Gay Blades, Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. They’re definitely worth keeping an ear on as the year gets going!

FEATURED SONG: Four Nights Gone – “Crash and Burn”

Four Nights Gone

Four Nights Gone

If you were as big a fan of Staind and 3 Doors Down in the late 90s as I was (and hey, I’m not afraid to admit it, I was a fan of Staind and 3 Doors Down in the late 90s!) you’ll find plenty to enjoy about Four Nights Gone’s new single “Crash and Burn.”

The song has touches of modern alterna-rock production, courtesy of producer Ethan Bill (My Arcadia, Stateside) but what really makes the song pop from a hook perspective is how it seems to be existing on both a current and nostalgic plane. “I walk in a shadowed land of who I was,” Damian LaRocco sings, before hitting the chorus: “I won’t fade away!” Everything about the song would have been a smash hit if it’d been released in 1998, but there’s nothing here which sounds out of place in 2011 either.

All of which should bode well for the band as the Staten Island rockers market the song and work on an EP due out early in 2012. For those of you who don’t believe in the term “guilty pleasure,” choosing rather to enjoy music for what it is, Four Nights Gone has arrived with a worthy debut single. It’ll be interesting to follow them as they release that EP, to see what original musical voice develops along the way.

Judge for yourself below. If you enjoy the single, the band is giving it away as a free download via Bandcamp:

ALBUM REVIEW: Matthew Good – “Lights of Endangered Species”

Lights of Endangered Species

Year of the Album — #062
Matthew Good – “Lights of Endangered Species” (2011, Universal)

Matthew Good has never become much of a force in the US, despite his music being legendary in Canadian alternative music circles for two decades. Much like fellow Canadian rocker Raine Maida, of Our Lady Peace, Good’s music has had to find more of a niche audience in America, but the music above all else has maintained an incredible depth of quality through the years. On Lights of Endangered Species, his fifth and potentially final solo album, the varied strains of his musical genius have come together in an act of total sonic combustion, and the result is nothing short of phenomenal. This is a budding mid-year contender for my favorite album of the year, and it’s Good’s best work to date.

Good has always been a lyrical beast, the background music taking a backseat to his indelible bend of cultural commentary and raw vitriol. With Lights of Endangered Species, he has shifted his focus to the music itself, and these arrangements burst out of the speakers as the most incredible arrangements he’s ever had to back his vocals. Fully orchestrated in a way he’d attempted to achieve since forming the concept during the mid nineties, these are complex, fully developed sonic palates on which he can paint subtlely with his words. The result is his best-developed album, providing long-term listeners with the perfect album he’s frequently hinted at but never quite managed to deliver.

From the opening drum and piano strains of “Extraordinary Fades,” it is monumentally clear that this, if it is sadly to be his last album, is certainly Good’s masterpiece. His haunting vocals work their way in and out of the tense strings and thundering bass: “Lie and say to me extraordinary fades,” he begs, and the music swells to envelop him with open arms. He sings of his battle with bipolar disorder on “What If I Can’t See The Stars, Mildred?” spitting the words with raw power over bass and piano, building to a thundering climax. “If I look crazy, wonder what the fuck’s with everyone?” he snarls. “Do you walk out the door? Baby you gotta do what you gotta do. I end my day, picture a house on fire … on fire … on fire.” It’s a raw, blistering cut to the quick, and Good’s up to the challenge. The result is an example of concept meeting perfectly with execution, forming a track I personally won’t soon forget.

If I haven’t sold you on this album to this point, it’s not going to happen. Move along, rejoin your quiet existence and forget that Matthew Good was ever spoken of. The rest of you reading out there should immediately find a copy of this album as quickly as you can. Dig into it voraciously, listen to the songs up close and personal, give the music a chance to assert itself and prove the true depth of this magnificent album. Matthew Good has outdone himself with Lights of Endangered Species, an album which is going to prove for years to come why he’s been one of the few true musical geniuses of the last twenty years. If this is his last, it is worthy exit music and one of the best albums you’ll hear from anyone in 2011.


20 Days In

20 Days In

20 Days In is a developing band trying to rock their way through Philadelphia and the surrounding scene, and though they don’t have a full album to their name at this point, they do have some seriously rocking demos. Their self-titled 2010 demo 20 Days In features their blend of incendiary guitar-driven alternative rock for the new decade, and it’s well worth a few minutes to check it out. The entire album is available for free on Bandcamp, or you can sample songs individually by streaming. I recommend “Incisor,” which you can stream here below. The band intends to release a 2011 demo EP and then begin work on a full-length album due out sometime next year. Here’s hoping they get more exposure for the sake of rock radio!