New Music: “Distant Cousins” – Distant Cousins


Los Angeles trio have combined two of indie rock’s favorite sounds: an 80’s dance vibe and Americana on their recently released their self-titled album. The band has also been featured in shows such as Graceland and Criminal Minds. Their unique sound is best exemplified on the stand-out track “Everybody Feels It”.  The melody and structure of the song sounds like it could be a folk-rock song, but it’s given a bit of a glossy make-over on the surface to provide a fun and bouncy vibe.

There are also shades of power-pop to be found throughout Distant Cousins as well. With its clean yet chugging riff and memorable melody, it seems as if Distant Cousins were probably also listening to some Cheap Trick records as well when making this EP.

By combining different sounds into something of their own, Distant Cousins have managed to stand out in an era when everyone seems to be competing for the same space. The tunes found here showcase a finely tuned songwriting that will surely grow.

Check out the video for “Your Story” (Featuring Jessie Payo) below:

For more info on the band, check out their web-site here.

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Review: “Dirt Rust Chaos” – Deaf Rhino



Even on the slower moments, Deaf Rhino’s Dirt Rust Chaos hits hard. At times, it plays like a grunge record from the early ’90s: mid-tempo songs played with aggression supplied with plenty of volume. And like grunge’s influences there are touches of heavy metal time-signatures, met with the unbridled energy of punk. Fluid lead guitar riffs scream over crunchy distorted riffs. Dirt Rust Chaos also seems to take cues from the adventurous moments of early My Morning Jacket. There are several moments where it sounds like a heavier version of the band’s classic, Z.

But make no mistake: this is no retread or ’90’s revival album. Deaf Rhino clearly make their own sound here. The rhythm section composed of Tommy Scerbo (bass) and Jack “Shirtless Savage” Biamonte (drums), provide some funky moments underneath the sludge, particularly on the bouncy “Love “Don’t Matter to Me” and the bluesy-stomp of “Infinity”.

The album’s key is the musical interplay. It’s clear from a few minutes in that Deaf Rhino is a band that not only feeds off each other, but also listens to each other which shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Deaf Rhino are known for their intense live shows. There’s just enough push and shove between guitarists Adam Schlett (who also serves as the band’s lead vocalist) and Bobby Weir. While’s Weir’s leads are definitely noteworthy, it’s Schlepp’s memorable riffs – which range from distorted bursts to icy textures.  The two guitarists are at their best when they’re interlocking riffs and playing different versions of the same line.

Modern rock seems to be in good hands with the electrifying Dirt Rust Chaos. If you’re afraid that guitar-based rock is dying, Deaf Rhino just might be the band you need to restore your faith.

Check out a live performance of “Infinity” below:



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Review: “Swirled World” – Church of Betty



Church of Betty’s latest album, Swirled World is equal parts Power-Pop, World Music and Radiohead detours in adventurous musical endeavors. Those descriptions might seem a little ridiculous until you actually listen to the record, which is filled with shimmering melodies, and odd-time signatures. The use of the Sitar as the main melodic instrument on the melodic “I Remember You” is particularly riveting.

Too often, bands use a collage of sounds as a crutch, leaning on sounds to make their music sound interesting at the expense of, things called actual songs. Not so on Swirled World. Church of Betty mastermind Chris Rael’s songs are laser-sharp in execution and performance, particularly on the folk-pop gem “Beautiful Vessel”, the psychedelic touches of opener “Wake Up” and the amusing  “Brooklyn Soul”, which is a love-letter to the borough  in the vein of Walt Whitman.

Like Sufjan Stevens Rael layers even his straight-ahead songs with sonic details that come in and out like violins, horns and various instruments. Like a good painter, these are just extra colors made with broad strokes that add to the over-all experience. The title track and “Brooklyn Soul” particularly benefit from such an approach.

At times it seems like Rael spent a great amount of time listening to latter day Talking Heads records (which isn’t surprisingly since he has worked with David Byrne) trying to emulate the famed band’s explorations into world-pop. Not that that’s a bad thing: who wouldn’t want to try and sound like the Talking Heads?

Check out the video for “Brooklyn Soul” below.

For more information on Chris Rael and Church of Betty, check out his web-site.


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New Music: “Electric Parlor” – Electric Parlor

Electric Parlor Album Cover

“Don’t you know I’m a whiskey mama,” Electric Parlour lead singer Monique Alvarez wails in the first few seconds of the band’s eponymous new album.  From the sound of the crunching guitars, boogie rhythms and 70’s rock vibe, it’s not hard to think that whiskey must have been flowing when Electric Parlour cut this album.

Electric Parlour’s music – fat riffs, bluesy vocals and tight rhythms – harken back to the late ’60’s and early ’70s. Even the band’s imagery – psychedelic fonts and shades of purple – recall the heydays of Height Ashbury. But Electric Parlour are louder than say, the Grateful Dead, but their approach recalls the wild abandon of Big Brother and the Holding Company. It’s easy to suggest that Alvarez recalls Joplin – and that’s certainly an influence – but it also does her a disservice. She can more than hold her own, and she’s in full force on such tracks as the riff-heavy “Frisco High Line”, the epic “Freedom Ride” and the slow-burn of “Bitter”.

Electric Parlor’s music can be taken a couple of different ways: are they merely re-treading old-school rock and roll?  Or, has this type of style become so passé among indie bands, that it now seems fresh and invigorating? That, of course remains to be seen, but it’s still nice to hear a band that isn’t bucking any tread and releasing some music with some grit, and maybe some shots of whiskey in the process.

Take a listen to “Frisco High Line” below:

For more info on Electric Parlor, check out their web-site.

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New Music: “Moondance” (Van Morrison Cover) – Deaf Rhino


New Jersey rock band Deaf Rhino have taken on a monumental task: covering Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance”. Where Morrison’s original is Jazzy and soulful, Deaf Rhino takes an entirely different approach: loud and gritty. Deaf Rhino replace the pianos and saxophones, with walls of distorted guitars and thunderous drums, all while retaining the song’s original melody. Morrison’s romantic lyrics are still the same, but there seems to be a sinister intent when lead singer Adam Schlett sings the famous lines, “every time I touch you, you just tremble inside.” Morrison-obsessives may balk at this, but isn’t the point of a cover to breath new life into a song?

In addition to the Morrison cover, Deaf Rhino recently released their latest album, Dirt Rust Chaos. For more information on the band, check out their web-site here.

Take a listen to “Moondance” below:

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New Music: “Dancing with the Devil” – Sarah Petrella



“Spin me around and around,” Sarah Petrella commands during the bridge of her bluesy new single, “Dancing with the Devil”. It’s not only a command, but a sort of dare.  The tension builds as she repeats the line, and it’s only released when a biting guitar solo cuts loose.

If there’s a sense of danger here, it’s because the devil isn’t the demonic character of old. He’s the one with the burning smile, watching “you in the darkness of your slumber.” Petralla’s in full command of her voice here, that’s part country, part blues, but mostly it’s just confident and soaring.

The radio-friendly sheen slightly of underscores the dark-blues vibe, but that’s only a minor quibble. Most listeners will find “Dancing with the Devil” to be a raucous slice of old school rock and roll.

Take a listen to “Dancing with the Devil” below:

For more information on Sarah, check out her web-site here.

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Review: “Love, Lust and Genocide” – Samuel Claiborne


“Soldiers and police, I can’t tell them apart,” Samuel Claiborne laments at the beginning of “Say Goodbye to America” the first track off his latest album Love, Lust and Genocide. Over a bluesy-psychedelic vibe, Claiborne lays out how he thinks America has gone down hill: war in the streets, freedom has been sold and silence is complicity. Most startling is Claiborne’s voice: he’s not spitting venom or foaming at the mouth. His low-register and apathetic tone seems to acknowledge that the fact that these things have already happened, and we’ve let it happen to ourselves.

With a title like Love, Lust and Genocide, it should come as no surprise that there would be some confrontational material here. Claiborne himself describes the album as “passionate, controversial, noisy, experimental, [and] exuberant.”  Certainly, the album will get no love from conservatives: unjust wars are taken to task, both moral and real. “21st Century War” questions the price we’ve paid for such endeavors.  He doesn’t mince words, noting that “curious children” in the Middle East are blown apart like “torn flower petals.”

On “Lion and the Lamb” , he’s kicked out of his parent’s house “for loving another man” and then calls out so-called “Christians” wondering “why could your God be so cold?”  Pushing the knife even further, he points out that “their twisted faith and bigotry have killed their only son.”  But Claiborne has the last laugh, concluding that his God, “made me just as I am.”

Musically, the album is just as adventurous. Claiborne’s early career in the No-Wave scene with the seminal Things Fall Apart are clearly are an influence here. There are noise-freak outs (“Hurt”), avant-garde/spoken-word experimentations (“21st Century War”, “Succulence (Blasphemy)”) and folk “Broken”.  Even the straight ahead moments are littered with odd detours like “Say Goodbye to America” with its mix of grunge, reggae horns and psychedelic guitars.

Love, Lust and Genocide is the kind of album that could have only been made by a man who’s experience and  seen a lot and doesn’t like where the world is going. But there are also moments of hope and beauty to be found too. The best kind of art reveals both and that’s exactly what Claiborne attempts to do on Love, Lust and Genocide.

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Review: “City Blog” – Gideon King & City Blog



City Blog from Gideon King & City Blog is a mixture of Adult Contemporary Rock, Jazz and a little bit of funk. It’s mostly an easy-going record, filled with piano fills, soft drums and smooth saxophone solos that make for a perfect soundtrack to a small gathering or dinner party.

City Blog is the first record under the moniker Gideon King & City Blog. It’s a bit of a passion project for King who wants to create the “world’s best studio band.” The musicians making up City Blog include Herbie Hancock, Daft Punk and Saturday Night Live band bassist James Genus; Matt Penman a familiar name on the Jazz scene; as well as drummers Willard Dyson and Donald Edwards. The band is rounded out by keyboard player Kevin Hays, and saxophonist Donny Mccaslin.

Being consummate professionals, it’s no surprise that these musicians really gel well together. There’s one star here, no one voice is trying to down out the other.  Though if I had to name the MVP here, it would mostly certainly be Hay’s whose soulful keyboards add a certain resonance to the improvised sound that’s found here.

Highlights from City Blog include “New York” with its jazzy guitar solo interlude, the acoustic-guitar driven “Glide” featuring sublime vocals and the upbeat jazz exploration title track.

City Blog exists at a kind of cross-roads between old and new. There’s enough tradition found in the rhythms and song structures to satisfy the purists, but it also look forward as well. Sometimes you wish the record would push a bit to the extreme either way, but overall City Blog is a really good listen and if nothing else you can marvel at the musical interplay.


For more info on Gideon King & City Blog, check out their web-site, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

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Review: “This Book Belongs To” – The Liquorsmiths


“We’ll build it right,” Vocalist Drew Thams sings at one point in the middle of the slow-burning ballad, “Iris Song”. When Tham’ sings “we’ll build it right”, he’s referring to a relationship, but you can’t help but get the feeling that he’s talking about his band and a quest for credibility.

As the singer and songwriter for The Liquorsmiths, Thams is the architect behind the band. His songs that fill the Liquorsmith’s latest release This Book Belongs To, takes cues from Americana, Folk-Rock and songwriters from the early ’70s. There’s a passion and a knack for good songwriting found here (check out the laid-back country-tinged shuffle of “Get Well Soon” and the aforementioned “Iris’ Song”), but too often this set sounds like a quest to be taken seriously.

Comparisons have been made between The Liquorsmiths and Alt-Country pioneers Wilco. At times, you can hear Wilco’s influence and occasionally Tham’ does sound a bit like Jeff Tweedy. But even at their most Alt-Country moments, Wilco was always pushing themselves forward and mixing noisier elements with ones of beauty.

That sort of experimentation is nowhere to be found on This Book Belongs To.  It mostly keeps to an easy approach, augmented by Tham’ acoustic guitar and soft drums provided by Clayton Payne. The band’s secret weapon is keyboardist Ryan Fischer who gives some depth with his playing on songs like “Devil I Do.”

This Book Belongs To is a fine set and worth a listen, but at certain times you wish the band would push themselves a little further. They’re certainly talented enough.

Check out “Get Well Soon” below:

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Review: “The Mantra” – Nature Gangabaigal


On the surface, Nature Ganganbaigal’s The Mantra isn’t that much different than his To Where Tengger Leads Me. Gangabaigal’s music is still rooted in Asian Folk music and its epic sweep. On Mantra, the electronic elements that hang underneath as a way a sort of gateway for Western Ears is gone in favor of a more traditional sounding record.

As listeners, we’re better off for it. The sounds of Ganganbaigal’s native Mongolia truly come alive in a way that wasn’t apparent on To Where Tengger Leads Me. There’s no pretense of trying to fuse two distinct cultures together, it’s just the sound of a brilliant art sublimely paying homage to his heritage.

In a way, the music found here isn’t all that different in terms of delivery than American Jazz. Ganganbaigal’s instruments weave in and out of each other seamlessly. The hand drums create more of a cushion for sounds to bounce off, rather than an anchor from which everything falls into place. The Mongolian fiddle, (Morin khuur) creates an eerie sound that at times scary and comforting with its two strings. It’s the fiddle’s sound that most listeners associate with traditional Asian Folk Music.

If you’re into exploring world music, The Mantra is a good place to start and it’s definitely worth your time.

Stream the album here, and for more info on Ganganbaigal check out his Facebook page.

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