New Music: “CoCo Curious” – Tattoo Money



As the notes Tattoo Money’s “CoCo Curious” read, “I didn’t realize that people let their families opinions on their love lives dictate who they should and shouldn’t be with. I’ve personally been in situations where I had girls from different cultures and races interested in me, but they were scared…that their parents would disown them for bringing home somebody that wasn’t the same race as them.”

It’s a topic thats worth being discussed in a song and but instead of being weighed down by the topic Tattoo Money offer a tongue and account. It’s as biting and topical as it is funny.

Musically, the song is just as adventurous with a mix of low-fi indie rock. It uses both genres as a launch pad rather than being constricted by them. The result is a sonic mix that manages to sound both new and old at the same time.

Check out “CoCo Curious” below:


For more info on the Tattoo Money, check out his web-site here

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My Life in 33 Songs: #20: “Master of Puppets” – Metallica (Or How I Got Kicked Off Napster)



When Napster arrived in the fall of 1999, I thought it was the greatest invention ever. Having grown up in era of cassettes and CDs, suddenly having hundreds of songs available at your fingertips seemed like a musical nirvana. The possibilities seemed endless.

Within the first few weeks, I quickly downloaded dozens of songs. A good chunk of songs were legitimate songs I heard on the radio and liked, but most of the songs I downloaded came from bootlegs and live recordings. Napster was a goldmine for finding stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else. In 1999, where else could you find an a-capella version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Soul to Squeeze”?

I was too young and naive to really consider the implication of what this actually meant for the artists or the record industry. To me, it seemed that those who opposed the program seemed to be on the wrong end of technology.

In retrospect, it seems inevitable that the Napster bubble would burst. After all, the very idea seemed too good to be true. One morning, the following spring when I tried to log on, I was greeted by a message stating that my access had been revoked followed by a lot of legal jargon.

As I drove to school, I then heard the news that Metallica was suing
Napster and potentially anyone who had downloaded their music on the service. Apparently, they were pissed that their latest song “I Disappear” had leaked before the official version had been released.

I hadn’t downloaded “I Disappear” – the song is horrible – but I had in fact downloaded, “Master of Puppets”.  ”Fuck me!” I shouted and slammed my hand on the steering wheel. I began to wonder what the exact implications were going to be for me.  Jail? Owe lots of money?

To this day, Master of Puppets is the only Metallica album I own and like. It rightfully deserves all the accolades its ever gotten. With its chugging riffs, wild guitar solos and intricate arrangements, it’s a tour de force in metal. With Master of Puppets, Metallica refined their edges enough to make a concise and grand statement while keeping their signature sound in tact – something which would plague all the albums that followed.

The memorable title track alone is worth the price of admission. The opening riff has got to be one of the most memorable ones ever recorded. A lot of metal deals with evil but Hetfield sounds positively diabolical as he screams, “Master of puppets, I’m pulling your strings…” Once you discover the song is about drug addiction, its becomes even scarier.

When I arrived at school that morning, everyone was complaining about what dicks Metallica were. They were quickly seen as stingy old men who just wanted every buck they could. “Did anyone get kicked off?” Someone asked. I sheepishly raised my hand. I was quickly told by a small crowd that I would be sued and probably go to jail.

Of course, I didn’t go to jail or get sued. But Metallica’s reputation was tarnished – at least for the time being. People who previously loved them, began to absolutely hate them. Limp Bizkit, by contrast – who are quite possibly the worst band to ever exist – were seen as heroes because they viewed Naspter as allies.

In the years since, I’ve grown to understand Metallica’s point. Music is art and it should be paid for. (Seriously though, “I Disappear” was the song they chose to get pissed off over?) Their stance doesn’t seem quite as crazy or as stingy as it did in 2000. In fact, the debate over music online music has only gotten worse. (See Taylor’s Swift’s decision to pull her album from Spotify, but not go after Youtube.)

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do believe that there was a missed opportunity somewhere in the Napster fall-out. For nearly a decade, people got so used to listening to songs for free that it’s now an accepted part of culture.

Who’s pulling the strings now?







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New Music: “Freak Machine” – Fit For Rivals




Fit For Rivals new single “Freak Machine” comes blasting out of the speakers with plenty of attitude. The band sounds un-caged with a mix of punk and hard-rock. Front-woman Renee Phoenix ups the ante as she skillfully switches between melodic singing and screaming. It’s a mix that makes her sound both confident and at times possessed. When Phoenix claims she’s a freak machine, you not only feel it, but believe it.

“Freak Machine” will be featured on the band’s forthcoming release which is due out in early 2015. Check out the song below:

For more information on Fit For Rivals check out their web-site. 



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Review: “Last of the Originals” – Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders


Rough Riders Imge

In the tradition of a great Western, Australian-Country singer Billy  Roberts views himself as a loner. And like most loners, there’s a lot on his mind. Throughout Last of the Originals it mostly means keeping up an Outlaw persona. The album cover, with its lone cowboy riding a horse as the sun sets behind him, clearly illustrates this intended persona.

Unfortunately, this persona is not always effective or convincing. Too often, Robert’s lyrics are either clunky – “she had bad intentions in her eyes as she walked down the street”, “drinking vodka like there’s no tomorrow from ‘Mrs. Jones’ – or filled with clichés. Take ‘No More Mr. Guy’ : the title pretty much says it all. On ‘When I Was Young he reveals, “I was young when I left home.” That’s not exactly a shocking revelation or an original one.

On a musical level, Last of the Originals fares much better. His songs are tightly constructed with simple arrangements with a flair for a hook-laden chorus. With the Rough Riders, Roberts has a sturdy and reliable backing band who can switch back and forth easily between rock with a country-twinge and country with a rock twist – two completely different things.

You can almost smell the moonshine and hay over the fiddle that makes the aforementioned ‘When I Was Young’ feel legitimate. ‘My Baby Gone Cold’ rides a bar-band boogie that seems perfectly suited for rounds of beer as the clocks strikes midnight. The slide guitar that cuts through “Not That Special” manages to make a bitter song sound remorseful. The mandolin-driven ‘With You ‘ is the album’s highlight and the rare moment when Roberts lets his guard down. Here Roberts sounds wistful about his girl and for once it’s not him who left town.

Ultimately, what really keeps Roberts from achieving his Outlaw persona is the album’s slick production. Too often, there’s a glossy sheen that keeps the record from feeling truly authentic. It’s like he can’t decide whether he wants his songs to capture the feeling of the Old West or have a contemporary feel to gain a wider audience. When he does get dirty on “Davy Crockett and the Alamo” he unwisely uses vocal distortion robbing the song of its power. Roberts would do well with a dense Exile-style mirk.

Country stars like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings weren’t outlaws because they tried to be. It came naturally. If Roberts dropped the posturing, he could really have something.

 For more on Billy Roberts, check out his web-site.

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My Life in 33 Songs: #21 – “Got My Mojo Working” – Muddy Waters (Or Skipping Church to Listen to the Blues)


One of the things that has always attracted to me to The Blues was the dichotomy between religion and earthly pleasures. It runs deep through many Blues artists including Son House (who became a Preacher at one point) and continues through Soul with the likes of Little Richard and Sam Cooke among others. So it’s rather fitting  that my first real introduction to The Blues would come on Sunday mornings when I was supposed to be attending Mass.

Growing up in a Catholic family, attending weekly Mass was an expectation. There was no getting around it: Sunday mornings meant Mass at 9 AM with my parents. The hour-plus long service almost always felt like an annoyance to me, especially during the school year. My mind would inevitably wander during the sermon and I would count down the minutes until it ended.

As I grew to be a teenager, I began to feel more disillusioned with The Church altogether. It was becoming apparent that their teachings no longer aligned with my own personal views. Yet, I still had to go.

Around the age of 15, to my surprise, my parents decided I was old enough to go to a later service with my older brother instead of them. To me, this was a God-send. I figured if I had to go, I might as well go with him. At least we could listen to music on the way there.

My brother had different plans though. Not only was he not particularly interested in Mass like me, but he also had no intentions of really going. Occasionally we would pop our heads in to see which priest was residing but most of the time we would either drive around or go grab coffee at a shop near the church.

As we drove around, my brother would play all kinds of different music and explain the history of the artist or song to me. In particular, he liked Classic Rock and Blues. On those Sunday mornings I learned that Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck were all in the Yard-Birds and that many of Keith Richards’ riffs were just a variation on Chuck Berry.

As he continued talking about the history of Rock Music, he started dropping odd names I barely knew or had never heard before: Son House, Muddy Waters, Charley Patton. (Earlier, he had introduced me to Howlin’ Wolf in an attempt to dissuade me from liking Led Zeppelin.)

I was quickly becoming fascinated with tales of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil to play guitar and Muddy Waters’ friendly rival with Howlin’ Wolf.  Prior to this my only real knowledge of the Blues came from U2′s Rattle and Hum when B.B. King appeared in the movie. In my mind, The Blues had been a type of music played by guys who had been dead for decades that wasn’t particularly relevant anymore. The more I listened to my brother and the music through the car stereo, I was quickly being proven wrong.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the bluesmen struggle with religion and mine own. They would sing about their sexual exploits in one song, then plead for redemption in another. I was feeling bad for skipping Church – that’s Catholic guilt for you – but these Sunday morning lessons in music history were much more exciting and fascinating.

“Okay,” My brother said, seeing that I was interested in more. “You’ll love this then.” And with that he threw a beat-up cassette into the tape deck. I looked at the cover that read: Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960.  And with that “Got My Mojo Working” came flying out of the speakers to blow my mind.

If I had to pick the single greatest live performance ever captured on wax, it would probably be Waters’ version of “Got My Mojo Working” from Newport. It’s a tightly controlled performance that teeters on the chaotic, but never fully collapses: even when drummer Franic Clay gives Keith Moon a run for his money in the cymbal crashing department.

As the song builds, Waters pushes both himself and the band as far as they can go. You can hear the audience in the background cheering in ecstasy.  Taking it even further, Waters presses his lips tightly and shouts, “Bbbbhhh…workin’!” as if it’s too much mental work to even complete the line. His brain has been taken over completely by sex. When the song finally ends in a crash, it’s a release that’s part physical, part mental and of course, metaphorical.

Waters’ use of “mojo” caught my attention quickly: earlier that year Mike Myers re-popularized the word with the first Austin Powers movie. I had no idea it had been around for that long.  I mentioned that to my brother who seemed amused. He then asked me if I knew the origins of “Rock and Roll” and “Jazz”.  My eyes widened when he explained that rock and roll was dirty slang for sex and Jazz actually referred to semen.

As a kid, I had been taught that Church was a time for learning and reflection. Those Sunday mornings with my brother weren’t quiet – they were loud, explosive and filled with slide guitars, sexually charged lyrics, and booming voices fueled by alcohol and cigarettes. I knew where my church was now: rock and roll and the blues.














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New Music: “She Got Your Love” – Sam Burchfield



Taking cues from Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson, Sam Burchfield’s latest single “She Got Your Love” is a laid-back, uptempo pop song with New Orleans-style horns. Burchfield’s sincerity is evident throughout the track. There’s no irony or fake moves: just a guy playing the music he loves, hoping that the audience will tap their feet to the catchy melody and infectious delivery.

“She Got Your Love” is included on Burchfield’s debut EP, Where to Run which is currently available.  Check it out below.

For more information on Sam Burchfield, check out his web-site.

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New Music: “Love Is” – D. Edward


With his latest album Love Is, singer-songwriter D. Edward acts like the last 20 years of music never happened. It’s a direct throwback to ’90′s Neo-Soul with laid-back beats, smooth vocals and horns. Every song on Love Is sounds like it tailored for a date night. It’s the kind of album a guy would put on it his apartment to impress.

Musically, the album stays locked in its own groove and mood. Not that you would really want it to venture outside of that. Still, there are plenty of surprises. “Don’t Say” rides a dark Disco groove is reminiscent of the Temptations later records. “Might Love” is a showcase for some pretty impressive bass playing by Eric EQ Young. Edwards duet with Jenna Lavoie on “Show Me” is an absolute highlight.

Not surprisingly like many Soul artists, Edward is preoccupied with love and women throughout the album. “Your love is the only thing I need tonight,” He croons over a sexy sounding saxophone on “Mesmerized in Love”.  Edwards maintains a completely romantic view throughout. The mentions of sex are almost always referred to as “making love”. When Jenna Lavoie shows up on “Show Me”, it’s nice to know that Edwards love isn’t in vain.

With Love Is, Edward proves that love and romance never completely go out of style.

For more info on D. Edward check out his web-site and check out the title track below.


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My Life in 33 Songs: #22: “Sweet Jane” – The Velvet Underground (Or How I Traveled 4 Hours to See Lou Reed)

“I’m from Baltimore, he’s from DC. I think we’re okay.”

That was my explanation to the clerk at a 7-11 in Richmond Virginia, who seemed very concerned about the well-being of my friend and I. We had gone into the store asking if there was any place around that had some good Barbecue food. The clerk said there was one nearby, but it was in a “not so good neighborhood.”  Since both us resided in cities that had a reputation for bad neighborhoods, the worst parts of Richmond didn’t seem to faze us.

We eventually found our way to the restaurant, which was a glorified hole in the wall that wreaked of barbecue sauce, corn muffins and cigarette smoke. The other patrons stared us at for a second or two and continued on with their meals.  ”You can’t get really good Barbecue above Northern Virginia,” My friend explained as he bit into a pulled pork sandwich. I nodded in agreement, secretly wishing that I had some hot sauce for mine; it was too sweet for me.

On this Saturday afternoon, the two of had traveled about four hours down to Richmond to see one of our rock and roll heroes: Lou Reed. Over the years of attending numerous concerts together, the two of us were slowly counting down the list of rock heroes we’d seen in concert. Lou Reed was at the top of the list, but neither of us thought it would actually happen.

A few months earlier, I had purchased the tickets as a surprise birthday gift for my him.  And now, despite being excited, we were both slightly nervous about what the show would actually be like since Reed was notoriously cantankerous.

At least we knew what we could potentially be getting into. It’s not like we were going to see Bruce Springsteen who goes out of his way to please the audience. Since the early days of the Velvet Underground, Reed loved to challenge his audience. You don’t make an entire album devised of feedback if you really give a shit what your audience truly thinks. There’s a certain irony in the fact that people loved him even more for it. That included us.

As we ate, we debated the finer points of The Velvet Underground and Reed’s career. “I have this theory,” My friend said, “that what kind of Velvet Underground songs you like define what kind of rock snob you are.” We were both unapologetic  rock snobs, so I was intrigued to see where he was going with this.

He then explained that if you liked the noisier, artery side of the band found in songs like “Sister Ray” or “Venus in Furs” you’re likely to appreciate Captain Beefheart, The Stooges and Joy Division.  The softer songs and traditional songs like”Pale Blues Eyes” and “Sweet Jane” probably meant you loved R.E.M., The Smiths and other alternative bands.

In fact it was through R.E.M., that I first learned about the Velvet Underground. The band included versions of “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Femme Fatale” and “There She Goes Again” on their 1987 B-side compilation Dead Letter Office. R.E.M. took a more conservative approach to Reed’s songs which gave me the impression the Velvet Underground would also sound like that.

If you’ve ever listened to The Velvet Underground & Nico or White Light/White Heat you know that’s not the case. Those two albums, especially the latter, are benchmarks in volume, noise and general boundary pushing. Few albums – even metal ones – pack a punch as hard as White Light/White Heat. There’s nothing conservative about those albums.

While I prefer the edgier songs in The Velvet Underground’s catalogue, my favorite song has always been “Sweet Jane”.  With its its memorable guitar riff and catchy chorus, it’s the closest that they ever came to a straight ahead rock and roll song. There’s no  feedback drenched guitar solo or viola freak-out. “Sweet Jane” is the one Velvet Underground song that non-fans could easily identify.

As I write this, it’s the first anniversary of Reed’s death. In recent years, I’ve seen a lot of my musical heroes die. But few have hit me as hard as Reed’s did. Rock and Roll seems a little tamer and safer without him. Geniuses like him don’t come around too often.

As we headed out of the BBQ joint, I took a look around at the surroundings. This particular neighborhood in Richmond didn’t seem nearly as bad as the clerk made it out to be. Not that I was surprised. I was more concerned about Reed’s potential attitude on stage.

Inside the venue, the crowd seemed equally apprehensive. I had never been to a show where the the feeling was mixed with equal parts excitement and nervousness. Outside, we could hear thunder rumbling loudly. From the side door, where all the smokers huddled outside, there was a loud whoosh when the rain let loose. All the smokers came rushing back in, soaked to the bone. Amidst the chaos, there was a loud announcement over the PA that the show would be delayed due to the storm.

Shouts of expletives filled the room, along with a few chuckles of laughter. I went to get a beer and chatted with a guy who had seen Reed in the mid-70′s. “It was fucking crazy man,” He said taking a large gulp from his whiskey. “There were lots of guys in black leather. I’m pretty sure I saw some one with a whip.”

Reed had written quite a few songs about S&M, but I had a feeling this guy was trying to impress me.  ”Uh huh,” I nodded, playing along. I then asked him if he thought Reed would be pissed off. The guy almost choked as he took another drink.  ”Dude, who gives a fuck?  He’s Lou Reed. He’s the man.”

He was right. I took another sip from my beer and reminded myself why I was there: to see a legend.

About 45 minutes later, when Reed did show up, he seemed genuinely happy to be there. In his trade-mark black t-shirt, he tore into many of his classic songs with an energy and vitality few his age have. His guitar was exactly what you wanted it to be – still noisy and instantly recognizable.

The absolute highlight was “Sweet Jane”. From the moment, he played the opening chords, the crowd cheered loudly in excitement. Even Reed seemed to enjoy the response it got.

On the way out, my friend and I talked about lucky we were to see Lou Reed in the flesh. This was in 2008. We had no idea how lucky we actually were.

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New Music: “Sea Bitch” – Tallows



Indie rockers Tallows’ “Sea Bitch” starts off slowly with atmospheric keyboards that seem to conjure up the feeling of a chilly morning on the boardwalk. Thick production gives the song plenty of layered textures – booming without being overwhelming. Singer Josh Hogsett’s sings in a higher register that manages to be melodic and memorable. The horns that come in near the end are both uplifting with a slight tinge of melancholia.

The band is currently working on their next full-length due out sometime in 2015.

Check out “Sea Bitch” below.


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


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My Life in 33 Songs: #23 – “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts


I love rock n’ roll.
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby. 

It’s no secret that I love jukeboxes. My first memories of jukeboxes comes courtesy of Pizza Hut, when my family would take my grandmother (who absolutely loved Pizza Hut) out for dinner. My parents would give me a dollar for the jukebox as we waited for the pizza to arrive. Being too little to actually see the songs listed, I would have to pull myself up to take a look. It was daunting to see all these songs at my fingertips. I felt little bit of power as I pushed the buttons for my selection: everyone is going to hear my songs and there’s nothing they can do about it.

I can’t recall what I played, but I’m almost certain it was probably R.E.M. – a band who I loved and could easily listen to at home. Still, I felt a bit older. Kids don’t have much control over anything, but for those few minutes, I had control of Pizza Hut’s music.

That attitude continues to this day whenever I see a jukebox. I’m not usually a competitive, controlling or arrogant person, but I am when it comes to the jukebox. There’s something about them that compels me to take over. I still want to feel that rush that everyone around is hearing what I played. Maybe it’s because I can’t play an instrument; the jukebox is my own weird way of living out a rock and roll fantasy of playing to a crowd – if only for a few minutes. My ego wants a random hipster to come up to me and praise my selection.

I love rock n’ roll.
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

There are many songs that celebrate the glory of music, but few do it as well as Joan Jett’s version of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  It’s a trashy and campy ode to rock and roll, complete with a Jett’s signature attitude and sneer. With a chorus that’s destined to be sung loudly, it’s got everything you want in a rock song.

The way Jett sings “put another dime in the jukebox, baby” makes the song. In the song she wants the music to keep going so she can be with the guy who’s been eyeing her. Jett almost shouts it, as it to dare the audience to keep playing music, to keep their night going. The music helps makes the moment.

That’s the reason why it’s a perennial favorite at bars and sporting events. It’s an ode to having a good thing through the power of music. The music can control the way the evening goes. It’s not just background noise – it brings people together in a way other things can’t. Memories are conjured up; conversations can be started with the opening bars of a particular song.

That what makes jukeboxes important. They’re one of the last remaining relics of an era when people listened to music together socially. In the past decade or so, music can become more insular. It’s what you do when you want to block the rest of the world out. Music at its best helps bring people together.

So put another dime in the jukebox, baby.



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