Monthly Archives: November 2014

Review: “Heartracer” – Cosby



Cosby’s “Heartracer” is the kind of electro-pop song that a lot of artists would die to have. With driving drums and an extremely catchy chorus, “Heartracer” is impossible to get out of your ears. With its nod to ’80s pop, it manages to sound familiar while also sounding contemporary. It’s not hard to imagine that “Heartracer”  could someday soon land on Sirius XM station Alt-Nation.

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

Review: “Diamonds & Demons” – Paul Maged



Like Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Pete Townshend, singer-songwriter Paul Maged believes in the power of the rock and roll as both a sonic force and as a vehicle to tackle weighty topics such as government greed, the environment, and world peace.

Such lofty ambitions could weigh down many an artist, but Maged wisely chooses a loud approach for his topical songs. It’s an approach that works, because it only reinforces Maged’s anger at the world he sees around him. Echoing Costello, Maged uses the music to to propell his fast-paced lyrics forward. There’s a push and pull between the two that creates an intoxicating effect. By spitting out the lyrics over memorable riffs and pounding drums, Maged forces you to listen to what he has to say.

Some songs are sincere, others are sarcastic digs. Opener ‘Look at Me’ contains a put-down would-be love, where he notes her only “education is reality TV.”  On ‘Cause and Effect’ when he wonders, “where is peace?” instead of coming off as a lament, it’s more akin to a challenge or a wake-up call. In Maged’s voice it’s less like a hippie-dream and more like a call for action. It’s the kind of rallying cry you could really stand behind.  In ‘Human Warefare’ he proclaims, “the more you know the more you hide.”

But Maged’s view isn’t just limited to the outside world.  Occasionally, he turns inward as well.  ‘I’m Okay’ deals with personal problems and over-coming them. “I take the good with the bad, and sometimes in between,” He sings over the mid-tempo rocker. It’s nice to know that while looking to solve world problems, he also realizes he is a work in a progress, too.

Diamonds and Demons only falters when Maged slows down. ‘Annastasia’ attempts to bring things down,  yearning to be intimate. It’s hindered by awkward lyrics like “life is what you do with it” and a reference to Orange-Julius that doesn’t fit.  The quiet ‘Somber Song’ is appropriately titled, but it fails to generate any real emotion – somber or otherwise.

At its best, it’s a record in the vein of early Costello records thrown in with Springsteen’s penchant for carrying the weight of the world. Even as those influences litter the record, there’s enough originality and spark on Diamonds & Demons to keep it from feeling reductive. Ultimately, Diamonds & Demons is a solid record from a songwriter who has quite a lot to say and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

For more info on Paul, check out his web-site.

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

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?







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. 



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.

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.














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.

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.