Music Reviews

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posted: February 26, 2014

English Oceans

ATO LP, CD

In his excellent new book I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway, veteran critic Greg Kot discusses the harmonic blend of styles that distinguished the late 1960s/early 1970s era Muscle Shoals sound from every other locale in America. Read More


posted: February 25, 2009

Sandro Perri – Tiny Mirrors

The proprietor of the Phonopolis record store recommended Sandro Perri’s, Tiny Mirrors album based on a couple of my other purchases like The Luyas and Beirut. This is one beautiful album. Sandro Perri has a vocal style similar in tone to M. Ward’s. Tiny Mirrors is a fresh approach for the artist whose previous albums were more dance/electro instrumentals. Read More


posted: April 1, 2009

Sarazin Blake – The Air Your Lungs Forced Out

This stunning folk/Americana album was originally released in 2007, but unfortunately no one noticed. Feeling that this title deserved a second chance, the folks at Same Room Records dusted it off, gave it more elegant packaging and crossed their fingers before sending it back out into the world. I’m glad they did, because this is one of the most compelling records I’ve heard this year. Read More


posted: February 13, 2009

Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I lay my Head

I’m not the first to say this, and I probably won’t be the last, but this one really blows. I really hate it when big bucks movie stars get top shelf records produced because of their star power, when perfectly good musicians are starving. (Don’t get me started on rock stars that can’t act, either) When my pal Terry gave me this CD and told me to give it a chance, I did that because he has great taste in music. Read More


posted: February 25, 2009

Scott Weiland – Happy In Galoshes

Scott Weiland, the infamous front man for the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver is back with a double solo album after what he describes as a “pretty tough year.”  With VR and his marriage unfolding this year, Weiland certainly has a valid reason to pour his heart out in the studio. Read More


posted: February 8, 2012

Sharon Van Etten Tramp

Jagjaguwar LP and CD
Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten provides many reasons why you wouldn’t want to be her—or at least, in her first-person narrator’s position—on the engrossing Tramp. The indie-rock songstress, whose excellent sophomore album, 2010’s Epic, deals with loss and break-up in unsparing fashion, continues to extract anguish, anger, affection, and doubt from romantic mise-en-scenes. Read More


posted: May 25, 2014

Sharon Van Etten Are We There

Sharon Van Etten recently covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” for the A.V. Club’s “Pioneering” video series, performing it solo at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

While countless artists have paid homage to the Boss, Van Etten’s choice to interpret the penultimate cut from The River both deviates from the norm (it’s a deep track) and speaks volumes about the burgeoning singer-songwriter’s own music. Read More


posted: February 14, 2009

She & Him – Volume One

The pairing of singer-songwriter-producer M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel is more than a lark, it’s a genuine revelation.  Acting as sort of an anti-Winehouse, Deschanel is able to evoke the sound of the ’60s with her clear and surprisingly lovely voice, bringing out the sunny innocence of the times without having to wink to her audience and slip to the dark side. Read More


posted: June 8, 2017

She Devils She Devils

Secretly Canadian LP or CD
She Devils

Sometime in the early-to-mid 80s, a bunch of would-be adventurers helped resurrect the tiki-bar craze. Still thriving today, tiki bars confuse reality and fantasy, providing purveyors with colorfully ridiculous representations of a relaxed island life all while peddling debauchery in the form of high-proof rum-drenched drinks. Read More


posted: November 11, 2011

Sigur Ros Inni

XL Recordings 3LP or 2CD/DVD
Sigur Ros

Allow, please, for a left-field link to Sigur Rós, the Icelandic rock band that celebrates the slow-build and mysterious. Listening to this double-disc live effort, a recording tactic employed by film composer Hans Zimmer—a cinematic cheerleader of all things loud and blatant—springs to mind. Read More


posted: October 14, 2010

Slayer box set

Heavy metal is seldom associated with the audiophile world. In general, metal records aren’t often afforded the quality of production granted to rock, pop, and jazz releases, a custom partially due to the music’s underground and independent nature. Still, it’s a shame given that, even before vinyl began its huge comeback, metal listeners were still supporting the format en masse, preferring the superior low end and complete experience that analog afforded. Read More


posted: January 13, 2015

Sleater-Kinney’s Latest is a Smash

Sleater-Kinney stopped touring in 2006. Then came the comedy.

Underground heroes from the early to late 90s, Sleater-Kinney, intentionally or not, felt like an answer to a male-dominated alt-rock scene of the Pacific Northwest.The all-female group’s punk-rock affronts led the riot grrl movement with a pair of chopped up guitars that—for believers—functioned as a call to arms. Read More


posted: March 13, 2012

Spoek Mathambo

“Bad news is good for business,” spits South African rapper/singer/DJ Spoek Mathambo, who was born Nthato Mokgata, on “Let Them Talk.” Judging by the 11 diverse cuts populating Mathambo’s sophomore album, Father Creeper, business must be booming.

“Put Some Red On It,” for one, plays like a counterpoint to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” seeing as it documents the violence and bloody human toll of the gold and diamond trades. Read More


posted: September 1, 2011

St. Vincent

A glimpse into the mind of Annie Clark can be had with relative ease. Scan the titles of her latest effort, Strange Mercy, her third, and the word “Cheerleader” is one that stands out—not for its images of youthful enthusiasm but for the terms that surround it. The song that precedes “Cheerleader”? That one is called “Cruel. Read More


posted: June 26, 2009

Stardeath and White Dwarfs: The Birth

Hang around with the Flaming Lips for a while and things are bound to get weird. And yes, it’s also quite likely that some of the Oklahoma group’s crazed genius and helium energy might rub off as well. This is exactly what happened to Stardeath and White Dwarfs, an experimental quartet that for the past few years served as the Lips’ road crew. Read More


posted: June 19, 2017

Steve Earle So You Wannabe An Outlaw

Warner Bros. Records, 2LP or CD
Steve Earle

Steve Earle is an esteemed musical veteran, but there was a time when the Texas troubadour was the new kid on the block. He first landed in Nashville in 1974 at the age of 19, just in time to see the outlaw movement break wide open with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson leading the way. Earle’s new So You Wannabe An Outlaw serves a salute to the artists of that era—and the beloved firebrands who shaped Earle’s own aesthetic of raw country-rock rave-ups and wounded balladry. Read More


posted: May 13, 2009

Steve Earle – Townes Townes

New West CD, 180g. LP
Steve Earle – Townes

Steve Earle first met Townes Van Zandt in 1972 at The Old Quarter in the latter’s hometown of Houston. Van Zandt had been shouting for the aspiring folkie to perform “Wabash Cannonball,” but was silenced once Earle unveiled an astounding rendition of the heckling singer-songwriter’s fast-paced “Mr. Read More


posted: February 25, 2009

Steve Lukather – Ever Changing Times

Sorry I missed this one a couple of months ago. If you like straight ahead guitar rock, this disc is for you.  One of the main architects of Toto, Steve Lukather has played with hundreds of different bands in his career, so if you are expecting Toto V you will be disappointed, but if you want to hear a different side of this legendary guitarist, I suggest taking this one for a spin. Read More


posted: July 14, 2010

Sting Symphonicities

For some odd reason, rockstars like to record with symphony orchestras.  Perhaps it makes them feel more culturally valid and significant, but it usually ends up just coming across as self indulgent.  I always think of Nigel Tufnel and Derek St. Hubbens talking about producing “Saucy Jack” when I hear there is a new rock and classical marriage. Read More


posted: May 17, 2010

Stones box set

If any record ever deserved the deluxe reissue treatment, it’s the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. Given mixed reviews upon release in 1972, the double album has deservedly assumed an immortal place in music history. Commonly viewed as the English band’s greatest effort, it is often cited as one of (if not the) best rock records ever made. Read More


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