Thursday, August 31, 2006

VHS OR BETA : The Melting Moon mp3

Night on Fire

Here's a record you can have some fun with. Play this mp3 or the actual record for a fellow music lover, but don't tell him/her who the band is. Then, after a couple minutes, ask "So, how do you like the new Cure record?" They'll bite. I can almost guarantee it.

I don't know much about VHS or BETA (Astralwerks), except that I could never rent Beta videos when I was kid because I had a VCR that only played VHS. Seriously, after hearing this record today I can say that they sound like The Cure. A lot. I'll be more specific and compare VHS or BETA to the early Cure material of the "Boys Don't Cry" era. It doesn't match the pop sensibility or songwriting of The Cure, but comes close in terms of vocals, guitars, synths, and energy. At times, VHS or BETA rocks pretty hard while throwing some new wave at you in the form of synthesizers.

Some pop music purists may revolt on me if I say that VHS or BETA sounds like the Cure or any pop music staple of that calibre. After hearing this band you'll know deep down in your heart that they do. I have no problem when artists pay homage to the bands that have inspired them, and, if as a result they end up emulating their sound, fine. I say, if you're gonna do it - DO IT WELL. Many new indie bands have tried to sound like an 80s band and end up sounding ridiculous or all their songs sounding the same. VHS or BETA does their 1980s thing very well on their new record Night on Fire. It's 1980s post-punk new wave pop that is quite unlike anything I've heard from the indie scene, and better than what the Cure has put out lately.


Summer Lawns : Concrete and Wood mp3

Album: First We Waited...Then It Started

As soon as I heard Summer Lawns I knew there was something special about them. It didn't take me long to realize it was a special blend of Radiohead and Slowdive. The vocals are eerily similar to Thom Yorke of Radiohead and the overall vibe reminds me a little of Slowdive's Souvlaki.

I can't imagine fans of either Thom Yorke or Slowdive not appreciating Summer Lawns. In fact, if there's anyone out there in "Indieville" who was put-off by the constant quirkiness of Radiohead or occasionally boring atmospheric ambience of Slowdive, then Summer Lawns will inspire repeated spins on your cd player. It takes the best of both and builds a 9-song album that is easy to listen to in one sitting and neither gets too cheery or too depressing. Great stuff for early morning hangover or late-night drunken stupor listening. It's great music for sobriety too, because then you'll remember the name of that great band you heard last night...Summer Lawns. Hear more songs at their Myspace home www.myspace/summerlawns.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mezzanine Owls: Lightbulb mp3

Album: Slingshot Echoes

I believe Mezzanine Owls is the band to watch (or listen to!) in 2006. I never heard of them until they sent me a friend request on Myspace. Say whatever you want about Myspace. The truth is that Myspace has revolutionized music and how bands promote themselves. It has become easier for bands to connect with music fans and get their tunes heard as well as communicate with listeners.

Mezzanine Owls manages to pay homage to such bands as Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and The Cure effectively without ripping them off. They've created their own unique sound that is intelligent and will leave you mesmerized. The vocals, in particular, are surely a highlight for me as they remind me a bit of Bono of U2.

Quite often full-length records feature the stronger tracks near the beginning and leave a few weaker songs at the end. This is not the case with Slingshot Echoes. In fact, my favorite tunes could very well be the last two, particularly "Dark Too Early". As a whole, the record is amazing, musically smart, and focused. Believe me--there's no "dud" on this album.

The chosen track "Lightbulb" is off their soon to be release full-length Slingshot Echoes. Listen to more tracks on their myspace page.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The New Lows: Keep It Simple mp3

This band from NYC has impressed me. They sent me a friend request on Myspace. It's cool to discover bands this way. Not only do I get to check out some great new tunes, I end up with some friends besides "Tom".

"Keep it Simple" is a track off of their forthcoming full-length due out in October 2006(Strike Gently Records). Think indie rock meets bluesy-classic rock and you'll get a sense of what it sounds like. Of course, the best way to know what it sounds like is to download the friggin' song and crank it up.

Check their page at Just like their band name, very self-depracating and kind of refreshing.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Julies - January (1994)

mp3 01. wish
mp3 02. between dreams
mp3 03. the impossible
mp3 04. january
mp3 05. crash
mp3 06. halo

For those of you who missed it the first time, I am posting the The Julies January album which was a cassette only release back in the mid 90s. Some of the songs have been remixed and remastered and I'm sure you will enjoy this album if you like Lovelife.

RIYL: The Cure, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Ocean Blue.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kissing Cousins - EP2

Label: Velvet Blue Music

mp3: Deadline

So what do you like best? The tongue? The lips? The heavy petting? Southern California's all-girl band Kissing Cousins delivers it all on what I believe is the ultimate "make-out" CD.

In the past, the thought of "all-girl" bands conjured images of sweet, sugary, teenage-targeted crap that you could surely purchase at the mall. Here, Kissing Cousins puts together 4 songs that are dark, sexy, melancholy, and downright naughty- sounding. The EP opens with the slow-paced and slightly unnerving track "Deadline". The slow and steady pace of the song lulls you into the false sense that the CD is going to be safe and merely flirtatious.

The 2nd track "Live Without You" is more unsettling than the first as it starts gradually with Heather Bray Heyward singing "It's so cold alone..." before jumping your bones with the chorus of "I can't live without you." This track is followed by "Act of Birth" which lets you off the hook a bit, but is no less haunting and somber.This track is definitely as close to sweet as this EP gets. Heather's vocals are truly beautiful on this song with the gentle pianos underneath. The closer "Let You Down" is no soft and innocent goodnight kiss. The guitars have sort of a Black Sabbath type of nastiness with Heather throwing in some sexy sounding "Ah-Ahs" in the chorus.

There is nothing sweet or innocent about these 4 songs. After you listen to Kissing Cousins you will feel so dirty that you'll want to take a shower. I love every second of this EP and so will you.


Frank Lenz - VileLenz and Thieves

Vilelenz and Thieves

Label: Hidden Agenda

Release date: March 21, 2006

Bullets in the Wall

It's refreshing when a songwriter expresses his brutally honest frustration and sense of betrayal in his songs. One needs to look no further than the album title VileLenz and Thieves to get an idea what's in store on this release. VileLenz and Thieves is the third official release from Frank Lenz the solo artist. Who is Frank Lenz? If you are an avid indie music fan, check the credits in your record collection. Chances are pretty good that you'll see his name as one of the players or as the producer on at least half of them.

There's little about this record that is peppy or light-hearted. There's no manufactured sense of hope or joy. This is by far Lenz's most honest, transparent, and introspective work to date. Themes of betrayal run like rivers through songs like "Weekend Friends":

Best friends on weekends and holidays...everybody runs
when trouble comes.

And on track 3 "I've Got Other Things To Do":

Some friends said they had enough, hanging around with me
had gotten rough. Maybe I should stand up for myself and tell them all to go to hell.

"Bad Art" finds Lenz colorfully responding to critics with frustration and some self-depracation:

I took a shot and made bad art, because message board
kids don't know a lot.

I don't know shit and never have...

I've always been a fucking poser...

Conquest Slaughter, moron fodder...

My dick has an expiration date, do you like the taste?
Check the date.

Musically, VileLenz & Thieves is top-notch. Think 1970s singer/songwriter meets modern indie rock experimentalism and that will give an idea what this sounds like. The standout tune "Libertution" is the only rockin', upbeat tune of the 12. The track has a bass line that drives the tune, and the chorus will have you singing along. Of the other 11 tracks, 2 are soft instrumentals while the other 9 are somber ballads.

Frank Lenz gives indie rocksters something to cling to when misery strikes. This is the ultimate sad bastard record to be played in the early morning or late night hours. I'm sure some folks will be put-off by the melancholy tone and depressing themes contained in VileLenz and Thieves.

Then again, there's a little bit of Frank Lenz in all of us, right?

Buy it at Insound!


David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts [EP]

Fewer Moving Parts

Label: Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood

Release date: June 13, 2006

Cold Beer and Cigarettes

If the cover art had "Pedro The Lion" stamped on it instead of "David Bazan", fans might never know the difference. This is David Bazan's first release since dropping the "Pedro The Lion" moniker and becoming a solo effort. "Pedro The Lion" was basically just David Bazan anyway, with a rotating cast backing him at shows.

The best way to describe this EP is that it combines elements of Control, Achilles Heel, and David Bazan's electronic side project "Headphones". The result is 5 indie rock songs that follow the logical progression of sound for Pedro The Lion. All the songs are fairly catchy and singable, with "Cold Beer and Cigarettes" being the stand-out track. It's true that the songs tend to sound a bit bland after a while, and repeated listens tend to dwindle in just a short time. I think this EP is a must for Pedro/Bazan fans, but it won't win fans or break any new ground.

Anyone that was bummed about Pedro The Lion breaking up has absolutely no need to break out the anti-depressants. Fewer Moving Parts has everything that a Pedro The Lion could, except the cute and cuddly name.


Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out

Get Your Blood Sucked

Release Date: 9.12.06

Label: Barsuk Records

mp3: We Do Not Fuck Around

An album's edgy, sexy, and intriguing title doesn't necessarily translate to good music and repeated spins, does it?. Ofcourse not, silly. You should never judge a book (or CD!) by its title. However, inside the bright orange cover and behind the title lies 12 outstanding guitar-driven, classic rock-inspired indie rock gems.

"Get Yr Blood Sucked Out" is the fourth full length album from the Portland-based husband and wife outfit Viva Voce (Kevin and Anita Robinson), and their first on the Barsuk record label (Death Cab For Cutie, Rocky Votolato)

I truly believe this is Viva Voce's best effort due to the fact that it is just pure classic rock 'n roll with an indie accent. Once again, Kevin and Anita share lead vocals, giving the songs a nice variety. I still prefer the female touch however, like on the opening track "Believer", and on "When Planets Collide", "So Many Miles", and "Faster Than a Dead Horse". Kevin's vocals on "From The Devil Himself" will tingle your spine as the chorus repeats "You're gonna get your blood sucked out". The track "Special Thing" also features Kevin on vocals and is quite quirky and laden with sweetness.

If you appreciate the band's musical progression from "Lovers Lead The Way" to "The Heat Can Melt Your Brain", then "Get Yr Blood Sucked Out" is just what the doctor ordered.

Buy it at Insound!


Denison Witmer/Saxon Shore @ The Bug Jar

It was a hot and steamy evening at The Bug Jar in Rochester, NY and about half the audience was brave enough to sit on a bar floor to watch Militia Group recording artist Denison Witmer perform.

He's well-known for his enchanting solo acoustic performances, but the Rochester NY audience was in for a special treat as a reward for enduring the oppressive heat.

I got there just in time. With a cold beer in hand, I politely budged my way to the front of the audience to see Denison Witmer finishing his sound-check with acoustic guitar in hand. He told the audience to hang tight and that the show was to begin in about 20 minutes. He quickly changed his mind and said he would just start playing solo right away and give Rochester a nice long show. He likes Rochester. Rochester likes Denison.

He opened the show with one of my favorites, "Healing Time". He also played acoustic versions of "California Brown and Blue", and "Los Angeles".

Then the members of Saxon Shore took the stage and added a whole new dimension to the already sublime performance of Denison Witmer. With all the bells and whistles of a full band, Denison played "Grandma Mary", "Little Flowers", "Everything But Sleep", and of course, "The 80s."

Reverting to the intimacy of the solo acoustic was a perfect end to the set. Denison excused the band, and performed the favorites "Stations" and "Are You A Dreamer?"

It was a nice variety of acoustic and full band performances that I have never before experienced at a Denison Witmer show. Rochester was the last stop on the month long tour with Burnt Toast Vinyl recording artist Saxon Shore.

all photos by Melanie M.


Starflyer 59 @ The Buffalo Icon

OK, here's how it works. Fans will yell out song requests at a Starflyer 59 show. They will usually yearn to hear oldies like "Blue Collar Love", "Sled", or "She's The Queen." Starflyer 59 frontman Jason Martin will politely dismiss the request by saying any of following comments...

"It's comin' right up, man"

"You got it, dude", or

"I don't even know that song."

The requested song never gets played, and everyone laughs about it later.

Keeping with tradition, I requested "Hazel Would" (from the first sf59 album "Silver") and Jason said "It's comin!", so I thought it surely wasn't going to be played. Jason threw us all a curve ball and actually played "Hazel Would" last, and it was AWESOME. Hearing sf59 play a song off the classic album "Silver" was everything I always dreamed it would be. Until now, all I could do was dream. Enough of that. Here's the whole set list from the evening....

A Good Living

A-Lists Go On

No New Kinda Story

new song (I don't know the title)

Easy Street

First Heart Attack


Hazel Would

Other than "Hazel Would", the highlight for me was hearing "First Heart Attack" because I've never heard the band perform it live. I was glad to hear "A Good Living", because it was my favorite track on "Talking Voice Vs. Singing Voice", so I thought it was a great way to open the set.

OK, now I must point out the negatives. As always, the sf59 set was too short. The performance clocked in at 8 songs running about 35 minutes. I guess that's par for the course since it was 98 degrees in there with sf59 as the opening act (out of 4 bands) and most people seemed to be there for The Format. I was also a little disappointed that sf59 didn't play "Good Sons", or their great new single "I Win". Not a big deal, as the good far outweighs the negative.

As a sidenote, notice the rag wrapped around Jason's mic. It's not a rag actually, but a t-shirt Jason put there during the soundcheck to prevent the infamous "Ps" from popping (I am just guessing). It came in handy later when he used it to wipe the sweat from his brow. I would have snatched it as a souvenir but I already have enough nasty smelling shirts of my own.

It's always a reason to get excited when Starflyer 59 comes to your hometown and thoroughly rocks the stage. This band is so damn good and yet so damn underrated that it makes you think people in the music world have their ears in the sand. Surely Jason Martin could sign onto big indie labels like Matador or Jade Tree and have his songs featured on all the MTV reality shows. But Jason Martin is all about loyalty, quality, and longevity. He would rather have the freedom to put out music his way rather than be huge. I believe that is why after 13 years and 20 releases, the tank is still rolling....

Band lineup: Jason Martin (guitar/vocals), Josh Dooley (guitar), Trey Many (drums).

all pictures taken by Melanie M.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Other Desert Cities - On The Verge of Collapsing

Label: Velvet Blue Music
Release date: August 8th, 2006
mp3: Winter Winds

Next time you go driving cross-country, make sure you bring a road map, a thermos full of coffee, and of course Other Desert Cities. These are perfect tunes to crank up when driving through the open space of the midwest and the lonely desert towns of New Mexico (or wherever). It's been four years since the ODC self-titled debut and fans have been waiting....and waiting....and waiting... for this sophomore release. So what's the verdict? Was it worth the wait?

I would gladly wait four years for every new release if it was as pleasing as On The Verge of Collapsing. The word on the street is that frontman C. Charles Bowden was going through a divorce during the making of this record. The expectation would be that the lyrics would be dripping with self-pity, regret, vitriol, disdain, depression, loneliness, and revenge. Some of that is here, but this is by no means a self-important, self-centered, egotistical Bowden portrait. Instead, the album effectively expresses loss but not at the expense of faith and hope.

Track 3 "These Things Happen" will surely tug at your heart because it's about a phone call to a man informing him that his wife died in a car crash. The gentle strumming of the guitar along with the introduction of a saxophone drives the song forward as it explodes into the powerful chorus of :

Oh my God she's dead...I just spoke with her! This can't be her end...I just spoke with her!

There are some tender songs as well, including the opener "On Time", "Darlin' Come Home", "Walk With Me", and the very uplifting closer "Heaven Bound Train".

"Heavy Waters" features some of the "fuzzy noise" fans would recognize from Bowden's old band The Merbabies. The song has an extended space-rockish ending that will surely get your attention.

On "Winter Winds", Bowden reverts to the sound that made the self-titled debut such a success. It's more of a simple "cowboy ballad" complete with a little twang and violin. To me, this is the signature sound of ODC and exactly what you should be playing on the long road trips.

"Trouble" is a Cat Stevens cover and might be the favorite for many people. Bowden does an admirable job of making this song his own, adding his personal touch and emotion to the chorus.

I think it's very revealing that "Heaven Bound Train" was chosen as the closer on an album that could have very easily been one to make you jump in front of a speeding bus. Instead, the closing track takes the listener on a different road - one that leads to hope and is driven by faith. This song is totally reminiscent of Wilco's "Forget The Flowers" on the Being There album.

On The Verge of Collapsing has enough sorrow and swagger to make even Tweedy and Dylan proud (and Cat Stevens, too). This is an album that you can hold onto in times of despair and in turn it will hold you up. Bowden's storytelling is at it's most honest and transparent while the music ventures into both familiar and foreign territory. It all adds up to repeated spins and a CD that might not find its way back into the jewel case for a long, long time.


The Dark Romantics - Another Song [EP]

Label: Lujo
Release date: August 8th, 2006
mp3: Another Song For Another Night

Every once in a while a CD comes around that gets you excited about music again. I can say with certainty that The Dark Romantics will rock your ass off. It's the kind of music that should be blasting from your car stereo with the windows all the way down.

This 5 song ep was produced by Jason Martin (Starflyer 59) and is essentially a "teaser" for the full-length album that is coming later this year. Jason Martin's name should get indie rocksters' attention right away.

Need More? Frontman Eric Collins (Denison Marrs/The Party People) has joined forces with Dean Paul (John Ralston Band) to form The Dark Romantics. Oh yeah, I failed to mention that both of their wives (who happen to be sisters!) are in the band as well (Amanda and Carla Jones).

The Dark Romantics is Denison Marrs "on the rocks" with two shots of bourbon (which means it's nothing like Denison Marrs at all). This "teaser" runs at just under 16 minutes so it's enough to give you a buzz, but will undoubtedly leave you salivating for the forthcoming full-length "Midnight Kissing". These jams are darker, sexier, and dirtier, with bluesy riffs that will drag your ass out of your chair and make you dance (and I don't dance).

The EP opens with the title track "Another Song For Another Night" and it features ear-catching guitar lines and a chorus that will have you singing. There's absolutely no drop-off on track 2 "So Confused and We Like It" which lures you in with lyrics like, "You look even better than my dream last night". Again, it's tough to keep yourself from singing along.

Track 3 "When She says...She Loves You" slows the pace a bit, but is just as pleasing with synths and other random sounds introduced. Track 4 "Mode 59" is the most interesting song of the 5. The guitars just so happen to remind me of a Starflyer 59 song. The first time I played the CD, my wife walked over and said to me "This is a really cool sounding song." Well, she's right. I'll just add the fact that this is the most experimental song on the CD as it slightly departs from the dirty "straight-up rock the hell out of you" recipe of the opening tracks. The CD closes with The Dark Romantics Remix of "So Confused" which slows down the original a bit and throws in some synths for good measure.

These 5 songs will serve as a suitable summer soundtrack for those hot and humid evenings sitting on your front porch while sipping your favorite drink. Yes, some people may check out The Dark Romantics because Jason Martin is producing or because they like Denison Marrs. But once they listen to this EP, they will keep listening (over and over) based solely on the merits of The Dark Romantics. I can almost guarantee that fans of Denison Marrs and The Party People will be hooked on The Dark Romantics...or perhaps like it better in some ways.


Gary Murray "Queen of the Freight Train" mp3

Gary Murray's (formerly LN) first solo release Revenent Waltz EP is coming soon from Velvet Blue Music. It was originally planned as a full-length, but Gary Murray decided to take the best and make a mind-blowing ep instead. If the demos are any indication of what the EP will be like, I'd say plan on buying it. Here's one of them for your mp3 listening pleasure, "Queen of the Freight Train". While LN was known for lush and dreamy arrangements, you'll notice the Gary Murray solo material has a distinct "folk" sound that could be described as "cowboy" ballads.

I believe this is my favorite song that Gary Murray has ever written and it's only a rough mix. The vocals are pure beauty. Visit Gary Murray at for to hear other songs as well.

mp3: Queen of the Freight Train (rough mix)


Frank Lenz Interview

I recently grilled Hidden Agenda recording artist Frank Lenz. I want to thank Frank for agreeing to do this interview. He's a stand-up guy for answering all these questions.

PLUGGED: You worked on numerous Velvet Blue Music releases as well as playing in both starflyer 59 and Headphones (with David Bazan). Why did you stop?

Frank Lenz: I left my wife in 2005 and had a nervous break down. I lied to Jason and Dave about why I couldn't be on tour and understandably so I no longer play with them. As far as VBM goes I can only guess so I won't. There are a lot of people I hurt during that time so my answers might be abrupt.

PLUGGED: Where can people purchase Conquest Slaughter?

FL: I think Hidden Agenda has a few copies.

PLUGGED: Your latest record VileLenz and Thieves contains some pretty dark themes and the lyrics are very intriguing. In what way was this a very personal album for you?

FL: I've done some shitty things in my life but none worse than what I did to my ex-wife. That record was written during that time so the result is as it is.

PLUGGED: On VileLenz and Thieves, there's a song that has the line "Conquest Slaughter, moron fodder" Could you explain what this particular line means to you?

FL: I think that record's a pile of shit. When I made it I was excited... it seemed like a logical next step but turned out (to me) to sound confusing, derivitive and phony. I wanted to be heard more than I had to say, I wasn't ready. That being said, as of late, I've come to think track 1 and track 4 are alright.

PLUGGED: Which Frank Lenz album are you most proud of and why?

FL: None .

PLUGGED: In your opinion, what's the best song you have ever written?

FL: I think I'm writing better things now but that remains to be discovered. I'm excited at the moment about the new tunes I'm writing. I'm trying to make steps to bridge the gap between self expression and musicality.

PLUGGED: Can you describe what the next Frank Lenz record will be like and who will play on it?

FL: I want to work with Blake Westcott. I hope it will work out because he is very good. I pretty much play everything on everything and that's getting old, plus it doesn't sound so good so here's to change.

PLUGGED: I just listened to Last Temptation of Frank Lenz today and I think it has some of my most favorite songs that you have written. Now that you are working with Hidden Agenda Records (Parasol), would you like to see it given a proper release?

FL: Thank you. Although I like a few songs on that record I would rather it not be released. It's not bad, it's just not me.

PLUGGED: Are you still producing? If yes, what are you working on?

FL: I helped a guy out named Jared Colinger...super cool guy and [ I ] worked with a song writer named amy cooper, you should check her out. She is also a great woman and a good friend. I should also mention a band called blvd. I produced their record and didn't come close to doing them justice. Good fucking rock band.

PLUGGED: You and Richard Swift used to do a lot of work together. Do you hope to work with him on anything again?

FL: No.

PLUGGED: Do you have plans to go on tour and play your solo material?

FL: I'd love to. No one asks and I don't have any idea how to book myself so if anyone wants an opening asshole I'm available.

PLUGGED:Tell us something that you want everyone to know about Frank Lenz.

FL: I may be full of shit but at least now I'll let you know up front.

PLUGGED: Thank you, Frank.