Music Reviews

~10.25.2011~

On the Cooling Board/ Marshall Hicks & His Bag of Tricks
“Never Forget: September Split, Vol. 2″
Released digitally via Sewn Together Records
Produced by Ryan Browning & Marshall Hicks

The two nicest guys in the Commonwealth of Virginia have joined forces on Sewn Together Records latest split, and it is assuredly a good thing. There’s no reason not to download the split considering it’s free of charge, but if for some reason you’re still on the fence, let me reassure you: it is excellent and deserves a place in your iPod, Zune, or CVS-brand Screenless MusicSquare™.

The ostensible connection between “Marshall Hicks and His Bag of Tricks” and Ryan Browning’s “On the Cooling Board” is that both are one man bands, though listening to the split, you’d be forgiven for thinking that multiple musicians were playing on many of the tracks, particularly on Hicks’ two songs. Interestingly, even though Hicks and Browning have very different styles, the overall experience is very cohesive. Hicks’ frenetic, complex, and upbeat sound nicely complements Browning’s stripped-down menacing blues rock.

The split opens with Hicks’ “Revolution of Sound,” a song from his former band “The Makeout” that never saw the light of day until now. It sets the mood nicely, conjuring up the feeling of stepping into a bar halfway through a show when the audience is already half-lit and rocking along nicely. This segues into Browning’s “Destroyer,” a relentlessly badass track that would be the perfect musical accompaniment if you ever find yourself driving down a dusty road at 2AM on your way to murder somebody. (For the purposes of full disclosure, I must admit a certain bias towards “Destroyer,” since it features spoken-word quotes from my serial novel “Black Marlin” and I have adopted it is as the novel’s official theme song.)
The second half of the split features Hicks’ “Walk With Me” and Browning’s “Heart,” two great tracks that show off the softer, romantic sides of their performers. “Walk With Me” features some slick and catchy electronic elements, while “Heart” manages to be hard-edged even while Browning sings about kissin’ and marriage, which is no mean feat.
September Split II is another great addition to the already impressive Sewn Together catalogue, which has lately been growing by leaps and bounds. Download it immediately, and if you like what you hear, check out Hicks’ former band “The Makeout” and Browning’s “Mountain Empire,” both of which have full-length albums free to download on the site. After that, consider donating a few shekels. The more incentive Sewn Together receives to keep releasing great material like this, the better off we’ll all be.

 

Tracklist:

1. Revolution of Sound (MH&HBT)
2. Destroyer (OTCB)
3. Walk With Me (MH&HBT)
4. Heart (OTCB)

~10.18.2011~

Stevie D & Joneski “Strictly ‘Bout the Pickes”
Self-released CD-R
Produced by Samuel Lunsford

Its always refreshing to know the creators of the record you’re listening to had fun and enjoyed making it. That knowledge helps you get into the record on a more personal level. Stevie D & Joneski’s debut collaboration is not only full of great hooks, beats and rhymes but personality and humor only few can muster and pull off.

When I first heard of the two MC’s working together it made perfect sense. Stevie D of Illbotz (Stephen Davies) has made an extremely solid reputation not only as a funny man but one of the most creative and versatile hip hop lyricist in the area. Joneski (Samuel Lunsford of the Young Sinclairs/ Magic Twig Community) has been known by many as a player and writer in the rock genre; picking up just about any instrument to bring his ideas to life. However, few people outside of a network of friends knew him to be skilled in the art of hip hop. That is until these last couple of years. Sam single handedly made the beats, cut the scratches and produced the album. Quite a feat if you ask me.

The album conveys that old sound of what hip hop used to be and (to some) should be again. The beats and samples call back to the sounds of the rapping greats of the late 80′s through the mid 90′s. The lyrical content on the album is incredibly clever and at times outrageously funny. Many are used to hearing the humor come out in Stevie’s lines and hooks but to have Joneski hold his own shows the great chemistry between the duo. Between certain tracks are skits that help make the album a repeat listener if not for the songs (which stand alone as a killer collection of tunes) than for the laughter factor. Its a comedy album that should be taken seriously for the amazing talent behind it.

Stand out tracks to this writer are: “Big Ball Sack”, “Funky Dope Fuckin’”, “Catch the Buzz”, “Mightiest MC’s” and the album opening “Native Tongues Intro.”

Get this album and find out how good it is by purchasing it directly from them at their next show or contacting the duo online.

Tracklist:

1. Native Tongues Intro
2. What’s Up?!
3. Big Ball Sack
4. Funky Dope Fuckin’
5. Generic Haters Skit
6. Warm Ass 40
7. Joneski Boogie
8. Super Nice Superstar
9. Catch the Buzz
10. Pass the Cake
11. O.G.’s Skit
12. Mightiest MC’s

- Seanmichael Poff

~07.06.2011~

Kid’s Garden “Light Hearted”/ Mirror Kisses “Dance Decree”
Self-released split 12″ record
Produced by George Clanton

In today’s world of terms such as “chillwave” you seem to get a lot of the same thing; kid’s on laptops trying to create that lo-fi tape cassette sound characteristic of Ariel Pink and others. All the while trying to bring back a sound of the 80′s that may be fun to listen to but doesn’t quite come off as their own. Many great new wave influenced records have come out this year but few have held a candle to their predecessors. We are very fortunate to have two groups in this area that can. Enter George Clanton and his group of collaborators with their two very different brain children; Kid’s Garden and Mirror Kisses.

Both of these Harrisonburg, VA projects fronted by George Clanton revive those 80′s new wave and alternative sounds without seeming too contrived or cliche. In fact I’d say its a very true testament to the time period bringing it into the now and infusing it with pop influences all across the board.

The Mirror Kisses side of the split entitled “Dance Decree” starts out with the title track that immediately calls to mind the style and voice of Human Leagues’ Philip Oakey in their “Dare” era. Synths all seem to play the role of most of the instruments on these tracks. The pads and effects that play through the side are very authentic and if not done by the actual synths then by some very accurate emulators. All tracks are catchy but the one that stands out to me the most is “Love On U” which features John Batice sharing vocal duties with Clanton. I’m not familiar with Batice but if you’re a fan of Zapp’s Roger Troutman or more modern contemporaries like Chromeo’s Dave 1, you’ll love this track.

The Kid’s Garden half of the split entitled “Light Hearted” is the darker side of the spectrum in Clanton’s approach to song structure. Taking from more of the psychedelic side of the 80′s alternative scene in the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen and Ride this goes to show Clanton is very capable of switching styles and instruments. A more guitar oriented record (still featuring some synths here and there) this band finds Clanton singing in a lower register at times with harmonies and pads swirling around the vocal melody. When it comes to guitar you can count on a lot of reverb, compression and fuzz… a very signature sound of his influences. For me the song that really stands out for this project is “Prayer Mast” with its entwining harmonies and guitar leads really driving the song into your head.

Both “Dance Decree” and “Light Hearted” are great stand alone E.P.’s but to have them together on one record is a testament to the versatility George Clanton is capable of. If you like this split I highly recommend buying both bands’ full-lengths. “Soaking Wet” from Mirror Kisses and “Further” from Kid’s Garden. Both albums are available on their bandcamps linked above. For more information on how to get the 12″ contact Mirror Kisses or Kid’s Garden on their facebook page.

Tracklist:

Mirror Kisses side, “Dance Decree”:
1. Dance Decree
2. Fang Bangers
3. Love On U
4. Toss Me Aside
5. We’ll Keep On Living (On and On)

Kid’s Garden side, “Light Hearted”:
1. In My Room
2. Light Hearted
3. Prayer Mast
4. Stucked (With Return)

- Seanmichael Poff

~06.07.2011~

the Situationist – E.P.
CD-R released via Lucid Press
Produced by John Thompson & the Situationist

Many things can be said about Roanoke’s the Situationist. Some call them a musical outfit inspired by political revolutions and the writings of George Orwell. Others call them a mix of alt rock and R&B. I believe they are a bit of all these combined and more. They have been together for a half decade now playing around town and occasionally heading out to play around the Virginia area. They’ve been through loss, rebirth and regrowth and this short three song E.P. is only a taste of what you can expect from this incredible four-piece.

It is very hard to do the voice of Geoff Conley justice in my limited grasp of grammatical capability. What I can tell you is that each time I see the Situationist perform I am moved by it very deeply. It is honest in ways I could only hope to be and raw in way most are afraid to attempt let alone master as Conley has. In this recording you get to experience many aspects of Geoff’s capabilities not only as a vocalist but as a front man and songwriter. Conley makes his case for this in the beautifully melodic “Yellow House” and the Orwell influenced (the first few lines are taken from a traditional English nursery rhyme used in 1984) “Chestnut Tree Cafe”.

The opening track of the E.P. entitled “I Need You” shows off the group as an organic unit. Starting with a bass line reminiscent of an old soul song delivered by Doug Shelor that leads into a deep grooving wave of sound led by the beat of Paul Thompson’s drums and the fuzzed out lead of Gene Senter’s guitar. The song swirls about in a psychedelic funk with the harmonies from both Conley and Thompson beckoning you to sing with them “Its alright if you get under my skin”.

The E.P. then moves on to one of my favorite Situationist songs, “Yellow House”. The reverb and delay that drenches the track seems to turn the two guitars into five or maybe six tricking our ears by their picked out melodies. The drums and bass dance together in an almost start and stop swing then solidifying into a straight tempo towards to chorus that in my opinion makes the chorus. All the while Conley tells a story rich in metaphor.

The ending track of the E.P. is “Chestnut Tree Cafe” which is as haunting as it is catchy and beautiful. The songs starts with a bit of gentle feedback, acoustic guitar and harmonica to greet Conley reciting the English nursery rhyme called “Oranges & Lemons”. He then melds his own words seamlessly into the fold of the tune. The instrumentation is later met by electric guitar, piano, bass, organ and many effects escalating and then smoothly dissipating into an ambient ending.

You can pick up this album from the band themselves or at Bazaar Consignments on Brandon Rd. It is well worth it. I promise you.

Tracklist:

1. I Need You
2. Yellow House
3. Chestnut Tree Cafe

- Seanmichael Poff

~04.05.2011~

Wild Nothing – Gemini
CD & LP w/ digital download via Captured Tracks
Produced by Jack Tatum

“Live in Dreams” may be one of the best introductions to a group that I have ever experienced. An ethereal chorus of keyboard and guitar build slowly in volume, not quite insistent, but clearly letting the listener know this is a beginning. It reminds me of going to underground shows when I was in Pittsburgh. They were always held in cheap to rent industrial spaces, and to find your way there you usually had to have someone with you who’d been there before. If you didn’t, you would have to wonder around until you heard music. This is what I think of every time I start this album. Of hearing a song start in the distance, and following it until suddenly you’re at the show surrounded by music and friends. This swelling introduction is just one of the things that makes “Live in Dreams” really such a remarkable song–shimmering yet moody, repetitive without becoming stale. All that considered, I still wouldn’t necessarily call it the best track on the album.

If it’s not clear by now, I think Gemini by Wild Nothing is a pretty special album. I should preface the rest of the review by admission that I’m writing about this a year after the album was released. But even though this praise is coming well after the rest of the music review world has said what they think (in general they really liked it), I assure you that most of this album has remained on my 4GB MP3 player since I downloaded it. And the reason it’s outlasted so many other albums is that I’m constantly amazed at the way the artist is able to show such stylistic reverence to British post-punk bands like the Smiths and the Cure, while still instilling it with a unique and very personal flair.

Gemini is a rarity in modern music, in that the album contains very little filler. Besides “Live in Dreams,” the album boasts many memorable tracks. “O Lilac” shimmers celebratorily, and “The Witching Hour” burns with intensity. “Gemini” end the album beautifully, and “Bored Games” provides an airy interlude to the more intense tracks. The song that stands out most though, is certainly “Chinatown.” It begins with a chorus of light, reedy flutes before the complex rhythm drops in.”Chinatown” manages to balance a solidly driving pace with richly textured melodies in such a way that rather than contrasting, they complement each other.

Complaints about this album seem to be few and far between. Of the many I have played it for, a few have found Jack Tatum’s voice somewhat distracting. While no one is going to accuse him of being Frank Sinatra (and I, for one, consider that a good thing), I find Tatum’s voice to be well suited for the way his music uses it. Other than that, it could be said that not all of the songs on the album are as effective at melding their rhythms and melodies as are “Chinatown” and “Live in Dreams.” Even so, there is no denying that Gemini is an amazingly cohesive album that will impress upon first listen, as well as offer deeper rewards to those who return to it.

- Will Creasy

Tracklist:

1. Live in Dreams
2. Summer Holiday
3. Drifter
4. Pessimist
5. O Lilac
6. Bored Games
7. Confirmation
8. My Angel Lonely
9. The Witching Hour
10. Chinatown
11. Our Composition Book
12. Gemini

~03.09.2011~



Eternal Summers
– Silver
CD & LP w/ digital download via Kanine Records
Produced by Joe Lunsford & John Thompson

This review has been long overdue (along with many other soon to be reviewed albums) but really what can be said that hasn’t been said already. The first full-length from Roanoke’s Eternal Summers has been praised by everyone from Pitchfork to IFC to Spin Magazine and countless others. However, what I see in the album is a darker answer to their prior E.P.’s. Nicole has become more adventurous both vocally and instrumentally while Daniel’s drumming has become more complex yet still keeping with that true punk sensibility. The lyrics for the most part seem very personal letting us in just enough but not entirely. This is a very good trick lending to the imagination of the listener and allowing the artist to vent through their artistic medium. I really dug every track starting from the clever and catchy “Disciplinarian” to the sad and heartfelt “Bully in Disguise”. For anyone who loves punk music, reverb and keeping it simple yet interesting then this album is for you.

Tracklist:

1. Disciplinarian
2. I Know Now
3. Pogo
4. Eternal
5. Running High
6. Safe At Home
7. I’ll Die Young For Rock N Roll
8. Salty
9. World’s Away
10. Dye
11. Silver
12. Bully In Disguise

~02.15.2011~


Illbotz – Pudding is Delicious
Self-released CD & mp3 Download
Produced by Poe Mack & Illbotz

Roanoke’s rap comedy legends are back with what could be their greatest release to date. “Pudding is Delicious” features an onslaught of hilarious hits full of 80′s culture reference, egg rolls, iPods, pudding, comedy sitcom gags and skits, an amazing/ deep poem by Big Perm and of course PBR. The album showcases the Illbotz comedic and genre-venturing range from the Philly doo wop sounding homage to the Fair Eastside to a punk song for one of Roanoke’s friendliest punks, Marshall Hicks. Stand out hits (for this writer) are “Illbotz Rock the Spot and Go Crazy”, “Your iPod Sucks”, “Perm’s Poem” and “Jesus Gave Me Water (But What I Wanted Was A PBR)”. My favorite quote of the album is “I’ll bust Dan Fogelberg in the clavicle with the quickness!”

Check this album out right now on their bandcamp account right HERE! Pick up their CD at their next couple of shows opening for Bubba Sparxxx and again opening for the legendary Slick Rick.

Tracklist:

1. Fair Eastside (Intro)
2. Illbotz Rock the Spot and Go Crazy
3. Throw Me An Eggroll
4. Dinosaur, Dinosaur
5. What’s That All Abot (Skit)
6. Bot Life
7. Stevie D’s iPod (Skit)
8. Your iPod Sucks
9. True Love and A Fat Boys Record (Skit)
10. Babybot
11. Zombie Girl
12. The Power Glove (Lucas’ Theme)
13. Scenester Joke (Skit)
14. Can I Put It On A Sandwich?
15. Stupid Lazy Eye (Get Off the Couch)
16. Enter Marshall (Skit)
17. Marshall (Friendliest Punk In Town)
18. Perm’s Poem (Skit)
19. Give A Little Love
20. Jesus Gave Me Water (But What I Wanted Was A PBR)
21. Perm’s Got Bad Breath (Skit)
22. Stank Ass Rappas (Featuring Sarah G.)
23. My Crown (Featuring Poe Mack)
24. Not So Hidden Track

~10.20.2010~



Nancy & 2 Meteors
– Catnip
Self-Released CD-R
Produced by Geoff Conley & Doug Shelor

Roanoke’s Nancy & 2 Meteors are known for the eclectic blend of styles and high energy shows. On their first full-length “Catnip” the band proves they can not only generate that energy live but on record as well. Beginning with the first track entitled “Notice” (a song about economic hard times) the tune is introduced by synthesizer and drum machine with an electric guitar solo just hanging in the background. The song immediately erupts into a dance beat, catchy group chants and a rap or two. “What We Know Is New” is nothing like the opening song before it instead taking more of a ska punk approach including a horn section, distorted guitar and live drums. That track fades into yet another synth line this time sounding a bit post apocalyptic accompanied by Nancy’s signature drum machine, guitar, turn tables and talk box vocals all forming together on the dance track “Stitches”. Other stand out tracks are the disco punk song “Be The One”, beat heavy “Death Of The Life Of The Party” and the poppy guitar, synth and vocal melodies of “Scared Out Of My Breath”.

Marshall (guitar), Dickie (turn tables, trumpet), Aaron (keys, drums) and Josh (bass) have solidified into a very diverse unit capable of many different sounds yet making them all their own. Roanoke should be proud of these four guys and positively stoked about their newest release. This record is dedicated to the late and great Brad “Smalls” Schmidt, a close friend of the group’s and all around great human being. Make sure to pick the album up from one of the guys or contact them through email or visit the band’s myspace.

Tracklist:

1. Notice
2. What We Know Is New
3. Stitches
4. Ideas
5. Motivate
6. Be The One
7. Death Of The Life Of The Party
8. Jazz City Punks
9. Scared Out Of My Breath
10. It Might Go Away
11. Record Song

~8.13.2010~

Ike As In Dwight – Nature of People, People of Nature
Digital E.P. released via Sewn Together Records
Produced by Doug Raus

From the very first track appropriately titled “Summer” the harmonies of Ike As In Dwight’s Maya Renfro and Scott Robins keep you entranced for the entire length of this well crafted E.P. While Maya strums a soft yet quickly paced guitar Scott accents her work with incredible skill on keys. Nick Robins (Scott’s twin brother) provides us with melodic bass lines keeping in sweet time with drummer John Bergman’s clever use of toms and cymbals. The Blacksburg, VA based band is just over a year old and describes themselves as “organic by nature” giving their use of clean tones and harmonies. I would have to agree, especially when it comes to the title and apparent theme of the album. Like a lot of people, I seem to relate certain records to certain seasons or times of the year. However, with this release I see elements of all seasons proving its lasting power in my player. Did I mention the E.P. is FREE?! Favorite tracks to check out are “Wolves”, “Summer” and “Sundays in the Afternoon”.

Tracklist:

1. Summer
2. Planes
3. Wolves
4. Nature of People, People of Nature
5. Goodbye, For Now
6. Sundays in the Afternoon

Download Nature of People, People of Nature for free at Sewn Together Records website.

~4.17.2010~

Various Artists, HSAL #8
Digital Release, Available on the Harding St. Blog

Informed by the crop of late 90’s/early 2000’s experimental indie bands like Labradford, Pan.American and Sparklehorse, HSAL #8 is a deliciously lo-fi compilation of VA-based bands that have worked in and with the Lynchburg-based Harding St. family. Everything from ambient, Eno-style soundscapes (A Sentimental Song), twee-folk (Moruza) to noise and dream-pop (Herizon, Goodwill Falcon) is represented, and gives a good idea of the kind of music being made under the radar in the Old Dominion. Did we also mention that it’s free?

Tracklist:

1. Andrew Weathers – Typrewritten
2. White Laces – Psychic (Healing Version)
3. Cave Drums – Ship Without A Name
4. Moruza – Richmond
5. Brian Hall – Altavista Girl 2 (Drive Your Daddy’s Car)
6. Goodwill Falcon – The Story Of A Commuter
7. Starmount – Gobi Manchurian
8. Saskatoon – Queen Elizabeth Power Station
9. Herizon – Cave Drums Again
10. Asentimentalsong – Winter

This compilation is currently available for download at the Harding St. Blog.You can also download an exclusive “Harding St. vs. Scenic Recovery” preview mix of the compilation here.

~3.23.2010~

Eternal Summers

Eternal Summers – Self-Titled EP
10″ Vinyl, Reissued on Chimney Sweep Records (Originally released on Magic Twig)
Produced by Joe Lunsford and John Thompson

Although clocking in at under half-an-hour, the reissued Eternal Summers EP is one of our favorite local records so far. The combination of Nicole Hirschmann’s sing-shout vocals and reverb-heavy guitar style, along with Daniel Cundiff’s frantic-yet-precise drumming, makes for some of the catchiest indie-pop since Galaxie 500 hooked up with Kramer in the late 80′s. We recommend starting out with “Fall Straight Back”, the unofficial single “Able To” and “I Must Winter”.

Tracklist:
1.Loaded One
2.Fall Straight Back
3.Able To
4.I Must Winter
5.In The Beginning
6.Heart Squeeze
7.Kry
8.Lightswitch

This EP is currently available for purchase at Bazaar Consignments, or at Chimney Sweep Records’ Online Store. You can preview tracks at the band’s MySpace page, or at Last.fm.

2 responses to “Music Reviews

  1. Pingback: Weekend Post: Bazaar, Happy’s, and Harding St. Music Review! « Scenic Recovery

  2. Pingback: Rubber @ the Shadowbox, the Situationist @ the Bazaar, My Radio @ Kirk Avenue Music Hall | Scenic Recovery

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