REVIEW: St. Even’s “Spirit Animal”

Photobucket Music that doesn’t bother cutting to the chase, in other words, music that is simplistic in sound but complex in its construction and presentation, moves me. It can be considered Americana but it doesn’t have that dirt-deep twang. It can be considered pop or indie pop, but pop purists may argue, which isn’t a good thing. But St. Even sound like those musicians of yesteryear, and I speak of 100 to 150 years ago, who used to travel from town to town to make a living, hoping to find a home and some food. Then again, that can describe indie rock and punk bands in the 21st century.

Let me get to the point. This description could be perfect to describe their sound, taken from the liner notes:
the pain always picked up and renewed a variation on a theme like your favorite food always the same but always some variation like cherries or Indian nuts or barbecues roast loin or pork

I interpret this as saying that what you will hear is definitely familiar to fans of that rustic, acoustic sound of country, folk, and blues, and with that familiarity that you enjoy comes the unfamiliarity, the curiosity factor that makes you want to sit down and listen to them. Steve Hefter may be the core of the group, as he sings and plays most of the instruments throughout, although with his cast of friends helping him out, he becomes a part of that traveling pack of musicians singing about hope, dreams, pain, suffering, love, pain, and everything we question in life but somehow find something that keeps us going. Even if that “something” is different, we all strive to get to our inevitable destination in one piece. Maybe the Spirit Animal (Dustbin) in the title is a metaphor for who we were, mere entities in a container for specific segments of time and we’re roaming around trying to make sense of what’s in front of us and what may lurk behind us. Fans of Ray LaMontagne, Wilco, and Donavon Frankenreider will appreciate the intimacy of St. Even and what Hefter tries to convey. It sounds of the past, but there’s a need for this to be heard and shared now, as a means to shine the light on a bit of uncertain darkness everyone seems to be sharing these days.

(Spirit Animal will be released on September 6th.)

REVIEW: Mike Cottone’s “Just Remember”

Photobucket It may appear to be just a mere sitting on a couch for trumpeter Mike Cottone, and maybe that’s what it’s meant to convey: something laid back, easy, “down home”. Well, if playing damn well over some incredibly well arranged jazz is “down home”, then I think going home is something all of us should have in mind when it comes to creating and listening to music, and maybe that’s why he calls this Just Remember (self-released). For longtime fans of jazz, it goes back to a time when bebop and hard bop was a call to arms. For others, it’s just a way of pointing the finger at jazz, as it should be played.

6 of the 10 tracks are Cottone originals, so when you’re hearing songs like “I’m Sure”, “Sloppin”, and “Slow Down”, you’re hearing someone who not wants to honor jazz, but wants to play and embellish in it. Along with his band (which includes Jared Schonig and producer Ulysses Owens Jr. trading duties on drums, Paul Sikivie on bass, Kris Bowers on piano, and Jeremy Viner on saxophone), Cottone shows the kind of skill that comes from someone who is in love with the music, with playing, and with the instrument, or in this case instruments since he also plays the Flugelhorn. It sounds like freedom, and I was going to pinpoint certain eras in 20th century jazz that it reminded me of, but I think “freedom” is apt regardless of the era. The harder songs are an excursion, while the ballads display the musicianship of Cottone and his band beautifully.

Just Remember is not too showcase-y or lavish, it’s a perfect balance that helps make this album stand out from the multitude of jazz albums that come out on a regular basis. This is one that will sound good in five to ten years as it does today.

SOME STUFFS : Official “Smile Sessions” box set from Beach Boys in November

It has been 44 years in the making, and an album that is probably the most celebrated in Beach Boys history, second to only Pet Sounds, but notable because the album has never been released officially. Now it will be.

The Smile Sessions Box Set (Capitol) is deluxe in every day, as it will be box set with five compact discs, a double LP, and two 7″ 45’s. That’s a total of 9 discs in the box. That’s a Beach Boys overdose and orgasm at the same time.

Smile is an album that was meant to be the bad’s follow up to 1966’s Pet Sounds. Upon release, it did not make a big impact in the United States. In England, it was immediately praised by both critics and artists, many of whom would claim it as a major influence. Most notable is Paul McCartney, who has said on record that for years, he and Brian Wilson were having an unspoken competition with their music, almost as if they were trying to 1-up each other. Sgt. Pepper has been said to be heavily influenced by the power of Pet Sounds, and thus not only did fans want to hear how Wilson and the Beach Boys would answer back, everyone wanted to know how it would be an unspoken answer to Sgt. Pepper, if at all.

The legend of Smile is legendary, probably one of the most discussed unreleased albums ever. Bootleg versions of the album have been hot items in the underground, and bootleggers have also released different box sets of the Smile recording sessions. While Capitol had released a few Smile songs on the Good Vibrations box set, for the most part it was never approached. The response to the much-delayed Pet Sounds Sessions box set proved there was still a demand for “the smart side” of The Beach Boys music, and even though bootlegs continued to surface, people wanted to hear the “official” side of things. Wilson even went out of his way to record Smile on his own, which lead to a very successful tour.

Now the wait is over. Rather than talk about what will be on this box, I’ll pass it over to Time To Play B-SidesMike Roeder, who speaks on the “goods” on his website (click here for a look.)

Personally, it is great that labels in 2011 still feel moved to release archival music like this, in this fashion. It makes me wish more artists would encourage this, and more labels were into it for audiences who will buy and listen. It may not open the floodgates for other artists, partially because some of them feel that without demand, why bother? Nonetheless, Smile and its legacy has been in demand for 44 years and now the rest of the world will be able to hear the genius that is Brian Wilson, and what lead to his eventual isolation from the world for years.

VIDEO: Blindside’s “Our Love Saves Us”

The video starts out with a big digital fire extravaganza and I’m thinking “right on, this is cool”. Then the song starts and I’m looking at the screen going “WTF is this?” But your mileage may vary.

To me, it sounds like it comes from an industry that put too much faith on the pop side of Linkin Park and think that’s what *everybody* wants. Would’ve been nice if Mike Shinoda dropped a verse in this. No luck.

VIDEO: Caithlin De Marrais’ “Birds”

Caithlin De Marrais – “Birds” – from the album ‘Red Coats’ from Harmonica Boy on Vimeo.

She was a member of Rainer Maria, but now she steps out of the group function and into a world of her own, on her own. Singer Caitlin Da Marrais will be releasing her album Red Coats (End Up) on November 8th, and this is the first taste of what will appear on it.

FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD: Soulstice’s “Love Cliché”

“You are the night… and I am the day”.

These were the words sung by Gina Rene with the group Soulstice, founded by brother Gabriel René. They released the incredible album Illusion and a remix version of that album soon followed but that was 10 years ago. They seemed to disappear, at least as a group. Gina Rene, on the other hand, maintained a MySpace presence and did occasional tracks from time to time, but she did her own thing, lead her own life and that was that. It comes as a surprise that Soulstice has returned. What’s disturbing is that I find out about this today and discovered that “Love Cliche” is the third single from the album. WHAT?!?!? Well, now that I know, you know too. If you knew about this, then you’ve been keeping it to yourself. Don’t do that anymore, spread the word. Love Cliché (J Boogie Remix) by OmRecords Love Cliché (J Boogie Instrumental) by OmRecords Love Cliché (Album Version) by OmRecords Love Cliché (Nightmares On Wax Dub) by OmRecords Love Cliché (Nickodemus Remix) by OmRecords

SOME STUFFS: Ghost Robot Ninja Bear take the midwest on

Columbus, Ohio: you are first in a new tour to begin tomorrow (Sunday, August 28th) by Ghost Robot Ninja Bear. It only lasts for a week but if you’ve heard their self-titled debut album or may have heard of them in passing, don’t pass them up this time. These are their stops:
AUG 28 – Columbus, OH @ Rumba Cafe
AUG 29 – Cincinnati, OH @ Daniel’s Pub w/ 1985
AUG 30 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Melthouse
AUG 31 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop w/ Eric Ayotte
SEP 01 – Chicago, IL @ Pancho’s

To find out more about the band, click here or to hear them, click there (and in this case, “there” means Bandcamp.)

REVIEW: CasUno’s “Sticks Out Like A Sore Chuck”

Photobucket “Living in isolated frustration” is what CasUno refers to in the opening track “The World According To Peter Pansy” (which features a nice verse from Esh The Monolith), and it seems CasUno went out of his way to make an attempt to throw focus on what his new EP is all about. The 8-track EP Sticks Out Like A Sore Chuck, a follow-up to last year’s Sticks Out Like A Sore Thumb (which I reviewed here), is a release for those who prefer to hear hip-hop lyrics and flows with a bit of edginess and broad range. He still delivers his rhymes as if he the working-class MC, and I don’t mean to say that in a way that describes the topics he talks about. What I’m suggesting is that CasUno has always been someone who sounds like he had a long day at work, and just to shoot the day, he’ll go back into the vaults of his mind and just deliver some nice rhymes that feel like a good meal after going throughout the day without anything to eat. If you haven’t figured it out, what I also mean to say is that he once again shows the effort he puts into his music and how he presents himself. I’m a huge fan of the EP too so while some fans would want more music, I say just wait for the next one.

VIDEO: Hopie featuring Del The Funky Homosapien’s “Space Case”

Space Case from David Dutton on Vimeo.

Hold up, Hopie Spitshard and Delvon? Yes, I speak of Del The Funky Homosapien doing a track with upcoming artist Hopie and it very much fits in with what both artists are about. See the deal in “Space Case”. These are words that have been used to both of them, and together they prove that space is the case, and in a good way.

The song is from her forthcoming album Raw Gems, to be unleashed on September 13th.

SOME STUFFS: The Muppets offer new movie and “The Green Album”

The first thing you may be thinking of upon hearing a title like The Green Album is, of course, The Beatles and their self-titled 1968 album. Because of its white cover, it became commonly known by fans as The White Album. Since then, there have been countless tributes and parodies of it, from Dennis Miller‘s The Off White Album to The Simpsons going for The Yellow Album. With Disney (who now owns Jim Henson‘s world of characters) coming out with a new Muppets movie, you now have the soundtrack in the form of The Green Album, consisting of modern artists covering various Muppets/Children’s Television/Sesame Workshop-related songs. Essentially, a Muppets tribute. The album was released this past Tuesday, here is the official track listing:
1. OK Go-The Muppet Show Theme
2. Weezer and Hayley Williams-The Rainbow Connection
3. The Wray-Mahna Mahna
4. Alkaline Trio-Movin’ Right Along
5. My Morning Jacket-Our World
6. Amy Lee-Halfway Down the Stairs
7. (Sondre Lerche-Mr. Bassman
8. he Airborne Toxic Event-Wishing Song
9. Brandon Saller and Billy Martin-Night Life
10. (Andrew Bird-Bein’ Green
11. Matt Nathanson-I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along
12. Rachael Yamagata-I’m Going to Go Back There Someday

Oddly enough, I’m not sure if the Disney folks remember this, but they did release a Green Album before, this one being a Gumby tribute album. Nonetheless, here it is. The movie will be out in November. Bird – It’s Not Easy Being Green by Walt Disney Records