The Envelope (Away-Team Music) is a short compact burst of energy with snatches of melody by Miami band Message To Venus. Word has it they’re working on a debut full-length, called Victims & Villains. If this EP is any indication, the album will definitely be worth checking out.
San Francisco band Tea Leaf Green’s Radio Tragedy! (Thirty Tigers) is their seventh. They’ve been gigging around the Bay Area since the ‘90s and have honed their sound down to a streamlined pop-rock edge.
So while I was watching one of my favorite shows, Weeds, and lusting after Mary-Louise Parker, I heard a song from this dude and later found out he was L.A. “writer/songsinger” John Gold. That rang a bell so I checked into my own record collection and damn if I didn’t find his 2005 The Eastside Shake. Then, as if by some divine act from the CD gods, I open my mail and there’s the new John Gold album, A Flower In Your Head (Vagrant). Considering I once wore a flower in my head while panhandling for chump change down the shore on the Bradley Beach boardwalk in the late ‘60s, the title appealed to me and I gave it a quick spin and was instantly transported to sunny Southern Cali ‘70s- style when Linda Ronstadt was still having sex with the Eagles. Dude can sing all right. And these songs get inside your head with repeated listening.
There’s this other dude, also from Miami, Gabe Dixon, whose Major label debut, One Spark (Fantasy/Concord Music Group), is also pretty damn impressive. A piano-humpin’ singer-songwriter, Dixon writes poems set to music and sings ‘em so sweet, they’re fit to swoon over. But maybe I’m just getting old.
I know, I need me some Atari Teenage Riot. Is This Hyperreal? (Dim Mak) got me thumpin’ and bumpin’ into walls. My wife thought I was nuts but it was exactly what I needed at the time. Too much mellow turns my brain to mush.
Another debut, The Universe Is Setting Us Up (db) by Brooklyn trio The Pioneers Of Seduction, also set my ears ringing. By this time, though, my wife was belligerent in making me turn this shit down so out came my big time Bose headphones and damn if this Steve Albini-produced monster didn’t sound even better. They made me laugh, they made me do some jumping jacks, and they even made me think (“I Want To Wake Up Beautiful” with its spoken-word verses and one-note chorus), a modern update on the theme of Radiohead’s “Creep.”
Then it was metal with Vanna, from Boston. And They Came Baring Bones (Razor & Tie) blew my ears out with its hardcore dog-barking and I got halfway through it before I realized, “Hey, I’m not at Metal Maniacs anymore, I don’t have to listen to this!” Out it went.
The Crimson Armada, another metal band, comes from Columbus, Ohio. They used “clean” vocals for Conviction, their second album, as opposed to death-metal, cookie-monster-styled upchucks or black-metal shrieks. “Questioning God” is cool but it seems like there’s just nothing new under the sun anymore in this genre.
Then there’s The Real Tuesday Weld and their album The Last Werewolf (Six Degrees), taken from the Glen Duncan novel of the same name. Now we’re talkin’! This British band goes from James Bond-styled soundtrack music, dancehall and jazzy alt-cabaret to other oddball sub-genres like folktronica, waltz, swing and a totally bizarre take on the blues.
Finally, from Salt Lake City, UT, comes more metal. My Damnation (Artery/Razor & Tie) by Chelsea Grin. Vocals awash in guttural phlegm, stop-start rhythmic confusion, three guitars at war with each other. Producer Zeuss (Hatebreed) had some fun with this one. And uh… yeah, I actually liked it.