Thursday, March 5, 2015

Honey and the 45s -- MAD

If the sassy blues riff and catchy harmonies on "MAD" don't pull you in to Honey and the 45s' new EP, nothing will.

The band effortlessly glides between jazz, soul, rock, and blues. This is easily the most fun album I've had the pleasure of reviewing for some time. The goal of the game is to get you off your tucchus -- you might not find much insight into the meaning of life here, but that's fine. There's lots of songs about dancing and the things that tend to follow dancing. Each song is executed with panache and swagger -- these guys are good, they know it, but they're not cocky. If I lived in Chicago I'd make it to their next concert ASAP. But since I don't, I guess I'll be rockin' in my room by myself. Or with a dance partner.

Honey and the 45s -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

VIDEO: Faith Evans Ruch -- "Rock Me Slow"

It's my pleasure to premier Faith Evans Ruch's new music video, "Rock Me Slow."

Her latest album, After it's Said and Done was one of my favorite albums of 2014. Her new music video evokes the same brooding loneliness -- and sense of awe at her raw power -- as the album does.

Faith Evans Ruch -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nick Shaheen -- Sauvignon

Behold the singer-songwriter: an individual and their guitar, maybe with a backing band. What makes one stand out from the pack?

In Nick Shaheen's case, it's his subtle subversion of all the genre's standbys: sweet love songs, the road song, the songs about self-pity, the occasional murder ballad. There's a reason these types of songs endure, but sometimes they're boring. Give this album careful attention, and Shaheen will make sure you never get bored.

It's not just that Shaheen plays a mean guitar, or that his lyrics are exceptionally sharp, or that his pop-punk delivery suits itself well to folk music. Taken altogether, he's a triple threat. While each song is beautiful in its own right, I'd like to draw attention to "Flashbulbs," an unusual twist on the murder ballad with an unusual backstory. In the song, the narrator recalls being framed for the murder of his lover while chopping vegetables in the kitchen. We learn that the killer used his kitchen knife. The song takes us through the trial and the aftermath, when his name is cleared -- the ambivalent triumph of being declared innocent while you've lost your love in a horrific way.

Shaheen writes he was inspired to write the song when he found himself in the midst of a vivid, violent fantasy while preparing dinner. Shaheen wrote the song to exorcise that particular demon, making the triumph at the end of the song very real.

All of this is to say that these are inventive -- but subtle -- songs from a vivid imagination. It's definitely worth your time.

Nick Shaheen -- Official, Facebook, Purchase, stream on Soundcloud

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ben Hope and the Uptown Outfit -- Ragged and Rowdy

Harlem might be an unlikely places for country music but Ben Hope embraces the incongruity with his Uptown Outfit. Hope is renowned for playing crooners like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Buddy Holly on Broadway. Hope is now turning his attention to the bar stage and brings his theatricality to his music. Whether it's the dirt-kickin' party song "Harlem Rag" or the sorrowful "Lonely A Fool," Hope's acting skills invite you to feel these songs and take them on as a part of your own story.

Hope's got a keen ear for turns of phrases and storytelling. For an alt-country blog, I generally don't cover country. But Hope's wit and honesty pushed this album to the top of my queue. His time playing the greats of country music clearly was not wasted -- Hope is fresh and authentic, and given time someone else will be up on stage playing a younger version of him.

Ben Hope -- Official, Facebook, Stream on Country Weekly

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Delta Routine -- You and Your Lion

The Delta Routine's last album, Cigarettes & Caffine Nightmares, was a tour de force of punk and energy. This time around, the band's taken a chill pill. You And Your Lion has the Delta Routine doing their best impression of The Band and succeeding. This isn't meant to be snide -- didn't John Lennon say something about finding your own style by imitating your role models and messing up? That's what The Delta Routine did here.

"Chains Off Me" is a powerful start to the album, reminding me of the Band's ability to showcase each member's talent while remaining a cohesive whole. Few groups of humans -- let alone musical bands -- are able to achieve that kind of synergy, but the Delta Routine achieves it. Also they wrote some great blues rock songs on here, including "Queen of New Jersey" and "Gone Again." The Delta Routine aren't just good-time charlies, though. There's enough substance on You And Your Lion to make you pause and think before you turn to your red solo cup. It's exciting to see a great band grow in leaps and bounds -- You And Your Lion is certainly anything but routine.


The Delta Routine -- Official, Facebook, iTunes

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stephen Chopek -- "Systematic Collapse"

Listening to Chopek's chunky, swaggering guitar riff, you'd be surprised to learn that he started off as a professional drummer. Though Chopek is in high demand holding down the beat, his natural curiosity led him to studying guitar and, eventually, songwriting. Chopek's new single, "Systematic Collapse" is as much a study in confidence as it is in crippling neuroses.

It was the guitar that brought me to the song, but the lyrics made me stay. Chopek's got a sharp wit but his drummer's instincts prevents him from laying any one element of the song on too thick. Check out the single now in preparation for Chopek's upcoming album.

Stephen Chopek --Facebook, Twitter

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love -- Last

I feel winded just typing out the name of this band, so from here on out I'm going to call them L^9. Like the band's name, their music is deceptively whimsical but is, in fact, quite challenging.

Last feels like a blissed out, fuzzed out, triumphant breakup album. These guys are labelmates with frog, a band that has creeped up on me since I first posted about them. Both bands are steeped in '90s shoegaze, folk influence, and a sharp, early aughts sensibility. The album opens with a chaotic crash of guitar chords and glides seamlessly into sunwashed power pop. My favorite song is "Dandelions," a subdued track where the vocals are so low, you can barely hear the lyrics. What matters most are the emotions -- sorrow, sadness, regret -- that permeate the song past the words. Last is a trip to be sure, but it's a journey worth taking.

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love -- Facebook, Bandcamp