album review

Bulletville: Bulletville

Jan 20, 2015
magnoliamountain.net
Photo by Angie Lipscomb

There's a video going around lately, created by Nashville songwriter Greg Todd, in which six current hit county music songs are all played simultaneously. If you watch the video, what you quickly realize is how shockingly and painfully similar each of the songs are.  

One could easily argue the case that the majority of current popular music is equally formulaic, regardless of genre, and that given most of the songs you might find in today's "Top 40," it is the producer, not the artist, who is the driving force behind the industry. Look at the work of Max Martin or Calvin Harris and you'll see title after title performed by various, insipid Johnny Bravos who worked the assembly line, played the game and achieved their fifteen minutes.

Knowing this makes me want to scream "Thank goodness!" that there are still true musical craftspeople out there like Mark Utley

Pike 27: Calling Out

Jan 6, 2015
pike27.net / FFTV Media

Every once in a while, you find a group that sounds less like a band and more like a few good friends getting together to have a good time. Such is the case with Mike Fair (guitar), Dave Killen (drums), Dave Purcell (guitar, vocals) and Sean Rhiney (bass) who collectively call themselves Pike 27.

The band's name is an obvious reference to Alexandria Pike - Northern KY's Route 27 - that winds through Cold Spring and Ft. Thomas...and finally exhausts itself somewhere outside Paris, KY. However, Pike 27's true roots can be found about 500 miles south of there in Athens, GA -- 583 miles to be precise, if you detour through Nashville, as this band has certainly done.

New Sincerity Works: 44

Dec 9, 2014

44 is a very difficult number to deal with. I know because I'm there.

At 44 you're closer to 50 than you are to 30 and yet you still feel like 30 is old. Sure, you may have the kind of job where you don't have to mop up before you go home; but you also can't party until 3 am because you have to get up at 7 to get the kids on the school bus. So what do you do when you find yourself saying, 'Who am I - and how did I get here?'

If you're Mike Tittel, the creative force behind the band New Sincerity Works, you sit down and write a painfully honest album that feels like a musical version of therapy and you call it 44.

Photo by Christopher Vercheak

Grab your favorite tattered flannel and strap on your 10-hole steel-toed Doc Martens, because Subsets are bringing back the eighties with their new album twothousandfourteen.

For sixteen and a half minutes, every note of twothousandfourteen is a relentless assault of viking fury, packaged to sound like the best of underground bands from labels like SST and Epitaph Records.

Ohio Knife always gives you more than you expect, yet you still want seconds. If there is a real-life personification of the "this one goes to eleven" mentality, you can find it in this Cincinnati band made up of Scotty Wood [bass], Andrew Higley [keyboards], Joe Suer [drums] and Jason Snell [guitar, vocals].

Everything about Ohio Knife is big, bold, loud and full of serious in-your-face attitude. The same can be said for everything about their latest release Our Neighborhood.

Cincinnati's favorite bearded, bohemian brethren, Buffalo Killers are back and are producing cool rocking music at a speed that would made Bob Pollard blush.

Their newest release from Sun Pedal Recordings is called Fireball of Sulk and is a 6-track bookend-like follow-up to their album Heavy Reverie which just came out this past Spring.

Smut: P U R S E

Nov 11, 2014

I'd like you to take a moment and think of your record collection and pick out your two favorite albums. Now, take your favorite sounds from those two albums.

I don't mean think of your favorite songs, but rather, just take an assortment of those uniquely sublime moments that put a hook in your brain and make you think, "Yeah, this is MY music." Try to distill all of that down into something that represents the very essence of the kind of music that speaks to you as an individual on an intimate, almost personal level. Now collect all of those little bits and pieces and mash them together in some kind of mental particle collider.

If you had my brain, the resulting fusion would probably sound an awful lot like PURSE, the new album from Cincinnati band Smut.

facebook.com/daycampband

Sometimes this gig is just freaking awesome.

Back in January of this year, I was turned on to a local act that quickly became one of my favorites - Day Camp. Their throwback 1990's sound takes what's best about Pixies, Lemonheads and TMBG and mixes it with their own sardonic and cynical lyricism as well as tremendously groovy rhythms.

JetLab: JetLab

Oct 28, 2014
facebook.com/JetLabmusic

JetLab strikes me more as a project than a band. It is a giant, musical crucible where rules don't seem to apply and nothing is excluded - and the general rule of JetLab is "go ahead and throw it in and let's see what comes out." But what else would expect from band that started out as a bet?

When I reviewed Sleeve's album Sex Is Stupid back in May, I wondered if they might turn out to be some kind of a one-off band and if I might never hear from them again.

How glad I am to be wrong - again.

Something magical happens for me whenever I get around Lexington, KY. I find myself in a place that is not quite The South but it is certainly no longer The North. It is a land in-between, like the gloaming. It's Narnia, it's Middle Earth. It's a dream-like place where I begin to feel like I'm not so tightly anchored to the real world anymore.

How perfect it is then that a band like Bear Medicine calls Lexington their home? The band's first full-length album, The Moon Has Been All My Life, which was recorded by Otto Helmuth at Nitro Sonic Studios, absolutely shimmers with a shamanic, mystical energy. The ten songs on the album transport you and transform your general outlook. In terms of musicianship, Bear Medicine might be Lexington's answer to Cincinnati bands like Buffalo Killers or The Ridges.

With a lonely baritone ukulele, a voice that is lilting and endearing and a notebook full of delectable poetry, Nancy Paraskevopoulos has recorded a collection of beautifully quirky and charming songs and wrapped them up into a tasty nugget of an album that she calls Comfort Muffin, released earlier this year on Chow Records.

Photo by Nikki Murray (buttershug.com)

So many bands today seem to rely on a gimmick in order to get attention. It might be outrageous costumes, on-stage antics... or maybe it's the incorporation of some strange and obscure 18th century musical instrument; but it seems like almost everybody needs their 'hook' if they want to be noticed in today's media-saturated world.

Then, every once in a while, you run across an artist like Royal Holland. Holland cuts through the sonic clutter with a razor-sharp acoustic guitar and purely superlative songwriting.

Earlier this month, he released his 5-track EP entitled Volume One - The Maze at Northside Tavern. Described as 'dreamy, smooth synth-folk songs about love and loss,' Holland's music is transportive and multi-faceted. He can weave tunes that evoke feelings of calm reflection ("Twin Rivers") and palpable tension ("The Maze"); or he can write energetic melodies that make you want to stand up and clap along ("Devil's Night").

Bummer's Eve is the latest in a series of lo-fi, noisy punk bands that have descended upon the Queen City. However, what sets this band apart - and above - the others is their unique, effects-driven sound that they call 'fuzz punk.'

There is a lot to like about the band's 5-song release entitled Pleasure Isle that came out this Spring.  At their core, Bummer's Eve is a band deeply rooted in the music of punks progenitors like The Damned and Buzzcocks; but they then take this classic fervor and saturate it within layers of fuzz-tone, phasing, and heavy vibrato. The result is a gorgeous marriage of psychedelic and sociopathic.

This week's review is a bit unusual  - mostly because the subject of the review is pretty unusual itself.

On August 8, local bands Ohio Knife and Skeleton Hands were paired together on the Fountain Square stage as part of the Midpoint Indie Summer celebration. To help promote this event, and to celebrate local music in general, Jason Snell, lead singer of Ohio Knife and creator of the downtown branding company We Have Become Vikings, decided to cut a limited-edition 7" dual single and release it on white vinyl.

Old City: Old City

Sep 9, 2014

Sometimes, in doing these weekly local music reviews, I discover just how wrong I can be.

Such is the case with this week's review of the first full-length release by Cincinnati's Old City.  Essentially, it boils down to a classic case of 'don't judge a book (or an album) by its cover' - literally. 

facebook.com/madanthonyband / photo by Nikita Gross Photography

It's been just over 14 months since Cincinnati's heavy-duty rock band Mad Anthony was in a terrifying accident outside of Evansville, IN that brought their van, and their tour, to a screeching halt.

Guitar player Adam Flaig escaped with minor injuries while lead singer Ringo Jones suffered several head lacerations. Most affected by the collision was drummer Marc Sherlock who sustained a C-4 vertebrae fracture along with serious cuts and bruises and spent time in a cervical collar. The tour van was destroyed as was some of the band's equipment with Sherlock's drum kit taking the heaviest damage.

So what does a band do when they find themselves standing on the side of the road, wondering what just happened and considering themselves lucky to still be alive?

umin: clast

Aug 26, 2014
uminmusic.com

clast, as in iconoclast, is the name of the new album from Cincinnati's umin, and the title could not be more appropriate. 

The word 'clast' comes from the Greek klastos meaning broken -- and those familiar with umin's work will immediately recognize how poignant this title is. At first listen, the music feels hectic, agitated and, well, fragmented. This is because umin primarily composes his songs on the baritone ukulele. He then digitally samples, cuts, loops and stretches the pieces into a wild and immersive collage of sound. Even the song titles are often mere fragments of words.

Prim: Older

Aug 19, 2014

With very little fanfare, Prim has released one of the best local pop recordings of the year.  

When you take time to consider the roster of talent in this band, it is not surprising. Alessandro Corona [Krkgrd], Jake Langknecht [The Never Bird] and Ian Gullett [Diet Audio, Smasherman, Photo Electric] weave a delightful tapestry of soulful melodies, and they do this in conjunction with the amazing Molly Sullivan [No No Knots] who has quickly become one of the supreme voices and songwriters in Cincinnati.

Founding Fathers

Aug 12, 2014

I was profoundly confused when I first listened to Founding Fathers. Here is a band that lists, among their 'influences' such groups as Ween, Beck, Wilco -- and to which other reviewers had compared to Talking Heads. My first impression of Founding Fathers was of a band that makes booty-shaking, bone-deep funk that just doesn't wash off. The first track on their latest CD, a song called "Stop Drop and Roll,"  is magnificent good-time party music to be sure but -- Ween?  Wilco? I wasn't getting it.

I have not had the opportunity to see the band live yet so... maybe I am missing something.

Gazer: Fake Bulbs

Aug 5, 2014

For those unfamiliar with the band Gazer, it may be best to describe them in their own words: "post-punk with the intensity of hardcore [and] inconsiderate blasts of noise."

Last October, when I started listening to Gazer's Phone Commercial EP, they quickly became one of my favorite local punk bands. The sound on Phone Commercial is reminiscent of the industrial Midwestern post-punk of the 90's like Big Black and Brainiac  - but Gazer has managed to take that sound, intensify it, and make it significant to the 21st century.

Public Housing

Jul 29, 2014

With this review, my intention is to get you to take a few steps through the looking glass into a Hellraiser-like universe where pain is beauty, ugliness is music and noise is pleasure. Looming ominously in a filthy back-alley somewhere in this universe is the band Public Housing.

ADM: Another Dying Motive

Jul 22, 2014

I am overjoyed by the fact that I am now starting to review some local bands' next releases - meaning that I have a better frame of reference to speak to an artists' music by being able to compare it to what they put out (and which I reviewed) last time around. This is no way implies that I feel that I have started to exhaust the roster of local musicians that are creating and putting out music. On the contrary, I think this reinforces the perception that the local music scene is a quite vibrant and very active animal.

My first 'comparative' review came this spring when I received an advance copy of Buffalo Killer's Heavy Reverie. In late June I got my hands on the soon-to-be-released 12" of new music from Gazer (the review for which will be coming in early August); and most recently I was able to score local electronic artist ADM's latest album Another Dying Motive.

Heavy Hinges has been described as "a sublime ruckus… a beautiful collision of rock, soul, gospel, and western."  In truth, what Heavy Hinges is is a well-balanced assemblage of rock, pop, country and traditional music with roots that run quite deep into the music of gospel choirs, chain gangs and saloons.  They have a reputation around town of putting on very powerful live performances and have established themselves as one of Cincinnati's must-see bands.

The group has just emerged from the studio with their debut album Mean Old City.  Recorded by Matt Hueneman at Newport's Audiogrotto and mastered by Ashley Shepherd*, Mean Old City is the band's attempt to bottle some of that on-stage lightning.

The Mitchells

Jul 8, 2014

Delicate and crisp -- balancing electric guitar with banjo, cello and more eclectic instruments -- everything about The Mitchells' self-titled debut album says indie-pop. The music is light and drifting and would play perfectly as the soundtrack to the next Marc Webb film. It is hard to listen to this album and not imagine yourself leaning out the car window and letting the wind push firmly against your outstretched palm.

I have a message for those who enjoy listening to live music of any kind - and for those who book the venues that host such events - get to know Elk Creek. They are a group of very talented musicians that make some exciting new music and they sound really, really good together.

The story of Elk Creek is one of reunion. Aaron Price [vocals], Jeremy Brown [harmonica], and Brad Smith [guitar] all grew up together and used to play in band called Hector who had a practice space in Trenton, Ohio located on Elk Creek Road. Two years ago when they 'got the band back together' they added Travis Estell on drums and Nick Whittenburg on bass. They quickly noticed that their sound, style and songwriting had all matured. The end result of this reunion is the 7-song EP entitled Greenfield Project.

Do you remember Carnivàle - the creepy and surreal, yet sensual HBO series about a roving band of sideshow performers in the American dustbowl? Imagine that that show was made into a Broadway musical. Now, imagine that Jack White, David Lynch, Jello Biafra, Crispin Glover and Tim Burton all collaborated to write the score for this play, based on the writings of Syd Barrett. That will give you a rough idea of my first impression of Pop Goes the Evil's new album Love Stained Heart.

To put it another way - I have absolutely no idea where to begin with this review. There is so much going on in this album that it's like trying to nail green Jell-O to a tree.

Mangrenade is the type of band that can spit a mouthful of the angriest venom in your face and make you smile about it. Their music assaults you with a 'Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse' attitude.

Severed Part One, their just-released project on Red Moth Records, is a pretty drastic and heavier departure from their 2013 EP, Lions in the Parking Lot, which was far smoother and groovier. Severed is much more ferocious and propelled by head-banging power and fist-pumping energy. This 'new sound' for Mangrenade can easily be likened to late 1980's West Coast heavy metal.

David Behle: The Message

Jun 10, 2014

What does it mean to be a dad?

With Father's Day approaching, as a dad myself, I know that it is a title of honor that is not granted by the simple biological act of reproducing one's genetic code. I also know that it is a laurel that requires great humility to wear. Not only are all father's judged according to their offspring, but by a standard set by every father before them. To paraphrase from a bumper-sticker: most any male can be a father, but it takes special character to be a dad. All dads want to be great, but only truly great dads acknowledge that they often fail more than they succeed. Dad-hood requires many choices. Dad-hood itself can be a choice. 

Music does not recognize borders; it doesn't care where you come from or where you call home -- and though there is a lot of attention being paid lately to the Cincinnati local scene, there is plenty great music being made on 'the other side' of the Ohio river.

Sheet Ghost is a heavy post-punk quartet from Independence, KY who just recently rebranded themselves after deciding that their former name, Come Here Watson, no longer reflected their music or their style. This change in identity came as the band was assembling their new EP, Silent Ritual.

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