Charlottesville, Virginia natives Moonshine Hooligans write fun mixtures of mountain folk, indie pop, and psychedelic rock. “Subterranean Secrets” started as a writing session inspired by a test batch of moonshine whiskey. Amazing they were able to write quite sobering music using such varied instruments as a Moog synthesizer, Mellotron, Hammond organ, fiddle, cello, banjo, mandolin, celeste, harmonium, piano, drums, bass, and guitar. The songwriting is filled to the brim with fascinating tales you could hear whispered and gossiped at the local feed store. Fans of alt-country should most definitely own this album.
They have songs that hit. They have songs that miss. But when they hit, they’re homeruns. Solar Temple Suicides crush a space rock journey unlike no other on “How the Sphere, Having in Vain Tried Words, Resorted to Deeds”; its melancholic guitar lick reminds me of something that The Cure wrote one sad rainy day only to have Explosions in the Sky jiggle the handle a bit and I could listen to it all day (they make it easy given that it’s over 8 minutes in length). You can hear influences from groups as diverse as My Bloody Valentine, the two aforementioned bands, and Spacemen 3. “Quite Like Sin” is another great guitar-driven tune that journeys between the druggy haze of acid rock and shoegaze.
After all these years, I’m super stoked that Moes Haven is still doing what they do. Lo-fi creativity wrapped in bubblegum lyrics and a damn awesome amount of creativity, Moes Haven has a ton of accomplishments next to their name including a 24-disc album that runs an entire day, over 1500 songs to their credit, and a career that has spanned a decade and a half. Have they made tons of money? No. Are they super famous? No. So what. What Moes Haven is, is an awesome indie rock band that sheds all stereotypes and just flat out writes songs. Not everyone is a hit but you’d be surprised to find out that the vast majority of them are damn well-written singer/songwriter masterpieces. For “Stromboli’s Alarm Clock” they wrote 200 songs, choosing the most polished and then set about recording them. Matt Farley (keyboards, vocals) and Tom Scalzo (guitars) once again deliver a fun-filled album that begs repeated listens and most importantly inspires even an old jaded dude like myself to reassemble the DIY studio in the basement. Thanks guys!
The original “Dub Side of the Moon” was released in 2003 as a homage to Pink Floyd’s legendary and essential iconic “Dark Side of the Moon”. It spent an incredible 7 years on the Billboard Charts having sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. Here, Easy Star All-Stars have assembled a re-interpretation of that heavy bass reggae dub remix collection featuring a unique dub producer taking their shot at spacey dub. Today’s dub is a burgeoning genre with influence as wide ranging as the old school classic Jamaican reggae dubs and b-side mixologists, bass-heavy groove, roots reggae kinks, and now more on the techno flip dub-step. 10 Ft Ganja Plant and Dubmatrix are two artists that lend a hand towards roots dub. Groove Corporation grasps a futuristic re-rub for “Time”. Alchemist’s remix of “Money” is perfect groovy dub-step where the bass cascades with spooky synth stabs and tons of reverb. Adrian Sherwood’s use of echo is just flabbergasting – I swear the sound bounced off my sound system reverberating off of my vital organs. However the true gem on the album is from little known Kalbata. Signed to Soul Jazz Records, Kalbata is Israeli-born and his “Any Colour You Like” is a four-minute shuffle of tech-step rhythms lightened with modular synth noise and shimmies of electro funk. Add in the four bonus tracks and you have yourself a healthy dose of some of the best dub covers you’ll ever hear. Essential.
“Noisemaker” opens the album as a promising alternative rock up-tempo jive. Two Hours Traffic however is an Americana/folk-rock band so be sure not to be misled by their occasional power-pop jams. But that’s not a derogatory statement as they actually write catchy songs in both veins. Their power-pop rock songs are uptempo knee stompers with fun-filled catchiness and high amounts of energy. “Territory” has plenty of the music you’ve come to expect from the Canadian quartet too. Songs like “Jezebel”, “Sing a Little Hymn”, and “Lost Boys” are more on the roots rock and Americana tip. What is steady throughout is an uncanny ability to write driving and catchy tunes wrapped in a blanket of warm vocal harmonies.
Having been around since their debut 7” was released in ’03, Eux Autres have been crafting pretty singer/songwriter indie pop for some time now. And they keep getting better and better at it. Their “Cold City” was released on one of my personal favorite indie labels, Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records based out of Athens, Georgia. Now part of Bons Mot Records out of San Francisco, California the group has created definition of their sound by stripping down the instrumentation to the barest of essentials and letting the melodies and singing be front and foremost. Tantalizing vocals that whisper of soft harmonies don’t prepare for you the rather daunting lyrics that belie the sound with wit and the occasional malaise.
Giant Sand’s career has spanned 25 years and “Blurry Blue Mountain” is proof positive that Arizona-based musician Howe Gelb, the mastermind behind Giant Sand, hasn’t lost a step. This album follows on the footsteps of their 2008 critically acclaimed “ProVisions”. Another jaunt through the roots of alt-country, lo-fi, jazz, punk, and roots rock finds Giant Sand delivering another awe-inspiring entry into a dizzying talented resume. Leaning on an improvisational take at songwriting, “Blurry Blue Mountain” is a sleepy and lazy adventure with memorable desert tales from one of alt-country’s most inspirational figures.
Authority Zero burst onto the punk scene in the mid ‘90s but didn’t see any significant commercial success until ’01. Their debut on Lava Records, “A Passage in Time” in 2002 saw a slow but steady rise in the pop-punk community. Stints on the Warped Tour and tours with hugely successful groups such as Sum 41, NOFX, and Alkaline Trio helped further propel their career. Fast forward to “Stories of Survival” and their sound that at once could have been compared to Bad Religion has morphed into their own signature sound. Armed with lots of sing-a-longs and melodic guitar chords, Authority Zero has found their niche amid pop-punk, indie rock, and elements of ska and reggae. Lyrically the album explores socio-political issues and the current state of the music industry. Relentlessly touring and writing music, Authority Zero seems destined to still be doing what they do throughout the next decade.
DC-based trio Death by Sexy got their name when Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal fame was playing a pinball machine at the Black Cat in D.C. and suggested the moniker to the group who was struggling with the first perennial question all bands have to suffer through. “Curse the Curse” is brand name rock-n-roll that doesn’t sweat the small stuff and could care less if the devil is in the details. Instead the group flaunts their grungy hard rock sound that reminds one of pre-“Nevermind” Nirvana. Big drums, big guitars, and big bass licks that smack each cheek (face or ass? You guess). The vocals aren’t trying to punish you with rock yelps but instead focuses on being as melodic as the Ramones. Fun high energy focused rock-n-roll in the local area that has a lot of humor and doesn’t take anything too seriously and to be honest shouldn’t be taken very seriously either.
Ethereal shoegazing rock who reminds one of a mixture of 10,000 Maniacs and Lush, The High Violets arrange textured guitars and pop chords on “Cinema” with lots and lots of complicated layers. Having been through the rigor morale of constant lineup changes early in their career, they spotted Kaitlyn ni Donovan whose sparkling crystal voice adds the lush atmosphere that was missing previously. The result is magical in every sense, opening the senses up to every note amid a wall of sound that cocoons the body and mind. “Cinema” is a special album amid so many shoegazer efforts that fall flat.