Welcome to A&A. There are 12 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

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A&A #342 reviews
November 2012
  • Bear Colony Soft Eyes (Esperanza Plantation)
  • The Capsules Northern Lights & Southern Skies (Vespera)
  • Crushed Out Want to Give (self-released)
  • Culture Queer Nightmare Band (self-released)
  • Holy Ghost Tent Revival Sweat Like the Old Days (self-released)
  • Indian Handcrafts Civil Disobedience for Losers (self-released)
  • PLS PLS EP EP (24 Hour Service Station)
  • Red Clover Ghost Red Clover Ghost (Good Soil Records)
  • The Trashed Romeos Where Dreamers Never Go (Trashy Creatures)
  • Very Be Careful Remember Me from the Party? (Downtown Pijao)
  • The Winter Sounds Runner (New Granada)
  • Xisix Ghost Knife (Symbolic Insight)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    Bear Colony
    Soft Eyes
    (Esperanza Plantation)

    Under waves of drone, Bear Colony serves up some serious music. First, though, you have to adjust your ears.

    Some folks don't appreciate the need to do so much work. I get it. But the lovely sounds that lie underneath simply wouldn't be so wondrous without their setting. And so.

    Past the vaguely oppressive sound, Bear Colony is one of those mellowcore alternative bands that seems to be ubiquitous these days. These lyrics are often modestly intriguing, but the guitar lines that blip, burble and flow are what really catch my ears. These songs come alive when all the elements play off each other.

    This is so 2012, and I suppose it will sound dated in a few years. That's fine. I dig it now, and that's the only way to really judge stuff like this. Solid and engaging.

    Contact:
    Esperanza Plantation
    www.esperanzaplantation.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Soft Eyes - Bear Colony


    The Capsules
    Northern Lights & Southern Skies
    (Vespera)

    Dreamy, burble-driven electro-pop. Julie Shields applies the vocals with a fine ethereal gauze, and the music slips nicely into its grooves.

    Pretty much standard issue, but of the highest quality. There's no shame in completely defining a sound. The Capsules don't find anything new in these mines, but their finish is first rate.

    And lovely, too. Pretty is as pretty does, and these songs weave their enchantments with ease. The sound is just sharp enough to leave a mark.

    Simply enjoyable. I don't have a whole lot more to offer than that, but it's more than enough for me.

    Contact:
    Vespera Records
    www.vesperarecords.com


    Crushed Out
    Want to Give
    (self-released)

    This whole guitar-drum duo thing is taking off. Personally, I flash back to the Flat Duo Jets, but the younguns probably are thinking of some Detroit-ish outfit. In any case, this is about the twentieth such act I've heard in the last few months. One of the best, too.

    The key, as with any of these groups, is in the rhythm. Moselle Spiller keeps these songs moving at a manic pace, and it's all Frank Hoier can do to keep up with his guitar. The ethos is very much a surf punk meets rockabilly, with just a bit of earthy soul thrown in for good measure.

    And while the instrumentation is minimalist, the sound is anything but. Hoier wrangles all sorts of noise from his guitar, and these songs ring out with an aggressive, solid middle.

    Just a big wad of fun. If the shows are anything other than kinetic workouts, I'd be shocked. Hold on for your life.

    Contact:
    crushedoutmusic.bandcamp.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Want to Give - Crushed Out


    Culture Queer
    Nightmare Band
    (self-released)

    The latest from these Cincinnati folks is as slyly brilliant as the album I reivewed eight years ago. At first, this sounds like pastiche-driven pop that will fade quickly. And then the songs bite.

    The music sharpens its focus even as it winds its way through more and more tangents. And the lyrics are as pungent as I remember. The combination is toxic--or, perhaps more accurate, intoxicating.

    The production is bright and almost overexposed. Perhaps this comes from the filmmaking bent of many of the band members. Or maybe I'm abusing a metaphor, something these folks would never do. Of course.

    Wonderful ear candy. These songs are delightfully crafted and played with sublime faux earnestness. If you like your cleverness squashed with a meat tenderizer, this album is for you.

    Contact:
    cqculturequeer.tumblr.com


    Holy Ghost Tent Revival
    Sweat Like the Old Days
    (self-released)

    Throw in some Dixieland horns, a fair dash of southern rock and some countrified soul, and you might be getting there. The ingredients never quite mix completely, leaving some jarring intersections. After a while, I figured out that's exactly what these folks intended.

    The whole point of a revival is to throw a bunch of people on a stage, tell them to get in the spirit and see what happens. At least, that's how they did things when I was a kid.

    So one moment HGTR sounds like the Band trying to play a Sly Stone song, and sometimes these folks ooze into full-blown prog americana. There's no telling where each song will lead, which leaves the overall album something of a mess.

    But that mess is exactly the point. This is music at a most basic level, just a group of folks getting together and seeing what happens. What happened, of course, is something most arresting. Roll out the barrel and cue the horns. It's time to stumble again.

    Contact:
    www.holyghosttentrevival.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Sweat Like the Old Days - Holy Ghost Tent Revival


    Indian Handcrafts
    Civil Disobedience for Losers
    (self-released)

    An entirely different take on the whole guitar-drum duo thing. These Canadian boys crank out some of the most compelling stoner rock I've heard in years. The power within these songs is simply stunning.

    The riffage is just brutal. Almost painful in its effectiveness, when Daniel Allen gets rolling he creates a guitar sound that could sterilze cockroaches at 100 yards. Not just brutal; the fuzz and reverb are calibrated at an almost perfect friction point.

    Most impressive, though, are the vocals. Both boys sing, and they sing well. More to the point, they sing loud, expressively and with glee. The riffage is overwhelming, but the vocals put a fine cherry on top.

    Yes, the guitars are overdubbed at times, which helps to multiply the power. Who cares? Anyone who can create a song like "Red Action," which is one of the most perfect Black Sabbath/Kiss mashups (in spirit, of course) that I've ever heard, goes straight to the top of my charts. Blissfully blistering.

    Contact:
    indianhandcrafts.bandcamp.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
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    Civil Disobedience for Losers - Indian Handcrafts


    PLS PLS
    EP EP
    (24 Hour Service Station)

    Dan Dixon sounds like an old pro, but this is his first release. He uses electronics to augment and deconstruct conventional rock and roll.

    Real rock and roll, with awesome guitars, slinky beats and disaffected vocals. Dixon takes all that, does some deft slicing and dicing and then trots out five winners.

    An EP like this is what makes people think that making music is easy. These songs sound like they simply appeared fully-formed. Dixon's writing is astounding, but his studio work is positively brilliant. Unstoppable.

    Contact:
    24hourservicestation.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Ep Ep - PLS PLS


    Red Clover Ghost
    Red Clover Ghost
    (Good Soil Records)

    Gibb and Clint Cockrum hail from western Maryland, but their sound is more western United States. This heavily folk-inflected, mega-harmonized americana sounds more Oregon than Hagerstown. But, you know, we live in a connected world.

    I'm just having a little fun with that. What really strikes me here is the almost omnipresence of the harmonies. They're everywhere, and yet they never get cloying. After a song or two, they cease to be unusual, though they certainly remain remarkable.

    These rollicking songs are driven by guitars and banjo, with the occasional bass and drums. Largely, though, it's easy to imagine the brothers simply sitting around and setting these songs to tape. Kinda cool.

    Back porch musings at their finest. These brothers have a knack for writing and performance, and this album highlights both quite well. A fine debut.

    Contact:
    www.goodsoilrecords.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Red Clover Ghost - Red Clover Ghost


    The Trashed Romeos
    Where Dreamers Never Go
    (Trashy Creatures)

    The Trashed Romeos are old school garage. Lots of psychedelia, heavy reverb in the sound--with the result being something akin to a "pillow of sound." Everything mixes up in the middle and sounds pretty mushy.

    So did you ever listen to Nuggets? I'm not entirely sure why you would want to emulate this sound, but these boys do and they did a fine job. There's enough separation to find most of the lines, but the scrim is decidedly heavy.

    The songs, on the other hand, are pure 60s jangle. Again, this is old school. No lip service for these boys; this is the real deal. A sound that is definitely not for everyone, but those of us with older ears might find ourselves smiling involuntarily.

    Perhaps a bit too much of a concept album (the sound could be a bit cleaner without destroying the ethos), but the fun overwhelms any craft. Find a lava lamp and turn up the volume.

    Contact:
    Trashy Creatures
    trashycreatures.com


    Very Be Careful
    Remember Me from the Party?
    (Downtown Pijao)

    Longtime U.S. purveyors of the Colombian Vallenato style, Very Be Careful mixes classic songs with their own compositions. Cumbia may be better-known as a Columbian folk music form, but Vallenato and its heavy reliance on accordion has plenty of followers in El Norte as well.

    My high school Spanish is nowhere near good enough to make any sort of judgment on the lyrics, but the music is incessantly vibrant and alive. The accordion is one reason, but the liquid bass also keeps the dance alive even on the most minimalist of passages.

    The sound is a bit rough, but it pops nicely. Why be authentic if your sound is plastic? The boys in VBC don't know, either. This has the sound of a house show, electric and slightly ragged.

    Which fits just right. Very Be Careful has been perfecting its interpretation of this sound for some 15 years, and that dedication and easy handling of the style is apparent. The comfort of the musicians is impressive. The songs are dreadfully fun. A fine set.

    Contact:
    www.verybecareful.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    ┬┐Remember Me From The Party? - Very Be Careful


    The Winter Sounds
    Runner
    (New Granada)

    Taking the jaunty keyboards of new wave, the sonic disruption of career-end MBV and the simple melodies of punk and folk, the Winter Sounds have put together one enticing album.

    There's also a proggy feel to some of this stuff, which simply adds another intriguing layer to the sound. Think early Cure with a lot more punch, or perhaps a fuzzed-out Echo and the Bunnymen as a modernish alt-rock anthemic outfit.

    Excess is the key. There is so much going on every second that the mind cannot process it all. Everything feeds into the same groove, however, so those layers simply complement the whole. I'm not sure I want to try to unspool everything that's going on here, and I don't think the band does either. The final result is a glorious burst of joyous energy.

    No one else sounds like this. The Winter Sounds are alone in their almost limitless ambition, and yet these songs are easily accessible from the first beat. There's no letup until the final note fades. I can't think of a band that has expressed most of the finer points of the last 30 years of music as well as this. Probably the best album of this year. Certainly one of the finest of the past few years. An absolute stunner.

    Contact:
    New Granada
    www.newgranada.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Runner - The Winter Sounds


    Xisix
    Ghost Knife
    (Symbolic Insight)

    Not of this world. Or mine, anyway. Xisix is straight electronics, meandering through virtual worlds as yet undiscovered. Most of these pieces have a trance beat, but they often veer into unexpected territory.

    Unlike most experimental electronic types, Xisix keeps the beat flowing no matter what. Any and all tangents (there are almost too many to mention) keep one lead tied to that beat and whip around on the loose end.

    The pieces really take off when four, five or more lines start flapping around the beats at the center. It almost gets too frenzied at times, but the songs are always reined in just enough. There is order at the core, after all.

    And the beat goes on. Such lovely beat, too. I hoped this album would lope on forever. Oh well. That's what repeat is all about.

    Contact:
    Symbolic Insight
    www.symbolicinsight.com

    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Ghost Knife - XISIX


    Also recommended:

    AbdeCaf Rebuild (Fluorescent)
    Minimalist electronic fare that's just punchy enough to pull itself out of the ambient. These pieces don't always coalesce as songs, but the sounds created are compelling.

    Aperiodic Future Feedback (self-released)
    I've dropped this in the "unclassifiable" section of my iTunes. For good reason. Aperiodic lives up to its name, never repeating itself and rarely repeating any element of any piece. The noise isn't exactly random. Sometimes this stuff almost falls together into a song, though I have to admit that I kinda like the way things tend to fall apart.
    Contact: aperiodic.bandcamp.com
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Future Feedback - Aperiodic

    The Brendan Hines Small Mistakes (self-released)
    The Brendan Hines is actually just Brendan Hines, though he prefers to use what he calls an "ineffective pseudonym." These songs evoke something of a more orchestral and less extreme 16 Horsepower. Hines isn't afraid to delve into dark subjects with his lyrics, but he doesn't expose his music to the same stresses. That's cool. These songs have plenty to say, pseudonym or no.
    Contact: thebrendanhines.com
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Small Mistakes - EP - The Brendan Hines

    Brim Liski The Repetitions (Latenight Weeknight)
    Expansive electronic explorations with just enough of a new wave feel to force them into the real world. Brim Liski is experimental by nature, but I like the way these songs keep those urges slightly in check. There's plenty of beauty in the waves.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    The Repetitions - Brim Liski

    Anthony da Costa Secret Handshake (self-released)
    Back in the day, songwriters ripped off little pieces of pop joy and threw them into a lo-fi alternative universe. Da Costa harkens back to those days, though he's made sure to give these songs plenty of sheen. His americana ranconteur style is immediately endearing, and these songs sparkle with little apparent effort. Quite assured. I assume the next step will be truly great.
    Contact: anthonydacostamusic.tumblr.com
    Buy:
    Secret Handshake - Anthony da Costa

    Dikta Trust Me (Kolski)
    Unlike most popular Icelandic artists, Dikta actually writes songs that are recognizable as such. And the band is pretty good at doing just that. This, the band's fourth effort, is pretty much what you want in a melodic rock outfit: solid lead guitar work, sinewy vocals and a general feeling of greatness.
    Buy:
    Trust Me - Dikta

    Dream Boat Eclipsing (Cloud Recordings)
    Dan Donahue and Page Campbell kick out a drifting shoegazer set with the help of plenty of their Athens friends. This stuff is a bit more toward the edge of nothingness than most that try this sound, and I kinda like the way all shape and form dissolve from time to time.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Eclipsing - Dream Boat

    Electric Shepherd The Imitation Garden (self-released)
    Grafting some post-prog madness onto stoner rock, Electric Shepherd has stumbled onto a startlingly attractive sound. Well, if you like Keith Moon-style drum shredding combined with heavy fuzz and unrestrained lead guitar work. I do, and I'm happy to pass this along.
    Contact: us.myspace.com/electricshepherdmusic

    Ex Norwegian House Music (Dying Van Gogh)
    As in music made in one's house, of course. These proggy pop-rock songs have a lovely 80s-meets-70s feel, all tied up with a goofy sneer. The enjoyability factor is high.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    House Music - Ex Norwegian

    Gitar Seen As Unclean (self-released)
    Three guys who dribble all sorts of ideas into their music. Is it electronic? Bossa nova? Indie rock? Yes! Those influences and many more shapeshift their way through this slinky album. The only constant is the need to move.
    Contact: gitar.bandcamp.com
    Buy:
    Seen As Unclean - Gitar

    Lilly Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies Let Down (Normaltown)
    Um, yes, you've heard of her dad. Lilly Hiatt is a bit less mannered (and certainly less mindful of her manners), which makes this album pretty easy to sidle up to. She's got a lovely rough-hewn voice and plain-spoken way of setting out her songs. A fine beginning.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Let Down - Lilly Hiatt And The Dropped Ponies

    Immigrant Union Immigrant Union (Longtime Listener)
    Perhaps you didn't know that the Dandy Warhols ended up with an Australian drummer. Brent DeBoer heads this Aussie outfit, which plays something that us Yanks call americana, though I assume there's another term used across the Pacific. The album is quite well put together, so much so that I was looking for the odd frayed edge in order to find something distinctive. I didn't find any, but it's hard to deny the craftwork here.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Immigrant Union - Immigrant Union

    Midway in Wake We Will Remain Sedate (Lowatt)
    Greg Reynaud (survivor of Lovetron and other bits and pieces of the El Paso scene) kicks out his first proper solo release. His eccentric take on intricate (though low-key) pop flies through a number of sounds and ideas. His versatility is exciting; this album shows off an immense amount of potential.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    We Will Remain Sedate - Midway in Wake

    Jacob Morris Moths (Cleft/Cloud Recordings)
    Loping, modestly lo-fi americana. Morris has carved out a positively 70s feel with the muddy sound on this, and it accompanies his songs quite nicely. He takes a bit of getting used to, to be sure, but the work is worth it.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Moths - Jacob Morris

    My Radio Starts in the East/Falls in the West (RedEye)
    Well-considered power pop. My Radio has plenty of guitar-driven hooks and keyboard enhancements, and these songs proceed just as one might expect. Hey boys, throw us a curve. And make it a good one.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Starts in the East, Falls in the West - My Radio

    Nerd Revolt Nerd Revolt (self-released)
    A bevy of electronic spitballs that are just a bit too robotic to be disco. Or maybe this is disco as practiced by robots. I could get down with that. Either way, the icy chill of these songs is all-enveloping. Most intriguing.
    Contact: nerdrevolt.bandcamp.com
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Nerd Revolt - Nerd Revolt

    Pretty Monsters Pretty Monsters (Public Eyesore)
    One of the more fully-realized PE albums I've heard in a while. This is just a quartet, but these improvisations often find an orchestral sweep. Of course, that's probably due to the bassoon-violin-guitar-drums nature of the collaboration. In any case, the atmospherics are stunning.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Closed Encounters of the 4 Minds - Pretty Monsters

    Rent Romus' Lords of Outland Thee Unhip (Edgetone)
    Not my favorite Romus outing. The songs here are a trifle too disconnected for my taste. There is lots of action, and some of it is truly stirring, but I just couldn't quite get my head around everything. I guess I'll just have to listen that much more.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Lords of Outland, Thee Unhip - Rent Romus

    Sole A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing (Black Canyon)
    As the title suggests, Sole doesn't shy away from confrontation. That goes for his rhymes and his beats. There's a bit too much irony here to call this properly political ("Non-workers of the world unite!"), but this album is a transcendent piece of cultural criticism. Wowsers.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing - Sole

    Angel Snow Angel Snow (self-released)
    Alison Krauss picked some of Snow's songs for her new album, and in the process Snow found a new collaborator in Krauss's brother Viktor. This album contains eight new songs and four reworked versions of songs found on Snow's Fortune Tellers album. As you might guess from her connections, Snow's songs stick to the progressive americana/singer-songwriter territory, and she has an assured hand on her compositions. Solid.
    Contact: angelsnow.net
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Angel Snow - Angel Snow

    Split Screens Split Screens EP (self-released)
    Jesse Cafiero steps out of the sideman role and cranks out (wait for it) a shoegazey pop album. More navelgazey, I guess, but either way this stuff doesn't move much at all. Cafiero has created an attractive sound setting for these pieces. I just wish they traveled a bit more ground.
    Contact: splitscreens.bandcamp.com
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)

    Stumbleine Spiderwebbed (Monotreme)
    Gauzy shoegazer electronics for the modern age. These songs may move along deliberately, but they're chock full of sounds and ideas. Don't let the window dressing fool you. There's a lot going on here.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Spiderwebbed - Stumbleine

    Sunglasses Wildlife (Mush)
    Jaunty beach pop thrust through a harsh electronic filter. Something like a second-generation Loveless (or would that be third-generation Psychocandy?), Sunglasses beats its gentle melodies into submission. The sound is utterly masochistic, but enough sun shines through to bring a smile to a smoggy day.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Sunglasses - Sunglasses

    Trainwreck Riders Ghost Yards (20 Sided Records)
    Trainwreck Riders use all the accouterments of classic country music, but these songs still manage to sound strictly rock and roll. There's a bit of the old No Depression-era Uncle Tupelo in the thick sound, but basically these guys are indie rockers with their hearts in the country. And that's not a bad thing at all.

    Undesirable People Eugenics EP (South Division)
    By-the-numbers raggedy emo. These songs have the requisite power, hooks and lyrical bite. I don't hear anything here that really excites me, but these boys do know what they're doing. Workmanlike and solid.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Eugenics - EP - Undesirable People

    Various Artists Imaginational Anthem 5 (Tomkins Square)
    Sam Ross put together this latest installment in TS's series of instrumental guitar collections. The sounds range from spare to the electronic-aided, but all are outstanding. If you want to hear where guitar playing is headed, this is a good first step.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Imaginational Anthem, Vol. 5 - Various Artists

    Various Artists Robot Soup (Potholes Music)
    The latest free compilation from Potholes. Maybe you'll hear some of these folks on an upcoming release. Maybe not. In any case, there are a lot of interesting electronic noodles here. And if you like what you hear, there are three previous sets to check out. The riches are almost endless.

    Weekend Money Naked City EP (self-released)
    Something of a mash-up of street-ready rhymes and blistering electronics. Ness is something of an old-school rapper, but DJ Baghdaddy (sweet name, BTW) is all over the place with his backing tracks. Mess is strong enough on the mike to hold his own, but Baghdaddy's moves make this EP a showstopper. Oh, and if you had to ask, Heems stops by on a track. That's how these guys roll.
    Contact: weekendmoney.biz

    Terry White Cannonball Fodder (UP)
    Produced with Jon Langford, this album sounds like a classic Merle Haggard set. White has a wonderful quavering voice, and the pedal steel is sublime. These songs roll across the prairie with more ease than tumbleweed. Give this one a minute and you'll be looking for the whiskey.
    Buy:
    A&A aStore (CD)
    A&A aStore (digital)
    Cannonball Fodder - Terry White


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