Welcome to A&A. There are 32 (and counting) 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 #344 reviews
January 2013
  • AM Exchange Similar Tendencies (self-released)
  • Anchors Lost at the Bottom of the World (Creator Destructor)
  • Avenpitch Manscaping EP (Dance School)
  • Big Hell Big Hell (self-released)
  • Boys School Boys School (self-released)
  • Brand New Trash Brand New Trash (self-released)
  • Cerce Cerce (self-released)
  • Criminal Hygiene CRMNL HYGNE LP (self-released)
  • DJ Sun One Hundred (self-released)
  • The Emperors of Wyoming The Emperors of Wyoming (self-released)
  • Heat Dust Heat Dust (self-released)
  • Hi Electric Hi Electric (self-released)
  • Lena Hughes Queen of the Flat Top Guitar (Tomkins Square)
  • Japonize Elephants Melodie Fantastique (self-released)
  • Jesse and Noah Driven Back (self-released)
  • Jojeto Chinatown (self-released)
  • Jacob Jones Hood Timin' in Waynetown (self-released)
  • Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller Endless Pie 2xCD (pfMENTUM)
  • Lento Anziety Despair Anguish (Denovali)
  • Letters Home Take Your Time EP (self-released)
  • Lights & Motion Reanimation (self-released)
  • Lonesome Leash i am no captain (self-released)
  • Man the Change Defeated EP (self-released)
  • Mariage Blanc Undercurrents EP (self-released)
  • Muy Cansado Falling Down (self-released)
  • The Nowherenauts Warned You (self-released)
  • Parlour Tricks Parlour Tricks (self-released)
  • Garrett Pierce City of Sand (Narnack)
  • Red Sammy these poems with kerosene (self-released)
  • Skipping Girl Vinegar Kepp Calm Carry the Monkey (Secret Fox)
  • The Stereo State Crossing Canyons (Creator Destructor)
  • Sweet Knievel Collapsible (self-released)
  • Thorcraft Cobra Count It In (self-released)
  • Joe Treewater The Ice Cream Social (self-released)
  • TTNG 13.0.0.0.0 (Sargent House)
  • Unsuddenly Don't Waste the Mystery EP (self-released)
  • Vermouth Retrofuture Pop Exotica (self-released)
  • The VSS Nervous Circuits re-issue (self-released)
  • Watt Alter Egos (Creative Sources)


    AM Exchange Similar Tendencies (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    I've never quite understood folks whose biggest musical influence appears to be .38 Special. Or maybe I'm misstating the influence just because I spent about two years fixated on those boys. Anyway, AM Exchange (which is largely Daniel Jacobs) takes mid-80s AOR and doesn't go anywhere fast. There's an interesting nostalgia thing working here, but I'm afraid it isn't helping me much.
    Contact: amexchange.bandcamp.com

    Anchors Lost at the Bottom of the World (Creator Destructor) posted 1/21/13
    Melodic hardcore from Australia. Though it could just as well be from Sweden or California or Arkansas or wherever. Very energetic, but not particularly distinctive.

    Avenpitch Manscaping EP (Dance School) posted 1/21/13
    This is the title track and a number of remixes. I'd stick with the original, which is pleasantly amusing and twisted in the trademark Avenpitch style. Slighty better than yer average novelty song, but still solidly in that arena. Good for a laugh or few.

    Big Hell Big Hell (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    The vocals are definitely hip hop, but the music is something else entirely. I suppose this might fall somewhere in an electronic category, but the sound is quite messy and organic. The more I listen, the more I'm entranced. I think I'll be liking this a lot better in a month or two.
    Contact: www.myspace.com/bighell

    Boys School Boys School (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Brett Farkas takes the lead in creating an most entertaining riff on the whole Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson mod power pop sound. Original? Not really. But certainly sprightly with its own charasmatic sneer. Much fun.
    Contact: boysschoolrules.com

    Brand New Trash Brand New Trash (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    The Dewald brothers (of Zu Zu's Petals fame) hook up with fellow Petal Kevin Alan Walters to continue the journey. Disjointed and self-indulgent, but with flair. This definitely does not come together (as a fair portion of it really should), but there are some wonders in the wreckage.
    Contact: brandnewtrash.com

    Cerce Cerce EP (self-released) posted 1/28/13
    Some lovely noise. The doomy riffage and powderkeg rhythms combine for a furiously roiling stew. Lots of music is called "extreme." Cerce actually fits the bill.
    Contact:
    cerce.bandcamp.com

    Criminal Hygiene CRMNL HYGNE LP (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Not so much garage as simply deranged, Criminal Hygiene takes lo-fi rockers to their deconstructed limits. There is a definite charm to these songs, though it helps if you can imagine the Replacements playing Big Star's "Downs" even more sloppily than humanly possible. Make that "Kangaroo," another song from Sister Lovers that actually appears on this album--I swear I didn't notice that before I wrote the last sentence. Anyway, this is pretty much a low-key reassessment of American anglopop and its backlash (the aforementioned bands serving as alpha and omega, if you will), with footnotes and all. Weird, but intriguingly so.
    Contact: criminalhygiene.bandcamp.com

    DJ Sun One Hundred (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    A Houston institution, DJ Sun takes the experience (and ears) of hosting a local radio show and throws just about everything into these samplefests. Whippersnappers might not recognize where these sounds originated, but the sly, slinky assemblies ought to bring a smile nonetheless. At times, DJ Sun allows a bit more than a minor quotation, but his taste is so good that simply pretend not to notice. A must for your next party.
    Contact: www.myspace.com/djsun

    The Emperors of Wyoming The Emperors of Wyoming (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Resplendent heavy roots rock full of hooks. Probably a bit too crunchy for the americana bin, but that's cool. The Emperors surf early Tom Petty territory in a most satisfying way. And y'know, if you're going to borrow from AOR, that's a good way to go. Big smiles.
    Contact: www.myspace.com/theemperorsofwyoming

    Heat Dust Heat Dust (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Fuzzy, muscular punk that doesn't bow to convention. There's plenty of meandering here even as the riffola carnage piles up. If you think you're playing it loud enough, you're not.
    Contact: heatdust.bandcamp.com

    Hi Electric Hi Electric (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Yet another garage/indie/etc. rock band from Memphis. Is there really a serious scene there, or have has that notion been influenced by a small sample size? Dunno. Hi Electric is much more polished than some of the other SE Tennesse bands I've heard lately (methinks these boys actually want a deal or something), but that's not all bad. I'd like to hear a bit more attitude (or at least feedback), but there are some nice songs here.
    Contact: www.hi-electric.com

    Lena Hughes Queen of the Flat Top Guitar (Tomkins Square) posted 1/28/13
    If you were never sure exactly what a "Tennessee Flat Top Box" might be, Lena Hughes will demonstrate. These early 60s recordings are somewhat primitive in their sound, but the playing is lovely.

    Japonize Elephants Melodie Fantastique (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    A traveling carnival of impressive proportions, I've been getting occasional dispatches from the Elephants for years now. The sound has coalesced from a jumbled mishmash into a compellingly-coherent rendition of folk music from all over the world. From bluegrass to gypsy to well beyond, the pieces are eternally engaging. A lot of artists try to blend a thousand and one ideas into their songs. The Elephants succeed gloriously. Bravo!
    Contact: www.thejaponizeelephants.com

    Jesse and Noah Driven Back (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Yes, another set of Bellamy Brothers. These boys trend more toward the progressive americana of Los Lobos than traditional country, and there's plenty of rock and soul infused into these backroads rambles. I think Jesse and Noah could work a little harder to break from convention (a couple of these songs get awfully close to filler territory), but when it works (as on the title track) it seems that there's very little these boys can't do.
    Contact: www.jesseandnoah.com

    Jojeto Chinatown EP (self-released) posted 1/28/13
    Jojeto hews to a fine elektrorock noise line when it really starts cooking. But a lot of these songs have a bit too much lead-in. I love the way these guys sound when everything comes together. I suppose I'm just wishing for more togetherness or something. Often brilliant.
    Contact: www.jojeto.com

    Jacob Jones Good Timin' in Waynetown (Electric Western) posted 1/28/13
    Not exactly blues or americana or rockabilly or whatever. Good time music sounds about right, though. Jones pushes the pedal down when he needs to, but just enough to keep these songs peppy and bright. And when he takes things down a notch, the songs acquire a dingy depth. Some horns, some piano, some hootin', some hollerin--good times, indeed.

    Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller Endless Pie 2xCD (pfMENTUM) posted 1/21/13
    Precisely the sort of improvisational carnage you'd expect from these guys. What you might not expect is that I found a couple of songs to throw in the radio rotation--and they shouldn't scare off all my listeners. It's not so much about coherence as the simple brilliance of the ideas present. Long, strange and totally engrossing. One word of caution: The second disc is much scratchier than the first. Which is quite wonderful for me.

    Lento Anxiety Despair Anguish (Denovali) posted 1/21/13
    Yes, Lento traffics in metal. But these moody metallic soundscapes transcend the generic perception of the genre. Reminds me of Edge of Sanity's instrumental work. Wade in and stay a while. Let your brain bleed.

    Letters Home Take Your Time EP (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Bash and bash punk pop. I like the atonal focus, though I do wish the boys had been able to craft a more recognizable band sound. There's enough here to crave a full-length.
    Contact: lettershome.bandcamp.com

    Lights & Motion Reanimation (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Occasionally minimalist electronic fare that is more chilly than chill-out--and certainly not ambient. Christoffer Franzen has assembled a number of subtle songs that take a bit of time to assimilate in the brain. Much more airy than Air and, well, I could keep going. I haven't heard anyone find as much space within an electronic space, and yet many of these songs end up as nearly full-blown anthems. Quite a startling sound.
    Contact: lightsandmotion.bandcamp.com

    Lonesome Leash i am no captain (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    If you wanted to hear accordion-laced, European-splashed americana braced with a Tin Pan Alley spine--wait, you did ask for that, right? Well, that's what Lonesome Leash brings. These songs are dramatic to a fault, though that sense of urgency drives this album to heights that the songs themselves probably don't merit. The live show ought to be astounding.
    Contact: lonesomeleash.com

    Man the Change Defeated EP (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    The band's site proclaims "we play fast," and so they do. Man the Change doesn't really break any new ground, but the energy of these songs is infectious. An excellent adrenalin wire.
    Contact: manthechange.bandcamp.com

    Mariage Blanc Undercurrents EP (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    These Pittsburgh boys thank the Caribbean on their web page, and there are similarities. Mariage Blanc is a bit darker and more atonal, though, and I like that. I do wish there was just that much more menace; some of these songs seem to fade a little too quickly. Every one of the five songs here has something to recommend, though. More is needed for a complete appraisal.
    Contact: http://music.mariageblanc.net

    Muy Cansado Falling Down (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Well-crafted pop-rock songs that edge into other territories (alt-country, disco, stuff like that). Despite the variety of sounds, this is a little dry for my tastes, but there's no denying the professional writing and playing. Contact: muycansado.bandcamp.com

    The Nowherenauts Warned You (self-released) posted 1/28/13
    Punchy pop with plenty of harmonizing. I almost said pop punk; the Nowherenauts kinda skirt that sound at times, but I suppose this is more "indie" than "punk," if those labels mean anything anymore. A pleasant jaunt.
    Contact:
    www.thenowherenauts.com

    Parlour Tricks Parlour Tricks (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Formerly Death Becomes Even the Maiden, the rechristened Parlour Tricks still cranks out indie rock with sharp edges. The melodies have steely underpinnings, and the general effect is one of precision. That's cool by me.

    Garrett Pierce City of Sand (Narnack) posted 1/21/13
    Minimalist roots fare that trends toward the lo-fi. Lots of fuzz within a sedate pace. Not the easiest sound to warm up to, but one that does provide rewards down the road.

    Red Sammy these poems with kerosene (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    This time around, Adam Trice has hooked up with University of Baltimore professor Steve Mantele, who contributes poems--some with music, some without. The whole music/poetry thing is a bit pretentious, but it works pretty well in this instance, especially when accompanied by slide guitar. Mantele's poems are short and sharp, and they never overstay their welcome. Trice's roughhewn country blues are as loose and graceful as ever, and his growl is warm and inviting. Another fine set.
    Contact: redsammy.com

    Skipping Girl Vinegar Keep Calm Carry the Monkey (Secret Fox) posted 1/21/13
    The American release of an album that did quite well in Australia a couple of years ago. Let's hope we get the next album a bit sooner next time out. This sunny, punchy pop has enough depth and purpose to last a long, long time. I've meandered through this album a few times, and I have yet to find a clunker. The future is very bright.

    The Stereo State Crossing Canyons (Creator Destructor) posted 1/21/13
    I've been ambivalent about some of the melodic hardcore bands I've reviewed lately (I'm a sucker for the stuff, but I recognize middling fare when I hear it), but the Stereo State is so muscular one thinks steriods might have been involved. These songs blister across the sky. A true joy.

    Sweet Knievel Collapsible (self-released) posted 1/28/13
    A jam band, yes, but one that actually has fun. Not just noodling for noodling's sake, but certified entertainment. I am not a fan of jam bands, and I imagine that I wouldn't be able to take fifteen minutes of a live show, but these (relatively) edited and coherent pieces are nice. One thing, boys: Stick to playing. The vocals are superfluous and distract from the real star of the show.
    Contact: sweetknievel.com/

    Thorcraft Cobra Count It In (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Bill Zimmer and Tammy Glover are Thorcraft Cobra, though they've recruited a number of friends and old bandmates to help out. The thick sound of these songs lends itself to the indie pop/rock styles that predominate. This is hardly complicated music, but it has a power that's hard to ignore.
    Contact:
    thorcraftcobra.com

    Joe Treewater The Ice Cream Social (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Dreadfully earnest and overtly "philosophical," Treewater manages to deflate his own balloon quite deftly. Yes, this can sound like a parody of excessive 60s-ish folk, but the wink is so pronounced as to almost induce pain. And the musicianship is most solid. Not my cup of tea, but much more interesting than I thought it would be.
    Contact: www.joetreewater.com

    TTNG 13.0.0.0.0 (Sargent House) posted 1/21/13
    Formerly This Town Needs Guns, TTNG changed its name in mid-January. In any case, here are some lovely math progressions woven into folk-rock constructions. Or would that be math constructions salted by folk-rock conventions? Maybe both. There are also many jokes within the song titles (my fave is "Nice Riff, Clichard") to keep things lively. Patience is required, but there's a lot going on here, and it's quite engaging. Surf the chaos--especially when it's not chaos.

    Unsuddenly Don't Waste the Mystery EP (self-released) posted 1/28/13
    Modestly shoegazey stuff that emotes nicely. Which is to say that these songs don't move particularly quickly, but they do pack a punch when they get to their destination.
    Contact: unsuddenly.bandcamp.com

    Vermouth Retrofuture Pop Exotica (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    Lounge with a full demented americana orchestra. Despite the sizable instrumention, these songs retain a minimalist flair. They're often somewhat reflexively creepy, but that's part of the charm. Justine Kragen and Steve McDonald have created a fascinating little sonic universe.
    Contact: www.vermouthlounge.com

    The VSS Nervous Circuits re-issue (self-released) posted 1/21/13
    A re-issue (and remastering, I believe) of the original 1997 album. The music sounds as uncompromising today as it must have back then. The use of electronics and synthesizers in hardcore punk is still unusual today, and it lends this album (and the band) a truly unique sound. Next month I'll be reviewing the band's new album. I just figured I'd throw this one out first.
    Contact:
    thevss.bandcamp.com

    Watt Alter Egos (Creative Sources) posted 1/21/13
    Hoo boy. This improvisational trio manages to turn cello and trumpet into largely percussion instruments. A very cool endeavor, but one that is likely to frustrate a few listeners. Oh well. Spoils go only to the brave.


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