Welcome to A&A. There are 33 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 #345 reviews
February 2013
  • Aina Haina Aina Haina (Badman Recordings Co.)
  • Air Review Low Wishes (Velvet Blue)
  • Airstrip Willing (Holidays for Quince)
  • Barrow Though I'm Alone (Mayfly)
  • Don Bickoff Celestial Explosion re-issue (Tomkins Square)
  • Blackfeet Braves Blackfeet Braves (self-released)
  • Blue Canyon Boys Next Go 'Round (self-released)
  • Center of the Sun Machine Gun (self-released)
  • Crooked Saws Mo'Fi (self-released)
  • Crown Point Curtains EP (self-released)
  • Cy Dune No Recognize (self-released)
  • Elephant Stone Elephant Stone (Hidden Pony)
  • Glorie Falling EP (self-released)
  • Golden Boots DBX 'N' SPF (PIAPTK)
  • Gray Young Bonfire (self-released)
  • Irontom The Loose EP (self-released)
  • Loveskills Multiplicity (No Shame)
  • MARS Everything You Want and Need EP (self-released)
  • Moxi In My Dreams EP (self-released)
  • Pictorials Learning EP (self-released)
  • Pregnant Pottery Mill (Mush)
  • The Redwood Plan Green Light Go (self-released)
  • Rococode Guns, Sex & Glory (self-released)
  • Garrett Sawyer Chronicles and Vanity (self-released)
  • The Shilohs So Wild (Light Organ)
  • Ballake Sissoko At Peace (Six Degrees)
  • Stick Men DEEP (7d Media)
  • Sunshine Sunshine (self-released)
  • Thinking Machines Extension Chords (self-released)
  • Trapdoor Social Trapdoor Social (self-released)
  • Various Artists Best of All Possible Worlds: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson (PIAPTK)
  • Kurt von Stetten Androlafi (Static Motor)
  • Young Boys New York Sun (Holloweyed)

    Aina Haina Aina Haina (Badman Recording Co.) posted 2/10/13
    Um, another one of those blooze/stoner rock duo thingys. Aina Haina is a bit more minimalist (they stick with that duo sound pretty religiously), but these songs churn along with serious purpose. Just enough fiber to keep things going at a pleasant pace.

    Air Review Low Wishes (Velvet Blue) posted 2/17/13
    Perhaps a bit too close to Air, even if these songs are much perkier and more strictly indie pop. There's still a strong hint of modulated electronics and a general diffuse feel. That said, I like the way these folks work their way around a melody. There's always a bit more than the initial impression would have one believe.

    Airstrip Willing (Holidays for Quince) posted 2/10/13
    Midtempo, occasionally experimental garagey stuff. The rhythm section is tight and insistent. The vocals and lead guitar meander a bit. This combination can be a bit annoying at first, but after a while it gets easy to fall into the groove. I think the boys could tighten up the construction without sacrificing charm. Coherence is not always the enemy of the good.

    Barrow Though I'm Alone (Mayfly) posted 2/10/13
    Taking the whole extreme hardcore thing and then tearing it apart, Barrow has crafted a most intriguing sound for itself. Most of these songs are screamers, but a couple are much more experimental. I really like the way these songs morph into different creatures. The deconstruction is most impressive. There's a lot more here than glorious noise (though the noise is, indeed, wondrous).

    Don Bickoff Celestial Explosion re-issue (Tomkins Square) posted 2/24/13
    Originally released more than 40 years ago, this spacey take on solo acoustic folk guitar remains impressive. Bickoff styled himself more of a composer than player, and his playing can be a bit chilly at times. He also knows how to take his time; the playing is exquisite and never rushed. Quite an exploration.

    Blackfeet Braves Blackfeet Braves (self-released) posted 2/17/13
    These boys call what they do psychedelic surf rock (I'm paraphrasing a bit), and that works. More surf than psychedelic, but the distorted vocals and reverbed guitar do give a sense of the latter. On the whole, this is a little understated for my taste, but the band does set a nice mood.
    Contact: blackfeetbraves.bandcamp.com

    Blue Canyon Boys Next Go 'Round (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    These Colorado boys kick out some serious old-school bluegrass. Fifteen songs, six original and nine traditional selections. While my mind could pick out which was which, my ears couldn't find the difference. Solid, energetic playing and tight songwriting. There's no crossover here; bluegrass fans will immediately pick up on the quality, and the uninitiated with probably run away. That's okay. I'll settle in for the long haul.
    Contact: www.bluecanyonboys.com

    Center of the Sun Machine Gun (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    The production is definitely shoegazey, but the songs whipsaw from incoherence to anthemic with assurance. In other words, these folks play what they want to play, and then overlay it with a modestly lo-fi mastering job. I prefer the songs with structure, but I do admire the way the band wanders the earth.
    Contact: centerofthesun.bandcamp.com

    Crooked Saws Mo'Fi (self-released) posted 2/24/13
    Are the blues better with two? I dunno, but this heavy duo cranks out some lovely distorted fare. Minimalist to the extreme (as the title suggests), which gives this album a large personality. Best appreciated at high volumes.
    Contact: www.crookedsaws.com

    Crown Point Curtains EP (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    I guess someone is still making "modern rock," after all. Crown Point has the ringing guitars, synth washes and vaguely pompous bearing down nicely. But that doesn't get in the way of some good songwriting. Yeah, I've heard this all before a few too many times, but there's some good stuff here.
    Contact: www.crownpointband.com

    Cy Dune No Recognize (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    An unholy combination of fuzz, misguided anthemic tendencies and warped vocals. These songs really don't come together in any meaningful way, but they remain compelling. There's so much mess that it's hard to characterize this further. So I won't. But this will give you your fix of music from the edge. Surf the chaos.

    Elephant Stone Elephant Stone (Hidden Pont) posted 2/10/13
    More Canadian pop goodies from the Hidden Pony folks. Elephant Stone is folky, conceptual and yet still devoted to the hook. These boys do take their time getting to the sweet stuff, but that slow windup kinda makes the payoff that much tighter. There's the occasional psychedelic affectation, but this is nowhere near BJM territory. If you want to really know where their heads are at, there's a cover of "Masters of War" here. It sounds very Byrdsy, which is probably the point--despite the fact that the band is generally much more indie rock than 60s pop in general. A fun outing.

    Glorie Falling EP (self-released) posted 2/24/13
    Post-rock is a useless designation, but it suits Glorie. Except that the boys take their string-dominated arrangements and turn them into striding anthems. How every not post-rock. Whatever. There isn't a bad track on this EP (I imagine all of them will wander through format on the radio station soon enough), and it ends all too soon.
    Contact: glorierock.com

    Golden Boots DBX 'N' SPF (PIAPTK) posted 2/10/13
    The latest from this Tucson outfit. The album has a pleasantly deranged feel to it, and whether the band meanders into indie rock, country, jazz or other territories, there's something of a wild-eyed manic feel to the proceedings. Not at all cohesive, but surprisingly effective nonetheless. Just a bit more focus might turn this looniness into something brilliant, but it might also kill the patient. Perhaps things are good just as they are.

    Gray Young Bonfire (self-released) posted 2/17/13
    These boys kick some old school modern rock, with hints of math and other introspective pursuits. The songs generally rise until a well-timed collapse. That sort of construction could get repetitive, but Gray Young puts its songs together in a variety of disparate ways. So, yes, everything's an anthem, but no two songs sounds alike.

    Irontom The Loose EP (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    Minimalist songwriting that's played in a maximalist setting. These songs sound as if they're played by different bands. "Mind My Halo" is a wonderfully blistering piece, while "Goin Slow" is a meandering pop-rock meditation. The other two songs are almost entirely forgettable disjointed indie rockers. I have no idea which is the real Irontom, but "Mind My Halo" is great.
    Contact: www.irontomband.com

    Loveskills Multiplicity (No Shame) posted 2/10/13
    Richard Spitzer is the guy behind Loveskills, and he's recruited a couple new mates for this outing. The sound is a fine combination of the electronic and organic. The gauzy pop songs have all the requisite hooks, and there's just enough noodling for those who need such things. A fine short set.

    Preston Lovinggood Sun Songs (Communicating Vessels) posted 2/17/13
    Lovinggood manages an almost impossible trick, making chunky, clunky versions of what should be easy-rollin', jangly, rootsy pieces. Part of this can be attributed to the Capstan Shafts-y lo-fi production. And part of it has to be owned by Lovinggood. What's striking is how effective this is most of the time. Maybe Lovinggood is on to something after all.

    MARS Everything You Want and Need EP (self-released) posted 2/24/13
    Pleasant, if inoffensive, pop music that channels the laid-back feel of the early 70s--with just a bit of 60s insistence. Nothing particularly spectacular, but this workmanlike effort earns its smiles honestly.
    Contact: moxilovesyou.com

    Moxi In My Dreams EP (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    Well-crafted songs that seem almost self-consciously idiosyncratic at times. The shiny production leaves Moxi sounding a bit generic, though some of her songs ("Terrible Disguise," in particular) manage to transcend the goo. Moxi needs a bit more of her namesake, the stuff that has an "e" at the end.
    Contact: moxilovesyou.com

    Pictorials Learning EP (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    Pictorials throw out some lovely indie pop-rock to see what sticks. And not much does. These songs are a bit too inoffensive to inspire a whole lot of passion. The competence is more than apparent. The boys need to find themselves some inspiration to go along with their skill.
    Contact: pictorials.bandcamp.com

    Pregnant Pottery Mill (Mush) posted 2/10/13
    Fifteen songs chock full of samples and rhythmic experimentation. Much of the album is taken up by tangents, which is cool for those who have the patience for such things. The range of sound is truly impressive. Perfect for that slow evening when you need to take a field trip to the frontal lobes.

    The Redwood Plan Green Light Go (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    Throttling rhythms and tempos that are just a hair too fast. The Redwood Plan plays indie pop on speed (not exactly thrash, but closer than you might think), and the songs certainly do leave a listener breathless. What I find interesting is that the songs get more complex when the vocals come in. I like that, even though it can get distracting. Definitely an acquired taste, but a fun one.
    Contact: www.theredwoodplan.com

    Rococode Guns, Sex & Glory (self-released) posted 2/24/13
    Electro-tinged pop that betrays its Vancouverite roots. Many of these pieces are fragmental, though they git nicely into the effort as a whole. Indeed, this is one of those releases that works best when heard as a whole. The more I hear, the more I like.
    Contact: rococode.com

    Garrett Sawyer Chronicles and Vanity (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    Sawyer has the whole easy-going semi-prog folky sound of Dire Straits down nicely. These tracks trend much more toward the americana side of things, but that's cool. Sawyer does not vary his approach much, so by the end there is the feeling of a rehash. But in small doses, there's good stuff here.
    Contact: www.garrettsawyer.com

    The Shilohs So Wild (Light Organ) posted 2/10/13
    Not wild at all, but kinda charming nonetheless. These understated pop rockers often fail to ignite--kinda like those Lou Reed songs that keep going without finding a hook. Actually, there's a big VU influence here, and I like the vibe. I like it even better when the songs actually go somewhere.

    Ballake Sissoko At Peace (Six Degrees) posted 2/10/13
    Sissoko plays the kora (a Malian instrument that looks a bit like a harp but has a sound somewhere between that and a guitar--often a combination of both at the same time). Sissoko and cellist Vincent Segal put out a fine album a few years back (Chamber Music) and Segal produces and appears on a few of these tracks. But this is Sissoko's album, and his steady and enchanting playing makes these songs a joy. You really have never heard this.

    Stick Men DEEP (7d Media) posted 2/24/13
    Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter. You need more? These boys are at the top of their game, creating an adventurous prog sound within tightly-crafted songs. Accessible to the extreme, the songs here show a true appreciation for ideas and emotion. There's plenty of wigging out, but what really comes through are the solid arrangements. I'm sold.

    Sunshine Sunshine (self-released) posted 2/24/13
    Jaunty blister fuzz-pop from Vancouver. Like many bands plying these waters, I imagine Sunshine will suffer a bit from the return of the master (MBV), but this set is more than strong enough to stand up on its own.
    Contact: sunshinesucks.bandcamp.com

    Thinking Machines Extension Chords (self-released) posted 2/10/13
    Ringing, distortion-laden songs that tend to hide behind a scrim of distortion and modest production values. I like the straightforward songwriting style, but I do wish the boys had put a bit more into the engineering and mix. I can't help but think a slightly-sharper edge to the sound would clear things up a bit.
    Contact: thinkingmachinesband.com

    Trapdoor Social Trapdoor Social (self-released) posted 2/24/13
    Ringing, bright pop songs that take flight almost before they begin. This SoCal duo crafts sharp-edged gems and infuses them with an indefatigable spirit. Probably not the next big thing--but you never know.
    Contact: www.trapdoorsocial.com/

    Various Artists Best of All Possible Worlds: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferon 2xCD (PIAPTK) posted 2/10/13
    The best tributes take the songs of the original artist and give them a completely new spin. About half the tracks on this generous set (28 tracks in all!) do just that. And when the more "traditional" renditions are by the likes of Simon Joyner and Wooden Wand, well, you begin to understand that you're in good hands. Most enjoyable.

    Kurt von Stetten Androlafi (Static Motor) posted 2/17/13
    Another year, another von Stetten album. This one is a bit more polished than the last I heard (and when you release seven albums in seven years, you might expect some changes), and the writing is a bit more focused. The songs themselves appropriate many of the forms of modern alternative pop, and von Stetten once again acquits himself well. He's just enough off-kilter to make is difficult to fall in love all at once, but those with a little wisdom know that makes for a better long-term relationship. Don't commit, but keep your ears open.

    Young Boys New York Sun EP (Holloweyed) posted 2/24/13
    Plenty of JAMC (more earlier than later) in this squalling, poppy set. The modest anthemic trend gives the songs a solid footing, and the judicious balancing of noise and melody is quite pleasing to the ears. Fun stuff.

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