CD Reviews

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The All Seeing Hand - Mechatronics

I’ve heard that Wellington was quite the hub for experimental music in the late 80s and early 90s, and if that’s the case, then I understand why these guys call it home. The All Seeing Hand are a Wellington based experimental band, led by producer Alphabethead. Their sophomore album, Mechatronics, was released in October last year through Muzai. Defying genre stereotyping, this ten-track album takes you on a ride, manipulating the noise spectrum from track to track.
 
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FM 359 - Truth, Love and Liberty

FM 359 is the side project of Street Dogs members Mike McColgan, Johnny Rioux, and ex-Dropkick Murphys /Continental member Rick Barton. Street Dogs are punk rock’s champion of the everyman and tireless road warriors. Though they resolved to take a break from a relentless touring schedule, the music didn’t stop flowing. “Truth, Love and Liberty” is the result. The opener, Some Folks is a radio friendly workingman’s anthem and sets the tone for 10 tracks that defy...
 
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Babaganouj – Shitty Christmas

Over Happy’s Christmas break, the final days of 2013 saw the rise of some truly great Christmas albums overseas – Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red, Susan Boyle’s Home for Christmas and Bad Religion’s Christmas Songs just to name a few. Closer to home, the silly season saw Brisbane twee/indie band Babaganouj release a cute little five chord number called Shitty Christmas and even though it’s probably the time to forget how crappy your Christmas was, their new single...
 
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Connan Mockasin – Caramel

Apparently Connan Mockasin is already super famous. Call me ignorant, and I’ll agree. I have basically limited to zero knowledge of New Zealand’s music scene*. After stumbling upon Mockasin’s track, Do I Make You Feel Shy?, via New Zealand’s bFM (their version of FBi), I embarked upon my usual internet trawling for more info. Oh, hello, he has 36, 000 Facebook likes. Anyway, popularity doesn’t detract from talent, especially in Mockasin’s case.
 
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Jumpship Astronaut - Lights Burn Out

This is such a complex, amazing and dramatic EP what else can I say in the end? Lights Burn Out by Jumpship Astronaut is more than amazing and dramatic, it’s also extremely suspenseful and somewhat comical. It has a very quirky-dark quality to it as well The intro track “Romanticize” gives you the impression as if you were in some kind of Science Fiction movie with it’s sonic guitar intro. The really vivid, yet emotional charged synth evolves into...
 
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Perfect Hair Forever - Void

5 stars for the band name, 5 stars for the sound. Perfect Hair Forever released their 10 track album, Void, last November through Crystal Magic Records, which has its roots in New Zealand but now operates out of a bedroom in Sydney. This album is amazing. After one listen, I’d bought it for MORE than minimum price (which says a lot considering I ate a can of chickpeas for dinner last night for the third time in a row). I’ll let the presser info do the talking here…
 
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E. Christina Herr & Wild Frontier – Americana Motel

“A sonic rodeo of original Americana, Alt Country Twang, old school Rock ‘n’ Roll and Spaghetti Western,” is how E. Christina Herr & Wild Frontier’s music is described on the band’s publicity one-sheet; a “Western Gothic” sound. This Albuquerque quartet was curiously born of a Craig’s List advertisement, and their latest album “Americana Motel” is an equally curious gathering of twelve songs, eleven of which are penned by Herr.
 
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Wolf-Face - Still a Son of a Bitch

Real punk rock, for better or worse, was born of the pain and anger of a post-Nixon generation that was really pissed off. From Johnny Rotten to Television to the Germs and others, true punk rockers gave rise to a movement that pre-dated Kurt Cobain's angst and sense of belonging nowhere. In the digital age, though, true punk bands don't really seem to exist (please, don't e-mail me and argue). So now we have the Florida band Wolf-Face that seems to...
 
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Belles and Whistles – Self-Titled

“Hand crafted songs from the girls next door,” is plainly inscribed on the inside cover to Belles and Whistles’ self-titled CD. It’s a PR slogan that rings true, a proud declaration for this mother/daughter country duo from the heartland in Omaha. Their music is contemporary and age-appropriate for 16-year-old Kelli Jones to sing, and she and her mom Jaymie write their own material, swap lead vocals and blend like sweet-churned butter on a hot stove.
 
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Little G. Weevil – Moving

“I’m in love with raw, old school Blues,” says Vizztone label artist Little G. Weevil. This 2014 Blues Music Award nominee may have been born and raised just outside of Budapest, but he’s all-American Blues down to his very DNA. After immigrating here, he gravitated to Memphis (no surprise) and now lives in Atlanta, where he recorded his third and latest album, “Moving.” Produced by Lee Jones Mitchell, eleven of its twelve tracks are penned by Weevil, featuring him...
 
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Brendan Benson - You Were Right

It’s often difficult to articulate what’s so inherently different about listening to a Brendan Benson album versus another artist. Benson is a musical chameleon in the best sense possible; he has a knack for sounding equally comfortable sitting in the pocket of a laid back classic rock vibe as well as pushing the boundaries of conventional power pop. Somehow, through the style shifts, he maintains that ability to connect lyrically with simplicity, wit and charm. You Were Right taps...
 
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Rory Block – Avalon: A Tribute To Mississippi John Hurt

“One of the things I have endeavored to capture in this tribute series is a return to a more earthy, natural approach. We don’t love the old recordings because they are crackle-free, or fancy, or have clever formats…So instead of sweeping the tracks clean…I feel compelled to let it be real…Every recording is a field recording in my view,” writes blues guitarist-extraordinaire Rory Block in the liner notes of her latest and fourth album in her Mentor Series: “Avalon – A Tribute To ...
 
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Dan Bankhurst - At First Sight

Fingerstyle guitar playing is a dying art, with guys like Tommy Emmanuel and Adrian Legg getting older, and fewer youngsters willing to do the work, as playing the acoustic guitar well can be pretty physically demanding. Dan Bankhurst is an Ohio player who not only seems willing to do the work, but sounds like he revels in it on his new album At First Sight. With influences that sound like they include Chet Atkins and Phil Keaggy with the energy of Leo Kottke, Bankhurst ...
 
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Blackjack Billy - Get Some

These boys are good. Maybe a little too good by today's country radio standards. Blackjack Billy would kick the butt of most acts on Music Row if Music Row was serious about doing something that wasn't crappy pop. On their album Get Some, tight harmonies and Skynyrd-influenced guitars (though they aren't afraid to throw a banjo in there) tear it up from this band that is obviously ready for the big time if they can get a shot. These guys sound like they live to play and play to live...
 
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Jason Sturgeon – Cornfields & Coal

“It’s challenging to find time to write now,” is a royal understatement, considering Country artist Jason Sturgeon did two hundred shows on tour last year, and has a future calendar booked more than ever. Still, he wrote or co-wrote nine out of ten songs on his latest project: his sophomore album “Cornfields & Coal,” released on his Toolpusher Records label. Dipping into back catalog, as well as composing fresh material, this small-town-Indiana boy made good, along with producer...
 
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