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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Ben Wilkins S/T

Ontario-born Ben Wilkins was already a well-rounded musician, having studied classical music at Montreal’s McGill University and spent his post grad studies in Shanghai, China, when he began working with musical producers Pascal Shefteshy and Pierre Marchand (Sarah McLachlan, Rufus Wainwright) to put together his debut album.

The warm classical pop sound permeates most of this album, but the disjointed “Opening” has a mix of indie jazz percussive effects, piano and classical strings contrasting Ben’s clean vocals. It sounds like he has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the mix to let us know he’s avant garde.

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Reviews & Suggestions

CD Review: Army Navy “The Last Place”

If you ask hip indie bloggers what today’s power pop sounds like, you’ll likely get Army Navy as the response. Lead singer Justin Kennedy belts out the opening track of The Last Place, “Last Legs,” and is accompanied by catchy riffs and a solid beat as he states, “The the place I want to be is in my head…” Even better is the stellar “Ode to Janice Melt” where Kennedy talks about his affair with a married celebrity. The band’s sound is reminiscent of a mixture of Teenage Fanclub, Pulp and Belle & Sebastian with an easygoing bounce in each track’s rhythm. “The Long Goodbye” and “Ex-Electric” both share solid songwriting and musicianship. 

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Brass Bed “Melt White”

Unlike their last album, Louisiana-based Brass Bed has gone full neo psychedelic here on Melt White – and that’s a great thing for us audiophiles. Opening with the gorgeous harmonies on “Aria” it adds a strong chord to reach its crescendo. Then, the whimsical “People Want to Be Happy” is 10cc styled pop with many layers tripping over each other. It then delivers a blistering guitar break full of unfettered creativity. “Miniature Day Parade” incorporates a pile of influences and textures, and the next several tunes are worthy of any Elephant Six alumni.

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog “Dyddiau Du, Dyddiau Gwyn”

So what do I know about a North Wales-based band called Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog?

Well, they play a soothing mix of country, folk and rock influenced by classic rock archetypes like Dylan, Neil Young and Gram Parsons. But what will throw you off is the entire thing is done in native Welsh. So I have no idea what those lyrics mean, but the title track here, “Dyddiau Du, Dyddiau Gwyn,” has a great melodic bridge and nice steel pedal guitar work. The slow ballad “Malu’r Ffenestri” doesn’t need a lyric, as you can tell right away from its slow piano that it’s a drinkin’ tune. The song “Nansi” is a bouncey country tune that raises the spirit a bit more. The style of “Celwydd Golau Ydi Cariad” is a bit like early era Eagles with a catchy overdubbed chorus.

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Artists and Bands

Nicole Atkins on her new album, band and recent wardrobe malfunction (yes!)

Nicole Atkins’ latest album, Mondo Amore, won’t be released until February 8, but it’s already garnering rave reviews left, right and center. This talented singer-songwriter from New Jersey has drawn comparisons to the likes of Janis Joplin and Etta James, and she recently took time to talk with our very own Aaron Kupferberg about her new album, band and recent wardrobe malfunction (yes!). Be sure to catch Nicole and her band, The Black Sea, on their 19-city tour in February. Dates and more info here.

Q: Mondo Amore has some great tracks on it. Tell me a little bit about the process of bringing this album together…

A: Well, after I left Columbia [Records], I went with my friend Phil Paulozolo, who co-produced the record and recorded it. We decided to to do this record without a label during the process of making it, so we just kinda hunkered down from January ’till June at the Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn and I just called on a bunch of my friends; the old members of my band The Sea and the new members that are currently with me [now called The Black Sea], and a bunch of friends from other Brooklyn bands.

We sat in the studio for a few months and made the record, and after it was all done, we took it to a few labels and showed it to them and Razor and Tie seemed like the best bet.

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Shalini “Magnetic North”

Shalini Chatterjee had been a bass player in San Francisco band Vinyl Devotion before moving from the West Coast to North Carolina. There she attracted the attention of Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, who suggested her last name be used as the band’s moniker.

Recorded in Chapel Hill, Shalini’s fourth album, “Magnetic North,” has her distinct Rickenbacker guitar chords and vocals that come across strongly on the opener “One of One,” similar to Belinda Carlyle if she played with Dream Syndicate. This formula continues on “Mine As You Ever Were,” but under the forceful riffs is a sadness with the lyrical aside, “You don’t want me around.”

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Jukebox the Ghost “Everything Under the Sun”

Jukebox The Ghost is a band that is heavy on sunshine and nostalgic influences. Produced by Peter Katis (Interpol, The National) the trio is made up of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Siegel, pianist/vocalist Ben Thornewill and drummer Jesse Kristin. The group has a solid upbeat piano sound that makes an impression on the opener, “Schizophrenia,” with quick beats, playful synths and the contrasting lyrics “No I can’t, Yes I Can…” The album is tons of fun with expertly executed hooks in the bouncy “Half Crazy” and quirky lyrics of “Empire,” which sounds like a brilliant combination of Billy Joel and Field Music. The latter tune is a special highlight as the chorus just rings in your head and won’t let you go.

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Artists and Bands

Electric guitar master Joe Satriani talks about his 14th studio album, shares thoughts on fellow guitar legends and reveals Chickenfoot’s future

Electric guitar legend Joe Satriani is releasing his 14th studio album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, on October 5. With over 10 million album sales and 15 Grammy nominations to him name, Satriani’s upcoming release is certainly an anticipated one. R&RR’s very own Aaron Kupferberg recently had the chance to talk to Satriani about the new record, everything to do with guitars and Chickenfoot – Satriani’s band with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony of Van Halen and Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Q: I wanted to ask, since we both grew up on Long Island, you went to Carle Place High School, right?

A: Yeah, Carle Place High School.

Q: Do you remember the name of your very first band in high school?

A: Yes, the very first band was called “Mephistopheles”  and it was quickly followed by a band called “Tarsus.”

Q: What type of music did you play?

A: We were doing Black Sabbath, Stones, Zeppelin, The Doors and Spirit. I attended St. Bridget’s Catholic School till they threw me out, [then] I attended Carle Place High School.

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Jon Mullane “Shift”

Jon Mullane is a Canadian rocker who’s new album “Shift” is a throwback to power pop artists of the ’80s. Like Rick Springfield, but with a little more of Enuff Znuff attitude. Jon works with Pete Lesperance on guitar, and co-writer and producer Creighton Doane (Harum Scarum) gives the sound a professional gloss. The album is full of consistent driving melodic rock tunes, opening with the workman effort “Make Your Move,” which smolders similar to ZZ Top; it’s full cowbell, overdubbed guitars, and Jon’s breathy vocal.

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Mark Bacino “Queens English”

New York’s own Mark Bacino is no stranger to power pop greatness. With past efforts like Pop Job…The Long Player! and The Million Dollar Milkshake on my all time great albums list, it was with great anticipation I waited for the next album. Now it’s here and proves that Mark has added maturity and gravitas to his songwriting and he hasn’t lost his pop mojo in the process.

After the idyllic intro we get to the the title track, a love letter to his favorite borough. It’s a rockin’ jam full of guitars, keys and jubilant pop spirit.  Then the album switches gears into a more restrained celebration of domestic bliss starting with the Randy Newmanesque “Happy.”

Following that is the album’s highlight – “Muffin In The Oven” with wonderful horn accents, and a killer guitar solo during the break. “Camp Elmo” and “Bridge & Tunnel” are Harry Nilsson inspired tunes about suburban fatherhood. “Middle Town” and “Ballad of M & LJ” continues the sunny laid back atmosphere of his neighborhood in the folky tradition of John Sebastian. A bit out of place is the ballad “Blue Suit,” so somber it threatens the overall positive vibe, but the whimiscal perspective of a local old-timer on “Who Are Yous?” redeem things. Fans of Mark’s earlier work may be disappointed by the lack of “power” in this pop album, but it stands on its own as an intimate and moving self-portrait.  Fans of Paul Simon’s NYC centered songs will find much to cherish here. Listen to the album streaming at markbacino.com My SpaceCD BabyAmazon