ALBUM REVIEW: Jupiter Sprites “Holographic”

Jupiter Sprites “Holographic” cover art

Jupiter Sprites “Holographic” cover art

Creating a full-length album is an arduous process for any musical act – long hours in the studio, multiple takes of particular sections, nailing that one specific sound, blending the disparate sounds just right, etc. There is a lot that can go wrong and plenty that can go right; it’s that tug of war that has shaped some of the most iconic albums in music history. The Jupiter Sprites are no stranger to this process and journey, having embarked on their own trial by fire with the album Holographic. Filled with lush soundscapes that fuse the intimacy of the bedroom with the technological breadth of the modern studio, they have created a work that expands the mind as it touches the heart.

Jupiter Sprites press photo

Jupiter Sprites press photo

Starting off with the ethereal beauty of “Ocean of You,” they immediately get to work demonstrating their prowess in using beautiful sounds with lilting rhythms to create a signature sound. The tune takes pleasure in establishing itself as a hypnotic pop song, before meandering into a fuzzed-up jam section that is as enjoyable as it is unexpected.

The slow pace of “A Radiant Eclipse” glides in next. There is a soft surging vibe that is executed with such extreme precision it’s breathtaking. This is the sound of being in a waking dream; the kind where you have a certain amount of control and have the pleasure of wandering around at your own leisure. The manner in which the spacey vocals interplay with the bubbling effects provides even more detail, making this one a pleasure to get lost in.

“Feeeel” uses the mesmerizing power of the trick beat with infectious vocals to work its magic. While employing chillout vibes, it creates the perfect amount of movement that gets your body rocking back and forth in ecstasy. The subtle introduction of the bassline creates a slow rising sensation that builds and builds, until a momentary break launches you into space backed by a delayed-out motif which carries you to the next dimension.

Mike Elliott / Jupiter Sprites press photo

Mike Elliott / Jupiter Sprites press photo

“Haunt” takes things to the heavier end of the spectrum. It’s impossible to resist the hypnotic flavor of this one, taking you on a merry go around which exists in the celestial world of the clouds. This track puts on full display the depth and power of subtlety that the Jupiter Sprites have spent so much time perfecting. Each note is as a perfect drop in a pond, slowly rippling out into the recesses of the mind.

Chimes, vibrational bass tones, and the warmth of a buzzy synth motif begin “Continue On.” The deep tones of the bass and the interplay with the rhythm create the perfect backdrop for a heady trip here; the rising melodies, long harmonization of the vocals, and airy layers all fuse together to create a never ending trip through the interior of the mind, creating the perfect bridge from one moment to the next.

“Resolving Resound” is not just an aptly titled track, but a wonderful fusion of shoegaze rock tendencies with the blissful leanings of this band. This song recalls the best aspects of the past of music with the exciting glimmer of the future – before you know it, you’re humming the words and sucked into the landscape of the tune – reminding you of meeting a long lost friend after too much time apart.

Portia Capp / Jupiter Sprites press photo

Portia Capp / Jupiter Sprites press photo

“Stakes” closes the album out, and like any good closer, it reminds you of every step you’ve taken along this journey and wrapping it into the perfect package. It has the lush symphonic textures, chilled out vibes, rhythms that groove, and melodic twists that have dotted the entire album. Yet it has its own unique blend of it all that carries you off to infinity as the album comes to a slow close, refusing to ever leave your thoughts.

This is an album anyone will thoroughly enjoy, with its layered textures and fresh take on the music process. The first time through is a pure joy to listen to, while repeated listens slowly reveal all the subtle intricacies that will keep you coming back for more. Grab a copy yourself and dive in!!

ALBUM REVIEW: Painted Doll “How To Draw Fire”

Painted Doll "How To Draw Fire" cover art

Painted Doll “How To Draw Fire” cover art

If I told you that one of the best psych-rock, power pop albums – check that, one of the best ALBUMS period you’re going to hear this year, is an unlikely collaboration by a comedian and a death metal musician you might think I was pulling your leg.

Well get ready to be surprised because How To Draw Fire is the second collaboration between comedian/musician Dave Hill ( Cobra Verde, The Goddamn Dave Hill Show) and Death Metal musician Chris Reifert (Autopsy, Abscess) and it’s really, really good.

The two met at the 2015 Housecore Horror and Film Festival in San Antonio, TX where they bonded at a Goblin concert and started jamming together, the jamming quickly turned into songs that turned into their excellent 2018 self-titled release. Their new release How To Draw Fire comes just two years later, and it delivers big time, offering up 12 tracks packed with face melting psychedelics, huge power pop melodies and gigantic riffs. No sophomore slump for these guys, not even close.

Painted Doll; press photo

Painted Doll; press photo

Opening track “In The Sea” sets high standards for the entire repertoire with its arpeggiated guitar intro played against some rain and thunder effects and then BAM it slams into a power chord shuffle, fuzzed out guitar melodies and thundering drums – all mixed old school in WIDE STEREO just the way it should be. The catchy chorus is icing on the cake and right from the get-go you know you’re in for a winning ticket with this record.

Over the course of the album Painted Doll mix things up nicely from track to track, adding acoustic guitars, psychedelic rock and straight up pop into the mix so the whole time you’re listening it always sounds fresh and engaging. Song writing is top notch as well making How To Draw Fire a hidden gem deserving of wider exposure and a work that holds up to repeated listens.

ALBUM REVIEW: Death Valley Girls “Under The Spell Of Joy”

DEATH VALLEY GIRLS "Under The Spell Of Joy" cover art

DEATH VALLEY GIRLS “Under The Spell Of Joy” cover art

LA’s Death Valley Girls led by multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel are joined by a group of talented collaborators to release their very strong new album Under The Spell Of Joy.

Death Valley Girls have always been a band that could communicate on multiple levels. You can just press play and rock out, not a bad thing, or listen more deeply and go on a spiritual journey of self-discovery again, not a bad thing at all. In this day and age, a band that invites you to do both is a rare thing and harkens back to a different era of classic rock music where massive rock hooks and a message for the mind often went hand in hand.

Death Valley Girls intention to challenge listeners is apparent from the get-go as album opener “Hypnagogia” is a trippy “ode to the space between sleep & wakefulness” that immediately invites listeners to jump in at the deep end of the pool. With the song’s 13th Floor Elevators inspired guitar riff and some spacy sax weaving in and out of the mix courtesy of guest player Gabe Flores whose work on the entire album is exceptional. As she casts a spell over the musical proceedings Death Valley Girls’ ringleader Bloomgarden’s vocals seem more like chants and incantations rather than lyrics while the bottom end is held together nicely by the rock steady rhythm section of bassist Nicole Smith and Drummer Rikki Styx.

The very next track, “Hold My Hand” with its bouncy Velvet Underground inspired guitar hooks and swirling organ, is a perfect invitation from the band to take a breath and just rock out, its sing along verses and catchy chorus propelled by Bloomgarden’s Marc Bolan inspired vibrato vocal stylings.

It is this dichotomy in song styles that propels Death Valley Girls’ new album and makes it so interesting and a work worthy of repeat listens.

Whether doing space rock or garage rock Death Valley Girls music is always spiritual, and that is what gives rise to it being such a strong and compelling body of work. Whether you are sitting and listening intently on headphones or rocking out in your car Death Valley Girls invite you to dig inwardly deeper. This is music that unashamedly harkens to a past time when rock music was not afraid to challenge its audience, while also sounding contemporary, immediate, and just plain fun.

ALBUM REVIEW: Drive-By Truckers “The Unraveling”

Drive-By Truckers “The Unraveling” cover art

Drive-By Truckers “The Unraveling” cover art

Drive-By Truckers are back with a vengeance after 3 ½ years with their new album The Unraveling. Always a political band, the current state of world affairs and the political climate here at home have given them ample fodder to be frustrated about.

Lesser bands might have balked and simply turned their backs to the reality that has been happening in Washington since 2016. But as Patterson Hood put it “Writing silly love songs just seemed the height of privilege.”

And so DBT have gifted us with an album that is both beautiful and terrifying, often at the same time, much like life in the 21st Century.

Drive-By Truckers L to R: Brad Morgan, Patterson Hood, Matt Patton, Mike Cooley, Jay Gonzalez

Drive-By Truckers
L to R: Brad Morgan, Patterson Hood, Matt Patton, Mike Cooley, Jay Gonzalez

Recorded at Sam Phillips legendary Sun Studios in Memphis with longtime producer Dave Barbe, the album sounds glowing. Barbe made full use of Sun Studios famous reverb chambers to give a warmth and depth to the music. It sounds as if the band is playing in the same room with you listening. The band tracked the songs live in studio capturing the urgency and drive of a band that has something to say and ain’t afraid to say it. (Special mention to Greg Calbi for the mastering – the whole album sounds nice and natural, and if you want to hear it louder, just turn it up – no ear bleeding loudness on this one).

But of course, there was the dilemma of how to write songs about what is happening in our world today that would connect with people, that would tell the truth, but without scaring people away. Well no worries here as Hood and Mike Cooley have delivered one of the strongest, sharpest and downright listenable albums the DBT’s have ever released and all while not losing the razor-sharp switchblade edge of the subject matter.

ROSEMARY WITH A BIBLE AND A GUN a song that Hood imagined as a sort of Bobbi Gentry southern gothic starts the album off in style. With it’s beautiful string arrangements by Kyleen & Patti King and its lovely lilting melody is the calm before the storm. Because the rest of this album requires you to suit up, strap in and start to take stock, because the shit has gotten real people and DBT are facing it head-on.

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS devotes itself to the seemingly weekly or twice weekly school ground shooting or the workplace shooting or the nightclub shooting… the list of potential killing fields does seem to be getting bigger doesn’t it? And the standard “You Are In Our Thoughts And Prayers” response of politicians that could help stop the bloodshed but won’t because the NRA has Washington bought and paid for. Well that shit don’t fly on this album and those guilty of looking the other way for a campaign contribution payday are told exactly where they can put those empty words. And that place won’t be seeing any daylight anytime soon.

“When my children’s eyes look at me and they ask me to explain
It hurts me that I have to look away
The Powers That Be are in for shame and comeuppance
When Generation Lockdown has their day
They’ll throw the bums all out and drain that swamp for real
Purp walk them down the Capitol steps and show them how it feels
Tramp the dirt down, Jesus. You can pray the rod they’ll spare
Stick it up your ass with your useless thoughts and prayers”

21st CENTURY USA again featuring another lovely string arrangement by Kayleen and Patti King and set to a pretty repeating chord pattern. The track is simply elevated to another level by the Brad Morgan’s perfect drumming. He does a lot here without ever getting in the way of the song, Charlie Watts would be proud. This is the song that opened up the writing floodgates on this album for Hood and he takes a sly look at life in small towns in America. Although I think if we’re being honest this may be what life across America has become for many; big city or small. A USA where people are holding on by their fingernails to a very small piece of the pie. And where even though we’re surrounded by the marvels of a world that makes us more connected than at any other time in history, many people are feeling more isolated and disconnected than at any other point in their lives.

“Men working hard for not enough, at best
Women working just as hard for less”
They say we have to hang on a little bit longer and a savior will come our way
We’ll know him by the neon sign and the opulence he maintains
If Amazon can deliver salvation, I’ll order it up on my phone
With Big Brother watching me always, why must I always feel so alone”

HEROIN AGAIN says hello to an old “friend” making a come back in a big way (please note the heavy sarcasm on the word “friend” – no letters please). I mean who reading this hasn’t known somebody affected by the opioid crisis? Not many I’ll bet, and not me for sure. And guess what kids, this ain’t “Mr. Brownstones” first invite to the dance. He just keeps coming back again and again. If you’re a little long in the tooth like I am you’ve witnessed his return more than a few times, like a black plague that sucks the life and the youth from one generation to the next. But I gotta say I never thought I would see the day this shit would be prescribed to people by doctors and pharmaceutical companies would make billions off their backs! BILLIONS! I did NOT see that one coming.

“Losing your joy, playing with dangerous toys
insulate yourself from life and all of its big noise
Insinuate a fever dream, instigate a requiem
a deafening explosion of shame, an orgasm inside of your brain
Beautiful lost girl, you turn your back on this mean sweet world
A taste of heaven, some part of you dies
til you’re something you can’t recognize
Silly young man why you using heroin?
I thought you knew better than that
I thought you knew better than that”

BABIES IN CAGES takes an unflinching look at the fact that because of President Trump’s immigration policies the United States has gotten to a point where they literally lock children in cages, kept apart from their parents, without proper medical care and then we televise it on the six o’clock news. WTF, right? But we’ve all seen it and have been sickened by it. Because we know it’s not right. America is better than that, or at least we tell ourselves it is. The song is set to an ominous bump & grind of a beat that snakes along like a snake looking for a mouse. All this as waves of feedback, organ stabs and guitars weave in and out of the mix again making wonderful use of those Sun Studio reverb rooms.

“The world wakes up this morning
I’m sorry for the news
Wrapped up in a tinfoil blanket without any shoes
Babies in cages
I’m sorry to my children
I’m sorry what they see
I’m sorry for the world that they’ll inherit from me
Babies in cages
Are we so divided
That we can’t at least agree
This ain’t the country that our granddads fought for us to be?
Babies in cages


GRIEVANCE MERCHANTS
roars out of the speakers with a Crazy Horse meets Roky Erickson vibe that just flat out rocks. This time the band tries on some of that world-famous Sam Phillips slap back echo that Elvis made famous. And they do it to such wonderful effect and rock out so fiercely that you almost might not notice the song’s lyrics that decry the rise of ultra-right-wing hate groups that prey on young impressionable minds. I did say almost because the message is delivered loud and clear.

“As long as there have been stories lies and airwaves
what makes a man a mans been right up front,
in visions, boys are sold of what it could be
and grievance when it ain’t like what they thought,
when money and respect seem to allude him
and being white alone don’t make the ladies swoon
there’s no shortage when it comes to hearing voices
telling him it’s him that’s done unto”

DRIVE-BY-TRUCKERS; photo James Christopher

DRIVE-BY-TRUCKERS; photo James Christopher

I know you might be thinking at this point… Dude this album sounds kind of like a bummer. But guess what, it really, really isn’t!

The songs are all wonderfully recorded and played by musicians that sound committed to their cause. With strong hooks and thoughtful lyrics Hood and Cooley have delivered a protest album that does what the very best protest albums do. They sneak the message into your consciousness rather that hit you over the head with it. That these are troubling times can’t be denied. That we have song writers as good as Hood & Cooley that care enough to tell it like it is and at the same time lift us up to a place we can sing along is a blessing. Actually getting up off our asses and doing something to change things is on us.

The Unraveling by Drive-By Truckers
5/5 Stars

ALBUM REVIEW: New Model Army “From Here”

New Model Army "From Here" album cover

New Model Army “From Here” album cover

Few bands remain active for 39 years, fewer still remain relevant after four decades and only a handful age gracefully, channeling the years of life’s experiences and trials into mature works that better the “prime” years of their career. New Model Army are one of those select handful of artists who are getting better with age. And with From Here (the band’s 15th studio album by my count) they have maintained the artistic honesty and excellence they set for themselves since their formation in 1980.

The songs for From Here were written quickly over a two-month period and recorded even faster in just nine days so the album has a feeling of spontaneity and freshness that breathes energy into the material. The album was recorded at Ocean Sound Recordings on the tiny island of Giske off the Norwegian coast. This remote location was, according to the band “Bleak, open, cold and rugged” and a perfect place for them to create something collectively, with each member inspired in his own way, by their surroundings. New Model Army guided once again by producers Jamie Lockhart and Lee Smith have graced us with a truly exceptional, and very special, set of new material.

New Model Army; press photo

New Model Army; press photo

Although recorded in just nine days From Here is anything but sparse. It is a complex and nuanced work that holds up to repeat listens, in fact it actually gets better the more you hear it, each layer of sound weaving into and out of the mix at just the right moment with everything held together (as it always is) by Justin Sullivan’s words and passionate vocal performances (honestly I think I’d pay money to hear this guy sing the phone book, he’s that good).

So, let’s talk a little about the songs that make up this fine set. I’ve picked three of my favorites although ANY of the tracks could be your favorites. Every song is strong, and this is a “no-filler” collection with a cohesiveness and unity that make it into a satisfying complete experience.

Where I Am is simply classic New Model Army – This one could have been slotted on one of their mid-eighties releases and it would have sounded right at home, with its acoustic/electric guitars and vocal intro leading the charge. When the drums kick in at about the minute mark the song shifts into high gear and by the time the sing-along chorus burrows its way between your ears you have a new favorite New Model Army classic to be thankful for.

New Model Army; press photo

New Model Army; press photo

Maps/Setting Sun are perhaps the songs most noticeably influenced by the inspiration the band found in their surroundings on the rugged and beautiful Isle of Giske. Maps very much captures the feeling of looking into the vastness of the Atlantic. It is both beautiful, moving and maybe just a little reflective, more a tone poem than pop song, with guitars and cellos (?) accented with drum rolls, cymbal crashes and lyrics about old sea sailing charts that are “filled with pictures of strange sea creatures”. The song segues quietly, and dare I say perfectly, on a wave of subdued feedback and a repeated guitar into Setting Sun which immediately sets off on a more upbeat note with a rocking drum beat and reflective almost whispered vocals. These two songs, although separate works, join together so seamlessly they almost feel as if they were conceived together as a whole.

So, after 39 years New Model Army have released an album that sounds fresh and exciting as if it had been released from a group just few years into their career. How do they do it? Certainly, by following their own muse and not trying to mimic the sound of whatever is currently on the pop charts. But I think maybe they do it mostly by putting in the hard work…writing every day, touring every year (although we do miss them here in America-Please come back) and thank god for being smart enough to remain the “Captains” in charge of their own musical destiny. From Here is another classic from New Model Army guaranteed to rank in the upper echelons of their already impressive body of work.

ALBUM REVIEW: Meat Beat Manifesto “Opaque Couche”

MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO "Opaque Couche" album cover

MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO “Opaque Couche” album cover

32 years into a groundbreaking career Electro pioneers Meat Beat Manifesto (MBM) are back with their 12th studio album Opaque Couche, a tongue in cheek reference for what is supposedly the ugliest hue in the Pantone Color book.

Opaque Couche finds MBM reaching back to their roots while pushing their patented blend of blips, bleeps and heavy dub rhythms forward into exciting new soundscapes. According to MBM main-man Jack Dangers he chose the title Opaque Couche because it is neither black nor white but a shade somewhere in-between. Perhaps a perfect bit of symbolism for the divided times the world is facing at this moment?

Whatever its meaning Opaque Couche is prime time MBM product and a worthy addition to their sparkling catalog of releases. “Unduction” begins things with some spooky samples setting an ominous tone, a voice recites in a monotone in the background and a brief 90 seconds later second track “Pin Drop” kicks in and you suddenly have that patented MBM sound that only they can deliver.

Meat Beat Manifesto press photo

Meat Beat Manifesto press photo

Maybe it’s because Dangers builds his soundscapes on a bed of samples instead of using drum machines, maybe it’s because they can effortlessly marry heavy Jamaican dub bass lines with electronics or maybe it’s because he is such a visionary talent. No one else has ever really been able to duplicate the MBM sound. Nobody delivers this particular blend of electronica like Dangers does.

And so Opaque Couche (clocking in at around 60 minutes) is a double LP’s worth of vintage MBM which although it may be presented in a rather drab outer package is absolutely slamming when pumping out of a pair of speakers. The album delivers on all fronts offering listeners both ambient soundscapes and thundering dancefloor shakers.

Opaque Couche is their second album release following an eight-year hiatus (brought about partly because Dangers moved his studio to a different Bay area location) and it’s great to report MBM are back sounding fresh and reenergized. The band is hitting the road for some live dates and if possible, you’ll want to catch them touring on this album. Here’s hoping we get plenty more from MBM in the coming years.

ALBUM REVIEW: Band Of Skulls “Love Is All You Love”

Band Of Skulls "Love Is All You Love" cover

Band Of Skulls “Love Is All You Love” cover

Band Of Skulls’ (BoS) crackling good LP Love Is All You Love is the sound of a band reinventing itself, the sound of a band who is unafraid to take chances and push their music forward in new directions. BoS, while not forgetting their past, have their sights set firmly on the future. The possibilities seem endless and exciting. In short, after four really very good albums, BoS may have just made the album of their career.

Spurred by the amicable departure of drummer Matt Haywood remaining members Russell Marsden (guitar/vox) and Emma Richardson (bass/vox) approached the songwriting differently. In their own words they wrote them “As a songwriting duo, which is completely different than as songwriting band”.

Whatever the impetus, whether it was writing as a duo, being forced out of their usual work patterns or the addition of producer Richard X (Pet Shop Boys, New Order) the songs are now tighter and more muscular. Song hooks which have always been present (but in the past may have been buried) are now razor sharp, at the forefront and undeniable.

Just seconds into opening track “Carnivorous” you realize this is not entirely the BoS you are familiar with. A throbbing bass line, Arabesque guitar hook and unashamedly electronic sheen…this is your invitation from the Band of Skulls to join them for a new musical enterprise. When the songs’ chorus drops with its ridiculously catchy panning delay on the word “Carnivorous ….ivorous… ivorous” I’m guessing you may well be all in on the new direction BoS is headed.

“Cool Your Battles” the advance track from the album is of all things a protest song cleverly disguised as a hit single. And the times being what they are a little protest never hurt anything. The band calls this an “Anti- war cry for our turbulent times” and the message is loud and clear. But it’s wrapped up in a shimmering bow of a chorus that does what all really good subversive songs do by getting you to chant along while it plants its message between your ears.

“Sound Of You” is a downright sexy torch song for the 21st century. Putting Richardson’s soulful pleading vocal front and center over a pumping bass line and Marsden’s R&B guitar licks on acid. This is an album highlight to be sure.

As is “We’re Alive” a thundering Glam rocking piece of cotton candy that might well have put a smile on Marc Bolan’s face, its chorus virtually commanding you (“Come On… Come On”) to sing along. This is pop music as it should be, as it could be if more artists were willing to test their limits. Music that is catchy enough to sing along to yet complex enough to make you want to listen to it again and again.

And don’t you just love it when a band you admire surprises you? That is exactly what BoS have done with their newest album. Challenge accepted.

Available Apr. 12 via So Recordings.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”

The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”; cover art

The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”; cover art

The Orb are back with their excellent new album No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds (NSAOOB) released June 22, on Cooking Vinyl Records.

NSAOOB finds The Orb expanding on the minimalist sound of their previous two releases and instead bringing in a host of singers and players to create an album that harkens back to the bands’ earliest days while also managing to sound current and fresh.

Album opener “The End Of The Road” kicks things off with keyboards bubbling away and a thundering bassline all elevated with a fantastic lead vocal by Emma Gillespie…and straight off you know this is a return to the song-oriented structure that have made The Orb dancefloor superstars throughout their long and storied career.

Speaking of bass there is lots of it on NSAOOB and the very next track “I wish I had A pretty Dog” grooves along with a bass line so deep and thundering it would put a smile on King Tubby’s face, as would the trippy dub effects and samples that float along like glitter dropped from the heavens floating in and out of the mix at just the perfect moments.

Legendary former Public Image LTD. bassist Jah Wobble is joined by Roger Eno on the track “Pillow Fight At Shag Mountain”, a groovy instrumental number that might sound just as at home on the second Orb album U.F.ORB (released 1992) as it does here. And why not as Mr. Wobble also made an appearance on that album too. Here he gets the same type of spacey groove going that he is justly famous for while Roger Eno’s keyboards add a shimmer to the rootsy bottom end.

NSAOOB is a decidedly English sounding album, even more noticeable after the excellent but minimalist sound on their last two releases. It is also the most commercially accessible album (and I mean that in the very best way possible) that The Orb have released in years. So, to all the old school Orb fans out there – this is the one you’ve been waiting for, and the one you’ll be hearing on the radio and in the clubs for years. In other words, it’s a classic.

Appearing on No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds:
Youth, Thomas Felhmann. Michael Rendall, Andy Caine, Holly Cook, Emma Gillespie, Gaudi, Rev Eno, Jah Wobble, Guy Pratt, Mary Pearse, Brother Culture, Rihanna

The Orb is Alex Paterson

ALBUM REVIEW: Graveyard “Peace”

GRAVEYARD "Peace" cover art

GRAVEYARD “Peace” cover art

They’re Baaaaaack.

Two years after announcing their breakup Graveyard makes a very welcome return with their new album Peace, which finds the band joined by a new drummer, Oskar Bergenheim, and with a fresh and inspired new take on their heavy “riffs n’ hooks’ sound that finds them adding more soul and songcraft to their music and making Peace a worthy companion to Graveyard’s highwater mark 2012 album Lights Out.

Opening track “It Ain’t Over Yet” makes a statement in both sound and song title, that Graveyard are back with a vengeance. Guitars grind, drums crash, the bass thumps and the vocals wail as they come roaring out of the gate at full speed, letting the world know in just under four minutes, that this band is taking no prisoners and ready to shut up any naysayer that dares to think differently.

One of the best things about Graveyard and what differentiates them from so many of their contemporaries is their ability to blend different musical styles and sounds; Graveyard’s music rewards you with every repeat listen. In other words their albums have legs – and Peace is no exception, finding the band seamlessly blending rock, soul, 60’s acid fuzz and of course a big dash of heavy metal into an infectious musical stew that finds one pressing the repeat button instead of moving on to some other band.

“The Fox” is a perfect example of this diversity as guitarist Jonatan Ramm blasts out a fuzz pedal riff that would feel right at home on some lost 60’s garage rocker. Joakim Nilsson’s soul drenched wailing vocals and a hooky chorus transports the song into the stratosphere before the guitar again takes center stage on the outro. This is one track I can’t wait to hear them perform live.

This is a killer of an album, and a real return to form for Graveyard. If you’re new to the band check out the Peace album. If you’re a longtime fan, you’ll probably bought this on release day.

ALBUM REVIEW: Wooden Shjips “V.”

WOODEN SHJIPS "V." cover art

WOODEN SHJIPS “V.” cover art

V. is Wooden Shjips first new album in five years and it finds the bands’ trademark space rock newly spiked with a heavy dose of warm summer sunshine. Equal parts laid back groove and anxious tension, it delivers the perfect soundtrack for either a summer drive with the top down and your face bathed in sunlight or conversely coming down from a pretty good drug high, alone in your room at 3am and staring at the walls. Somehow this perfect gem of an album works for both scenarios.

Opening track “Eclipse” kicks the album off in fine style that finds the bands’ Hawkwind meets The Velvet Underground sound captured to full effect. Spacey guitars and synths, both heavy with delay and effects, weave in and out of the mix, while thunderous bottom end, cranked out by the bass and drums holds everything together like Super Glue.

“Staring At the Sun” the lead single from the record clocks in at over seven minutes. Now you just have to love a band that releases a seven-minute slab of space-rock calling on influences as diverse as the California psych soul of the Buffalo Springfield and the Teutonic robot rock of krautrockers Neu; and then wraps them all up into a gauzy piece of ear candy suitable to melt brains and open minds everywhere.

Speaking of brain melting…for those of you inclined this is most definitely a record that is going to WOW when listened to with headphones. The mix by Cooper Crain literally bubbles and floats between speakers while never losing its focus. The fat bottom end laid down by rhythm section of Omar Ahsanuddin and Dusty Jermier is rock solid and leaves plenty of room for the synths, guitars and vocals of Nash Whalen and Ripley Johnson to wander on and off center stage for their turn in the spotlight.

With V. (the “V” can also be interpreted as a graphic symbol of a peace sign – surely a comment on the current political and global tensions effecting the world) Wooden Shjips have delivered up all you can ask for from a band back in action after a five-year hiatus. It’s full of everything that fans loved about the band – but now informed with a new artistic growth earned by a half decade of new experiences and sounds infusing the music.

V. is a sure pick as your soundtrack to the hazy crazy summer of 2018, enjoy it.