Friday, May 6, 2011

Asteroid #4 - Hail To The Clear Figurines

A staple of the Philadelphia psych-rock scene for the last 15 years, Asteroid #4 has struggled to find its place in the worlds over-saturated music scene. Despite an ever changing cast of band members and styles, the group has continued to refine their sound into what they describe as a kaleidoscope of all things psych, kraut-rock, shoe-gaze and folk. The bands core group - vocalist/guitarist Scott Vitt, guitarist Eric Harris and drummer Adam Weaver - began releasing songs in the late 90s and have only improved with each subsequent album. Their sixth full-length, Hail To The Clear Figurines, continues the groups musical evolution and can easily be considered their most accomplished album to date.

Asteroid #4 have a timeless quality to their songs that borrow heavily from the past 50 years of music history, specifically 1990s British alt-rock and 1960s psych-rock. Their last album, These Flowers Of Ours, went overboard trying to earn their 'psychedelic' title with excessively long reverb filled frenzies and cryptic Eastern chanting. Great stuff if your rockin' the ganj, but not so great otherwise. Featuring shorter tracks and a simpler approach to song structure, Figurines has a cleaner 'radio friendly' sound that listeners should find easier to dive into.

The new album is full of fuzzy space-out guitar riffs and dreamy vocal melodies, basically everything we have come to expect from the self proclaimed "philly psychonauts." Figurines starts on a high note with the stomping beat of "Wicked Wire," easily one of the best tracks on the album with its jangly guitars, fuzzy bass and processed vocals. There are pockets of excellence all over the album, from the Byrds inspired "Got Nowhere To Go" to the country-tinged ramble of "The Unknown." My personal favorite is the reverb soaked last track "Ignition Slated for Eight," a perfect collection of hazy guitars and tranquil vocals. Guitarist Scott Vitt's voice has an eerie ability to instantly grab the listener and hold them in a near trance-like state.

They have been releasing albums and touring consistently since the 1990s without much commercial success. While they have a good fan base in the psych-rock underground, Asteroid #4 has yet to show up on most peoples radar. Hopefully these dedicated musicians will soon find the recognition they deserve.

For more on Asteroid #4 visit their Official Site - Myspace - Facebook.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Owen Pallett "Peach, Plum, Pear" (SXSW 2011)

Its been a few weeks since the madness that was SXSW and I've had time to reflect on the experience. It was amazing, exhilarating, mind-blowing and at the same time... terribly exhausting. The late nights and early mornings, in addition to all the hiking, took its toll this year. I hate to say it but I may be getting to old for this shit. Regardless, this was probably the best music festival experience I've had so far this lifetime and I'm honor bound to do it again next year. :)

Owen Pallett performs a cover "Peach, Plum, Pear" at the Flamingo Catina in downtown Austin, Texas.

There were some damn good bands this year. Some I already knew and loved (Black Angels, The Sounds, Telekinesis, Surfer Blood) and some new ones as well (The Joy Formidable, Wild Flag, Chikita Violenta). I haven't sat down and looked it all over but I'm pretty sure I averaged 15 bands a day. Anyway, a large amount of video is up on my YouTube account if anyone is so inclined. Plus the entire NPR showcase at the Parish is streaming on their site.

Telekinesis perform "Please Ask For Help" at the Flamingo Catina in downtown Austin, Texas.

Btw, big thanks goes out to Christie who saved us lots of $$$ by giving us a place to crash and Ryan for the use of his crazy fuel efficient Prius to get there an back.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Avi Buffalo - Self-titled

West coast indie/folk rockers Avi Buffalo are the perfect answer to anyone looking for some breezy summer tunes. On the surface the young group seems like a shallow Shins or Death Cab for Cutie clone, but if you dive below the surface of their 45 minute debut you might be surprised by the depth you find. This is not your typical 'teen angst' breakup record, but a heartfelt and endearing account of all the awkward moments and sexual frustration experienced by a guy in high school. It's a record that has an uncanny way of connecting with its audience on a very personal level, successfully capturing all the mixed emotions that churn up inside everyone at that point in their life.

Avi Buffalo's self-titled debut is a great collection of well written, performed and produced folk rock gems. A feat not easily achieved by seasoned musicians made even more impressive when you consider that most of the band is still in high school. Formed by the talented Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (Avi for short) and a group of high school friends; Rebecca Coleman (keyboard/vocals), Sheridan Riley (drums) and Arin Fazio (bass). An eclectic band drawing inspiration from many sources including west-coast rock, experimental folk and 60s jazz, Avi Buffalo has a stripped down sound that can come off as almost surreal with jangling guitars, minimal drums and spacey reverb sprinkled over duel vocal harmonies.

Every track on the album is worth a listen with my personal favorites being the jazz flavored "Five Little Sluts" and the shimmering "What's It In For?" The playful folk duet "One Last" shows off the bands range as a group and is a definite must listen for fans of breezy indie rock. Keyboardist Rebecca Coleman's angelic voice does a great job of complimenting Isenberg's high-pitched falsetto creating a unique flavor to the record. The dual vocal approach works great for this group as they prove again with the stripped down album closer "Where's Your Dirty Mind."

The slow-burning ballad "Jessica" is another must hear track showcasing some of the most impressive songwriting I've seen this year. "Jessica, why do you always make it so hard," Isenberg sings with frustration, "You know I'm kidding but sometimes I feel like you're all I've got." The engaging lyrics about teenage love and loss hit an emotional depth rarely seen from modern indie rock musicians. "No one can make you lose your faith," he continues, "except for someone who you love." A very deep and personal track wrapped in a fuzzy pop package. Isenberg's wobbly, endearing lyrics and memorable melody could easily put this track into heavy rotation on college radio.

A great debut album with so much potential, this is a group of young but very talented individuals who have a very bright future ahead of them. The group is already touring around the world performing at music festivals such as NXNE and 80/53 as well as opening for Modest Mouse and Blitzen Trapper on several occasions. With every band being advertised as the 'next big thing' I'm glad small bands like Avi Buffalo are still getting the attention they deserve.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pack A.D. - We Kill Computers

The Vancouver garage/rock duo of Becky Black and Maya Miller spent most of 2009 touring the countryside in "The Falcon," their 13-year-old, temperamental tour van. Following the 2008 back-to-back double-punch releases of Tinytype and Funeral Mixtape the pair hit the road on an ambitious nation wide tour. Traveling on their own dime and living off the cash they made from their merch table, the Pack A.D. played a staggering 157 live shows by the end of their journey earning the pair a reputation for explosive, beer-and-sweat-drenched live performances. This is rock music as it's ment to be played: hard, dirty and loud.

The Pack A.D. take the idea of stripped-down guitar/drum rock duos to its extreme, often insisting the only instrument you really need is a kick drum. Their new album, We Kill Computers, was conceived on the road as "a kind of a fuck-you to the digital age," as Miller often says. Recorded live to analog tape in under two weeks the new record perfectly captures the raw, live gig feel that this genre of music is known for. “We went in to our practice space for a couple weeks and started coming up with songs,” Black told Listen Dammit in an interview, “It’s not very scientific. We just kind of jam out until something works.”

Built on a blues-rock foundation, the Pack A.D. are often compared to other guitar/drum groups such as the White Stripes and the Black Keys. Black and Miller have voiced concern with these comparisons before, feeling it stereotypes their music. “Naturally, people are going to find something to compare it to," Black says "it’s not like you invented this music.” With We Kill Computers the duo has tried to distance themselves from these comparisons by moving more toward straight-up garage and punk rock. “We are not a blues band, even though people keep putting us there,” says Miller. “We both love the blues, but we are a garage rock group.” They succeed for the most part as the new album does have more of an indie rock flavor to it, but there is still that hint of blues in their music that proves they will never fully shake the influence.

We Kill Computers is full of hard hitting lyrics and savage guitar licks from the wonderful Becky Black, who's sheer vocal power is the biggest highlight on the record. She delivers passionate, unrestrained vocals that run the gamut between grunge-rock snarls and soothing indie-rock croons. Standout tracks such as "The Big Anvil," "Crazy" and the slow-burning "They Know Me" are great examples of Black's range as a singer and songwriter. Drummer and songwriter Maya Miller does a good job setting the pace for the record with piercing cymbals and improvised rhythms. While not the best drummer in the world, she has a unique touch that compliments the gritty style of music the Pack A.D. are known for.

With their unique mix of bluesy garage rock, Black and Miller are hard hitting rock dynamos on the rise. Their music has a depth to it that can easily make you forget that there is only two people and two instruments. In a world where large over-produced rock groups are a dime-a-dozen, the Pack A.D. prove that sometimes two is plenty.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dead Weather @ the Pageant 4/24/10

After a day of tornado sirens, the Dead Weather energized the audience as they took the stage last weekend at the Pageant in St. Louis, MO. The supergroup is the newest Jack White musical experiment (this time he's on the drums) and brings together past Raconteurs band-mates Dean Fertia and Jack "little Jack" Lawrence. The band is fronted by non-other than Kills singer Alison Mosshart, who White introduced as "The raven-haired beauty from the deep, deep South: Baby Ruthless." Mosshart hypnotized the crowd as she stood on the monitors writhing with the music. "I can take the trouble," she sang before leaning over the crowd and screaming, "I'm 60 feet tall!"

The band ran through a mix of old and new material including new tracks "Jawbreaker," "Blue Blood Blues," "Gasoline" and the amazing "Hustle and Cuss." As great as the show was the true highlights were the few songs were Jack White stepped in front of the drums and picked up a guitar. You could sense the energy rise in the already excited crowd as the string-master cut through a cover of Van Morrison's "You Just Can't Win" from his early years in the band Them. White again took up the guitar during "I Can't Hear You," the second of a scorching three song encore. Mosshart danced around on stage casually smoking a cigarette before jumping into the last song of the night, "Treat Me Like Your Mother."


1. 60 Feet Tall

2. Hang You From the Heavens

3. You Just Can't Win (Them cover)

4. So Far From Your Weapon

5. I Cut Like a Buffalo

6. No Horse

7. Jawbreaker
8. Blue Blood Blues

9. Gasoline

10. Rocking Horse

11. Hustle and Cuss

12. New Pony

13. Will There Be Enough Water?


14. Die by the Drop

15. I Can't Hear You

16. Treat Me Like Your Mother
Thanks to for the set list!

If you are unfamiliar with the Dead Weather I highly recommend you do a little research. This is one amazing group, formed almost by accident during one fateful Kills/Raconteurs show where Mosshart was asked to fill in for a voice-less White on a few songs. The band had its first live performance before even putting out its first single and booked its first tour before releasing its first album. Music critics everywhere have been hailing the Dead Weather as the next 'big thing' for awhile now... so if your not already, its time to jump on the Dead Weather band wagon. Their second album, Sea of Cowards, drops May 11 and I for one will be picking it up the day it's released.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Earl Greyhound - Suspicious Package

Heavy, dark and groovy; these are the three best words to describe the trio of Brooklyn rockers known as Earl Greyhound. After the release of their debut album in 2006, Earl Greyhound has built a reputation for their amazing live shows and they have done a great job of capturing that aesthetic on this record. Frontman Matt Whyte, bassist Kamara Thomas and drummer "Big" Ricc Sheridan embrace both the sound and the style of the 70s. With influences including Led Zeppelin, Heart and Pink Floyd this band simply oozes the 'classic rock' vibe.

Decked out in vintage apparel Whyte has the lanky, long haired look straight out of Woodstock while Thomas sports an impressive old-school afro. Throw in Sheridan's staple sleeve-less denim shirts and you could imagine this trio of classic rockers were misplaced in history. This group isn't all style and no substance thou, with instruments in hand they have a timeless quality to their music that rocks just as much now as it did in the 70s.

On their sophomore album, Suspicious Package, the group delivers a mix of Detroit power rock, bluesy hard rock and old-fashioned soul in a tight 40 min package. Album opener "The Eyes of Cassandra (Parts 1 and 2)" starts out slowly with Thomas' cool vocals before spinning off into a six-and-a-half-minute psychedelic romp. There is a definite early-Floyd vibe flowing through the first part of the album that walks a fine line between influence and imitation.

The two standout tracks on the album have to be "Shotgun" and "Holy Immortality." Both tracks show off the great vocal talent Thomas and Whyte are capable of. There is also a level of garage-band recording value at work here that gives the album a great 'live gig' feel. It's easy to imagine the trio recording in an rundown shed as you listen to the screaming guitar riffs, driving drum lines and blues tinted lyric. I can almost feel the vibration of the bass during the first few chords of "Shotgun" as if I were in the room with them... and I love it!

The rest of the album isn't too shabby either and holds plenty of musical gems to peak any classic/hard rock enthusiasts' interest. The bluesy "Oye Yaya" and "Ghost and the Witness" both immediately jump to mind as must-hear songs. The haunting "Out of Air" is another track I find myself landing on frequently. "Flood won't let it fall, Sea's too deep for wrecking ball," Whyte sings, "I'm almost out of air, Can I start again?" The writing on Suspicious Package is top notch with plenty of variety and invention that requires multiple listens to really appreciate. Overall a very strong album from a band I'm sure will be on many 'best of 2010' lists later in the year.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Cassette Player" Photoshop Illustration

In the spirit of semi-vintage rock and my childhood spent creating mixed-tapes, I present what I'm calling "Cassette Player." Created in Photoshop over the course of one day, this piece is in homage to artist Scott Hansen and his piece "Tablet Space." No real deep meaning other than some practice in digital art and Photoshop techniques.