Category: Album Reviews, New Music

Album Review: Caleb Caudle – Paint Another Layer on My Heart

Caleb Caudle‘s “Paint Another Layer On My Heart” does what I believe to be Caleb‘s best quality as a songwriter; tells a story. Each track on this album vividly “paints” a picture of the meaning behind the songs and the lyrics leave little room for questions or second-guessing. The only thing this album really leaves room for is a place to insert your own life experiences and emotions and watch how every song can relate to each one of us; it’s amazing, sad, beautiful, and heart-breaking.

The 10-track, sophomore album from Caudle, has a glaring underlying theme that rattles true within the state of touring musicians today: The hardships of life on the road. Caudle doesn’t leave room for guessing. These songs are full of lyrics about missing your loved ones, not being home for the holidays and frankly, having to face your own demons and misery on your own, without anyone else to blame or make excuses. It’s not all puppies and rainbows, it’s real life music but somehow Caudle has figured out how to make it sound beautiful.

Caudle was able to corral some other great musicians within the “alt country family” to assist in the instrumentation and backing vocals on “Paint Another Layer on Heart”; Whit Wright of American Aquarium (pedal steel) and Lydia Loveless (vocals). Loveless wastes no time in making her presence known and solidifies her spot on the album with her harmonies on the very first track “How’d You Learn”. On the track “Another Night”, which is a personal favorite of mine, Wright’s pedal steel screams through the shadows while Caudle‘s bellows lines such as “I make up excuses, and I feel less useless, try not to scratch on the 8.” Woah. I’ll give you a second to let the goose bumps subside and your eyes to dry up… Although I had a really tough time choosing my favorite track on the album, it was between “Come on October” and “Trade All The Lights”, I had to go with the latter; it’s full of emotion, desire, want, despair and it also perfectly blends the backing vocals of Loveless and the sweet, soft riffs of Wright’s pedal steel with Caudle‘s descriptive lyrics to create a beautiful song that will remain one of my favorites of 2014.

Paint Another Layer on My Heart, which was released by This is American Music (T.I.A.M), is a great nod to the more classic country/singer-songwriters of our times. Caleb‘s Caudle approach of painting glowing pictures through each song, writing honest, real, relatable lyrics is refreshing and inspiring; I can’t recommend this album enough. Do yourself a favor; get the album, catch a live show (he tours like a man running from the law), and see why “Paint Another Layer On My Heart” has received a spot on my “best of 2014” list.

You can find the record on iTunes or at thisisamericanmusic.com.

Review: They Want My Soul by Spoon

Let’s just get this out of the way, I LOVE this album. This is my favorite album of the year, without a doubt. If you know me, you know sometimes I deep dive into an album and it’s all I listen to for months at a time. Notable examples of this are most Radiohead albums, Honeycomb by Frank Black and The Monitor by Titus Andronicus. It’s not healthy, and I realize that. But it happens.

It’s happening right now.

Spoon has always been a band that would come on random and I’d immediately wonder who they were, and why I wasn’t listening to them all the time. And for a while there about 4 years ago, I did. I devoured their back catalog while enjoying their 2010 release, Transference. I liked Spoon. I never loved them.

I think I do now. This album hit right as I was ready for something new. Every few months I sample the Metacritc best albums of the year, looking for new things. After about 10 albums, I had almost written this year off as one where nothing blows me away. I’m still listening to last year’s stuff, to be honest. But that’s no good. I need some new. I can’t come on here and talk about how that Vampire Weekend album remains incredible. Oh hell, I just did. Anyways, Spoon.

They Want My Soul starts catchy with “Rent I Pay”. A great riff and that jangliness typical of Spoon, but there’s a harder edge here. There’s some grit.

But then, a staccato piano riff over a slower song that is nothing short of beautiful. Here they are performing Inside Out on Jimmy Fallon backstage with just a piano. I’ve watched this ten times.

From there, it continues. My favorite track is #3, Rainy Taxi. If you want a song to define the band, to me it’s probably this one. It doesn’t sound like the sing-songy early days, or an older band who’s trying to hard. Rainy Taxi sounds like a band who is confident in their sound and place in the world.

The rest of the album equals this. I get a little tired of some of the repetition of Knock Knock Knock and Do You, and the last song New York Kiss sounds like they are saying “New York Kicks” to me, which in some ways would be better. But Outlier and the title track, They Want My Soul, are peerless.

That’s the kind of music I need to obsess over, if I’m going to do it. That’s the kind of thing I don’t mind burying my ears in. Listen to the new Spoon. You’ll be better for it.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2014… SO FAR

We are nearly half way through the year 2014 and it’s time to share my favorite albums of the year thus far. We’ve seen some pretty big releases this year and I have few I think you, my dear reader, should be spending some time with. I could mention a few more that I like but these are the five albums I’ve been spinning non-stop since they came out.

Enough with the so and so, here’s my favorite albums of the year so far.

MAC DEMARCO :: SALAD DAYS

salad days

In 2012, Mac Demarco burst onto the indie music scene with his brand of sleazy guitar pop music. He release two albums that year and played a very long tour that bled into the year 2013. On his latest release Salad Days, Mac didn’t stray too far from his core sound although he did add some shimmering synthesizers for an extra layer of texture. This album is easily my favorite of the year so far. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this one and Mac delivered. I was able to see him and his band of fantastic musicians perform at The Goat Farm in Atlanta earlier this year, if you have a chance to catch Mac Demarco please do it. Not only is he a great songwriter and musician, he and the boys will blow your socks right off playing live rock and roll music.

REAL ESTATE :: ATLAS

realestate_atlas

In the modern era of music when bands go, what some people might consider, “too long” with out a release, the listener or general fan will grow impatient and sometimes seem to lose interest. It’s almost an unspoken rule that you have put out some sort of music (whether it be a new single, remix, b-side, or other) during the years between albums or people start asking “What happened to (insert band name)?” Real Estate released Atlas three years after there hit 2011 release Days, and for this fan, that was a perfect amount of time between recordings. The guys utilized Wilco Loft studio in Chicago to work on this record which may be their best album to date. Atlas picks up where Days left off but this record finds lead writer Martin Courtney tackling more current affairs rather then discussing the topic of nostalgia and old times. Real Estate is establishing themselves as one of the most important bands in modern music and this record is a perfect example of their staying power. Real Estate makes music good for any time of year. I heard Katy Goodman (La Sera, and formerly Vivan Girls) say recently, “It would be a wonderful music to listen to on almost any occasion…being at home, eating breakfast, or going to bed or driving in your car. Pretty much any situation will be better with this music playing”. So. True. (GOOD NEWS FOR BHAM RESIDENTS: Real Estate will be playing at Bottletree Cafe on 9/21! Get a ticket and vibe with me!)

THE WAR ON DRUGS :: LOST IN THE DREAM

lost in the dream

Americana is one of my least favorite genres of music. I’ve seen other writers and critics label The War on Drugs as a “modern Americana” band but I disagree wholeheartedly. Although their music has some dreamy elements and perhaps a more folksy approach, TWOD is a rock and roll band. Their latest album Lost in The Dream will be on several “end of year” lists this year and for good reason. This is just a great album all the way around. It’s a refreshing dip into the pool of new rock music. The production and instrumentation is near flawless and the lyrics are intentional and beautiful. “I’m a bit run down here at the moment,” from the song Eyes to the Wind, is one of my favorite lines from any song that I’ve heard this year. I’m just fully in love with this album. TWOD should absolutely be in the discussion with larger indie rock bands like The Arcade Fire and Wilco and after this release, I believe they will be.

DAMON ALBARN :: EVERYDAY ROBOTS

everyday robots

Damon Albarn has had quite a journey as a musician and producer. You may know him from his work with Blur, Gorilllaz, and the under-appreciated The Good, The Bad, & The Queen. This year Damon released his very first solo album Everyday Robots. He’s currently playing the major festival circuit with his band “The Heavy Seas”. Lyrically the album might come across as the complaining of an older person who just doesn’t get modern life, but Damon’s calling us all out about our obsession with technology and our need to constantly stay connected. I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the theme of this album and we both came to the conclusion that Damon is calling us on our shit and he’s totally right to do it. He also approaches some more tender subject matter on his own struggle with addiction and fame. Musically, the album is structured almost like a folk record but uses various instruments like synthesizers, samples, and vocal modulation to give the whole thing more layers. The thing that got me so hooked on Everyday Robots is the time signatures and percussion. Reminds me a lot of The Good, The Bad, & The Queen in the best of ways. This record is a must have for the year.

PALO ALTO SOUNDTRACK :: VARIOUS ARTISTS

palo alto

“Palo Alto” is the indie film version of a collection of short stories written by actor James Franco. The stories are loosely based around James’ own life growing up in suburban Southern California. The film is the directorial debut of Gia Coppola. If you recognize the last name it’s because she’s Sofia’s niece and Francis Ford’s granddaughter. The film itself is largely scored by Devonte Hynes (Blood Orange) but there are also some additional tracks by Gia’s cousin and Rooney frontman Robert Schwartzman. Gia’s other cousin Jason Schwartzman (Coconut Records and Max from Rushmore) also contributes a track. Although I’ve never actually seen this movie (shoutout to Birmingham’s lack of indie movie houses), I can really get an idea for the flow of the movie with this soundtrack and  the songs chosen feel like they are a perfect fit for the movie. The songs are angsty and modern but emotional. Even your boy Mac Demarco contributed his homage to smoking cigarettes, his song “Viceroy”, to the album, which is a song all angsty teenagers should relate to. Also, Devonte Hynes is probably the future genius songwriter/producer we need in the world of music right now so you should really pay attention.

 

Album Review: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Dereconstructed

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Nowadays, it seems pretty easy to reduce Southern culture to a few reality TV stars with beards and a duck call business. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are here to remind the world about the complexity and vitality of this

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blessed patch of dirt.

On their previous album, There Is a Bomb In Gilead, the band cautiously belted out a fine mix of country, southern rock, and soul music. Dereconstructed is their first album for the venerable Sub Pop label,and builds on the successes of their first record while backing them up with increased confidence and volume.

Lead off single and album opener, “The Company Man” serves as a statement of intent and an introduction to the current, road-tested lineup of The Glory Fires. The ragged opening riff propels the song forward into an onslaught of guitars pushed into the red by Bains and new addition, Eric Wallace. It’s a classic Southern Rock anthem that’s built to be catchy, but offers surprising

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lyrical depth. Lee has a knack for examining social issue particular to the South. The title track turns the fire and brimstone of a Southern Baptist preacher on its head and begins to spell out a new way of thinking for a generation of Southerners that are smart, tolerant, and equal.

The thematically related, “The Kudzu and The Concrete” and “The Weeds Downtown” take a

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look at living in the a post white flight Birmingham. Both songs touch on the realities of growing up at the foot of a bustling Southern city, but also identifying with your country roots. “The Weeds Downtown” in particular is an anthem for the revitalization and rebranding of downtown Birmingham. Where our parents generation saw danger, Bains and the rest of us see opportunity.

The second side of the record sees the band continuing in the politically minded vein of the first side with the one-two punch of “We Dare Defend Our Rights!”, and “Flags”. In previous generations, Alabama’s state motto was used as a symbol for defending the racist status quo, but Baines takes a look at the motto and turns it around by making it a rallying cry for a new generation of proud, progressive citizens.

To finish up the record, Bains delivers what I think is the best song of the album. “Dirt Track”, like all great southern food and art, works on several levels. The song relates Alabama’s history in stock car racing to DIY punk rock; the dirt track of the music business. The song’s late break and triumphant finish offers a capstone for the record, bringing everything full circle.

Bains and Co. offer the next logical step beyond the storytelling of bands like the Drive By Truckers, by getting down into the nitty gritty of living in a rapidly evolving South. There’s a sense of wrestling and reckoning with our shared past, but an unending faith and hope in our shared future. Dereconstructed offers an alternative to the duck call Disney World South that’s presented on TV and gives an authentic look into being an intelligent, proud southerner.

Seagulls – “The Royal We” Album Review

seagulls

Gravelly vocals, screaming choruses, loud fuzzy guitars, loads of energy and of course, melodies, all these things are what make punk rock great; Seagulls, out of Atlanta, can check yes to all those requirements with their latest EP: ‘The Royal We’ released thru Autumn + Color.

The Royal We’ consisting of 5 tracks, packs a punch right out of

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the gate and never looks back. It does what you expect a punk record to do; it comes at you hard and fast, track after track, leaving you in a cloud of chaos while searching for repeat so you can listen again. Their lead vocalist, Steve-Dave Johnson, almost has a “roar” to his voice when he sings the lyrics to their songs. Either Johnson is a damn good actor or he’s just plain real because his voice, these tracks, ooze passion,

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desire, and candor on a level that will make you respect the band regardless of if you’re fan of their style of music or not.

I was fortunate enough to catch a live show a few months back; take the energy and passion you hear on the album, mix in some whiskey and sweat, turn the volume knob to 11 and back up! The in-your-face delivery, the screaming, infectious, melodic lyrics accompanied with the pounding drums, lead bass and dual-guitar attack, will make even the dullest of people start tapping their feet; you just can’t help it! Oh, word of advice, be prepared for Billy Duncan to come at you like a FN tornado armed with a guitar during any song; hold your beers high. Go Grab this EP (it’s got a song called “Darryl Strawberry Fields Forever” for god’s sake), find a show, and go check these “Jabroni’s” out; you’ll be happy you did!

Track listing:

 

  1. The Implication
  2. Darryl Strawberry Fields Forever
  3. Close One
  4. F.F.M
  5. Santa’s Little Helper

 

(Similar to: Red City Radio and Nothington with hints of Off with Their Heads and I am the Avalanche)

Album Review/Interview: JOSH NOLAN

3Rising from a small, blue collar town, buried in the Appalachain Mountains, lies Kentucky’s answer to the New Jersey sound that time forgot; Fair City Lights by Josh Nolan. Nolan’s album is a refreshing, much needed nod, to the early rock and roll sounds of singer/songwriters from the likes of Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. ‘The Boss’ will obviously be the first thing you’re reminded of when you listen to the album but it’s has so many more layers than that; dig in and find out for yourself… I fully expect it to be included on a whole lotta “best of 2014” list; I know it will remain on mine.
The album,  “Fair City Lights,” kicks off with a track titled “Do it Right.” It’s a great opening song because it adequately shows off what Nolan is brining to the table but only through subtle hints. Therefore you can’t fully grasp his brilliance until you listen to the entire album (the tracks are perfectly placed like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle). Coming out of the gate with his boots on tight and head on straight Nolan masterfully weaves between country ballad type tunes such as; East Kentucky Skyline, Brave Heart Too, and Do it Right into more rock n roll, gritty tracks such as; Lulbegrud Revival (Golden Age), When I was Young, and Waiting on the Night like a horse racing for the finish line at the Kentucky Derby. The closing track on the record, Between the Lights, starts out with a somber fiddle and ends with a fasted paced lyrical delivery in which Nolan is all but literally thanking his influences. This isn’t just my favorite track on the album; it’s is the perfect track to close out this beautifully crafted, debut album from Kentucky’s own Josh Nolan.
Bottom-line: The album is great; an instant classic. It’s also a perfect soundtrack for driving around with the windows down and singing along “to the voices on the radio.” Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy of this album; you won’t regret it.
FCL4
I was fortunate enough to pick Josh Nolan and pick his brain a little about the album. Not only is the album fantastic, Josh is a great dude and once you meet him, you’ll love his music even more….
 
BHAMFM: There’s not a whole lot to the cover art, it’s pretty simple, any special reason?
JN: The font on the cover is my mothers handwriting. Mom used to get paid to write peoples wedding invitations. When I tried to write the title it just looked like someone dropped a tackle box on a scratch-off ticket. So basically, someone’s Save-the-Date looks a lot like my first record.
 
BHAMFM: So you write like a 4yr old, noted. I’ve heard through the grapevine (if that grapevine has a lot of hair, tattoos, and also plays in a Lexington, Ky based band) that you played most, if not all, of the instruments on this album. True of false?
JN: I didn’t play the horns on the fiddle and on “Waiting on the Night” my sister played the drums but other than that I can be blamed for the rest!  Starlit Lorentzen (Flickertail Holler) played the fiddle on “Between the Lights. She listened to the song a few times, I gave her the melody and let her play it. I’d point out what I liked and where I liked it. We’d cut and paste, so to speak. The finished product ended up being, essentially, four sections of a solid take; I don’t think it took much more than an hour and that was the first the actual time she had even played the song.
 
BHAMFM: Wow. Well nice work, my friend. Gimme two random facts about the album. 3,2,1 GO!
JN: I wrote all but the first verse and chorus of “Til the World Runs Out” the night before I did the vocal tracks. “Brave Heart, too” was a working title I had given a riff I wrote on the clock while working at guitar center; only then it was Brave Heart II. I finished the music, which was a completely different vibe, and wrote the lyrics; starting with that stupid pun. The lyrics ended up being not so Dude Ranch era Blink and I flipped the music around and rearranged it to let the narrative be the foreground. I had the idea for the accordion intro when I was in the studio; I had initially planned for that to be an organ.
 
BHAMFM: Well the album is one of my favorites of the years. I look forward to much more outta you in the future! One last question; Do you still work at guitar center?
JN: Liquor store
BHAMFM: Like a boss.
 
Links:
 
 
Track Listing:
 
  1. Do it Right
  2. Waitin’ On the Night
  3. Come Mornin’
  4. Brave Heart, Too
  5. When I Was Young
  6. East Ky Skyline
  7. Lulbegrud Revival (Golden Age)
  8. ‘Til the World Runs Out
  9. Between the Lights

Album Review :: Those Crosstown Rivals – Hell and Back

Those Crosstown Rivals prove Rock n Roll is still very much alive with the new album “Hell and Back”

TCR3

Pumping fists, loud drums, squealing guitars, cold beer, stale smoke, blood, sweat, and tears. Not only does that describe the atmosphere of the last time I saw Those Crosstown Rivals (TCR) play a live show, it’s all the things that make Rock n Roll great. Add hard working, determined, passionate, and talented to the word bank; and you have all the right ingredients needed to make a REAL rock n roll band. Well, Those Crosstown Rivals have successfully met all of those credentials and their new album, Hell and Back, is proof that rock n roll will never die.

First and foremost, Hell and Back successfully does what a lot of records have trouble doing; it harnesses the energy, passion, and emotion of a live performance and seamlessly translates that through this album. It will only take you 35 seconds (check me, I tested it) into this album before you have to make a decision: One, play it safe and just stick to listening to your local “rock” stations, or buckle up and get ready for a ride through the southern streets of Kentucky at 200mph; leaving nothing behind but fire and smoke. TCR wastes no time in making it very clear what they’re bringing to the table on this album with the title trackHell and Back. Imagine a boxing match; round one, bell rings, gloves touch, BAM! Right outta the gate you get hit with a left/ right combo that leaves yours face numb and your ears ringing; you now know you’re in for one helluva fight. Oh, did I mention that your opponent is the devil? “The Devil stood before me, snarling, bloody grin, I said you picked you picked a fight, you ain’t gonna win. I’ll go to hell when the whiskey drowns me and I stop living fast, I’ll go when Kentucky sends me so you can kiss my ass.” Boom. Lights out, Lucifer; you just got knocked the f**ck out! This track isn’t about fighting with your demons or anything like that though, this is song is about fighting for your family, your loved ones, they’re lives. This track, like a handful of other TCR tracks (new and old) was written by Erica Minks, Bryan’s wife. Erica was literally fighting for her life most of last year during the making of the album. These lyrics are more than just words; they are the battle cry of someone refusing to give in, refusing to quit, and eventually coming out on top. You think these boys are tough? I wouldn’t bet against Erica either; she’s already proven you’ll lose.

This album, consisting of 8 tracks, is a beast of a rock n roll record from start to finish. Fast-paced, heavy, bass riffs lay the foundation for this rowdy album, while the drums hit with so much force you can feel it in your chest and the loud, squealing, decibel-busting guitars riffs perfectly weave in and out of the tracks like a man-possessed and running from the law. Technically speaking, this album is broken up into two sides: The first four songs show the fear of the unknown; when the sun comes up, are things going to be forever changed? Your nervous, anxious and angry; hanging by a thread not knowing what tomorrow brings and you refusing to accept anything different. The Ugly Side may be the most heartfelt, emotional song on this album. Look past the fuzzy, screaming guitars, and the deadly, piercing drums, and take a real hard listen to the lyrics; they are haunting, horrific, emotional, and beautiful. “I kissed your lips, before they took you away, looked you in the eyes but couldn’t find the words to say. I’ve never felt so alone laying in a hospital floor, covered in your blood, I can’t take this shit no more.” That’s pure emotion, pure heartbreak, because it’s real; TCR isn’t afraid to show there vulnerabilities, their real sides, I hope you’re prepared.

The second half of this album is more about remaining positive and acknowledging the fact that some things will never change; you just have to accept the facts, learn to deal, remain optimistic and continue living your life; “I live this day, I live it just for you, just to get by and to get on through” (Look at Me). You can’t forget to enjoy life either, whether it’s reminiscing about past memories like in The Diary“I’ve got a Lucero record spinning on my mind, the one we fell in love to on those summer nights” or reiterating your feelings to the one you love like in the pedal steel driven ballad The Rain: “You know there ain’t no times like the good times. When it rains it rains for a while but leave me here today with one thing, just leave me here today with your smile.” Damn boys. Underneath all the hair, beards, tattoos, scars, and sweat-drenched clothing lies a heart; a big one at that. Who knew!? The final track on this album, Blood, Sweat and Tears, is a rock n roll anthem of sorts that I challenge you not to like. On a record where the track listing is laid out like chapters of a book, Blood, Sweat and Tears is the perfect conclusion. It’s a foot-stomping, fist-pounding tune that will leave you singing the chorus on repeat in your head after the first listen. It’s pure unabashed rock n roll at its finest.

This album isn’t very long, it only consist of 8 tracks but those 8 track mesh together so perfectly it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Those Crosstown Rivals accomplished exactly what they set out to do with this album; play damn good, loud, wild, southern, rock n roll. Don’t be surprised when after the album ends, you catch yourself starting it right back over from the beginning; it’s that good and deserves its own place in any rock n roll or punk rock fan’s collection. Want to know how they were able to bring the heat to this album similar to the intensity of their live shows? All the instrumentation except for a couple leads, keys, and pedal steel were recorded live, in a room, with just the four of them present; every song was recorded in 1-3 takes. This album is definitely on my radar for a best of list of 2014; only one question remains for the boys from Kentucky, “Where we going from here?”

Those Crosstown Rivals are: Bryan Minks (guitar/vox) Cory Hanks (bass) Nick Walters (guitar) and TJ Taylor (drums). However, one person who doesn’t get enough credit for their part in this band (and putting up with this gang of misfits) is Erica Minks. As I said previously, Erica is responsible for writing a handful of the songs TCR has published. Grab a digital copy of Hell and Back now from any of the following and pre-order the album today!

Bandcamp – http://thosecrosstownrivals.bandcamp.com/album/hell-and-back

Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hell-and-back/id827721851

Track Listing:
Hell and Back
The Ugly Side
Six Strings
Be a Man
The Diary (90 mph)
The Rain
Look At Me
Blood Sweat and Tears