Album Review: Brainsqueezed - Scarred

S├ębastien Laloue has created a strong batch of tunes on Scarred.
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Brainsqueezed has been compared to the likes of Guns 'n Roses, A Perfect Circle, and Steven Wilson -- lofty company to be sure -- but on the group's second album, Scarred, the group's mastermind, S├ębastien Laloue, has crafted a group of songs that live up to the billing. Influenced by the likes of Queen, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel, Laloue builds upon those mentors' work, creating a sound that is at once both modern and classic. The album opens with the fast, acoustic strumming of "Sailors." One immediately notices the striking, rich quality of vocalist Marcello Vieira's voice. The band

Album Review - Rob Alexander - Being Myself

Rob Alexander delivers a 15-track album that sounds like an old friend musically.
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Rob Alexander has been a busy guy. When not working as a physician anesthesiologist in South Florida, he has been busy crafting well-made pop albums. His first album, 2018's Long Road Coming Home, featured five singles and much praise from critics. Now, he is back with Being Myself, a 15-song collection of well-written tunes that sound like old, familiar friends. Alexander's music is the sort of pop that dominated the charts from the 1970s until the 1990s. His voice bears a strong resemblance to that of Elton John's and, indeed there are three current members of John's touring band on

EP Review - Magical Beasts - Yes, My Love, I Am Reaching

Magical Beasts offer a laid back, richly orchestrated new EP
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On their latest release, Yes, My Love, I Am Reaching, Chicago folk group Magical Beasts have crafted a laid back EP, filled with lush orchestrations and sophisticated lyrics. Led by Nathan Paulus on vocals and guitar, and featuring John Herbst on vocals, banjo and ukulele, and Josh Miller on vocals and bass, the group recruits like-minded Chicago musicians on their recordings, fostering a sense of collaboration. Opening track "Come To Me" begins with some gentle acoustic guitar picking accented by pedal steel courtesy of Ethan Pikas. The song is a duet between Paulus and Katie Stimpson and both singers give

EP Review - Resurrection Fern - Fern

Resurrection Fern delivers an intimate new EP.
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Singer-songwriter, Resurrection Fern, is back with a new EP, simply titled Fern. Like her previous, full-length album, Beyond The Trees, Fern is a community-funded effort. Unlike that full-length release, however, Fern is a more stripped down recording, focusing on the singer's voice and acoustic guitar, making for a more intimate recording, one that feels like the listener is in the room with her. Like many musicians in this era, Fern has taken to the Internet as a main vehicle to spread her music. She has run a twitch.tv channel for the past three years, where fans can watch her give

Erich Mrak - See You In September Video Review

Erich Mrak offers up a video EP for his two new singles
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Toronto hip hop/electronic artist, Erich Mrak, is back with a visual EP of sorts. See You In September is an intense music video that combines two of his songs, "Navigate" and "Riptide." The video features a man seemingly lost in the jungle, in the water, on the ledge of a building, and in the city. He mirrors the lyrics to the songs of that of someone who is confused, trying to find his way, possibly hopeless. The video is not long, but the message is powerful. As "Navigate" fades out, the visuals continue before "Riptide" begins. As for the songs,

Best Albums of 2019

It was another great year for music. Need proof? Start with these albums!
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Was 2019 a good or bad year for music? That is always an easy question for me and it may surprise some friends and readers: every year is a great year for music! I never fail to find albums that capture and inspire me. There is great music all around us and it comes from new and veteran artists every year if you are willing to look for and be found by it. So yes, 2019 was a great year for music and here are just some of the albums - listed alphabetically -- that spent considerable time with me

2019 New (To Me) Musical Discoveries Pt I

Two friends walk into a wine bar where I am introduced to delicious flavors and the delicious sounds of Charlotte Day Wilson and Khruangbin...
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I am frequently asked how I come across so much new music each year and I understand why they do because the vehicles that took my generation to new soundscapes have died in the case of MTV and radically changed as far as radio. And yet, the question also confuses me because most of the time I don't feel like I discover new music so much as it finds me. So how does that happen? Allow me to share my favorite new music discoveries of 2019 - music that was new to me this past year, regardless of when the

2019 New (To Me) Musical Discoveries Pt II

More musical discoveries for 2019: Madison Cunningham, Black Pumas, Michaela Anne, and The Messthetics!
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Wine bars weren't the only way I discovered new music in 2019 (although they might be my favorite method). Other paths to great music include friends, reading, and friends who read. Mark Saleski turned me on to several other new artists this year, two of whom he discovered via the good people who write for venerable roots music magazine No Depression. Mark and I crossed figurative paths and swords at Blogcritics a decade ago. It's an open debate as to which of us is the grumpier man on any given day but he is clearly the older. Our friendship has

Album Review - Chotto Ghetto - WILDFIRE

Chotto Ghetto delivers a challenging, fun concept album on their latest release.
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In their 14 years together, Chotto Ghetto has been compared to the likes of Bad Brains, Faith No More and The Mars Volta. With such a diverse range of influences, it's no surprise that their third (and latest) album, WILDFIRE, is a challenging, yet fun listen that combines numerous different styles and forces the listener to think. WILDFIRE is a concept album about a found black box recording and science experiments gone awry. Several tracks include voiceovers with actors delivering the storyline while some tracks are purely news clips. The record is political and covers topics as wide ranging as

DVD Review - Toto - 40 Tours Around The Sun

Toto celebrates its 40th anniversary in style with a killer concert.
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Toto has experienced a recent resurgence with Weezer's cover of "Africa" making the classic song a hit once again. The band never really went anywhere though. In fact, they have been traveling the globe in celebration of their 40th anniversary. The group filmed a March 2018 show before a capacity crowd at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam and that performance makes up the new DVD Toto - 40 Tours Around The Sun. After some brief footage of the city, the show begins with a moody synth intro before giving way to "Alone," a new song from the band's greatest hits

SDBlu-Ray Review - The Rolling Stones - Bridges To Buenos Aires

The Rolling Stones deliver a memorable show on the Bridges To Babylon Tour
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In April 1998, The Rolling Stones took their Bridges To Babylon tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a series of massive stadium performances. Being the Stones, the band didn't just do one show, but rather five, at the famed River Plate Stadium. The band was in top form, mixing songs from their virtually untouchable back catalog -- including some rare cuts -- with several songs from the then new Bridges To Babylon. Add in a guest appearance by Bob Dylan and it made for a memorable night, a night that, fortunately for Stones fans, was filmed and makes up the

DeepSoul: Jr. Walker & the All-Stars - "Shake and Fingerpop"

Best known for "Shotgun," Jr. Walker & the All-Stars cut several other worthy singles, including this 1965 dance classic.
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Say "Jr. & Walker and the All-Stars," and two songs will immediately leap to mind: "Shotgun," their biggest hit, and the classic "What Does It Take (to Win Your Love)." While the two singles have endured, other tracks have received less attention, none more so than the timeless 1965 single "Shake and Fingerpop." Born Autry DeWalt Mixon Jr. in 1931, the musician earned his nickname courtesy of his stepfather; dubbing the child "Junior," he also allowed his stepson to adopt his surname: Walker. Growing up, Walker heard Louis Jordan's brand of "jump" music, inspiring him to take up the saxophone.

Single Review - Stimuli - "Ripple"

Stimuli mixes classic and modern metal on their single "Ripple".
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California's Bay Area has long been a source of some of the best hard rock and heavy metal produced. The latest of these bands is Stimuli, a power trio consisting of Jimmy Tomahawk on guitar and vocals, Cole Andrew on drums and Tai Hake on bass and Theremin. Stimuli's sound is at once familiar - the group has been compared to the likes of Black Sabbath, Tool, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains - and modern, mixing palm-muted riffs and big guitar solos with dropped tunings. On their single, "Ripple," Tomahawk delivers an Ozzy Osbourne-like vocal over a chunky rhythm. The

CD Review - The Magpie Salute - High Water II

The Magpie Salute offers up another slab of killer, classic rock-influenced tunes.
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The Magpie Salute are back with their second full-length release, High Water II, and, like the name implies, it is a continuation of the sound from the group's debut album, High Water. That's not a bad thing at all when one considers the sound is very reminiscent of that of the Black Crowes - bluesy southern and hard rock trading in equal parts Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Faces, and Steve Marriott - and not a surprise considering three of the band's members, including guitarists Rich Robinson and Marc Ford, were members of the Crowes. The album opens with "Sooner

CD Review - Fastball - The Help Machine

Fastball delivers a modern pop classic with The Help Machine
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For Fastball's seventh album, The Help Machine, the band enlisted some top notch help. Released on the group's 33 1/3 label, it was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos fame and includes guest appearances by Charlie Sexton, Bruce Hughes of Cracker, Wye Oak's Andy Stack, and Gordy Quist and John Chapman from The Band of Heathens. The result is an 11-song collection of smartly crafted pop tunes that straddle the line between classic and modern rock. As usual, Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo share songwriting duties on the album, with Zuniga having seven tracks and Scalzo four. The duo

Blu-ray Review - John & Yoko - Above Us Only Sky

This excellent documentary looks even deeper into this creative period in John Lennon's life.
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The period surrounding John Lennon's second proper solo album, Imagine, was one of the most creative times in his life. Freed from the pressures and expectations of the Beatles, and with his wife Yoko Ono challenging him mentally as well as artistically, it is no wonder he came up with some of his best material. Lennon also had a penchant for filming everything, offering fans an intimate look at his life few other artists of his stature (or any stature, really) would ever allow the public to see. Fans caught a glimpse of these films in the original Imagine movie

Blu-ray Review - Queen + Bejart - Ballet For Life

Six years after his death, Freddie Mercury's dream of bringing ballet to the masses came true.
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In a chance meeting at a recording studio in 1977, Sid Vicious once sneered to Freddie Mercury that he was trying to bring ballet to the masses -- a jab at Mercury's well-known love of the art form and his penchant for wearing ballet-inspired leotards on stage. While the merger between rock and roll and ballet never really happened during either Vicious or Mercury's lifetimes, in 1997, the surviving members of Queen teamed with famed choreographer Morris Bejart for the Ballet For Life, a performance that mixed ballet with the music of Queen and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with fashion by

DeepSoul: The Persuasions - "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother/You've Got a Friend"

Honor original lead singer Jerry Lawson by diving into the eclectic a cappella group's extensive catalog.
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"Still Ain't Got No Band."-- motto of the Persuasions A cappella singing has seen a resurgence in recent years, but the Persuasions set the standard over 50 years ago. The R&B group enjoyed a devoted following, performing with everyone from Frank Zappa to Liza Minnelli. Their rich, gospel-enriched vocals reimagined songs; they would reinterpret tracks rather than simply cover them. Recently the Persuasions lost the heart of the group: Jerry Lawson, the original lead singer, passed away on July 10, 2019. His husky, joyful, and distinct vocal touches enhanced songs including the "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother/You've Got a

CD Review: Cadillac Baby's Bea & Baby Records - The Definitive Collection

A thorough collection of sides from a classic Chicago blues label.
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Chicago has long been known for many things, with the blues being at the forefront. Labels such as Chess and Brunswick come from the Windy City and great artists such as Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy have ties there as well. It wasn't just the larger labels producing great blues and R&B music though. Chicago had a plethora of talent and was a hotbed for many independent labels as well. One of these labels was Bea & Baby Records, led by the larger than life Narvel "Cadillac Baby" Eatmon. From 1959 to 1989, Eatmon's label released a number of classic

Album Review: Outerfield - Pleasant Grove Hotel

Matt Hutson and Gary Schrader's patience pays off with a strong set of songs.
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Matt Hutson and Gary Schrader had been veterans of the Indiana music scene for some time when they met playing in a local church band. The pair realized they had something together and decided to combine forces as Outerfield. The duo enlisted the help of Posies and latter-day Big Star Member Jon Auer, who produced some of the group's sessions, but they were not initially happy with the results. Undeterred, they revisited the material and managed to cobble out a strong album, Pleasant Grove Hotel, in the process. Unsurprisingly, given the Auer connection, the album is rooted in strong song

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