Mike Indest – She’s Gone (One Take Acoustic Demos)

mike-indest-shes-goneRemember the 90’s when 4-track cassette recorders and free time brought out the best in some of our heroes of alt-rock?

Jack Logan, Guided By Voices, Godstar and Palace are some of the pioneers of true DIY indie-rock.

Nowadays, with digital recorders, cheap and good compressors, mics and (God forbid) corrective devices, we seem to be lacking in the inspired sounds of the “get it on tape and call it done” era.

Although Mike Indest doesn’t quite have the nerve to call these songs more than demos, they are moving, honest, inspired and without intention, (just guessing) nostalgic.

I haven’t heard or felt this kind of loose, carefree, fun in an intelligent package since about ’92!

Take a break from the modern polished, masterpiece mentality and check this out!

2016 Independent | Download: mikeindest.bandcamp.com]

And How – SOLO

and-how-soloAnd How has a new “SOLO” album out?

Although And How is already a one-man-band, this album does have the feel of a solo album from an indy rock band’s lead singer.

With very minimal instrumentation and production these songs have nowhere to hide. All of the humanness, subtleties, and detail are uncovered and vividly on display.

Most of the expected chime of electric guitars and background harmonies are on hold, leaving an intimate, quieter, without being precious, kind of album.

These songs question love, faith, ego, afterlife, guilt, friendship, and art with very personal yet universal thoughts and expression.

In the normal And How tradition “SOLO” is FREE to download and listen to on BandCamp.

[2016 Independent | Download: andhow1.bandcamp.com]

Steve Hindalong Sings Out Like Neil Young on Solo Album “The Warbler”

TheWarblerSteve Hindalong is a human who seems to really like other humans. He respects and pays careful attention to their humanness, as well as to his own. This empathetic eye guides the emotional journey of The Warbler. Doubt, resolve, pain, illness, recklessness, joy, grief, comfort, true friendship – these show up all over the album, not as topics but as shared experiences, sung with the authority not of a teacher but of an ordinary practitioner.

As such, most of the songs on The Warbler explore the varieties of friendship in some respect. These range from the frank conversation of fellow religious pilgrims on “Unparalyzed” (But I’m not gonna shut my mind/And I will not close my eyes…Your faith is dark if it makes you cruel), to expressions of deep bonds with spouse and family on “Cloudburst,” “That’s How It’s Gonna Be,” and “For A Lifetime” (So forgive me for being irrational or indiscreet/I’m only gonna love you until my heart won’t beat).

These songs also recognize the need we each have to be a friend to ourselves. This friendship may take the form of self-care and a stand against the unkind voices in our own souls, as on “Outta My Mind” (I’m gonna ride a gondola/To the top of a Swiss mountain/Where the cowbells ring for miles around/I’m gettin’ outta my head before I go outta my mind) or “Lucky And Blessed” (But there comes a time you surely should/Sock that dragon in the eye and say/Hey, there’s room for me in the glorious sky/I won’t be denied/I will not be denied/Gonna flap my wings and fly). Or, it may consist simply in telling our stories as honestly as possible; “Into The Drink” is neither a sermon nor a cautionary tale, but rather an unflinching description of what it’s like to be hell-bent on getting drunk out of one’s senses (Less of a romp than a journey/More of a quest than a lark/I’m goin’ down deep in a hurry/Into the merciful dark…Tonight I’m diving into the drink).

But Hindalong also has a history of writing specific songs for specific friends, and he continues this practice on The Warbler. So, what kind of song do you write when your friend is going blind? Hindalong writes “Jimmy A.,” a song about smoking hand-rolled cigarettes on the roof of an RV and eating sardines from a can while your friend plays guitar. Because that’s what you do when your friend is impossibly ill–you get together and do the good things that friends do together. In “Shellie’s Song,” the grief and helplessness we’ve all felt over a friend’s cancer is broken, briefly, by Christy Byrd’s announcement that Skinny has been just around the corner, shaking his tambourine. It doesn’t feel like a juxtaposition, really; tears to laughter to tears again is the natural progression of living. Sometimes, hope just means the expectation that laughter will come around again.

When it comes to the music itself, The Warbler is a bit like an Alan Parsons Project collection–not in terms of specific sounds used, but in terms of execution. The music ranges from lush singer-songwriter fare to moodier tracks reminiscent of The Choir to (slightly) harder-edged alternative rock. Hindalong is a producer as well as a songwriter, and this is the work of a great producer dedicated to getting the best performances for each song (even though Skinny himself doesn’t take a production credit on the album). While Hindalong writes and sings (like Neil Young, even if not as good) on every track, the other players and instruments have been selected on the basis of their suitability for that particular task, and Hindalong assembles quite the flock of friends for this musical flight (Marc & Christy Byrd, Matt Slocum, The Prayer Chain, Tim Chandler, Lynn Arthur Nichols, and Phil Madeira, amongst others). Of course, Christy Byrd’s vocals ‘steal the show’ every time they show up, which they thankfully do on more than half the songs. The liner notes narrate the album’s journey from studio to studio, detailing who plays what on what and why.

Moreover, both the opening and closing tracks offer ‘fly-on-the-wall’ snippets. “Unparalyzed” opens with Wayne Everett picking out the melody on a music box and commenting on the difficulty of said task, then ends with Hindalong telling a story about Chris Colbert breaking his wrist. “The Antithesis Of Blue” from Shadow Weaver shows up here as a ‘live’ piece, complete with Hindalong practicing a vocal line, checking to make sure engineer Matt Odmark is ready to record, then later calling out solos for Nichols and Jimmy Abegg. With some artists, this inclusion of studio chatter comes across as gimmicky and distracting, but here it sounds like a genuine invitation into the process that delivered the music, as well as into enjoyment of the final product.

The Warbler matches the emotional punch and superb lyricism of Hindalong’s previous solo album, Skinny, and even ups the ante with more musical friends and an expanded musical palette. The music will sound familiar enough to those acquainted with The Choir or The Lost Dogs, but it stands out from those efforts in its use of piano/keys, a brighter and more forward mix, and of course, Steve Hindalong’s voice taking the lead on every track. It’s deep. It’s funny. It’s quotidian. And it’s reassuring in its humanness.

[2016 Galaxy21 Music | Purchase: http://shop.thechoir.net/product-p/cd_1034.htm]

Peter Garrett – A Version of Now

peter-garrett-cover-300x300During the 2002 ‘Capricornia’ tour, Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett announced to his bandmates he was retiring. After many years of being an activist and voice for political and social justice, he had decided to actually seek government office.

He was successfully elected as a representative and held several positions from 2004 through 2013, when he resigned without seeking reelection. His time in office, which included environmental and educational issues, was not without controversies. This can be said of most public servants, but perhaps his previous status as a finger-pointing rock star made him a larger target.

2016. A reflective Garrett is writing his memoir, and during a rush of creativity begins to write songs. One thing led to another and he was in the studio recording A Version Of Now.

First things first. Peter’s voice. It’s an acquired taste, and if you never cared for it, this record won’t change that. I love his distinctive sound myself, and it’s good to hear it ringing just as strong as ever.

Does it sound like a new Midnight Oil record? Not really. Although Oils guitarist Martin Rotsey is on board, the rest of the players are pulled from various Australian bands and bring their own sounds with them. It’s not nearly as layered as the last few Oils albums – it has a simplicity and immediacy to it that strongly lend to the ‘Now’ feel Peter claims he wanted. It has at times a reckless, or better yet, ‘carefree’ sound. It is a rock record, from the loping bass line of ‘Tall Trees’ to the driving beat of ‘Kangaroo Tail’, but not as intense a landscape as a typical Midnight Oil outing. Frequently throughout the album are the background vocals of Peter’s daughters, which is a surprisingly nice touch.

Lyrically, Peter does indeed talk about what ‘Now’ means to him. He talks about his time in politics on ‘I’d Do It Again’:

I didn’t Jump I wasn’t pushed
I went of my own accord to do what I could
I got my hands dirty I had a go
To try and even up the score
I had to leave the show

The refrain of the song repeats unapologetically ‘But if I ever went around I’d do it again’

There are frequent references to his wife, including the love song ‘My Only One.’ Peter seems to be a man reinvigorated, not sitting on past laurels, but ready for the next chapter in his life. He sings of a better world on ‘It Still Matters’ and he often touches on his pride of being Australian, along with several Aussie references that may leave you scratching your head. Take an elevator to ‘that Woolies in the sky’? You can Google it, I suppose.

This record has a vibe to it… it truly seems to have been thrown together quickly to catch a sense of ‘Now’… but that’s a good thing.

Cons? It can be pretty wordy at times, and hard to keep up with, but that’s a small complaint.

Do I recommend the album? Of course. Peter is one of my personal heroes, a man who put his money where his mouth is and came through the other side whole and still determined to ‘breathe and be free.’

I think this record stands as being Peter’s biggest plunge into songwriting, with Midnight Oil’s Rob Hirst being the primary writer for Peter’s voice for years.

Although I like A Version of Now quite a bit, I can’t help feel some excitement that maybe it is leading to a new Midnight Oil record. The band has announced they will tour in 2017, so who knows? Wikipedia ages Peter at 63. Here’s hoping that at least some of us have the same forward-looking zeal and energy at that age… or any age.

Dann Gunn

[2016 Independent | Purchase: petergarrett.com.au ]

And How – Camouflage

AndHow-CamoflagueJust when I started knowing some of the words and was able to sing along to some gems from And How’s Seven, I received a notice that Sean Severson had released another album. I guess that should not come as a surprise since Sean’s M.O. is to release an album every few months.

Before discussing the new record, some of my favorite And How tunes are on Seven, including the melancholy and beautiful “The Caving In” and the perfect song for driving around on one of those introspective rainy days, “Lost On Me.”

Sean gets a lot of play on my computer and iPhone these days since he consistently puts out some well written and well produced albums (and gives them away for free).The fact alone that he isn’t in the fundraising game keeps me engaged in what he’s doing and focused on his art and his vision and not the weird relationships that happen sometimes in the Kickstarter era.

I’ve listened to the new record Camouflage a few times and enjoy it a lot. Stand out tracks for me so far are “Half Way,” and “Day Be New.”

Besides listening for great guitar tones and catchy melodies I think what really draws me in is that Sean sings about things I can relate to. There are few songwriters these days that I can still connect with and Sean always delivers something relatable and challenging.

If you are a fan of The Lemonheads, Toad The Wet Sprocket, The Gin Blossoms, Big Star, Elliot Smith, or you just enjoy great songwriting then head on over to andhow1.bandcamp.com and press play.

Jacob’s Trouble – 25LIVE

JacobsTrouble-25liveHaving discovered “Christian Music” by my aunt’s boyfriend handing over a cassette he’d made me of Daniel Amos’s Horrendous Disc, I had since been on the lookout for anything with the name “Terry Scott Taylor” printed on it.

When I came across this colorful album sporting strange song titles, Rickenbacker guitars and “produced by Terry Taylor,” I quickly snapped it up. The album was called Knock Breathe Shine by a band called Jacob’s Trouble. It blew my young mind with it’s cryptic wording, chime-dripping guitars, melodic vocals, and McCartney style bass playing. I wrote to the band, sent them my latest bedroom recorded mess-ter-piece and continued my obsession with my new favorite album.

About a week later I received a butter and tea-stained letter from Jerry Davison, soon followed by a letter from Mark Blackburn. I became and remained long-distance friends with these guys ever since.

When going backwards in their catalog I was kinda thrown by how blatantly Christian their lyrics were in their first album, Door Into Summer. I was expecting more of the artsy and poetic kinda thing that I was into at the time. The very 60’s sound along with the catchy melodies are what hooked me, at first, to Door. There was something about the straightforwardness of the lyrics that made me uneasy, but in a way that also was a revelation to me. What Door taught me more than anything was to be who you are, express what you believe and let it all ooze out of you for all to see, if they care to look.

25 Live finds the JT boys, Mark Blackburn (guitars and vocals), Steve Atwell (Bass and vocals), and Jerry Davison (Vocals and drums)…well, 25 years later. Obviously they expressed who they were and what they believed when they were all in their mid 20’s because the songs ring the same bell of conviction today. Both Pastor Blackburn and Davison are still very involved in the church and all 3 have kept their musical juices flowing. Steve played bass in a band “Janah”, Mark made 2 solo albums and Jerry had a project called “Sideways 8”.

The live album features Jerry’s son Eric on drums and guitar and Mark’s son Nathan on guitar, mandolin, and pedal steel.

Let’s hope for an album of new songs from these boys in the future!

[2015 Independent | Purchase: jacobstrouble.bandcamp.com]

Deni Gauthier – Passenger

DeniGauthier-PassengersThis review is long over due. I didn’t mean for it to be so delayed, but life got in the way. Which is a bit ironic in that the newest offering from Deni Gauthier, Passenger, is all about life getting in the way… in beautiful ways, in sad ways, and even in tragic ways. Deni says that the music on this album is stripped down compared to past albums, and that is true. But… somehow there are still so many layers to each song. You hear different little things each time you listen. Guitar parts that you didn’t notice before, or drum fills that seem to come from nowhere. You almost feel like you are hearing a different album each time you listen. Or maybe a sequel to the last time you listened. For example, the guitar work in “Hurt Feelings” is particularly beautiful or melancholy depending on how you hear the song at any particular time. Or listen to the… I can’t quite tell.. three or four?… different guitar tones layered on top of each other in “Out of Touch Out of Luck.” Each one brings out a different listening experience depending on which layer you connect with at any given time. If you wonder why people like the 77s and Chris Taylor are taking Deni out on their tours, you should check out this album right now. Stylistically, this is acoustic/folk/americana music, a logical progression from Quiet Town, which itself began to step away from the more pop/rock music of his past work. Of course, with Deni sharing his past grunge rock demo on Instagram (BandCamp next? 🙂 ), we know the dude has a range of musical talents. Speaking of which, I should also note Deni’s talent for adding complex vocals and lyrics to his songs. “Let Me Go” has a moving and fascinating interplay between Deni’s vocal delivery and the clever lyrics. The same can be said about every song on this album. Oh, and “Dad’s Song” is a tear jerker even if you just read the words alone, but the way Deni sings it takes it to the next level. Overall, a highly recommend album for fans of deep, personal acoustic music.

[2016 Independent | Purchase: denigauthier.bandcamp.com]

Infirmities – Paid In Blood

a0190946153_16This has been my favorite Christian Punk release since American Culture eXperiments! 8 tracks of legit Street Punk, played by real Punx, that are doing a real Street Punk ministry, and it all happens in under 8 minutes! Not a bad track on it. “Shadow Of The Cross,” with it’s haunting chorus, is my favorite on here followed by “Brood Of Vipers” and “Infirmities Anthem.” Infirmities could have come out during any period of Punk Rock and held their own. Each track blasts with a huge amount of energy, leaves you wanting more, you’ll play it twice in a row! Glad to hear good bands that are unashamed of their faith in Christ Jesus and want to share his salvation with those that need to hear it! Having finished up a recent tour with HR of Bad Brains and a new album on it’s way anytime, this is a band to keep your eye on, no doubt!

[2015 Sky Burns Black Records | Purchase: infirmities-sbbr.bandcamp.com]

XL and DBD – The Offensive Truth Volume 1 and 2

ot v 1
XL and DBD return with it’s best release to date! Sodom and America is a personal classic for me. I loved the early days of what became Rapcore – it had yet to become THE big thing, ruined by over saturation by the MTV beast. Todd Stevens is one gifted individual, handling the bulk of the instruments on the album: crazy good lead guitar work, massive rhythms, Golden Age Rap flows that remind me of Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube, as well as great vocals and harmonies reminiscent of King’s X and Fishbone. These albums are in line and a step up from the prior XL and DBD albums! Great guest spots from Jesse Sprinkle, Jim Chaffin, Oz Fox, Jimmy Brown, Rex Carroll and more. GET BOTH ALBUMS! Each volume is as good as the other, lyrics are honest and challenging with a few fun songs for good measure. Wide range of subjects covered on here from addiction, to rape, to spiritual warfare, greed, politics, being a man, and really all these things are more linked than most tend to realize. Both albums are focused on Biblical truths. Production is huge! An excellent return, will easily be on my best of 2016 list!
OT v 2
[2016 Independent | Purchase: Volume 1 and/or Volume 2]