Paul Collins Beat – Different Kind of Girl

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An important early figure on the Los Angeles power pop scene, Paul Collins was a key member of two bands that anticipated the “skinny tie band” explosion of the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Nerves and the Beat. Born in New York City, Collins’ father was a civilian who worked with the U.S. military, a job that kept his family on the move, and young Paul spent time in Greece, Vietnam, and Europe before ending up back in Manhattan at the age of 14. After graduating from high school, Collins studied composition at the Julliard School of Music, but listening to AM radio and seeing shows at the Fillmore East had a greater impact on him, and in the early ’70s he moved to California to pursue his musical vision of short, punchy rock songs with copious hooks.

In 1974, Collins met like-minded songwriters Peter Case and Jack Lee, and they formed a pioneering power pop band called the Nerves. Playing fast, ear-catching pop songs while wearing matching pink suits, the Nerves had more than a bit of the street energy that would later manifest in Los Angeles’s early punk movement, and like the punks, the Nerves made their own opportunities when L.A. clubs didn’t know what to make of them. the Nerves booked their own shows, did a nationwide tour of small venues on their own dime, and in 1976 put out a four-song 7″ EP on their own label.
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Tom Russell – East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam

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Simon Holland writes: Tom Russell is a true maverick who along with Dave Alvin is credited with creating the sound that became known as Americana. He now enjoys the kind of acclaim from critics and peers that demands to be taken seriously. Never having been one to take the easy route, however, it’s the late flourish in a career that spans more than 35 years and almost 30 albums that marks him as one of America’s greatest songwiters. His trio of studio albums starting with Love And Fear through Blood And Candle Smoke to Measbi contains some of the most vivid story telling you can hear in song.
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Jacuzzi Boys – Double Vision

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Hardly Art writes: The year, 2007. The Boys, Jacuzzi. Hatched inside a vulture’s nest, Jacuzzi Boys emerged from deep within the Florida wilds, three radioactive chicks cawing for their piece of electric rock pie.

With No Seasons (Florida’s Dying) they freaked their way through the swamps, a psycho stomp of a record, all hallucinations and hand claps. Glazin’ (Hardly Art) found a more polished sound. They installed AC units inside their mobile homes, found a way to turn neon into ice cubes. Now, with their third full-length, the self-titled Jacuzzi Boys, they’re going grand, building limestone monuments to those that boogied before them, while writing hypnotic ear worms by the light of a cigarette. Gone is the swamp-thing snarl. In it’s place, the indestructible cool of the casino slot-jockey with nothing to lose.

Recorded at Key Club Recording Co. in Benton Harbor, Michigan—same as 2011’s Glazin’—the new record takes full advantage of expert engineers Bill Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins’ sonic sandlot, with Kramer in charge of mastering. The end result? A smashing set of tunes as dazzling as a sparkler.

It’s like that movie you once saw. The one with the boy and the girl and the plastic lounger on the beach. “Be My Prism” was the invitation. “Black Gloves” and “Double Vision” the promise. “Dust” was the rising tide. “Rubble,” the dirty uncle. “Hotline” was the lightning storm, and “Ultraglide” was the ending, the part where he drove her home with the windows down.

You remember you liked it.

It stayed with you while you swam alone in your pool that night.
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Califone – Funeral Singers

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Steven Hyden wrote on Pitchfork: A very good and quietly unassuming band with an impressive– but decidedly unflashy– discography, Califone almost dissipated into the ether after the release of 2009’s reliably strong All My Friends are Funeral Singers. The band’s core member Tim Rutili spent almost a year away from Califone, committing his attention to screenwriting, scoring films and TV shows. He shed a few band members during the hiatus, but thankfully not his interest in eventually returning to Califone. He just didn’t want to go back exactly like he had before. For the new Stitches, Rutili hit the road, leaving his familiar environs in Chicago and recording at various locations in the southwestern United States, including Arizona, Texas, and Southern California. He also went back to his roots in home recording, stripping back the dense tangle of rustic instrumentation, electronic atmospherics, and spooky field recordings that distinguished Califone’s past work.
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Joseph Arthur – Currency of Love

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AmericanSongwriter.com wrote: When you’re writing from the perspective of a fictionalized character, it takes quite a journey to nail down a solid story line—let alone enough interesting melodies and compelling lyrics to back it up. That’s the journey that Grammy-nominated alt rock singer Joseph Arthur has been on for the past several years.

During a career that has spanned nine full-length albums and 11 EPs, Arthur has been socking away songs and ideas that weren’t yet ready for listening ears. From that abundance of riches, the Brooklyn-based singer (who is formerly from Ohio) carefully selected and molded his latest record, The Ballad of Boogie Christ.

This single narrative thread is based on what Arthur describes as “a fictionalized character loosely based on my own journey.” And what a journey it’s been. The album is comprised of sessions put to tape in upstate New York, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Minneapolis, thanks to the help of talented session drummer Jim Keltner, composer Paul Cantelon, and a handful of other talented musicians.

While The Ballad of Boogie Christ is being sold under the guise of Psychedelic Soul, there’s more to the album than one simple genre. The opening track (“Currency of Love”) is decidedly orchestral, which gives Arthur the chance to prep listeners for a sensory excursion with his truly exceptional vocal range.

From there, the narrator calls for a muse in “Saint of Impossible Causes.” Following that, the title-track offers a closer look at the character of Boogie Christ (“Christ would be rocking/Christ would be free/He’d say there’s no difference between you and me”) in a soulful production complete with horn solos. Other tracks explore the victory of overcoming addictions (“All the Old Heroes”), while others provide narratives of open-hearted loyalty and solidarity (“It’s Okay to Be Young,” “Famous Friends Along the Coast”).

The Ballad of Boogie Christ weaves beautiful narratives in and out of folksy numbers and rock songs, adding a layered palette of horn solos and soulful back-up singers. In short, there’s a reason why Arthur calls this album one of the “richest” projects he’s worked on during his 17-year career.

Listen to the whole album in one sitting, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled a long journey with the 41-year-old singer—one that leads you from addiction, to recovery, to making amends and affirming friends, and, finally, to the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.
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