Gap Dream’s Shine Your Light album review

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Gabriel Fulvimar a.k.a Gap Dream was invited to live at Burger Records, an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Fellow Burger Record star Bobby Harlow came in to help record and produce the new album, and it’s a synthy, sexy dream of an album. The new album hits harder than Gap Dream’s previous work, drum machine right up front giving an industrial and harder hitting sound that comes closer to his live show. It’s the perfect balance of a gritty modern aesthetic and chill psychpop. Title song “Shine Your Light” has an epic feel to it, and the video’s film production quality and matter only add to that feeling. “Fantastic Sam” has the perfect flat vocal delivery that brings an edge to the synthloaded beats. The whole album is pretty midtempo, and while I wish maybe some songs were a little sped up, the mellow sound lets more interesting effects come into play so it works itself out. The 60’s sounding reverb drenched “Immediate Life Sentence” brings a great layer of fuzz and Galaga sounding laser noises while “Shine Your Love” has a synthy horn melody reminiscent of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. It’s like the garage rock version of The Neverending Story score.

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Green Day’s Kerplunk! is the album I’m most thankful for.

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The Westword asked me to write about the album I’m most thankful for, and it was a no-brainer. This album started my obsession with finding new bands, and the reason I created the blog in the first place.

Read it here: Album I’m most thankful for is Green Day Kerplunk!

Mike Donovan new album Wot is clean and strong.

large_donovan_mike photo by John Dwyer

Mike Donovan sounds like a city punk who went to the country and found out he fits right in. Former member of the grittier Sic Alps, he shows himself to be an extremely capable singer/songwriter with this solo effort. The single “Do Do Ya” has such a great guitar twang background slinking up the half step melody, sounding like early Rolling Stones honky tonk. His soft, almost muted at times guitar tone is gorgeous on opening track “New Fieldhand Bop” as he strums just ahead of the beat, sliding each note into place and giving the whole thing some sass.

The tempo of “Fly Them Yourself” drags too slow for my taste, but the energy is high on most tracks, “Sic Ballad” having a soulful “Hey Joe” reminiscent verse; electric guitar sounding just properly dirty enough. The spaghetti western horns and slide guitar of “Sexual Reassignment Surgery Blues” gives serious credence to a song that could be seen as novelty. “MP3 Farm” has a forceful downward strummed rhythm that begs for getting down, and a simple acoustic major key solo. Overall, it’s a really well produced album, he can write beautiful songs, and he sounds good singing them.

Mike Donovan “Do Do Ya” video

Band of the Day – The Spyrals

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Hypnotic garage bands from San Francisco absolutely do it for me. The Spyrals have risen above the rest with a more classic approach, tight drumming and dizzy guitar riffs. This trio is jangly, fuzzy, trippy, and lead singer Jeff Lewis has a great commanding presence and a perfect rock star voice, he can cry without whining the way Neil Young sings. Their album they released this summer, “Out of Sight”, is a great collection of tight, Bay Area sounding rock and roll. I know it’s a cheap cop out to say a band sounds like another, but these guys really do the early Rolling Stones sound well. Opener “Need Your Fire” sounds like it should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie, while “Such A Pain” makes you shimmy with the heavy use of tambourine and delicate repeated guitar riffs. The title track is exactly what you would think a San Francisco garage rock band would sound like, man they nail this sound.

Most of the songs clock in under three minutes, making this album very economical and great for running errands, you never have to sit in the parking lot for eleven more minutes til the song ends like you do with the Grateful Dead. While they have psychedelic tendencies live, at the end of the day this is a tight, concise garage rock band that needs to be played on everyone’s radio. The bassist Dylan Edrich has done time with Thee Oh Sees and Mikal Cronin, so fans of those should check these guys out. Future looks jangly and bright for these guys.

Listen to the album at their bandcamp: The Spyrals “Out of Sight”

Crocodiles – “Crimes of Passion” – ALBUM REVIEW

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Crocodiles are great at mixing the beauty of simple pop melodies with the chaos of distortion and fuzz without the music even missing a beat, and their latest release “Crimes of Passion” is even more than I hoped for. “I Like it in the Dark” immediately makes the album takeoff, a funky piano line dropping down into the verse while a tambourine frantically keeps the beat until a ripping guitar solo takes over. Everything is well thought out here and flows perfectly, the whole album is a perfect package. Crocodiles are a well edited garage band, all fat is trimmed and they can really just fall right into a chaotic freakout and pull it right back into the melody like it’s nothing.

Their San Diego roots are very evident, especially in songs like “Teardrop Guitar”, filled with melodic California sounding jangly guitar riffs and dreamy, layered vocals. “Cockroach” brings even more organ to the front, really giving the song that great swirling sound I love in psych music. This album is short and sweet, when I got to the end I was actually surprised it was already over, and already yearning their next album. This band has been steadily gaining steam over the years with consistently great recordings, and I think this album might just put them over the top. Thank you, Crocodiles!

Listen to “Teardrop Guitar” here: “Teardrop Guitar” soundcloud

Superhuman Happiness – Band to Watch

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Their last release “Hands” by Superhuman Happiness starts with what else – hands. “Our Favorite Part” begins with syncopated layers of handclaps, and by the time the vocals come in, the party has started. These guys made a name for themselves playing energetic Brooklyn dance parties, and the vibe is still the same, just on a more grand scale now. They grew a reputation touring with Rubblebucket and Marco Benevento, signed with The Royal Potato Family, and now we have a full length release that’s built up steam for a few months and are about ready to pop.

I have really been anticipating this album since I was told each song segues into each other on the album. The Phish fan in me is always yearning for that seamless transition between songs (pronounced “seegs” by the guys in the poster line in Tahoe), and you do indeed get nonstop music. This album should be in every party host’s catalog, it does the DJ work for you. The handclaps continue through the whole album, and I think they are particularly fitting in the breakdown of “I Can Hear You Calling”. As the theme is repeated and slowly deconstructed, that clapping provides a perfect backbone for any chances the musicians want to take.

“Sentimental Pieces” is a slinky cool groove with vocals that sound a little Eels-like, and “Second Heart” brings the horns and harder dance beats. Once again, syncopated handclaps lead in for “Elevator Elation”, a building, driving song with horns going up in half steps, pushing you further into the ascension. By the time the peak is reached, I’m dancing in my living room, impossible to sit still. As a fan of extended instrumentals, I hope this gets some radio play, it’s definitely the highlight of the album for me. The album ends with “Second Heart Reprise”, a lovely coda that gives the whole album a nice cohesion.

Keep your eyes on these guys, with members from Antibalas, TV on the Radio and tUnE-yArDs making smart pop that at moments sounds like it was written by David Byrne, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

Listen to “Sentimental Pieces” radio edit here: Superhuman Happiness Soundcloud

Watch a video for “Elevator Elation” here: youtube video

Said the Whale – Band to Watch

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Once again, a Canadian band has captured my heart with their interesting song structures, perfect melodies, and yearning but positive lyrics. Canadians really excel at this kind of stuff. Vancouver’s Said the Whale have an eclectic style, mixing elements of the 60’s, 80’s and 90’s into a really polished, heavy pop sound. Their new album “hawaiii” (three i’s) drops on September 17th, not wasting any time and taking full advantage of their momentum, and they are touring the U.S. now, with a date at Larimer Lounge on August 19th in Denver. They’ve been popular in Canada for a few years, and just made the crossover with the success of their new single “I Love You”.

I had a chance to listen to the new album, and it’s great stuff, each song is a little pop nugget, really developed pop nuggets. “Narrows” is great straightforward pop rock with the perfect amount of 90’s distortion and jangle, collecting together into a crescendo of beautiful sound at the end. The new single “I Love You” starts out straightforward pop punk, the chorus goes off into a Blur sounding Britpop wall of vocals, and then one of my favorite musical things ever, the continuous tapping of one piano key. I don’t know what it is about that “dink dink dink dink dink” but it sounds like rock to me. They remind me a lot of the band fun. in “Safe to Say”, a big, grand sounding song with lots of pomp and excess. The rest of the album is rounded out with 60’s surf beats, junkie lyrics and Canadian rap a.k.a. all the good stuff. This band is making the big push, go see them in your town: tour dates

Watch the video for “I Love You”, and no it’s not an episode of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, I mean it is, but the band is guest starring: “I Love You”