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Punk / New Wave - Released December 23, 2019 | Alive Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 17, 2012 | Alive Records

Led by guitarist and songwriter Parker Griggs, Radio Moscow are an Iowa-based band in love with the resin-soaked sounds of heavy boogie and raunchy psychedelia from the late 1960s, but once upon a time Griggs had other musical interests. In 2003, the 18-year-old quit the hardcore band he'd been working with and started a project of his own called Garbage Composal, which was heavily influenced by mid-'60s garage rock, with a hint of late-'70s punk for seasoning. Griggs began committing his new tunes to tape, handling guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and vocals all by himself. He eventually completed an album's worth of material before Garbage Composal evolved into Radio Moscow with the arrival of bassist Serana Andersen and the group started exploring new territory. Nine years later, Griggs has opted to release these early recordings under the name Radio Moscow as 3 & 3 Quarters, and fans who latched onto the monster guitar riffage and heavy tread of Brain Cycles and The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz will be a little puzzled to hear Griggs making like a cut-rate version of the Lyres or the Chesterfield Kings. 3 & 3 Quarters isn't bad when one considers this is a kid fresh out of high school making a nuevo-garage album all by himself; Griggs was already a capable guitarist and drummer, and if he had a long way to go as a vocalist, he certainly had the right sneering attitude to go along with that wicked fuzztone. However, while Radio Moscow's music owes a hefty debt of influence to the sounds of the past, most of it isn't nearly as derivative as 3 & 3 Quarters; the performances are good enough, but the songs are rote garage rock by numbers, dealing with the usual treacherous girls and lamentable squares trying to foil his coolness. Judging from 3 & 3 Quarters, Parker Griggs might not have needed a band in 2003, but he sure needed a songwriting partner who could give this material some patina of originality, and this album may be fun in fits and starts, but it doesn't hold a candle to what he'd accomplish just a few years later. In the liner notes to 3 & 3 Quarters, Griggs mentions he'd sent a copy of these recordings to Bomp/Alive in 2004 but never heard back from them, and it's not hard to see why they didn't make it out of the slush pile the first time around. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Blues - Released October 11, 2011 | Alive Records

Chaotic from start to finish, Radio Moscow's third album Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz is all about playing vintage riffs as hard and fast as possible. The group takes the fundamentals of garage and blues-rock, and pushes them to the max with on-stage energy. The only thing is, they aren’t a group at all. With the exception of the bass parts handled by bassist Zack Anderson, Parker Griggs plays every instrument on the record. His hyperactive drumming and screaming, wah-wah fuzz guitar solos are beyond showy, and he’s a powerful singer to boot, with his beefy yet tuneful growl. The mood and tempo of Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz is relentless, which can be a plus, but because there isn't much variety in Griggs and Anderson's simple, blues-based musical vocabulary, the multi-sectioned songs sometimes run on and on, like aimless jams, until the intensity starts to become a blur. Still, the duo plays hard as hell, and emulate the early-‘70s revival to a 'T' (right down to the psychedelic production and crazy studio panning and echo tricks). Sure, “Turtle Back Rider” is derivative of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and “I Don’t Need Nobody” is a lift from the Allman Brothers Band all the way, but you can't blame them. Radio Moscow's just following in those bands' footsteps of taking old Delta blues riffs and amping them up. In this case, way up. © Jason Lymangrover /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 13, 2011 | Alive Records

Four years on from 2007's Who to Trust, Who to Kill, Who to Love, the Bloody Hollies have gone through some stylistic changes; where their first few albums were raw and reckless garage punk, the band has found several new ways to kick your butt and make you thank them for it on their fourth full-length, Yours Until the Bitter End. This time out, the Bloody Hollies are more of a straight-ahead hard rock band than a bunch of punk miscreants, and the songs show a greater melodic sophistication, with touches of blues, metal, and glam shining through, as well as keyboards, xylophone, and fiddle adding new colors to the arrangements. However, if they gave the car a new paint job and a fresh coat of wax, they didn't change the big block engine that drives the whole thing, and Yours Until the Bitter End still hits with the impact of a cannon; guitarists Wesley Doyle and Joey Horgen's guitars lock in and lay out fire with precision and fury, and bassist Erik Norgaard and drummer Matt Bennett explode like a handful of M-80s but still hit all the right spots along the way. The production is a shade more glossy on Yours Until the Bitter End than the band's previous records (Horgen produced the sessions while Jim Diamond mixed the tracks), which suits the more evolved approach of these tunes, but all this just means that the details are clearer while they roar loud and proud through your sound system, and that works just fine with this music. A lot of punk bands lose the plot or sap their strength when they decide to add some extra bells and whistles to their sound, but the Bloody Hollies have managed to add a fair amount without losing a thing, and Yours Until the Bitter End is a dial-it-up-to-ten triumph. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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3

Pop - Released August 2, 2011 | Alive Records

When they were in Thee Shams, Andy Gabbard and Zach Gabbard played music that was firmly rooted in the sounds of the mid-'60s, but with their third album, their band Buffalo Killers has moved bravely into the early '70s, and they sound right at home there. Buffalo Killers 3 suggests a meeting of the minds between Crazy Horse and the James Gang during a few mellow days in Laurel Canyon, and if you didn't read the credits or look at the copyright date, many listeners would never guess this music was recorded in the 21st century. While there isn't much here that suggests a shameless rip-off of any artist in particular, 3 conjures up a sense of time and place with ease, and the loose, sun-burnt vibe of this music, fused with Andy's fluid but forceful guitar work, Zach's simple but effective basslines, and Joey Sebaali's colorful percussion work drifts between country-rock and hard rock in a way that suggests the strengths of both without hitching itself to either. Lyrically, the Killers don't have a whole lot to say, but the melodies are fine stuff and the band plays with a seasoned air of musical intuition, knowing where to fill the spaces and how to make the most of their power trio format. Joining the Killers on their journey through the past are Kelley Deal, Brian Olive, and James Leg, but even if this is a very Ohio-centric cast of characters, this music has a rich West Coast feel, and in this case, that's a good thing. Buffalo Killers 3 finds this band easing into an comfortable but deep groove, and not many bands have mined a late hippie-era approach with more satisfying results. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 7, 2011 | Alive Records

On his second solo album, former Greenhornes and Soledad Brothers guitarist Brian Olive once again offers an eclectic variety of R&B-based sounds, but his approach has changed just a bit. For Two of Everything, Olive enlisted the production expertise of Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys, and while the album still has a solid, bluesy foundation, the songs here sound cooler and slinkier, with echoes of vintage funk and groove jazz cropping up in the mix, and a good bit more refinement audible in the melodies and performances compared to his self-titled debut. Two of Everything doesn't sound like Olive has turned his back on his blues-based earlier work, but he is veering in a different direction; the results sometimes suggest a Midwestern take on Northern soul as Olive and Auerbach throw just a little pop polish on Olive's vocals and let the pianos and saxophones give the music a subtle but distinct retro feel, even as the steady pulse of several tunes nods politely to hip-hop. But even as Two of Everything travels down a smoother road than its precursor, it still sounds organic, committed, and heartfelt, and Olive sure knows how to write a memorable tune; "Strange Attracter" faces a chunky, T. Rex-style guitar figure against an insistent piano-and-drum pattern that fills up the dancefloor; "Black Sliding Soul" suggests an unlikely but effective collaboration between NRBQ and Mark Ronson; "Left Side Rock" bounces hard Southern funk rhythms off aggressive horn samples, and "Lost in Dreams" is a beautifully languid bit of stoned soul love pleading. With Two of Everything, Brian Olive is two for two in making smart, distinctive albums that push his blues and R&B influences in unexpected, compelling directions, matching and building on the strength of his debut. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 10, 2011 | Alive Records

Peter Case has been digging deep into his tape library in recent years, releasing fine archival albums from his bands the Plimsouls, the Nerves, and the Breakaways, and now The Case Files finds him offering up some rare and unreleased nuggets from his solo career, ranging from a demo version of "Steel Strings" from his 1986 solo debut to a Stones cover cut in 2009 with the same crew from his album Wig! Considering the odds-and-ends nature of this album, it's a pleasant surprise that The Case Files is so consistently strong, and coming after Case has jumped back into rock & roll, it builds up a solid and enjoyable head of piss and vinegar, with a thread of articulate anger running through these songs, whether they're one-man acoustic numbers or exercises in full-on electric bash. Politics take center stage on several numbers, particularly "Let's Turn This Thing Around," "Kokomo Prayer Vigil," and "Ballad of the Minimum Wage," as Case bemoans America's swing to the right and raises the roof on behalf of economic and social justice, and though most of the songs focus more on the personal, nearly every track sounds urgent and focused, as Case lets his passion fuel the material as well as the performances. Along with a stack of his own numbers, Case has also included some inspired covers, and he charges into Alejandro Escovedo's "The End," Bob Dylan's "Black Crow Blues," and Kokomo Arnold's "Milkcow Blues" with the same smarts and drive that he brings to his own stuff. Even though these tracks were either demo tapes, radio sessions, or stuff that didn't make the grade somewhere else, it's clear Peter Case has admirably high standards, and these 12 songs make for an entertaining and empowering album that delivers the goods with smarts and simple, sweaty force. The Case Files proves this man's cast-offs make for a better album than most acts' level-best efforts, and with any luck, he'll offer another look into his archives before long. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 10, 2011 | Alive Records

Though Gardens hail from the greater Detroit area, if they decided to move to Austin or Brooklyn, judging from the sound of their debut self-titled record, they’d fit right in. The trio has the look of Brooklyn with their oversized glasses and garish shirts, but more importantly, they share a reverb-y clatter that is standard BK issue. Their snotty attitude and wiry guitar attack is straight Texas, though you could also throw a little Tennessee into that equation. There’s barely any Detroit in the mix, though a cast of Motor City heroes (like Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive and Ko Melina of the Dirtbombs) are on hand to help out. Sounding like the city you hail from isn’t really all that important, except as a marketing tool, though (and most importantly) the band combine their geographical and sonic influences into something that sounds pretty fresh. The production is focused but still loose, the songs are hooky but not overly structured, and the performances are energetic and tossed-off sounding at the same time. It’s an appealing approach that really takes off when the songs are super good. About half the record fits this bill. On tracks like the catchy-as-get-out "Maze Time," the alternately slow-grooving and slow-grinding "Ideas to Use," or the rocked-out "Staring at a Line is Not Always Fine," the band comes very close to hitting on all cylinders. The rest of the album either rushes by in a wave of snarl and snark, or shambles past like a shaggy dog with nowhere important to go. No matter what, though, it’s an engaging listen, and Gardens ends up being pretty much all you need from a debut; an attempt to find a unique sound, a handful of sticky tunes, a bunch of energy and fun. Give these guys another record or two to really get going, and they might have people talking about a Detroit sound the same way people talk about Austin or Brooklyn. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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R&B - Released April 12, 2011 | Alive Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 1, 2011 | Alive Records

Left Lane Cruiser -- a two-piece band comprised of Frederick “Joe” Evans IV on slide guitar and vocals and Bren Beck on drums -- may be from Fort Wayne, IN but they sound like a couple of unhinged punk hillbillies raised on the North Mississippi hill country blues of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. They mine the same sort of modal blues territory but, with half-distorted vocals pushed through what sounds like a shorted-out karaoke mike, they also sound like a lo-fi swampy version of the Stooges, all full of rampaging impatience. Junkyard Speed Ball is the duo’s fourth album (and third for Alive Records), and it doesn’t deviate at all from the sound of their earlier releases -- this isn’t a band much concerned with evolving its sound. That’s a good thing, because they make a hell of a lot of noise and pretty much mow through every song with real rock fervor. The opener, “Lost My Mind,” is absolutely visceral, and it sets the tone for the whole album -- track after track races forward with the accelerator down, and if it’s sometimes hard to tell what Evans is scorching his vocal cords to say, well, it’s still the blues and we all know what that means. But this isn’t woe-is-me blues. It’s pissed-off blues. Song after song here clangs away at the end of the junkyard chain, riding Evans' searing, chiming modal guitar riffs and Beck's loose-limbed pounding on the drums. “Shine” gallops like a magnificent drunken plow horse, while “Weed Vodka” finds Evans' chiming electric guitar sounding like a clawhammer banjo run through an amp stack set on 11. Nothing is reined in here, and the accumulation of these blasts of hill country tweaks makes this a powerful album, one that replaces clarity with the sheer joy of impassioned noise -- stomp it to death seems to be the motto. Recorded by Jim Diamond (who also plays bass here on “Represent,” while John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies adds organ and keyboard to four songs) at his Ghetto Recorders studio in Detroit, MI, Junkyard Speed Ball is another fine outing from a refreshingly direct and uncomplicated band that rocks like a jackhammer. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 15, 2011 | Alive Records

Filled with a kind of nervous urgency, Crimes, the second album from Occult Detective Club, builds upon the spirit of garage punk. Merging the driving energy of bands like the Ramones and the New Bomb Turks with an airtight delivery, the band freshens up that raw sound with tightness reminiscent of California skatepunk. What’s surprising is that, rather than taking away from the songs' energy, the restrained delivery adds a new layer of anxiousness, creating a feeling that’s somewhere between being uncomfortable in your own skin and being moments away from bolting for the nearest exit. Digging a little below the musical tension and down into the lyrics, it quickly becomes clear that Occult Detective Club are classic punks at heart -- unsatisfied with the status quo, unlucky in love, and just upset enough to pick up some guitars and bang out some tunes to tell you all about it. With such a simple, direct, and earnest approach, it’s hard not to side with these guys, taking up the cause of the disaffected and dejected in the name of good old-fashioned punk rock. © Gregory Heaney /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 25, 2011 | Alive Records

It takes a very special artist to collaborate with Flotsam and Jetsam, Killing Joke, the Dirtbombs, and Spiritualized, and Troy Gregory is just that kind of musician. While Gregory has an impressive and eclectic résumé, some of his best work has also been his least appreciated, namely the albums he cut with his band the Witches. A revolving collective of Detroit musicians (members of the Electric Six, Outrageous Cherry, the Sights, the Go, and Larval all played with the group between 1996 and 2007) with Gregory as the leader and principle songwriter, the Witches offered up a deliciously twisted take on classic pop in which the dark throb of the Velvet Underground squares off against various archetypes of mid-‘60s rock & roll (psychedelia, bubblegum, and garage rock) in the midst of a seance. Unfortunately, the Witches' body of recorded work has appeared on small independent labels that have been poorly distributed outside the Midwest, but Alive Natural Sound Records have given their music the second chance it richly deserves with A Haunted Person's Guide to the Witches, a 12-song collection that features representative tracks from the group's four albums as well as a tune from their unreleased debut, Everything Changes Reality, and two unreleased performances. Considering this album was assembled from songs recorded over the space of 11 years, it's a pleasant surprise that A Haunted Person's Guide coheres like a proper album rather than a compilation; the dark echoes, insistent rhythms, dark but tasty melodies, and playfully surreal lyrics are a constant throughout, as are Gregory's rich vocals, passionate with just the right touch of period sneer, and the impressive musicianship from his various accompanists. If this album has a flaw, it's that at just 37 minutes, it leaves out more memorable material from the Witches than it includes, and a 20-song set could have given the band the proper, full-bodied anthology they merit. But as an introduction to a group that deserves a significantly higher profile, A Haunted Person's Guide to the Witches leaves little doubt Gregory and his associates have made some brilliant, idiosyncratic pop music, and if you like your music tuneful, a wee bit creepy, and lots of fun to sing along with, then you and the Witches were made for one another, and this album will show you why in concise, convincing fashion. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 11, 2011 | Alive Records

There is a compelling tension on T-Model Ford's Taledragger, with his rawer-than-gravel blues style that has always staggered between the styles of his native Mississippi Delta and those of Chicago. This doesn't mean the record is tense, but merely that its cultural lines blur consistently between the above styles as well as those of his sidemen -- his backing band of the last few years, GravelRoad, is augmented by guest musicians from Detroit -- who all came of age in the post-punk to indie rock eras. Produced by Brian Olive, Matthew Smith, and Arthur Alexander in Glendale, CA, the set was mixed by Jim Diamond in Detroit. Suffice to say, the addition of baritone saxophone, Hammond B-3, and 12-string acoustic guitars to these extremely basic tunes makes for interesting listening. The set opens with "Same Old Train," a choogling shuffle that is "Mystery Train" with (some) different words. Ford's delightfully rough, front-charging guitar playing is supported by Stefan Zillioux's in-the-pocket pulse that bass and drums follow in sync, but Olive's upright piano is off the beat, following Ford; the entire tune ultimately slurs drunkenly. The lyrics refer to the record's muse: "a big legged mama" who appears often. On "Someone's Knocking on My Door" (one of the album's many death meditations), Ford channels the spirits of his old friend Junior Kimbrough and Howlin' Wolf in a hypnotic two-chord shuffle. The band psychs it up with Smith playing a sinister, snaky B-3, augmented by jangling single-string guitar lines played between beats; there's a stinging lead break with enough echo to add a trippy dimension. The tension on this set reveals itself best in the readings of "How Many More Years" and "I Worn My Body for So Long." The former is swampy and disorienting, full of wah-wah guitars, stuttering drums, and a heavy echo on Ford's voice. He sings with an amused acceptance of the inevitable, not dread -- though the accompaniment does its best to evoke it. This is true in the latter as well, with shimmering acoustic slide and fuzzed-out bass work by Smith. "Big Legged Woman" is an all-out party rave-up with everything becoming an orgy of sound more befitting a Detroit barroom than a Delta juke joint -- and does it ever work! What Ford, Olive, Smith, Alexander, and the rest have wrought on Taledragger is a modern blues album with primitive roots. The tension works. It's a far more interesting recording because of its "impurities" -- paradoxically, making it a far more "authentic" blues record because it is linked to multiple historic traditions simultaneously. It's exponentially more enjoyable and exciting as blues than anything coming out of Chicago in the 21st century. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 19, 2010 | Alive Records

To say Iggy Pop had hit bottom in 1975 is an understatement; after the final collapse of the Stooges, Iggy sank deep into drug addiction and depression, and he eventually checked himself into a mental hospital in a desperate effort to get himself clean and functional again. At the same time, James Williamson, his guitarist and writing partner in the last edition of the Stooges, still believed their collaboration had some life in it, and he talked his way into Jimmy Webb's home studio to record demos in hopes of scoring a record deal. Iggy checked out of the hospital for a weekend to cut vocal tracks, and while the demos they made were quite good, no record companies were willing to take a chance on them. The tapes sat unnoticed until 1977, when Bomp! Records issued the 1975 demos under the title Kill City after Iggy launched a comeback with the David Bowie-produced The Idiot. Kill City never hits as hard as the manic roar of the Stooges' Raw Power, but the songs are very good, and the album's more measured approach suits the dark, honest tone of the material. The sense of defeat that runs through "Sell Your Love," "I Got Nothin'," and "No Sense of Crime" was doubtless a mirror of Iggy's state of mind, but he expressed his agony with blunt eloquence, and his sneering rejection of the Hollywood street scene in "Lucky Monkeys" is all the more cutting coming from a man who had lived through the worst of it. And in the title song, Iggy expressed his state of mind and sense of purpose with a fierce clarity: "If I have to die here, first I'm going to make some noise." Considering Iggy's condition in 1975, his vocals are powerful and full-bodied, as good as anything on his solo work of the 1970s. The music is more open and bluesy than on Raw Power, and while Williamson's guitar remains thick and powerful, here he's willing to make room for pianos, acoustic guitars, and saxophones, and the dynamics of the arrangements suggest a more mature approach after the claustrophobia of Raw Power. Kill City is rough, flawed, and dark, but it also takes the pain of Iggy's nightmare days and makes something affecting out of it, and considering its origins, it's a minor triumph. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 21, 2010 | Alive Records

4 stars out of 5 -- "[With] thrilling, metronomic Krautrock riffs and tranquillized lullabies contrasting with slow-mo lysergic explosions..." © TiVo
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Pop - Released August 24, 2010 | Alive Records

Is Paul Collins truly the King of Power Pop? That's the kind of statement guaranteed to open a can of worms among record collector types, but Collins certainly has a more honest claim to the title than most folks, given the great records he made in the 1970s and '80s with the Nerves, the Breakaways, and the Beat (aka the Paul Collins Beat). Collins has cut a handful of fine records since the breakup of the Beat, but King of Power Pop! is the first one in ages that captures the tough, upbeat sound of his most memorable work, and it proves the man hasn't lost his touch for writing tight, hooky tunes with killer hooks and energetic guitar figures. Collins' voice is a little rougher than it was in his salad days, but he makes that work to his favor, giving the songs a touch of defiant swagger even when he's sounding sweet and heartbroken, and when he and his lead guitarist Eric Blakely lock in, this sounds like the perfect follow-up to the Beat's classic albums for Columbia, bursting with tuneful vigor and rock & roll passion (and arriving a mere quarter-century after the fact). Collins recorded King of Power Pop! in Detroit with producer and engineer Jim Diamond (who also plays bass), and the album features a crew of Motor City notables who give these songs the fire and muscle they need, including Dave Shettler on drums, Wally Palmar (of the Romantics) on harmonica and harmonies, and Nikki Corvette on backing vocals. But the album wouldn't work if Collins didn't have a batch of great songs on hand, and "C'Mon Let's Go," "Doin' It for the Ladies," and "Don't Blame Your Troubles on Me" are instant power pop classics that all but explode from the speakers, while "Many Roads to Follow" (written in collaboration with his old bandmate Peter Case) shows he hasn't lost touch with his contemplative side, and "This Is America" builds to a gloriously frantic coda that rocks like nobody's business. (And the covers of "The Letter" and "You Tore Me Down" demonstrate Collins knows how to bring his own personality into someone else's great song.) Paul Collins might not be the King of Power Pop, but if there was an elected President of Power Pop, an album this good would certainly sweep him into office; it's fun, raucous, thoroughly enjoyable rock & roll from one of pop's greatest unsung heroes. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released July 13, 2010 | Alive Records

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Pop - Released June 1, 2010 | Alive Records

On Seemingly Solid Reality, Outrageous Cherry back away from the glam rock excursions of their previous album, Universal Malcontents, and return to their quintessential acid-laced pop. These songs emphasize the “seemingly” in the album’s title -- from the title track’s jammy intro onward, it feels like they could melt or disappear into a puff of psychedelic smoke at any moment. Matthew Smith and company use this familiar sonic terrain for some soul-searching, spanning “Unbalanced in the City” and “My Ghetto”'s metropolitan meditations to inner reflections like “Self-Made Monster.” As always, Smith has a gift for boiling situations down to a few pithy words, as on “Nothing’s Changed”'s lyric “sometimes it’s hard to be who you are,” or on “The Happy Hologram,” where he manages to say that much of life is a fleeting illusion without sounding self-pitying. The album also offers a couple of classic Outrageous Cherry pop moments: “Fell” is fantastic, with a classic melody, twice-shy lyrics, and a relentless drone that recall the band’s self-titled debut (and reaffirms why peers like the New Pornographers and Wilco love this band), while “Un-American Girls” backs its sly subversion with jet-engine guitars. But most of Seemingly Solid Reality is much more introspective, edging closer to singer/songwriter territory than the group usually does. Even “Forces of Evil”’s spiraling guitar solo feels somehow inward-looking, while “I Like It” and “The Unimportant Things” are as confessional as Smith and crew have ever gotten. Seemingly Solid Reality drifts by in a thoughtful haze, and if it’s not as immediate as what came before it, that might be the point. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Soul - Released May 18, 2010 | Alive Records

Scott Morgan had the good fortune of being in two of Michigan's most powerful and important rock bands -- in the 1960s, he was the lead singer with the legendary blue-eyed soul combo the Rationals, and in the '70s, he sang and played guitar with Sonic's Rendezvous Band, a mighty hard rock band formed by Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5. However, outside the Midwest, Morgan has never received the attention he deserves -- the Rationals' excellent recording of Otis Redding's "Respect" was stopped dead in its tracks by Aretha Franklin's admittedly outstanding cover, and Sonic's Rendezvous Band never scored the record deal they richly deserved, their recorded legacy during their lifetime limited to just one single. But Morgan has never stopped making great music, continuing to perform and record with a variety of groups over the years, and 2010's Scott Morgan (his first proper solo album) confirms he still has a superb voice that can handle blues, soul, and rock with equal assurance while his songwriting chops are in great shape. Scott Morgan teams the singer with a top-notch crew of Michigan rock talent -- Jim Diamond recorded the sessions at his Ghetto Recorders studio and plays bass, while Matthew Smith (Outrageous Cherry, the Volebeats) and Chris Taylor (Mazinga, Powertrane) handle the guitars, and Dave Shettler (the Sights, SSM) was the drummer. The results blend the hard rock power of Morgan's work with Sonic's Rendezvous Band and Powertrane and the passionate soul sounds of the Rationals while conjuring a tough, funky groove that's fresh and strong while rooted in a classic style. The new tunes on the album (written by Morgan and his bandmates) deliver a muscular, big city variation on classic soul archetypes (celebrated in the joyous "Memphis Time"), while his covers of "Bring It on Home to Me," "Do I Move You," and "Something About You" show Morgan can breathe new life into songs that have been in circulation for years, and his reworking of "Mississippi Delta" is nothing short of brilliant. And while the musicians on the album thoroughly deliver the goods, and Smith and Taylor make a killer guitar combo, it's Morgan who carries this show and he does it with grace, strength, and total authority. Scott Morgan has been quietly earning his reputation as one of America's great unsung rock and soul voices for decades, and on this album, he sums up a great deal of what he's learned over the years; it's one hell of a shakedown party, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 6, 2010 | Alive Records

Most bands fascinated with pop music of the 1960s and '70s approach their material with a light touch, but the men of Hacienda thankfully aren't afraid to put some muscle behind this sort of music, even as they celebrate its beauty and emotional power. Hacienda sounded precociously talented on their debut album, 2008's Loud Is the Night, and their sophomore release, Big Red and Barbacoa, confirms that two years of touring and writing new material have only sharpened their skills. Hacienda's fascination with the Beach Boys hasn't faded, and they can conjure up silky, heartstring-tugging four-part harmonies while working out arrangements that would do Brian Wilson proud during his sandbox period (cue up "Hound Dog" and "I Keep Waiting"), but as songwriters Hacienda are gradually growing into a voice of their own, and these 12 tracks are noticeably tougher, stronger, and more impressive than the stuff on Loud Is the Night. Hacienda are learning what to do with this material, and the arrangements behind the tunes are more imaginative just as the band sounds happy to have a real recording schedule for a change. As befits a band from Texas, Hacienda show a stronger Tex-Mex influence on Big Red and Barbacoa; "Barbacoa" sounds like a lost Sir Douglas Quintet track and "Got to Get Back Home" is a graceful Lone Star 2-step, while Dante Schwebel shows off some tough Link Wray-influenced licks on the rumbling instrumental "Big Red." This group also sound great on the tight, snappy rock & roll of "As You Like It" and the barrelhouse stomp of "Mama's Cookin'," demonstrating these guys know there's a big world beyond pop. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys once again produced these recordings, and he brings a natural, organic sound to the proceedings that suits this band's thoughtful approach. If anyone needed proof that the pleasures of Hacienda's first album were not a fluke, Big Red and Barbacoa has all the evidence you need, and from the sound of this album, the Villanueva brothers should be making more fine music for years to come. © Mark Deming /TiVo