Atlanta, GA’s Black Swan Lane has become an institution in the modern post punk scene. Formed in the mid 00’s by Jack Sobel, John Kolbeck, and Mark Burgess, they’ve remained dedicated to nurturing emotional responses out of listeners worldwide through an intoxicating mix of lyrics, soulful vocals, and stellar instrumentation. Early listeners may have been attracted to the band by the connection to The Chameleons, which is understandable – but the years after Mark Burgess (lead singer of The Chameleons) moved on have seen the strongest Black Swan Lane albums. Now down to a duo, the band features multiple guest players on each album. Vita Eterna is the 8th full length offering from Black Swan Lane – and their finest album to date.
One of my favorite indie releases of the last few years was AAA Battery’s Corrosion of Buddha. A cross country, file swapping kind of project, the project held up as an homage to the corrosion of the human spirit. Musically, it was a blend of alternative sensibilities with progressive rock leanings – kind of like Neil Young meeting Tool. AAA Battery’s Fred Jeske rang me up back in June to tell me about his forthcoming project – Conduit of Humanity. It sounded really ambitious – a group of 20+ individuals getting together to create reality bending music that could change hearts and minds. But isn’t that what the best music does? We made plans to get together in Seattle in August at his band’s performance and…my life took a left turn. Instead of catching up with Fred and taking in his band, I found myself driving across the USA on the very same day I had made plans with Fred. Sorry Fred! His new project – Conduit of Humanity – has recently released their debut album, The Zen Cage. And I can tell you, it is an album that lives up to it’s ambitions.
In early 2016, I began experienced an unexpected death of a love one. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it began a streak of sorts. Each year since then, I’ve lost someone who has played an important role in my life. As the losses mounted up, I’ve returned to Nick Cave’s The Skeleton Tree time and time again. Though it was written prior to the death of his 15 year old son Arthur, it was recorded after. Vocally, it haunts me to this day. The weight behind the words, well, it was a fitting soundtrack as I said goodbye to someone new each year. It resonates with me as much as the day I first heard it. Nick Cave’s new album, Ghosteen, is his first record written and recorded since the loss of his son. And once again, I’ve lost someone dear to me. At its best, this record speaks to me in a way that few records ever have. It takes Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds into areas previously unexplored by the band. Continue reading
Mudhoney’s 2018 full length release, Digital Garbage, was a dark garage rock masterpiece. Lyrically imbued with the darkness of the times, it spoke to me on a visceral level. Hitting the sweet spot between The Stooges and Black Flag, it found the band firing on all cylinders. I also found myself playing a Pharisee type character as an extra in the band’s Kill Yourself Live video, just a few days after a good friend actually killed himself. It was strangely cathartic and I loved how the video turned out. It also helped that the song was a sarcastic, tongue in cheek anthem to the digital world of today. It was also catchy as fuck. Just about 1 year later the band is releasing Morning in America – a 7 song collection of outtakes from the Digital Garbage sessions. So how’s the collection hold up, coming hot on the heels of a late career highlight?
Southern California’s Ten Foot Pole are stalwarts of the scene’s pop punk sound and scene. The band began as Scared Straight in the early 80’s and were associated with the Nardcore movement which helped them make a name for themselves. The 90’s saw them working as labelmates with The Offspring, Rancid, and NOFX on the Epitaph label. Through the years the band has seen quite a bit of members come and go, with the one constant being Dennis Jagard on guitars and vocals. Escalating Quickly is the band’s 1st full length containing all original material in 15 years and along with Dennis Jagard, features Scott Hallquist on guitars & vocals, “Lil” Joe Raposo on bass guitar, and Sean Sellers on drums. It is a stunning return from these industry vets.
Bruce Springsteen has been a busy artist these past few years, though his discography doesn’t quite bear that out. He’s written an autobiography, had a one man show on Broadway, and released a Netflix special and accompanying album documenting that Broadway show. In fact, his last album wasn’t even an album at all in the traditional sense. 2014’s High Hopes was a collection of strays, covers, and re-recordings with the E Street Band along with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Prophets of Rage on a little more than half the album. Real album or not, I loved it. Western Stars is a 180-degree turn. In fact, you’ve probably never heard Bruce sound like this before.
Paul Den Heyer deserves to be more widely known. He made his first splash with Fishmonkeyman in the 90’s – who’s If I’ve Told You Once was a memorable Britpop hit in the early 90’s. From there he’s played with and produced many memorable bands – two of them very dear to my heart. I’m talking about the summer drenched tunes of Sunstack Jones and John Lever’s project The Red-Sided Garter Snakes – whose two albums showcased several artists influenced and inspired by John and his work with The Chameleons and The Sun and the Moon. It was a last influx of creativity before John passed away and it left me wondering what would come next from these artists, chief among them Paul Den Heyer. I didn’t have to wait long, as Paul’s been in touch with me letting me know about his solo work and sharing snippets over the “world wide web”. And now that it is here, how does it stack up? Does it live up to everything I had hoped?