It took me an embarrassingly long time to make the connections between punk and country music. Not so much in musical styles – in attitude. Once it sunk in (about 18 months after the last Johnny Cash show in my neck of the woods at the time), I was hooked. You couldn’t find enough Cash, Gram Parsons, or Mike Nesmith records for me (yep, that Mike Nesmith). I’m not a fan of most Nashville, radio friendly country music. But give me some outlaw country, and I”m all over that. Punk spirit and tunes that cut straight to the heart. Harley Graves fits into this mold perfectly.
Over the last 6 years or so – ever since I started this site – I’ve made many friends in Manchester, England. Some are connected with bands you’ve heard of and some are indie musicians – on the fringe of accessibility. So it comes as no surprise that my heart was broken when I read about the attack on Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017. As it turns out, someone connected to someone I know was hurt in the blast – just a girl on a night out to enjoy music with her family. If there is one thing I know in this life it is that music has the power to unite people. So when a friend told me about this charity single featuring a mash-up of some of Manchester’s famous songs it was a no brainer – I told him I’d give it a listen and post a review on my site.
Bury Community Choir was formed in 2013 by music teacher Katie Geelan for people living in the Bury area. Encore (Bury Young Voices) are also conducted by Ms. Geelan and are made up of students in Bury Schools and Colleges. The Ultimate Manchester Mash-Up was created and directed by Andrew J. Smith. The artists featured are Elbow, The Verve, Courteeners, James, Heather Small, The Stone Roses, Take That, and Oasis. The single is just over 9 minutes and is a testament to the fighting spirit of Manchester. In my personal life I believe today’s youth are the key to the future and this single touched my heart. It has a purity that is inspiring. I’ll tell you right now that I don’t typically listen to choral recordings, but that might change going forward. My favorite pieces of this movement were the bits by The Stone Roses and Oasis.
You can stream or download this song for free here and here. Donations can be made here. It is for a worthy cause and is a testament to the power of the people to always move forward and help those in need. Never giving up always resonates with me and this will be a single I’ll always come back to. Cheers!
Verdict: Brilliant choral interpretations of Manchester favorites
For fans of: Britpop, humanitarians, people who want to make a difference,
It’s hard not to think of DJ Jazzy Jeff as the partner of The Fresh Prince – aka Will Smith. The late 80’s and early 90’s featured a near constant stream of radio and MTV hits from the duo. Once Will Smith broke into television, he made sure DJ Jazzy Jeff – aka Jeffrey Townes – had a constant presence on his hit show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Fresh Prince started putting out records under his new name (some of them still featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff), and DJ Jazzy Jeff put out two critically acclaimed records and an impressive amount of mix tapes. The last decade or so has found Jeff DJ’ing throughout the world, producing records, and reminding the world that he is one of the world’s premier DJ’s – setting moods, scratching, and mixing with an expert ear. M3 marks his 1st album in 11 years and is the final chapter of the Magnificent trilogy. It just may be his finest solo work yet.
Gaz Coombes is perhaps an unlikely solo star. At the height of Britpop in the mid 90’s, he fronted Supergrass – a band lumped in with the scene but who were more punk inspired, more fun, and yet – had a deep sense of melancholy as their career progressed. My personal favorite was the underrated self titled third album, with my favorite Supergrass song What Went Wrong (In Your Head). The songs struck a balance between sadness and euphoria, something that will endlessly appeal to me. 3 albums more would follow before the band split in 2010 citing the usual musical differences. As a solo artist, Coombes has deepened his sound while retaining some of the elements that we loved about him in Supergrass. You just have to dig a little deeper to find that playfulness. Middle age is a bitch. World’s Strongest Man is his 3rd album and it just may be his finest album yet.
The Classic Hunt are a new – but not new to the scene – band based out of Philadelphia, PA. My hometown and where I spent my 1st 24 ½ years. The band describe themselves as “psychedelic-folk-jazz-punk-blues” and I can’t think of a more apt description. The confidence displayed in their first officially released recordings betrays the depth of experience that each member brings to the table. The band was founded by keyboardist and singer Tyler Hayduk who has made a name himself in various Philadelphia bands – even opening for GZA on the 2012 Liquid Swords tour. After laying down songs that hinted at a new direction, the full band came together through jam sessions in early 2017. The band is now composed of Tyler, Brendan Burke (guitar), Andrew Haff (guitar), Jude Alvarez (bass), and Aaron Wolf (drums). Full disclosure – Jude is related to a relative of mine, though we aren’t officially related. All through “the law”. The Lyrids is the band’s debut. And what a debut it is.
The Lyrids takes its title from the annual meteor shower that takes place from April 16th to April 26th each year. A nice variation on the “April Showers” expression, the EP release coincides with these celestial happenings. The title of the EP is a nod towards the in-depth intellectual wit on display in the lyrics on all 4 songs. Back to Life starts the album with a bit of a jangle pop feel. Hayduk’s vocals kick in and sound like a mix of 90’s alternative and Bob Dylan. A tone poem story longing for simplicity in the face of life’s complexities, it keeps coming back to the phrase “I’m dying to…fuck you…back to life”. And the way it is phrased comes off as a statement of intent. Perfect. The sound fades out on a Guns ‘N Roses / Slash type guitar solo. Which is the way to my heart, truly. Catalina has my favorite line on the record: “The company was on point / They smell like lavender and pumpkin pie”. I can picture that, I’ve been there, you probably have too. The guitars shimmer like something from The Chameleons and the bass line just kills – anchoring the whole thing down. The song does a great job of building – and sustaining – a mysterious vibe that keeps the listener entranced. A catharsis of sorts is reached in the last minute or so when the band jams to another killer guitar solo. Sunflowers for Rye continues with the cryptic atmosphere. The band’s interplay is particularly exceptional on this track, the space between the instruments really allowing the players to flourish. Lyrically, this is devastating stuff. “Are you holding me / Or are you holding me back?”. Star Vultures brings things full circle – jangle pop that is an altogether lighter affair than the previous two songs. This is also the song where the EP takes its title from. Of course, that’s not in the chorus. The chorus reminds me of a big 90’s alternative hit single. I can envision the video filmed in downtown Philly as Hayduk sings “Don’t watch me walk away without saying goodbye”. A perfect way to end a perfect EP.
The EP is available now on Bandcamp. You can also follow them on The Social Network. The band has an album release show coming on May 18th at Orlieb’s in Philadelphia. Limited edition CD’s will be available at that show. I can’t praise this band enough – absolutely worth checking out. They just may be the next addition to the legacy of great bands hailing from Philadelphia.
Verdict: Promising Debut
For Fans of: The Essex Green, Lilys, Mojave 3, The Band, The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub
- Back To Life
- Sunflowers for Rye
- Star Vultures
Eels have always presented a conundrum for me – for every heartbreaking song that touches my soul they’ve had a bland middle of the road mid-tempo rocker that did nothing for me. 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues was the rare album that hit me fully on just about every song. Nuanced, emotional, depressing – it hit everything that I love. Other albums have come close, while others have been forgettable. It’s been 4 years since Mark Oliver Everett’s Eels have released an album. That album – 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett represented a solid record with a few mix tape worthy songs of note. 2018’s The Deconstruction betters this in just about every way. In fact, it might be my favorite Eels album in almost 20 years.
It’s been 2 years since we last heard from Dinosaur Jr. in their highly successful and drama free reunion period. 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not was the perfect blend of noise, melody, and melancholy (and my favorite song was a Lou Barlow tune). In fact, it ranks very highly in my “Favorite Dinosaur Jr. albums” imaginary list. Also the supporting show at The Showbox in Seattle was insanely amazing (and loud). Hold Unknown is (apparently) a one-off single as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series. A slab of pop punk that will bring a smile to your face. A J. Mascis fronted tune that is joyous and infectious. A recommended tune that will be worth the $1 spent.