Friday, September 29, 2006

Soul Asylum - The Silver Lining

Soul Asylum - The Silver Lining

I was only a casual fan of Soul Asylum during the peak of their success with the Grave Dancer's Union album in the early nineties. I really began to pay attention when I heard their follow-up, Let Your Dim Light Shine. It had its hit songs like Misery, but then a song like String of Pearls with its circular narrative…I dug it. When I was done listening, I wanted to hear more of what Dave Pirner and the band could do so I waited the next three years for the album that would eventually become Candy From a Stranger. I think I picked it up on the day it was released, got in the car, popped it in…and never listened to it again. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t get it. The album as a whole escaped me and as I began to forget about Candy From a Stranger, Soul Asylum seemed to disappear as well.

After eight years, Soul Asylum has released their latest album, The Silver Lining. It is, in my opinion, the album that I was waiting for after 1995’s Let Your Dim Light Shine. The dirty guitars, hooky melody lines and the organized disarray of the band’s earlier albums are back; along with a certain maturity that is both natural, giving their eight year absence, and that was forced upon them by the striking death of founding member and Soul Asylum bassist, Karl Mueller to cancer in 2005.

While The Silver Lining doesn’t offer anything quite so iconic as either Black Gold or Run Away Train, the twelve songs it does offer are consistent and solid and, in turn bring into being a consistent and solid album. The tracks themselves range from full on rockers to more bluesy and R&B influenced tracks; all with that trademark Pirner delivery, both lyrically and vocally. The recorded instrumental performances are outstanding also, and help shape the feel of the songs themselves.

As I am not terribly familiar with Soul Asylum’s early albums, I don’t want to speak for those fans, but if you enjoyed Grave Dancer's Union or Let Your Dim Light Shine...or both, you should find yourself right at home on The Silver Lining, just like I did.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New: On the pod

New: On the pod

Black Label Society – Shot to Hell
Blue Murder – Blue Murder Demos (All Original)
Bon Jovi – Keep the Faith (Various Live Tracks)
Crooked Still – Shaken By a Low Sound
Diana Krall – From This Moment On
Dream Theater – Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour
Evanescence – The Open Door
Indigo Girls – Despite our Differences
Jake Shimabukuro – Gently Weeps
Jake Shimabukuro – Walking Down Rainhill
Jeffrey Foucault – Miles from the Lightning
Jeffrey Foucault – Stripping Cane
Jonatha Brooke – Live in New York
Journey – Sleep Train Amphitheater (Sacramento, CA – 08/27/06)
Michael Penn – March
Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World
Old Crow Medicine Show – Old Crow Medicine Show
Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac
Scissors Sisters – Ta-Dah!
Vinnie Vincent – Guitars from Hell
Within Temptation – Enter
Within Temptation – Mother Earth
Within Temptation – The Dance
Within Temptation – The Silent Force


Max Brooks – The Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
The Zombie Survival Guide:

Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Max Brooks – World War Z

World War Z:An Oral History of the Zombie War
World War Z:

An Oral History of the Zombie War

News: On the pod

Well, we’ve got more new stuff on the pod as you can see. I’m kind of excited about a few of the titles. New Dream Theater is always a treat, even if it is yet another live album. From what I’ve heard of it so far, Black Label Society is pretty kick ass. The Within Temptation albums were given to me by my good friend, Irfan. His take is that they’re similar to Evanescence and Lacuna Coil…but better. Speaking of Evanescence, I’ve got their second album and so far so good…took them long enough though. I also managed to find new discs from my old favorites the Indigo Girls and Jonatha Brooke and my new favorite Ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro…so I’ve definitely got my listening cut out for me.

In the Audiobooks section, you might have noticed The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. I’m about half way done and can already say, with some authority, that this is the most in-depth, exacting look at what you can and need to do in order to protect yourself and your family from the inevitable and rapidly approaching zombie Armageddon. What more can you really say?

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

I submitted the first in what I hope will be a long line of music reviews to Finer Things Magazine last week. I reviewed Scrubs Soundtrack Volume One, the new Los Lonely Boys and the new Breaking Benjamin albums. You should be able to find the October issue of Finer Things Magazine at any of the below listed establishments around New England soon:

Diva’s Nightclub-492 Pleasant Street-Northampton
Northampton’s Pride & Joy-20 Crafts Avenue-Northampton

Triangles Café-66 Sugar Hollow Road-Danbury
Women’s Center of Greater Danbury-2 West Street-Danbury
Subrosa Magick-15 Foxon Boulevard-East Haven
Best Video-1842 Whitney Avenue-Hamden
Alchemy Juice Bar Café-203 New Britain Avenue-Hartford
Chez Est-458 Wethersfield Avenue-Hartford
Cinestudio-300 Summit Street-Hartford
The Comet Lounge-267 Farmington Avenue-Hartford
Parfume Du Jour-231 Asylum Street-Hartford
Enchantments-464 East Center Street-Manchester
The Magick Mirror-321 Post Road-Milford
AIDS Project New Haven-1302 Chapel Street-New Haven
Artspace-50 Orange Street-New Haven
Atticus Bookstore/Café-1082 Chapel Street-New Haven
BAR-234 Crown Street-New Haven
Book Trader Café-1140 Chapel Street-New Haven
Café Nine-250 State Street-New Haven
Fair Haven Furniture-72 Blatchley Avenue-New Haven
Gotham-130 Crown Street-New Haven
New Haven Gay & Lesbian Community Center-50 Fitch Street-New Haven
168 York Street Café-168 York Street-New Haven
Lovecraft Tattoo-1538 Whalley Avenue-New Haven
Partners Café-365 Crown Street-New Haven
Rimage’-1210 Chapel Street-New Haven
Sogno-83-B Audubon Street-New Haven
Style Forum-1674 Quinnipiac Avenue-New Haven
Walker-Loden-258 Church Street-New Haven
Yale Repertory Theater-1120 Chapel Street-New Haven
Garde Arts Center-325 State Street-New London
Golden Street Gallery-94 Golden Street-New London
Greene's Books & Beans-140 Bank Street-New London
Triangle Community Center-16 River Street-St. John River View Bldg.-Norwalk
Georgina’s-290 Boston Post Road-Orange
Club Mor-29 Atlantic Street-Stamford
Fletcher's Café-52 East Main Street-Waterbury
Elbow Room-986 Farmington Avenue-West Hartford
Curious Goods-415 Campbell Avenue-West Haven
The Cedar Brook Café-919 Post Road-Westport

Well that’s all for now, so as usual, thanks and keep listening…


Friday, September 22, 2006

Everclear – Welcome to the Drama Club

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Everclear – Welcome to the Drama Club

Welcome to the Drama Club is the best album Everclear has released since they debuted on Capitol Records with the album Sparkle and Fade in 1995. That being said, you could make the argument that Welcome to the Drama Club isn’t technically an Everclear album at all, being that out of original members; Art Alexakis, Craig Montoya and Greg Ecklund…only Alexakis remains.

The new Everclear has gone from a Trio to a Quintet this time out, featuring Alexakis on vocals and guitar along with Sam Hudson on bass, Dave French on guitar, Brett Snyder on drums and Josh Crawley on keyboards. After the release of their fifth studio album, Slow Motion Daydream, and a greatest hits album, Ten Years Gone, Everclear the Trio went their separate ways, with Montoya and Ecklund forming their own solo projects, Tri-Polar and The Oohlas respectively, and Alexakis deciding to recreate Everclear. The new lineup and a less than happy recent past for Alexakis seem to have put a spark back into Everclear that was sadly missing in recent years.

Since Sparkle and Fade hit in the mid nineties, with songs like Santa Monica and Heroin Girl, Alexakis seemed to have found his comfort zone melodically. While giving his songs a trademark Everclear sound, it also had the tendency to make several Everclear songs sound the same. On Welcome to the Drama Club however, the Everclear sound is still there, but the songs as a whole are full of energy, anger, angst and hope which give them the feeling of not having been heard before. The album sounds fresh, not rehashed and while the topics of divorce, addiction, financial ruin and even love have been covered several times before by Alexakis, the events that made up his recent years seem to have energized him as a writer and given him something more to say.

Sonically, Welcome to the Drama Club is crisp; not over produced as some of the band’s recent outings have been. The addition of a second guitar and keyboards do a remarkable job in helping to shape the sound of Welcome to the Drama Club into something that is both familiar and fresh. Josh Crawley’s keyboard work is the most noticeable new color in the Everclear palate, lending a funky vibe to some songs while expanding the sonic base of the album as a whole.

Change is tough. Change is also unavoidable. We don’t like change; we all have our comfort zone. We get used to things, they way they are and the way they make us feel. Sometimes though, you just have to jump…and once you do, you realize that change really isn’t all that bad. There’s new life in change and Welcome to the Drama Club is a perfect example of that.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jeffrey Foucault – Ghost Repeater

Jeffrey Foucault – Ghost Repeater

Jeffrey Foucault’s Ghost Repeater is one of the most honest and most authentic works by a singer/songwriter I have ever heard.

It is a slice of life, or more correctly, a slice of American life that echoes with the sounds of a different time and a different place. Part Blues, part Country and part Folk; Ghost Repeater treads tenderly through rural America with eleven songs that seem like an old shoebox full of photographs from the twentieth century.

Foucault is an outstanding writer, with the gift of both lyric and melody. When listening to Ghost Repeater, the individual pieces of the songs; the lyrics, the melody, the music, seem to become transparent and fall away exposing the soul of the composition full with atmosphere and emotion.

Musically, Ghost Repeater is sparse and haunting with its wide open spaces filled only slightly with acoustic guitars, brushed drums and echoing pedal steel accents. Other instruments come and go with the only constant on Ghost Repeater being the acoustic guitar and Jeffrey Foucault’s voice.

Foucault has constructed an album with songs that feel traditional and arrangements to match. Ghost Repeater is sonically consistent, helping to carry that traditional feel from the starting notes of Ghost Repeater to the very last, lingering traces of Appeline.

I’ve been extremely lucky to discover a select few artists who are truly gifted in their musical pursuits. Jeffrey Foucault and his album Ghost Repeater are among the very best of them.

Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked Ladies Are Me

Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked Ladies Are Me

A while back, I wrote about the Barenaked Ladies podcast, “Live from the studio, Freaking Out.” The band began podcasting in February and has, with somewhat less frequency, continued to do so with their latest podcast that was released on August 31st. I listened to all of them and realized that I felt, for the first time in their career, that I really wanted to hear their new album. So, under the advice and/or mind control of BNL frontman Stephen Page, I pre-ordered the Barenaked Ladies Are Me: Super Duper Fantastic Morally & Socially Redeeming Deluxe Edition (actually it’s just called the Barenaked Ladies Are Me: Deluxe Edition).

Question: Was I a marketing push over? Did they, as they say, see me coming?

Answer: Possibly, but I prefer to think that I just had a lot of time invested.

Anyway, the Deluxe Edition of Barenaked Ladies Are Me has a whopping thirty tracks as opposed to the standard version’s thirteen...or fifteen if you buy it from the iTunes Music Store. You may be thinking that for someone who’s a casual fan of the band, thirty tracks seem like a lot.

Question: Was I duped by the evil and subliminal marketing strategies of the BNL sales juggernaut?

Answer: Most definitely, but you know what?

Barenaked Ladies Are Me is a really good album…not only the first thirteen “official” songs, but additional seventeen as well. That being said…

Here are my first impressions of Barenaked Ladies Are Me:

* With fear of sounding cliché, this album was recorded by a more mature BNL…not necessarily a more serious BNL mind you, just more mature.

* The album still has that signature BNL “tongue in cheek” feel, but it is not afraid to venture beyond that signature BNL “tongue in cheek” feel.

* The album seems to have a more raucous feel to it.

* There seem to be lots of guitars…lots of electric guitars.

* It feels like a more “electric” album than their past albums.

* There are very good instrumental and vocal performances by everyone.

* Bob Clearmountain did a great job mixing the disc.

* There seem to be infinitely more Ed songs on this album than usual…which is a good thing.

* Speaking of Ed…I love the line, “I was a baby when I learned to suck, but you have raised it to an art form” from Wind It Up.

All in all, I think Barenaked Ladies Are Me, in which ever form you find it; the normal edition, the normal edition with bonus tracks, the expanded edition, deluxe edition or the extremely rare and hard to find (not the least of which is because it doesn’t exist) supercalifragilisticexpialidocious edition; is a winner. By the way, you don’t have to feel too bad if you only managed to find a normal, thirteen song edition of Barenaked Ladies Are Me because the band has plans to release Barenaked Ladies Are Men, a follow up disc, in the new year that should contain most of the other tracks from the deluxe edition.

Peter Frampton – Fingerprints

Peter Frampton – Fingerprints

Peter Frampton’s new album, Fingerprints fits nicely into place following his last two studio albums; 1994’s Peter Frampton and 2003’s Now. The curveball comes when after the first few measures of Boot It Up, the first track from Fingerprints, you begin to realize there are no vocals. The man responsible for the best selling live album of all time, Frampton Comes Alive, and such legendary songs as Show Me the Way and Do You Feel Like We Do seems to have abandoned the microphone in exchange for his guitar and released the first instrumental album of his career.

Fingerprints is eclectic, carefully crafted, well played and most definitely a Peter Frampton album. Anyone who is familiar with Frampton as an artist can attest to his particular guitar “sound,” made up of his guitar tone and thoroughly influenced by his instrumental technique and musical phrasing. His sound is, just as the name of the album implies, a fingerprint and the longer a musician plays, the more defined that fingerprint becomes…and Peter Frampton has been playing for a long time.

It’s an interesting experience to hear an instrumental album from a musician who is intimately familiar with the workings of writing a song with both music and vocals. The songs on Fingerprints are more about being songs and less about the technique needed to play the instrument. The melody lines played by Frampton’s guitar are much more like vocal passages than your typical instrumental guitar album, which this is not.

The songs, while all identifiable as Frampton, are all unique to each other. Each of the fourteen tracks is a composition unto it self. Fingerprints is not disappointing in it’s variety; you have full on rockers, contemplative acoustic pieces, blues, a little jazz and even a French vignette courtesy of the album’s closer, Souvenirs de Nos Peres.

Some may look at Fingerprints as being a work of self-indulgence, in that Peter Frampton has chosen to only focus on his passion for guitar. However, a different argument could also be made. Fingerprints may just be a small jewel in the vast career that Peter Frampton has had.

John Mayer - Continuum

John Mayer – Continuum

I had these two ideas for the John Mayer review. I couldn't decide, so I included them pick.

Review #1:

Having written at length about John Mayer and the songs on Continuum previously, I am left with only two things to say about Mr. Mayer and his new album:

1 – Thank whichever God applies that John Mayer started his career early. That God willing, he will be with us to a ripe old age and making music all the while.

2 – Stop reading this and proceed with one of the following:
A - Log in to iTunes and buy a copy of John Mayer’s Continuum right now.

B - Get in your car, drive to your favorite place to buy music and buy a copy of John Mayer’s Continuum right now.

Review #2:

Having written at length about John Mayer and the songs on Continuum previously, I am left with only one thing to say about Mr. Mayer and his new album:


Friday, September 08, 2006

New: On the pod

New: On the pod

Bitter:Sweet – The Mating Game
Breaking Benjamin – Phobia
BT – This Binary Universe
George Lynch – Furious George
Glenn Gould - Robert Schumann: Piano Quartet/Brahms: Piano Quintet
Gran Bel Fisher – Full Moon Cigarette
Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death
Jani Lane – Back Down To One
Kaki King – Until We Felt Red
Los Lonely Boys – Los Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys – Scared
Lyle Lovett – My Baby Don’t Tolerate
Lyle Lovett – Step Inside This House
Michael Schenker Group – Adventures Of The Imagination
Nina Gordon – Bleeding Heart Graffiti
Scrubs – Soundtrack
Soul Asylum – Grave Dancers Union
Steve Stevens – Flamenco A Go-Go
The Who – Wire & Glass


Cornelia Funke – The Thief Lord

Quick Audiobook Review:

Whitley Strieber – The Grays

The Grays

Whitley Strieber’s The Grays is a perfect example of how accessible Science Fiction can be to a popular audience. As a genre, Sci-Fi can be a hard sell to a lot of people, but The Grays doesn’t have the typical pitfalls like alien names with too many consonants or so much made up science that it feels as if you’re reading a technical manual. The real strength of The Grays is it’s humanity. Strieber gives us a story in which everyone, both human and alien alike, is looking for the answer to who they are and what that means. The writing is beautiful, most especially so in the scene of a young boy becoming who he is destine to be. The Grays is an exciting read, which once started will be hard to put down.

News: On the pod

Hi everybody,

Well, I'm back from the road trip with lots of new music to write about as you can see. I should have a few new album reviews up shortly, so check back soon for those.

While we were on the Charlotte trip, I met a great guy and artist by the name of Tom Davidson. He has a very cool comic called D-tails that you can check out over at his website, There’s an online version as well as a print version, which I highly recommend you buy several copies of, because I picked one up myself and it was great…and did I mention inexpensive?

As for the the quick audiobook review...If you get a chance, check out The Grays. I really dug that book.

I also blew through Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac which was a blast to read. Very different from his other books like Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, I’d actually have to say that Zodiac was light in comparison. Oh, and it’s a very easy read,'s say...hmmm...I don't know...Cryptonomicon. I’m still working on that one.

Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller
Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller

I’m currently reading Loser Goes First by Dan Kennedy which is a fun little book too. I’ll let you know just how much when I’m done.

Loser Goes First: My Thirty-Something Years of Dumb Luck and Minor Humiliation
Loser Goes First: My Thirty-Something Years of Dumb Luck and Minor Humiliation

I think that pretty much sums up what’s going on around here so I’ll let you get back to your lives. As always, check back soon for updates.

Thanks and keep listening,