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Tim Morrow, As Long As It’s Not Me

12 Aug, 2013 Justin Kreitzer

Veteran California singer-songwriter Tim Morrow recently self-released his latest album, As Long As It’s Not Me, in May of 2013.  Morrow sings with a distinct, nasally voice that incorporates a bit of a Bowie-like, “British Invasion” accent and sounds decidedly younger than what you might expect from someone the age of sixty.  He also plays bass and acoustic guitar to create an acoustic-based pop-rock sound that touches on many of his diverse musical influences – 70’s power-pop, Motown, Beatles-esque melodies, sunny 60’s pop and 50’s rock and roll – which he grew up listening to in Michigan.

In the late 70’s, he formed the band, The Murder Brothers along with guitarist Jerry Juden and quickly made a name for themselves in the Los Angeles music scene for a few years before disbanding.  Decades later, they reformed in the 90’s as The Shamus Twins and recorded their self-titled debut album which was well-regarded across the globe.  Meanwhile, Tim has been recording on his own since 2007; when he released his 22-track debut solo album, Back To Deltron.  It is evident that Morrow and Juden have a long, rich musical history together and Juden joined Morrow in the studio for the recording of As Long As It’s Not Me, lending backing vocals, guitars and guitar solos to the mix.  He was also joined by guitarist Dinos Lambropoulos and drummer Perry Lopez, who helped shape his musical vision.

The album opens with the sparkling “Sunny Day In Santa Monica” and its appropriately sun-soaked melodies and fun, call-and–response sing-along vocals.  “That’s The Way Love Is” follows with a soulful, soaring chorus that recalls the classic doo-wop rock of the 50’s along with a crusty guitar solo by Jerry Juden.  The rootsy, folk-inspired title track, “As Long As It’s Not Me” is built upon a bed of steady acoustic guitar strumming complete with some pretty flourishes and an emotionally-charged vocal performance that drips with longing and regret.  The rollicking standout track, “Better Day” is led by a strutting bass line and a shuffling, danceable drum beat along with an infectious and uplifting chorus.  Next, “Sounds Like Michele Walking” features jangly Byrds-like guitars and a catchy vocal cadence that lends the song a bit of a psychedelic vibe.  “Deep In Her Heart” is also upbeat with a driving rock rhythm, a sincere, lyrical sentiment and an infectious hook.  The strangely-titled “Do You Like Her Or Someone” is a country-leaning folk-rock song with sweet 50’s rock vocal harmonies, that ends up being another standout moment on the album.  Juden lends his swaying backing vocals and another melodic guitar solo to the self-deprecating track, “I’ll Go Away”.  Another standout track is the dynamic “In 30 Years”.  On one hand, the song is bittersweet, as Morrow acknowledges his age and wishes that he could still be around when a younger loved one grows up, but his youthful voice adds in a bit of gusto and guest, Dino Lambropoulos contributes a blistering, bluesy guitar solo, which lightens the mood considerably.  Closing out the ten-track album is “2 Day Holiday” with strummy alt-country guitars and some sharp, 60’s pop melodies that set the scene for the lyrics that burst with a sense of urgency and beg for reconnection with a lover, even if only for a couple of days.

The album art for As Long As It’s Not Me, with its coastal landscape and lighthouse, evokes nostalgic memories; I’m sure for Tim Morrow, of his childhood growing up in Michigan.  Likewise, his memorable pop-rock music that is highlighted by a touch of folk and country is sure to hit the same nostalgic notes for the listener.

Review by: Justin Kreitzer
Rating: 3 out 5 stars

The Mailman’s Children, Supply and Demand

27 Jun, 2013 Justin Kreitzer

The Mailman’s Children are a veteran “North American” rock band based out of both Winnipeg, Canada and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  TMC, as they are affectionate dubbed by their fans, formed in 2000 and released two well-received studio albums before going on a lengthy hiatus.  Marking their highly-anticipated return is Supply & Demand, their new EP and third studio recording overall, which is due to be self-released in July.  The four-piece band is led by songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Eric Labossiere along with lead guitarist Joel Perreault and the super-tight rhythm section of bassist Joel Couture and drummer Eddie Vesely.  Collectively, they create a catchy and diverse brand of alternative rock that harkens back to the guitar-driven College Rock of the late 80’s and 90’s and touches on elements of the classic and progressive rock of the 70’s, all while retaining a modern edge on the new EP which was co-produced by John Paul Peters (Propagandhi, Royal Canoe) and Eric Labossiere.

The bouncy, Reggae-tinged rhythm and instantly hummable guitar melody of “Undercover” opens the EP on a high note, along with a soaring chorus that offers up Labossiere’s impassioned plea to warn someone of the danger they’re blindly walking into.  “Crazy Without It” follows and features Vesely’s intriguing drum sound that switches back and forth between shuffling electronics and a more natural, pounding drum beat along with Couture’s strutting bass line that lay the foundation for the super-poppy guitar and vocal melodies to set the song apart as a standout moment.  Showcasing another side of their strong songwriting is the dynamic, progressive rock undertones of “Do You Wanna Be Right” with its driving, funk-fuelled rock rhythm which opens up just enough to allow space for Perreault’s melodic classic rock-styled guitar runs a chance to grab the spotlight.  As a change of pace, the band slows down the pace a little with the ballad-esque “Walls Have Ears” and its mesmerizing cyclical acoustic guitar patterns and layers of lush vocal harmonies.  Another standout track, “Anger At Its Best” recalls the almighty Canadian rock institution Rush with its bass-led groove, intricate fretwork and stop/start time signatures.  What makes it truly standout is the track’s big, arena-filling sing-along chorus.  Closing out the six-song EP is “Lately” and its crunchy guitar tone and head-nodding rhythm that leave you wanting more, especially after such a long hiatus.  Each individual song from the collection adds brushstrokes to the overall portrait of the band, painting a picture of a band that is confident, creative and skilled in their ability.

Although it is sort of short, Supply & Demand, the appropriately-titled new EP from The Mailman’s Children is a welcome return for the band, which gives their fans just enough songs to restock the supply, but that only heightens the demand even more for a proper full-length release.  Now, I’m not an economist or anything but I do know good songs when I hear them and TMC delivers the goods on their latest EP.

Review by: Justin Kreitzer
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Arek Religa, Warrior

25 Jun, 2013 Justin Kreitzer

Arek Religa is a Los Angeles-based Polish-born guitar virtuoso who just released his sophomore solo album of instrumentals, Warrior, in May.  The self-released album was composed, arranged, recorded and produced by Religa himself in his home studio and is the perfect vessel to showcase his unique guitar shredding skills.  After picking up the guitar at a young age, he got his start in the 80’s playing lead guitar for the acclaimed Polish band, Guliver and with well-regarded Polish musicians including, Robert Janson and Janusz Poplawski.  Later, to further his music career he moved to the United States for the first time in 2000 where he landed in Chicago, and quickly became immersed in the local music scene and he released his debut album, In Memory of the Greatest in 2008.  Drawing from all of his unique experiences over the years, he has developed a fluid and groove-centric melodic hard rock and improvisational Jazz-informed style that incorporates such diverse influences as Santana, Journey, Black Sabbath and Pat Matheny.

“Into The Arena” opens the album with soaring, anthemic guitar melodies that act as the perfect primer for what is to come and an introduction to Arek’s sound for new listeners.  “Changes” follows and unfortunately is not a cover of the David Bowie classic, although it would be interesting to hear that song in Religa’s hands.  Instead, a rumbling bass line and insistent drum beat open the song before the guitar launches in with a choppy melody that is instantly memorable, and that builds into a scorching guitar solo that flows overtop a bouncy, Reggae-inspired keyboard-led rhythm.  Standout track “Highway Traffic” is appropriately titled, with its frantic moments of side-swiping guitar lines and driving rhythm along with its thick, 70’s-leaning vintage organ riff; sounding like a modern-day take on the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Crosstown Traffic”.  “Journey” highlights his diverse influences with cloud-scraping keyboard melodies, blues-soaked guitar runs and some hypnotizing New Age-like passages, as the album’s most dynamic moment.  Slowing down the pace a bit is “PX AR”, a cosmic blues rock jam complete with piercing guitar harmonics and a scorching, metallic guitar solo for another standout moment.  Yet another standout is Religa’s unique and propulsive guitar-led assault on the sophisticated Chopin piano concert piece, “Revolutionary Etude op 10 no 12 (Chopin)” which features keyboards and piano from guest musician, Wojtek Kozlowski and bass guitar from Leszek Fil.  On “Not Quite Latino” he offers up a danceable Salsa rhythm and blazing guitars for an inspired tribute to Carlos Santana with drums provided by guest, Gabriel Chorabik, who’s real, as opposed to electronic drums sounds that make up most of the album, really make a difference.  The one critique I would make is that the album would sound much better and more complete with organic drums.

The title track, “Warrior” is highlighted by a propulsive chugging rhythm and combines ascending 80’s hair metal guitar licks and 70’s organ freakouts with a fury and ferocity that matches the song’s title.  The nine song album closes out with the fast-paced rhythm and fancy, Van Halen-inspired fretwork of “Chicago Guitar Knight”, which blazes through its two-and-a-half minute running time, though the squealing guitar melodies linger long after the song has ended.

Even though a full album of guitar-led instrumentals might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Arek Religa’s stellar new album, Warrior, proves that the award-winning guitarist is an extraordinary talent and he has crafted an album that should find its home in the record collections of guitar enthusiasts around the world.  Warrior should make fans of Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen and Santana very happy.

Reviewed by: Justin Kreitzer
Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

Bogdo Ula “Crash Canis Majoris”

26 Sep, 2012 Justin Kreitzer

Bogdo Ula, the Finland based instrumental avant-garde jazz-rock trio has recently self-released Crash Canis Majoris, their sixth album in as many years.  The super-prolific and wildly talented band took their name and some inspiration from a majestic mountain near the city of Ulaabaatar in Mongolia and consists of guitarist Samuli Kristian, drummer Ivan Horder and bassist Jean Ruin.  Utilizing a DIY approach once again, the album was self-produced, mixed, mastered, and played and recorded live in the studio by the band, which goes a long way to prove that they write and perform so tightly it is almost symbiotic, sounding like one person or like an octopus playing each instrument at once.

“Your Sign Cygnus” opens the album with a wild tangle of jazzy guitar runs, loosely constructed drum patterns and rumbling bass fills that sets the tone and provides the perfect introduction to their unique sound for new listeners.  The title track, “Crash Canis Majoris” stands out with some frenetic drumming and sun-scorched rock-inspired guitar soloing that together sounds like the soundtrack to a high speed chase scene and lasts for almost three minutes before ending without even once settling into a noticeable groove.  This is not music for the nervous, nor is it considered “easy listening” meant for peaceful relaxation.  No, this is rock and even punk inspired jazz-rock fusion meant to transport the listener and inspire imagination.  The aptly-titled “Portraits Around The Bend” follows with bending elastic guitar lines and a slight touch of funk in the bass riffing while the drums and cymbals splatter across the spectrum.  Another standout track, “I Never Was Away” opens with some pinging and reverberating guitar and bass harmonics that float along in the ether with cascading drums that gives the song a creepy, lost in space atmosphere.  “Woman-Human” is a fast-paced explosive blast with wiggling guitars, a gurgling bass line and some cagey drumming from Ivan Horder.  “VY CMa (part 1)” is made up of long spaced out guitar notes and discordant scraping and tuning noises that sounds like the band is just warming up before the start of a show but without actually starting the show and yet it still makes for one of the more interesting and ambient tracks on the album.  As a change of pace, “Adhara” is a slight departure from the band’s sound, featuring a consistent head-nodding drum beat with a repeated and hummable melody from the oscillating guitar and a strutting bass line. It is a welcomed change that showcases their broad range and versatility, so much so that you almost even expect a high-pitched prog rock singer to chime in at any moment.  Elsewhere, “Talk, Talk, Talk” features a stuttering rhythm and scaling guitars that lean towards the blues rock end of the spectrum and “Vortex In Your Eyes” roars to life from the beginning with a sound like a robotic beached whale crying for help to no avail for yet another standout moment.  Separated by two tracks, “VY CMa (part 2)” focuses on Jean Ruin’s bass guitar this time around with thick ominous tones and notes while the guitar nimbly fills the spaces in between.  “Where Ever I Lay My Head” closes out the album with energetic tumbling drums and rumbling bass, while Samuli Kristian envelops the whole song in his melodious and fancy fretwork, leaving you exhausted yet wanting more.

Bogdo Ula again has created yet another transportive and captivating album with Crash Canis Majoris which was named after one of the largest known stars, VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa).  In turn, the stellar album has a cosmic and psychedelic theme throughout with their vividly expressive and mostly improvisational sound reaching the stars and beyond.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)
Review by Justin Kreitzer

The Fylls “Living Rooms Little Album”

24 Jul, 2012 Justin Kreitzer

The Fylls (pronounced like, “The Fills”) are a New York City based indie folk band who has just recently self released their mostly acoustic debut EP Living Rooms Little Album.  The seven track EP was mastered by producer Andrew Futral of fellow NYC indie rock band Field Mouse and was recorded in the living rooms of some of their friends and fans as the four piece band huddled around one or two microphones to capture the immediate intimacy of the moment as well as the band’s captivating live energy.  Living Rooms Little Album was released in appreciation of a successful Kickstarter campaign that they will use to record and release their anticipated debut studio album this fall or winter.  The band is led by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jordan Roads and vocalist and bassist Erica Robinson, and is rounded out by contributions from Micky Robinson on guitar and vocals and drummer Sam Paul Sherman.

“Rabbit Hunting” opens the EP with a slow pace of steadily strummed acoustic guitar and features Jordan and Erica’s seamless male/female vocal harmonies.  The song is the perfect introduction to their rock-infused indie folk sound that has been compared to The Swell Season meets the Pixies.  “Wooden Floors” stands out with cyclical fingerstyle guitars that cascade with a pretty sparkle along with a shuffling wire brush rhythm and even more warm close knit harmonies.  Another standout moment comes from the tangled interplay between the acoustic and electric guitars on “Thread”, which is bolstered by Erica’s bluesy lead vocals.  And even with the slightly stripped down approach, the song still reveals their complex and captivating arrangements.  The aptly-titled “Darkroom” features darker melodies as it alternates between the slower, starker verses and the surging 60’s psych-pop inspired chorus with slightly distorted guitar; hinting at what is to come from their full length album.  “Ashtray” conjures up the dusty Laurel Canyon folk of the 60’s and 70’s and features melodic guitar runs that twist and turn around the vocal melody.

Mainly because it was a package meant to hold over their fans until their proper debut, the Living Rooms Little Album EP also contains a couple of nice surprises in the form of bonus tracks, one of which is the studio version of their new single, “Mitochondria” which is due for an official release on NYC indie label Radian Records later this year.  Also included in the package is a DVD containing the stunning video of “Mitochondria”.  The other bonus track is the living room-recorded, “Last Battle” and is an upbeat track sung with dual lead vocals and features insistent acoustic strumming along with winding electric guitars for a politically charged anthem for and inspired by the “Working Man”.  Yet another added bonus is a recording of an interesting and insightful interview and live performance from when the band was featured on the Taking Care Of Business radio show on New York’s WCWP that closes out the EP.

From the lovingly handmade packaging which includes a little songbook of lyrics made from balsam wood to the way they recorded the album in their fan’s living rooms and raised $4000 from their Kickstarter campaign, The Fylls have an enviable DIY movement that has their fans excited and the solid Living Rooms Little Album EP only increases the buzz and heightens their anticipation for a proper studio album.

Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)
Review by: Justin Kreitzer