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Tag: mike rimbaud

A Sepulchral, Saturnine Album and a Lower East Side Show from Dark Rock Guitarslinger Phil Gammage

Dark rock crooner Phil Gammage got his start as a teenager in the 1980s as the lead guitarist for legendary downtown NYC postpunk band Certain General. It’s probably safe to say that without them, there may have been no Jesus & Mary Chain or Brian Jonestown Massacre. While Certain General have been resurrected in various configurations over the years, Gammage has enjoyed a prolific career as a bandleader, sideman and small label honcho. His latest album Used Man for Sale is streaming at Bandcamp. He’s likely to air some of those songs out with his band on July 6 at around 9 at the Parkside, one of the few Lower East Side venues that hasn’t turned into a fulltime tourist trap.

The album opens with Arms of a Kind Woman, a blend of the purist Chicago blues that Gammage has been mining recently, but with a guarded Nick Cave optimism. Vocally, Gammage draws on both Cave and ’68 comeback-era Elvis, although Gammage could croon like this when Cave was still screaming about big Jesus trashcans. Interestingly, this record is more vocally than guitar-oriented — although the solo that ends it is a real monster.

Lowlit by Johnny Young’s oldschool slip-key honkytonk piano, Maybe Tomorrow is a gothic take on George Jones/Tammy Wynette C&W, Gammage’s brooding baritone in tandem with with Michele Butler’s uneasy harmonies over the slinky rhythm section of bassist Frank DiNunzio III and drummer Kevin Tooley (also of political rocker Mike Rimbaud’s band).

The band keeps the slinky, red-neon noir going through I Beg of You, part doomed fat Elvis, part haunted Otis Rush blues, with a knifes-edge guitar solo from the bandleader. The title track is a bitter oldschool soul ballad with a blue-flame guitar burn:

It’s my world, or what I tried to forget of it
All I am is a used man for sale
I had dreams, threw them all away
Hopes and schemes left for better days…

Ride With Railroad Bill is akin to 60s Johnny Cash fronting the Bad Seeds circa 1995.  Feeling the Hurt has echoes of Roy Orbison in rare optimistic mode: “It took me too long to get this far, and I paid too high of a price,” Gammage observes.

Before I Leave has an ominously vamping latin noir Doors/Frank Flight Band ambience: listen closely for a cool allusion to a classic cut from LA Woman. Fueled by Gammage’s slide work, Tenderloin comes across as a less frantic, more purist take on what Jon Spencer was doing 20 years ago (and sorry to bust anybody’s bubble, but even San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has been been overrun by yuppies).

“The city awaits, it’s your playground,” Gammage intones with crushing sarcasm in Lost in Loserville, a bluesy anti-gentrifier broadside and the album’s funniest track. It winds up with the Doorsy blues Staring Out Our Window. Gammage has been on a lot of good albums over the years, and this might be the best of them all; it’s inspiring to see a guy who’s been around this long at a high point in a four-decade artistic career.

Nuclear Codes for the Game-Show Host

Mike Rimbaud recorded his grimly prophetic Going Down to Trumpistan – a free download – before last night’s election results.It’s sort of a mashup of early, classic Public Enemy and late 60s Carlos Santana. In his ominous baritone, the New York songwriter considers how

Journalists are the enemy
Torture is an art, seriously
Crowd control
No privacy
Going down, down, down to Trumpistan

He’s playing Otto’s this Saturday night at 11: it’ll be a party for our right to fight.

And for historical context, here’s Gil Scott-Heron’s similarly prophetic 1976 requiem, Winter in America.

Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds
Looking for the rain
Just like the cities that stagger on the coastline
And a nation that can’t stand much more
It’s Winter in America
All of the heroes have been killed, sent away
It’s Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
‘Cause nobody knows what to say

The 50 Best Albums of 2015

Seven or eight years ago, everyone was predicting the demise of the album. That hasn’t happened, and as long as we have recording technology, it won’t. A few other predictions from the past decade, however, have come true. Albums these days tend to be shorter, and artists are releasing fewer of them. And as a result, they’re consistently better, since acts are no longer contractually obliged to record labels to churn out product regardless of whether or not they’ve got first-class material ready to go. A couple of artists on this list are on boutique labels, but everybody else is independent.

On this page you’ll find a link to stream each album in its entirety. Whenever possible, those links are to ad-free sites like Bandcamp or Soundcloud so you can multitask in comfort without having to ride the fader to mute the ads. Considering the vast number of albums released in any calendar year, you shouldn’t regard this list as gospel. It is, however, an informed survey based on careful triage followed by a sampling of several thousand releases, and then a locked-in, analytical listen to the best 500 or so, from this past January up to the present date. A LOT of time went into this. For purposes of keeping the list under control, none of the many thousands of excellent jazz, classical and avant garde releases are represented here. Realistically, there’s a limit on how much territory a single blog can cover.

The one collection that packed the most mighty wallop – a pretty quiet one, actually – and wins the title of best album of 2015 is Who’s Counting, by Rachelle Garniez. With gallows humor, terse piano, accordion and spare acoustic guitar, it’s the New York songwriter’s shortest, most intimate and darkest album, a masterpiece of existentialist rock, grim explorations of mortality and global carnage juxtaposed with jaunty, sultry, cabaret-flavored set pieces. This is the second time a release by Garniez has topped this list: her 2007 album Melusine Years ranked #1 that year at this blog’s predecessor. Stream it at Spotify

As far as the rest of this rich crop is concerned, there’s no ranking here, since there are so many styles to choose from. Seriously: what’s better? Carol Lipnik‘s otherworldly art-rock, Twin Guns’ savage garage-punk and horror surf, or Hungrytown‘s magnificently pensive folk noir? Apples and oranges, right? These albums are all so good that they can stand alongside anything here.

Les Sans Culottes- Les Dieux Ont Soif/The Gods Are Thirsty
The New York-based faux-French rockers deliver their most satirical, bitingly hilarious, spot-on critique yet…in French, of course, with a harder, more guitar-fueled edge than the retro 60s psychedelic pop they’re known for. Stream it at Soundcloud

Regular Einstein – Chimp Haven
Velvet-voiced, wickedly lyrical janglerock songwriter Paula Carino is another artist who topped the Best Albums of the Year list at this blog’s predecessor. In her case, that release was 2010’s Open on Sunday. This is her first new one – since the 90s, in fact -with her original New York band, packed with delicious double entendres, bittersweet narratives and tricky time signatures. Stream it at Bandcamp

The Bright Smoke – Terrible Towns
Haunting singer/guitarist Mia Wilson’s full-length debut with this atmospheric, blues-infused art-rock project ranks with Joy Division for angst-fueled, white-knuckle intensity. Stream it at Bandcamp

The Sideshow Tragedy Capital
Guitarist/frontman Nathan Singleton brings a ferocious, bitterly apocalyptic lyrical sensibility to his fiery gutter-blues band. Stream it at Bandcamp

Charming Disaster – Love, Crime & Other Trouble
Jeff Morris of the phantasmagorical Kotorino and Ellia Bisker of dark chamber pop band Sweet Soubrette join forces on their debut full-length release, a lyrically and historically rich mix of murder ballads and tales of relationships gone spectacularly wrong. Stream it at Bandcamp

Carol Lipnik – Almost Back to Normal
The best album by the best singer on this list, a launching pad for her spectacular four-octave vocal range, backed by luminous, hypnotic piano from Matt Kanelos and strings by Jacob Lawson. Allusive apocalyptic themes of natural and manmade disaster and post-9/11 terror linger in the distance. Stream it at Mermaidalley.com

Ember Schrag – The Folkadelphia Sessions
Hypnotically Beatlesque art-rock, smoldering Macbeth-inspired narratives and a killer Great Plains gothic anthem by the style’s most lyrical and distinctive practitioner. Stream and download it free from the Folkadelphia page

Twin Guns – The Last Picture Show
A mighty leap for the ferocious power trio, including but not limited to their Cramps-style stomp. This one’s a lot more psychedelic and noir surf-oriented. Stream it at Bandcamp

Lorraine Leckie & Pavel Cingl – The Raven Smiled
Spare and surreal yet majestically enveloping art-rock and Slavic folk noir sounds from the Canadian gothic songstress and Czech violin wizard. Stream it at Bandcamp

Rachel Mason – The Lives of Hamilton Fish
One of the darkest albums on this list, this lush, evocative mix of historically-inspired janglerock and folk noir traces the seeemingly unconnected lives of two early 20th century figures who shared the same name: a serial killer and the scion of a famous New York political legacy. Stream it at Bandcamp

King Raam – A Day & a Year
A majestic, brooding Iranian art-rock record by the pseudonymous expat baritone crooner and bandleader. Lyrics in Persian. Stream it at Soundcloud

Fernando Viciconte – Leave the Radio On
The noir rock bandleader originally hails from Argentina; this haunted, doomed concept album, with significant contributions from REM’s Peter Buck and others, could be the great lost Steve Wynn release. Stream it at Bandcamp

Litvakus– Raysn: The Music of Jewish Belarus
A rousing, exhilarating mix of rare Jewish dance numbers,lively originals and morose folk tunes from the badlands of Polesia, in the corner where Belarus, Poland, Latvia and the Ukraine meet. One of the best party albums on this list. Stream it at Bandcamp

Raya Brass Band – Raya
Another awesome party album, the third release by the New York Balkan group is their most original, stylistically and emotionally diverse one yet, incorporating Ethiopian and latin sounds into their rapidire chromatics. Stream it at Bandcamp

Tipsy Oxcart – Upside Down
A fat rock rhythm section anchors these deliriously edgy minor-key Balkan, Turkish and Jewish themes and originals. Stream it at Bandcamp

Marianne Dissard – Cologne Vier Takes
The southwestern gothic/art-rock chanteuse and bandleader at the top of her uneasy game, in a mix of richly atmospheric yet intimate versions from her darkly lyrical catalog. Lyrics in French. Stream it at Bandcamp

Tom Warnick & the World’s Fair – Side Effects
The well-loved noir rock cult figure turns in a characteristically diverse mix of ghoulabilly, noir swing, soul and blues, all with his signature black humor and a luridly smoky band behind him. Stream it at Spotify

Matt Keating – This Perfect Crime
Getting away with murder is the loosely interconnecting theme on this typically diverse blend of janglerock, Stonesy stomp, Americana and soul-infused sounds, all with Keating’s richly sardonic, literate lyricism. Stream it at Mattkeating.com

Tracy Island – War No More
The long-awaited full-length debut from captivating singer/multi-instrumentalist Liza Garelik Roure – former leader of deviously psychedelic popsters Liza & the WonderWheels – is her catchiest and most pensively colorful yet, fueled by husband Ian Roure’s sizzling lead guitar. Stream it at Lizasongs.com

Bliss Blood & Al Street – Unspun
The iconic noir torch song heroine builds lowlit, lurid, delectably lyrical ambience in an intimate duo recording with her longtime flamenco-inspired six-string guy. Stream it at Bandcamp

Orphan Jane – A Poke in the Eye
Deviously witty, creepy noir cabaret and circus rock from this irrepressibly theatrical, Brecht/Weill-inspired New York crew. Stream it at Bandcamp

The Universal Thump – Walking the Cat
Famously recorded at Abbey Road Studios, frontwoman/keyboardist Greta Gertler has never written with greater wit or purist pop chops than she does here with her lush chamber pop/art-rock project. Stream it at Bandcamp

Sarah Kirkland Snider – Unremembered
The most lavishly orchestrated album on this list features vocals from Padma Newsome and Shara Worden throughout a mix of brooding, sweeping art-rock reflections on harrowing childhood experiences and similar trauma. Stream it at Bandcamp

Goddess – Paradise
The latest release by the phantasmagorical New York art-rock band captures them in creepily enveloping psychedelic mode. Stream it at Bandcamp

Bobtown – A History of Ghosts
Eerie, sepulcural Appalachian folk tunes, creepy newgrass, retro soul, murder ballads, black humor galore and exquisite four-part harmonies from the band that might be the best folk noir act around. Stream it at Bobtownmusic.com

Mike RimbaudPut That Dream in Your Pipe and Smoke It
Yet another provocative, surrealistically lyrical, tight powerpop and retro new wave record from one of the most fearlessly funny, spot-on chroniclers of post-9/11 global society anywhere. Stream it at Spotify

Hungrytown – Further West
The most elegantly arranged and arguably best album by poignant Americana songstress Rebecca Hall and multi-instrumentalist Ken Anderson’s plaintive folk noir band Stream it at Spotify

The Sway Machinery – Purity & Danger
One of the great guitar albums on this list, this richly textured, intricately arraanged, soaring collection of anthems sees the band venturing further from desert rock toward cantorially-inspired psychedelia. Stream it at Spotify

The TarantinosNYC – Surfin’ the Silver Screen
Catchy, fun, vividly cinematic surf rock, spy themes and psychedelic soul from one of NYC’s most original instrumental units. Stream it at Spotify

Dalava – their debut album
Guitar polymath Aram Bajakian and his haunting singer wife Julia Ulehla combine to reinvent stark traditional Moravian themes with an electric edge. Stream it at Bandcamp  

Patricia Santos – Never Like You Think
The auspicious, intense, eclectic soul-infused debut by the charismatic cello rocker and Kotorino member. Stream it at Bandcamp

Eleni Mandell – Dark Lights Up
Los Angeles noir soul, bittersweet torch song and Americana by an icon of dark retro songcraft. Stream it at Spotify

The Whiskey Charmers – their debut album
Twin Peaks C&W, Appalachian gothic, dark blues and jangly rock from this shadowy, female-fronted Detroit dark Americana band. Stream it at Thewhiskeycharmers.com

Figli di Madre Ignota – Bellydancer
High-energy, Gogol Bordello-esque circus rock and Romany punk songs with hilarious, satirical lyrics in Italian and English. Stream their “spaghetti Balkan” sounds at Soundcloud

The Frank Flight Band – The Usual Curse
The British counterpart to Blue Oyster Cult reach back into the vaults for this haunted mix of Doorsy art-rock, shapeshifting psychedelia and unexpectedly macabre gothic sounds. Stream it at cdbaby

Dawn Oberg – Bring
The irrepressible parlor pop pianist/chanteuse at the top of her sardonic, lyrically rich game in this mix of personality portraits and psychopathological analysis. Stream it at Dawnoberg.com

Jennifer Hall – her debut ep
An intriguing, auspicious mashup of noir soul and art-rock from the powerfully nuanced Chicago song stylist and her excellent, eclectic band. Stream it at Spotify

The Grasping Straws – their debut album
Edgy songwriter/guitarist Mallory Feuer’s snarling, hard-hitting, scruffy, defiantly lyrical first full-length effort goes in a more straightforward, less jazz-inspired direction than the band’s initial ep. Stream it at Bandcamp

Ben Von Wildenhaus– II
Southwestern gothic, slinky bellydancer noir themes and Twin Peaks atmospherics from the loopmusic guitar master and esteemed noir soundscaper. Stream it at Soundcloud

Naked Roots Conducive – Sacred521
Cellist Valerie Kuehne and violinist Natalia Steinbach’s tormentedly cinematic, surrealistically intense art-rock dives menacingly and blackly amusingly into themes of alienation and ahwer despair. Stream it at Bandcamp

Lions – their debut ep
A slinky, trippy mix of Ethiopian grooves, Israeli stoner rock jams and cinematic themes. Stream it at Bandcamp

George Usher & Lisa Burns – The Last Day of Winter
Intense, autumnal purist powerpop, blue-eyed soul and psych-pop tunesmithing from two highly regarded, veteran songcrafters. Stream it at Spotify

Banda de los Muertos – their debut album
Epic, ornate, richly arranged, reinvented Mexican brass band ranchera themes and sweepingly majestic, blazing originals from trombonist Jacob Garchik’s imaginative big brass ensemble. Stream it at Spotify 

Spanglish Fly – New York Boogaloo
A hard-hitting, wickedly arranged, cleverly crafted update on classic 60s salsa soul from this irrepressible, danceable, psychedelic New York outfit. Stream it at Bandcamp

Curtis Eller & the New Town Drunks – Baudelaire in a Box: Songs of Anguish
Intriguing new translations of classic, surrealistically creepy Baudelaire poems set to starkly bluesy, phantasmagorical tunes by the charismatic circus rock bandleader and the Eastern Seaboard noir group. Stream it at Bandcamp

Elisa Flynn – My Henry Lee
The darkly eclectic songwriter and hauntingly luminous chanteuse’s most spare, terse album blends starkly funny individualist anthems with more pensive material and a classic murder ballad. Stream it at Bandcamp

Fireships – their debut album
Imaginatively arranged Americana rock and chamber pop with a fearlessly aware, Dylanesque, populist lyricism. Stream it at Bandcamp

The Amphibious Man – Witch Hips
Enigmatically lo-fi, twistedly Lynchian, surf-tinged reverb rock. Like nothing else on this list and yet in a way like an awful lot on this list, in terms of general darkness. Stream it at Bandcamp

The Honeycutters – Me Oh My
Oldschool female-fronted honkytonk with a newschool, sharply literate, defiantly populist lyrical edge. Stream it at Spotify

The Old Ceremony – Sprinter
Folk noir and serpentine, intricately arranged, Lynchian art-rock and chamber pop from Django Haskins’ darkly eclectic band. Stream it at youtube – but BE CAREFUL – a loud audio starts immediately when you click the link, mute the sound before you do

For more yummy clickbait, other 2015 lists here include the forthcoming playlist at the Best Songs of 2015 page and the Best New York Concerts of 2015 page.

Mike Rimbaud: The Closest Thing to the Clash That NYC Has Right Now

Much like Ward White, Mike Rimbaud has quietly and methodically built a vast catalog of wickedly smart, catchy, relevant lyrical rock songs. Where White has drawn on janglerock, Americana, chamber pop and most recently, an artsy glam sound, Rimbaud looks back to new wave and punk, but also to reggae, and jazz, and Phil Ochs. White’s narratives are elusive to the extreme; Rimbaud’s are disarmingly direct, with a savagely spot-on political sensibility. A strong case could be made that no other New York artist represents this city’s defiantly populist past – or, one hopes, its future – more than Mike Rimbaud. He’s playing the album release show for his characteristically excoriating new one, Put That Dream in Your Pipe and Smoke It (streaming at Spotify) at Bowery Electric at 8:30 PM on Jan 15. Cover is eight bucks.

The album title alone is intriguing. Is it a pipe dream to think that we could create a world that improves on the current paradigm of speculators taking their profits private and passing all their losses off to an increasingly destitute public? Should we take Rimbaud’s suggestion as a challenge, as fuel for our imagination…or is he just throwing a cynical swipe at dashed hopes? Whichever the case, isn’t that what song lyrics should do: draw you in, keep your interest, maybe make you laugh a little, and think at the same time?

The album opens with Frequent Flyer Subway Rider, a cruelly evocative narrative which will resonate with any New Yorker who shares Rimbaud’s feeling that we deserve a few free rides for all we’ve suffered with the trains over the years. Rimbaud plays all the guitars on the album, with Chris Fletcher on bass and Kevin Tooley on drums; Lee Feldman’s bluesy Rhodes piano perfectly matches Rimbaud’s gritty ambience here.

Friend is a snarling, reverbtoned new wave update on Highway 61 era Dylan, a slap at social media addicts that’s as funny as it is accurate: “Your BFF is only BS,” Rimbaud snickers. Likewise, Rimbaud takes a blackly amusing look at the all-too-real dangers of fracking in Shale ‘n’ Roll over brooding bolero-rock that wouldn’t be out of place on a Las Rubias Del Norte album, Marc Billon’s creepy electric piano matching Rimbaud’s watery menace.

Over a vamping psychedelic rock backdrop that offers a wink to Dave Brubeck, Know Nothing Know It All makes gleeful fun of limousine liberals, both among the electorate and the elected: “Owned by Coke, and the Koch brothers,” Rimbaud reminds, Feldman laying down a serpentine groove.

Erik Friedlander’s ambered cello lines anchor the swaying, jangly Apple Doesn’t Mean Apple Anymore and its sardonic wordplay, a look at how corporate newspeak subtly replaces everyday language. Poverty Is a Thief, a Gil Scott-Heron-inspired duet with soul singer Danni Gee, makes the connection between the credit trap and the prison-industrial complex.

Among the album’s more lighthearted numbers, Paris Is the Heart sends a shuffling, stream-of-consciousness latin-rock shout-out to that city’s haunts. The requisite Marley-esque reggae song here is Tears Don’t Fall in Outer Space; the album ends with a cover of the Clash’s Rock the Casbah, revealing it as the prophetic anthem it turned out to be. For what it’s worth, Rimbaud has never sung better than he does here. Where he used to snarl, he’s more likely to croon these days, which is somewhat ironic considering how much unbridled wrath there is in these songs. Another winner from a guy who refuses to quit.

Video Dump Day: Emptying the Tank

One final day of videos and singles and then there’ll be a brand-new New York City live music calendar up here. That’s why all these videos! It literally takes days to pull the calendar together, which explains why so many videos and such have been stockpiled here over the past month. More concerts and albums coming on October 2. Til then:

Mike Rimbaud is one of the surprisingly few artists who realize that in a lot of respects, we’ve gone back to an age of singles instead of albums. That’s not to say that people don’t make albums anymore: he does that, too. His coolest single of late is The Ballad of Anthony Weiner, which does its best to humanize (well, semi-humanize) a serial sexter. And it’s not just joke-rock – that’s a neat, slinky latin soul groove he’s got going (itunes). The other one is Learning More About Less, a savage slap upside the head of teeenage textards and faceboogers (youtube). But all is not lost, Mike: the new generation is off Facebook, pays with cash instead of credit cards and is gaining traction for an overthrow of the surveillance state!

Another quintessentially New York group, the noir chamber pop duo Charming Disaster, serenade the virtues of public transportation with their East River Ferry Waltz (bandcamp).

Biggest news of the day is that snarling, twin-guitar Paisley Underground revivalists Mud Blood & Beer are offering their brilliant latest album The Sweet Life as a free download. A lot of this stuff is just as good and menacing as the Dream Syndicate or True West (bandcamp). They’re at the Way Station at 9 on 10/9.

Certain General guitarist Phil Gammage also has a noir thing going on much of the time. He’s got a new single, Giveaway (soundcloud).

Songwriter Melaena Cadiz offers up Bluestem Grass, a collaboration with another paisley underground type, Scott Collberg on dobro and other stringed instruments. It’s a gorgeous rock tune disguised as bluegrass from her single-a-month project (bandcamp).

And Icelandic band Mum have a pretty chamber trip-hop tune, Toothwheels, just out as a 7″ vinyl single (youtube).

Video Dump Day, Part 2

Every month, literally thousands of people send links to their videos here. Everybody seems to want their song to be the next Gangnam Style. What’s funny is that what was supposedly a completely organic, global response to a silly guy dancing to a song in Korean turned out to be fueled by a corporate marketing campaign. And aside from the first week when the video went viral, all of those millions of hits on Youtube turned out to be fake. So before they get stale, here are some videos and cool tracks that aren’t fueled by phony populism driven by corporate money. For some reason, most of this stuff is pretty dark.

All-female Portland, Oregon band La Luz share Sure as Spring, agorgeously creepy surf/dreampop hybrid (soundcloud). Ghost & Gale’s Nashville gothic Take Me to the Fire has the same kind of creepiness (youtube). Italian postpunkers Soviet Soviet have a similarly dark post-Joy Division stomp (soundcloud). And Roadkill Ghost Choir’s Beggars’ Guild adds menacing funeral organ to a highway rock groove with a touch of newgrass. New sound. Very cool (youtube).

Sun Angle’s Diamond Junk is totally 80s goth art-pop – a soaring bassline, layers and layers of guitar and catchy as hell (soundcloud).

Irresistibly charming all-female quirk-rock trio the Debutante Hour have one for their single Doo-Wop Girl (youtube).

Mike Rimbaud’s philosophical, politically inspired Slow Down to Get Ahead suggests we take the A train and maybe see Paris (youtube).

And for a big laugh, here’s the Fortissimo Show Choir doing Spanking Charlene’s Dismissed with a Kiss a-cappella (youtube)!

5/1 Video and Free Downloads to Keep You Entertained

Long overdue for some video here (click the links below) – comes in handy when there’s a massive update to the monthly NYC live music calendar going on. Out of all the months, the May calendar is the biggest bitch to pull together since all the summer festivals are being announced. So before all this gets stale, here goes, a handful of the best tracks to come over the transom here over the last few months.

Mike Rimbaud offers a sympathetic shout to the guy or girl in front of all the kids with Ritalin or Prozac-fried brains in Teacher’s Got a Bad Mouth, and sends a dis out to the lords of Wall Street with Big Bad Bully. Both tracks from his most recent album Midnight Rainbow.

Noir Britrocker Mike Marlin – who’s at the Highline on June 3 at 8 opening for what’s left of the Stranglers – offers a creepy free download, The Murderer, from his forthcoming solo album. Alec K Redfearn & the Eyesores’ The 7 & 6 – from their phenonenal 2012 album – is even creepier.

Lisbon Street, by Her Majesty is another freebie, a theatrical, psychedelic soul tune with fado overtones.

Beans on Toast’s Beer & a Burger is sort of British Steve Earle or Joe Pug – a sardonic, savagely cynical blue-collar acoustic punk anthem.

Yellow Red Sparks’ A Play to End All Plays is cynical doomed druggie Waitsish oldtimey circus rock. They’re at Union Hall in Park Slope on May 17 at around 10.

Army Navy’s Pickle is total mid-80s Brit-jangle except that they’re from California – an irresistibly clanging, ringing anthemic pop gem.

And here’s another killer free download, Pinknoizu’s Tin Can Valley, a twisted Middle Eastern flavored surf rock tune.

Red Jacket Mine Takes You Back to 1979

Seattle band Red Jacket Mine love their old new wave, and they are very, very good at it, almost to the point of parody. Their sound is period-perfect London 1979, right down to the overdone fake American drawl on the vocals- hearing this, you instantly envision a bunch of guys in skinny ties pilfering American soul music, occasionally giving it a hit of speed, a little Stonesy burn or Bowie-esque staginess. Their songs are insidiously catchy and don’t waste notes – ten tracks in 33 minutes or so. The band –  Lincoln Barr on guitars and vocals, Matthew Cunningham on bass and Andrew Salzman on drums – is tight, their licks and instrumental settings (tasteful Memphis and Muscle Shoals guitar played cleanly through old tube amps, vintage borderline-cheesy electric piano) perfectly retro.

The best song on the album is the title track, a wry 99-percenter anthem that sounds like Red Shoes as Elvis Costello might have done it had he saved it for Get Happy instead of putting it on his first album. Another good one is Better to Be Broken Than Blind, which ironically outdoes all those old British guys in evoking the brooding early 70s soul ballad sound of the Stylistics: these guys spice it with brass and swirly organ from guest Ken Stringfellow. Many of the other tracks here sound a lot like Costello, musically if not lyrically. Let’s not forget that at the peak of  Costello’s popularity, not everybody liked him for his vicious lyrics. A lot of people liked him because he was such a great pop tunesmith (and still is). That’s the crowd that will be psyched to discover this band.

With its fuzztone intro and staggered funk beat, Amy sounds like a song by the early Larch, or maybe a Mike Rimbaud b-side. The final track is a dead ringer for Rockpile. In between, when Red Jacket Mine does the blue-eyed soul thing, which is a lot of the time, they often remind of Graham Parker, especially on the wry, Memphis-tinged Nickel & Dime, or the brisk backbeat-driven Listen Up. And Skint City sounds like Costello’s Living in Paradise as a young Parker might have envisioned it.  Ron Nasty, which is closer to new wave than soul, does not appear to be about the Speedball Baby frontman. The rest of the songs include the allusively country-flavored Novelty’s Gone, with a tasty organ crescendo from Daniel Walker; a faux honkytonk number like the ones on Costello’s Taking Liberties; and a Jean Genie ripoff. So many bands get criticized – and rightfully so – for being oblivious to music made before 1980. These guys seem oblivious to anything made afterward. But that’s ok. They aren’t missing much.

A Smart, Wickedly Tuneful Project from Anders Parker and Kendall Meade

Anders Parker and Kendall Meade had such a good time making Wild Chorus, their album together, they named it after the Knoxville studio where they recorded it. Parker and Meade have a long history working together, going back to the 90s when he fronted Varnaline and shared the stage with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar in Gob Iron while she led the vastly underrated Juicy and then went on to the absolutely brilliant Mascott. All the while, she was being sought out as a collaborator since she has a reputation for elevating every project she touches: this one joins the ranks of Sparklehorse, Helium and the Spinanes, among others. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

What’s interesting about this is that it’s a true collaboration: while the duo trade off on vocals when they aren’t duetting, the album isn’t a case of having “his songs” and “her songs” – the tracks are a showcase for both songwriters’ strengths, Meade bringing a welcome craftsmanship to Parker’s more roughhewn style, Parker adding a haphazard edge to Meade’s polish and sheen. The opening track, We’re on Fire, Babe sets the stage, lingering distorted guitar pairing off against echoey Rhodes piano, swooshy organ and a rhythm section, Meade’s reassuring, reflecting-pool vocals blending with Parker’s twang and polishing down the rusty edges. The nonchalant backbeat acoustic gem City of Greats blends a bit of a vintage C&W feel wth a low-key 80s vibe that evokes Laura Cantrell’s recent work: “What you got isn’t what you would choose, you’re the master of all that you lose,” the duo harmonize with an elegaic matter-of-factness.

Just when it seems that Let’s Get Lost is one of Parker’s gruff tunes, Meade comes in with a knowing coyness and confectionery harmonies. Across the Years layers sweeping slide guitar and gospel-tinged piano and then hits a gently galloping riff before an unpredictable series of interludes that sound like a female-fronted middle-period Wilco. They follow Sleepwalking, a bittersweetly jangly, hypnotically nocturnal ballad with the luscious Dreamers on the Ground, its layers of distorted guitars ringing and clanging artfully against each other in the left and right channels, Parker’s refusal to give in to an eay resolution finding a perfect foil in Meade’s anthemic hooks.

Gettin’ Ready nicks the intro from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart but quickly goes in the opposite direction of that song with an optimistic anticipation fueled by nonchalant, distorted guitar. Oh Love hits a bullseye with its quietly torchy Lynchian country-soul vibe, while Play It vamps on a psychedelically-tinged organ loop that reminds of Mike Rimbaud. The album ends with The Sun Will Shine Again Someday, a swaying anthem for the current depression that recalls Son Volt: “Times are hard for dreaming eyes, I’d like to sit and watch it all go by,” Parker muses, “I’d like to see them blown away.” That wish notwithstanding, this is not a particularly edgy album, but it’s not shallow, and much of it is ridiculously catchy. Who is the audience for this? Pretty much anybody with a taste for low-key tunefulness. Let’s hope this isn’t the last collaboration between these two. A big shout out to the folks at Nine Mile Records for the good taste to get behind it.

Mike Rimbaud Captures the State of the City

No other songwriter has captured the current climate in New York better than Mike Rimbaud. One powerful influence on Rimbaud’s work, lyrically speaking, is Phil Ochs, (check out the absolutely vindictive version of The Ringing of Revolution from Rimbaud’s 2012 album You Can’t Judge a Song by Its Cover). Rimbaud’s latest album Night Rainbow – streaming at his site – is an eclectic, characteristically tuneful, savagely lyrical, cleverly amusing mix of songs that span from straight-up four-on-the-floor rock, to new wave, garage rock, psychedelia and reggae. Rimbaud has listened deeply and widely; his thinly veiled references to other songs, especially from the Rolling Stones, are cruelly spot-on. Rimbaud plays all the guitars as well as banjo, backed by tersely tuneful bassist Chris Fletcher and excellent drummer Kevin Tooley, with occasional keyboards from Marc Billon.

Image by image, Rimbaud portrays a city and a world on the brink, reeling from natural disasters, terminally distracted by the vapidity of status-grubbing and social media, the luxury of the corporate elite juxtaposed against crushing poverty and despair. Ultimately, this album is a call to action and revolution – and also one of the best  of 2013 by a Broadway mile.

The classic cut here is Jackhammer Jones. Over wickedly catchy, psychedelic minor key rock spiced with searing wah solos and guitar sitar – with a nod to the Lovin’ Spoonful – Rimbaud paints an allusive picture of a city being destroyed from within by gentrification:

Turn off your phone, what can you hear, baby?
Call it noise or call me a liar
Ears can bleed and eyes can weep
When you read between the lines

The jauntily swinging title track pictures an unlikely rainbow over the Empire State Building at night – hey, this is the global warming era, stranger things have happened. On Big Bad Bully, as he does on many of the other cuts here, Rimbaud takes aim at a target and riffs surrealistically on it, in this rounding up the Wall Street bulls who “treat everyone like cattle.”

Slow Down to Get Ahead layers clattery percussion over a reggae bassline and builds from there, an anthem for anyone tempted to unplug from the rat race. Rimbaud returns to that idea toward the end of the album with Time Burglar, a rapidfire stream of dissociative, sardonic imagery: “Swing over the Williamsburg Babylon, catching flies in one hand…relax with some hillbilly music, a song from another ice age.”

Sandy Must Be Crazy, a hurricane memoir, builds from dub reggae to roaring Stonesy rock. On one level, Rimbaud’s images capture an unfortunately indelible New York moment, on the other he’s also captured the more disturbing context that rose to the surface in the wake of the storm.

The sarcastically bubbling Teacher’s Got a Bad Mouth takes a counterintuitive look at schoolroom insanity, from the point of view of a teacher struggling to focus the attention of a class lobotomized by Facebook. Rimbaud revisits that theme a little later with the nonchalantly brooding, Indian-flavored Learning More About Less.

Robin Hood in Reverse is a stompingly snide Springsteen-style singalong: “Money talks, money is speech, this is a protest song and talk is cheap,” Rimbaud intones breathily. The metaphorically-charged Dark Money Can’t Buy Her Kisses grows from mysterious psych-pop to a brooding 70s soul sway. The album ends with a long, scruffy cover of the Beatles’ Baby, You’re Rich Man, bringing it full circle. Britain in 1977 had the Clash: New York in 2013 has Mike Rimbaud. That’s a start. Now bring on the revolution.