Title: "Prepare To Stop"
Label: Midair Collision Music
Format: 4 song CD
If these four songs are any indication, WorldsTallestThing's Ian Baker is well on his way to being a great singer/songwriter. This EP gives us a peek at an incredible talent, and it left me dying to hear more.
Baker's style draws upon the influences of two Pauls--Weller and Westerberg, with an emphasis on the former, and the result is dynamic. "Free" is classic power pop with a flowing hook of a chorus. This is a strong track, but it is only a warmup for the gems that follow. "The Greatest Could Have Been" and "Lolipop Up" are two quiet acoustic numbers where Baker is at the top of his game. This is some of the best songwriting I've heard in a while. "...Could Have Been" is soulful, yet self-conscious, and its stripped-down musical style simply adds to its honesty. "Lolipop Up" is a smart song that is tied up neatly with clever lyrics: "Lolipop up/lollygag your way around". The CD is rounded out with a cover of "Where You Gonna Run", a perfect 60s-styled British Invasion garage rocker. It's spontaneous and crazy with a fabulously sloppy ending.
Baker says he prefers quality over quantity, and he really delivers. I personally can't wait to hear more. This one is a keeper.
MISH MASH Mandate: Always leave 'em wanting more.
Label: Del-Fi Records
Format: 10 song CD
Kari Wuhrer has been driving around the outskirts of fame for quite a few years now. Perhaps you remember her from her short stint on MTV's "Remote Control" game show, or maybe from that B-movie classic "Anaconda", or maybe you recognize her as the resident babe from the current sci-fi series "Sliders". She's been busy as an up-and-coming actress, and now she's taking the "natural" next step for the ambitious: music.
I know what you're thinking, but surprisingly, she's not too bad. A lot of the album shows promise, even though it loses focus in certain spots. And, in an effort to be taken seriously, the songs tend to get a little weird, but that does add to the originality. The lead track, "There's a Drug", has an earthy groove with a retro-modern sound. Kari's vocals are delivered in a straight, pure tone, much like Sheryl Crow. It has a memorable pop melody that sounds complex in spite of its simplicity.
"Normal" has a harder edge that at time reminds me of the stranger sounds of the Cardigans, while "Take Me Now" takes an unexpected left turn into a pseudo-suicidal rant. There's also a creatively flirty cover of the Paul McCartney-penned "Come and Get It" (originally done by Badfinger), which is well done. Kari slows down a little with "Hands of Mary". This one has a stripped-down sound that focuses more on her singing talent. It has a bare, honest feel that shines brighter than the rest of the album. Here, Kari proves that she can be taken seriously as a singer.
But will she? This CD may never get beyond curiosity status, but it is a step in the right direction. It has just enough creativity and spirit to stand without her established star power. It will be interesting to see where she goes next.
MISH MASH Mandate: Music making movie star.
Title: "Be My Valentine"
Format: 33 song CD
Art Paul Schlosser is either clinically deranged or a comedic genius. There are few words that could even begin to describe his strange little musical masterpieces. Imagine, if you will, a cross between Forrest Gump and the Flat Duo Jets. The singing is atrocious, and the playing is mediocre at best, but there is an unexplainable sense of innocence that attracts the undivided attention of the listener. You find yourselft hanging on to Schlosser's every word, finding a bit of sage advice hidden among the nonsense.
The setup is very basic; Schlosser plays a solo acoustic guitar and sings. But, the WAY he does it is what makes it so special. He sings and plays hesitantly, kind of like someone who hasn't learned how yet, saying unexpected things in unexpected ways. "Red Hat Blues" is an ode to a favorite hat, with a twist: "I have a red hat, R-E-A-D, people like to read it..."
The song "4" is a hilarious tribute to Green Bay QB Brett Favre, which makes a reprise later in the album. "Swatting A Fly" is nothing more than Schlosser hitting his guitar while saying things like "I gotta get that fly...Ow, I hit myself...Ow, I hit myself again". It is pure slapstick, humor at the lowest level, and it works, just because you can't believe he's actually doing it.
This CD is a classic in its own right--kind of like a silly movie that you memorize every line to, and then proceed to irritate your friends with.
MISH MASH Mandate: Stupid is as stupid does.
Title: "50 Intellectually Stimulating Themes From A Cheap Amusement Park For Robots And Aliens, Vol. 1; A Mishmash of Impossible Computer-Sequenced Virtuoso Music, Progressive Rock Instrumentals, Pathetic Love Songs, and Spoken Word Mini-Lectures"
Label: Ed Furniture
Format: 52 song CD
This one is another oddity, yet on a totally different plane. The brainchild of Sir Millard Mulch, this album conjures up the spirit of Frank Zappa and proceeds to thrash about in ridiculous abandon.
The 52 tracks are a concoction of silly songs, "mini-lectures", audio vignettes, and wacky yet intricate instrumentals. Mulch shows off his genius for composing in the musical numbers, many of which bear a semblance to cartoon/video game background music performed at breakneck speeds. His unique sound is mainly centered around a lo-tech computer setup (an Atari 1040 ste), which gives the music a very impersonal and manufactured feel. This feeling is heightened with the purposely inane "mini-lectures" scattered throughout the album, along with instrumental "covers" of songs by the likes of Metallica and the Spice Girls.
The most striking humor is found in the song titles, which range from clever ("Mr. Apocalypse Tells His First Lie and Orders a Drink") to pure bathroom humor ("The Boy With the Perfectly Square Butthole"). Taken as a whole, the tracks all run together like one huge inside joke that we're not in on. Then again, that's probably the whole point. Much like the manipulative musical manner of Mr. Zappa, Sir Mulch has shown us just enough of his genius to make us uncomfortable.
MISH MASH Mandate: Muzak for the insane.
Format: 4 song CD
Anyone familiar with the Atlanta music scene of the early 90s will certainly remember the unmistakable voice of Yellow Gray. As the front-person for the band Insane Jane, she made an indelible impact on many a music fan with her powerful and soulful vocals on the bands two albums, "Green Little Pill" and "Each Finger".
Now Yellow is back six years later with a new band, my sweet etc., and with it a new sound. Insane Jane had a hard rock/pop style, where Yellow had to fight the heavy guitars that threatened to overshadow her. Now, the overall sound is much more loose and lazy, and Yellow has the freedom to be more alive.
Her soul is still there, and her talent has improved over the past few years. "Roses" shows a new maturity and texture unlike anything I ever heard from Insane Jane. Her bandmates seem comfortable in having her as a centerpiece, and that makes each song feel more complete. This is a strong first effort, and hopefully the best is yet to come.
MISH MASH Mandate: Worth the wait.
Title: "Let Go of my Bruised Wing"
Format: 13 song CD
Every once and awhile, an album will come along and just totally blow me away. This CD is so good, it's almost irritating. Why? Because Nick Dastardly and the Escape Artists sound better than the mainstream bands they emulate. Dare I say it? The Counting Crows, the Wallflowers and the Spin Doctors all wish they could sound this good. Really.
"How Did You Get to Be Such a Bore" is a powerhouse that blends a roots rock verse with a hard-rock guitar chorus. This one is highly energetic and is sure to translate well into a live setting. "The Past is an Addiction" is a quieter track, very introspective and reflective in a style not unlike the Counting Crows at their best. Very nice. But the true highlight of the album is the bouncy and addictive rocker, "Something is Bound to Break". I was singing along with this one in no time. This song could eat up radio alive.
Everything about this CD is tight--the writing, the arranging, the playing. It's downright scary. Maybe they know something we don't.
MISH MASH Mandate: Let go my Eggo.
Title: "Charming the Gods"
Label: Groove House Records
Format: 10 song CD
Listening to Bryan Kelley is like taking a spiritual journey. His songs are haunting and somewhat dark, like venturing into the unknown. There's a good mix of styles--the sound is deep, and has an earthy theme throughout that holds it all together--bridging the gap of our world with the otherworld.
The simple, folksy blues of "Fear" sets the tone for the record, keeping everything very simple and stark. "Angels" brings in more instrumentation and a laid-back rhythm, still centering on the simplicity of it all. The very folky "Postcards From Yesterday" lets Kelley ramble on in a storytelling fashion, and he then turns a corner with the straightforward jangly rock of "Where Are They Now".
This CD is complete and solid in every respect. Kelley's many influences peek out around the edges, showing us he's an experienced songwriter who's learned his way around his art.
MISH MASH Mandate: In and out of this world.
Format: 17 song CD
Compilations are not all that unusual, but this one is sort of unique. Instead of touting the roster of an indie label, "Audio Channels" is the promotional tool of Lacquer Channel Mastering, an audio mastering facility in Toronto. In case you are wondering, mastering is the final step music goes through before it goes to CD, cassette, vinyl, etc.
The disc contains two songs each from nine different Canadian bands, with many different rock genres represented. There is a good mix of sounds, and the guys and gals at Lacquer Channel have done a spectacular job of creating a consistent sound quality and flow from one track to the next.
Highlights include the tough guitar rock of "Hey You" from the band Maybrick, and the NIN-inspired techno of Vegasphere's "Driven". My absolute favorite is the laid-back and highly addictive "Take My Hand" by Touchtone Gurus. It's a wonderfully lazy pop tune that I immediately fell in love with.
There's a lot of good music here, and it's a quick and easy way to check out a heaping handfull of interesting Canadian bands. Worth checking out.
MISH MASH Mandate: Cool Canadian Comp.
All you have to do is send us an e-mail with the word "contest" in the header. Be sure to include your snail mail address, and just for kicks, tell us what kind of music you most enjoy.