Title: "Everybody Sometimes"
Label: Sting Enterprises
Format: 10 & 1/2 song CD
No doubt about it--this is a DiY power pop masterpiece. It's hard to believe that singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Ing and his brother Andrew recorded "Everybody Sometimes" on their own over the course of about 5 years. While it does have the intimate feel of homemade music, this album is superb in both its production and execution--not to mention that the songs are downright brilliant.
Ing has an uncanny power pop sensibility along the lines of Paul Weller/The Jam, Squeeze, and Crowded House. The songs are extremely catchy, yet they are all fresh and creatively arranged. "God Be There" is an acoustic-based tune that includes a cool & offbeat singalong refrain ("Bah-bah-bah-BAH, Ba-Ba-BAAAH"), and there are some nice rhythm changes in here that give the song a swaying feel. Ing goes for a more roots-rock flavor with "Dust Through Sand"--it's a powerful track that he delivers with passionate vocals--it would be my favorite track if it weren't for "She's Explosive", a driving pop song that is simply irresistible.
A great piece of work--this is do-it-yourself at its finest.
MISH MASH Mandate: Yes, she is explosive...
Title: "Scientist Sam"
Format: 21 song cassette
There's a disclaimer on the cassette box of Scientist Sam, claiming that sampled music is not "stealing" from other artists. I won't argue with that. Although snippets of other songs can be heard throughout the album (I heard everything from Cibo Matto's "Know Your Chicken" to clav samples from the theme to "Sanford & Son"--even "Sweet Home Alabama" is in here), the sounds are weaved together by Sam in such a way that a whole new original sound is created.
"Top 40 Experiment #2" combines a number of styles into an epic piece that almost defies categorization. It starts off with a quick techno beat, only to be followed by a hip-hop rap, and then topped off with a sonic feast of drum beats, a la Herbie Hancock's "Rockit". From here, Sam displays a creative use of rhythm and beats--from the punk rock drum intro of "Stream O'Conciousness" to the noise groove of "Alien Time Machine", Sam keeps it interesting by pushing the boundaries of the beat. Have no doubt--the beat is the central part of this album--and everything else just works off of it, whether it's a lilting string section or telephone noise.
This one works because it is fearless, and Scientist Sam proves you can find inspiration in the weirdest places.
MISH MASH Mandate: Do you know your chicken?
Label: Creative Soul Records
Format: 9 song CD
"Cooler" is a fitting title for this ultra-smooth album from Christian jazz artist Eric Copeland. He skillfully blends the cool phrasing of be-bop with lite hip-hop grooves.
The vocals are kept to a minimum throughout most of the album, and Copeland uses this time to let the music do the talking. "Chill" has lots of keyboard work and atmospheric sounds against upbeat rhythm work, while "The Good Life" settles into a loose, relaxed groove. The images of 80s cop dramas surface in "Cool Maxin'", and he eases into an intropective mood with "Separate Ways". When Copeland turns on the mic, his songs become more Christian pop-oriented in the vein of Michael W. Smith. "That's All There Is" is heartfelt and serious, and "It's Me Who Leaves" is a beautifully done piano ballad.
Copeland can make you think and feel good at the same time--proving he can have fun and yet be serious when he needs to.
MISH MASH Mandate: Cool music for the soul.
Title: "Temporary Nervous Confession"
Label: Oh! Squashetta
Format: 16 song CD
Sometimes there's nothing like a classic rock guitar riff, and Lester has plenty of them. These guys remind me of drivin' n' cryin'--just good ol'mean rock-n-roll. Singer/guitarist Tracy Huffman is like a combination of the aforementioned dnc's Kevn Kinney and their former guitarist Buren Fowler--Huffman sings with a whine and plays the guitar as mean as possible.
While rockers like "Great Works of Art" and "She's So Cool" are tough, Lester really gets down to business with "High", which is more innocent than the title suggests ("All I want to do is make you high/All I want to do is make you happy"). This one is by far the best on the album, and it employs a great guitar progression along with a smooth and steady drum line. Plus, the melody is simply unforgettable.
Fans of pure and simple rock will love this one, so rock on.
MISH MASH Mandate: Riff-o-matic
Title: "Warm Up"
Format: 7 song CD
This one is an amalgam of modern punk and heavy metal--think Green Day meets early Metallica ("Kill 'Em All"). Mike Hintze sounds like Green Day's Billie Joe in both vocals and guitar playing, while drummer Sam Young could give Lars Ulrich a run for his money any day of the week, especially on the frantic "Tat Tat Tat".
"Narrow Minds" is played at a breakneck speed, and the melody bops along with a punk fist. Crunchy metal guitar is the key to "Lisa", which has a cool shout-out refrain: "What if your problems are all in your mind?" The guys also take a stab at Jim Croce's "Operator", which is presented at full volume, and then some. Their rendition of this 70s classic is interesting, if not particularly good--funny, nonetheless.
(Apparently Mr. Yuck is no more, and the band is now called FLYNN--not as snappy as "Mr. Yuck", I must admit...)
MISH MASH Mandate: Anger and angst for the price of one.