With a smattering of spiritualized power pop in the vein of PFR and the quirky songwriting style of Lyle Lovett, the NY quintet Gladshot has put forth one of the best albums I have heard in a long, long time.
Guitarist/singer Mike Blaxill and pianist/singer Debbie Andrews are the cornerstone of Gladshot, having co-produced the album along with shared songwriting credits on most of the tunes. The songs are heavy on melody--catchy and clean, with an emotional appeal. Blaxill sings lead on all but one of the songs; his voice sounds a lot like the aforementioned Lovett, albeit with less twang, strong and commanding attention throughout.
At some point, you could almost expect the album to get stuck on itself, but it is solid from beginning to end. Dead Ends and the Glory is a well-crafted pop song with a slight country flavor, overflowing with cool lyrical imagery: Making the waves for you to ride/and keep you from the fall/Open up the age, a chance to find it all/Out on the road of the holy void/With garden of eden eyes.
Gladshot goes for a more pumped-up sound with the funky strut of Coming Around Again, which is simple in structure but highly effective. I am nothing but impressed.
MISH MASH Mandate: Impressive appeal
With smooth and sexy sounds, Blackburst, the third and latest installment from Jazzhole, rivals fellow acid jazz legends Brand New Heavies and Incognito in its ultra-cool grooves.
Lead singer Marlon Saunders is a classic crooner--seductively subtle with laid-back soul, much like an understated Marvin Gaye or Al Green. His duet with Rosa Russ on You're My Baby is a wonderfully playful and flirtatious lover's jealous exchange, backed with a smooth funk groove. The sultry lyrical soundscapes of Hush ride along quickly with an uptempo dance beat. Dancing In My Head shows off a more 70's disco sound, and Never Can Forget You has a more up-to-date hip-hop style with disjointed rhythms and a great vocal delivery from Rosa Russ.
Exceptionally well done and a must-have for acid jazz fans.
MISH MASH Mandate: Seductive sounds
I knew Seattle's Red Martian had plenty of attitude back in December when I received a Season's Greetings card picturing SWAT team members from the WTO riots. I was even more impressed by the pure punk rawness of their recent EP release, Automaton.
The disc is brief but brimming with brilliant adolescent punk attitude, angry with the world at large for no specific reason: So you've wasted 23 of your best years / sitting in plastic chairs competing with your peers / where they spoon feed you garbage until your head falls out...You might as well be an automaton / a machine they can program.
It teeters between toughness and geekiness, thrashing about like the coolest garage band on the block, yet embracing the misfit side of life. The songs are quick and clever, thumbing a nose at the mainstream with lo-fi sounds and goofy, angst-filled lyrics.
I'm told the band's full length, Deny Authority, should be on the way soon--but for now, Automaton is an excellent appetizer.
MISH MASH Mandate: Snacktime punk
Obviously a labor of love, MDC's First and Last is a self-proclaimed "producer's project," which features more than 30 musicians (including The Late Show's Paul Shaffer and Will Lee, to name a few) and took over 13 years to make. The brainchild of producers Michael Carr and Gary Lyons, and songwriter Mick E. Dean, the album takes a stab at everything from jazz to hip-hop to hard rock, with expected mixed results.
As an album that found its start in the late 80s, it takes great pains to shake off that decade's dated, slick pop sound--but honestly, the best parts of the album end up sounding like lost songs from Toto. That's not to say it's bad--Toto wishes they were still putting out songs like this. Still, the Reagan era shines through loud and clear, especially on Been There, Jive Boy Blues, and In The Middle with their jazzy piano lines and sugary harmonized vocals.
There are spots of brilliance when the album takes the occasional turn into left field, like on the manic techno beat of Chuck's Bass Boogie and the out-of-place trip-hop of So Modern.
The production is incredible, and most of the songs can stand on their own. The main fault of the album lies in its complete lack of focus, yet somehow this is what makes it so intriguing.
MISH MASH Mandate: Producer's paradox
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