Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CD Review - Japanese Carcrash's "Synth+"

Technically speaking, and we'd better speak technico-ly this time, Japanese Carcrash ain't Austin - They're from Southeast Texas. But that's just technically: Stylistically, they're probably more Austin than Houston (or Dallas either, for that matter).
Left-right, we've got Casey LeBleu (synthesizer + voice), Michelle Martin (synthesizer), and Cole Livingston (synths + "manipulation"). (Not pictured - Tobi McKinley on drums.)

We've seen some video of these guys (we've got that embedded, below), but today we're talking their latest release "Synth+" (that's "Synth Plus"):

You like danceable, synth-powered, hi-energy-80-ish cuts? Then bounce on over to CD Baby and pick this sucker up.

Synth+ fires up with "Never Gonna Stop", an arpeggio-synth-powered dance number, an auditory pointillistism piece that's a proper introduction to the sound these guys can generate. But if that one doesn't get you moving, wait a sec - "Tonight Let's Dance" comes up next, and it pounds you into appreciation with it's irresistable grainy analog bass lines, understated percs, and other audio oddities.
In that same vein, "My Girl Hates My Radio" and (to a lesser extent) "Coming Home" keep the groove going, while the excellent "Bad News" puts out some seriously nice negative vibes with the chorused, vocoded vox and dissonant intervals, peppered-sprayed with some spooky synths for that finishing touch. Good stuff, ya'll. And though the closing number, "Emptiness", a very 80's Numan-esque production, has the same danceable traits as earlier numbers; it's darker tone doesn't quite pull you out of the funk left over from "Bad News".

At which point you simply Lather, Rinse, Repeat. All week, as need requires.
A fan managed to catch them at Elysium here in Austin, and here they are doing the aforementioned "Tonight Let's Dance":

Go ahead and pick up Synth+ on CD Baby, or on Amazon if that's your preference.

In lieu of an embed of the LP, which we were unable to Google into existence, we'll leave you with the 80s-bent "My Girl Hates My Radio" vid instead:

Find out more about Japanese Carcrash on Facebook and CD Baby.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Let's step away from the fringed edges of indie music and bear a little closer to center - Surely you've heard Whalers?
There they are. Left-right, we've got Dan Martin on guitar, Amir Mozafari on bass, Gus Smalley behind the microphone, Milos Bertram behind the drum kit, and that's Kyle Rother on lead guitar.

We say "surely" because Mingus calls 'em "explosive", Wild Magazine starts the week with their music, and Rollo & Grady, that must-read music blog in LA, put Whalers on their watch list this year.

As should you - Their latest, "Paddle Easy" (embedded below) is drawing the attention heat; and not just from us Austinites either: The good folks at Indie Rock Cafe are calling it a best new release, and labeling Whalers "Austin’s under-rated indie band".
Simple enough reason - Classic-sounding, radio-friendly, guitar-reverberated, crystal-clear productions that get stuck in your brain, seaweed-like, after a brief dive into their repetoire.

See how many influences you can find in this one, the instant-classic, opening track on their latest, "Paddle Easy":

Did you pick up The Animals, Rolling Stones, The Who? How about that classic guitar solo about 1 minute in, and those Turtle-ish bridges?

Slow it down a bit, and watch how Smalley's vox, some clever lyrics (written and produced BEFORE this year's heat wave, BTW), and even more clever guitar licks show off their soulful depth:

And for a taste of something less formalized, here's one that blends some very classic song structure with very unclassic staccato picking, with surprisingly addictive success:

These guys have jammed all over town, doing a residency at Lamberts in July, and reportedly working 12 sets during last year's SXSW; sharing the stage with The Black & White Years, Ponderosa, Sunset, TV Torso, and Daniel Hart (The Polyphonic Spree) along the way. And they even managed to work in a Daytrotter session back in October.
Here, take a minute, see why everyone likes the brilliant "Paddle Easy":

Find out more about Whalers on Facebook, Bandcamp, and Home Base.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Alyse Black

You know what we like to do, we like to cover those guys and gals still paying their dues, still gigging wherever they can and, in general, still struggling to get noticed. Which is why we almost decided not to talk about Alyse Black.
Yep, that's her there. Dunno if you've heard about her, but she's potentially the "paid my dues" poster child.
So she's on the "fast track" to executive success, a virtual queen of cubeland, a business analyst for Deloitte consulting. Then one day, reportedly on the top floor of some gleaming high rise, overlooking the beauty of downtown Seattle, she figures all this corporate success is a monumental dead end. She walks out and never looks back. No thought of where she's going, only that she's leaving. A high-paying, prestigious job. Real money.

Done that lately? Nope, none of us here either.

She thinks it over, remembers the kick she got out of music, and BOOM, that's it, that's what she wants to be when she grows up, that's the new Alyse: Singer, songwriter, musician.

What's a new songstress do? Rather, what kind of gig can an inexperienced singer land? Not a lot of those to be had.

So she did what you did, she took to the street, literally - Busking. Singing alone on the streets, which in this case was Pike Place Market in Seattle.

You know what that's like, right? The kind of comments you get, typically, from strangers who care not to be serenaded whilest shopping?

Patience, practice, and a layer or two of skin later, she lands a gig as a singer in a band. Time passes, her voice matures, along with her skills and purpose.

She leaves Seattle for Austin, releases a solo album, "Too Much & Too Lovely", and it wins 1st place in Billboard’s Annual World Song Contest in Jazz. She tours the US in 2008, 2009, and 2010; hits a bunch of major music festivals, colleges and conferences around the States.

And, eventually, these kinds of comments wipe out the memories of the earlier barbs:
“Her songs swallow you whole, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
– San Antonio Current
"A mystical beauty to her voice. Mesmerizing."
- Songwriter’s Monthly
"An acclaimed young songwriter."
- Austin Chronicle
"A stunning musician."
- Seattle Show Gal
“There are some voices that stop you in your tracks and make you listen, and Alyse Black is a great example.”
– Eclectic Mix Podcast
“Her voice is captivating: rich and velvety.”
– 103.1 KCDA in Spokane, WA
"Boy she’s got a sexy voice."
– Back Beat Seattle
"Vocals that are just out of this world. Alyse sings with pure sincerity. Absolutely warm and appealing."
"Although Black is comparable to other female artists, she clearly has her own uniqueness and likeability."
– Bootleg Magazine
"One can't fault Ms. Black for her oft nakedly sensual delivery."
– Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
"Like Norah Jones and Katie Melua but with smokier vocals [and] more upbeat tempos."
We won't try to best any of those comments, but will just humbly say that they're dead-on: She's got the pipes to be mistaken for Norah Jones or Regina Spektor or Adele, and a repertoire that ranges from folkish-pop to jazz and most points in between.

These are the kind of voice and compositional chops that land a national commercial spot for Target, say:

Her latest release, "The Honesty" EP, is up on Amazon. But we like live, we ARE the Live Music Capital of the World, and it turns out she's got a big gig coming up Thanksgiving weekend, 11/27/11, at One World Theatre you should catch: Go here to get the skinny on that one.
Before you go, dig around in this play list, see what the fuss is about:


Find out more about Alyse Black on Facebook, ReverbNation, and Home Base.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CD Review - Tin Can Phone's "Adapter"

We've kinda had our one good eye on Tin Can Phone since we ran this article on them back in the day. So we knew it was coming, their latest LP, Adapter, and snatched it up first chance.
And Yep, we're gonna recommend you do the same. If you want to save time, just stop reading now and go here.
So a little background - Tin Can Phone generates some sweet home-grown reggae, with their previous release, 15 Songs, blistering with excellent Jamaican-styled heat.

Then they release this, which would be an injustice to call a "followup": It humiliates the high bar set by "15 Songs", with deeper compositions, cross-genre explorations, and better workmanship; setting a new standard for, or perhaps a new definition of, these guys from Michigan.

They drag you in with the ska-ish, pop-rock-reggae mania of the first track ("New Song"), then barrage you with numbers bulging with bridges, intros, nearly-too-short guitar solos, change-ups, and the occasional unfamiliar time signature. In this release, you'll get studied, almost psych-jam sessions and discoveries ("Sink", "Rapid Eye Movement"), as well as jazzish time signatures ("5 by 5") and rock-hard guitar solos("Urgency", "Peace of Mind").

Though they never stray too far out of their reggae comfort zone, the fact that they wander into other genres with ease proves a branching out into new turf, a movement past (or through?) the reggae genre, and into their own unique, reggae-rock-ska-jazz sound. A turning point, we'll say. Or maybe just the logical progression of experience, clarity, and inspiration, brought on by passion, a home studio, and a serious work ethic.

At any rate, buy now, thank us later.

And in the probable case that you don't believe us, give a listen and make your own call:

Find out more about Tin Can Phone on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Bandcamp, and Home Base.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Ghost Wolves

We've covered some "legacy-rock" bands in this space before - The Beat Dolls, MoTel Aviv, Wild Child, to name a few. And we've covered some 2-person bands before - Before Dawn, Killa Dilla, BK & Mr. E, Not in the Face...

So you won't be surprised if we tell you about a duo that does "roots rock", will ya? Good, because you've got to hear The Ghost Wolves.
There they are. That's Carley Wolf on the left and Jonathan Konya on the right. And the dog, and that's it.

Wolf sings and plays guitar, Konya sings and plays drums. And they crank out some seriously deadly stuff, described by better scribes than we as "juke joint spook blues". Both are veterans of the music industry, with a killer work ethic and lengthy resumes (and presumably the scars to match). They formed in May of 2010, recorded their debut LP "In Ya Neck" in April of 2011, then hit the touring trail in August.

They've been pressed to pieces, so if you want, you can drill down easily enough: Check out this piece on Austin 360, or this one over on Overload, or this one in the Knoxsville press.
That's them in action, snapped during their residency at the Lakeside Lounge in NYC. Imagine what that sounds like, with Wolf's guitar twanging and Konya's drums bounding off those brick walls, and you've got a head start on what to expect - "Roots rock" at it's very best; archaic, folk-bluesy head-bang, noisily reverberated and performed with sloppy passion. Check out this one for a taste, and Sure, go ahead and listen to it several times before moving on: We did.
They're able to present the very best of the lovely deep traditions of rock; primitive song structure, pleasingly-familiar progressions, face-melting riffs, unfettered noisy productions. Check out this one, notice how easy it is to whip out the air guitar and jam along:
We could go on, but you should discover the rest of the EP, in it's purely-raw state, all on your own - It's embedded below.
We'll recommend that you catch them next chance you get, and those chances are coming: They're touring until the end of 2011, on pace to cross the country twice before the year is out. They've got two Austin gigs coming up, 11/15 at The Continental Club, then their official CD release party for "In Ya Neck" on 11/19 at Beerland, find out more about that one here.
Nope, don't go until you've prepped yourself for that CD release party:

Find out more about The Ghost Wolves on Facebook and Home Base.