Friday, January 12, 2007


ANTON BARBEAU Drug Free (Pink Hedgehog) You probably think you know Anton Barbeau by his obvious reference points – John Lennon/the Beatles, Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan, Robyn Hitchcock, Neil Young – but really, Barbeau possesses his own unique voice. Drawing from a diverse base that includes psychedelic rock (of course), whimsical oddities, fuzzed-out ragas, spacey folk ballads, power pop ditties etc, Barbeau imbues his eclectic tastes with a distinctive way with words. Never a dull moment.

BLACK TIE DYNASTY Movements (Idol) Listening to Black Tie Dynasty’s faithful recreation of the 80s British post punk movement brings back loads of memories. It also emphasizes how refreshing the music was when it first appeared more than twenty years ago. Referencing the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, U2, the Smiths & Joy Division with reverence and awe, the pertinent question may be – is Black Tie Dynasty too derivative? Well, to be candid, the band certainly treads on thin ice but by the same token, is Dinosaur Jr. derivative of Neil Young? Not an easy question to address so maybe we should just enjoy the music for what it is. Great.

CABIN DOGS Electric Cabin (Woodstock) To get a good idea of what Cabin Dogs are all about, just take a look at their label mates. Let’s start with the late Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of legendary group, The Band. Now, The Band conjures up a heady concoction of folk, country blues and a twist of R&B and that sums up Cabin Dogs fairly well. Thus, be prepared for a rollicking good time as the Kwait brothers and band takes you down the dusty country road where heartfelt tunes are backed by a wild beat that makes for a rustic rhythm bonanza! Cabin Dogs christened their swampy gumbo, “Cosmic American Blues,” which suggests a pleasing combination of Gram Parsons and Ray Charles. Good enough for me!

THE SPONGETONES Number 9 (Loaded Goat) Ah, power pop, when done right, is simply breathtaking! Whether it is the melodicism of the Beatles, the sun-kissed harmonies of the Beach Boys, the rustic jangle of the Byrds or the guitar-fuelled propulsion of the Who, it is the timelessness of power pop that will live on, no matter the season. Take the Spongetones, who have been first-rate power pop purveyors for two decades now. Somehow, the band manages to stay fresh with each release, condensing the aforementioned standard-bearers into a cohesive, coherent & consistent whole. Neither pastiche nor tribute, Number 9 deserves to stand on its own merits as Beatlesque pop of the highest order.

Friday, January 05, 2007


BRYAN ESTEPA All the Bells and Whistles (Popboomerang) Authentic 70s country-folk rock from Down Under. A great comparison would be the classic Rough Mix collaboration between Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane. Or perhaps the Eagles (the good bits) or Poco. Whatever, I like Estepa’s songs, they possess a certain heartfelt resonance only the best country tunes can bring.

FIEL GARVIE Caught Laughing (Words On Music) I just love it when bands screw around with my pre-conceptions. Last time out Fiel Garvie were an earnest shoe-gazer revival band. Not any more. Basically, Fiel Garvie has morphed into a very useful indie rock band. So out with the atmospheric guitar pedals (well, almost as “Airsong” will attest) and welcome the violins and cellos. Jagged but nice.

POP IS ART Epiphany (Self released) Scott McGinley used to front Bliss, a band that was huge (for 15 minutes) in my neck of the woods i.e. South East Asia. But that does not prepare me for the consummate power pop that McGinley effortlessly dishes out on this fabulous debut solo album. Taking his cues from all the right influences (The Beatles, Beach Boys, ELO & Jellyfish), McGinley has produced an insanely pop masterpiece.

MARYKATE O’NEIL 1-800-bankrupt (Self released) I can’t help enjoying the nostalgic 80s feeling I am getting off O’Neil’s new release. Reminiscent of the kind of jangle folk-rock the likes of Freedy Johnston and Marshall Crenshaw were delivering twenty odd years ago, 1-800-bankrupt is a wonderful evocation of a memorable era. O’Neil owns a rich pair of pipes that wraps your ears in unadulterated joy with tunes to match.