Album Review: The Get Up Kids – There are Rules

Initial Thoughts Album Review
There Are Rules

After a first listen, I am a bit lot for words.  If I didn’t recognize Pryor and Suptic’s voices, I would not in a million years have known this was a Get Up Kids album.  Portions sound heavily influenced by some of the grittier keyboard-based sounds of Dewes’ Reggie and the Full Effect.  The track “Birmingham” would fit well on a Japandroids release.  “Shatter Your Lungs” seems out of place – fitting better with the likes of “Fountain of Youth” from Pryor’s side-project New Amsterdams‘ album, At the Foot of my Rival.

There are Rules is dominated by lots of fuzzy distorted bass, distorted effects on vocals and electronic noise – none of which are elements familiar to longtime TGUK fans.  In addition, the timbre and tone of the guitars is strikingly on the treble end – little bass-end distortion on the guitars – little traditional punk palm-muted rhythms.

This is one of their more consistently noisy efforts since Woodson or Four Minute Mile.  The more pop-oriented sensibilities of more recent releases make appearances, but they are fleeting and isolated to a few tracks.  A lot of noise here.  It sounds a bit like a band, now reunited, wanting to reemerge with a new and evolved sound.  This would be par for the course, as each of their previous releases signaled significant departures in sound.  However, this new effort sounds like that evolution was a bit forced.  It sounds like they are trying to NOT sound like their previous albums (and they succeed), but the result lacks a consistency that most of their other big changes (On a Wire, in particular), did maintain.  I get that this isn’t the same old Get Up Kids – they have made that point loud and clear.

I am left asking myself, however, what then is this?  I hear a bunch of fractured sounds, ideas and approaches thrown together.  It is not that I don’t like it.  In fact, I rather enjoy all the noise, angst and gritty vocals.  But, I am not sure how well it all holds together… Perhaps after a few more listens things will start to gel and make sense…we’ll see…

Out January 25th 

Stream the new Minus the Bear album – Omni

Heads up!  You can currently stream the entire new MTB album, Omni, on  This may be your only chance to fully digest it before the official release date on May 18th.

I have been reviewing the album for a few days now, and the LP as a whole does not disappoint!  The few early tracks and one b-side we heard in past months were great teasers, and the rest of the album lives up to expectations.  Noodly guitars, crazy loops, hooks galore and GROOVES!  Man, my office mate must think I am crazy because I have been physically rocking back and forth for the last couple hours!

Here are some preview tracks we posted previously:

From Omni [2010]

B-side from the Into the Mirror single [2009]

Minus the Bear – Broken China [mp3]

Preorder here:

Album Review – Drew Danburry – Goodnight Gary

Album Review, or some random thoughts on:
Goodnight Gary
[due Feb. 9]
Drew Danburry’s evolving discography has been an entertaining one to follow.  His first 2004 release, “An Introduction to Sex Rock,” was a fun, if not erratic and rambunctious, romp in what he coined “Kick@$$ Kindergarten Folk Pop Sing Along Music.”  As odd as the self-ascribed genre sounds, it actually is a fairly good summation of what Danburry’s early work encompassed.  His follow up LP, “Besides: Are we Just Playing Around Here or do we Mean What We Say,” and EPs “Live in France!” and “Mother EP” followed largely in this trajectory – The latter EPs hinting at new directions.  In 2008, his 3rd LP, “This Could Mean Trouble, You Don’t Speek for the Club,” revealed an artist truly coming into his own.  Production value was much improved, instrumentation expanded, vocals refined and lyrics deepened in their sincerity.  After another EP, “Geraniums” in 2009, recording a great daytrotter session and touring incessantly for who knows how many years (since about 2004 I think), Drew is back with his first of 2 scheduled LPs for 2010, “Goodnight Gary.”
Though the albums listens true to his DIY roots, Goodnight Gary is the first of Danburry’s releases that consistently hints at an evolved artist.  Lo-fi sensibilities yet abound, but they linger as products of artistic choice rather than artistic budget gaps. The rawkus sing-along feel yet abounds. Yet, there are moments in this album that fully strip off the previous signature stylings of Danburry’s bombastic and oft-unhinged musical antics – moments that sound nothing like Drew Danburry record.  But, rather than sticking out as obtuse anomalies, they are well grounded in familiar landscapes.  I am not one to make comparisons, but there were similar moments in the early works of Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes LPs (Fevers and Mirrors or Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground), when tracks with very rough edges were lifted by exultant moments of highly polished and well produced melodies.  I hate comparison, but that is what comes to mind.
Danburry’s Goodnight Gary will please his fan base.  It is a record that all of his previous releases hinted at, but never fully delivered.  Furthermore, it will prove a more accesible LP for new listeners.
Religion of Me [download mp3]
Drew promises a 2nd LP later this year, entitled “Goodnight Danni.”

Joshua James – Build Me This – Album Review

International Federation of the Phonographic Industry!!! 


So stop flagging it for removal!

(besides, the artist gave me express permission to post a track)

Initial Thoughts Album Review #6

Joshua James

Build Me This

Release Date: September 8, 2009 on iTunes,
September 22, 2009 everywhere else

Joshua James’ new LP, Build Me This, will appear in my monthly “Best Albums of 2009” post, but I just couldn’t wait till the end of the month to spread the good word about James’ new release.His debut album, Sun is Always Brighter, released in 2008, was a promising first effort. Earnest vocals, at times breathy and raspy, but laden with real sincerity. I know, I know – that sounds really cliche and cheesy! However, it is fitting. James’ lyrics comes across as deeply intimate without smacking of “emo” (whatever that means) wear-you-heart-on-your sleeve voyeuristic whining. This was refreshing.

Since then, James has released a the Sing Songs EP as well as a digital only single and b-side, Crash this Train / The Garden. These 2 releases pointed towards two very potential futures for James upcoming LP. Sing Songs was a quite EP with largely stripped down arrangements. The one outlier was “Farmer from the West,” which had a more robust sound and, more significantly, a simmering anger that lied just below the surface. Crash this Train was a political piece that featured new additions to James’ sonic palette and hinted at some alt-country, classic balladry and even gospel influences in his evolving sound. Build Me This takes from both of these new directions.

Build Me This expands Joshua James’ previous acoustically-grounded arrangements and introduces a host of new sounds. Most striking is the consistent use of electric and slide guitars and the bluesy undertones that gird many of the orchestrations. James’ previous work has always hinted at troubled thoughts, but Build Me This brings the looming darkness to front and center. He growls out lyrics with an intensity not seen before. The lyrical content itself is laced with foreboding as well. This is Joshua James at his darkest.

Do not misconstrue this to mean that Build Me This is a depressing, morose or slow-tempo LP. Quite to the contrary, it is surprisingly raucous! Songs like Coal War, Black July, Mother Mary, Magazine and Kitchen Tile have moments far-removed from James’ usual Americana folk roots. Coal War, for example, opens with an acapella and foot-stomping / hand-clapping harmonized gospel sing along before exploding into a electric guitar and organ-wailing climax. Black July is fully electric, heavy and dark. Mother Mary is ventures down bluesy avenues. Magazine, though progressing as an upbeat alt-country tune, devolves into a haunting violin duet waltz that seems pulled straight out of 1920s Jewish Warsaw. Kitchen Tile climaxes with choral swells throughout.

Complementing some of these newer sounds, Build Me This filled in with James familiar takes on Americana folk tradition. Taken as a whole, the LP holds together very well. His breathy, raspy voice and acoustic guitar tie together the disparate genres he incorporates into his signature sound. The consistent presence of organ and strings also offer a common base for the album as a whole. Build Me This features James evolving his sound without forsaking his roots. Sometimes, artists trying new things venture too far down new paths and loose their footing in unfamiliar territory. James avoids this pitfall: showing growth, experimentation and evolution while holding fast to the artist he has been on previous endeavors.

The fact that James was raised in Lincoln, NE (where I live now) and currently lives in Provo, UT (where I lived during college) makes this triumph of an album all the better.
He’s a fairly nice guy as well. Even if he were a complete jerk, however, I would still offer a glowing review of the album. The fact that he seems to be a descent human being is a nice bonus though.

I suggest you purchase Build me This on Vinyl. It is a double LP – with the 4th side adding the 5 songs from the Sing Songs EP! Also, it will include the album on CD!

Visit Joshua James’ myspace or website for more information.

Also consider purchasing his back catalog.

The Joshua James Store

Joshua James on iTunes

Joshua James on


J. Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues – Album Review

Initial Thoughts Album Review #5

Unpretentious album reviews that forgo the big words, analogies and obscure music-references to simply voice some initial thoughts and gut reactions.

J. Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues

I was introduced to J. Tillman via the band he currently drums for, Fleet Foxes. I first got Minor Works (a gift from McGreggor) and from there went through and acquired his full back catalog. Minor Works was good – really good. However, he laid the pedal steel on a little thick for my tastes. The back catalog (I Will Return, Long May You Run, J. Tillman, and Cancer and Delirium) were great, but a bit lo-fi for my tastes.

His latest release, Vacilando Territory Blues, currently available digitally, improves on both of these complaints. The heavy pedal steel sound, and the recording quality is up to par with his likely expanded budget. So now I can enjoy Tillman’s uber-mellow vocals, simple orchestrations, and believably heartfelt lyrics without any annoying distractions.

Standout tracks are Firstborn, James Blues, Barter Blues (my favorite) and Master’s House. Highly recommended for anyone that likes Damien Jurado or the likes.

The Mighty Underdogs – Droppin’ Science Fiction

Initial Thoughts Album Review #4

Unpretentious album reviews that forgo the big words, analogies and obscure music-references to simply voice some initial thoughts and gut reactions.

The Mighty Underdogs
Droppin’ Science Fiction

Although this means we will have to wait a while longer to see a solo Lateef album, I am very excited to see this super group release their full length LP. Standout tracks are Monster, ILL Vacation and War Walk. I don’t think Gift of Gab‘s performance is quite as good as with his other ventures as a solo artist and in Blackalicious, but the combination of Lateef and Gab on tracks has always proved successful. I’m thinking 4000 Miles (Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow), Side to Side (Blackalicious – The Craft), Banger (G. Love’s Lemonade), It’s Going Down, Sun Don’t Shine, Cold War Economics and 3 Strike Felony (The Gift of Gab – Supreme Lyricism Vol. 1), Kalakuta Show (Red Hot and Riot Fela Kuti Tribute Album). I could have done without the womanizing track “Aye.” In all, this is a solid album and a great addition to the Blackalicious/Gift of Gab, Lateef the Truth Speaker and Headnodic/Crown City Rockers associated catalogs.

Initial Thoughts Album Review #5 – Common Market "Tobacco Road"

Initial Thoughts Album Review #4
Unpretentious album reviews that forgo the big words, analogies and obscure music-references to simply voice some initial thoughts and gut reactions.Common MarketTobacco Road

I have been eagerly waiting all summer long for RA Scion and Sabzi to release their new full length, “Tobacco Road.” While I’m grateful that they gave us a taste with their “Black Patch War” EP last spring, in a way it made the wait all the more difficult. Over the past month or so a few tracks have leaked here and there and they sounded great. Now that I have received a copy of the full album, I am one happy camper.

Some thoughts:

RA Scion’s craft is at its best! Not only are his lyrical stylings and content more cohesive throughout the album, but his presentation – cadence, flow, intoation – prove a large step forward from their 2006 selftitled “Common Market” LP.

Sabzi’s beats are equally impressive. It is interesting to compare his work with Blue Scholars and Common Market. I’m not sure if he consiously choses certain beats for one band and different ones for the other (I can only assume that he does), but the backing tracks he chose for this album mesh well with RA Scion’s vox.

The lyrical content, though clearly less autobiographical than Black Patch War, still dwells upon aspects of RA Scion’s agricultural, rural, Southern roots.

In short, I really hope these guys break it big! The hip-hop world needs more guys out there putting out high quality tracks that don’t just talk about rims, grills, hoes and money. That schtick got old a LONG time ago. I think the term “conscious hip-hop” gets thrown around way too much, but these guys really do embody the best of what that term originally was used to mean. The fact that they are going through the independent grind, fighting from the ground up, makes this already impressive album all the more triumphant.

Long live Pacific Northwest Hip Hop!!!

ps. don’t forget to download this track off the Black Patch War EP

Common Market – His Eminence.mp3


Add them to your collection!

Also, consider their associated act Blue Scholars (same DJ, different MC)