ALBUM REVIEW: Brick Briscoe - Songs To Yell To

Written by Jessica Klausing

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Brick Briscoe returns with his ninth studio album release, Songs To Yell To. The album is a restless continuation of Briscoe’s knack for brash post-punk songs about sexuality and identity, citing influences from The Ramones, Buzzcocks, and the 70’s era CBGB club scene. 

From the opening chords of the opener, “Give Me a Lift,” you’re pulled into a punk-fueled road trip that twists and turns, driven by Sal Maida’s bass and Frank Funaro’s rollicking drums. Of course, Briscoe is along for the ride with some tongue-in-cheek jabs like, “this haircut cost me 50 bucks and when they write about me, they’re gonna laugh. It’s their choice.”

Fan favorite “Jack the Ripper” returns stripped down, accompanied by a melancholic bass riff that permeates the track with a very different feel than the hard shredder version featured in the What Happened to Me (2000-2014) compilation album.

“Everybody Sings,” has a distinctly low-fi vibe similar to the likes of Guided By Voices. The melodious, punk rock trailblazer “5 Sick 7” follows with Joey Ramone stylized drumming.

No Brick Briscoe album is complete without snarky yet strangely relatable wisdom. Briscoe offers life advice in “I’m Not Impressed By This Life Very Much” with the lyric, “At 20, you suck/at 30, you suck/ at 40, you’re fucked.” Relationships are questioned in “The Great Maybe,” with, “Being with you never made any sense/though sometimes I like the way you dress/if I drink enough maybe I could reinvent you.”

Briscoe seems to acknowledge his offhanded remarks in “Constant Banging” with, “Nice ass/ those were the first words out of my mouth/ I say things I’m not proud of but I can’t help it.”

As Songs To Yell To winds down, it does so gently, with the reflective “Boys Keep Swinging.” An acoustic guitar accompanied by television noise playing in the background, while Briscoe reminisces about life being simpler as a young boy.

If you want to hear an album that captures the spirit of punk perfectly then Songs To Yell To would be a great choice. Brick Briscoe embraces the best elements of abrasive language and delivers it with guitar-driven fury.

Check out Brick’s radio show called “The Song Show.” Join Brick as he discusses various music topics with surprise musical guests. Listen HERE.

Purchase Brick's music HERE.

Recommended Tracks: “Jack the Ripper,” “Everybody Sings,” “5 Sick 7,” and “I’m Not Impressed By This Life Very Much.”

EP REVIEW: Xs & ARROWs - From Here

Written by Jessica Klausing

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Xs & ARROWs bring an acoustic charm to an EP filled with the infectious warmth of the desert sun. Courtney Lavender (vocals and guitar), Susan Peterson (bass), and Pam Bluestein (drums) guide listeners through a soul-searching journey, appropriately titled, From Here. The EP features soothing melodies with heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics.

The opener, “Missing,” kicks off the EP with a luscious laid back pop melody ready to lull you into summertime bliss. Vibrant and catchy, it’s a perfect listen for a sunset drive on a scenic route. The song is about the inner struggle of trying to let go of a complicated relationship. Lavender reflects this thought with “I never wanted you to be the only thing I see,” against a wailing electric guitar.

“Fire from Gold” is a tender ballad with lyrics almost suggestive of Native American folklore. Delicate finger-picking and percussion intertwine while the honey smooth vocals evoke comfort and positivity. Lavender sings, “No rush coyote/no rhyme coyote/no fear coyote/We are only blessed/There’s no devil in this hole.” Extremely calming and reassuring, it’s the kind of track that will put a smile on your face and fill your heart with hope.

“Par Ici” follows with a Cranberries-esque vibe that’s filled to the brim with angst. Sharp guitar work rips through the pummeling drums while harsher vocals wail out, “the walls all came down on me/They spit and they shout at me.”

 The closer, “Questions” is a piano centered meditation on relatable frustration and unresolved feelings. Glen Hansard lends his vocals to this heart- wrenching track. The accompaniment is simple which leaves all the attention on Hansard and Lavender’s passionate vocal delivery.

From Here is a self-reflective and passionate collection of tracks that touches on the Irish storytelling spirit. Warm harmonies and mellow guitar glide smoothly throughout the EP. Lavender uses her soft vocals to convey in heartbreak, drama, and emotion into all four songs creating a beautiful listen.

From Here is available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and Spotify

All sale proceeds go to the Peter McVerry Trust, helping the homeless in Dublin.

Recommended Tracks: “Missing” and “Fire from Gold”

ALBUM REVIEW: Matt York - Between the Bars

Written by Jessica Klausing

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Returning with his newest release, Between the Bars, Matt York beckons listeners to pull up a bar stool for some drunken wisdom. Filled with the country spirit, the rhythms burst with driving guitars, saloon-esque pianos, and a brooding horn section. These songs convey the heartache of life and relationships gone wrong.

Opening the album is “All Over the Town,” which thrives on a pulsing guitar melody. The song deals with the aftermath of a failed relationship. You know, the kind when the whole town seems to want to gossip about it? It’s one of the more surprisingly upbeat tunes on the album even with the lyric, “You’ve gone out and changed your mind/I don’t know how I’ve survived.”

“Honkytonk Hangover” waltzes you through the doors of a 1950’s Bakersfield saloon. This old school country ballad surges with powerful energy, exploring the despair that even though life is full of regrets, it’s too late to turn back. York reflects this with, “Introduced my sadness to a beer/No one likes me here at the honkytonk/but I don’t feel alone when I’m here.” With a lively organ solo, a feathery piano waltz, and an infectious upbeat tempo, the track challenges our perceptions of resilience while employing self-loathing.

Next is “When the War Began,” an emotive break up song that centers around a toxic romance. For anyone that has had to face rejection, the lyric, “Yeah, there’s never a nice way to say you’re not the one,” is uncomfortably relatable. York’s vocals may be carefree, but his lyrics bring a sense of pain that’s all too real. The contemplative guitar and intensity of the organ in the latter half support the melody's bluesy edge.

Matthew Girard’s beautiful yet mournful trumpet solo stands out in “September’s Coming Soon,” where York’s vocals soar over the nimble Spanish guitar. “Man Who Does Nothing” is a wistful rumination from a man that just can’t get his life together. The acoustic guitar elevates its appeal. “Calling for You” closes out the album with ethereal vocals that reveal a storm of emotion.

Matt York demonstrates with this album a real knack for guitar playing and a suburb use of words as a songwriter. Between the Bars explores with lush instrumentation the inner madness of a resilient soul. The character may not have things figured out but he's still trying somehow.

Between the Bars will be available on November 3rd. You can purchase the album on Matt York's Bandcamp page. 

Matt York will perform a special album release show on November 3rd at the Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge, MA.

Recommended Tracks: “All Over the Town,” “Honkytonk Hangover,” “When the War Began,” and “September’s Coming Soon”

EP REVIEW: Drake Bell - Honest

Written by Jessica Klausing

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Drake Bell returns with an eclectic pop sound for his new EP, Honest. The former Nickelodeon star aims to branch out from his trademark rockabilly swagger to something more “light and fun.” This EP is just that, and more thought provoking than any of Bell’s previous releases.

The first track, the titular “Honest” is a wear-your-heart-on-a-sleeve romantic confessional with “Spread your love like a wildfire/Wanna breath you in like smoke/Why do I have to let you go?/Not saying I’m perfect/At least I’m honest.” The melody sounds like something off of the Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night album (I get the “Use Somebody” vibes here).

“Leaves” follows with an electronic percussion before sonically evolving into ambient transcendence. Bell bares vulnerability as he asks, “Is it brave to be this honest?”  The tender lyricism displays a beautiful and empathetic charm to this song.  

“Run Away” has a driving rhythm that is highly addictive. It’s a fun, road trip anthem about two young lovers running away together. Bell takes us along for the ride as he sings, “Sometimes we don’t need to run/We don’t need to hide/Don’t need to take our time when it’s on our side/Live life by the minute.”

Closing out the EP is “Rewind” which offers a valuable life lesson to worry less and live more. Bell croons about a woman constantly worrying about her boyfriend rather than enjoy life. “He can’t answer every time that you call/’Making something so big out of something so small.” What the song captures so effectively is the raw emotion and angst that comes from regret, the inevitable fate of human existence.  

Honest is a sonically brilliant EP and well worth the three year wait since Ready Steady Go! Drake Bell has grit complimented with a whole lot of heart. Every song has a different feel, there’s self-reflection and a psychedelic sensibility that’s blended effortlessly.

Recommended Tracks: “Leaves” and “Run Away.”

ALBUM REVIEW: The Rationales - Upstream

Written by Jessica Klausing

“Go for what I’m after. Never mind disaster. Give the past a future. Where I find-- I’m ready to go!” This opening line on “Ready to Go” is the heart of The Rationales’ new album, Upstream. With songs of loss, regret, nostalgia, and longing David Mirabella makes you feel like you’re riding shotgun with him on the back roads in New England as he tells his stories.

Right off, you’ll notice David’s voice. It’s dreamy. It’s that reassuring voice you want to hear during an emergency protocol. Backed with Sean Black (bass), Mike Mirabella (drums), Chad Raleigh (guitars), David Lieb (keyboards), and Adam Hand (pedal steel), The Rationales deliver a lush rock sound that’s artistically conscious of Powerpop, Alternative Country, Americana, and the Blues, to name a few.

The sound of the electrifying guitar opener, “Ready to Go” is not your granddaddy’s rock n’ roll! This is driving, swirling with electronic sounds and heavy beats. That ripping guitar solo at the 1:52 mark gets the adrenaline pumped up for the rest of the album.

“Trade You” takes the rhythm into Dire Straits territory. That infectious groove takes hold and refuses to let go. It’s easily my favorite off the album. Beyond the sultry guitar licks are the melancholic lyrics. “I’ll trade you for your loss. I’ll trade you for your lies. I’ll trade you for your silence this time.” The song deals with someone always wanting to trade misfortunes with others. Think of it as those people who overshare on social media.

The album shifts gears for “Under the Gun,” a somber country tune about growing up to face responsibility. “All the While” kicks things up a notch again. David Lieb shines on this track with his saloon piano styling. The attitude and style of the track gives it a swanky 50’s rock vibe. “I’ve been lucky all along. Always getting what I want. You’re an ocean. I am open to be sinking like a stone.” Oh yeah, it's got plenty of attitude.

Another highlight was “Climb the Ladder,” which has seamless instrumental transitions. The song starts with an Americana sound as it segues into a piano breakdown. Mike Mirabella’s vocals layered over the piano chords gives it a haunting touch. It’s slow moving, but that changes as it gradually intensifies and gets a screaming guitar solo brought into it.

“Take a Ride with Me” gets back to the country roots found earlier in the album; Only this time a bit more Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-esque. The song shows a desire to take a chance with someone or just take a ride to just see where it goes.

The final track “Dulcinea” is an emotional resonant song. David croons about a person so consumed with their own nostalgia that the fantasy takes over reality. Upon first listen my thoughts went straight to Miguel De Cervantes’ Don Quixote. A story of a man’s quest based solely on his mental exaggeration.

Upstream proves that The Rationales are well-seasoned musicians who love what they do. The guitar work on this album is on point with its electrifying riffs and solos that are just jaw dropping. Right from the opener I enjoyed the anticipation of what would come next. Give it a listen on your next road trip excursion.

The album will be available on August 3rd. You can pre-order now on the band's bandcamp.

The Rationales are having a special album release show on Aug 3rd at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA. Get your tickets HERE.

Recommended Tracks: "Ready to Go," "Trade You," "All the While," "Climb the Ladder," and "Dulcinea."
 

ALBUM REVIEW: Jourdan Myers - Ruin Me With Love

Written by Jessica Klausing

Jourdan Myers taps into an underrated pop territory. Many pop artists don’t venture too far from Electronica but Myers dares to explore. Her record weaves through Broadway, Industrial Rock, Classical, and bluesy anthems. Ruin Me With Love is a piano heavy, lyrically driven power punch about her struggles and the inner strength to persevere.

The piano rockin’ opener, “Lifetime or Before” sets the bar high for the album. The song is a fun, upbeat pop tune worthy of radio play. Myers’ angelic vocal chops soar over the heavy beats much like a Sara Bareilles song.

Myers breaks out her inner blueswoman for “Push Me on the Playground.” The song alludes to a childhood bully during recess. “Recess has become my worst enemy/You hide behind your smile now but soon you will be found out.” Well timed finger snaps, foot stomps, and percussion make up the back beat. The saxophone solo drives it into a fierce Jazz territory towards the end.

“Firelight” waxes the romantic poetic with “Dance me with your eyes. Sing me with your song. Drown me in your flood. Burn me with your fire. Quench my one desire. Ruin me with love.” Upon closer listen this song might not be as sweet as you think. The theme seems to touch on our animal magnetism towards falling in love.

“The Fight” stood out for its mechanical production. The song uses war imagery to metaphor overcoming any challenge. The tempo intensifies with Myers’ dramatic storytelling: “Charging up the hill and advancing with a yell and going for the kill.” With every gunshot and boisterous boom, you can just close your eyes and see a battle come to life.

“Wanderlust” returned to the piano-powered roots. This song was like a spirited continuation to the opening track. The album shifts gears again for “End of Me.” The intro crackles like an old phonograph but then rolls right into another somber waltz.

My favorite song is “Dusty Roses.” The song is a peppy little Broadway-esque tune about moving on from life’s disappointments. You just can’t help but sing-a-long to “You swear one of a kind, big blue eyes your heart is his forever but he is gone and in a storm with nothing left to sever. These thorns are in your side. Why the hesitation?”

The final track “Slow Motion” sounds like a continuation from the previous track, “Be Here.” The song digs into more mechanical background sounds. Personally, I tend to favor these tracks. I hope that Myers will expand more into the industrial side of the pop genre.

The album is compelling – Myers’ vocals are pitch perfect, the instrumentation is graceful and the lyrics are sweet and sharp.  I’m eager to see where Myers’ musical evolution will take us on the next record.

Recommended Tracks: “Lifetime or Before,” “Long Days,” “Push Me on the Playground,” “The Fight,” “Voice of Silver,” “Dusty Roses,” and “Slow Motion.”