5 Artists That Inspired California’s American High and Their ’60s-Pop-Meets-Punk Sound

As someone whose top five bands include both the Beatles and Green Day, I have a special spot in my heart for musicians who also recognize the bizarre, yet obvious, link between ’60s rock/pop and latter-day punk.

American High, a rock band out of Sacramento, California, embraces those influences in their music, perfectly blending the two disparate sounds and celebrating the lineage from one to the other. For anyone who’s a fan of either, their new album, Bones in the Attic, Flowers in the Basement, is a must-hear, but for anyone who’s a fan of both, it’s a revelation.

Because of this unique pedigree, we asked American High to tell us more about their influences. “We’re four guys who love rock and roll and love songs and songwriting,” they say. “We pay respect to brilliant artists that have gone before. But in our own way. Our songs are influenced by whatever bubbles up from the subconscious. We give equal weight to all ideas/hooks/harmonies, regardless of which decade they harken to.”

Check out these five artists that left a lasting impression on American High!

1. Elliott Smith

For us, songwriting is very organic.  It’s something you feel first and craft later.  So, we don’t have a very methodical approach, like Elliott Smith talks about in this vid.  We can’t remember if our philosophy of songwriting was born after seeing this or if this vid made such an impact because it so closely mirrored our own.  To us, his is the only name that should be mentioned in the same breath as Lennon and McCartney.

We love Elliott Smith for his fascinating, no-rules approach to songwriting, his self-deprecation (which adds a sense of vulnerability and realism) his genius for producing catchy songs in spite of the generally dark subject matter (similar to the Smiths in that way), his penchant for creating songs with dual or multiple meanings, and many other reasons too long to list.

2. The Beatles

For me, I believe I was 11 or 12 when I first listened to a band that wasn’t the Beatles.  They’ve always just been a part of my life.  Different records at different times, but for me, the songs just never get old.  I know that I’m not unique in this, but as I studied songs and songwriting growing up, I learned more from the Beatles than anyone.

It’s not possible to list everything I love about them here, but I have no doubt that their influence can be heard throughout our record.

We picked this video because it illustrates another important aspect of our musical philosophy.  Great rock and roll remains great forever. Sixty years old? Thirty years old? Sixty days old? It doesn’t matter.

What makes great rock and roll great? Lots of things, but to us, one often-forgotten, difficult-to-define aspect is illustrated here. It begins about 02:35 in (watch P. McCartney dismiss the Swedish-speaking host via universal sign language), sandwiched between some great songs.  It was rock and roll to rebel against the powers that be then…

3. Green Day

…and it was rock and roll then, too.  Here’s Green Day doing basically the same thing 30 years later (screw the host, LET’S ROCK!!!).  Time can’t erode the things that make rock and roll so powerful! So, we give equal weight to all ideas, hooks, harmonies, sounds, and schemes regardless of which decade they harken to. Blending various ideas, for us, is one of the ways we hope to make music that feels (and is) unique.

Green Day came to us later in our musical development.  We were stuck on ’80s punk (the Descendants, X, the Dickies, the Ramones, the Clash, Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys, many more). Nirvana was a favorite of ours for a long time, and Green Day seemed like a music-industry trick to replace them (three members, the guitar player sings, punk). Boy, were we wrong.

We started with Dookie and got hooked on each record in order. We have never gotten over that punchy, pop-punk sound, and Green Day remains, in our opinion, one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.

4. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

We believe in swinging for the fences when it comes to making music. If you are going to make songs, we believe you should always try to make great songs. Now, the problem with trying to be great is that you rarely achieve your goal. Swinging for the fences, to us, means not only trying to make the songs as catchy and unique as possible but infusing them with multiple meanings and deeper themes.

Our philosophy can be found in most of the songs on Bones in the Attic, Flowers in the Basement. Freedom, the costs of sending a massive military out into the world to force everyone to obey through violence and fear, the suffering by normal fellow citizens that results and the idea that we are all born with identical rights regardless of religion, race, sexuality, gender place of birth or residence. That these rights belong to each of us and cannot be revoked by mere mortals, no matter how much violence the use or how much of the electorate they have in their corner. That maybe the answer is to scrap the current power structure and start over.

CSNY were masters in this regard. In this song, “Ohio,” they make social commentary on the killings of unarmed Kent State University student protestors by armed military personnel. The group also includes a call to arms.  This is rock and roll at its best to us. Groovy and catchy as heck, and an attempt to wake up the populace to crimes committed by their government.

5.  Nirvana

Here’s Nirvana’s first performance on TV. This time British; we’re pretty sure this is live, and we’re pretty sure the powers that be didn’t like the way Cobain introduces the song. But look at the crowd. This is the power of great rock and roll. These kids nearly rip the place down. And Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl are so into the music that they don’t care that the song isn’t quite right and mistakes are made.

Our goal is making great rock and roll songs, mistakes and all. Whether we achieve that isn’t up to us. It’s about the feel of the songs, the groove. We hope our love of rock and roll shines through musically, socially and philosophically. We want to make songs that are unique, diversified and that pay homage to the geniuses that have gone before. If all art is derivative, we want to derive ours from as many sources as possible spanning as many genres and decades as inspire us, throw all of that into the creative hopper, add that creative force that Elliott Smith talks about, and in the end, hope something memorable is born. We hope you all dig the songs and that this finds you all safe during these troubled times.

You Should Be Proud of this Achievement: Female Film Directors and Their Next Superhero Movie

At a time when five out of every four films contain superheroes, this year’s Wonder Woman feels fresh and amazing. After more than a decade of the Marvel Universe, the superhero sub-genre seemed to go about as far as it can go. Director Patty Jenkins has shown us what is missing from almost every comic book movie – passion for the characters.

When Iron Man was released in 2008, no one expected it to kick start an entire universe of films. Tony Stark was a character known only to comic fans as Marvel’s answer to Batman . Yet the filmmakers cared about making a good movie and audiences responded. Studios, being staffed by the most insightful people on the planet, assumed that what we needed was more explosions and executive meddling and less of that passion. Look how Marvel treated Edgar Wright and his attempts to make Ant-Man.

And then Jenkins makes a movie about characters who inspired her when she was younger. She had the same passion and energy Jon Favreau had about Iron Man.

The fact she was given such a huge budget to make it at all is a miracle. Female directors have had a hard time in Hollywood. A guy directs a car commercial and he’s handed a tent-pole project at Disney. A woman directs Oscar winning films, but still struggles to get major films greenlit. Jenkin’s feature film debut was Monster, the movie that won Charlize Theron an Oscar. She followed up this huge artistic success by directing an episode of Arrested Development and two episodes of Entourage. Now these overlooked directors may have found a new way to finally win that fight for recognition.

So, now that Wonder Woman has proven a success, let’s take a look at the future. What acclaimed female directors should make what female superhero film?

Batgirl (Kathryn Bigelow) – So far, Barbara Gordon’s sole film outing was the disastrous Batman & Robin. Instead of being the troubled genius daughter of the one good cop in Gotham, she was turned into a valley girl who became Batgirl because she could guess a simple password.

Fans of the Batman comics know that Barbara is Bruce Wayne’s most valuable ally and doesn’t even need a costume. After the Joker paralyzed her, she reinvented herself as Oracle. This way, she could use her computer genius to basically turn code into magic. Listening to her dialogue is like listening to a tech thriller. But stories focusing on Barbara also have feminist themes that have never been fully explored. Even though she’s the smartest person in the room, she struggles with Bruce Wayne’s ego and the number of times

It reminds of Jessica Chastain’s character in Zero Dark Thirty, which is why Kathryn Bigelow would be the perfect director for a Batgirl film. She could capture Gordon’s sense of being stuck in a world that she can’t control, even though she knows the solution to fix everything. And Bigelow has long had an obsession with surveillance and technology being unable to beat human intuition. The aforementioned Zero Dark Thirty was about how a massive use of force couldn’t beat intuition. And Strange Days took surveillance to a nightmarish alternate reality where people could experience each other’s lives with headsets. Imagine Barbara fighting the Mad Hatter as he gets Gotham addicted to similar technology.  And, as Near Dark demonstrated, Bigelow can effectively directed an action scene.

Bigelow has already created Barbara Gordon like characters in her recent films.  It’s time for her to tackle the real thing.

Zatanna (Julie Taymor) – I know that Julie Taymor’s last attempt at tackling the superhero genre practically ended with a body count. Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark is the sort of work that people speak of in hushed tones around the campfire to scare the newbies in show business.

But Taymor is also one of the few female directors who has been allowed to develop her own visual style. Her adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is one of the most underrated films ever made. Across the Universe was probably the only jukebox musical that worked with its psychedelic visuals and characters that weren’t just representative of the pretentious nostalgia baby boomers have for the 1960s but represented youth across all time.

Taymor’s visual style makes her the ideal candidate for any number of superhero films. But which superhero film is the most appropriate? I would say it’s Justice League member Zatanna. She’s probably the most obscure character on this list, but that’s not stopping studios anymore. She’s a stage magician who is also an actual wizard. So all the tricks she’s doing onstage are really happening.

The story would probably be very similar to Doctor Strange, as a talented stage performer discovers that she may be able to perform her tricks for real. Also, in the hands of Julie Taymor, a Zatanna film would be among the most visually stunning superhero movies ever made.

She-Hulk (Lisa Cholodenko) – Of all the characters on this list, She Hulk is the character I struggled with the most.

It would be very difficult for a film to nail the tone of She Hulk. Unlike her cousin Bruce Banner, She Hulk is not a tragic figure fighting demons that live inside her. On the contrary, she prefers her hulk form to her waifish Jennifer Walters persona. She Hulk is basically two very different female identities rolled into one. That still creates tension as Jennifer realizes that people only care about her for the amazon sex symbol that resides inside of her rather than for her own skills as an attorney. That’s more difficult to capture than Bruce Banner’s anger problems.

She was also Deadpool before there was a Deadpool. She Hulk was one of the first mainstream comic book characters that realized her actions were at the whim of whatever staff writer Marvel assigned to her comic. She would taunt her readers for taking her adventures seriously and at the Marvel staff for their ridiculous story choices.

It’s very difficult to find a director who can match both tones, but I think Lisa Cholodenko is the ideal choice for the material. Cholodenko has defined her career with quirky indie comedies about women who are struggling with their identity and their past. The Kids are All Right, a movie about a lesbian couple whose family life is interrupted by the arrival of the sperm donor they used to have children, shows a talent for light comedy that a She Hulk movie would need.

But it also demonstrated an interest in the different personas women struggle with. The couple in The Kids are All Right actually represents both sides of She Hulk. Annette Bening is a nerdy intellectual while Julianne Moore is a fun loving extrovert. All Cholodenko would have to do is combine them into one character. The one thing I’m not sure about is the action, but then She Hulk doesn’t need to be an action packed extravaganza. It needs to be a story about a character that feels conflicted but knows that conflict is silly. Cholodenko’s work shows she is up for the challenge.

Death (Sofia Coppola) – Death has long been the breakout character of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book series. The battle to get the comics to the screen has been a long and painful one that is still ongoing.

It seems premature to talk about a Death movie, but it would be a good way to introduce a movie audience to the world of the Endless. Death is a more accessible character because she’s not based on an abstract concept. Everyone has been visited by her and wishes they could ask her a question while they’re still alive. And Gaiman changed our concept of her. She was a character who loved life and loved meeting people at their final moments. Her task wasn’t a burden, but a gift that she wanted to share.

There aren’t many directors who could do well with the material. They would try to add some unnecessary gothic imagery or magic. But one person who could make a good Death movie is Sofia Coppola.

I’m not Coppola’s biggest fan, but her subtle style is perfect for the material. The High Cost of Living is a very subtle work that doesn’t have a lot of comic book action. It’s about a quirky woman trying to understand a culture she’ll never be able to. Coppola made that film once and won an Oscar for it. She’s also one of the few filmmakers that could, perhaps, get the project off the ground.

Supergirl (Lexi Alexander)- Of all the characters on this list, Supergirl is the most well represented in popular culture. She’s had her own solo movie, has made numerous appearances in the various DC cartoons, and now has a show on the CW. Lexi Alexander has directed a few episodes of the TV show.

So why does Supergirl need a new movie at all?

It’s partly because the character still feels like a B-list character despite her association with the sainted Superman. DC had no issues killing her in the ‘80s, and then brought her back in the ‘90s just so she could be Lex Luthor’s boyfriend.  And, in recent times, DC decided that Supergirl was more interesting as a villain and then decided to kill her again.

DC has constantly used Supergirl as an extension of Superman. She’s forever a side character while Clark Kent gets all the credit. Now that Wonder Woman has proven itself a success, DC finally has a chance to fix this lapse. She doesn’t just have to be identical to her cousin, especially when the world expects different things from her. How does this make her feel? Does she want to follow in the truth, justice, and American way path? Considering that DC is determined to build the same universe Marvel has for its characters, Supergirl is a welcome addition.

So why should Lexi Alexander direct a full length Supergirl film? Because her career is very similar to Supergirl’s character arc. Alexander directed one comic book film (Punisher: War Zone) that now enjoys a strong cult following. But it was released to critical anger and remains the lowest grossing Marvel film ever made. This despite the fact that it’s a lot more fun than Age of Ultron and Alexander made a great action film that Michael Bay could only dream of.

So despite her skill, Lexi Alexander is regulated to the sidelines while her less interesting peers are given iconic status. She’s the natural fit for Supergirl.

ALBUM REVIEW: Jeff Tweedy’s “Together at Last”

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has released an acoustic mini-masterpiece, an understated tour-de-force that quietly creeps up on you and never lets go. Tweedy’s new release Together at Last, recorded at the band’s Chicago studio The Loft, is a collection of previously released compositions, pared down for guitar and vocal.

The song selection has a few Wilco favorites along with a couple of “odds and sods,” from side projects Loose Fur and Golden Smog. Tweedy’s approach avoids those explosions of sound that are a Wilco trademark, in favor of simple, uncluttered, acoustic arrangements. It’s as if this album was purposely under-engineered.

The album opens with “Via Chicago,” Wilco’s murky masterpiece which features Tweedy on harmonica doing his best Neil Young. The song, originally recorded on the end of the century favorite Summerteeth, sets the trend for much of the release, with Tweedy singing just above a whisper.

“Laminated Cat,” better known as “Not for the Season,” is divine, with a flawless guitar solo that brings out the song’s essence. The lyric “Candy left over from Halloween/The unified theory of everything” remains a wonderful morsel of cereal box philosophy.

There’s nothing too fancy about “Muzzle of Bees,” originally recorded on A Ghost is Born and perhaps this writer’s favorite Wilco song. “In a Future Age” is similar, stripped down to basics, slowed just enough to stand out from the original recording. There’s overwhelming power in the simplicity of both songs.

The mellow mood lingers on 2002’s “Ashes of the American Flag,” notable for its irony. Tweedy enunciates like Dylan (“Diet Coca Cola”), as he fingerpicks his guitar singing “I wonder why we listen to poets/When nobody gives a fuck.”

“I am Trying to Break Your Heart” is another highlight, with its intimate lyrics and carefully strummed notes. The song is a regular at Wilco shows where the band is known to tear it up and then reconstruct it. Not quite the style of this recording – although Tweedy probably couldn’t help but add a little guitar overdub. It serves as a reminder that Wilco/Tweedy can be equally strong electric or acoustic.

There’s a degree of playfulness throughout the album, with its varied arrangements, key changes and fluid melodic structure. “Hummingbird,” a classic from A Ghost is Born, is a good example. It’s performed close to the original, but still sounds fresh. The tune is also a songwriting clinic:

“His goal in life was to be an echo/Riding alone, town after town, toll after toll/A fixed bayonet through the great southwest to forget her.”

The album is raw, naked and beautiful – Would it be too bold to say that, in a sense, Tweedy is making love to these familiar songs? There’s even beauty in “the space between,” those moments of silence where nothing is said or strummed. Indeed, even the sound of silence on this album makes an impression.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – ESSENTIAL FOR WILCO FANS

Album Review: Plasticsoul, “Therapy”

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the genre subclassification “power pop.” I never used to have this problem. In fact, for the longest time, I’ve been a defender of the terminology. I mean, how detrimental could it be?

In the grand scheme of things, not at all, but when you start inquiring what the term evokes to other critics and some listeners, the responses are worrisome: happy, horny, and frivolous. Most artists won’t mind the first term, and are sanguine to the second term. It is what it is. But that third term…frivolous? Work on a batch of songs for a year (at least) and then reckon with the frivoloty of your efforts. You’ll change your mind.

So in my mind, it might be time to step away from the term and reclassify this music what it is and has always been — rock. Attitude? Guitars? Maybe an agenda? Yes, yes, and we’ll see.

This brings us to Plasticsoul and their new album Therapy. It’s been some time since we’ve heard from the group (see 2005’s Pictures from the Long Ago and 2009’s Peacock Swagger), but time has not diminished the snarl behind the smile. Plasticsoul still has the wherewithal to kick you in the butt.

The group is led by Steven Wilson, and I suppose I have to provide a qualification at this point. This is not the Steven Wilson that led the band Porcupine Tree and co-created Blackfield, and yet both Wilsons synthesize the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s in modern ways. For Plasticsoul, the combination of the singer/songwriter ethos with the heavier sides of Big Star and The Byrds find Wilson in similar company with Michael Penn and Matthew Sweet, just to name two other artists who have needed to assert their seriousness against their own ornate melodicism.

And Plasticsoul is serious, even when they’re being playful as on the track “The Girl of Many Tribes” which mixes up sitar and tabla with mariachi horns and a samba beat. Similar exotic touches set the gorgeous “Babylon” alight. The beautiful but harrowing “My Heavy Soul” opens the record like a confessional, with Wilson wearily reckoning “It’s been three weeks since the relapse and all I’ve got is my heavy soul” to an acoustic guitar, restrained cello, and a low choir of vocal harmonies. “All Died Pretty” sneers to big, jangly guitars, handclaps, and lyrical malevolence. 

None of this should dissuade anyone who is thinking “arty-farty” because, at the core, this remains a rock record to reassert my original statement. “In Her Raincoat” is flat-out gorgeous with a pitch-perfect guitar solo at the bridge. If you’ve been starving for something reminicent of The Knack during the Zoom era, this song will set you up just right. “Monkey On A Stick” is a punk song, whether anyone dares to classify it as such or not and is a kerosene-torching showcase for Wilson,  bassist Marc Bernal, guitarist Daniel Conrad, and especially drummer Steve Markowicz who summarily beats the hell out of his kit.

Plasticsoul has survived on the fringes for a while, so you can be forgiven for not having heard of them until now. But do yourself a favor and don’t deprive yourself of Therapy, which will surely end up as one of the best rock records of 2017.

Plasticsoul’s Therapy is available at Bandcamp.com.

 

 

POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE SINGLE PREMIERE: TASTES LIKE CHICKEN, “Bottle In My Hand”

With America’s dependency on alcohol and opioids at an alarming all-time high, few artists have dared to address this complicated issue. South Carolina’s Tastes Like Chicken have bravely attempted to fill that void with the release of their poignant and soulful new single “Bottle in My Hand.”  Popdose is pleased to bring to you this exclusive premiere.

It’s the first single taken from their forthcoming full length album, Heartaches and Hangovers (set to be released on June 30th). The talented five-piece band, led by co-founders Lance and Brad Shirley, create a spirited mid-tempo jam with a poignant theme and surprisingly melancholic undertones. The band have honed their talents and earned a sizable fanbase by performing over 200 shows and festivals a year throughout the south and their home base of Florence, South Carolina.

Check out “Bottle In My Hand” below:

Twelve Million Streams Later, Jase Harley Invites Listeners ‘Between the Lines’

In the new frontier of the music industry, streaming is not only a way for artists to get discovered but also a conduit connecting them to fans. R&B songsmith Jase Harley has racked up a staggering 12 million streams on is his 2016 album Free Pxrn: the Memoir of an American Heathen after breaking on Pandora. His style, while influenced by hip-hop, soul, jazz, even film composers like Hans Zimmer, is similar to the Weeknd’s genre-blending sound and Drake’s pop transcendence.

The inspiration for his songs, Harley says, comes from real life. “I don’t rap about anything that doesn’t happen to me,” he says. In fact, his latest single, “Between the Lines,” is “about the relationship between me and one of my exes.”

In his new video for “Between the Lines,” Harley and dancer Olivia L. Burgess display the delicate back and forth of a couple on the brink of destruction. Calling back to Flashdance, it shows off Burgess’ fleet feet amid Harley’s delicate beats and emotional melodies.

Check out Jase Harley’s video for “Between the Lines” below!

5 Songs That Inspired the World-Music ‘Journey’ of Shahed Mohseni Zonoozi

With the goal of taking listeners on a world tour of sorts, Intercontinental Concerts and founder Shahed Mohseni Zonoozi combine musical styles from around the globe to craft something with international flair that’s still accessible regardless of taste. Iranian-born Zonoozi’s latest release, The Journey, features songs in both Russian and Tajik Farsi, displaying inspiration nothing short of divine.

“In general, whenever I listen to a new song, I try to check the details and learn something from it,” he says. “There are always some points in the subject, the words, and their order in lyrics, type of instruments, melodies, arrangement, mix, and sound…. Even I sometimes learn [how] music never should sound like some tracks!” 

Because of the varied influences behind The Journey, we asked Zonoozi to create a mini-playlist of five songs that inspire him.

1. “Memories of You,” Sirvan Khosravi

Iranian pop artist

Well, based on my iTunes plays counter, I listened to this song over 716 times so far since it released in 2014! This is absolutely my most favorite song. Fantastic arrangement and performance together with a story that’s being narrated with very simple words but in an interesting order offered me a new point of view of presenting emotions through music.

Analyzing the vocal production, background sounds and the mix led me to some new ideas in production as well.

2. “Quantumising Myself,” Okan Ersan and Istanbul Superband

(Ersan is a Turkish Cypriot jazz fusion musician)

When I heard this music for the first time, I was in shock for a while, and by listening more and more and paying more attention to details — from melodies and arrangement to mixing and mastering — this track caused me to see music at completely another creative level. Various rhythms and melodies and the ethnic phrases and flavor are the most impressive to me.

3. “Luna,” Alessandro Safina

I heard this song in 2008 when I was so young and studying music. I took music composition and classic vocal courses, and Safina’s singing style [influences]…. I rehearsed for several years to be able to cover this song. The experience of singing in this genre as well as trying some other genres caused me to finally find my own right sound and style!

4. “Give It All You Got,” Chuck Mangione

The recording and mixing of this track are the most outstanding points to me. However, it’s an old record, [but] the clarity of sounds is awesome and even became a reference for me when I mix.

5. “All I See is You,” Dave Koz

I have a cool story of how this music affected my album’s journey!

I was in Istanbul and looking to buy good headphones for mixing. I went to a shop and asked for headphones. I was provided some models and a player to hear how they sounded. “All I See is You” by Dave Koz was playing and sounded really good. I was [entranced] by the music and completely forgot to compare the headphones. While the salesman was changing the tracks to explain his headphones’ sounds for various genres, I grabbed the player to turn back to that track and take a picture of the artwork to [find out] the artist and song name.

I bought the headphones and immediately left to find and buy the track through my computer at my hotel and listen more times. Two years later, I recorded and mixed the whole The Journey album with the same headphones!

Dizzy Heights #20: There’s No Rehearsal

This show normally runs on a Thursday, but vacation beckons, so I’m posting it early. I apologize for the inconvenience.

With the exceptions of the bookends, this show is a love letter to Milwaukee’s Summerfest, because you will be hard pressed to find a better music festival bang for your buck than this, and my lovely wife and I are going for the first time in well over a decade. Which day will we be attending? All will be revealed when you press Play, but I will tell you that it’s basically my music collection in the flesh.

I also make shameless references to the following Popdose articles:

Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock

The Popdose Interview with Terri Nunn

Nike – Human Chain ad

And tangentially, this Super 700 song

Thank you, as always, for listening.

ALBUM REVIEW: MIDNIGHT NORTH, “Under The Lights”

San Raphael’s Midnight North have just unwrapped their new album (their third), Under The Lights, and it may be wishful thinking that this will be the one to really put them on the map.  The band’s warm, rich, sometimes soulful, sometimes funky-jammy sound is soothing to the ear and it does make you stop and think when listening to the words (which to me is important).  The combination of melody, drive and harmonies makes this an album that makes you feel good.

Opening with the country-tinged, rockin’ steady title track, the balance of acoustic guitar, Nashville-styled riffs and fills and thrashing on the chorus, it’s the perfect way to get this collection started.  Segueing into the more groove-infused “Playing A Poor Hand Well” is a spot-on showcase for Elliott Peck’s vocals plus the sweet Hammond B3 sound and horn punches gives this a Memphis feel, which is near and dear to my heart.  And the strident “Everyday”, again, punctuated by beefy horns and a great single-note piano foundation rounds out a trifecta that tells me the band know how to open an album – start with three different styles and you will have the listener paying close attention.  “Romin’” has that get-down, jam feel, but is another solid groover with an equally solid chorus and the use of different vocalists makes it an even stronger piece; the twangy, slower pace of “Back To California” is another standout; “One Night Stand” is thumper – a country stomper and a good time vibe and “Echoes” may be my favorite – the most radio-friendly, pop number that has a certain R.E.M. touch to it (I immediately thought of “Driver 8” and “Texarkana”, frankly).  That minor comparison aside, it’s a damned good song, with riffs, drama and great vocals.

Eleven songs to listen to, think about, and then listen to again – and it’s easy to bounce around to really enjoy this very fine collection of songs.  A tip of the hat to Midnight North – an album well done, filled with a steady diet of devourable sounds and a little something for everyone.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Under The Lights is currently available

http://midnightnorth.com/