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Ian Love – S/T

Ian Love has spent a number of years in outfits such as Rival Schools and Burn, before now dropping this self-titled solo effort. On it you won’t find shredding guitars or screamed vocals… no no, this is a serious singer/songwriter album with carefully strummed acoustic guitars and Ian Love’s soft voice draped gently over the songs.
Opener “The Only Night” immediately hit my soft spot, reminding me of Josh Ritter. Unfortunately not all of the songs have the same impact, some even come off as boring (yup, I’m talking about songs like “Butterfly”).
All in all, an okay album that pales in comparison to certain other singer/songwriter albums but granted, it does have its moments.
Score: 6 out of 10

Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid

On his first solo album, Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach doesn’t sound quite as sludgy as what we’re used to from the guy. But what “Keep It Hid” lacks in noise is more than made up for thanks to beautiful mellow cuts like opener “Trouble Weighs A Ton” and “When The Night Comes”.
Occasionally Auerbach can’t contain himself anymore and whips out a bigass blues riff that wouldn’t have looked out of place on any one of The Black Keys’ excellent albums. Check out “I Want Some More” and admit the title of the track is very, very true.
“Keep It Hid” really is a solo effort as Auerbach did most of the playing himself with the help of just some friends and family (protegee Jessica Lea Mayfield, his father,…). Whatever you hear in it, albeit blues, folk or psychedelica, the conclusion is the same… “Keep It Hid” is yet another damn fine album that flowed forth from Auerbach’s beard.
Score: 8 out of 10

Concrete Block – Life Is Brutal

One look at the cover of “Life Is Brutal” pretty much tells you all you need to know about this Italian band… bullets, money, a dude with a lot of tattoos including a Sick Of It All logo. Yup, this is tuff guy hardcore that sounds like Madball and Hatebreed.
Concrete Block is a pretty bland name for a band yet it’s not quite as bad as the acts the members used to play in, Woptime and Sickhead. The same kinda goes for the music… it’s not bad but NYHC has already been done a lot better in the past and all the angry vocals, double bass drum action and metal riffs in the world can’t save this album from being just okay-ish. Now, let’s just hope they don’t go all vendetta on my ass for saying this or I’ll wake up with a horse’s head in my bed in no time.
Score: 5.5 out of 10

Red Tape Parade – Ballads Of The Flexible Bullet

Germany’s Red Tape Parade recently dropped its debut album “Ballads Of The Flexible Bullet” on Let It Burn. On it they tear through no less than 16 songs (a couple too many if you ask me) which are loaded with fast-paced rhythms, loud guitars, samples and a socially engaged vocalist.

Musically it’s a mix of old-school HC and new school punk with a fair share of Good Riddance and Strike Anywhere influences even though they jump ship to post-hardcore/emorock towards the end. I’m not too keen on the screams and the wide variety of styles… it’s like they wanted something for everyone on the album but in the end all it achieves is showing us a band still looking for its own sound.
Not bad as a debut but I’m curious to see which direction they are going to go on the next album!
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Defeater – Travels

Bridge Nine employee Seth Decoteau runs his own label going on called Topshelf Records next to his job at Bridge 9 HQ . He originally released Defeater’s “Travels” but when Bridge Nine owner Chris Wrenn heard the album, they all decided together to give it an upgrade and re-release it on Bridge Nine.
“Travels” is a concept album, something you don’t find that often in hardcore. But don’t let it scare you off as this disc is a treat. As we follow the life of one man born as an unwanted child up until his death, Defeater uses the Modern Life Is War version of hardcore to tell the story and it works wonders for them. The music is relentless and keeps pounding away while vocalist Derek sounds like he’s exorcising some demons of his own.
Not the easiest album to digest – the only moment where you can catch your breath is an acoustic song that follows “Prophet In Plain Clothes” – but more than worth your time and a little effort. A concept album in hardcore that works… who woul’d ve thunk it!
Score: 8 out of 10

Sky Larkin – The Golden Spike

Yawn! Sky Larkin is yet another indiepop/rock band from the UK that is trying so hard to be energetic as all hell that they simply forgot to write catchy songs in the process. Which means that “The Golden Spike” is a very jumpy, shaky affair where nothing sticks. The fact that vocalist Katie Harkin sounds like she’s on some serious medication that suppresses any emotion doesn’t exactly help things along either.
No idea why they are signed to Wichita (home to great bands such as Bloc Party and Los Campesinos) but hey, who knows… they might surprise us in the future! For now you can just download the decent enough single “Fossil. I” and leave it at that.
Score: 5.5 out of 10

Jessica Lea Mayfield – With Blasphemy So Heartfelt

Jessica Lea Mayfield sang along on The Black Keys’ “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” on the album “Attack And Release” and in return she got Mr. Auerbach to lend his production skills, guitar, organ, piano and drums to her full-length debut “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt”.

On it you won’t hear any dirty blues riffs, instead you got a bunch of delicate acoustic tracks with Mayfield’s even more delicate voice draped over it. If it would’ve been just her voice and the strumming of an acoustic guitar, it could’ve been a little whiny at times but with the inclusion of an organ, a cello and some Crazy Horse-like guitar solos here and there and great backing vocals on “I’m Not Lonely Anymore”, Mayfield keeps the listener on his/her toes and takes them to that special little place where it’s okay to cry.
Score: 8 out of 10

Baskery – Fall Among Thieves

I can’t even seem to handle one woman but damn, I would give my right hand to have the girls from Baskery in my house so they can sing me to sleep every single night. These three Swedish blonde sisters (wipe that drewl from your face!) have a knack for writing beautiful vocal harmonies and when they aren’t cranking out countrypop tunes like Sweden’s answer to The Dixie Chicks (“Harsh”), they are playing the blues in a nasty way like a more lusciously curved version of Left Lane Cruiser (“Here To Pay My Dues”). They themselves refer to their music as killbilly or banjo-punk. Regardless of what you would like to file them under, the songs never sound anything less than stellar.
Recording live in the studio with Lasse Martén (Sahara Hotnights, Peter Bjorn & John) was a smart move as well, giving “Fall Among Thieves” a warm and spontaneous sound that works wonder for the sisters as they sing about not wanting to sleep with a man from town.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Monikers – Wake Up

“Wake Up” indeed… what a fun album this is! The follow-up to Monikers’ 2006 EP “Eat Your Young” is filled with the kind of gritty punkrock that we all learned to love thanks to The Larry Arms and Jawbreaker.
Fronted by former Discount guitarist Ryan Seagrist, Monikers wrestle their way through 12 cuts on “Wake Up” with “Absentees” and “What Doesn’t Kill You” as the album’s definite highlights. They could use just a bit more excitement though but whether the songwriting or the relatively flat production is to blame for that, I’m not entirely sure.
All in all, it’s obvious that these guys have what it takes to write a fine bunch of songs and I’m pretty much convinced we haven’t heard the best from Monikers just yet.
Score: 7 out of 10

Virgins – Miscarriage

Virgins with a miscarriage… it seems impossible but former New Mexican Disaster Squad singer/guitarist Sam Johnson managed to distill a solid album from this paradox. That raw and rusty voice of his is still intact and obviously invokes a lot of NMDS flashbacks but that 80s hardcore feel they had going, rears its ugly head just as well. Even though Virgins is more melodic than NMDS ever was. If Dillinger Four would cover New Mexican Disaster Squad, I imagine this is what it would sound like.
It’s in-your-face punkrock that doesn’t so much tackle political and social topics as it throws pipebombs at them and along with some nasty yet tasty punkrock sounds, I’d say that Virgins did a great job of having their cherry popped.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Nobunny – Love Visions

Nobunny is a one-bunny project by someone who sure loves his 60s pop and Ramones-styled punk. Think jangly – extremely jangly – guitars and a drum sound that sounds like the dude had the hardest time sticking with the rhythm and you’re looking at Nobunny.
“Love Visions” may be as messy as a pair of boxers that you’ve been wearing for the better part of a week but it does have its charm at times. And it’s fun to see that in a time where everyone is trying so hard to be taken serious, there are still acts out there who look up to Screeching Weasel and the Groovie Ghoulies and simply want to do the same.
Score: 6 out of 10

The Vines – Melodia

Somehow Australia’s The Vines is one of those bands I’ve only heard of until now but never actually heard. They had a couple of hits over here early in the new millennium but since then it’s been very quiet around them. They are still around though and have recently released a new album.
On “Melodia”, their latest album which comes with some of the ugliest artwork I’ve seen in quite some time, they swing quite a lot between soothing 90s indie pop (“True As The Night”) and scoarching rock (“He’s A Rocker”, “Braindead). They’re pretty decent at both but the transition from loud to soft and vice versa feels a little awkward from time to time.
The highlight of the album comes in the form of opener “Get Out” and if they had managed to keep up that energy, this would’ve been an amazing album. But as “She Is Gone” faded out, I couldn’t really recall a lot of the other songs. Decent album but that’s about it.
Score: 6 out of 10

Fall Out Boy – Folie A Deux

What someday might have been described as having something to do with punk, is now more than ever pure pop. But hey, the dudes in Fall Out Boy know what their fans want to hear and aren’t afraid to give them just that. And so “Folie A Deux” is overproduced as fuck and rehashes a lot of classic rock riffs which are shoved into songs that all sound alike. Even the guest vocals by Blondie and Elvis Costello alongside the entire Decaydance roster can’t hide that these tracks are written to serve as radio fodder for the masses. It’s easy to listen to, won’t bore you but when it was all over I didn’t feel even the slightest hint of satisfaction. Then again, there’s no denying that “The (Shipper) Gold Standard” is an insanely catchy song. Too bad one or two songs don’t make a good album!
Score: 6 out of 10