Blackfeet Braves – Blackfeet Braves (2012)

Blackfeet Braves’ self-titled full length debut delivers on all fronts that you would expect for a band hailing from the infamous sun-soaked metropolis of highways and mini bubble cities between San Diego and Los Angeles. I pushed play on track one and felt myself start to transform. Ten minutes later I was melting into my chair and making dolphin noises. A good sign indeed, but I wanted to go full dolphin, damnit. A mere glimpse into the joys of being a dolphin isn’t enough. SoCal contemporary dolphin-morphers Allah-Lahs and The Growlers complete the task so well that THEY MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A FUCKING DOLPHIN. Blackfeet Braves just left me with a slightly fishy taste in my mouth.Make no mistake, the album is well done. All the elements are there: the twangy guitar leads layered over minimal rhythms washed in tremolo; the simple melodic bass lines meshing with that chill-ass, laid-back percussion lazily pumping away like a stoned heart beat; and let’s not forget the signature semi-melancholy crooner vocal stylings popularized by OC heartthrob Brooks Neilsen of Growlers fame. If you are familiar with these elements, then you are probably more than aware of their ability to sonically transport you from your drab bedroom straight to the sands of your favorite beach break. Blackfeet Braves‘ main downfall is the inescapable fact that it lacks the power to keep you there for very long.-Joey Genovese

mp3 320 kbps | 122 MB | TB | UL

Carolyn Mark – Queen of Vancouver Island (2012)

If one word could be used to sum up Carolyn Mark’s seventh solo album, The Queen of Vancouver Island, it would be “clever.” Which is both a good and a bad thing; Mark is an excellent singer and a distinctive songwriter, and she certainly knows how to make the most of her tunes and her instrument on this album. However, she has a sense of humor that’s intelligent but never quite as smart as she thinks, and The Queen of Vancouver Island’s Achilles’ Heel is hearing Mark indulge her wit far more than is prudent. On “Not Talk,” Mark points out a joke in one of her songs by laying in a laugh track after the punch line (which plays even worse than it sounds), and after telling us “Now, in the verse I’ll just say some shit, leading up to the chorus, because everybody wants to sing along” in the title tune. Mark breaks the fourth wall again eight songs later on “The Cereal Is the Prize,” singing “Maybe tomorrow, I’ll sit down and write the third verse.” And while “Old Whores” is an effective meditation on age and regret, using a similar metaphor on the next tune, “You’re Not a Whore (If No One’s Paying)” seems at once lazy and belabored. The worst part is Mark is clearly talented enough to know better; the best songs here, like “Best Friend,” “Mellie’s Book,” and “Nobody’s Perfect” demonstrate how good a tunesmith she can be when she hits her marks, and her vocals are wonderful throughout, with her cover of “Flaming Star” comparing favorably to Elvis Presley’s stellar original. Mark also called upon a number of friends and colleagues for production and accompaniment, and they truly delivered the goods, giving the album a rich, eclectic sound that sways from pop to rock to country with easy assurance and joy. The Queen of Vancouver Island is a good album that could have been great if someone had given Carolyn Mark’s songs a bit of editing before she went into the studio; it’s still worth hearing, but one would imagine she’d have learned the difference between “clever” and “wise” by now.

mp3 VBR~243 kbps | 73 MB | UL

The Dirty Truckers – Tiger Stripes – EP(2012)

The ‘Truckers manage to pack all of their trademarks into this 18 minute collection. Guitars run ragged, driving bass lines and lyrics that hit a little too close to home can all be found within these six songs. “Stranger In Disguise” kicks things off. It’s one of those barn-burners The Dirty Truckers do so well. “Human Contact,” “Feedback” and “Arms Length” trade a little bit of the opener’s rambunctiousness for bigger hooks, proving it’s not all about being rockingest bands in the land.* “Not That Into You” and “Just Run Away” mine the alt-country territory the band often flirts with. The former is nicely augmented by some well arranged backing vocals and a subtle organ part.

mp3 160 kbps | 21 MB | UL | TB

Andre Williams – Life (2012)

Andre Williams began a very prolific and creative phase of his life when he finally got off booze and drugs. His intake of various substances was Andre Williams’ new album ”Life” was recorded this past winter in Detroit, the city where his musical career first began in the 1950’s. Andre’s new songs are his latest experiments and explorations outside of the garage-soul bag that he’s often associated with. Produced by Matthew Smith, the album’s sonic palette recalls the work of Norman Whitfield’s Motown productions, 70’s Rolling Stones, Can, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, as well as Andre’s own doo-wop and funk history. ”Life” finds Andre in a pretty upbeat mood, whether he’s singing about people being rude and impatient (”But’n”), or laying down a political commentary (”Blame it on Obama”), reciting a children’s bedtime story (”Ty the Fly”), singing a simple love song (”Stuck in the Middle”, ”It’s Only You That I Love”), or conjuring a nocturnal fetish-sex-groove (”Heels”).

m4a 256 kbps | 87 MB | UL

My Darling Clementine – How Do You Plead (2011)

Michael Weston King sounds as if he was born at the wrong time, in the wrong place. The former leader of the British alt-country band the Good Sons, he is now joined by his partner Lou Dalgleish for an album of country duets that sound as if they were written in the 60s or 70s. It’s a finely crafted tribute to the classic country duos such as Johnny Cash and June Carter or George Jones and Tammy Wynette, with all the songs written by King and Dalgleish and several sounding like lost classics. They are almost all weepies, with slow or more upbeat stories of pained love affairs, parting and regret, and are thoughtfully sung, with Dalgleish often playing the partner who has angrily pushed off, answering back like Carter singing Jackson. The musicianship is equally impressive, with a classy band that includes Martin Belmont playing a 1963 Fender Stratocaster and Geraint Watkins on piano and 1966 Hammond organ. It’s a great album – but it didn’t need the American accents or a song titled Going Back to Memphis.

mp3 192 kbps | 118 MB | UL

Dar Williams – Mortal City (1996)

On the first track of her second album, Dar Williams makes clear her intention to break out of the acoustic singer/songwriter ghetto: “As Cool As I Am” is full-out rock & roll with funky drums and a chorus built on massed choo-choo harmonicas. She doesn’t stay in rock mode for long, but the more aggressive approach continues to inform her sound even when she retreats into a more typical acoustic setting. It’s interesting to note that as her music gets more consistent, so do her lyrics. Over a spare guitar-and-cello accompaniment, she muses on the various ways that February can symbolize stages in a relationship (“And when we got home, we just started chopping wood/Because you never know how next year will be”). Elsewhere she finds her boyfriend “in the arms of a Student Against the Treacherous Use of Fur” and wishes she hadn’t called a certain friend to help her move out. Funny? Oh, yes — “The Christians and the Pagans” is hysterical, and so is “The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed” (believe it or not). And it’s the humor gone before that makes a song as naked as “Family” or as conceptually risky as “This Was Pompeii” come across not just well, but with enormous power.

mp3 160 kbps | 66 MB | UL