Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Yoleus
Nightmare Circle Vision

9 song CD

The frantic and bass-heavy instrumental music of The Yoleus sounds like it could be the mute love child of Geddy Lee and Les Claypool. It's a quirky blend of intelligent math rock that collided with dissonant indie guitar rock somewhere along the way, all hyped up on speed and driving recklessly down the freeway.

The band tears mercilessly through these nine tracks with more notes than your brain can possibly fathom -- it's wearing me out just now as I listen. Yet, somehow they manage to put enough punch into their noodling to turn this into a real rock record, and not just a lot of histrionic hubbub. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go lay down.

MISH MASH Mandate: Fuzzy Math
The Yoleus Website

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cold Dead Hands

5 song CD

This Toronto-based power trio reminds me of the full-tilt power pop of Urge Overkill, filled with big guitar riffs and plenty of smart-aleck attitude. Cold Dead Hands rip through these five songs like a band on fire, hellbent on just rocking out with a smirk locked firmly in place.

The EP format is just perfect for an introduction for the band, as they are able to bash out a few smart and focused tracks without overstaying their welcome. It goes by in a flash, and before you know it, you're pressing play again because you have it hear it just one more time. A little bit louder.

MISH MASH Mandate: National Kato
Cold Dead Hands Website

Friday, December 21, 2007

Various Artists
Cambodian Rocks

Parallel World
22 Track Download

Here's a little treasure to brighten up your holidays. WFMU has posted 22 tracks from a legendary underground album called Cambodian Rocks, a collection of forgotten, pre-Khmer Rouge pop music from Cambodia. Apparently, a tourist by the name of Paul Wheeler brought a collection of cassettes to the States, and this compilation is the result.

About half artists featured on the compilation are unknown, as are the names of the majority of the songs. Unfortunately, this will probably never change, as the artists were most likely victims of the Khmer Rouge. Thankfully, a few of the groups have been identified, and WFMU has labeled the ones they are aware of.

The tracks have a definite late 60s - early 70s Western rock influence, ranging from pop, psychedelic rock, to Stax-inspired soul. While the sound quality is expectedly low-fi, having come from cassette tapes, the quality of the music itself makes up for the shortcomings in sound. There was obviously a lot of pop talent in Cambodia during this time, and it's good that we at least have this document of it to keep their music alive.

(There is a documentary being produced about the Cambodia music scene of this era, and all the tragedy that came with the Khmer Rouge, and a trailer can be viewed right here. Hopefully we'll have more on this in the near future.)

MISH MASH Mandate: Phnom Pehn Pop
WFMU Download Page

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


8 song CD/2LP

Odyssea is an apt title for this album, as epic hard rock is surely the name of the game. Tomydeepestego is an Italian quartet that centers squarely on long, drawn out, heavy rock instrumentals, each one a chapter in this ever-winding tale.

Huge guitar riffs are the main focus, while the pounding rhythm section plods along with big dinosaur steps. The mood is dark and mysterious, with the slow pacing and building dynamics used to draw the listener in gradually over time. There's not much in the way of guitar histrionics, as the power chord dominates the landscape at almost every turn. It's a wall of sound that overpowers with sheer musical force, destroying everything in its path.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shock And Awe
Subsound Records Website
KNVBI Records Website

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Duran Duran
Red Carpet Massacre

Epic Records
12 song CD

While 2004's Astronaut had the original Duran Duran lineup basking in their newfound pop brotherhood, Red Carpet Massacre is the official breakup album. If you listen closely, you can hear guitarist Andy Taylor walking away from this record. His influence is definitely not to be found.

Believe it or not, that's not necessarily a bad thing. With all the mixed reviews out there, I was expecting this one to be questionable at best. However, it is surprisingly good, even with the well publicized connections to Timbaland and Timberlake. The double-Durans are right at home with their newly discovered modern pop sounds, it seems all they needed was a push in that direction. Of course, that pushed Andy right out the door. I can only wonder what it could have sounded like with his harder-edged guitar work. Oh well.

My favorite track is Box Full O'Honey, a song that fully incorporates the band's classic summery pop sound without forcing too many contemporary compromises. It's a good reminder of why this band is still around after a quarter century, and still making headlines.

MISH MASH Mandate: Sing Blue Silver
Duran Duran Website

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rebel Beat:
The Story Of L.A. Rockabilly


DVD Documentary

Rebel Beat is a labor of love for documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Blozan, as it is easy to see her heart and soul poured into this fabulous showcase of the Los Angeles rockabilly underground. If you thought that the rockabilly revival began and ended with The Stray Cats, you're in for a big, pleasant surprise, as it is alive and well in the L.A. music scene.

The film begins with a look at rockabilly's long and sometimes troubled history, with its roots in the early stages of 50s rock-n-roll. Elvis, Gene Vincent, and Carl Perkins were the pioneers, passing the flame on to underground heroes over the decades who have kept the music form from passing away into history. According to Rebel Beat, rockabilly owes its life to an unlikely patron saint, an Italian-born Jew by the name of Rockin' Ronny Weiser. In the 70s, Weiser single-handedly brought rockabilly back from oblivion with his small independent label, Rollin' Rock Records. His efforts helped create a cult following in Europe that eventually brought the genre back to the US, where a thriving rockabilly scene survives to this day.

Blozan explores the state of present day rockabilly by showing the surprising diversity of its fan base, one that includes tattooed hot rod greasers and cowboy hat wearing country music lovers, along with unexpectedly strong historical ties with the L.A. Latino community. Young bands and fans mix with old-timers from the 50s heyday, showing that the draw of rockabilly stretches across the generations.

The documentary is exceptional in that Blozan lets us get to know the artists and fans by approaching them at a personal level. We get to know them one on one, the most striking example being a young couple who invites the filmmaker into their home. Later we see their engagement at a rockabilly show as it is caught on tape. The subjects are given a face and a heart, and in turn, we feel like we are part of the scene because we've been there and gotten to know the people involved.

When you consider that many trends in music have come and gone over the decades, it is refreshing to see a small slice of pop music has managed to survive without making compromises. The forefather of rock-n-roll still lives, and best of all, on its own terms. In a fitting way, the proclamation on the front of the DVD case says it all: They tried to kill our music, but they just can't kill our soul. Well said.

MISH MASH Mandate: We Got The Beat
Rebel Beat Website

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hanoi Rocks
Street Poetry

Backstage Alliance/Wolfgang Records

13 song CD

After reuniting after almost 20 years in 2002, singer Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy have been making some of the best and hard-hitting music in their careers. All set to become the kings of hard glam rock in the early 80s, Hanoi Rocks split up after the untimely death of drummer Razzle in late 1984. They left the hard rock scene only to see their disciples Guns-N-Roses rocket to the top, using the Hanoi bag of tricks to do it. Fast forward to the present day, and original members Monroe and McCoy have pulled it all back together with their third full-length album since reuniting, an album that proves they've never lost their knack for blues-based bar rock. Throw in a solid backing band that revives the spirit of the original group, and you've got one powerful combination.

The album starts of with Hypermobile, a track that gets right down to business. It's loud and aggressive, driving with a youthful force that belies the fact that Monroe and McCoy have been doing this for almost three decades. Next comes the title track, which is an ode to a street poet in London. It's a song that reminds me of classic Hanoi Rocks, with its story-telling structure and punk-inspired chorus. As the disc progresses, Monroe brings out his sax for the bar bloozy Worth Your Weight In Gold, and he does his best hard-rock glam-boy strutting in Transcendental Groove and Tootin' Star.

It's amazing how they are able to use much of the same formula from 20+ years ago, yet still make it all sound fresh and exciting like it was still the early 80s. Will it work for them now? Hard to tell, mainly because their exposure in the US is as limited as it ever was; this particular disc is only available right now as in import, for example. Their record company is thankfully utilizing the Internet to get the word out. Hopefully they can get some well deserved attention and put a shot into the arm of Stateside contemporary rock-n-roll, because it sure as heck needs it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Hanoi Rocks Website

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Flying Lotus
Reset EP

Warp Records

6 song CD

The first thing that struck me about this release was the jet black CD with black print, all wrapped up in black and white packaging, with the exception of the little gold sticker in the top left corner of the cover. It's a good summation of the actual music inside, dark and mysterious hip-hop based electronica, with a small ray of colorful light peering out of the shadows.

The opening track, Tea Leaf Dancers, has a disconcerting and off-kilter beat, a droning background oscillating underneath the guest vocalist Andreya Triana. The song immediately sets the EP down the unbeaten path, only to reel us back to the dance floor with the harsh rhythmic noise of Vegas Collie. From there, Flying Lotus expands on his sounds, yet always revolving around the droning darkness. At the same time, there's a slight and underlying positive vibe that surfaces from time-to-time throughout the disc, bringing another facet to an already intriguing EP.

MISH MASH Mandate: Back In Black
Flying Lotus Website

Friday, December 07, 2007

Darlene Love
It's Christmas Of Course

Shout Factory

12 song CD

Darlene Love is probably best known for her 1963 Phil Spector-produced Christmas hit Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), which she sings every year on the Late Show With David Letterman. Now Love is taking another ride on the holiday circuit with her new album of Christmas "neoclassics" from the 70s and 80s.

Love's album is unusual in that she avoids going over the same old tired Christmas song fare, and roots out some of the better holiday tracks from the past 30 years that have been overlooked. She chooses to cover a wide range of artists from James Brown to Billy Squier, and XTC, among others --- and hardly any of the tunes are on the top of anyone's most familiar lists, perhaps other than The Eagle's Please Come Home For Christmas and John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over). It's a risk, for sure, but it pays off royally. Love's soulful voice brings these tunes back from oblivion and gives them new life, and thankfully their relative obscurity makes them even more fresh and new.

MISH MASH Mandate: Santa Soul
Darlene Love @ Shout Factory

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Born Ruffians

Warp Records

3 song CD

Just when you thought that indie rock couldn't be fun anymore, along comes the Born Ruffians. This Toronto-based trio has a quirky and offbeat sound that isn't afraid to be happy and humorous.

This three song EP provides a little taste of their smirking style, with herky-jerky rhythms, lots of meandering guitar noodling, and jumpy vocals that seem to bounce around aimlessly like a rubber ball. It has a lo-fi appeal without the low fidelity production, and displays a knack for catchy indie-pop songwriting. With a full-length promised in the near future, this is a band to keep on your radar.

MISH MASH Mandate: Roughing It
Born Ruffians Website

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Various Artists
VUF Empire*
Compilation #2

VUF Records
15 song download

As promised, Denmark-based label VUF has released their second electronica compilation of the year, just in time for your holiday listening. Best of all, it's free. It's every bit as good as the first one, which we featured a few weeks ago in case you missed it.

The standout track for me is Simon Brenting's X-Wing Echoes, a driving dance floor burner that features throbbing noise-beats over thickly layered synth orchestration. Also noteworthy is Sunglasses2007 by tlbmS, a track that has that classic Kraftwerk feel.

MISH MASH Mandate: The Empire Strikes Back
VUF Records Website

Monday, December 03, 2007

Frank Lee Sprague
Merry Christmas: Traditional Carols Arranged As Traditional Rock Songs!


15 song CD

Imagine your favorite Christmas carols as played by your favorite 60s British Invasion bands, and you'll have a good idea of what this latest holiday release from Frank Lee Sprague sounds like. Sprague calls himself the Master Of Merseybeat, and it's easy to see why. He goes for a purely authentic retro-sound, and he does a great and creative job of translating the carols into the rock styles of that era.

My favorite track is a Pipeline-inspired instrumental surf version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. It starts off with the familiar reverb-heavy intro and glides into a twangy guitar interpretation of the Christmas classic. And would you believe a surf version of The Messiah? No kidding. Throw in a Beatlesque version of Silent Night, and you've got an instant soundtrack for your all your Christmas festivities.

As far as holiday albums go, this one is as much fun as you're going to have this season. Grab a few to put under the tree, because all your friends and family will want a copy of this one.

MISH MASH Mandate: Mersey Christmas
Frank Lee Sprague Website

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nad Nelso
Back From Gone


8 song CD

It's always nice to put in a CD from an unknown artist and just be blown away. Nad Nelso has got one smoking rock guitar album here, and it is absolutely fabulous. It's a sound that's not unlike Neil Young and Crazy Horse, big haunting guitars and an anxious edge that gets under your skin.

The Neil Young comparisons grow unavoidably closer with Nelso's cover of Cortez The Killer, but his original compositions show his talent runs much deeper than a mere Young carbon copy. His strong songwriting and playing stands all on its own. It's album for drifting, and it makes you want to get in your car and just drive. Trust me on this one, you'll need it for your next long road trip.

MISH MASH Mandate: Gone Daddy Gone
Nad Nelso CD Baby Page

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yesan Damen

New Wine Records

10 song CD

While I focused on Yesan Damen's melancholy sound on their last album, The Never Beginning Story, this time around I am drawn to the unmistakable optimism that surrounds this latest release. Many of the songs still have an air of quiet depression, but there's an underlying positive vibe that gives the album a huge lift. It doesn't hurt that a few of the tunes are upbeat, and just plain rock out.

The guys have definitely been doing their pop history homework, as they've layered their songs with intricate production and catchy little hooks that would make Brian Wilson proud. It's a sign that they've grown musically since their debut, and they are all the better for it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Optimist Club
Yesan Damen Website

Monday, November 26, 2007

Prefuse 73

Warp Records
29 song 2 CD set

The latest album from Scott Herren's Prefuse 73 is another exploration of boundary pushing cut-n-paste that he is becoming well-known for. On this two-disc set, he has ventured out beyond his previous expressions in hip-hop for something a little more "classical" in nature. Disc one is the regular release of the album, while disc two is described as a bonus "shadow album",
known by the name Interregnums, made up of the background orchestrations and arrangements of the first disc.

Preparations is a cut-n-paste attack in typical Herren fashion, but what lies underneath is apparently where the real story is. Interregnums is a remarkable exploration, where the true hidden genius of Herren is unleashed. Gone are the quirky beats and edits, and what's left is a lush and unencumbered musical landscape that is full of emotion. It sounds nothing like Preparations (or Prefuse 73, for that matter), and it provides the polar opposite to it. More than a mere bonus disc, it's an album in its own right.

This might seem like pure confusion for the listener, but instead it opens up a remarkable opportunity to hear completely different sides of the same artist, within the same package. Whether this is accidental or disguised brilliance remains to be seen, but the effect is dazzling in execution.

MISH MASH Mandate: Double Fantasy
Warp Records Website

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Callen Sisters
The Callen Sisters

Moon Mouth Records
12 song CD

At first glance, you'd think that two sisters playing a guitar and a harp would be something relegated to quiet chamber music, but instead we find roots-rock based folk laced with a bit of edgy attitude. Jessa and Beth Callen turn the tables with their unusual instrumentation, and they prove that everything is not always what it seems.

Their music is at times playful, at others comforting, and at others brimming with the aforementioned edginess. The sisters share singing duties, and their voices blend together perfectly, almost as if they were singing as one. The addition of a backing band gives the duo a little more depth, providing a solid foundation for the sisters to build their songs upon. While the harp is definitely a unique part of the sound, it fits in naturally as a compliment to the guitar, not distracting in the least. It's a combination that surprisingly works well together.

MISH MASH Mandate: Sister Sister
Callen Sisters Website

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Various Artists
DRIVE XV: A Tribute To Automatic For The People

Free 22 song download

The guys over at Stereogum have pulled together over 20 bands to pay tribute to the 15th anniversary (wow, how time flies) of Automatic For The People. Serious fans of R.E.M. probably already have this one on the iPod, but those of us who don't visit REMHQ each and every day may have missed it.

Thankfully, the bands on the compilation have enough sense to avoid doing straight covers and opt to do it their own way. The funny thing is that many of them have somehow managed to make the album even more dark, mysterious and depressing than it already was. The exception would be the Meat Puppets' (!) take on Everybody Hurts, which sounds like it was done with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

The standout track here for me is Rogue Wake's reworking of The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, a re-interpretation of the song that sounds nothing like the original. Where R.E.M.'s original was a bit of comic relief, the new one has an anxious edge that gets under your skin and stays there.

MISH MASH Mandate: Automania
Stereogum Download Page

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dave Lionelli
Acid Folk

Tiny Lion Records

14 song CD

The name "acid folk" does a pretty good job of describing the music of Dave Lionelli. His sound finds its foundation in classic roots rock, a healthy dose of folk, and
a smidgen of funky soul thrown in for good measure. It's a sound born in the 60s, with the benefit of musical hindsight to mix it up just right for the modern listener, never letting it get stale.

Lionelli has a handle on his pop influences, keeping the tunes catchy without letting them get too sugary. His voice is made-to-order for blue-eyed soul, perfectly edged, hovering somewhere in the mid-range. It's a combination that works, and this album cooks from beginning to end.

MISH MASH Mandate: Acid Test
Dave Lionelli Website

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mitch Marcus Quintet
The Special

7 song CD

I'm not sure if there's such a category as "alternative" jazz, but I can only imagine that the Mitch Marcus Quintet would qualify for the tag. The group's approach to jazz takes everything that is usually associated with traditional jazz & fusion and turns it into something completely different and new. It's almost as if alternative rock and jazz fusion crossed the centerline and crashed head-on.

The result is a jazz sound that moves and grooves with a touch of angst and dissonance, where fuzzy guitar lines and free jazz licks trade off, while the rhythm section lays down a solid beat. It's audacious, and it takes chances without going completely abstract.

MISH MASH Mandate: Specialized
Mitch Marcus Website

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Various Artists
Brazil Classics 7:
What's Happening In Pernambuco

Luaka Bop
13 song CD

Musical worlds collide in this excellent recording from Luaka Bop, featuring 13 contemporary artists from the Pernambuco region of Brazil. In the past few decades, the city of Recife has grown into a cultural center, rivaling the more famous cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia. This compilation showcases why Recife has been receiving so much deserved attention, and why there is surely more to come.

The music on the disc is a clash of the traditional and modern, with classic Brazilian rhythms meeting up with more recent musical attitudes. It's a challenging hodge-podge that is sure to please the more adventurous fans of world music, especially those who appreciate the enduring sounds of South America. The standout track for me is Otto's Bob, where this post-modern mix comes together magnificently. There's a timeless sense of the past of Brazilian music wrapped up in the song, coupled together with a relentless, driving beat that belongs in the hippest modern dance club.

MISH MASH Mandate: Brazilian Beat
Luaka Bop Website

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

She Wants Revenge
This Is Forever

Perfect Kiss
13 Song CD

There's been a lot of buzz about these guys, so I thought I'd get my two cents in while the getting was good. It's almost uncanny how She Wants Revenge sounds like they should have been around 25 years ago. They would have fit right in beautifully with the depressing and dark pop sounds of Depeche Mode, Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, and New Order.

So where does that leave us? It should be easy to write off this duo as a mere knockoff of their 80s influences, as noted above. But, they do their thing so well, that you have to give them a pass and just enjoy the music. It's that good. I would suspect that most of their listening audience was probably born well after all those bands were still on the relevance map, so in that respect it's new all over again.

MISH MASH Mandate: Revenge Of The 80s
She Wants Revenge Website

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Various Artists
VUF/empire* Compilation 2007

14 song download

Fans of electronica (and you know who you are) should skip reading this and head on over to and immediately download this brand new free collection of tracks from VUF Records in Denmark.

It's a great mix of contemporary European electronica in a variety of styles, from aggressive dance beats to atmospheric trip-hop, modern edges with a nod to the classic sounds. And if that only leaves you wanting more, don't worry, because VUF is planning an all-new, second compilation for free download this December, just in time for the holidays.

MISH MASH Mandate: Trans-Europe Express
VUF Records Website

Monday, November 12, 2007

Psychedelic Disco Angels
Credito O No Credito


16 song CD

Here's a crazy little disc to get your work-week going. Jersey City-based Psychedelic Disco Angels is a quirky duo that throws about every musical influence up against the wall just to see what sticks. Most of the time it works extraordinarily well, and when it doesn't, it's still a lot of fun.

Roman Navarro and Meredith Geoghegan put together a wild musical melange that delves into everything from classic rock to electronica, all the while keeping a steady pop foundation. It's a lo-fi adventure in which everything is up for grabs, and the duo's wry sense of humor is apparently the glue holding all of it together. It would be interesting to see what these guys could do with some higher end production, as I have a feeling the homebrew recording doesn't quite do them justice.

MISH MASH Mandate: Disco Down Low
Psychedelic Disco Angels Website

Friday, November 09, 2007

Melani L. Skybell
Just A Chase Away


11 song CD

I must admit, the main reason I popped this CD in upon receiving it was because of the artist's name. How can you not be curious about someone named Melani L. Skybell? That's worth at least one trip to the player in my book. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard, and I was not disappointed.

Skybell performs her own original tunes in a traditional jazz style, and while there's nothing really groundbreaking going on here, it's a pleasure to listen to. Her voice is cool and laid back, never overpowering, coming across somewhat like a cross between Astrud Gilberto and a female Frank Sinatra. A great little album to relax with on a cold evening this winter.

MISH MASH Mandate: The Name Game
Melani L. Skybell Website

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mike Dougherty
Southern Comfort

14 song CD

This is about as DIY and down-home as you can get; a single guitarist recording himself while finger-picking his own original tunes. Mike Dougherty's approach is basic, and it lends itself to the simplistic appeal. What you hear is what you get, whether it's the squeak of his fingers across the strings or the occasional bump against the guitar. Perfection is not the goal here, but getting to the heart of the music is.

The songs were written during a therapeutic time for Dougherty, when his two year old son was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. There's a positive vibe running through these tracks, and it shows an optimism which becomes more poignant when you are aware of the circumstances with his son's health. Overall, the album is quiet and uplifting, with all the focus being on the guitar lines in their bare glory.

MISH MASH Mandate: Positive Pickin'
Mike Dougherty Website

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

33 1/3 Double Nickels On The Dime
by Michael T. Fournier

Continuum Books
106 pages
$10.95 US

How do you showcase the Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime, a sprawling opus of a punk record, spanning more than 40 songs over four LP sides? It's a formidable task that could easily get out of hand, but
Michael T. Fournier takes a simple, no-nonsense approach in this installment of the Continuum 33 1/3 series, and this sensibility takes us into the heart and soul of the band and their crowning achievement.

Fournier dives right into the band's history, giving us a short overview of the basics; how they formed, the band members' various personalities, and how they got to the point of releasing Double Nickels. The band was notorious for using inside jokes and obscure references, which played itself out in the theme of the record. Fournier breaks down their overall approach, including an interesting bit on how the album name and cover photo played off of Sammy Hagar's I Can't Drive 55, of all things. He also explains the structure of the album and how each separate side came into being, with each band member getting a side, and leftovers ending up on the last side, nicknamed Chaff.

From there, Fournier goes into each song on the album, providing back stories and anecdotes, including interviews with bassist Mike Watt himself. The book does a great job of pulling back the layers of quirkiness that the band painted themselves in, shining light on some of the mysteries of one of the 80s greatest indie punk records.

MISH MASH Mandate: Bad Motor Scooter
33 1/3 Website

Monday, November 05, 2007

Paper Brain
Paper Brain

The Union Records
10 song CD

Paper Brain has a simple and straightforward style that takes me back to the early days of indie rock, when jingle-jangle guitar rock was the name of the game. They have an almost British Invasion type of pop that is both melodic and melancholy, all the while avoiding the structural cliches of traditional pop songs.

The Portland-based trio makes the most of their numbers by incorporating keyboards with the guitars, mixing it thick into a wall of sound that has an almost lo-fi quality to it. The result is an aural haze in which nothing stands out in sharp clarity. It's all kind of abstract and fuzzy around the edges, where vocals, guitars, keys, and drums meld in and out of each other throughout the record.

MISH MASH Mandate: Hazy Shade
The Union Records Website

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Wolfgang's Big Night Out

Surfdog Records
12 song CD

Here's an idea that almost sounds absolutely goofy on paper, but leave it to Brian Setzer to pull it off marvelously. Somehow Setzer has pulled together some of the most well-known and well-loved tunes from classical music and set them to big band arrangements (with some arranging help from the great Frank Comstock), with Setzer's trademark rockabilly guitar in tow.

Whether it's Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (Take The 5th) or Rossini's William Tell Overture (Swingin' Willie), first you'll be taken aback in surprise, and then you'll smile in amazement when you hear these familiar pieces played like they've never been played before.
While it would be quite easy to dismiss such an effort as a novelty stunt, Setzer lives up to his reputation of getting totally into the part. When he attempts to perform classical music in the big band style, you better believe he does it right with no fooling around. He's literally breathing new life into many of these pieces, which have become way too dusty over the years, and it's good to see them revived in such a creative way. I mean, come on, when's the last time you had an itch to hear Flight Of The Bumblebee?

MISH MASH Mandate: Creative Classical
Brian Setzer Website

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We Tigers
Rivals EP

7 song CD

Post-punk meets modern garage attitude in this excellent release from the Brooklyn-based We Tigers. It's a wonderfully messy little disc, with the band swaggering through seven cuts that are brash and in your face.

Vocalist/keyboardist Harris Novick sings like a man in desperation, his voice rising like a wail against the droning of guitars and the driving rhythms from the bass & drums. The influences run deep and wide, skewing any direct comparisons. The standout track here is Transatlantic, a tune that breaks out of the gate at full gallop, only to change up in the middle briefly, and then back to the unrelenting run until the end.

MISH MASH Mandate: Tiger In Your Tank
We Tigers Website

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Go Know
Sleeping Is Winning

The Union Records

5 song CD

You just never know what's going to pop up in your inbox, and today's mail brought me this cool little EP from Portland's No Go Know. It's a power punch in 5 parts, each tune a little ball of energy that rips through your speakers.

At times they remind me of Fugazi with their disjointed rhythms and stop-n-go jerkiness, and they use the dynamic variations of loud and quiet to set their musical themes in motion. At the same time, they shake up their sound enough to avoid such easy comparisons, by throwing in gobs of melody reminiscent of the early psychedelic pop era. Great stuff, and I'm glad I checked my mail.

MISH MASH Mandate: Special Delivery
The Union Records Website

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Vinyl May Be Final Nail In CD's Coffin"

One can only hope...
The Val Papadins
No One Wants To Move The Piano
Islay Records
10 song CD

The Val Papadins' sound is a trainwreck of styles, part indie rock and part folk, they recklessly ramble through their 10 songs like a group of intoxicated vagabond musicians who don't quite know where they are on the map. With that having been said, it's surprisingly good in spite of itself, as the careening and carousing certainly keeps it interesting.

Vocalist Sasha Papadin has a voice that reminds me a little of Lou Reed, sort of half-spoken and half-heartedly sung. While at times grating, it grows on you quickly, and it soon becomes the characteristic centerpiece of the band's overall sound.

MISH MASH Mandate: Ramble On
The Val Papadins Website

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Masha Campagne
Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads

Impetus Records
8 song CD

It's not often you find a native Russian singer who has mastered the art of Brazilian jazz. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear Masha Campagne was from the sunny shores of Rio de Janeiro instead of the cold and dreary city streets of Moscow.

Campagne's vocal style is well suited for the bossa nova, hovering somewhere in the mid-range, it's the perfect fit as it rides gently above the samba rhythms. The highlight of the album is a nine and a half minute medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes, a fitting tribute to the king of Brazilian music. Not only does she pay him homage, she does it well.

MISH MASH Mandate: The Girl From Ipanema
Masha Campagne Website

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Amateur Radio Operator
Sirens Of Titan

9 song CD
ARO Music

Even though they hail from Seattle, Washington, Amateur Radio Operator has the air of Southern Gothic usually reserved for the likes of R.E.M. or Flannery O'Connor. Their music is a blend of alternative country and depressed college rock, and it has little in common with the sounds we've come to associate with Seattle, and thankfully so. You'd almost guess that they crawled out of the woods of south Georgia.

The songs are built around lonely themes, and the instrumentation involves the usual guitar, bass, and drums along with cello and pedal steel, adding the "depth" of classic country music. Vocalist Mark Johnson adds his melancholy wails into the mix to create the perfect storm of rock-n-roll woe. Feel good album of the year? Maybe not, but it's the first album you'll want to reach for this winter on a cold rainy day.

MISH MASH Mandate: Pity Party
Amateur Radio Operator Website

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Dew Music
7 song CD

PerkinsWood is a guitar duo comprised of Jeff Perkins and Ann Wood, and their approach to recording music is anything but typical. They demo up to 300 different themes, only to break them down into a handful that they can make into complete works. Then, they build each composition in painstaking fashion, layering their respective parts over time until each piece is done.

The overall sound is hard to describe. There is a light, open airiness which likely stems from the fact that there are only two guitars and no other instruments. The influences range from classical to rock, all incorporated without any true traditional structure, bringing a sense of psychedelia and freeform jazz into the mix.

MISH MASH Mandate: Free Ride
PerkinsWood Website

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Bonedaddys

Combo Tempo Records
13 song CD

The Bonedaddys describe their music as "a merry-go-round of styles and range from rock, blues, mambo, soca, Latin, psycho-billy two-step and rock-steady to a twang Afro-surf meets spaghetti-western instrumental." I don't know if I could have said it better myself.

Basically what we have here is a band that knows how to throw a party, and they do it by shoving every crazy style of fun music into the blender and serving it up with a twist of humor. Fantastic stuff, and worth seeking out.

MISH MASH Mandate: Party Favor
The Bonedaddys Website
The Jam "In The City"

Here's a classic to get your Tuesday going...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Natalie Walker
Urban Angel
Dorado/Qurango Records
13 song CD

Natalie Walker's music is filled with a mysterious, quiet tension. While the music lifts and drifts in a relaxed timbre, the underlying feeling is anxious, never quite allowing the listener to feel comfortable or at peace. It's this edginess which helps this release to stand out from the pack, elevating it beyond the status of just another angry pop princess with a pretty face.

Walker's voice is mesmerizing, as she delivers her vocals with an airy, half-whispered style. She rarely raises her voice above the mid-range, blending into the music like another instrument, flowing hypnotically into the mix.

MISH MASH Mandate: Living On The Edge
Natalie Walker Website

Olivea Watson
Way Down Deep
Ramblin' Rose Records
11 song CD

Over a year ago, I was impressed with Olivea Watson's self-titled release. This time around, it gets even better. She has expanded beyond her basic roots-rock style and is now exploring more a bluesy attitude, all the while keeping a smart pop structure intact.

Once again, the highlight here is Watson's voice, which is strong and breathlessly emotional at the same time, the perfect combination for her brand of blues-based rock.

MISH MASH Mandate: Blues Attitude
Olivea Watson Website

Friday, October 19, 2007

J.J. Cale
Rewind Unreleased Recordings
Crazy Mamas Music
14 song CD

It's always cool to hear previously unreleased recordings from an influential artist, especially when the recordings were good enough to be released in the first place.

This particular batch from J.J. Cale comes from his stints at Shelter Records and Mercury Records in the 70s & 80s. For one reason or another, the tunes didn't pass the cut to be included on his commercially released albums, only to be revived now, decades later. The songs are classic Cale --- laid back country-tinged rock songs that lazily move along in a bluesy haze. Surprisingly, this culled-together collection of songs works well as a whole, as if it were meant to be an album all this time.

MISH MASH Mandate: Basement Tapes
J.J. Cale Website

Zygone Records
12 Song CD

Oslo-based indie rocker Carl Platou sounds like Norway's answer to Bob Dylan and Neil Young. His gravelly voice has a definitive earthy appeal, while his songs beg and borrow from roots rock of the past. The guitars shimmer and drift while Platou paints his storytelling pictures across the countrified musical landscape.

The strongest cut here is Paint It White, which sounds like The Boomtown Rats having a go at the Stone's Paint It Black. It's a driving tune that showcases all the strong points of Platou, combining all his indie-jangle influences into one powerful punch.

MISH MASH Mandate: Like A Rolling Stone
Carl Platou Website

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hello, and welcome to the all-new format for MISH MASH MUSIC REVIEWS. It has been almost 9 years since we started this little adventure, and we thought it was time for a change. We've decided to go with a blog format for a number of reasons, the main one being that we can review more music throughout the month, rather than doing only one posting per month. Hopefully we will be able to expose you to even more music this way than we have been able to in the past.

Other than that, not much has changed. We will still accept unsolicited music, and we will continue to seek out both new and forgotten music that has been ignored by the mainstream. Thank you for reading, and please stay tuned as we iron out all the bugs! More to come soon!


Ever since her come-back in the 1980s, it's hard not to think of Tina Turner as anything but a highly-polished pop star with slick Top Ten hits. We tend to forget that she was part of a highly influential r&b duo with her former husband, Ike Turner, in the 60s and 70s. It was a tumultuous relationship, but the chemistry between them produced a powerhouse of songs that crossed over from soul into rock, and their live shows became legendary.

Time-Life has seen fit to add them to their terrific Legends Of American Music, a series that has focused on often overlooked music legends from the American musical past. This set includes two discs which make up a "best-of" of the Turners' studio recording efforts, along with a third disc that features a live show, never before released on CD.

While it's nice to see the studio hits get the royal treatment, it is especially nice to see that Time-Life has included the unreleased live disc as well. Throw in a 23 page full-color booklet, and this is obviously a must-have collection of dynamite rhythm & blues.

MISH MASH MANDATE: Rollin' On The River