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