CD reviews: Donna the Buffalo still delivering with 'Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday'
By Jeffrey Sisk
Published: Friday, June 21, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
‘Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday'
Donna the Buffalo (Sugar Hill)
Has it really been five years since Americana collective Donna the Buffalo released its last album “Silverlined”? Though time marches on, at least we can take comfort in the fact that Donna the Buffalo has maintained a level of consistency throughout its 20-plus year career. “Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday” ranks alongside the band's stronger efforts, as co-vocalists Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins serve up a series of rootsy gems on this 14-track release. At 53 minutes, the album overstays its welcome by about a quarter, but DtB still scores with “All Aboard,” “Don't Know What We've Got,” “One Day at a Time,” “I Can Fly” and “Real Love.” Enjoy, y'all.
Talented Brit Louis Jones records under the Spectrals moniker and he made a nice splash in 2011 with the release of his “Bad Penny” debut. Jones has built on the potential of his first record in “Sob Story,” and the result is a flat-out terrific collection of indie rock tunes. There are homages to his myriad of influences — Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Slade and the Rolling Stones — woven throughout the 11-track sonic tapestry and we see this 23-year-old coming of age before our very eyes. You can't go wrong with any song here, but pay special attention to “Let Me Cave In,” “Karaoke,” the title track, “Limousine” and “Gentle.” Good stuff.
‘Long Enough to Leave'
The Mantles (Slumberland)
If you didn't know better, it'd be easy to assume that San Francisco garage rockers the Mantles hails from England. There's something very British-sounding about sophomore full-length album “Long Enough to Leave,” a rough-around-the-edges gathering of 10 tunes that should help the Mantles raise their profile. The tandem of “Marbled Birds” and “Long Enough to Leave” is terrific, and the Mantles are almost as good on “Reason's Run,” “Brown Balloon,” “Bad Design” and “More That I Pay.” Keep an eye on these up-and-comers.
Midnight Faces (Broken Factory)
Before forming indie pop duo Midnight Faces with pal Philip Stancil, Matthew Warn was best known as a founding member of post-rock instrumental outfit Saxon Shore. Late last year, Warn wrote some new songs and asked Stancil to add some vocals. And just like that, Midnight Faces were born. “Fornication” is their promising debut, and though some kinks still need to be ironed out, the Warn/Stancil partnership should flourish. The set-opening title track is fantastic, as are “Feel This Way,” “Give in Give Out” and “Identity,” giving Midnight Faces a solid foundation for future albums.
‘The Value of Nothing'
Eddie Spaghetti (Bloodshot)
Supersuckers frontman Eddie Spaghetti has carved out a nice solo career as an alternative country performer and fourth album “The Value of Nothing” may be his best effort yet. This is a fantastically consistent gathering of 10 tunes and, perhaps not coincidentally, the first album for which Spaghetti wrote every song. His wry wit shines through on the album's best tracks — two of which have R-rated titles that can't be mentioned in this space — and he serves up even more keepers in the title track, “If Anyone's Got the Balls,” “You Get to Be My Age,” “One Man Job” and “I Got a Secret.” Good stuff.
‘Seeds and Stems'
Bill Kirchen (Proper)
You might not know Bill Kirchen by name but if you are a fan of rootsy rock you should. One of Americana's founding fathers, the 65-year-old guitar wiz is still going strong. Latest album “Seeds and Stems” finds Kirchen reinventing some of his best-known songs from the past 40-plus years, including his time in Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. He breathes new life into these tunes as Kirchen introduces them to a new generation of listeners. Among the highlights of the 13-track set are “Too Much Fun,” “Semi-Truck,” “Womb to the Tomb,” Bob Dylan's “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” “Truck Stop at the End of the World” and “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Highly recommended.
‘Blind, Crippled & Crazy'
Delbert & Glen (New West)
Veteran Texas troubadours Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark have been making music together since the 1960s, but it's been 40 years since they recorded an album as roots duo Delbert & Glen. Those who thought 1973's “Subject to Change” was the last we'd hear from the twosome should be excited to learn about “Blind, Crippled & Crazy.” Four decades haven't dulled their chemistry one iota and this 12-track release is one of the year's more enjoyable platters. McClinton and Clark poke fun at themselves in “Been Around a Long Time,” and hit all the right notes on “Oughta Know,” “World of Hurt,” “Sure Feels Good” and “Tell My Mama.” Welcome back, fellas.
‘Dreamin' the Life'
Fortress Social Club (self-released)
The guys in Fortress Social Club were born a generation too soon. With influences like John Lennon, T. Rex and the Rolling Stones, the band employs an old-school approach to making music. Utilizing vintage recording equipment to help facilitate the throwback sound, frontman Shawn Harris and his mates have crafted a delightful full-length debut in “Dreamin' the Life.” You can hear shades of the British Invasion on the 10-track release, along with elements of garage pop and blues-infused rock. The opening salvo of “Business By Day, Business By Night,” “2012” and “The Matador” is nothing short of perfect, and while it can't maintain that pace, Fortress Social Club scores with “I Ain't Dumb,” “Speck in the Spectrum” and “Wandering Mind.” Can't wait to hear more from these guys.
Jen Chapin (self-released)
As the daughter of folk/rock icon Harry Chapin, it would have been easy for Jen Chapin to follow the same musical path as her famous father. Instead, she's made a career (albeit a somewhat low profile one) by incorporating jazz, pop and blues into a sound all her own. Latest album “Reckoning” is another solid entry on her résumé with 11 (mostly) excellent tunes. She's a gifted storyteller — an inherited trait — and shines on “It's All Right,” “Insatiable,” “Paris,” “Go Away” and “Don't Rush Me.” Reggae-tinged “Don't Talk” is a misfire, but the bulk of the album makes for a very enjoyable listen.
‘One Kiss Ends It All'
Saturday Looks Good to Me (Polyvinyl)
Though they've been around for more than a decade, I had never heard of Saturday Looks Good to Me until “One Kiss Ends It All” came across my desk last month. It's the indie pop collective's first album since 2007's “Fill Up the Room” and Thomas has enlisted vocalists Carol Catherine and Amber Fellows to give the 12-track release a retro girl-group sound. It's a record that I liked right away, and it's grown on me even more with subsequent spins. “One Kiss” and “Invisible Friend” get the party started, and SLGTM shines on “New City,” “The Ever-Present New Times Condition,” personal favorite “Polar Bear” and “Sunglasses.” You better believe I'll track down the band's earlier albums.
‘A Bad Girl in Harlem'
New Politics (RCA)
Danish pop/rock trio New Politics is pulling out all the stops (or should we say “pops”?) on sophomore set “A Bad Girl in Harlem” in an attempt to capture the fancy of American listeners. Mining the same turf as radio stalwarts like Hot Chelle Rae and Neon Trees, “Bad Girl” has a host of radio-ready tunes that should endear New Politics to younger-skewing audiences. Opener “Tonight You're Perfect” is a nice summer listen, and the three-piece soars on “Berlin,” “Die Together” and “Just Like Me.” This isn't life-altering music, but New Politics know their way around a catchy melody.
Piñata Protest (Cosmica)
Bands have had great success mixing Celtic music and punk, and bluegrass and punk, so why not blend the Spanish-tinged conjunto sound with punk and see what you get? Piñata Protest found moderate success with its 2010 “Plethora” and has fine-tuned the melding of styles on sophomore set “El Valiente.” There's a lot to like about the nine-track release — including standout cuts “Life on the Border,” “Tomorrow, Today,” “Volver, Volver” and the title track — but the novelty wears off pretty quickly. That's why it was wise for Piñata Protest to keep the record to a brisk 19 minutes.
There's nothing at all subtle about SoCal hardcore four-piece Retox, which unleashes a 22-minute assault on your senses with sophomore full-length “YPLL.” These 12 songs are loud and aggressive, and should help teenage boys everywhere release some of their pent-up frustration. A little hardcore goes a long way for me, but Retox brings the noise nicely on “Mature Science,” “Don't Fall in Love With Yourself,” “Soviet Reunion,” “The Art of Really, Really Sucking” and “Nose to Tail.”
Japan-born, Southern California-raised 20-year-old Yoodoo Park is the driving force behind indie rock trio GRMLN, and its “Empire” debut is one of the year's more promising first efforts. The nine-track release marks a step up from last year's “Explore” EP and announces GRMLN as a real player on the indie scene. At just 23 minutes, “Empire” is one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of albums, but there's more than enough time to enjoy standouts “Teenage Rhythm,” “Blue Lagoon,” “Do You Know How It Feels?”, “Summer Love” and quiet closer “Dear Fear.”
We Are the City (Hidden Pony)
Canadian indie rockers We Are the City didn't make much of an impact with their 2009 debut, but seem poised to take a giant step forward with terrific sophomore set “Violent.” Known for putting a proggy spin on the indie rock sound, We Are the City finds its groove on this 10-track release. After a middling start with “Bottom of the Lake” and “Legs Give Out,” the band hits its stride with keepers “King David,” “Passing of the Peace,” “Friends Hurt,” “Everything Changes” and “Punch My Face.” Keep an eye on these talented Canucks.
Sleeping With Sirens (Rise)
Progress continues for emo rockers Sleeping With Sirens, which builds on the strengths of 2011's breakthrough release “Let's Cheers to This” with a rock-solid third full-length in “Feel.” The piercing tenor of frontman Kellin Quinn still dominates the proceedings and he puts his voice to good use on the 12-track release. The set-opening title track is the best song of the bunch, and SWS also scores with “Alone” (featuring rapper MGK), “The Best There Ever Was,” “Low” and “Sorry.” Sleeping With Sirens rolls into First Niagara Pavilion on July 17 as part of the annual Vans Warped Tour.
Eisley (Equal Vision)
It's a family affair for pop/rock outfit Eisley, a fantastic band comprised of three sisters, a brother and a cousin. After a pair of well-received albums to open its career (2005's “Room Noises” and 2007's “Combinations”), Eisley seemed poised for stardom. But label and personal issues derailed the band and it took four years for album No. 3 to surface. Fortunately, 2011's “The Valley” was the band's best effort to date and Eisley returns with the almost-as-good “Currents.” Four of the five members are parents now, and there's a maturity evident in keepers such as the title track, “Save My Soul,” “Wicked Child,” “Find Me Here” and “Shelter.” Good stuff.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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