Reviews
"Live at Momo’s (Austin, TX)"

Johnny Hi-Fi had not performed in their hometown in more than five years. When they did return to play Momo's in Austin, Texas, the band filled the venue with a combination of familiar melodies and new material that fans soaked up eagerly. After opening with "If This Could Only Last" and "Out Of This World," the thumping drone of "Man Overboard" kicked the show into gear.

The rhythm section was crisp, deliberate, and polished. Years in New York City's music scene had transformed the band from their free-wheeling pop-rock mode throughout the '90s into a no-nonsense never-miss professional international touring machine.

Lead singer Eric Hsu sings convincingly songs based primarily on his own personal ups and downs. His Austin roots shined through on a high vocal intro to "You're Not For Sale," reminiscent of one of his influences, Johnny Goudie. But what brought the set to a fevered pitch was the band's popular ballad, "Lovesong on the Radio." The video received heavy rotation on MTV's Chinese offshoot, MTVChi, and garnered thousands of views on various websites.

All was not serious, however, as the upbeat-swing of "Natalie" began. This light-hearted dedication to actress Natalie Portman was inspired after she attended a show several years earlier. The light moment was followed by a clear fan favorite, "Passive Killer," a song seeming to be a bittersweet one of love and loss, but rumored to actually be about an episode of barbecue-induced food-poisoning.

This night was a hometown-specific show, reintroducing a band to friends and fans who had not seen Johnny Hi-Fi in nearly half a decade. The set list brought to life older songs that launched the band from Austin to New York City in 2000, but also introduced newer material that featured the group's new line-up. What was clear is that Johnny Hi-Fi need not go five years between visits home. What has brought about international appeal and multi-media success also pleased their long-time fans.

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"Live at Liberty Heights Tap Room (Brooklyn, NY)"

I had begun to load the moving van in preparation to move back to Austin, Texas after spending five years in New York City. The last performance I attended before driving out of town was a Bryan Dunn / Kevin So bill at Liberty Heights Tap Room in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood. It was a cold night and an out-of-the-way venue, but the Tap Room featured some good food and libation, and catching one last Bryan Dunn (a long-time friend and great songwriter) show was certainly a worthwhile cause. I was not familiar with Kevin So's music, but on Bryan's recommendation I made it to the venue early enough to hear Kevin's set.

Wow.

Not since the summer of 2000 has a relative unknown impressed me like Kevin So, and that was when I spent a number of evenings watching Norah Jones and Jesse Harris awe small crowds in small NYC clubs mere months before the two swept the Grammys. In front of this comfortable, unsuspecting Tap Room crowd Kevin created musical moments rarely found in intimate club gigs. His presence, songs, and onstage energy brought to mind what attendees of early Van Morrison or Ray Charles shows may have felt. A Kevin So audience feels like it is witnessing something special, beyond just another show on another night.

Kevin took the stage with a strong air of confidence, and without an iota of arrogance. Even as he moved somewhat awkwardly from guitar to piano on the small stage, stumbling slightly, he visually reminded everyone that he's just a guy—an average Joe in tattered jeans, hiking boots, t-shirt, and donning a bed-headdish plume of hair.

On that night, "Chinatown" was a remarkable moment in the show, for its compelling tale of his childhood spent there. It may also be the first autobiographical blues song written about growing up in Asian-America. Kevin sung from his soul, playing a Delta-blues influenced harmonica and displaying his formally and experientially trained piano playing. His piano style is loose and free, yet still highly skilled and tasteful.

Kevin has toured with and is pretty heavily influenced by Keb' Mo'. You can hear a common honesty and openness in their lyrics. Kevin writes in a transparent autobiographical manner. His songs tell stories of friends, family, relationships. His lyrics are not thick metaphors but stories like the ones you tell your own friends about your own life. It is this in-touch feeling that brings Kevin's audience back show after show to hear familiar themes filtered through his life, voice, and melodies. There is something special about hearing the familiar, especially when presented spectacularly through the talents of a truly gifted singer/songwriter. Go see Kevin So perform. You, too, will feel the "wow."

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"Scam Artist"

As it follows so closely on the heels of their full length release 30, it's no surprise that Scam Artist features songs that sound as if they could have been recorded during the same sessions. Johnny Hi-Fi continues to show tremendous ability in both songwriting and performing.

The title Scam Artist seems quite apropos, as these songs are at first almost deceptively simple. "Hole," for example is a sunny, catchy tune but the lyrics are actually darker than the music would lead you to expect and the detail of the delivery, including the way Johnny Hi-Fi enunciates certain words, suggests obscured layers of meaning. One is left to wonder whether this was done on purpose or is more of a happy accident—as on the hidden track, where the guitar melody sounds strangely similar to the theme from All in the Family. With lyrics that seem to express a longing for a sort of domestic intimacy ("let me sleep next to your pillow, to see you get old") that isn't there ("but you're still on the phone/ talking to someone that I know/ may make you just as happy/ forget that I've been waiting") the echoes of the well known theme song that expresses a yearning for simpler, more family-oriented times could be coincidental or could be a well executed musical allusion.

Whether taken at face value or examined more deeply, Scam Artist is another solid offering from an artist that will certainly earn the respect of anyone that takes the time to explore their music.

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"A Year To Live"

When listening to this EP, one can't help but focus on the vocals. Ai sings in a clear, expressive voice that works very well with her honest, unpretentious lyrics and mature musical style. Her ability to convey subtle emotion with her voice is most evident on "Frozen," by far the standout track on the disc. When she sings "I seem confident/ and I look just fine and I sound real good," her voice betrays the insecurities she's hiding before she even admits "but I'm terrified."

The trouble with this 4-song collection is that the music seems only to play a supporting role to Ai's vocals. This arrangement has worked for many vocalists; however, Ai is also a songwriter, and the music here is not the slickly produced radio-ready material that is commonly found on releases which highlight vocal performance. On her acclaimed earlier release History, the raw feelings exposed through her voice eclipsed the simple instrumentation and allowed her vocals to stand alone in a way that felt like nothing was missing.

While evident on "Frozen," Ai's intriguing ability to use her voice and her words as both the foundation and centerpiece of her songs seems lacking here. There is more instrumentation on this release, yet it seems to take away from the power of the songs rather than add to it. "A Year to Live" and "Wonderful Life" both build upon Ai's message of living for today in spite of the past and the hang-ups it has left her with, first put forth in "Frozen." The lyrics on these two tracks, however, seem more like they were pulled from inspirational greeting cards or self-help books (e.g. "If I had a year to live then I'd start living/ I'd stop using the excuse that I'm too fat" or "Thank you God for every little thing/ 'cuz it's a wonderful life/ kind of morning.") When combined with the simplistic music that accompanies them, the songs seem better fit for an animated Disney movie or the opening credits of a sitcom than for the adult audience Ai is trying to reach.

Despite the overly-sentimental bent Ai has taken on this release, she clearly possesses a great talent. Hopefully on her next release she will dig deeper and explore more complex territory both musically and lyrically.

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Live at Piano’s (New York, NY)
"Live at Piano’s (New York, NY)"

Something disturbing happened to rock 'n' roll toward the end of the last century: beer and liquor bottles were replaced on stages worldwide with bottled water. Bananafish Zero breathes life back into rock music every time they take the stage because they drink beer and say "Fuck" with the brazen authority held by rock music's audacious forefathers. And, they rock.

Frontman John Law could pass for Ted Nugent's son, expending similar semi-psychotic onstage energy as the Motor City Madman. Law sweats in waves because he is a rock 'n' roll frontman, and that's what they do. Their drummer, who answers to "Texas," is a wiry Henry Rollins look-alike also embodying a frantic stage demeanor. Prince Hal plays loud, steady bass guitar.

With lyrics including "F-U-C-K-I-N-G" and "We've got balls made of stone," Bananafish Zero brings back to New York City's stages what the scene has been missing since CBGB's glory days. Except for the pristine Bloomberg-purified air in the club, the audience felt like they were once again at a real goddamned rock 'n' roll concert. Their cover of Donna Summer's disco classic "Hot Stuff" rocked hard; a sure-fired "A+" at Jack Black's School of Rock (if it existed).

More culturally intellectual, their "Raise the Roof Beams" respectably jabs hip-hop slang while also bringing the phrase to its full rock 'n' roll potential. Moments later their shouting refrain, "Every girl comes in 31 flavors," reminds us of the genre's most prolific muse (moreso than booze): Sex.

Go to a Bananafish Zero show to have fun. See a fully engorged neo-cock rock extravaganza. But also be selective about who you bring along because Law, Texas and Prince Hal put on a show that could kill a room full of horn-rimmed glasses-wearing hipsters. BFZ rocks with reckless abandon and shrugs off casualties that may occur in the process.

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Noises from the Cathouse
"Noises from the Cathouse"

The latest inception of Tygers of Pan Tang, originally formed in the late 70's, has made a straightforward metal album that could have just as easily been released 15 or 20 years ago.

This is not a tongue-in-cheek, modern take on hair metal, a la The Darkness. Noises from the Cathouse is the latest chapter in the story of a band that has been around with various line-ups since the time of the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement. Other than the players (the only original Tyger still in the band is Robb Weir), not a great deal seems to have changed. The material here is familiar—crunching, down-tuned guitars, complicated fret-work, wailing vocals.

The album's opener, "Boomerang," has a satisfyingly driving hook coming on the heels of darker, slower, almost Queensrÿche-inspired verses. Clocking in at over nine minutes, "Master of Illusion" is a study in the kind of supernatural, doom-laden lyrics first popularized by Black Sabbath. Lines like "the spell is cast/ you're spinning fast/ your soul completes the circle" and "I'll turn your white to black" are meant to sound ominous but here just sound silly.

"The Spirit Never Dies" is a decent power ballad with some nice guitar work. "De Ja Vu" is similar. In fact, most of the songs are cut from the same cloth. The only exceptions are the glam metal-ish "Bad Bad Kitty" that truly sounds straight out of 1986 (one can envision the video complete with spandexed, hairsprayed groupies) and "Three in a Bed," in which vocalist Richie Wicks seem to do his best David Lee Roth.

No new ground is broken here. Metal has survived in various forms for nearly three decades now and has generally managed to continually adapt and attract new fans (see Slipknot, Drowning Pool, et. al.). Instead of experimenting and updating their style, Tygers of Pan Tang have recorded an anachronistic album that feels like it was pulled from a time capsule. Hats off to these guys for continuing to write and play music that they clearly enjoy, but if you want to hear some classic metal it might be more fun to dust off an old Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or early Metallica record.

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"4-Song Demo"

Listening to these demos by Young Mike Brick and the Music-grinders should compel you to see them perform live. Although this disc was recorded live, poor sound detracts from the rootsy charm of these songs. This is music that deserves to be heard loud and in person. Better sound and a little tightening musically would also make for a fine recording.

The cover of The Louvin Brothers' "Atomic Power" is a wickedly fun romp, sung with perfect sardonic delivery by Mike Brick. A fantastic sing-along song, it makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance. Another standout is the well-written "Mississippi Queen," the strings adding to the plaintive undercurrent that runs here and there throughout it and the other original songs.

Alex Carlson's mandolin, the acoustic guitar and quiet, laid back vocals of "Stare" bring Morphine's "In Spite of Me" to mind. Brick's lyrics seem to capture every nuance of an alt-country, bluegrass-influenced band living in New York City: "he was from the east coast but he called your parents 'y'all'…" "Beth Israel"'s simple yet lush arrangement would benefit from a higher budget production but its melancholy warmth and the street-weary poetry of the lyrics are touching and effective nevertheless.

Despite its lack of polish, this music is full of heart and displays true songwriting and performing talent.

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Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!
"Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!"

Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! are impossible to pigeonhole with pat comparisons to other bands or even generalized styles of music, and that's exactly what makes their eponymous CD so much fun. It's as if they threw small bits of various influences into a blender, added large doses of quirky originality and loose but masterful composition and ended up with something completely new.

This is not to say that the end result is always easily palatable. Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! is a 16-song disc that, had it been placed in the hands of a fast-buck hungry major label, would probably have been edited down considerably. Yet it is the inclusion of the more off-the-wall tracks that fosters the atmosphere of pure creativity that permeates this release.

The songs in which all the myriad elements work together the best are true standouts. "New Brad" is a disturbingly funny take on the stalker-like behavior in which many of us have found ourselves partaking in the face of a break-up. "I'm breaking inside/ Your window wasn't open like you promised/ I've turned into that guy/ They told me this would happen when I broke up with you," vocalist and organist Mark Duplass sings over a deceptively perky, jumpy guitar.

In another amusing juxtaposition of styles, "Trunk of my Car" starts out with a simple, acappella melody sung in rounds, like "Frère Jacques," before churning into a maelstrom of swirling sound. Amid the chaos Duplass continues to ask, "Love are you hiding underneath my bed?/ Love are you riding in the trunk of my car?" like a little boy trying to coax out the boogeyman he knows is there, hiding just out of sight.

Duplass's laid-back vocal style, (at times reminiscent of Sebadoh's Lou Barlow) and generally Spartan lyrics play nicely off the array of emotions conveyed through the music. The lyrics to the excellent "Mostly on an Island" are just that, but between the words the notes seem to be saying so much more.

Many of the songs ("Joe Jaxon," "Around the Dream," "In Green," "Fisticuffs," "Shouting Across the Water") have a distinctly early 80's, new wave, Brit-pop sound to them. The guitar, synthesizer, and drums at times bring the Cure to mind but the songs still sound wholly unique thanks to the band's peculiar blend of sounds. One of the most notable elements of this blend is the prominent use of the organ and synthesizer. In places, the organ at first sounds quite out of place--almost as if the organist from the local church intruded on the recording sessions. The more you listen, however, the more the non-traditional instrumentation begins to grow on you--you realize that it's the way the band expertly walks the line between random sounds and deliberately executed songcraft that gives them their appeal.

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30
"30"

Discs like 30 are very few and far between. The kind that upon first listen leave you in a state, from start to finish, that can only be summed up with a breathless "Wow."

This collection of songs is many things: A welcome reminder of the truly well-written and emotionally gripping music that has been steamrollered in rock music over the past several years by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park; a musical and lyrical catharsis that swells with energy and passion; a lesson in songwriting that encourages the listener to move beyond the tried and true alt rock dynamic of soft, brooding verses and loud, angry choruses.

These songs start with intriguing hooks and melodies and build upon them with thoughtful lyrics, layered harmonies and excellent musicianship to reach sonic crescendos that match the intense feelings they evoke. The opening track, "Lovesong on the Radio," is one example. Like love itself, the song starts out quietly and gradually builds to a fever pitch. It both describes and does what truly good love songs do, leaving you in a state where you'd say to an ex-lover (realizing how much you miss him or her), "Whatever it was/ It was my fault," and fostering a willingness to "...change/ to make you say/ that you want me back again."

Reminiscent in spots of The Bends-era Radiohead, Johnny Hi-Fi still sounds fresh and original. Unlike Radiohead, Johnny Hi-Fi follow up gorgeously plaintive songs like "So This is Love" and "Fading Away" with ebullient rockers like "I Don't Mind."

In a bold move, J-Hi sings two songs in Mandarin. In fact, one has to listen carefully to realize the lyrics are not in English. These songs flip the script on the U.S. listener, so accustomed to seeing footage of international audiences singing along to every word of a beloved American artist's live performance and effortlessly demonstrate music's ability to cross language barriers.

Many of these songs have the potential to be radio or MTV hits but, thankfully, not one is a formulaic, antiseptic "made for radio" single. The guitar hook on "Passive Killer" almost brings to mind a late 80's/ early 90's hard-rock power ballad but the song is anything but a retread of this well-worn genre. Instead, this element craftily adds to the song's ability to dredge up feelings of love and longing that climax with the chorus: "I don't want to be alone/ Catch me if I fall/ I thought you would steal insides of me/ Take away my leash now/ Before I start to lose it all."

30 is an album that can kick you in the chest with its emotional power, make you sing along even when you don't know the words and leave you with a smile on your face. Most of all, it will make you want more, compelling you to hit the repeat button on your player and look forward to what Johnny Hi-Fi have yet to show us.

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Live at The Triad (New York, NY)
"Live at The Triad (New York, NY)"

Combining Broadway bravado with traditional singer/songwriter personality, Vicki Levy took to The Triad's stage last Saturday night and shined, quite literally in her sparkling Franko Nicolella dress.

Vicki opened her semi-autobiographical musical, The Trouble With Love, with the Faith Hill's "One." She and her band, precise and snap-tight in their accompaniment, continued with a blend of original and cover songs interspersed with monologues explaining in a manner of ways The Trouble With Love.

Musically and vocally the night was near perfect. The show's shortcomings also centered around this immaculate direction-precisely rehearsed banter and flawless improvisations left little room for the audience to believe in the show's intended inherent emotion. Broadway musicals are their own beast, capturing in their Stepford-like methodologies the emotions of a writer to a tee, while rarely showcasing the creativity of cast members.

An emotional highpoint of the evening occurred during "Tragedy" when composer/pianist Rob LaRocco led the audience in clapping along to the upbeat number. At that moment there was a heartfelt and musical connection between artist and audience. Too quickly, however, the show returned to its showcasing of technical exactitude. The musical cleanliness helped make Levy's voice the true star of Trouble. She sings powerfully, with an impressive depth of a singer who should be showcased prominently in a major Broadway cast.

Once again connecting with the crowd, Vicki discussed her involuntary romantic solitude (of which the men in the audience are probably still pondering the causes). Her audience became rapt in her introspection, which seemed to coincide with Levy's straying from any script. Building upon the crowd's focus she shared that she is originally from South Africa, at which point "The Click Song" began. While singing what we all know as lyrics, Levy incorporated vocal clicking from an indigenous language in her homeland (men and women alike are probably also still pondering this technique). "The Click Song" clearly marked the pinnacle of the show. Its personal story, intriguing technique and perhaps Levy's most confident moment of the night brought about rousing applause.

Trouble's unnaturally well-timed encore fell more in line with earlier moments of the show, seemingly thought out too well...which brings us back to Ms. Levy's voice. Vocally she is versatile, powerful and capable of pulling off many styles. Her trouble lies in consistently bringing out the emotion she demonstrated at high points in The Trouble With Love. Should she delve more into herself, there may be a burgeoning singer/songwriter on the horizon. Following her other strength, should she decide to more fervently pursue a career on Broadway her ability to capture a songwriter's technical reproduction is undeniably impressive.

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"The Young Machines"

Bereft of alternate descriptors, The Young Machines brings about a heartfelt "Goddamn!" Blasphemy, brought forth solely by admiration of how lyrics can consistently hit emotional nails square on the head. Her Space Holiday founder Marc Bianchi displays an uncanny ability to capture in words the emotions we all feel but often have trouble articulating (or maybe it's just me).

The album ruminates on post-break-up nostalgia but offers enough variation to keep it from becoming a soundtrack for the hopelessly co-dependent (several of the songs would actually fit nicely tracked into Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Instrumentally, The Young Machines combines snap-tight programming with dreamy keyboard arrangements—a scenic sonic backdrop for the aforementioned super-connective lyrics—a display of musicianship impressive in its seamless intertwining of tracks and melodic counterpoint.

"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" muses "you can't make someone love you with a song." How many innocent cassette tapes' lives throughout the 80's would've been spared from becoming Songs for My Love-type ballad compilations if angst-ridden youths understood this simple mantra? Chicago 17 might not have sold a single copy. Bianchi understands, though, and is gracious enough to share his pain-begotten insight. The song drones along, but even in its repetition its hookless form contains as much off-the-beaten-path hit potential as Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner." The hook in both being the entire song, a looped beat and a continuous entrancing melody. Both contain nary a trace of the traditional catch-phrase-in-the-chorus so nearly omnipresent throughout the history of the Top 40. In such monotony lies its difference.

How many songwriters bounce around thoughts like, "I put my headphones on and hear your favorite songs, and it kills me to know this won't be one of them"? Well, just about every one of them. Such is the psyche of many a songwriter: downtrodden, sappy, pissed off, sad, deceitful, vengeful, sleazy, self-pitying, over-sensitive. But Bianchi goes to the source and conveys his message outright and crystal clear...which is where many of his contemporaries fail. It is a tall order to speak one's mind while maintaining some semblance of artistic ingenuity.

Variations to The Young Machines' subject matter come by way of "Sleepy California" and "Meet the Pressure." Respectively, there is the inner conflict of guilt and sadness felt by not going to see a terminally ill grandmother for the last time, which is about as heavy feeling of guilt as one can conjure. Then to vindictiveness...who wouldn't want to sleep with an insipid critic's significant other? Revenge can be so intimately sweet.

So there's no need to feel pity for Bianchi as he pleads to 'her' through these songs. He has moved on, encapsulated the negative into something positive and wonderful. He expresses beautifully the things that make us all sad-we get sad. We mope. Her Space Holiday puts out an excellent album. But it is complete understanding of the verbal message that moves this album from the ranks of anonymous super-produced techno-drone albums into the front sleeves of our CD wallets. The Young Machines is an album to leave in your CD changer. It may remind us of the doldrums, but demonstrates with its beauty how to transcend them and create something positive. Let it invigorate your mind so that you too may find the gumption to sleep with an adversary's girlfriend.

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Lesson 1
"Lesson 1"

Lesson 1 began as a demo project that grew into a debut release for Penn grad-turned-burgeoning rock star Maggie Kim. Maggie wrote and produced her 5-song EP with Eve's Plum/Ruth Ruth guitarist Michael Kotch, beginning with rough guitar & vocal sketches and ending up with a tightly knit, loop-based disc of radio-friendly alt/pop songs. Her unique sound and style, reflecting both Missy Elliot and Gwen Stefani influence, comes through on the album as clear as it does onstage--seductive and beautiful, yet also at times flashing a Courtney Love/Wendy O. Williams brazenness (see "electrical tape" below). Somehow, Maggie channels all of her energy, influence and motivation through her deceptively powerful, petite Asian frame.

Prior to releasing her EP, as final touches still made their way into the mixes, "White Girl" won Jane Magazine's Readers Choice Songwriting Contest and landed Maggie a performance at the Los Angeles CD Release Party in front of David Geffen and Virgin mogul Richard Branson. Her Missy-inspired anthem of independence, bearing some melodic similarity to Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise," also won a Shure songwriting contest. These accomplishments become all the more impressive considering that "White Girl" is arguably not even the EP's strongest song. "Coo," with its radio-ready hook, was the track picked up by an indie film producer who volunteered to shoot its video. Already lyrically alluring, the "Coo" video depicts Maggie dancing in sexy underoo-esque panties, which has kept traffic to MaggieKim.com moving quite steadily.

Maggie's raciness does not confine itself to Lesson 1's lyrics and video, however. During one New York City club date, she doused herself with beer then removed her blouse to reveal only strategically placed electrical tape (long live The Plasmatics!). Such an exhibitionist persona has caught more than just the attention of her fans. The Fender Guitar company jumped on Maggie's wild ride along with Cuervo Tequila and the Caffeine clothing company. Her dating diary found its way to Cosmo and she is currently a contributing writer for several prominent entertainment magazines.

Lesson 1 has developed into its own full-blown curriculum, with Maggie Kim stepping in as its irresistible headmistress. She takes it all in stride--the consummate singer, writer, entertainer, sex symbol and newly tapped corporate promotional goldmine. Success, however, has not come without its costs. "Just Stay" laments a lover's departure, which to her legion of adoring male fans smacks of Ed Norton's "dumbest man alive" break-up with Salma Hayek. Maggie's exposure at times transcends mere physicality, as she reveals her innermost thoughts through new song lyrics and her website's online diary (in which recent entries address issues ranging from the conservative persecution of Howard Stern to her own fluctuating breast size).

Aside from a questionable inclusion of her so-so cover of "Raspberry Beret," Lesson 1 holds its own against any independent debut. And to her credit Maggie did not have the Sinéad/Bangles/Joan Osborne luxury of recording a previously un-released Prince song. Lesson 1's strength, however, undeniable. Within 5 songs she has managed to give listeners a thumbnail chronicle of this...this mélange of sex, intelligence, beauty, wit, attitude and independence that manifests itself in human form as Maggie Kim.

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"Carbon Copy"

"A bass player away from being the greatest band on the road" came to my mind after my first Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! show. But with an EP to deliberate over and some time to soak it all in, these guys do just fine despite the low frequency absence. Carbon Copy, a five-song venture in a drastically new direction from songwriter Mark Duplass' former acoustic singer/songwriter reputation.

Volcano explores tonal scarcity while simultaneously filling listeners' expectations with their innovative lyrics and creative songwriting tactics. "Carbon Copy" is a melancholic dirge, assuming you can envision a Casio keyboard soundtrack to a funeral. But as the song builds, the expected spectoreqsque stereophonic crash consists merely of a John Thomas Robinette III bass drum kick and cymbal crash. Then it's back to the march, pounding out mysterio chords 'til the song's end.

The EP's middle three songs we will leave for your judgment because the fifth track, "Trunk of My Car" deserve special attention. The "Trunk..." recording, and even more so its live rendition, sold me on Volcano. After a decade of watching bands in clubs there had not been a group or song that blew me away as much as this song, its Row-Your-Boat simplicity merged with a Phishy "Bouncing Around the Room" complexity truly breaks new songwriting ground.

Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! recently signed a deal with Polyphonic Records, so Carbon Copy's follow-up is due out in the near future. Find it. Buy it. Without listing to a note, Coyote Music will offer a money back guarantee to all dissatisfied buyers (no fair copying the disc before we buy it back!). Make checks payable to Coyote Music and we'll send you a refund in 2-3 weeks. We won't have any takers, though, because whether or not you think they need a bassist Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! will grab-and hold on to-the attention they so well deserve.

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"It’s My Turn, Now"

Every band is "from" somewhere but the point of origin often provides little insight into a group's sound. Exceptions to this idea might be acoustic guitarists in the Mississippi Delta around 1925 and Seattle rock acts in the early 1990's. Asbury Park, New Jersey is another location where one finds one genre more predominant than others. Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys' debut album, It's My Turn, Now, embodies all that is and ever has been "the Asbury Park sound." This small town on the Jersey shore that gave birth to the E Street Band and the Asbury Jukes is famous for its unique contribution to rock 'n' roll's sonic landscape and its influence did not bypass Bocci lead singer, Tony Amato.

Tony (aka "Boccigalupe," a nickname given to him by "Little" Steven Van Zandt) literally grew up in the same musical community as Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny. After stints with Cahoots (who were signed to Columbia Records) and Moments Notice, experiencing all the promise that is and isn't found in a recording contract, Tony struck off on his own to assemble his Bad Boys. Guitarist Billy "Boy Wonder" Walton, bassist John "Little John" Luraschi, drummer "Tiny" Tim Moss, saxophonist Rich "The Taz" Taskowitz and the rest of the group's musical resumes read like a roll call in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. These guys have played with the best all their lives but turn to Boccigalupe in pursuit of success in their own project.

"It's My Turn, Now" kicks off the 50+ minute musical Jersey shore-style party complete with a horn section and Boccigalupe's signature Hammond B3. The song's nostalgic tone taps into the common Asbury theme of yearning for good times gone and looking to the promise of the future. The rendition of Little Steven's "Forever" works itself seamlessly into the album, again featuring the horns and B3 and yet another Asbury commonality of a gruff, grumbling male lead vocal. The chugging rhythm, instrumental drop-outs and builds, all ingredients found on many an E Street recording.

For all its energy, stellar musicianship and quintessential Asbury Park sound, It's My Turn, Now stops short of reaching the lofty songwriting expectations set by The Boss and propelled him from strong regional act to international superstar. The songs have, however, entrenched the band solidly into the Asbury Park scene, earned them an opening spot for Bruce at Giants Stadium, garnered a new record deal (with Van Nuys, California-based Sound City Music) and the band continues to attract to its shows more stars than you'll find at the Jersey State Planetarium. Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys are right there…just a lyric and a hook away from jumping out of the Stone Pony on to a national stage. With their history, talent and years of devotion to their music it truly is their turn, now.

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"goatskinwishes"

In an age where Top 40 female performers often rely on a team of super-producers' post-production magic, voice pitch shifters and surgically enhanced beauty to attain success it is refreshing to find a woman whose music and presence are all natural. Glenys Rogers made a name for herself as a backing vocalist and drummer on Tracy Chapman's tour in support of the triple platinum New Beginning album. More recently Glenys has lent her vocal and percussive talents to Beck, Mickey Hart and Jackson Browne, touring steadily over the past few years. In 1999, between rigorous road stints, she wrote, recorded and produced her debut album goatskinwishes-nine songs showcasing her soulful, angelic voice, marking an important change in her career from an in-the-wings touring musician to an undeniable band leader and front woman.

Goatskinwishes transitions effortlessly among alternative and soul sub-genres: "In Time more Sade-esque in its electro-satin smoothness, "Always Waiting" a predecessor of the neo-acousti-soul sound India.Arie has since popularized. An unexpected twist to the album is a slightly laid back funk-powered rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression," featuring mind-blowing solos by guest guitarist Linda Taylor. "LT brings to the song as much Vernon Reid as Hendrix, giving it an updated intensity without taking away the essence of the original. Not until the next-to-last track is there a prominent display of Glenys' percussive abilities (she has since hinted that future albums would incorporate much more percussion). In the outro of "Be Still" she solos on the talking drum, an instrument on which she honed her skills while performing with Awe's Nigerian Talking Drum Ensemble.

Glenys moved from her home in California, away from the financially alluring temptations of studio and touring gigs, to New Orleans in search of peace, quiet and time-to focus on herself and her songwriting. Once settled, she put together a new band and began to perform, hocking the sounds of goatskinwishes around the city. The response has been nothing short of wonderful. Her newly formed connections led to her recording soundtrack music for "Daddy & Papa," an independent documentary film featured at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, an interview with DrummerGirl.com and coveted performing slots at the 2003 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the 2003 Essence Festival (the latter being at the Louisiana Superdome playing before Stevie Wonder).

Having released goatskinwishes in 1999, what is it about this album that warrants attention in late 2003? Well, timing is everything. Soon after goatskin's release Glenys took to the road, again supporting another rather than herself (who would turn down Beck's offer of a spot in his band for the Midnight Vultures world tour?) It is only now that she has a chance to support her album how she'd intended to four years ago. But Glenys is not at all resting on her past accomplishments. Fans waiting for the follow-up to goatskinwishes will not have to wait much longer. Glenys has spent the past year recording and writing, promising to put out a record that takes the best aspect of the first and elevate them to new heights-more of her voice, more percussion and a more personal connection through her lyrics and music. And unlike the magic worked on the album of some of her contemporaries the next Glenys Rogers album will be real-no studio magic, no post-recording brush-ups and no trick photography-all her, 100% natural.

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"Don’t Set Yourself Up (EP)"

A few years ago Johnny Hi-Fi arrived in New York City, catalog of introspective songs decorated with bright pop hooks in-hand, seemingly destined to become the Radiohead of the boy band generation (read: wildly successful pop group who've managed to retain their integrity). After some experimentation, followed by a massive personal reprioritization (including finding an entire new line-up), Johnny Hi-Fi exorcised some emotional demons by releasing So This Is Love, a collection of sweet pop songs that had weighed on his mind throughout his metamorphosis. Now, three years and a musical clean slate later, Johnny Hi-Fi is back with a new 4-song EP entitled Don't Set Yourself Up.

The sound "J-Hi" displays in this recording has grown from a boy's happy-poppy past into a rock-solid statement of musical purpose: that it all still really is about writing great songs. The quasi-title track "Set Yourself Up" begins with a hint of post-Runaways-Joan Jett crunchy guitar but moves quickly and effortlessly into a melodic chorus that begs for a crowd sing-along. What becomes evident almost immediately is that Johnny Hi-Fi owns an innate ability to craft a rock song to near perfection, following a standard structure but doing so with a precision and quality that most artists cannot grasp. "Passive Killer" follows, setting the CD's songwriting bar even higher. A beautiful song with one of the most melodic hooks of the new millennium, "Passive Killer" appeared on the most recent Richie Zen album that debuted at #3 on the Taiwanese pop charts (thanks, in no small part, to the airplay of the J-Hi-penned song's airplay).

Speaking of the Far East, know any Mandarin? "The Most Beautiful Fan" is the EP's most energetic track, written in Johnny Hi-Fi's native tongue. It doesn't matter that only a handful of English lyrics are decipherable because "TMBF" would rock with lyrics in Martian. Energetic, up, moving, intense or powerful? Yes, all of the above. If it is possible to have a favorite song without knowing what the hell it's about, this could be the one. The melody will play in your head all day because, like the other songs on this disc, it manages to be both catchy and well-written. I just hope I don't offend anyone as I walk around singing "chia chung won chi." If that should happen, tell them "Johnny Hi-Fi made you say it."

The EP concludes with "Lovesong On The Radio." And even though the lead guitar line is eerily reminiscent of Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You," this still falls under the heading of Great Rock Song for its musical and lyrical strength. "LOTR" (not a Tolkien-influenced acronym) is one of those songs of longing and heartbreak that you can identify with right away. Don't pretend you don't have some of those musical bones hidden in your emotional closet because everyone has that one song that makes tears well-up behind the eyes, chests heave with regret and moods become overwhelmed with nostalgia for the wonderful time you had with Mr. or Ms. Former Lover. Yeah, you miss 'em when you shouldn't but we're human and those sorts of emotions come as part of the package. Just know that feelings so vivid are only conjured up by songs as powerful as this one. But I digress…

Don't Set Yourself Up is a super-clean recording, its sonic sterility nearly a fault. It might be a touch too sonically sterile. Throw some dirt and grime on the microphone for the major label production, though, and everything will turn out just fine. And just in case a prospective label may ask "Is there a single on this CD?", allow me to properly re-word their question: "Which single on this CD gets released first?" These songs are there. They're done. They have the hooks, charisma and charm that the elusive A&R guy seeks by rarely finds. So, Mr. Label Man, there are four easy singles right here, ripe for the picking. Go ahead, set yourself up.

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"The Turning Point"

When SW's first album, The Road to Here, sold out its first pressing fans asked for more-more copies of the CD and more songs to go with her first nine. Answering their call, The Turning Point is much more: twelve songs recorded over the summer of 2002 that, when compared to SW's debut, display all the positives that comes from patient recording, intense producing scrutiny and a deep conviction to songwriting. The end result is that The Turning Point is an album of depth and beauty, thought and reflection-an ideal companion on a Sunday afternoon spent thinking of loves lost and that one love who eventually finds their way.

The Turning Point takes off quickly with "Loving You," a minute-and-a-half mover that among first-time listeners consistently elicits a "Great song, why so short?" reaction. Its intentional brevity serves its purpose, piquing interest and arousing a curiosity toward what lies ahead. Having gained your undivided attention, the tempo backs off with "Farewell, My Friend" which features some of the album's most impressive vocal work both in its range and raw emotion. As the song title indicates, the song is a solemn story of loss, but seems to gain musical momentum by the end to reveal a sense of hope. "The Turning Point" rounds out the first three songs, embodying everything a title track should-a driving force that provides a lyrical and melodic statement that underlies the entire album, enhanced by Pat Glynn's lead guitar, which seamlessly alternates between strong melody and ambient background. Beyond this literal and metaphorical turning point lies the brooding "Master Plan" and the bright and peppy "Blue Boy." Whereas "Vacant Heart" may be the most beautiful song on the album, "Faltering Night" is without a doubt the darkest and most mysterious-the sonic black sheep of The Turning Point family.

As on The Road to Here, SW has once again assembled a stellar group of musicians, adding strings to the mix, orchestrated tastefully by Daniel Felsenfeld. Each member of the band, when not performing with SW, stays busy playing with an array of well-known artists…with the exception of the strings, whose Julliard home spawns talent not usually measured by Top 40 charts. There are moments on The Turning Point in which the band simply rocks (see the end of "Blue Boy"), but then smartly shies away as in the quasi-jazz post-chorus breakdown in "Step Inside." And at other times the band refrains entirely as they do for SW's remake of David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes." Covering such a classic is a bold and ambitious move but one that SW does in good faith; even further, this version is one of the more compelling remakes in recent memory (Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and "Closer" by Johnny Cash and Maxwell, respectively, top Coyote Music's "Best Recent Covers" list).

The album concludes on a note of hope. Exploring how overwhelming life can be, "Somebody Call a Rainbow" evokes memories of the old TV commercial that pleads, "Calgon, take me away!" Be it a rainbow or something else, The Turning Point in itself offers an escape from the daily doldrums. A voice tinged equally with classical and folk beauty. Effortless, gorgeous piano. With this effort, SW proves that she can put together a group of songs that hold their own next to anything on radio's airwaves. So, that is where she stands new album in hand, poised to take the next (and biggest) step of her career.

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"Demo I"

Released: 1997
Best track: probably "Breathless"
Track to skip: "Blue"
Rating: 69 out of 100

Megalo was a band who existed for quite a few years in and around Austin, Texas. For most of the 90’s they played their brand of alterna-pop picking up quite a few fans along the way. At the time of this recording the band consisted of Eric Hsu on guitar & vocals, Wiley Koepp on drums, Alex Lucas on vocals and guitar, Bryan Rubio on guitar & vocals & Darren Strunk on bass. I was pretty good friends with these guys as we shared Wiley as a drummer (Megalo was his ‘other’ band while he played in Echo Juliet and 3 Penny Opera). I still don’t think these were the band’s four best songs at the time, but it’s what they chose to record. I’m not sure if this was recorded in the basement of the UT communications building, but I *think* it was. If so, I think this may be the best quality product that ever came out of there! I sure as hell know none of the stuff I recorded down there (including Megalo’s 2nd demo) sounded this good. So yeah, pretty good quality for a demo.

These are all Alex’s songs I believe, thus he’s the only one doing lead vocals. There are some occasional out of tune singing bits (like on "Empire State") which definitely give this a demo quality. I don’t think "Blue" is that great of a song and truthfully I don’t even remember it. I saw Megalo hundreds of times live and this demo is nothing compared to how they were live. True they weren’t the greatest band ever, but I really liked their songs and always had a good time at the shows. And regardless who played drums for them, I’d still think they were a cool band. This demo is decent however. Nothing too spectacular.

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"The Road to Here"

She didn’t mean for it to begin so quickly. After moving from California to New York City in hopes of developing her career as a singer/songwriter/pianist, SW booked studio time intent on recording a few songs for a demo. Surprisingly, nine songs later, she wound up with a full-length debut entitled The Road to Here. The album introduces us to SW by taking listeners on a literal and sentimental pilgrimage across the country in search of a dream.

What makes this album special is SW, herself. Fans cling to her voice, classically trained yet with a folk singer’s timbre, and her songs that tell true stories of love’s pain and the growth we experience because of it. She tells each tale poetically, putting to words the emotions we’ve all experienced but have difficulty expressing. Her piano sets the tone in each of these stories, her delicate playing neither simple nor virtuosic, just intricate enough to communicate the message.

She writes about her own life, but SW doesn’t travel her musical road alone. In contrast to her emotionally vagabond lyrics, she knows well how to assemble a cohesive, talented band. Though she sometimes “borrows” Lisa Loeb’s bassist for live shows, it is Rich Wagor’s dreamy upright bass playing that appears on eight of the nine tracks (Whiskeytown bassist, Mike Santoro, steps in on “Breaking The Victim”). Jim Bove, who was one of my favorite NYC drummers before he headed to the left coast last year, delivers his trademark crisp and deliberate beats, his timing dead on. And the only question surrounding guitarist Pat Glynn is why he hasn’t been snatched up by major label act for touring. He crafts his innovative, ambient, feedback-driven sounds on Road… to near perfection, topped only by his performance on SW’s second album, The Turning Point, due out in the Fall of 2002.

From SW’s own voice and piano to each member of her handpicked band, the album is remarkable for its superb musicianship. The songs are beautiful if a bit somber, the exception being “Ricochet,” which drives us through the album’s most aggressive moments. Much of The Road to Here is reflective, thought-filled and sobering—perfect for a quiet night’s listen. And just as you think you’ve delved too deep into your own psyche, “Hold On” brings you back out with its words of consolation, hope and promise. The Road to Here gives the listener an emotional cleansing in less than forty minutes, quite an accomplishment from a recording originally meant to be a mere club demo.

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"Last Year’s Boy"

Released: 2002
Best tracks: "She Waits By the Sea," "It Turns Me On" & "Last Romantic" are all incredible things…too hard to choose
Track to skip: Resurrection Street is too cheesy for me
Rating: 93 out of 100

The new chapter of Bryan Dunn-guitarist, singer, songwriter. For reviews on previous chapters in the Life of Bryan check out the reviews for Miniver Cheevy, Echo Juliet & 3 Penny Opera. This is the first band that Bryan’s really been the full leader of. He was relegated to a sideman for EJ, and a sort-of ‘co-leader’ (kinda behind the scenes) of 3PO, so to hear him finally out in front is very refreshing. The last time Bryan actively sang lead was back in Cheevy, 7 years ago.

I saw Simple Thing’s first gig and had a great time and I had also heard a number of these songs on the website, but it was almost like hearing them all for the first time when I got this. There are some really, really great songs on here. For the most part, all the songs are dead on. A couple of slight question marks, but otherwise it’s just damn good. Better than that since it’s the debut.

It’s really too hard to pick a favorite track on here. Both "She Waits By the Sea" and "Last Romantic" are beautiful songs. "Last Romantic" almost brings me to tears; it’s excellent. For the upbeat songs, "It Turns Me On" has such an amazing chorus… I wish I’d written it. The music is still pretty eclectic on here, even though it’s not as jarring as Miniver Cheevy was or as groovy-eclectic like 3PO. I really like how comfortable Bryan is in all the different kinds of songs on here: the contemplative ballads, the groove-rock numbers, the all-out pop ones, the slinky and mysterious ones…he fills them all out with ease.

Simple Thing is a band, but in all honesty it’s really Bryan Dunn’s project. That’s not slighting the other guys (Wiley ‘The Monster’ Koepp on drums, David C. on bass and Jonny Hi-fi on rhythm guitar), as they’re all really good players, but they are acting as support for Bryan on this one. Maybe future releases will have more of a band feel to them. All that is really irrelevant though. This CD rocks, and even after typing a bunch of other stuff I still have "Growl" stuck in my head. Great stuff. I highly recommend picking this up at a Simple Thing live show. Totally worth it. (And in case you doubt my honesty in this, as Bryan is a good friend of mine and a former bandmate, I have no problems AT ALL pointing out when he makes a mistake or just does something that’s awful. Ask him, I’m probably *too* honest for him sometimes. But I really do like this CD; it’s the best one he’s done so far.)

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"mp3po"

Recorded: 1999
Best track: "Figure 8"
Track to skip: the version of "Give Your Love to Me" on here isn’t that hot, but Bryan does a nice guitar solo that is worth hearing
Rating: 86 out of 100

A 6-song demo the band recorded, originally as entry for a songwriting competition. The first thing I noticed about this CD is that America has finally broken out of her previous voice. She sounded like Natalie Merchant for the longest time, and even though she was a fan, hated that she sounded like Natalie and was always compared to her. Well, on this CD she finally sounds like America.

The cohesion of the band is evident all over this short CD. They’re pretty tight. The 3 new songs ("Figure 8," "Faith" and "Sexuality") are all good, but "Figure 8" stands out above the rest. It’s actually the best thing on here. I think Ed Park, the violinist, wrote some of the music on this, but it’s apparent that it’s a full-band creation. I always thought that 3 Penny Opera would’ve been at their best when everybody contributed. Nothing against Bryan’s songs, as I’m a huge fan, but it always seemed to me that there was this huge untapped resource in the musicians of 3PO. Glad they finally got around to it.

I really like the percussion breakdown of "Cancion," but America’s vocals are too restrained. The version from the previous disc is a lot better. As a whole this is a good disc and it starts to point in a direction that the band could have gone if the core of the band didn’t go up to NYC. There, 3PO morphed into what is now Simple Thing, a group that continues on the tradition of good music emanating from songwriter Bryan Dunn.

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Ten Pieces for Voice, Strings and Percussion
"Ten Pieces for Voice, Strings and Percussion"

Released: 1999
Best track: "Cancion"
Track to skip: all are good
Rating: 92 out of 100

I think for the first time I’m actually listening to this on its own merits, as opposed to “this is what they did after they fired me. Grrrrrr.” This is a damn good album. I can’t decide how it compares to 90% Live, but I think taken as a whole it might be better. Am I actually admitting that? Yeah, I am.

The band had matured a LOT in the past year as well as picking up new bassist Scott Laws. Scott does a good job on most of the tracks, but I have to admit that his predecessor played most of these songs better. Scott is a monster on "Cancion," however. I sure as hell never played it that good. Overall Scott sounds good on here and, as a bassist, I have no complaints…except for "Virgin." I think he played too much on there, the song calls for more space from everyone. Let America’s voice fill it out. I also wish she had of done the full vocal line at the end of the bridge on it, but oh well.

The songs are all really good on here with Bryan Dunn sounding the best he ever has on a recording. The flow of the album is perfect with every song complimenting the one before it. I can nit-pick and say stupid little things that aren’t perfect (like above), but all that really doesn’t matter. This is a great album. I have no idea if this is still available or not, but it’s worth seeking out, esp. for "Cancion."

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"90% Live"

Released: 1997
Best track: "Don’t Let Me Be Alone Tonight"
Track to skip: none
Rating: 91 out of 100

Hmm, am I on this thing? Supposedly I’m somewhere in there. Before I go into "Sunshine" I’ll do the briefing. This album, 3PO’s debut, is named 90% Live since 9 or the 10 songs were recorded live. "Sunshine" is the studio track. The live stuff was recorded 8/14/97 at our third gig. "Sunshine" is the same version from the EJ CD, but with America’s vocals instead of Christine’s and the addition of Manuel’s congas. My beef with "Sunshine" is that I am totally inaudible. Our intention was to hop into the studio on a Saturday and just add America and Manuel’s parts. Bryan then gets the idea that his guitar solo was bad and decided to spend 4 or 5 hours (after vocals and percussion were laid down) to try to come up with a good solo. The rest of us thought his solo was just fine, but he didn’t, and since he was paying for the studio time he got his way. At the end of the day, he still didn’t have his solo right so he just said he’d come back the next day and oversee the mixing and use the original solo.

I’m pretty particular about my bass tone and presence in the mix so I was pretty peeved that I wouldn’t be there for the mixdown (I was heading back to Austin the next day for a Phish concert). I got a promise that my bass would be fine and they’d (Bryan and Amado, the engineer) make sure it sounded good. I had to trust them. By the time I heard the end result of the mix, it was way too late as the album had already gone to be duplicated. The song itself sounds great, but you just can’t hear me on there. I think I’ll always have that chip on my shoulder about that.

The rest of the album is quite good. (I’m trying to forget my steel guitar solo in "When You Comin’ Home Tonight," as it is horrible and I’m still surprised they let me do it!) As usual, all the others really hate it, and are embarrassed by it, but I enjoy listening to it. It still surprises me how good we were for our third gig. The enthusiasm is just overflowing on this whole thing. I totally miss the bridge in "Give Your Love" and it sounds awful. There are rough spots by all of us on this, but all the good stuff we do (like "Without You") is really good. Matt Talbert does a guest spot on "DLMBAT" and he just kicks ass all over the place. "DLMBAT" may be the best overall song on here, but my favorite single moment is America tearing the roof off in the bridge of "Last Romantic." That gets me every time I hear it. If I were just Joe Fan here, hearing this would make me a big fan of 3 Penny Opera.

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echo juliet
"echo juliet"

Released: 1997
Best track: "Sunshine," with "Bill" right behind it
Track to skip: none!
Rating: 84 out of 100

Oh what a wonderful change! 2 years after our first demo we hit the studio to do our first proper CD. The first 4 tracks were newly recorded in November of ’96 and the last 3 are remastered versions from our second demo, the one we actually sent out to clubs and sold, that was recorded in fall ’95. But yeah, the change here is immense. The songs are better and those that are still around are so improved. We had been playing a lot by the time all this was recorded and we just hammered these out.

"Bill" is a powerhouse. It’s my favorite track Christine ever wrote and I always had so much fun playing it. Starting out the CD with it was the obvious and perfect introduction. We all just kicked serious bootie on this. Wiley rocks my world. He’s all over this thing. Everyone sounds fantastic on this. "Nothing" was another attempt at reggae and it turned out a lot better than "Where We Should Be." I wanted to do an alternate version that was full-on reggae, but we didn’t have time. This CD is the first instance of Bryan as a Good Guitar Player. His solos are very tasteful and tasty as well. Not to brag, but I’d improved a great deal too.

"Her" is a really good song too. I didn’t care too much for it while in the band, but hearing it outside of that context I really like it. I do some nice volume swells in the beginning and Bryan plays a great solo. I know of fans that said this was the best song on this CD. Could very well be. Ah, "Sunshine." We just ravaged this, esp. the guys. We destroyed it. I love it. Hey, you can actually hear my bassline on here! (See here for my beef with this) I love the breakdown section in this. The whole ‘metal’ thing Wiley and I are doing is great! This song is so good; I’m just sitting here smiling. Bryan, you wrote a great one here.

To the demo tracks, "Zoë" is such a fun song. I don’t care how stupidly simple it is; it’s still a fun song to listen to. I love how I put my "Spirit of Radio" licks in there. And those bass harmonics at the beginning of the second verse come out so clear! I rule!! Ha ha. In all honesty, I *am* happy with my playing on here. I do a lot of nice runs and fills all throughout. The beginning of "Zoë" has some fun tempo fluctuations, but it doesn’t bother me like it does the other guys. "Confusion!" My bassline on here is really nice, very proud of this one. OK, I gotta get off my ego trip. Well, one more: my fills in "I Know You" are pretty cool and there are others (music majors, no less) who complimented me on them. Rock!

I don’t know why certain players on this CD don’t like it too much. I still really do. Echo Juliet was a really good pop band and this CD totally shows that. We’re not in any way perfect, but the enthusiasm makes up for it. I’ve actually seen this thing a few times in Austin record stores, so it’s out there. You just might have to search a bit. If you like good pop music (and want to hear me!) seek it out.

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"Killing Zoë"

Recorded: 1994
Best track: probably "Zoë"
Tracks to skip: most of it
Rating: 67 out of 100

D’oh! I just was playing what I thought was this demo, but it was actually our CD from 2 years later (dubbed on the other side). I was thinking “Wow, we sounded great at the beginning of the band!” Ha ha ha, that’s so funny. Anyway, this was recorded in Bryan’s living room on Christine’s 4 track. On here I’m still not that great of a player and Bryan hadn’t yet developed into a good soloist yet. We were all not that great this early in our careers. During the course of the band we got really good. We started out just OK.

I can’t play reggae properly on here and my part on "Where We Should Be" is pretty weak. This song is weak as well, but I don’t help any. "Zoë" sounds better and it’s interesting to hear Bryan’s solo before he started sticking the “Entertainer” lick in at the end. Wow, I never noticed how similar "It Goes" is to Bryan’s later song, "The Last Romantic." They both start out very similar. Hmmm.

We really weren’t a very good band at this stage and most of these songs we can’t play too well. I think we’d only been together a month or two when we did this. Maybe we were just nervous, or just not that great, but there isn’t much energy at all in these tracks. It sounds like we were just fumbling around on here. Not a very impressive demo.

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