In My Ear – Week of August 15

On tour this summer to promote a brand new album (their first in 10 years), Ratt rolled into Columbus on Friday night to play what I’m calling an “economical” set lasting about 75 minutes. Rumors are that things haven’t been great in the Ratt camp, especially with drummer Bobby Blotzer releasing a “tell-all” book a few months ago that cast some negativity on the band and, in particular, lead singer Stephen Pearcy. I will say that it was awesome hearing some arena rock classics (“You in Love”, “Lay it Down”, “Wanted Man”, “Round and Round”, etc.) in the intimacy of an (sold-out) 800-person venue. Highlight for me, actually, was seeing Carlos Cavazo (ex-Quiet Riot) serving as second guitarist.

Local (Columbus) band that has been inactive for 5 years due to a couple of the guys in the band settling down and having kids. In 2005 they had started a new album but broke up before it was finished. Earlier this year Kopaz decided to complete work on the album (about 85% was already recorded and mixed) and they held a CD release party this past weekend. Think Sunny Day Real Estate meets Juno meets Shiner.

Download: Kopaz – “Teeth Like Cities”

Climber – The Mystic
Can’t get enough of this one. This Portland band reminds me of The Standard (maybe not so coincidentally from Portland as well). The vocals are a bit nervous sounding, a bit shaky, a bit paranoid. The first track on the new album – “The Simians Speak” – sounds like an MGMT song. Here’s the thing, I have NO IDEA how/where you can buy this – the publicist sent me a copy (maybe it’s not available yet … I haven’t checked iTunes yet). Definitely one worth tracking down if you can.

Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
The new album is due in stores in mid-September. I’m a little late to the party but if you’re into Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, The Black Angels, Verbena, this’ll make your “Best of 2010” list.

Guns N Roses – Revisited EP
I’ll let the site that posted this EP explain what it is: “DJ 5agge has combined Axl Rose’s vocals from Chinese Democracy with tracks from Velvet Revolver (featuring Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and Dave Kushner) and Slash’s new solo album. You can tell by these remixes that a new album from Axl and Slash would totally rock and would beat anything either has done post 1993.” I’m not really sure this is what a 2010 original line up Guns N’ Roses would sound like but I concur that it’s better than anything Axl or Slash have done in 17 years.

DOWNLOAD: Guns N Roses – Revisited EP

In My Ear – Week of August 8

1. Azure Ray
Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink haven’t made a record together since 2004 but after a one-off reunion performance in 2008 decided maybe it would be worth working together on new material. Azure Ray’s new album, Drawing Down the Moon, will be released in September and I’m not sure you’ll find more beautiful female vocals (x 2!) on any other CD this year. If September feels too far away, you can pick up a preview 3-song EP now to tide you over.

2. Blonde Redhead
I have to admit that I’ve never listened to Blonde Redhead before. Penny Sparkle, the band’s eighth album, is due out in September and it sounds like I’ve got a discography to catch up on! Blonde Redhead’s giving away a free track from the new album and it sounds gorgeous. Check the trio out on tour this September and October.

DOWNLOAD: Blonde Redhead – “Here Sometimes”

3. Filter
Rumor has it the new Filter CD, The Trouble with Angels, finds Richard Patrick revisiting the post-industrial sound of Filter’s earliest material (think “Hey Man Nice Shot” more than “Take a Picture”). The album is available in stores today so make up your own mind. In the meantime, check out the title track.

4. The Wackers
Read about this ’70s Canadian pop band on a few different blogs and thought the description, which read something like “the harmonies of The Beach Boys with the pop elements of The Beatles”, made this something worth seeking out. Sadly, like so many bands of that time period, The Wackers never achieved much commercial success and are now just the type of band that bloggers occasionally mention in passing.

5. We Are Scientists
Made the choice to see Warrant this weekend instead of We Are Scientists and I’m sure that I made the right decision – the Warrant show was great. But, it was a tough decision considering how much I’ve been playing WAS’s latest album, Barbara, on my iPod. There’s a strong ’80s new wave flavor to many of the songs and at times I’m reminded of Duran Duran, which is never a bad thing, right?

In My Ear – Week of August 1

Some things I listened to last week.

1. Esthero
I remember getting Esthero’s Breath From Another from a Sony college rep back in ’98. The languid trip-hop sound complimented the jazzy vocals and the group of us who were into Lamb, Hooverphonic, the Sneaker Pimps, etc., at the time ate this one up like it was an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. These days, the singer is collaborating with artists like Timbaland and Kanye West.

2. oOoOO
Pitchfork describes the witch house genre of music as “a group of young, geographically scattered artists concurrently exploring ghostly, slow-moving electro-pop, each with their own unique spin”. I stumbled upon oOoOO somewhere on the web and was intrigued by the dreamy vocals and synth-pop. I’m particularly fond of “No summr4u”.

Nosummr4u by oOoOO

3. The Posies
Two years ago Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow did a 10th anniversary tour for their 1998 pop classic Frosting on the Beater and it was during this tour that the duo started planning Blood/Candy (due in stores on Sept.28). The album is loaded with guest stars ranging from Kay Hanley (ex-Letters to Cleo) to Hugh Cornwell (ex-Stranglers). “License to Hide”, available as a free download, features guest vocals from Lisa Lobsinger (Broken Social Scene).

Download: The Posies – “License to Hide”

4. Jerry Garcia – All Good Things (box set)
I’m slowing coming around to Garcia and the Grateful Dead. That’s a strong admission from someone who once said that if the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffet performed a co-headlining gig somewhere in the middle of a corn field, I’d drop a bomb just to rid the world of the sound of those artists. This box set is comprised of Garcia’s solo material and is surprisingly contemporary despite being anywhere from 20 – 40 years old.

In My Ear – Week of July 19

1. Magic Kids
I’m not entirely convinced the Magic Kids are for real. The group’s debut, Memphis, due in stores in late August, sounds like an obscure gem put out by a California high school glee club in 1974. Looking for influences? Try The Beach Boys, The Hollies, The Partridge Family, and The Turtles.

DOWNLOAD: Magic Kids – “Summer”

2. I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House
Alex from In Music We Trust has been singing this band’s praises for years (he put out 3 of their releases in addition to 2 solo releases by frontman Michael Dean Damron) but until I downloaded the latest mix CD by Suburban Home Records, I hadn’t paid them much mind. I’m sure somewhere along the way, Alex had to have mentioned that if I loved Two Cow Garage (which I do), then I’d love I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House but I must have missed it. Suburban Home is releasing the band’s new album in late August, but you can purchase a digital copy right now. I swear to God that “Swear to God” is one of my favorite tracks of 2010.

<a href="">Swear To God by Suburban Home Records</a>

3. The Unwinding Hours
Columbus, Ohio – and the music world – lost a great one last week. CD101 DJ/program director Andy “Andyman” Davis drowned while on vacation with his family. The sudden loss was a shock to the local music community and I think many people spent last week listening to somber and reflective music. The lyrics of this track by ex-Aereogramme members The Unwinding Hours aren’t really related to the tragedy, but it’s the song that played in my head over and over many nights this past week.

4. The Damnwells
Along the same lines as The Unwinding Hours’ “Solstice”, I found myself listening to The Damnwells “Graceless” quite a bit – the song’s tone set the mood for last week.

5. Helmet
Helmet’s got a new album coming in September at which point they’ll start a tour that will run at least until early November, if not longer, including an October 15 date in Columbus (can’t wait!)

In My Ear – Week of July 11, 2010

Here’s some things I listened to last week. Feel free to post your list in the comments section below.

1. The Equals
Before Eddy Grant (“Electric Avenue”) set out on a solo career, he was in a reggae-pop band called The Equals. I didn’t know anything about these guys before last week – I only discovered them after trying to find cheap Eddy Grant CDs on the web. My friend Blake informed me that one of The Clash’s greatest songs, “Police on My Back”, was originally performed by The Equals (hear their version here).

2. Gristle – “Cold Blue Sky”
New band led by ex-Galatic Cowboys singer Ben Huggins. It’s been years since GC broke up and while Gristle isn’t necessarily a sequel to that band, there are definitely some moments – particularly “Making it All Go Away” – that have the same tight harmonies and progressive metal guitar sounds of Huggins’ former band. If you were ever a King’s X fan, you’ll dig this.

3. Madcon
This Norwegian hip-hop duo has apparently scored hits worldwide but I had never heard the song “Beggin” – a cover originally performed by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – until I was watching America’s Got Talent with my daughters and it was used as performance music by a tap-dancing family.

4. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Not at all what I expected. I thought Ariel Pink was some gray-haired ’80s psychedelic burnout from San Francisco who resurfaced and put out a crummy sounding lo-fi record that all the hip kids were digging. Then I saw on Amazon’s MP3 Twitter a link to a list of something like “The 50 best songs this year” and Ariel Pink’s “Round and Round” was #1. A quick investigation proved that my perception was wrong though the band (Ariel Pink is NOT a person as I thought) definitely is making music in the wrong decade. Check out this disco-lite offering – along with accompanying ‘unofficial’ video utilizing scenes from the ’80s workout flick ‘Perfect’ (starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis).

DOWNLOAD: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round and Round”

5. King Giant
The words that come to mind to describe this Virginia/DC-based band: Sludgy, southern rock, stoner metal. Based on that description, it shouldn’t be surprising that these guys sound like Clutch, Kyuss, and even, at times, Black Sabbath. Dig it!