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Jul 042014
 

After the heady month of local gigs that was June, the #sgindie goodness continues to flow. So heads up on a couple of shows coming your way in the coming weeks. 

Red Kite & Beer Market have earmarked four Sundays in July as Original Sundays with an intriguing lineup of #sgindie bands for your viewing and listening pleasure.

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Jul 032014
 

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at PM 11.34.33

Writer Mike Baron makes an interesting point about how marginalized the Jazz Rock ‘genre’ has become since its heyday in the 70s in his introduction to this book.

“The number of classic bands who have inspired youngsters continues to grow. Beatles imitators are legion. The Beach Boys have a growing and powerful following spearheaded by Explorers Club. Grateful Dead jam-type bands cover the hills. The Quarter After worship the Byrds. But one group is conspicuously missing. Where are the new jazz rock bands?”

Baron doesn’t really answer this pertinent question so much as to suggest that perhaps Jazz Rock as a ‘genre’ lost ground once the post-punk / new wave of the 80s arrived to drive many of these original Jazz Rockers to seek greater commercial attention by moving their music to the Middle of the Road (like Chicago).

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Jul 032014
 

Released at the very beginning 2014, Colours of Joy, the sophomore album from Indonesian indie band lightcraft is quite the thing of beauty. Whilst its live dynamic is waves of shoegazey dreamy noise pop, the sonic agenda on this album is more lilting, more subtle and ultimately more graceful.

And this marked contrast works brilliantly from a recording perspective where there is less pressure to deliver an immediate high. It’s quite impossible not to fall in love with the luscious sounds and melancholy sentiments evident on songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Get Out on Your Way” – singer Imam’s voice is almost a ghostly whisper hovering like an angel over swaths of heavenly constructs.

Things do get slightly more expansive in the epic soundscapes of “The Other Side of the Glass”, “Starlit Eyes” and “Hello Goodbye” which are both more representative of the band’s live sound albeit without sacrificing an iota of the emotional resonance that marks lightcraft’s work.

If I had to make comparisons, I would have to say that lightcraft reminds me of a more stripped down version of one of my favourite bands – Starflyer 59. Believe me, as high as the standards Jason Martin has set, lightcraft do a more than credible job in evoking the same nuances, references and power. Highly recommended.

Connect with lightcraft!

 

Jul 032014
 

Alright. Here’s the deal – every week I randomly pick FIVE new releases listed at Spotify and tell you what I think (YAY or NAY?!), very spontaneously! No holds barred – fasten your seatbelts! Let me know what you think of the music in the comments…

MAGIC!Don’t Kill the Magic

This sounds like these guys saw all the hype surrounding Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” (as featured on the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer) and a lightbulb appeared over their collective heads. But seriously folks, this is really commercial pop-rock, which heavy emphasis on reggae party vibes. A bit too smooth of my tastes though. NAY!

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Jul 022014
 

LostWeekend_140627_Bandcamp

There is always something one can take away from ‘classic’ pop songwriting. Whatever the era or the ‘genre’ classification, somethings do not change viz. memorable melodies, familiar chord progressions, soulful vocals and of course, an indefinably cool vibe.

To have seen Lost Weekend grow from that tentative pop group I had witnessed at last year’s Baybeats auditions to the confident music makers evident on this brand new double-A side single has been eminently satisfying.

“On a Sunday” will appeal to all lovers of indie pop – whether or not they are old enough to know the meaning of “C86″ or simply as a ‘genre’ that gets attached to hipster music festivals – with Rachel’s sultry vocals and Jonny’s Fannies-inspired guitar solo the prominent hooks.

“About Forever” is yet another track that recalls the glorious pop music of the 80s, substantively of the kind that the likes of Elvis Costello & Squeeze would regularly churn out i.e. with enough soul-R&B elements to keep things interesting. There is a groove driven by Mark’s bass work and Zj’s drums that totally underpins the song perfectly.

Two prime examples of matured songwriting that bodes well for fans of well-crafted song-oriented indie pop. Bloody essential! Get the single now from Bandcamp!

Jul 012014
 

Nineties alt-rock fans will be thrilled by the news that Scottish band Travis return to Singapore on 1st August at the Star Performing Arts Centre. The band released their comeback album – Where You Stand – last year after a five year hiatus and this concert promises to be a highlight of 2014!

Tickets are priced from SGD58 (excludes booking fee) and are available via SISTIC.

Listen to our playlist of a possible Travis setlist. Enjoy…

Event page

Jul 012014
 

The latest UK indie sensations? Glass Animals have so far released a couple of singles and EPs but it is their excellent debut LP – ZABA – that their tremendous potential is revealed. Again, for me what makes the Oxford quartet distinctive is their ‘classic’ songwriting. Stylistically, the songs might be indie electro-centric but the strong melodies recalls 80s era Depeche Mode and Sting.

For contemporary references, one might think of Bombay Bicycle Club or perhaps Alt-J but the over-arching emphasis on ‘classic’ pop tunes is the clincher for me! I am thoroughly enjoying the eclectic music inflections in the songs like jazz-soul (“Cocoa Hooves”), world music (“Wala Wala”) and straight-up R&B (“Gooey”) – all enveloped with a knowing contemporary indie pop sheen that will have the indie kids grooving in the aisles.

And… thanks to Nick Whitcomb (Light Organ Records), I will have the opportunity to catch Glass Animals live (!) in Vancouver. More info here! Hopefully, someone brings them to Singapore soon as well!

Official Site

GITAR – ACTIVE CULTURES

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Jun 302014
 

Over at their Facebook page, the trio known as Gitar describes its ‘genre’ as ROCK N ROLL. Which is fine with me! Cuz I understand that term to mean – meaningful 60s/70s rock styles. Upon closer inspection, the band is probably kindred spirits with Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart & Steely Dan and any other band that gives sophisticated rock music a couple of offbeat & oddball twists.

Which makes new album, Active Cultures, a bit of an acquired taste. I mean, I would not imagine that contemporary indie kids will have the stomach for much of Gitar’s thoughtful experimental progressive work. Tracks like the funky “Spiritual Dunk”, the Beatlesque “Infamy Dream” and the quirky “New Martyrs” possibly get as pop as they get but even then, this is definitely one for the serious minded music enthusiast.

BAYBEATS 2014: DAY THREE

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Jun 292014
 

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Inevitably for me, Day Three of most year’s Baybeats tend to be a little anti-climatic. After the hustle and bustle of the first two days, fatigue sets in and it has not been uncommon for me to sometimes entirely miss Day Three. So with that in mind, I decided to focus on the performances going on at the Chillout Stage (the Concourse) and found the experience thoroughly enlightening!

Pitch Feather delivered high gloss renditions of its excellent debut album – Mountains and Tides – singer Alberta Leong has an appealing voice that embellishes the band’s luscious take on 70s folk music that very quickly endeared them to the rapt audience. Considering this was the band’s very first live performance, there were nerves and a couple of errors but nothing fatal. Would love to see Pitch Feather develop further in the local indie scene.

.gif provide a polar opposite to Pitch Feather’s rustic warm tones with an electro-pop set that once again showcased the vocal talents of Weish. It was instructional as usual to see Weish construct ambient sounds from her vocals to utilize backings for the songs. Far from being cold constructs, the songs seemed vaguely personal as colours and shapes filled the room (figuratively, of course).

Pixel Apartment (aka Jordan Chia) was a sheer delight – both soulfully and intellectually. Operating his one man band (complete with video!) with the main focus on grand piano, Jordan provided a pleasing set which showcased his skills with electronics as well as songwriting. That said, perhaps the high point was Jordan’s wonderful cover of “What Sarah Said” (Death Cab for Cutie) sympathetically played on the piano. Yet another local musician with loads of talent!

And that was Day Three for me. Well satisfied with the slate of promising local musicians enough to believe that the future of the Singapore indie music scene is indeed bright! Thanks again to all the cool people I ran into today and once again to the Esplanade for putting together another first rate Baybeats Festival!

… still there’s more … 

Jun 292014
 

Enec.e-BB

 

Typically, I find that the second day of Baybeats is the best of the Festival. I guess it’s part of the programming being on a Saturday and all that. But for me personally, it was day of discovery as well as pride in our local musicians (now, that’s a cause I really get behind!)

It began with lunch with Sean and Dee from Ssighborggg – two expat Americans making a name for themselves in the Seoul indie scene. As always, with music people there is an inexplicable connection that I never take for granted. Fun-loving and humble the duo might be but dead serious when it comes to their music as proven with their distinctive set later that night. One of the most unique aural experiences I have ever had. Kudos!

The absolute highlight for me was the performance of my former NOISE mentees ENEC.E at the Concourse and naturally I was emotionally invested. Just so you know, it was love at first sight with the songs and sisterly harmonies of Lisa and Michelle when I heard them at Thunder Band Slam and I have been a fan since. The stripped down environment suited them somewhat with more emphasis on vocals and ‘feels’ (as the kids like to say) – I must confess that I welled up quite a few times during their spine-tingling set (“Ghost”, “Satellite” & “Crystallized” OMG). Magic!

Lost Weekend – like a few budding bands – had to handle rejection the first time it tried out but the group never gave up and came back stronger. I liked the eclecticism within the band’s early 90s alt-rock vibe and certainly Rachel did her best to capture the crowd’s attention – which she did. Some of the banter was a little awkward, and the band could have been tighter but my feeling is that Lost Weekend is a work-in-progress and that once they hit their stride, they are going to take some stopping. Mark my words!!

Now what can I say about Bani Hidir? I still remember marveling at his drumming skills with the immortal B-Quartet back in 2007-2008 (barely 20 years old) and then falling in love with Page (wherein he sang and played crunching power chords) but last night he impressed the Concourse audience with a set that showcased sophisticated songwriting, mad skills and a boyish confidence that charmed us all! Backed only by the impeccable Naz on piano, Hidir blew everyone away with his seemingly effortless display! So glad that he will be releasing an EP of his new material very soon. Best!

One regional band I was really looking forward to was lightcraft (Indonesia) and they certainly did not disappoint. It was basically unadulterated 90s shoegaze with a hint of the post-punk revival peeping over the reverb-drenched soundscapes. Heavenly! Frontman Imam was intense and driving the band forward with 150% commitment – some of his banter was really emotional and despite the odd technical hitches, the band melted my face many times over. With an epic new song – “The Art of Acceptance” – sweeping me away with waves of white noise I was hypnotized! Best part was that after the show, Imam came up to me and passed me the band’s latest CD – Colours of Joy – humbled! (Glowing review to come…)

Somehow it all came full circle with Inch. My very first Baybeats in 2007 was spent very much hanging out with Allura and living the experience through the eyes of someone like Inch. Hard to imagine how much she has grown up to become the very person she said she would be way back then. Amazing. PoP readers will know how much I loved her sophomore solo effort Bumfuzzle, and “Dear Paramour” had me in tears with the chills running down my spine (not to mention, new song “California”). With a crack band of musicians behind her, Inch ruled the roost and had the audience eating out of her hands – again all I could feel was pride and gratitude for being given the best view in the house for the ongoing development of our indie music scene!

Once again, this post has been personal and confessional and well, nostalgic but honestly I don’t give a fuck. It’s my website and I’ll cry if I want to…

My final word on Day Two goes to Leonard Soosay. Again, I recall chatting with him at that 2007 Baybeats Festival and regret certainly not spending more time with the man since then – he is truly one of the leading legends of our indie music scene when you consider the sheer number of bands and artists he has shepherded in his time as one of our top producers and I really enjoyed our short but insightful chat last night. Something I hope to rectify in the near future – what say you, Leo???

… still there’s more …

 

 

 

BAYBEATS 2014: DAY ONE

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Jun 282014
 

For me, this year’s Baybeats is all about people. Watching aspiring musicians grow into great bands and artists and getting the response and acclaim that they so richly deserve. Wishing the very best for them on stage as they take another step towards fulfilling their musical dreams.

Last night, I was so happy to see Stopgap open the Powerhouse performances with an assured set. I recall first seeing them at last year’s auditions and rooting for their progress but alas one wrong song choice and they were booted out (yes I was pissed off!). But kudos to the band for learning from that experience, getting onto the Noise Mentorship Programme, making it on the second attempt (YES!) and generally having the best possible attitude in doing their best in our music scene. So yes, their moment in the spotlight was fully deserved! And I believe there’s more in store for these boys!!

Over at the Concourse, DEON did what he did best – deliver sparkling pop-rock with a refreshing honesty – Deon Toh is as real as it gets! Getting to know Deon at the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriters thingy a few years ago was a genuine blessing and am so pleased at how far he has come since then. Still the same down-to-earth guy, you must really check out his full-length album Antiphobic!

Jaime Wong! What a voice! What great songs! Like Deon, I first met Jaime at the same Noise-Timbre thingy and in her unassuming, deprecating manner she has grown by leaps and bounds. An awesome talent and I really cannot wait to listen to her debut EP when it comes out in the next few months.

Kudos to The Esplanade for giving Singapore bands and artists this amazing showcase! Long may Baybeats run!

… still there’s more …

 

Jun 272014
 

Which bands/artists will Power of Pop be focusing on during the next three nights of Baybeats 2014?

Friday 27th

STOPGAP | Powerhouse 7.30pm SPHAERAS | Arena 8.00pm DEON | Chillout Stage 9.15pm

JAIME WONG | Chillout Stage 10.15pm GIANTS MUST FALL | Arena 10.15pm

Saturday 28th

ENEC.E | Chillout Stage 5.00pm LOST WEEKEND | Arena 6.00pm BANI HIDIR | Chillout Stage 7.00pm

SSIGHBORGGG | Arena 8.15pm LIGHTCRAFT | Arena 9.15pm INCH | Arena 10.30pm

Sunday 29th

PITCH FEATHER | Chillout Stage 5.45pm .GIF | Chillout Stage 6.45pm

PIXEL APARTMENT | Chillout Stage 7.45pm MONSTER CAT | Arena 9pm

Have a great Baybeats weekend!

 

 

 

 

#SGINDIE

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Jun 262014
 

CelinaKimble01

Some weeks back, Celina Kimble launched her new EP at the Arts House and whilst it was a fairly short set – it was full of Celina’s typically emotionally powerful songs backed by a competent band. All told, it was a solid performance by Celina and band. The word is that Celina will be selling her EP at Starbucks outlets and will be doing a couple of performances there as well. Stay tuned for more details.

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PoPTV

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Jun 262014
 

POPTV

If not already apparent, here at PoP, we focus on pop with power. Invariably, that involves bands and artists that take a long hard look into the wide world of music available out there in the space-time continuum in a valiant effort to come up with something new, something unique, something that rocks the listener’s heart and soul. With that in mind, here are some of our YouTube discoveries (not the kind you’re thinking of) and we hope to give them more profile and attention in the weeks and months to come…

ROOK AND THE RAVENS – “The Judge”

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Jun 262014
 

An indie pop band that eschews all the conventional trappings of expectation is to be received with open arms! Sure, singer Jen Goma has the typical femme twee pop vox and the tunes are way simpatico but everything else tries to get as far away from ‘normal’ as possible.

Meaning: we get distinctive soundscapes that mix electronica, shoegaze and ambient approaches which act as sonic envelopes for the love letters of words and melody that make up these unique songs. Thus, the tracks on Sea When Absent have the advantage of being familiar to indie pop fans and yet arty enough to satisfy the edgier music enthusiast as well. Best of both worlds!

Highlights include the viscerally sweet “Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)”, the chirpy drone of “MTLOV (Minor Keys)” and the schizoid girl group channeling “Oh I’m A Wrecker (What To Say To Crazy People)”. Definitely one to savor and particularly ripe for closer inspection.

Jun 252014
 

I guess the standout detail for me about Brisbane’s The Trouble With Templeton is the fact that the band is signed to UK indie label Bella Union, who also have the likes of Fleet Foxes, Midlake, Flaming Lips, Beach House on its roster. Good company to keep!

Immediate impression upon listening to The Trouble With Templeton was that the band was your typical ‘hipster’ indie-folk outfit but thankfully that’s not really the case. Sure, there are obvious folk elements – acoustic guitars jangle and high register harmonies for example – but dig deeper and it’s clear that the band’s influences stretch to the 90s with Radiohead, Travis and early Coldplay prominent.

Thomas Calder, the nucleus of the band, has a distinctive voice that conveys edge and fragility, sadness with anger – a highly emotive instrument. The songs themselves are built on motivic patterns that anchor fairly static melodies, relying on ‘feels’ and atmosphere  and less on classical melodicism.

Which is fine if one is able to deliver emotionally resonant material such as “Whimpering Child”, “Heavy Lifting” and “Secret Pastures” whilst at the same time producing soaring ditties as “Six Months in a Cast” and “You Are New”. Wrapped up nicely in organic production, Rookie is essential listening for modern alternative pop fans looking beyond artifice.

Official Site

Jun 242014
 

Truth be told, I have been listening to Silverbird‘s fine new EP, Surface Life, quite a bit of late. There is something about these five songs that have got be somewhat entranced. Superficially, it all seems very contemporary (i.e. hipster) – with its folky acoustic guitars, the singalong nature of choruses and so on. But of course, it’s more than that. In fact, it has more to do with Silverbird’s penchant at channeling their inspirations – 90s bands like Wilco and Sparklehorse – where alt-country moves into even edgier art-rock territory.

Two songs stand out for me. “Honey You’re” where electric keyboard riffs collide with shimmering guitars and a atmospheric choral hook that seems to stretch for miles. And “Silverbird”, where a throbbing bass stomp anchors a jangle pop vibe so that singer Tim Barr can suspend a fragile vocal above. The closing “When We Went to the Country” sums up Silverbird’s game plan – dreamy, ambient roots rock that drones like the Velvets when it truly needs to.

This is exactly where indie rock should be heading – into the fucking ditch! The future of rock ‘n’ roll and that jazz. Seriously.

Official Site 

Jun 242014
 

“A sphere is an ultimate expression of unity, completeness, and integrity” – so begins Sphaeras’ self-description! So it’s certain that its responses to our FIVE questions about Baybeats 2014 should be a hoot!

Why should fans check out your performance at Baybeats?

We are the only instrumental band to have made it through the auditions; we offer an entirely different brand of music that (we hope) will reshape your opinion on instrumental music. Our live performance on the big stage is guaranteed to be full of energy, emotions and spontaneity. Words often inadequately encapsulate how we sound live, so check us out at Baybeats, (best of all) for free!

Why are you excited about playing at Baybeats?

As an event that we have attended religiously, we have seen many great bands/artists grace the stage over the years. It is exhilarating to have been privileged with this opportunity to introduce our music to an audience of a size we typically wouldn’t reach. Additionally, we get to watch and play alongside fantastic bands that include fellow budding acts Stopgap and False Plaintiff.

Why do you think you were selected to play for Baybeats?

From what we have gathered, the judges were especially impressed with our display of music technicality and also our ability to deliver complexity in a natural, seamless form. The judges were also impressed with our standard of performance during the outdoor audition – remarking that we had ‘set a high bar’ – considering that it was actually our first time playing in front of a live ‘audience’. Interestingly, Zakhran Khan, in all his glory, was ceremoniously compared to Bani Hidir (B Quartet, 53A, Youthwreck) repeatedly for his unmistakable prowess.

If you had to choose just three bands to watch at Baybeats, which bands would they be and why?

1. Giants Must Fall: It has been ages since we’ve seen them play and we really dig their Leprosy and Anchor EP. Can’t wait to hear them live.
2. Earthmover: Our friends from Anechois and Bandwagon gave some great reviews of them from their trip to the Philippines. We weren’t disappointed with their material online and are sure they will be awesome at this year’s Baybeats.
3. Two Million Thanks: They have their own twist of the math rock genre and a kickass music video. It would be interesting to witness them live.

When and where are you playing at Baybeats?

We’ll be playing on Friday, the 27th of June, 8 – 830pm at the Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theater).

Jun 232014
 

Best known for being the guitarist in Southern rockers The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson has truly come into his own on this excellent album of high quality country-folk-blues-rock! It’s probably a cliche to say this but one cannot but be impressed by the honesty and authentic passion expressed on this 12-track album. There’s so much genuine affection for the source material that The Ceaseless Spirit is a brilliant distillation of the late 60s attitude towards organic rock ‘n’ roll as represented by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.

From the moment that the familiar descending chord pattern emerges with the opening “I Know You”, 60s rock buffs have no doubt that they are in for a thrilling ride. Each subsequent track maintains this feel brilliantly with Robinson’s vocals standing up very well. The Ceaseless Sight is one of those rock albums that challenges the idea that the album as a concept is now meaningless and irrelevant. Old school to the max and loving it! Highly recommended!!

Official Site 

 

BAYBEATS 2014: ENEC.E

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Jun 232014
 

I remember the first time I saw Enec.e (pronounced “Enecdote”) in performance, I thought to myself that they were the perfect fit for Baybeats. So I am pleased as punch to see that that my instincts were spot-on! But then again, I am slightly biased, as Lisa, Michelle, Alek and Shafiq were my Noise mentees in 2013 and so am righteously stoked for them and for the people lucky enough to listen to their wonderful music at Baybeats 2014!

Why should fans check out your performance at Baybeats?

Alek: Because we have new material and even we are really excited to share them with you guys!

Why are you excited about playing at Baybeats?

Shafiq: It’s our first time playing in such a big music showcase so it’ll be fun to see how much we freeze up on stage between songs. Haha!

Why do you think you were selected to play for Baybeats?

Michelle: ENEC.E has an inverse exuberance in it’s music, portraying dark vibes in lyrical proses to give our listeners a slight push off the edge of their seat as they find relations with the songs. I guess that’s why we were selected?

If you had to choose just three bands to watch at Baybeats, which bands would they be and why?

Lisa: To be honest, that is a really difficult question because there are so many bands that I want to watch! But if I were to narrow it down to 3, then I would say Monster Cat, Stopgap and Wyd:Syd! I tend to prefer big sounds and full-band arrangements, so, as these guys are going to play at the bigger stage with highly professional crews and topnotch sound system, I’m pretty sure the experience would be a lot more memorable than what I have had!

When and where are you playing at Baybeats?

We will be playing on 28 June at 5pm and 8pm at the Chillout Stage! See you guys!

 

LISTENING BOOTH

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Jun 232014
 

LISTENINGBOOTH

THE PHARMACY “Anna Bella”

Country-folk for stoners? Am digging this from this Seattle-based trio. Full length album – Spells – coming out on 12th August. Check ‘em out on Facebook.

A MILLION BILLION DYING SUNS “The Garden”

Ten years later the garage revival is still going strong, isn’t it. Cali-based AMBDS imbues its garage sound with enough psych-rock elements to keep things interesting. Debut album drops in September. Listen at Soundcloud. (No embed allowed for some reason)

D.S. BRADFORD “Oceans”

Proudly stated to be made in the suburbs, the spirit is indeed willing at least. Bradford does well to craft the song together but it does sound clunky in parts. No denying the intent! Single will be available at iTunes from 1st July. Connect at Facebook.

still there’s more

FOXY SHAZAM – GONZO

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Jun 222014
 

In May, Foxy Shazam released its new album Gonzo and it is now available as a FREE DOWNLOAD over at Bandcamp (link at the foot of this review). I am sure I had you at “free”, eh? But seriously, folks, that’s the state of affairs for bands in 2014. Consider the album as a portfolio for the band so that you might pay actual money for its shows, merch and perhaps the vinyl LP as well.

If nothing else, it gives us music fans unfettered access to one of the strongest albums this year. Recorded by the legendary Steve Albini live in a single room, the new music comes across visceral, in-your-face, dynamic and REAL! Believe me, Gonzo SOUNDS amazing! The songs themselves are typically Foxy Shazam – theatrical, epic, and funky pop – with punchy horns for good measure.

Tracks like the stomping “Poem Pathetic”, the bouncy “Tragic Thrill”, the slinky “Shoe Box” and the gorgeous “Story Told” are prime examples of the range of Foxy Shazam’s compositional skills. Best part is that the band executes each number with lusty aplomb – with singer Eric Sean Nally in fine form. Pop music making of the highest order!

Download your free copy now and enjoy!