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soundbites
January 06

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Julia Othmer
Oasis Motel
Lunar Cadre

With the advent of the MTV generation and their apparently endless love of visual monkey-scat, up-and-coming singers have tended to be more model than musician, unfortunately resulting in a watered-down gene pool of vocal abilities. Thankfully, every once in a while someone comes along whom actually remembers to actually learn how to actually sing.

Julia Othmer’s CD Oasis Motel is remarkable for several reasons — the most obvious being that it’s hard to believe this is her first release. With ten original tracks of clear, crystalline vocals that evoke melodic sounds reminiscent of Patsy Kline to Anne DeFranco, Othmer shows how music is meant to be made.

Unpretentious tracks like “Hey Hey” and “The First Day” are like a fine wine seasoned with experience and quality, which is rarely equaled by most break-through singer-songwriters. Add to that are Matt Laug (percussion), Johnny Griparic (bass & guitar) and Herman Jackson (keyboards), all without a doubt virtuoso musicians.

Lucky for you, Julia (who, by the way, happens to be as attractive as her music…) is premiering Oasis Motel- Feb. 2 at Bar Natasha (1911 Main, call 816-472-5300 for more info). So turn off that Ipod and go listen to an oasis of real music in the musical-MTV desert of screaming poo-slingers. www.juliaothmer.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 01/27/06)



Deadstring Brothers
Starving Winter Report
Bloodshot

Once in a while, some musicians who really love music (not just the lifestyle...) get together and form a band. The band learns some songs and eventually makes an album. While this probably sounds like too much work to most of the hipster "Hey, let's make a band!" guys and gals out there, it is, in reality, the way you're supposed to do it.

Thankfully, Detroit's Deadstring Brothers are just such a band, and their debut album Starving Winter Report is as good an example of American rock/folk music as can be found. Luscious vocals from Kurt Marschke and Masha Marjieh match perfectly with some fantastic steel guitarwork by Philip Skarich and E. Travis Harrett's impeccable drums, only to have the foot-thumpin’ piano of Ross Westerbur crank it up with gusto.

Starting right off the gun, the first track "Sacred Heart", is a rolling and rocking tune that evokes shades of the Greatful Dead, Bob Marley and Sheryl Crow, to name-drop a few, and is as approachable and just plain fun as any other music out there.

Having already toured across much of the UK (why do they get all the good American bands first? It's almost like the U.S.'s record executives have absolutely no clue about good music...naaah, that can't possibly be true!), and shared the stage with the likes of Cowboy Junkies, Eleni Mandell and the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, these brothers (and sister) have already shown their chops, and thankfully have proven that good music might be hurtin', but it's far from dead, baby. www.deadstringbrothers.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 01/20/06)



Action Action
An Army of Shapes Between Wars
Victory Records

Action-Action is without a doubt one of those pop-sensible bands that seem destined to succeed even if, frankly, their music sucks. Consisting of four hipster-lookin' young guys with seventies clothes and expensively messed-up hair, these guys would be Franz Ferdinand if somebody wasn't already. Despite all those reasons to toss this CD in the "derivative crap" file without a second thought, you shouldn't...because this is really some good stuff (for pop...)

Centering around Mark Kluepfel's full vocals and lots of keyboard work by Clarke Foley and Adam Manning, and backed up by Dan Leo on drums, Action-Action's sophomore album An Army of Shapes Between Wars is as complex and ethereal as the title. With thirteen tracks that have there own strange titles ("120 Ways to Kill You: An Illustrated Children's Book" and "What Temperature Does Air Freeze At?" are good examples), there's more than a few catchy tunes that evoke everything from The Cure to The Killers, and most are ready for a spot on "The O.C." soundtrack without changin' a thing.\

While pop music continues to be something like Internet porn of the music world (nobody says they like it, but there sure is a whole dang lot of it...), Action-Action brings back the fun and playful nature to this genre of music, and the result is pretty shapely, indeed. www.action-action.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 01/13/06)



Bucky Pizzarelli & Frank Vignola
Moonglow
Hyena Records

Valentine’s Day isn’t far off; and if you’re a guy wanting to impress your babe with sophistication and tenderness, then light a candle, pour the wine, get close and whisper a few sweet-nothings, and then let Moonglow lock-in the mood.

Jazz guitar virtuosos Bucky Pizzarelli and Frank Vignola express their music — despite the decades in age between them, Pizzarelli at 79 and Vignola, 39 — in a seemingly effortless stream of subtle emotion at a level seeped in contentment and, at times, playfulness. Nothing is push along yet every tune seems to unfold without hesitation. Standouts such as “Moonlight Serenade,” “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” “Moonglow” and “P.S. I Love You” are instantly recognizable, making the listener forget that it’s just two guitars communicating.

This is music for when things seem perfect, and the soft squeezing of someone’s hand says more than words. www.hyenacrecords.comBruce Rodgers (posted 01/06/06)



Queens of the Stone Age
Over The Years and Through the Woods
Interscope

One of the biggest problems with hipster rock is that… well, you have to deal with hipsters, pretty much. QOTSA frontman Josh Homme is perfectly suited to just such a hardship, scorning his hip-tastic faithful with just the perfect amount of disdain and loathing to make them come back again and again.

Over The Years and Through the Woods is one of these hybrid live performance (CD/DVD) that have become more popular of late, promising both the “concert experience” as well as a mini-best of CD. (Note to Interscope: How about making a double CD case that DOESN’T BREAK INTO TINY PIECES THE FIRST TIME YOU OPEN IT!)

While it is fun to watch Josh waste a few minutes between songs to call one of his fans a “cocksmoker”, and otherwise prove he’s a rock-star by insisting he’s NOT a rock-star, the DVD concert, filmed in England for some reason, gets boring for anyone but the most die-hard “Queeny” after a few songs. The CD is pretty much pointless here, and since it was recorded live, the sound quality is rather flat at times, and the song arrangements (including what feels like an hour-long “jazz-odyssey” solo a l a “Spinal Tap”), often seem inspired by a handful of lithium.

While QOTSA is one of the more original bands still big enough to get major media attention, this is really just an attempt to squeeze some disposable cash out of that fat hipster pocket for the Christmas season, a fact the lack-luster quality only confirms.

Still, given that fact that QOTSA is likely to eventually implode under its own ego (can you say “Oasis”?), having a record of them live just might be worth it for all those true cocksmoke…er, fans out there. www.qotsa.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 01/06/06)




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