Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile
It’s a big world out there (and I am scared) EP

This EP is the companion CD to Vile's excellent album from April, Walking On A Pretty Daze.  Like the album you get smart, quiet, contemplative lyrics about life. His singing is equally fine and as for his guitar playing, I could sit and listen to him for hours.  This EP is as good as the album.

Vile is a hero in Philadelphia, with an official day named after him in August. And since I’m from Philly, this is also a chance for me to say that Philly has a great indie rock scene, and Vile is one of its finest ambassadors.  It’s no accident that Walking is on many top ten lists.  It will be on mine, along with this EP.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Boys Noize
Boysnoize Presents A Tribute to Dance Mania
Fabric Records and BNR

On these two albums, Boys Noize and collaborators/comrades, make music that flows kinetically all over the place, with many subgenres accounted for and presented excellently.  One is the latest in the Fabriclive series and the music really makes for a thumping, bumping experience, perfect for the dance floor.  The other, Dance Mania, has many hard twists and turns but always flows smoothly.  In short, two discs which are just perfect for anything requiring action of any kind.
Andrea Weiss

Monday, December 2, 2013

Melissa Laveaux

Melissa Laveaux
Memory Is A Strange Bell EP
No Format

Laveaux is a synth-heavy folk singer/songwriter who plays acoustic guitar.  With an engaging voice somewhat like Fiona Apple, her songs are much happier than Apple's, and her music sweeps along in her own unique sound.  She’s Haitian/Canadian and this is her debut. These four songs make me wonder what she’d be like over the course of a whole album.  I'm curious to hear more.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Bye Bye Blackbirds
We Need The Rain

Oakland’s Bye-Bye-Blackbirds have been making great music for several years in the Bay Area.  I found out about them when I met the bandleader, Bradley Skaught, through Loud Fans, an email list for fans of the late, great Scott Miller. Bradley played with Scott as well.  Now we're friends on Facebook, where Loud Fans eventually went.

We Need The Rain continues the Blackbirds brand of jangly power-pop suffused with Americana.  Think Old 97’s Satellite Rides period.  It’s a neat blend of warm, jangly pop, a tiny bit of twang, and a teaspoon of Neil Young-like guitar playing, especially on the last track “Spin Your Stars.” There's no hint of retro whatsoever and Bradley’s wise words on love and life are as good as anything that Scott Miller wrote, but more straightforward.  And the album is dedicated to Scott.

I can’t recommend this band enough.  They're perfect for summer days or whenever you need a bit of sunshine or a general pick-me-up in the winter to get rid of cold, dark days, and hear the promise of spring.

‎Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Big Believe

The Big Believe
Let’s Pretend We’re Spies (featuring Faye Hunter)

The Big Believe is a band from Eastbourne, Britain led by Amanda Thompson, whose deep voice sounds sweet and comforting.  “Let’s Pretend We’re Spies” is not about spies.  Rather it’s a cool, fun, folk/rock romp about uplift through introspection and the joy of knowing you’re better off for it.  And that’s just the A side. The B side of this 7-inch takes the song in a synth direction, making it sound somewhat spooky. 

What makes this 7-inch sound bittersweet is that this is the final recording of Faye Hunter, who died in July of this year under tragic circumstances.  Faye sounds wonderful here and adds a layer of sinister undercurrent with her vocals.  She never lost her voice, or the magic that she could bring to a song, but the sadness that goes with a final recording is almost obliterated knowing that she went out on top. This is one of the finest songs I’ve heard all year, and a must-have for fans of Faye and Let’s Active. As an added bonus, some of the proceeds from the song go toward a donkey shelter that Faye supported, and the 7-inch cover is a drawing that Faye created.  If you go to The Big Believe’s sound cloud page, you’ll find other good songs from them, including the great “Girls With Cassettes” featuring Todd Fancy from The New Pornographers, and a terrific rough mix of "Spies." 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

R&L Williams

Robin and Linda Williams
Back 40
Red House Records

Robin and Linda Williams have made many fine albums over their long, storied career and were mainstays of A Prairie Home Companion.  Back 40 is their latest, and continues their great career.

Their music and lyrics reflect old-time country, bluegrass, and folk whether they’re covering artists like Joni Mitchell and early Bob Dylan, reinterpreting traditional songs, or introducing their new song “The Old Familiar House on Christmas Day.”  Tales of love, hardship, good times, bad times all fit in, and are wonderful to hear.  They and their band mates are expert musicians and make this album a must have.  If you’ve never heard them, this is the album to start with, and if you have, celebrate their latest.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview RL

The Words And Music: An Interview With Rene Lopez
 Rene Lopez’s music is so catchy so full of melodies, that it will instantly brighten your day, as will his sublime lyrics.  That was my impression after hearing his EP Let’s Be Strangers Again, and checking out his YouTube videos. I’d found out about him initially from a promo given to me by Girlie Action, a very savvy music company, and was so taken with what I heard that it has been on my iPod in heavy rotation for weeks.  In other words, it’s been one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

I recently interviewed Mr. Lopez by email and I hope you like what he has to say as much as I did, and I liked it a lot.

Andrea Weiss:  Who are your influences?

Rene Lopez:  Prince, Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, Tito Puente, Burt Bacharach, Gilberto Gil, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon.

AW:  Would New York be part of your influences? My music is the sound

RL:  I hear walking on the sidewalk or taking the train in NYC. That is why it is hard to really categorize what I do. There are so many influences. 

AW:  Do you feel Latin music is exploding right now, and if it is, how great is that?

RL:  To tell you the truth I didn't know it was exploding. I follow the current Latin music scene because most of what I hear is not my cup of tea. I know there is now an Alternative Latin Music scene happening now which I need to dig into a bit. 

AW:  How did you get started in music?

 RL:   It was all I ever wanted to do. I can't remember ever wanting anything else. Heard and saw my dad playing music and it was a done deal.

AW:  What kind of music did you hear while growing up, since your dad is a musician?

RL:  My father was a Latin trumpet player so I heard a lot of salsa and Afro Cuban music in the house. He also had a big record collection so we played a lot of soul, disco, jazz and even fusion music. I was lucky to have a very diverse jukebox spinning in our home.

AW:  I love the way you blend Latin music of all types, and rock.  Do both come easily to you?

RL:  It actually does. Ha!!! To me it all fits together like a beautiful puzzle. I started out as a kid blending funk and Latin. I feel like I have returned to that but it’s much broader now. I dig that there is a Latin influence to my music but I'm not really a Latin artist. 

AW:  Your lyrics are wonderful.  How do you get your ideas for them, and your music?

RL:  Wow thanks. I don't get that often. Most people talk about the grooves or vibe of my music. Well all of my lyrics are through my life experience and I think in getting better at expressing that in a poetic way. I really have it together when I'm 90.

AW:  What advice would you give a musician just starting out?

RL:  If you are not 100 percent passionate about music do not do it. You can not expect anything from the music industry. There is no golden apple. You do it because you would die if you didn't make music.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rene Lopez

Rene Lopez
Let’s be Strangers Again

This is a tasty blend of Cuban, Brazilian, African, soul, salsa, and mellow rock --- very smooth, and totally irresistible.  It will stay with you once the record has finished.  Lopez has been making music for 20 years, and is the son of Rene Lopez from Típica 73. 

The lyrics are slightly mystical, none more so than on the title track, but always wise, mature, and great.  They will make you think and reflect.  They're for good times and not so good times, and put together with captivating music, a really wonderful musical experience.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dream Koala

Dream Koala
Odyssey EP

Mellow electronics, with an equally mellow rock feel to it, perfect for quiet times, thinking, or chilling out.  Yndi Ferreira is Dream Koala, who has remixed tracks for The 1975 and Angel Haze, and has played in several bands of his own, has released his first EP.  This is music to  enjoy and enhance whatever you're doing.  
Andrea Weiss

Monday, October 7, 2013

St. Lucia

St. Lucia
Night Still Comes

80s synth pop and techno pop was always so serious.  Deadpan, monotone singing, keyboards used for ominous effect, incomprehensible lyrics, no emotional content. This is why Brooklyn’s St. Lucia is so refreshing.

There is loads of emotional content here, much of it joyous and blissful. Jean-Philip Grobler sings like someone having a very good time, even when he’s lost out on love, because he knows he will find someone another day.  This is reflected in the music:  driving, forceful, emotional, ready to have fun. And for all the synths here, very few drum machines, another relief, because there is nothing like a human being drumming, since a better beat is kept that way. This is a great full-length debut, and is a welcome and wonderful alternative to music that is the opposite of St. Lucia. 
Andrea Weiss

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust
Last Night On Earth

The Grateful Dead as rather mellow noise rock, with jams built in?  That is Last Night On Earth. Lee and his band, which includes Steve Shelly, does a mighty good take on both Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann.  Alan Licht does his best Bob Weir and bassist Tim Luntzel takes Phil Lesh’s part, and craft an album that honors the Dead.  While there are very few ways you can play the Dead at this point, Lee and his band manage to find a new one.

The jams are not over extended, which is one of the biggest irritants of the jam band scene.  Instead, they fit into the overall songs and stretch them out so Lee and Alan can show their considerable skill.  Lee, whose guitar playing I've always preferred over Thurston’s, is much different here than Kim's with Body/Head, even though Kim has the chops to match Lee.  This is his chance to carve out a legacy and sound of his own, especially now with Sonic Youth scattered for good.

The lyrics are just what Lee always writes: thoughtful mediations on life and relationships.  I've always liked his writing, and always wanted to hear more on any SY album.  Now we get two albums' worth, counting Between The Times and Tides, and that’s extremely welcome.  Put it all together for an album that matches Body/Head, and that makes me hope that SY doesn’t reform.  Both solo projects give us more of Lee and Kim than SY ever did.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Patty Larkin Still Green

Patty Larkin
Still Green
Signature Sounds

So you like Mumford-type bands, indie folk in general, and the roots of folk, and still want more.  Patty Larkin is the one for you, as a gateway to another type of modern folk, and a great album.

Larkin has been around since the 1980s, when she released her first album Step Into The Light, I’m Fine, for Philo/Rounder Records.  At the time, the most popular folk singers were people like Suzanne Vega and The Roches, and Larkin was included in that group.  She became even more popular in the 90s, with albums like Tango, and airplay on NPR, and no-commercial AAA stations, because before these formats got into indie rock, this is the type of music they played.  But for all the popularity of 90s folk, the scene was unjustly overshadowed by other types of alternative music.  This music was as much an alternative as grunge, as 90s folk toot the spirit of grunge and put it into a folk context.

The reason this album is so great is that it’s gentle music, but so is BonIver. The gentleness of the music masks the fact that it’s very melancholy, but not depressing. It’s more unsettled, and the lyrics reflect that feeling. The characters in these songs are facing big decisions. They’re not quite sure of what to do, and really need to think about everything without getting upset.  Mumford explores this, too, as does Of Monsters and Men, but Larkin’s music is quieter, more thoughtful.  Which is to say that just because it’s quieter, doesn’t mean it’s mellow. It has it’s own way of rocking.

The current wave of folk should include Larkin in it, and the others who came of age musically in the 90s. Really, the true roots of today’s folk are in these 90s artists.  The list is long, but a few names to go by: Dar Williams, Jonatha Brooke, The Nields, Richard Shindell, the late Dave Carter, Greg Brown, and even those who are not quite folk, but have one foot in it, like Mary Lou Lord. You’ll find a world of good music here, and also interesting lyrics. And Larkin is one of the best at both, so do yourself a favor, and get into Larkin. You absolutely won’t regret it.    
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Avan Lava Mixtape

Avan Lava
Check Yo Ponytail Mixtape

From Laid Back’s “White Horse (premix)”, to Tiger Stripes' “Snake Charmer (Original Mix),” and everything in between, the music never quits or flags.  Its smart beats flow into a seamless whole.  This is a non-stop, 53-minute party, perfect for the dance floor or any time you need energy and fun.  Avan Lava, already hailed as a great band, continues to get even better, and this mixtape proves it.  
Andrea Weiss

Monday, September 23, 2013


Hemiplegia EP

For those who can’t get enough of Tegan and Sara’s current album, here's a band that has songs good enough to be on T&S’s latest, without ever sounding like a clone.  Good pop, light without being lightweight, and singer Nini Fabi doesn’t overdo things vocally.  In short, a great debut, and I look forward to hearing more from this band.
Andrea Weiss

Sunday, September 22, 2013

BOJ 3 Stand Alone

Black Orange Juice
3 Started Alone
True Panther

Alternative R&B, that is 70s style singing, Marvin Gaye or Luther Vandeross, with some Nile Rogers style disco thrown in too, all with 21 Century elctronica for the music.  It’s pretty good UK dance music, a bit on the mild side, but nice smooth  dance music overall.  Music to relax to, and for late nights when something mellow fits the mood. 
Andrea Weiss

Disco Remix, BA, T Mix

Baby Alpaca
Sea Of Dreams (Turbotito Remix)
Atlas Chair Records

If you’ve ever wondered what the Smiths would sound like as electronica, Baby Alpaca is the band for you.  Dreamy, Morrissey like lyrics, the music as much the same, and all is perfect music to chill out to. 
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Riot Grrrl Forever

The Julie Ruin
Run Fast

Grown up punk rock, which is to say adults who have that old punk, and in this case Riot Grrrl fighting spirit. You can dance, you can scream, because the music will never quit. It’s a rush, like a dam breaking. It’s such an up, and when it’s over, you play it again just because you don’t want this music to be over, to never stop.

That Kathleen Hanna could still do this while battling late stage Lyme Disease points to a spirit that encompasses more than rock. It’s a world view, and what a world it is.  Fun, righteously angry without losing their sense of humor, an uproarious celebration of all things feminist, 20 year removed from Riot Grrrl, and with guys thrown in for good measure.  It proves that feminism will never die as long as women, and men, still have things to fight for. Riot Grrrl was one of the best things ever to happen to feminism. It was feminism in a new way. Punk rock of any type, forced hardcore and other types of alternative music to examine its sexism and homophobia, even as there was a lot of resistance in the 90s.  It’s one big reason I stopped reading the rock press, indie and mainstream, in 1990. I couldn’t stand that anymore.  I still can’t, except for Magnet Magazine, The New York Times, and Robert Christgau.

One of the best things to happen this year was finally getting out of the 70s, and into a 90s revival, one that curiously doesn’t include grunge. Riot Grrrl was one of the first to get its due, along with the Breeders, Vercua Salt, That Dog, and Aimee Mann. I’m going to throw in Liz Phair. Are people still that angry about her pop album, ten years down the line? I say this not just because of Exile In Guyville, but because Liz is a sex positive feminist and proud of it.  That it’s women who get their due first as the influential musicians they are, without the “women-in-rock” crap, means that new ground has been broken for women everywhere. Never stop, all of you. And now Hanna is back, and better than ever.  May she live to 100, especially if she’s putting out music as wonderful as this.
Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

ETT New Album

Emiliana Torrini
Rough Trade

This is a big improvement over 2008’s Me and Armani, whose sole good moment was the international hit “Jungle Drum,” the only non-precious track on it, and the only track where the oh-so-cutesiness of it was used in a good, and agreeably silly way.  This new album is more serious, and is informed by the birth of Torrini’s son, as well as her return to Iceland, her home country.

Tookah is a word coined by Toorini to describe when you are at your best, filled with love, life, and goodness inside and outside you.  Indeed, the album is an exploration of Tookah, and its importance when you take stock of your life.

Musically, this anagram of folk, pop, and some electronica is very pleasing, soothing, gentle, and somewhat solemn. It is also about being more mature, more grown up, and knowing what your responsibilities are.  This is really my introduction to Torrini.  I haven’t heard all of her work, but judging by her last album, this is her best. It's good music and her most mature effort.  I like it, and am glad of the chance to make her musical acquaintance.  
Andrea Weiss

Monday, September 9, 2013

Body/Head Kim Gordon/Bill Nace

Coming Apart

There is so much propulsive feedback, and so many drones, that you don’t notice the drums, and then you realize they aren’t needed.  This is a tribute to the abilities of 
Kim Gordon and her partner Bill Nace. Their guitar work, especially on the intro to “Can’t Help You,” melodise providing the very loose yet sturdy structure, the feedback, and the drones providing a steady rhythm. That has the effect of being vaguely ominous, but is more often strangely comforting. There is nothing cold about this music. It is warm, enveloping, and perfect to meditate to, especially if you hate or are sick of new age music and want something with some teeth in it.

Kim’s chanting adds to these effects. A word, a phrase, no verse-like lyrics. Just a line or two here and there, in a voice that is cracked and strained. Yet these are some of the finest vocals she’s ever done, and make this a classic, even if you’re not sure how well you understand, or get experimental noise/music.

Kim Gordon deserves her icon status in whatever she does, in whatever medium she chooses to express herself, not just because she broke so much ground, and is one of the few college rockers still making relevant music. She’s set the benchmarks for women making any kind of music,  and is just as much a godmother of rock as Patti Smith.  In Nace, she has found a better and more sympathetic player than even Thurston or Lee, and that’s not a put down of either. It’s just a different type of playing than they did. But I prefer this album to a lot of Sonic Youth’s work, even though I am a fan of that band, and would pull this album out to play before I would pull out, say, Goo, that’s how wonderful this album is.
 Andrea Weiss

Willis Earl Beal

Wills Earl Beal
Nobody Knows
XL Recordings

I’d say forget about Jack White and the Black Keys. Beal writes, sings, and plays the real indie blues.  And now that he has better recording equipment than he did on his first album Acoustic Sorcery, and a band,  the result is an album that improves on his debut tenfold. Beal is someone who plays the blues first and is an indie musician second.
His music rough, soulful, and blue as in sexual in “Too Dry to Cry” but the command Beal has of every part of his music is also a joy to hear.

Tom Waits is still used for effect, but only for effect. I hear more Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Van Hunt, Keb Mo, and even a bit of Al Green.  He’s a 70s throwback, but a great one. It’s been along time since I heard the blues played this well, although my perspective is limited. The blues in general is such a vast type of music that I can’t say I’ve explored every part of it, but enough that I know the blues when I hear it. If you like the blues, you’ll enjoy this album a lot.
Andrea Weiss

London Grammar

London Grammar
If You Wait
Columbia Records

If the Eurythmics had appeared today, they would be London Grammar. Hannah Reid, the trio’s lead singer, recalls Anne Lennox at her best, and a is lot more organic than she is. Dot Major and Dan Rothman, the other two members of the trio, construct a sound not unlike Dave Stewart did for the Eurythmics, and it’s a lot more organic than anything he got up to with Lennox.  Reid also has more to say about love than the Eurythmics ever did, and without the bombast that duo indulged in.

They also remind me of the XX, with a fuller sound, but just as good, and since LG has played with the XX, the two bands compliment each other perfectly.  My only quibble about this album is that as the XX does, there is a male singer to balance things, and I kind of wish Rothman sang, just for that balance. Ried alone sounds a bit one sided.  But that’s just me. This is a really good, romantic, slow dance pop album, and as they already have a major following in Europe, there’s no reason these great pop songs can’t do the same in the US.  This is the thinking person’s dance music. Perfect if you’re lovelorn, or just want a slow, romantic spin on the floor with you partner of choice. 
Andrea Weiss

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Ghost and Goblin

Guitar based electronica duo, as in synths first, guitar for details, colors and shading, make music that’s supposed to be spooky and frightening, but the singer, lyrics, and music are too friendly to be frightening. That isn’t a put down. I like this album very much, even as it’s not dance music. This is perfect for Halloween, or any time you need to set an eerie vibe.  That these guys are trying to be heavy like Soundgarden also works with me, as I really like Soundgarden.  So if you need to be freaked out a bit, knowing that it’s maybe a bad dream, this album is for you. Have a lot of fun being scared. 
Andrea Weiss

Friday, August 30, 2013

Great Big Something

Great Big Something
Andrea Weiss

This post is about a novel I wrote in the 90s called Great Big Something.  It was originally published through a POD press and I've recently revised it and published it as an ebook on Lulu.

Sheila and Mary are lovers and leaders of the band Great Big Something. The band is doing well, but the two women are having problems and decide to go into therapy. While on tour, the other couple in the band, Claudia and Rhonda, break up and Rhonda leaves.  The band scrambles to find a replacement.  To find out what happens, please read the book.

The band is part of the first gay/lesbian rock scene.  At the time I wrote this, there were few out musicians and a lot of homophobia. The story is my response to that, since I am gay.  It is so much better today.  There are many out musicians. And it is a relief that much of the homophobia has finally dissipated.  Gay rights and same-sex marriage are now The Causes and you can be out with no problems. Say what you want about Lady Gaga’s music, but she’s openly bi, and one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. That’s real progress.  

I was and am an 80s college rocker, and “alternative” in this book now means hard rock, not the grunge in the original edition. I had a lot of wrongheaded notions about grunge back in the day, and these days I like it.   Most of what I wanted to have happen musically in the 90s has come to pass, and that is also reflected in the book.  I love today’s indie rock, too.  It’s positive, happy, thoughtful, and great to listen to. 

The novel was a badly written first book and the person who untangled it is my best friend and writing mentor, Jen Grover.  She smoothed out the plot and the characters and her eye for detail and her stylish prose made the novel I dreamed of come true.

So if you are curious, I hope you'll read it and like it.  The book is only available from Lulu right now, but will be on the iTunes store and B& very soon. Kindle folks, sorry, but Amazon isn’t included here, but you can be read it on any Apple/Windows/Linux device or anything that can read an iBook or Nook book.
Andrea Weiss

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Loose Squares

Dark, ominous techno, lives up to its title, putting me in mind of strobe lights going off to the EP on the club floor, or at a party.  The first song concerns sex, the second is anti-cop, the third is about a robbery in progress.  It’s nice to hear techno that isn’t friendly or relaxing, It’s a good change of pace, and if that change is what you want, this EP is for you.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Alela Diane

Alela Diane
After Farewell
Rusted Blue Records

Full disclosure: I reviewed Alela Diane’s wonderful last album Alela Diane and Wild Divine as a promo from Rough Trade.  And I’m not being glib here. That album and her Rough Trade debut, To be Still were and are wonderful.  I write this as a fan first and a critic second. As for her self-released debut The Pirate’s Gospel, I still need to hear this. My apologies.

This is stark, spare, haunting, intense, eerily calm music. While cathartic, it’s not a downer. Mostly just Diane on acoustic guitar, with guests such as Heather Broderick (Horse Feathers, Efterklang, Loch Lomond) piano and flute, Holcombe Waller on strings, and Neal Morgan (Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan) drums.  She recorded and mixed the album with John Askew at Scenic Burrows and Mix Foundry.

So yes, this is a folk album, a little like early Dar Williams at her most pared down, think “February” from Mortal City, or Mary McCaslin’s lost classic album from 1974, Way Out West. Any album that could sound as good as them will always make me take notice.

Lyrically, it’s just as cathartic. Diane went through a divorce, and she explores her emotions, and her decisions about it. It’s not so much confessional as honest as to why she thinks and feels the way she does. And while there are many albums on the subject, this stands out. She doesn’t make a big statement about anything she went through, just says what she needs to, and leaves it at that.

With neo-folk riding high on the charts, is there any place for an album that is straight up folk music. Yes, absolutely, and this album is a relief  in  the wake of Mumford and the rest of that genre. There is a long tradition of folk being quiet and devastating, Joan Beaz’s song “Diamonds and Rust” come to mind, and that was around long before the latest folk wave, and will remain long after that trend fades. Diane’s album is in Beaz’s tradition, which makes it true folk, because true folk is a lot more than what on the charts right now.
Andrea Weiss


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