Monday, August 30, 2021

 B. Hamilton

Song For TW Video

Sofaburn Records

This ultra trippy, very cool clip, in which the camera swivels around 360 degrees, presents mellow guitar rock. The three piece band was shot on location at Santo Studios in Oakland, CA by video director and editor Luke Judd. It features wonderful special effects and is lit like a concert. 

The song is about taking care of a friend, and realizing through that that you're taking care of yourself. Just the right message for today's troubled times, with a memorable piece of guitar rock that's heavy without being weighty, and rocks without overdoing it. 

Andrea Weiss

 This is a new band for me, but a welcome find, as I am always looking for good pop to listen to. I suggest you find them too, starting with this interview. Nick was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Andrea Weiss: Could you give a short musical history of how the band formed and got together for the single?

Nick Plunti: I’ve been playing music for almost 50 years (started before I could talk), but this band came together because Jeff Hupp asked if I was looking for a bassist. Turns out I was looking for a whole band, which Jeff put together.

AW: Who are your influences?

NP: Earliest musical influences would have to be the Beatles and The Monkees, soon followed by The Stones, The Who, Raspberries, Slade, Aerosmith, Elvis Costello, The Cars, R.E.M. The Replacements, Fountains of Wayne and it goes on and on. Always finding something new.

AW: I hear Matthew Sweet in these songs, which is great. Is he an influence?

NP: Of course. Girlfriend was a big influence. Love Matthew Sweet.

AW: The songs are very feminist, which I like, too. Did the lyrics just lend themselves to that?

NP: Thank you. Well, I was raised by Mom, who was divorced with four children. She was my voice of reason and I always had the utmost respect for her. She was tough, smart and was always there for us. And I have three daughters, so I definitely can see things from the female perspective.

AW: Any word on the upcoming album?

NP: We have 10 songs tracked, hoping to finish the vocals and overdubs this fall. And maybe try to come up with a couple more songs that may bump out a song or two.

Nick Plunti & The Complicated Men

One Of The Boyz/Heat Inside Your Head single

JEM Records

The A side, "One Of The Boyz," is Matthew Sweet meets Fountains Of Wayne in style, with overtly feminist lyrics: a friend giving a woman friend advice on how to handle guys. It's empathetic and it rocks.

"Heart Inside Your Head," by contrast, could have come from The New Pornographers' Electric Version. It's catchy power pop with clever lyrics.

Taken together, it's a great single, and a taste of more to come, as the band has an album in the works.

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, August 26, 2021

 Starlight Cleaning Co.


Sofaburn Records

While the late Neal Casal acts as producer and guitarist, which is a good tribute to him, the duo of Rachael Dean and Tim Paul Gray sound much more like Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde, and a bit like Fleetwood Mac, which is to say their sound is somewhat punky, somewhat folk, and a bit country, a great mix that jangles and chimes, and moves along nicely. The lyrics are reminiscent of Casal, Hynde and Costello, too--commentary on love won and lost--and as good as those influences.

So if you like any of them, and I would say Hynde is the one they sound like the most, pick this up. Anyone who write like Chrissie, while still remaining themselves, is absolutely worth hearing.

Andrea Weiss

Monday, August 23, 2021

 Amy Ray

Chuck Will's Widow single

Daemon Records

This country/folk song, in which Ray hears a Chuck Will's Widow bird and imagines a newly windowed woman starting anew in life, steps lively, in good spirits musically, and with a lot of meaning to the lyric. The widow misses her husband, but knows it's time to be on her own.

The video matches the good spirits of the song: two mannequin friends are having fun in a closed store, and eventually the security guard joins them.

The listener/watcher will have a good time too, with this sweet, nice folk song.

Andrea Weisss

Friday, August 20, 2021

 When I heard Danny Wilkerson’s solo album Wilkerson I immediately thought of Jellyfish, a band I hadn’t heard since the 90s, so I listened again and realized Wilkerson is just as good. The same goes for Jason Faulkner and Aimee Mann’s 90s albums, which Wilkerson also reminds me of. Wilkerson loves all kinds of music from the 70s through the 90s, and blends them in interesting and pleasant pop ways. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: For those who don't know your music, could you give us a short history?

Danny Wilkerson: I started my first band and began playing gigs at 13 years old, and played in a variety of bands throughout middle school and high school, and somewhere in there began to write songs. I joined The Pengwins in 1978. Within a couple of years, we were a full-time touring band, writing and recording every chance we could. We toured heavily. The band released a couple of singles. We worked hard trying to get a major label deal and actually got very close, but a shakeup at the label closed the door on that. In 1985 I left the band to start a family and simultaneously started a management company. I began managing the band while still seeking a record deal. I never stopped playing music locally, and continued to write and record at home and with others, which included a couple of singles and CD releases. Once, while in LA to meet with Rick Derringer, I was invited to sing background vocals on Weird Al Yankovic’s “Spam” as part of the UHF album. Fast Forward. It was always kind of a dream of mine to do a solo record. Years later I had the opportunity to write with the incredibly gifted artist Bleu McAuley and it was just a fantastic experience. Long story short, after several successful writing sessions the decision was made to do an album with Bleu. During the process, I had the chance to work with Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and so many other amazing people that are part of the Wilkerson album. 

AW:  Who are your influences? 

DW: It all started with The Beatles for me! The first time I saw them on Ed Sullivan I was hooked. Other than The Beatles, my biggest early influences were the British invasion (Kinks, Rolling Stones, Who, etc.) and then late 60s to early 70s Motown artists (Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder). I have also been very influenced by the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y, and Randy Newman, and so many others. This is a hard question to answer in a few words. I have an insatiable appetite for music and very eclectic taste. I have over 8,500 vinyl records (and about 6,000 CD’s) in my collection of every kind of music imaginable, that I have been listening to and collecting since I was a kid. I will never be able to get enough of it. All of it has had an influence on me in one way or another and still does.

AW: Your music sounds very 70s, which I like a lot. What 70s artists inspired it the most?  

DW: I was all over the map in the 70s--Big Star, Harry Nilsson, Leon Russell, The Raspberries, Badfinger, Cheap Trick, Queen, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Free, Todd Rundgren, Artful Dodger, Alice Cooper, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Joe Jackson, Devo, Tom Petty, Sly and The Family Stone, The Residents, T.Rex. So much great music!

AW: Your music also sounds very 90s--say, Aimee Mann, Jellyfish, and Jason Faulkner--which is great. Were any of them inspirations?

DW: YES to all of the above!!! Additionally, I love Radiohead, The Grays, Squeeze, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Tommy Keene, and Fountains of Wayne to name a few. Speaking of Jason Faulkner, the lead break on “She Goes To Bed” is one of my very favorites. I would love the opportunity to work with him someday.

AW: I like how your lyrics are happy and positive, for the most part. Do you always try to write like that?

DW: I’m so glad you noticed that. It definitely plays a big part of my thought process in writing. I really hope to lift the spirit of the listener. When I was younger, I tended to write more about worry, angst and frustration. Nowadays, I just feel there is enough negativity out there and life is too short, so I try to lean towards a little more positive with most of the music.

AW: Conversely, I like how sometimes your lyrics aren't so happy. Do you want a mix of positive and not so positive?

DW: Yes and no. “Endless Haze” is a pretty serious song about an alcoholic trying to escape his addictive method of escape. Even though the topic is heavy, the lyrics are somewhat lighthearted. Honestly, I try to put a positive spin even on the more serious songs on the record. “Your Days are Numbered” was written the day I found out I had been diagnosed with cancer (I am completely well now!). That day was a very emotional one, wondering where my life might go moving forward and the impact it was going to have on my family and loved ones. Definitely a fear of the unknown. The lyrics just flowed out very quickly on that one. Although it deals with death, the message is positive. Life on this planet is short and precious. Make every day count for the best.

AW: How did the joint release with Spyderpop and Big Stir come about?

DW: I believe the partnership was born out of a mutual love of music and looking for the best way to get that music to as many people as possible. I also believe it is going to prove to be a beautiful thing as the owners of both are incredibly supportive people and have the same musical taste and vision. I am proud to be associated with them as well as all my label-mates!

AW: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in music?

DW: Surround yourselves with people that love music. Don’t be intimidated by others that may have a higher musical skill level than you or a better understanding of the technical or business side of it. Soak up all that you can from them. Most of them are happy to share. Be open to all kinds of music. Be aggressive in your pursuit.  It sounds cliché but be yourself, believe in yourself and dream big!


Danny Wilkerson

Spyderpop/Big Stir Records

This delightful album owes as much to the 70s as it does to the 90s: everything from the Beatles to Jellyfish to Aimee Mann. It's very creative, experimental pop--lush and plush, but always tough, as well. There is a lot of steel in the spine of these songs.

The lyrics are positive and happy, with the exception of “How She Lost My Heart,” a breakup song, and are clear and direct, set to nicely complicated, wonderful music. It makes the album delightful to listen to.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

 Black River Delta


Sofaburn Records

Black River Delta are a modern blues/rock band from Bollnäs, Sweden. Their hard-edged sound recalls. The Black Keys, RL Burnside, Gary Clark Jr. and, for me, LA blues rock band the Record Company. They are as exciting as the Record Company at their best, too, which is all the time.

They are not sexist, either, which is wonderful. “400 Hours” is about dying, and missing your girlfriend. “Now I know” is about being in love. The other songs, while they delve into themes of love, loss, and traveling, do it with a flair which makes them stand out. The music and lyrics have power. It's genuinely hard blues.

So if you like the artists mentioned and want more, Black River Delta fit the bill. They're different, fresh, and great.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, August 13, 2021

 I recall hearing Sorrows, as I knew New York punk by the time they were around on the NY scene, and I’m glad to make these memories a little more solid and be rewarded with a great album. If you want to hear what punk was like before synth-pop took over, this is the album to get.

Arthur Alexander, one of the leaders of the band, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: For those who don't know the history of Love Too Late... the real album, could you say a few words about it?

Arthur Alexander: In a nutshell… in 1981 Sorrows went to London to record Love Too Late, our followup to Teenage Heartbreak. We had a legendary producer, Shel Talmy, at the helm and there was no stopping us now. Unfortunately, as it often happens with legends, they tend to turn out not all they were cracked up to be, and this legend was one of those - a crack of shit. The sessions were an unmitigated disaster, the band essentially disappeared, replaced by Talmy with studio musicians and singers and under layers of keyboards and synths. The result, an album that sounded like a wedding band on a bad day, with our name on the cover. As expected, the record was a total flop, and the only thing it achieved was destroying the band in the process.

In the years that followed no Sorrows albums were ever re-issued, on CD or vinyl (though, in case of Love Too Late?... Thank God!), so when in 2016 we regained the rights to our songs it was time to do this one justice and give people Love Too Late… the real Sorrows album and put that piece of fake crap with our name on it out to pasture, permanently.

For your readers interested in all the gory details I’d suggest checking out the documentary Big Stir Records just released: SORROWS: The Real Story of The Real Album

AW: What were you listening to then, and were influenced by?

AA: I’m a child of the 60s, so my main heroes were all the Brit bands: Shadows, Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Yardbirds, etc. But I was also deep into American blues and rock & roll: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran. I was also really into ABBA, just as the whole punk/new wave started to happen. Even though they were my contemporaries I was definitely affected by bands like Sex Pistols, Clash, Heartbreakers and Talking Heads.

AW: It’s great that the band and Big Stir were finally able to get the rights to Love. How did you feel when you knew the album was finally yours?

AA: It was a long and uphill struggle so it felt great to be finally rid of the shackles that kept us from doing this album justice, putting it out and telling the story behind it.

AWThis is the kind of punk that really isn't made anymore, and while that's too bad, there is still a lot of good music around. How do you feel punk has changed since the album was originally recorded?

AA: Like with any music genre, it evolved, not necessarily for the better. I mainly miss good songs. There’s a lot of good playing, lot of well produced records. I just don’t hear much that I would want to hear more than once.

AW: I love that the music is so wild and unruly, and it sounds like the band was really going for it. Was CBS looking over your shoulder the whole time, or left you alone and then nixed the finished album?

AA: No, that’s not how it went down at all. CBS didn’t look over our shoulder or nix the finished album. They decided behind our backs to turn us into some kind of a pre-fab product they thought would give them a successful record. They ended up with a band in rebellion and a huge flop of a record on their hands.

If you’re referring to Love Too Late… the real album when you say: “it sounds like the band was really going for it,” you’d be right. You’re hearing Sorrows going for the jugular! Like we intended the first time around. The fact that you can actually sense it really tells you the whole story.

AW: The lyrics snarl for the most part, other times are contemplative, and don't mince words, which is great. It sounds like CBS didn't want that either, but less punky ones. Was that annoying?

AA: No, this was one thing they didn’t interfere with. They interfered enough without it. Frankly, at that point we could have used nursery rhymes and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

AW: Would it be fair to say that punk has changed for the better, or not?

AA: I don’t think it did, based on what I hear, but then again, there’s so much stuff out there it may not be a fair assessment. May be I just don’t get to hear enough the good stuff.

AW: Would you tell a young band to go for a major label, if a deal was offered to them?

AA: Hard question. Obviously, it’s a tough thing to resist, if you get offered major label deal. I know something about it! ;) I would advise them to make small and careful steps. Get with a small label that really believes in you and your music, where you’re not just a number on a spreadsheet. If you’re successful at that level, and as your visibility increases, you will get noticed. You will also have more leverage. And that’s a good place to be at when they (the majors) start going after you instead of you chasing after them.

 Love Too Late... the real album


Big Stir Records

This album was originally recorded in 1981, but not released until now on CD. The story is that the producer of the original album, Shel Talmy, and their label, CBS, had ideas for the album, and actually recorded it, but the band didn't like it and broke up shortly after the finished product was released and then flopped. Their first album, Teenage Heartbreak,had been released to critical acclaim, so this was a bitter pill for the band to swallow. Big Stir Media's documentary on YouTube, SORROWS: The Real Story of The Real Album, is a very good and informative film that goes into the details of what the band faced, how they finally got the rights back to these songs, and Big Stir releasing the rerecorded album.

As the original recordings were very much of their time, this is like unearthing a time capsule of early 80s punk--polished, not slick, with grit. Arthur Alexander and Joey Cola snarl their vocals and guitars, and the whole effect is both the kind of album indie rock bands should be making today and won't--no synths, guitars, organically snotty attitude, rather than sounding like robots--and out of time in the best ways, a look back at how things used to be, and maybe should be now.

I think the best track on the album is “What I Used To Be,” about wishing things were better than they are, but all the songs are good. If you want old punk that sounds new, a band with the right attitude, guitars galore, and just great music period, Sorrows are for you.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

 Small Reactions

New Age Soul

Sofaburn Records

This Atlanta group's third album, and debut for Sofaburn, is a very nice jangle pop update. It sounds like a sped up take on early REM and the hard-edged jangle of Let's Active's Big Plans for Everybody and Cypress.

The lyrics take on the alienation, confusion, and dislocation of modern life, but end on a happy note with “There Is A Light.” The lyrics overall are never dark, as they try to figure out life, and sometimes succeed, sometimes not, all of which is human.

The Game Theory homage “Speak And Dress” sounds like it could've come off Real Nighttime, like a combination of “24” and “Curse Of The Frontier Land.” That Small Reactions would update one of the greatest bands that doesn't get updated enough, and do it right, makes this album a must-hear for this song alone.

It is a relief to hear an indie rock band that isn't beholden to Krautrock or Kraftwork, that plays electric guitars, that uses keyboards just for color and detail: another reason to get this album, to hear what indie rock once sounded like and should sound like again.

Andrea Weiss


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