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Three More EPs Worthy Of Your Cash

Here’s another run-down on three EPs that are worthy of your hard-earned cash.

New TrocaderosThe New Trocaderos, Kick Your Ass: The New Trocaderos are a mini-Supergroup consisting of Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer of The Connection and Kurt Baker, perennial favorites of this site. My review of the band’s double-sided single released in late-2013 can be found here. They’ve returned with three new songs co-written by pal Michael Chaney. True to its title, this one gives you a swift and powerful kick to the backside, or rather several swift and powerful kicks to the backside.

Baker gets the festivities started with “Real Gone Kitty,” and takes you back to the days when Jerry Lee Lewis was boppin’ at the high school hop and Joey Dee was doin’ the Peppermint Twist. The guitars scream like banshees on this one, and the piano keys fly by at a mile a minute thanks some nifty vintage playing by Kris “Fingers” Rodgers. You won’t be able to sit still while this one is on. In fact, you quite likely will need to take a breather and get some water after working your way through this two-minute-and-change romp:


Palmer takes over lead vox on “Dream Girl,” which you will swear was a big hit back in the summer of ’65 with its pretty jangling guitars and equally gorgeous harmonizing. Personal experience says it will be ringing around in your head the moment you wake up in the morning:


Marino grabs lead vocals on “Brain Gone Dead,” the most “modern” of the three songs with its Ramones-like vibe straight out of 1976. This one is quite a  bopper. It runs a whole minute-and-a-half, and sports lyrics like “Take ten reds/Quart of gin/Notify/Next of kin.” It’s Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” stripped to its essence:


Get Kick Your Ass.


Right here.

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Jennie VeeJennie Vee, Die Alone: Vee puts a contemporary sheen onto late-80s/early-90s indie pop from her apartment in New York. She describes her sound on her Bandcamp page as including “pop punk,” “post-punk revival” and “shogaze.”

All of that is quite apparent from the ringing opening guitar riffs of the title track of her five-song EP. It will transport you to an underground dance club sometime in the 1980s. The next track, “Wicked,” cuts the gloom with a nice, almost sing-a-long chorus:

“Say Goodbye” is updated noise pop. The closer, “Gone Away,” is a kiss off to the definitive jerk that will have you unconsciously tapping your feet to its syncopated vibe.

Die Alone is a promising debut. Hopefully, Vee has more in the pipeline. You can get Die Alone right here.

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Soft Peaks

Soft Peaks, Altocumular: Soft Peaks is a Baltimore-based band that skillfully dishes out traditional, no-frills guitar-based Power Pop on its second five-track EP of 2014.

Bright and shiny guitar riffs open “All The Way,” and set the tone for what follows.  “Everybody Wants Her” is an unassuming bit of guitar pop with the best hooks on the collection:

The band also can also rock harder, as displayed on “Winemakr” (spelled correctly) and the noisy and stomping closing track, “New Mean::

The two Soft Peaks EPs released in 2014 make for quite a nice longplayer of basic, enjoyable Powerpop. Sometimes that’s the best tonic after a tough day in the jungle. You can get Altocumular right here.


Three EPs You Should Buy

EPs are all over the map. Some are short, worthwhile bursts of creativity. Some are afterthoughts and throw-aways. Some are collections of odds and ends with varying degrees of interest. Some find the artist sitting in a holding pattern.

Here are three recently released EPs that are quite worthy of your attention and, perhaps more importantly, your hard-earned cash.

Cliff Hillis, Song Machine: This seven-song EP was inspired by a weekly songwriting group to which Hillis belongs. Each of the songs is intricately drawn, and Hillis has a keen ability to add touches of drama, detail and personal observation to his compositions. Clever phrasing abounds on Song Machine, but Hillis is also able to take a step back and apply restraint and a light touch when necessary.

I’ve written previously about the opening track, “Dashboard,” and called it one of the twenty coolest songs released so far this year. Its understated drama commands your undivided attention immediately upon releasing its opening lines over a simple, strummed acoustic guitar, rumbling bass and drum: “Put your feet up on the dashboard, I don’t mind/we can talk but if not, then that’s just fine.” The tension builds until a piano kicks off a 40 second instrumental closing just as the evening drive comes to an end:


“Dashboard” is hard to follow, but the remainder of Song Machine keeps up quite nicely.

“Turn On A Dime” could be a typical pop love song, but it’s not. Yeah, she might be able to “stand with Marilyn Monroe” when all made up and with everything else in place, “but the you that I love best, has your hair all in a mess/and overalls, or nothing on at all. “Just One More” rounds out its jangling guitars with a swinging, late-60s Bacharach-like vibe. “Could You Be The Enemy” fairly rocks and will keep your head bouncing for its duration. “Goodnight Sunlight” closes the collection by cleverly playing its theme of emotional storm and sorrow against a quiet and warm acoustic arrangement in front of Hillis’ sumptuous vocal.

Song Machine is beautifully written, performed and recorded throughout its all-too-brief time with the listener. Run, don’t walk, to wherever you purchase fine music and get yourself a copy.

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The Persian Leaps, Drive, Drive, Delay: The Persian Leaps is a self-described “noise pop” band from Saint Paul, Minnesota that sprinkles its melodic pop exercises with well-placed fuzz guitar sounds and, well, noise. The result is a wonderful five-song EP drenched in late-80s and early-90s indie-rock stylings. That does not make it retro. It makes it compelling.

The lead single, “Pretty Boy,” does a nice job of pounding itself relentlessly into your consciousness for two-minutes-and-change. You likely won’t be able to get this one out of your head for quite some time:

The opening track, “Fire Starter,” seems like it’s all guitars, even though it not. That’s a very good thing. “(Goodbye To) South Carolina” adds a subtle chiming guitar to its full mix of pretty guitar noise. Guitars also carry the day on the mid-tempo “Truth = Consequences.” In a collection of otherwise two-minute plus songs that pass at the speed of light, the nearly five-minute closing track, “Permission,” is practically epic. It has a hypnotic, soaring quality that needs all that time to say its peace.

Drive, Drive, Delay is one of the best guitar records I have heard in quite some time. It drops on September 12. You will be able to get it right here, and you most certainly should do so.

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The 286, EP:  This is full-fledged symphonic pop-rock in the intentionally ELO vein, with violins and cellos complimenting the basic bass-guitars-drum approach. EP is a mini-EP, with three songs and a separate “radio edit” of its centerpiece, “Let The Rain Fall Down,” a gorgeous song driven by the string instruments:


“Miracle On 286th Street” is a three-and-a-half minute instrumental that nicely conveys a sense of movement. “Little Louisa” is an old-school stomping rocker punctuated by those violins and cellos:


EP comes and goes in about twelve minutes, which makes it a perfect interlude when time is pressed.

Cheap Thrills From The New Trocaderos And Quiz Kids

The Quiz Kids

Tapped out by the holidays? Here are two brief recent releases that deliver big bang for small coin.

Quiz Kids, Dynamite!: Quiz Kids is a three-piece “supergroup” of sorts recording for the “micro label,” February Records. This three-song EP was produced, in part, by Mitch Easter, who previously helmed long-players for R.E.M., Game Theory and Velvet Crush, among others.

The Velvet Underground is the most prominent reference point here. The band blends elements of noise pop with strong melodies and an occasional jangle. A lo-fi, analog feel permeates the EP. To that end, Easter assists with an electric sitar on one track, while the other two feature an Electone organ and a Moog synthesizer.

The best of the three offerings, “I Want You To Know,” recalls The Velvets’ “I Can’t Stand It,” with its persistent, steady rhythm and minimal changes:

Dynamite! won’t actually cost you any coin at all, since you can get it free right here, or you can name your own price and drop some cash into the tip jar.

New Trocaderos The New Trocaderos, S/T. This is a two-sided single from Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer of The Connection (which released the No. 14 song on my year-end list of the 20 best songs of 2013), and Kurt Baker. There is nothing fancy at all here. It’s just good old-fashioned rock and roll done flawlessly.

The lead track, “Money Talks” is about as old school as they come, with its Chuck Berry-style lead guitar over a basic rock rhythm and blues structure bolstered by perfectly placed harmonies. “Well money talk and boo–she–waw,” Marino sings a couple of times in this tale of love lost to the guy with the much bigger bank account. Words to live by.

Baker takes lead vocal on “The Kids,” a thematic update on the MC5’s “Shakin’ Street” set amid a tight and shiny New Wave/Power Pop groove ripped from the late-70s. “The Kids” is a paean to the potentially transcendent power of rock and roll. No matter how bad things can get growing up in a seemingly nowhere place, there’s always the music to lead the way: “Sometimes my parents take my records away/But that don’t matter, they’re all in my head/Playing all night and all day, yeah.” Yes, indeed:

So, what are you waiting for? Plunk down a couple of dollars, and get five cool songs you probably haven’t heard yet. Your wallet will hardly notice the difference.

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