Category Archives: Music Reviews

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Hunter Valentine Album Review

Riding a surge of momentum fresh off of their recent appearances on the Showtime TV series, The Real L Word, Hunter Valentine has exploded onto the rock scene with their latest power-packed release Collide and Conquer. These three Canadian women continue to grow musically on this, their third release.

Make no mistake, this is not your typical chick rock. The threesome tears through eleven cuts that grab you by the ears and force you to take notice.  It’s good, tough rock that demands airplay. Hunter Valentine has a unique sound that sometimes reminds of a more muscular No Doubt and occasionally conjures up comparisons to Nancy Wilson and Courtney Love, but these women and their talented singer Kiyomi McCloskey truly have their own sound.

From the opening notes of the power rocker “Liar Liar” we’re captured by creative guitar, hard driving drums and aggressive bass.  It’s a tried and true recipe for power rock music success and a bit refreshing in today’s synth-dominated landscape. It’s even more refreshing to have this sound paired with an intriguing female threesome. “Liar Liar,” the first song is a gritty rock track with addictive guitar riffs and edgy vocals.  Good stuff and a great way to kick off the album.

Talented Canadian producer  Greig Nori, of Iggy Pop and  Sum 41 fame, does a superb job weaving between McCloskey’s hard-edged vocals and the band’s layered melodies, all interspersed with a gritty musical backdrop.  It’s a diverse mix that for the most part works extremely well. There are a few tracks that are uninspiring, but they are far outweighed by creative, hard-driving rockers.

I enjoyed the edgier tracks, but suspect the majority of listeners will gravitate to the more mainstream tracks, such as the hit-waiting-to-happen “The Bull Rides Tonight.” It’s reminiscent of so many great arena rockers from the late eighties, and could be a hit in any generation, including today. “Nowhere to Run” is another cut along the same vein, a little too saccharine for my liking, but a cut that will probably appeal to the masses.

“Little Curse (Shit Happens)” is an excellent tune.  It has a great power rock sound, fantastic drums from Laura Petracca and some of McCloskey edgiest vocals.  I also found myself drawn to the upbeat bouncy sounds of “Priscilla,” a fun listen and a bit different from anything else on the album.

All told, Collide and Conquer is a refreshing, gritty release certainly worthy of a listen. Check it out below, and grab a copy on iTunes.

Rock On!

Make Your iPod the Coolest on the Block

As I’ve often said when it comes to iPods, it’s what is inside that matters.  iPod Classic, iPod Nano, iPhone 5… None of it matters if the music inside is lame.  Here are a couple of cool recommendations for you to spruce up that little old thing.  I’ve provided links to iTunes for each in the title to each selection.

“Default” – Django Django – This snappy tune was released earlier this year, but I just stumbled across it.  Check it out for a cool dance rock track that at different times reminds me of surf rock, classic T-Rex and 80’s new wave. Yeah, it’s a crazy mix, but it’s pretty damn fun.

“Ho Hey” – The Lumineers – Another fun tune.  When these guys hit it big, you can easily picture 17,000 arena fans holding their lighters (errr iPhones) on high, swaying to the music and singing along.

“Young Adult Friction” – The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – These Indie rockers from The Big Apple are a slick 80’s throwback. If you like old Cure and New Order, you’ll like this track.

“Poisonous Moves” – Young Rival  – Cool track that harkens back to good old fashioned rock and roll. The Canadian trio gives us straight-forward guitar, bass, and drums and a catchy jingly jangly rock tune.  Good stuff.

“There’s Nobody Like You and Me” – The Wildbirds You can add one more rock ‘n roll staple from Milwaukee to PBR,  This quintet reminds me a bit of  Matthew Sweet and The Thorns – this cut is a sappy, sweet, summery melody.

Reboot the Mission (feat. Mick Jones) – Wallflowers – I never would have paired Jacob Dylan and Mick Jones, but damn this works.  Jones of The Clash, shares the vocals on a tune that actually reminds more of Big Audio Dynamite.  It’s a cool reggae rock mash-up.

“In This Moment” – Blood – Screamo music as my kids say, but this one with a great edgy female voice. Maria Brink sounds great in the LA band’s latest heavy metal offering.

And one classic cut:

“Green Grass & High Tides” – Outlaws 9:51 seconds of pure absolute rock ‘n roll genius. These Floridians were known as The Florida Guitar Army.  This classic shows you why. Definitely one of the best Southern Rock songs ever. Whether you agree or think we’re nuts, let us know your Best Southern rock tracks here.

Rock On!


Luke Dowler Polarized Album Review

Luke Dowler is without a doubt my favorite musician out of Montana; okay, he’s the only artist I know of from Big Sky Country. But, based on the raw passionate rock of Polarized, his recent full length release, I’m looking forward to more rock from the state.

Dowler, a talented singer songwriter has offered up a nice diverse collection of rock ‘n roll, featuring excellent heart felt lyrics.  I’ve heard Dowler compared to Springsteen, and on some of his social commentary tunes I certainly see the resemblance, but the comparison I find myself drawn to surprisingly is Bob Marley. No, his music is certainly not reggae, it’s straight forward solid American rock ‘n roll. Dowler’s music offers raw vocals with an urgent passion, mixed with poignant lyrics about world affairs, relationships and deep personal faith.  That description also fits Marley fairly well, but the number of musicians in that circle is quite limited. Now, you can add Luke Dowler to that short list.

The album features a nice diverse mix of rock music, highlighted by thoughtful, provocative lyrics. It’s good stuff.  The opening track, “Coming Alive” is a good choice as the first single as it is a clever tune where Dowler’s gritty lyrics remind me of Mike Ness, yet it’s meshed with smooth harmonies and a nice pop sound.  “Umbrella” is another fun cut that features profound lyrics. It reminded me a bit of Randy Newman. By now, it should be apparent that Luke Dowler’s sound is hard to pigeonhole, but it’s music worth a listen.

The title track is another solid song offering up provoking social commentary, offering lyrics we should all be able to resonate with regardless of which dolt we support for President.  “These are some of the reasons we are at war,” highlights the cleaver lyrics and could certainly have different meanings depending on the listener’s interpretation.  “I want a soul like a kerosene cocktail, I want a riot, I don’t want to burn out quiet,” from the powerful arena rocker “Perseus” is a nice personal call for action.

The best track on the album is “Gun.” It’s a bit more stripped down than the rest of the album, it features Dowler’s persuasive voice accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar. “Everyone I know wants to own the world, but you can’t change the world with a gun, you can’t change without love.” Great lyrics, and quite possibly a bit Marleyesque in the messaging. A great song from an excellent American songwriter.

Check it out!

Mike G.

Green River Ordinance Album Review

From the first notes of the catchy opening track “Dark Night,” to the excellent closing track “Lost In the World” these guys demand your attention.  Green River Ordinance’s brand of rock ‘n roll is hard to peg, but it’s music packed with lush melodies and fantastic harmonies in what is probably best described as Alt-Americana. The album is easy on the ears and a diverse collection of rich, comfortable musical offerings you’ll find yourself listening to repeatedly.

I was just recently introduced to this talented quintet out of Fort Worth, Texas, although the band has been on the rock scene for about a decade. They’re currently touring the country in support of their Kickstarter funded album Under Fire. Sure, I’m a little behind the curve, but nonetheless, here’s a review of the album, which is a nice broad introduction to the band that compares nicely to Train and Sister Hazel.

Lead vocalist, Josh Jenkins has a nice distinctive voice, and the band’s excellent harmonies make the vocals a focal point throughout. The line-up also features three guitarists, including Jamey Ice on lead guitar, which allows the band to offer impressive layered sounds throughout the fifteen tracks.

“Heard of Me” is an addictive tune with memorable lyrics and vocals that will stick in your head immediately.  The guitars and Denton Hunker’s drums are the perfect accompaniement to what is quite simply a damn good song that should be a mainstay on Adult Alternative radio. “Home” and “Heart of the Young” are two other songs which reek of commercial playability.

“Love Laid Down” is one of my faovrite tracks on the album.  The song features guitar and banjo and find Jenkins’ vocals in a different and compellingly interesting range.  “New Day” is another fantastic cut.  It features great keyboards and powerful drums throughout, giving it a different sound than most of the album.  Jenkins’ vocals are again excellent, and the lyrics and harmonies will stick in your memory.

Overall, Under Fire is a strong album, from a band in control of their own sound and it works extremely well.  Check it out on iTunes below.

Rock on!

You can catch the band live in Orlando at The Social on Thursday, September 20th. Click here for tickets and information for this show and the rest of their tour.


City Rain and that New Sound of Philly

The Philadelphia music scene has turned over a new leaf. I recently had the chance to check out Montage, the brand new release from Philadelphia’s City Rain.  As a former resident of The City of Brotherly Love, and a long-time fan of the Philly music scene, I was in for a pleasant surprise. City Rain is a talented duo playing a fresh electronic rock. The EP is dominated by clever lyrics, catchy synthesizers and drum machines of Ben Runyan, but also offers some smooth guitar from Jarrett Zerrer.

The title track is a fun techno dance track that reminds me a bit of the now defunct Handsome Furs. It’s a hip song with hit potential.  “I Remember” is another fun poppy track along the same vein and was my favorite cut on the album.  It brought back pleasant memories of late night techno rock under the booming speakers of The Revival, the legendary Philly after hours haunt of years gone by.

“Hearts On Fire” is a bit less techno, and a good song that slows the beat down a bit and features some nice keyboards and piano from Runyan.  There are two versions of “Big Boys Do Cry.” I’d recommend the remix version which is a good instrumental, and avoids the over-the-top three minute introduction on the original version.

I’m typically more of a five piece guitar band fan, but this EP is a a fresh new sound from The City of Brotherly Love that’s worth a listen.

Rock On!

Thousand Foot Krutch Goes Indie

SMS Audio STREET by 50

The End Is Where We Begin, the latest effort from Thousand Foot Krutch is a nice diverse album from this talented Canadian trio.  After more than a decade of successfully recording on major labels, the band has gone back to the Indie route, one of an increasing number of bands funding their release through a Kickstarter campaign, where the bands many fans actually become part of the creative process.

As is often the case when bands return to their Independent roots, we hear Thousand Foot Krutch playing their music the way they want and taking advantage of the increased creative liberties. It’s a sound that’s true to their core and it works extremely well.

The sound on The End Is Where We Begin is quite varied, at different times provoking thoughts of Linkin Park, Egypt Central and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The songs are positive Christian rock but these guys don’t slam you over the head with their beliefs.  It’s solid, active rock music that any hard rock fan will enjoy. You can almost characterize it as old-school Creed, only with a bit of raw passion and more of an edge; good stuff with diverse songs that highlight the threesome’s talent and versatility.

There are a handful of hard songs best categorized as aggressive rap-rock, with “Down” and “The War of Change” two prime examples.  “Light up the Sky” is another tune from this vein, and one that is the most likely to become a radio hit. You’ll recognize a few of these from ESPN and EA Sports highlight reels.

“I Get Wicked” is an excellent hard-driving song with catchy guitar riffs and some fun memorable lyrics.  “Let the Sparks Fly” is the best of the harder edged tunes.  It features great guitar, the powerful freight train drums of Steve Augustine and fantastic vocals from songwriter and guitarist Trevor McNevan. “The End is Where We Begin” and “We Are” are two other solid rockers with excellent vocals and nicely layered guitars and bass from McNevan and Joel Bruyere respectively.

On the softer end of the spectrum, “All I Need to Know is just a great track featuring pristine acoustic guitar and mandolin and tender vocals from McNevan.  It’s a beautiful song that should be a hit.  “So Far Gone” has a similar feel and is another nice foot-tapping acoustic gem.

All told, The End Is Where We Begin, is a broad selection of powerful, passionate rock from a veteran rock band getting to do things their own way, and it works exceptionally well. Check it out on iTunes below, and let us know what you think.

Rock On!

Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten Album Review

New Jersey rockers, The Gaslight Anthem are back with their fourth studio album, Handwritten.  The quartet out of New Brunswick have continuously evolved their sound, and continue to grow musically on this, their fourth album.

They’re often compared to that famous Garden State rocker from Asbury Park, and lead singer Brian Fallon admits the influence that Springsteen has had on his career.  But, these guys are not Springsteen clones, not by any far stretch of your imagination. Their sound reminds me much more of Paul Westerberg and The Replacements, or possibly a less punkified version of Against Me! They’ve got an edgy garage rock sound with catchy lyrics and memorable riffs.  It’s straight forward American rock and roll.

The first single off of the album, “45,” has enjoyed tremendous success on Alt-Rock radio. It’s the first cut off of Handwritten, and a great way to kick off the album, as Fallon sings about a long relationship that has run its course: “Turn the record over… I’ll see you on the flip side… Let her go, let somebody else lay at her feet.”  

The remainder of the album is filled with decent songs, but it’s not that special album we’ve come to expect from the band. Handwritten is the band’s first album on Mercury Records, after an amicable split with the typically less polished sound on Side One Dummy Records.  The result is an album with more personal lyrics, but one that is also missing some of the sharp edges we’re used to from Gaslight Anthem; in effect, we see a trade-off of musical passion for lyrical passion.

Make no mistake, it;s still a good album, and better than most of the stuff on the market, but it’s a step back from the previous efforts on The ’59 Sound and American Slang.  There is some good diversity here from the soulful classic rock sound of “Too Much Blood” and “Haul” and the powerful pop sound of “Desire” to the haunting closer “American Anthem” which highlights a tender side to Fallon’s voice, and is my favorite track on the album.

Check it out below and sample each of the songs, there’s definitely something for every rock fan from the new sound of New Jersey.

Rock On!

GTR Store

Into the Unknown with The Drowning Men

All of the Unknown – The Drowning Men

Passion… Creativity… Power… Vulnerability… Raw Emotion…

For years, these traits have defined what makes the best rock ‘n roll so special and personal. Unfortunately, today it seems to get more difficult to find, as a steady stream of Techno-driven music acts dominate the rock music landscape (see Foster the People and MGMT). It’s good stuff in its own right, but it’s just not that wonderful rock and roll that grabs you by the ears and screams that you pay attention.  Then, along came The Drowning Men.

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men - credit: Ryan Renteria

They’re back with their second full-length album release, All of the Unknown, proving that there’s still a throbbing pulse left in the rock music universe.  The album, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label builds on the success of their debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow.

The Drowning Men, out of Oceanside, California are Indie rockers with a sound that reminds a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent.  Nate ‘Nato’ Bardeen is the creative vision behind the tracks on All of the Unknown, yet all of the band members contribute, offering a unique powerful sound that builds as the songs move on.

The album kicks off with a strong track that gives you a good idea of what you’re in for. “Lost in a Lullaby,” the first single off of the album is an excellent song about a relationship that couldn’t work out. It begins with a nice keyboard intro from Gabe Messer; then Bardeen jumps in with his mandolin, and finally the remainder of the group kicks in and ratchets it up a notch.  It’s a great start and a of hint of things to come, as many of the tunes on the album build to a crescendo as the song progresses. It’s rock and roll with an orchestral flair; music that highlights a fantastic juxtaposition hard to find these days: powerful driving rock and roll, lush melodies and beautiful harmonies.

Producer Billy Mohler has really done a masterful job on this album. Guitarist James Smith and Todd Eisenkerch on bass are played off expertly against the keys from Bardeen and Messer. One hallmark of the band’s music that remains on All of the Unknown is the powerful backbone supplied by drummer Rory Dolan. The raw powerful drums are prevalent and steady throughout and absolutely appreciated in these days where computer generated drums are the norm. “I am the Beggar Man” is a strong rocker that highlights some of Dolan’s best stuff and nicely pulls together the entire band.

Bardeen’s voice is strong and infectious, and his distinctive sound meshes perfectly with the expert musicianship from his band mates.  The lyrics remain poignant and introspective as Bardeen reflects and shares captivating life experiences. This is never more prevalent than in the introspective “The Waltz.” The vocals truly shine on “Smile” a hopeful song that features Bardeen’s voice, and on one of the album’s best tracks, “Bored in a Belly,” a swaying roller-coaster ride that finds Bardeen in top form. It’s also a nice showcase for some interesting keys from both Bardeen and Messer.

“A Long, Long Walk” takes us to the other end of the spectrum. It’s a beautiful song with Bardeen reminiscing back to the last night with a long lost love. It’s a great ballad that had me repeatedly flashing back to early George Harrison. Great stuff!

The best cut on the album is “A Fool’s Campaign.” The song features excellent guitar work from Smith, pristine drum work from Dolan and tender, honest vocals from Bardeen. It’s a song that would appeal to many different genres of rock fans and hopefully another cut that will find its way to US radio. I suspect that radio play in today’s “safe” radio landscape may be a challenge to find, but would not be surprised to see these men develop the same kind of passionate following as their record label sponsors, Flogging Molly.

A few of the deeper cuts are mediocre, but there’s a slew of great music on All of the Unknown.  For sure, it is not a perfect album, but it’s the perfect tonic for our current rock ‘n roll landscape screaming for passionate, powerful rock music.

Check out the album linked above – it’s only $7.99 on iTunes! If you like reading about rock music, please take a moment to Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Rock on!

The Drowning Men concert review

Beheading of the Songbird album review