Fitz and the Tantrums Album Review

Fitz and The Tantrums
Fitz and The Tantrums

Fitz and the Tantrums More Than Just a Dream Album Review

Over the past five years, this sextet out of Los Angeles has carved a nice fan following in the United States based on their fun pop rock and famously energetic live shows.  On the just-released More Than Just a Dream, they build on that success and cement their reputation as rising stars on the American music landscape.

The band is the vision of Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, who shares co-lead vocals with the talented female lead Noelle Scaggs.  The-six piece band is quite diverse, boasting copious amounts of brass, synthesizer, hand claps and percussion in their creative mix.  It’s an eclectic, honest mix of music that’s just a blast to listen to.

The songs throughout the album are hard to categorize, as we see the band weave nicely between a few different genres.  It’s all pop rock but at various times we hear influences of  soul, disco and alt-rock. The album opener “Out of My League” is a bit of the latter, and it’s an addictive catchy tune. It already gets plenty of play on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation and is destined to become the band’s biggest hit to date.

More Than Just a Dream, their Elektra Records debut, is a fitting successor to their rambunctious 201o breakthrough  Pickin’ Up the Pieces. Fitz is still true to his musical roots and the band continues to evolve nicely. The music is captivating and the album is jammed with catchy singalong numbers; perfectly suited for the arena tour they are about to embark on with Bruno Mars.  The hard-working road warriors are famous for their energy-filled live sets, and actually do a good job capturing that charisma on these dozen tracks.

“The Walker” is a tremendous offering.  At first glance it’s a happy, bouncy journey, but the lyrics belie a dark tale of obsession.  We also find a few tracks highlighting Fitz’s struggles with matters of the heart including the appropriately titled “The End.”  “Break the Walls” is a guaranteed fan favorite; the fantastically produced song features the best vocals on the album and beautifully spotlights Scaggs’ voice.

Check out the link below and give it a listen, and let us know what you think of the band’s imaginative new album..

Rock On!

Cayucas – The New Sound of Summer

Cayucas Bigfoot Album Review

Once I learned that Cayucas is a hip Southern California surf town, I immediately understood the derivation of this intriguing band’s name. The band, the brainchild of Zach Yudin, has an absolutely distinctive Alt-Rock sound highlighted by a cool sixties surf vibe that dominates their intriguing debut album, Bigfoot.

Cayucas - Bigfoot Album Cover
Cayucas – Bigfoot Album Cover

“Cayucos” kicks off the Bigfoot and nicely sets the tone.  It’s a catchy tune that just drips with Southern California cool.  It’s a creative song that just gets better with every playing.  Yudin’s superb writing coupled with Richard Swift’s fantastic production help set this song and the entire album apart from anything else on the market today.

The first single from the album, “High School Lover,” is a captivating microcosm of the album. It’s part Beach Boys, part Vampire Weekend, and 100% original and entertaining. The song features tribal drum beats, fun vocals and catchy lyrics, creating a stripped-down addictive gem.  It’s the spotlight selection on an album that is going to be a 2013 summer highlight.

Two other excellent tracks are “A Summer Thing” and “Will the Thrill.” The first actually conjures up classic images of the late 60’s music of The Crystals with a modern twist, and the latter a more comfortable alternative rock groove with a slick surf guitar. On these songs and throughout the album, we see creative diversity that sets Cayucas apart from anything else on the market today.

Bigfoot should appeal to anyone looking for a cool summer album and is destined for the same breakthrough success we experienced with Jack Johnson’s 2001 debut and Vampire Weekend’s first effort in 2008.  It’s a distinctive and polished debut destined to be a summer staple for years to come.

Check it out and buy it on iTunes below.

Rock On!

Blondfire Where the Kids Are EP Review

Blondfire’s Where the Kids Are EP Review

As far as sneak previews go, this one is quite enthralling.

Blondfire is a talented brother-sister combination from Los Angeles by way of Michigan who recently released the attention-grabbing Where the Kids Are. The EP is an advance preview of their Modern Art/Warner Bros. Records debut, Young Heart, and deftly spotlights the tremendous talent of siblings Bruce and Erica Driscoll, and certainly whets our appetite for the full release later this year.

Blondfire Where the Kids Are EP Cover
Blondfire Where the Kids Are EP Cover

The children of musically inclined parents of Brazilian-American descent, the Driscolls have been writing, producing and performing their own music for years. As we see on this EP, they’ve mastered the art.  Erica Driscoll plays keyboards and guitars while her brother Bruce drives the scintillating beats.  The music is original and pure catchy pop, but, it’s Erica’s vocals that dominate the EP.  Her voice is engaging, hypnotic and absolutely addictive.

The EP offers a nice cross-section of the duo’s abilities, highlighted by the perfect summertime rocker “Waves.”  This track grabs your attention from the opening guitar riff and keeps you hooked throughout.  Erica’s vocals are sweet and pretty (can you say that on a rock record), but offer a subtle edge that is captivating, and that meshes perfectly with the hypnotic music.  It’s a sure-fire hit guaranteed to be one of the tunes that defines the summer of 2013.

The title track, “Where the Kids Are” is another excellent song and one that deservedly saw plenty of airplay on Sirius XM’s Alt-Nation.  It’s a bit of a darker sound featuring nice drums from Bruce Driscoll, and dominated by Erica’s keyboard lines.

The other two tracks are solid. Bruce contributes prominent background vocals to the catchy “Hide and Seek,” and “Walking With Giants” hearkens  back nice eighties flash backs, where Erica conjures up sweet memories of the talented Teri Nunn. There’s also a fifth track that I’ve seen floating around, which is killer remake of Atlas Genius’ hit single “Trojans.”

If you haven’t already done it, grab the EP below to hold you over until the full album is released.

Rock On!


Central Florida May Concert Calendar

May Rock Music Calendar

It’s a great month Rock And Roll Animals with a diverse appetite for rock music.  The weekend of May 17th in Orlando is a whole month’s worth of great, and very different rock music packed into three fantastic nights – from the ultimate in classic rock, to some great new punk and a killer free show.  Over the rest of the month there is amazing alternative rock all over the schedule.  Lots of stuff to choose from, especially when you add in Jacksonville and Tampa area shows.  Nice…


05/01 – The Black Crowes, House of Blues

05/02 – The Airborne Toxic Event, The Beacham. One of the most talented rock bands touring today. This show is a must see. Rescheduled to 6/8

05/02 – Willie Nelson, Savannah Center (The Villages)

05/03 – Suicidal Tendencies, The Plaza Live.  Remember catching these guys in Philly just as they were starting out. fun show…

05/04 – Of Montreal, The Social

05/05 – Crosby, Stills & Nash, Hard Rock Live – Legendary.

05/06 – The Joy Formidable, The Social – Excellent live Alt-Rockers we got to check out in a short festival set last year. Looking forward to their headlining set. See our review.

05/08 – Phoenix, House of Blues – This band is HOT. This will likely be your last chance to see them in a small venue.

05/10 – Cheap Trick, Hard Rock Live – Always a great show!
05/10 – Alkaline Trip, House of Blues

05/17 – The Bastard Suns, The West End (Sanford) – This Atlanta-based group is fantastic live. Punk, ska, reggae mix at one of our favorite local venues. See a recent review.
05/17 – Bloc Party, The Beacham.  Fun Alt-rock.

05/18 – Paul McCartney, Amway Center. The biggest show ever in Orlando. His first of two amazing night. See our preview.
05/18 – Brett Michaels, Downtown Orlando
05/18 – Starship Starring Mickey Thomas, Epcot Center – Another rock legend on a two night Orlando gig. See our show review.

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05/19 – Paul McCartney, Amway Center – Night two, and then he’s off to tour the world.
05/19 – Starship Starring Mickey Thomas, Epcot Center

05/21 – The Hush Sound and Hockey, The Social

05/23 – Bad Veins, The Social – Ben Davis’s band. Good stuff.
05/23 – The Original Wailers, Milken’s Reef (Port Canaveral)

05/24 – Yngwie Malmsteen, The Plaza Live

05/30 – The Fixx, Hard Rock Hotel. Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions, Orlando’s Best (and only) Rock And Roll cocktail party.

05/31 – Ours, The Social


Cheap concert tickets


05/02 – The Smashing Pumpkins, St. Augustine Amphitheatre

05/03 – Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent, St. Augustine Amphitheatre – Three excellent midwestern American classic rock acts.

05/05 – Bob Dylan, St. Augustine Amphitheatre
05/05 – Donna the Buffalo, Freebird Live

05/08 – Black Francis (aka Frank Black), Jax Underbelly

05/11 – Imagine Dragons, St. Augustine Amphitheatre.  Super hot Alt-Rockers.

05/17 – Crosby, Stills & Nash, Florida Theatre

05/24 – Sevendust, The Roc Bar


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Cheap concert tickets

Tampa Area

05/01 – The Airborne Toxic Event, State Theatre (Saint Petersburg) Rescheduled to 6/9
05/01 – Peter Murphy, Orpheum
05/01 – Willie Nelson, Ruth Eckard Hall (Clearwater)

05/03 – Funshine Music Festival, Florida State Fairgrounds. Train, The Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Youngblood Hawke and more, and at a fantastic price!

05/04 – Donna the Buffalo, Jannus Live (Saint Petersburg)
05/04 – Funshine Music Festival, Florida State Fairgrounds.  REO Speedwagon, Styx, Ted NugentWe The Kings, New Found Glory and more.

05/05 – The Joy Formidable, State Theatre (Saint Petersburg)
05/05 – The Wallflowers, Funshine Music Festival, Florida State Fairgrounds.

05/07 – Crosby, Stills & Nash, Van Wezel Perf. Arts Hall (Sarasota)

05/18 – Bryan Adams, Van Wezel Perf. Arts Hall (Sarasota)
05/18 – The Original Wailers, State Theatre (Saint Petersburg)

05/22 – Bad Veins, The Crowbar

05/23 – The Hush Sound and Hockey, State Theatre (Saint Petersburg)

05/26 – Sevendust, State Theatre (Saint Petersburg)
05/26 – Yngwie Malmsteen, Orpheum

05/30 – Everclear, Live, Filter and Sponge, Mahaffey Theater (Saint Petersburg) – Part of the bands’ Summerland Tour.  Everclear always puts on a killer set. Live and Filter are great live artists, too.

05/31 – The Fixx, Capitol Theatre (Clearwater) – Cy Curnin is an excellent and talented front man, definitely worth checking out live.



Asia- Heat of the Moment Left Me Cold

ASIA, Featuring John Payne Show Review

How do you review a show where the band and the audience were falling asleep?

Asia featuring John Payne, was just that… Painful.  The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando featured the band at their monthly Velvet Sessions.  The crowd of about 400 people, seemed extremely excited on anticipation of the performance of the band. But, from the moment they came on, all I could think is that these guys are “collecting a paycheck”.

When John Payne started introducing a song that they were about to play, and then said, “wait a minute, we just played that one,” you could sense that they really weren’t there. For the rest of the show, no interaction, no excitement. Lots of “look at me, I’m from Asia” stares. You could sense from everyone, “let’s get this done so I can continue at the bar.”

The only 2 songs that the crowd was really excited about were “Heat of the Moment,” and “Only Time Will Tell.” And, lets not forget “Sole Survivor,” which is what I labeled myself after the show.



Editor: I caught the show, too, and generally have to agree with Luc. The show was uninspiring and rather boring, which is hard to believe with the catalog of hits ASIA had to offer. There was a definite buzz in the room before the band took the stage, but that quickly diminished, to the point where half the crowd disappeared  when the open bar did.  Thankfully, the Hard Rock staff still does an amazing job with the sessions, the food and the drinks.

I saw ASIA in their heyday.  This was not ASIA. Sure, John Payne played with the band as the replacement for John Wetton, basically after he, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe left.  That version of the band released a slew of mediocre albums that never got a sniff of airplay and rightfully disappeared into oblivion, where they should have stayed.  This crowd was here to see the ASIA songs that were hits, and that’s not what Payne delivered; instead we got the Payne-era mediocrity.

Truthfully, the musicians were talented and we did get a nice drum/keyboard solo in the middle of the set, but these guys are understandably not at the level of the original line-up.  If Payne is going to take advantage of the name, it is unconscionable that he doesn’t put his pride aside and play all of the early stuff.  It’s pretty simple; precious few folks were there to see John Payne, they were there to hear ASIA hits. Next time, make it less Payne-ful on everyone and give the people what they want.

OK, America – It’s Time to get on Frank Turner’s Bandwagon

Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart Album Review

Frank Turner has quietly became a huge star in his native England, while illogically wallowing in relative mainstream obscurity in the States. He’s a relentless road warrior famous for delivering fantastic live shows, and is a prolific song-writer with an excellent catalog of songs. I suspect he’s quite happy with his cult following in the States, where he’s never really had a commercial breakthrough, but that is about to change.

Tape Deck Heart, Turner’s Fifth solo album is a rare marriage of stirring song-writing and creative passionate music. Turner is a talented poet, sincere story-teller and tremendous musician, and he’s created a fantastic album, destined to be prominently included in 2013’s year-end Best Albums lists.

The 31 year-old Turner is the former front-man for hardcore punk rockers Million Dead. Since going off on his own, he has shifted to more of an acoustic driven sound as a solo artist. On Tape Deck Heart, we see a perfect melding of the strumming folk troubadour and the fervid punk rocker.  The sound is unique and Turner pulls it off perfectly. We hear a roller-coaster of lyrics that effortlessly transforms from hopefulness to resignation to bitterness and despair before sneaking back to optimism: just magnificent.

If you’re not familiar with Frank Turner, and are looking for a comparison, there’s not truly an easy match.  At times I thought of the best traits of artists such as The Lemonheads (before Evan Dando imploded), The Replacements, Chuck Ragan and Flogging Molly.  An eclectic mix, but damn good company.

Recovery” is the first single off of the album and already one of the year’s top songs. It’s a catchy, bouncy tune that is pure addiction. The lyrics belie the poppy sound, as they reflect a desperate, if not unrealistic attempt to recover from a failed relationship. Turner’s vocals are wide-ranging and captivating; nicely accompanied by a rollicking piano and guitar driven backdrop.  “Losing Days” is another song cut from the same cloth, and an excellent track on it’s own.

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On the opposite side of the spectrum is the tender “Tell Tale Signs,” The stark song kicks off with a cold “Goddammit Amy,” and then shares a sad tale of love lost. “Like nothing really matters, Like pain doesn’t hurt, You should mean more to me by now, Than just a heartbreak in a short skirt.” The entire song is a lyrical gem and great story; one of many samples of Turner’s story-telling magic.

The best song is the fantastic “Four Simple Words.” It’s a 5 minute roller coaster ride that just oozes creative genius. The song starts as a slow meandering tome accompanied by minimalist piano, then a bit of a hopeful plea (those four words) “I want to dance,” before exploding into a raucous punk rock anthem.  The vocals are diverse and captivating, and the lyrics again superb. It’s a brilliant song, and sadly one that will never get a sniff of airplay on our stale American radio outlets, but stand assured, this will quickly become a highlighted staple in his live shows.

“The way I Tend To Be” and “Polaroid” are two more tracks with the potential to be hits that you’ll find bouncing around in your head.  At the other end of the scale is the slow, heart-wrenching “Broken Piano,” and the farewell ballad “Anymore.”  The album is masterfully produced by Rich Costey (Muse, NIN) who does a nice job highlighting Turner’s distinctive voice and giving the album a great feel and flow.

We hear the refrain too often that rock music is dead. It’s not, there’s still some fantastic stuff from the likes of The Black Keys, The Drowning Men and Foo Fighters; now, it’s safe to add Frank Turner to that list. Go out, buy the album below and help save rock ‘n roll.

I’ll leave you with this quote from “Four Simple Words:” “Somebody told me that music with guitars was going out of fashion and I had to laugh. This shit wasn’t fashionable when I fell in love. If the hipsters move on, why should I give a fuck?”

Rock On!

RARA's Choice Plus (9/10)
RARA’s Choice Plus (9/10)

(see RARA’s rating system)

P.S. Follow Frank on Twitter – he’s a caustic intelligent guy and always entertaining. @frankturner

Brit Floyd – Wished you were here.

Brit Floyd Show Review

So here I go again attending another cover band on Sunday night. I guess since I really can’t afford the prices of the real band, cover band it is.   Brit Floyd (Pink Floyd cover) played on Sunday at Hard Rock Live in Orlando.  This was a new venue for Brit Floyd because they had never played at the Hard Rock.  The crowd of about 2000 people were treated to a musical and visual smorgasbord that showcased the band’s professional and musical talents.

The talented band consisted of Damian Darlington (Musical director, guitar, lapsteel and vocals), Ian Cattell (Bass guitar, vocals) , Bobby Harrison (guitar, vocals), Rob Stringer (Keyboards, vocals), Rick Benbow (Keyboard), Arran Ahmun (Drums), Carl Brunsdon (Saxophone, bass,  percussion, clarinet, keyboard), Emily Jolland, Jacquie Williams and Rosalee O’Connell (Vocals).

This Brit Floyd concert, was more of a rock show than just music.  Granted, the music sounded incredible, but the stage show with lights, lasers, video and choreographed movement by everyone was really a spectacle for all  senses.

The show opened with “In the Flesh” with Carl Brunsdon alone on stage with a clarinet which then exploded into the full spectacle of the song. It showed the audience what they were going to experience over the remainder of the set. With Pink Floyd, there are so many great songs to choose from and this band did a great job of playing all the best from across their entire catalog.  When the band changed from one album to another, we viewed a video of a child going through different albums and picking out the one in which the songs were being played from – a cool touch.

As expected, “Money,” “Mother,” “Wish  You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb,” received the biggest pop from the crowd and the encore of “Run like Hell” was a great finish to a great show.

I walked into the Hard Rock with minimal expectations and 2 1/2 hours later, walked out thinking, I am glad I was here…



In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Welcome to the Machine
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
Pigs on the Wing Part 1
Take It Back
Coming Back to Life
Keep Talking
High Hopes
The Great Gig in the Sky
Wish You Were Here
One of These Days
Comfortably Numb
Run Like Hell

The Thermals Desperate Ground Album Review

The Thermals – Desperate Ground

Desperate Ground immediately grabs your attention, kicking off with vintage Thermals. “Born To Kill” races through a minute and 49 seconds of pure rapid-fire post-pop-punk.  It’s vintage Thermals with Hutch Harris railing against the Marines’ Born To Kill mentality and the way their recruits are “transformed” into killing machines.  It’s a sign of things to come on an album that reflects on the desperate war times in our country and the dubious fruits of war. It’s a killer track, and the band’s most hit-worthy offering since 2009’s “Now You Can See.”

The Portland, Oregon trio is possibly a bit less caustic on this, their 6th release, and if anything, a bit more melodic.  The album, their first for Saddle Creek was produced by John Agnello of Sonic Youth fame. It’s polished at times and raw and stripped down at others. It fits the music well; a powerful album and a good listen. The tracks weave together nicely making it an album, not a random collection of  songs.  The lyrics are missing some of Harris’s anti George W. venom and not quite as riveting in this new Obamian bliss, but still attention grabbing and worth reflection.

The songs are stories, albeit short stories, reflecting on the protagonist’s inner battles with war and turmoil, but tinged with just a sliver of romantic hope.  “I Go Alone” is a highlight track and nice microcosm of Desperate Ground. We hear an inner battle between the savage side of war and the glimmer of hope presented by a love left back at home.  Hutch Harris offers a dark yet hopeful tale in his distinctive, powerful vocals: “Each night I dream of a war; Each one greater than the one before; A cold dark force, it hangs above; I have to leave to save you, my love.”

Check it out on iTunes: Desperate Ground – The Thermals

The best cut on the album is “The Sword By My Side.” It’s stripped down, effectively under-produced, garage stomp.  Kathy Foster’s breakneck bass drives the song and Harris’s guitar and vocals are superb. The soldier’s proclamations of his invincibility are tinged with detached doubt as the song rocks to a close. Good stuff!

The ten-song offering is a non-stop blitzkrieg of powerful pop-punk. comparable to late 90’s Green Day (or last decade’s Thermals). The lyrics, no longer focused on right-wing protestations, deftly focus on war and violence and are poignant, unlike so much cookie cutter crap flooding the market these days.  Check it out and let us know what you think?

Rock On!

RARAs Choice (160x102) (see RARA’s rating system)

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