Los Breakdowns and Wits End

Los Breakdowns

Los Breakdowns “Rock and Roller Skates”

Nottingham, UK exports Los Breakdowns are heavy rock with a touch of glam punk, similar to The Jam, Thin Lizzy or Slade with sizzling riffs leading the way, like on the opener “UK Youth.”It also recalls the late 70’s power pop movement on “Rock City Limit,” or the slower rock ballad “It Ain’t Over.” We’ve reviewed their earlier album, and they’ve aged quite well.

Through the buzzsaw chords of “Sweet Pamela Jayne” and “Sometimes I Try To Hold On,” you’ll hear the longing and classic anthems that will stick with you. Not sure why the band added “Los” to replace the “The” in their name, my guess its some legal technicality. Either way this is a keeper. My favorite here is “Waiting On Perfection,” but everything sounds great. Highly Recommended.

power pop

Amazon

Wits End

Wits End “Up To Here”

Longtime San Fernando Valley buddies singer/guitarist Tom Robinson and bassist Joe Peters, brought together by a shared love for the great tradition of guitar-based rock songwriting to create Wits End. Veterans of the indie club circuit, they carefully prepared and delivered a new album, Up To Here.

“Cold Exterior” is pretty traditional indie power pop, similar to Nick Heyward or The Gin Blossoms with a both classic and modern influences. “Darla’s Night To Shine” is an early standout painting a great character study. The shimmering guitar on “Face It” is along the lines of The Orange Peels, or early REM and Tom Robinson’s vocal carries the song well. The fuzz is turned up on “High On Prednisone,” but it didn’t seem to work with the melody. A much better job is done on “Is this for Real,” but few songs stuck with me at the albums mid-point. It does get better toward the end, highlights include “Time To Go” and my favorite song here “Validated.” Overall, a talented group that’s worth multiple listens.
power pop

Amazon | CD Baby

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Love Axe and Sidewalk Driver

Love Axe

Love Axe “South Dakota”

L.A. based band led by Chris Hatfield (not the astronaut) and assisted by band mates Joelle Barrios (bass), Erik Cline (guitar) and Mike Ambs (drums). They do a great job with the opener “Baby To Bed,” a striking ear worm that’s all about finishing what you start, and burying the hatchet. “Only Gonna Tear You Apart” is another engaging gem that’s part Fountains of Wayne, part Sloan.

The band stays on an even keel, “Such a Waste of a Good Thing” has a little more fuzz guitar and “Please” mines acoustic folk as a change of pace. The epic 7 minute “All That’s Gold Will Turn To Black (Part 2)” lingers a bit too long, but the band rights the ship on the solid roots rocker “Irresponsible” and then “Daughter Of A Diplomat” and “Microwave” are consistently great. Many songs just stick your head for days – Highly Recommended.
power pop

Amazon


Los Breakdowns

Sidewalk Driver “My Face”

A mixed group of players led by Tad McKitterick’s vocals and Jared Egan’s lead guitar deliver many flavors of rock and roll. Do you like classic guitar led melodic rock? Then go for “Kidnapped” or “Everybody Loves My Face” with its major chord riffs and wild guitar breaks. Or maybe you prefer a more new wave rock  try “Call My Name,” which is closer to Guns N’ Roses meets Patty Smyth.

You can’t discount guitarist Kate Murdoch’s additional vocal which makes each song she sings on stand out just enough. Or if you’re looking for a Glam strutting intro theme, “Five Steps” is a perfectly catchy gem. Following that is the danceable rhythm of “Because I Want You.” The charm starts to wear a bit on the five minute drama of a “Rock Star” who’s brokenhearted, but overall its an impressive album. Give it a try.
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Singles: Jared Lekites, The Davenports and Timmy Sean

Jared Lekites

Jared Lekites “Five Separate Lives/And It’s Over”

I may rethink my policy of no single reviews when I hear something this good. Jared has produced a single so catchy I can loop it my player and not get tired of it. Not much to say except I hope an album follows this gem of a single. The B-side “And It’s Over” has a little Jeff Lynne in its DNA, with its casual strum over a repeated muti-tracked chorus. Get it at Bandcamp only.


The Davenports

The Davenports “Leanne”

A new single a month is the strategy from The Davenports. We are on month three and Scott Klass is a master of the guitar hook and proves it once again with “Leanne.” The band also has a free EP out there, a reworking of “Five Steps” from the A&E show Intervention, and a new track “Away From Me.” Its like Chinese water torture getting a song a month, but I’ll take it… Only on Bandcamp.

The Davenports

Timmy Sean “Gimme Everything”

Timmy Sean has a better idea: a single each week. You get immediate gratification from the talented musician. And stylistically he’s all over the place, but I like this very Lenny Kravitz-like rocker “Gimme Everything.” You do get a series of covers and some live tracks – so if you want originals you can pick and choose. Other gems I liked are “Everything I Want” and “One Dimensional Man.” Get all of them over at Bandcamp.

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The Figgs and The Zags

The Figgs

The Figgs “Other Planes of Here”

It’s hard to come up with another band that’s been playing great music for over twenty years with consistency like The Figgs. After 2013’s career-spanning Anthology, the trio of Mike Gent, Pete Donnelly and Pete Hayes move forward. And like an expensive Cabernet, these guys get better with age.

Donnelly is a perfect example of a music machine, between his own solo work, NRBQ and The Figgs he’s like the Energizer bunny and it’s perfectly illustrated on “Late Nights and Early Flights” where a catchy melody drifts off into an echoing chaotic piano coda. “Wealthy Women” is more standard barroom rock and roll that fits right in with The Rolling Stones or The Satisfactors. The thick wah-wah and funky bass leads into the excellent “Oh My.” However this short album (8 tracks) starts to mellow out after “In A Small Hospital” jams away. No matter what, I’ll always be psyched to listen to The Figgs.
power pop

Amazon

The Zags

The Zags “The Zags”

Last years excellent EPs give way to a full album for this retro influenced Portland band. The Zags approach relies on David Ricardo’s distinct vocal and it carries things on “Play It Loud” and “Still Life.” The retro feel is toned down a bit as The Zags find their own style here.

“Frozen Toes” is a memorable, prog influenced song and keyboardist Rachel Broach carries “Not Your Meant-to-be” really well. The Zags make each track compelling listening, standouts being “Waves,” “Get Smart” and the psychedelic end track “Secret Staircase.” Highly Recommended.
power pop

Bandcamp only

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Michael Brown passes away.

Michel BrownMichael Brown, the keyboard player and songwriter whose brief tenure with the Left Banke produced the band’s classic hits “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina,” has passed away at the age of 65. Brown was an innovative composer and a genius level songwriter. Although Michael didn’t create the “baroque pop” sound, he was one of the few who perfected it.

Brown worked magic wherever he went, in 1968 with the band Montage and joining up with bassist and singer Ian Lloyd to form Stories. Stories got a No. 1 hit with a 1974 cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Brother Louie,”  prominently used as the theme music for Louie C.K.’s TV show. The late ’70s Brown’s next band, the Beckies released an LP, but he is mainly known for those great early singles. Brown briefly reunited with the Left Banke at a New York performance in April 2012. R.I.P. Michael, your music lives on…



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