Felsen and Howie Payne


Felsen “Blood Orange Moon”

Felsen’s fifth LP was written while frontman, (and cancer survivor) Andrew Griffin hit a rough patch due to ongoing health issues. “I needed more surgery and kinda dropped off the face of the earth for a few months.” he mentioned, “after I was out of the hospital I started to amass new little song embryos on my computer. Play guitar, stare at screen. Eventually, the words and the music meet.”

The opener “Vultures On Your Bones” is a haunting tune that recalls Big Star’s Third mixed with a David Gilmour styled guitar wail. Most of the album contains thought-provoking songs with slower tempos and quieter low vocals. A little like Leonard Cohen with more guitars, the themes are of profound loss and intimacy. The fuzz crunch of instrumentals “Kung Fu Medallion” and “Spanish Jam Sandwich” inject some needed life into the album, and standouts emerge like the ultra-cool textured chorus of “White Denim Jeans” and stealthy “Unemployed In Chicago.” Overall, this is a grower, with songs that will stick and resonate on repeat plays.


Howie Payne

Howie Payne “Mountain”

Liverpool based Howie Payne (the Stands) is a singer-songwriter that has a delivery that can be called both soulful melancholy and immediately catchy. It opens with the somber “Quick As The Moon,” a slow-building ballad and Howie’s clear and high timbre vocal is similar to Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) here. The music is very introspective, although it breaks into the shuffling “Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer,” which recalls mid-1970’s melodic pop.

“The Brightest Star” increases the tempo and adds layered harmonies of “Yeah, yeah, yeah” make it one of the most accessible tunes here.  Another gem is the mellow “Thoughts On Thoughts” with its call and response chorus, subtle bass and acoustic guitar. There is a West Coast feel to most of the music,  but it really stands out most on the last two tracks “High Times” and “Evangeline (Los Angeles)” with its Crosby Stills Nash atmosphere. Overall a satisfying little album that seems made for a rainy day. It’s music that deserves to be heard.


Sam Phillips and Felsen

Sam Phillips “Push Any Button”
Prolific singer-songwriter Sam Phillips returns with her 10th studio album, Push Any Button. Thankfully she leaves behind the wanderlust of her recent past and brings us melodic pop that comes closest to her masterwork Martinis & Bikinis. Starting with the organic percussive effects on “Pretty Time Bomb” it sets the stage for the compelling melody of “All Over Me,” with neat little horn flourishes and a churning guitar rhythm. The catchiest song is next, “When I’m Alone” with its fast paced beat and Phillips expressive vocals.

The minimalist orchestral base and plucking strings suits Phillips well on tracks like “Going”and “Speaking Of Pictures.” Another gem “You Know I Won’t” is another sing along melody and with barely a wasted noted, its a perfect showcase of an artisan at her best. Highly recommended AOR listening.


Felsen “I Don’t Know How To Talk Anymore”
Oakland band Felsen is a hard working local band made up of guitarist Dylan Brock, singer/guitarist Andrew Griffin, bassist Christian Hernandez, and drummer Art McConnell. Felsen has toured throughout the West and puts together a workman-like effort on this new album.

The songs take a while to reach the hook, but they do get there. The lead track “Rock and Roll’s Not Dead” certainly takes its time, as we don’t get any rock guitars till the four minute mark. Much better are the melodies of the title track, “Better Days,” and the catchy “Tokyo Electric .” Where Felsen falters is in the slow meandering epics (“Gunfighting At Dawn”), but if you’re patient you’ll appreciate both the environmental message and the music.