Reviews, interviews, articles, and other blather about music from the mind of Yugoboy

Friday, February 12, 2016

Jake & the Jellyfish - Dead Weight

Jake & The Jellyfish
Dead Weight

Following Dead Weight's forty-eight second "Intro" super-reminiscent of Dropkick Murphys,  Leeds, UK-based quartet Jake & the Jellyfish, launch into an incredibly diverse set of tunes.  Self-described on their Bandcamp page as Folk/Punk/Ska the music charges, veers, rocks and reels from general alternative through ska and reggae influences and blowing right through Gogol Bordello-like gypsy rock, these guys craft some fun tunes for your brain to chew on.
The third song in, "Coffee Tally" demonstrates a thorough understanding of all that makes ska so much fun.  The upbeat, horn-backed tune could fit in easily on a Pietasters, Toasters or Hippos record.
Title track "Dead Weight" encapsulates perfectly the energetic alternative sound these guys play when they're not world-musicking their way through tunes like "Coffee Tally" and "Don't Follow the Leader," a Gogol Bordello sound-alike tune complete with fiddle and acoustic guitar.
This twelve-track collection hosts new music as well as tunes that have appeared on some earlier EPs.  Given the band's half-decade-plus experience, it should surprise no one that they've got some serious musical chops and a really cohesive sound.  The fiddle and horns provide important texture to most of their tunes, and these guys crank out primarily a tinted punk-alternative sound, but when they completely jump all over another genre there's no evidence of experiment or lack of familiarity.  There's no gimmickry here, just right solid fun music I can't imagine anyone disliking.
I simply cannot do the fun of this album justice.  Among the twelve tracks on this disc you can look hard, but you will not find a dud anywhere.  The creativity, upbeat, lively performance is everything that grunge never was.  If the lyrics focused more on revelry and drinking themes, I'd say this would be the best party album since Lord Tracy's "Deaf Gods of Babylon."
Why are you still reading this?  Click on over to their site or Bandcamp or Soundcloud and buy this record now!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rocket Ship Resort - Megaheart

Rocket Ship Resort
Megaheart EP

Something about being born in the early 70s and coming to musical maturity in the mid-80s instilled in me a predilection for the kind of digital pop music Rocket Ship Resort stuffed into their recent EP Megaheart.  Up-beat and unapologetically electrified, these tracks cannot be listened to without various body parts rhythmically following along.  A little Googling and Rocket Ship Resort turns out to be a solo project from Nashua, New Hampshire-based Skye Meredith who not only crafts the music, but the album art as well.  Skye appears to  be younger than me, and certainly doesn't perform my brand of rock and metal guitars, but where the portion of my soul stuck in the 80s is concerned, he hits all the right notes.  These fun tracks somehow manage all this without becoming annoying earworms, which is even more awesome as far as I'm concerned.
"Pirate" hits the ground running, opening the quintet of tunes at full-bore pop/dance pace.  This fun tune sets a great tone for the rest of the tracks, crafting an anticipation of more fun to come.
Second slot track "Where We'll Go" slows down just a beat or two, but remains pretty up-beat, despite an undercurrent of melancholy in the lyrics.  The melancholy isn't a yearning for things past, but that the future isn't yet here and the fun to be had then will surpass the anticipation expressed by the singer.
"Moans On Loan" begins with the most 80s opening I've had the pleasure of hearing in quite a while.  The only thing that keeps this track from being a complete nostalgia trip is the autotune, which doesn't completely distort the voice, but which does sound perfectly acceptable in the song's context.  Like Howard Jones before them, the fully digital sound works to create a tone and sound that is complete unto itself.  Rocket Ship Resort's sound doesn't require the synth to fill in for inadequate songwriting, it's kinda the point of the thing.
Demonstrating an unusually gentle touch, "Stars The Look Like You" slows the tempo a bit for a tender but not mawkish love song.  The band's signature sounds are all here, but slowed down just enough.  This isn't the school dance song that allows kids to latch onto each other and sway, but neither does it demand the manic energy of the  listener that the rest of the EP does.
Rounding out the collection, "Mistress Magic" ramps the tempo up again.  This track contains the only real evidence of something other than a synthesizer or drum machine; there's at least one violin being used here, but like the singers the strings find themselves pushed through the digital processor.  The producer doesn't make the violin sound fake or wrong, but like the vocals, the modulation and slight digital shine added helps the instrument fit in.
This is the seventh release by Rocket Ship Resort; all can be found on Bandcamp.  If the other six are anywhere near as good, I may find myself shelling out some real cash for this collection.  Anyone who loves some good upbeat digital pop will probably be pushing this to the top of their playlist.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mrs. Skannotto - Toys

Mrs. Skannotto

Rochester-based ska deities Mrs. Skannotto return with a brand new collection of original tunes, even more wide-ranging and ambitious than their previous effort Outlier (which is awesome; if you don't already own it, follow the link and buy it right away.)  Toys has more range and style, with more risks, most of which pay off nicely.  If you're a ska fan, don't worry about the rest of this review, just buy the record already! (When I wrote the review, I forgot that the disc doesn't come out until March.  Read on, dear listener.  Then, in March... then get the album.)
After the opening trill of "101," the boys jump into "Fire Man," which seems to be typical-sounding ska, but Joe Harmon does some vocal stuff I don't remember him doing before, with some notes being held a beat longer, and just a slightly more crooning sound.  It's not a huge adjustment, but I noticed it and found it added some real texture.  Based on the video found on their Facebook page, the first single is "Affluenza," a righteously rocking ska-punk tune.  Following that mosh-pit-filler, "Heartbeat" hearkens back to a slower, softer ska style.  Emphasizing the horns of Justin Lloyd (trumpet) and Evan Dobbins (trombone), this head-bobber may inspire traffic accidents as listeners close their eyes and sway to the sensation-filling sonic hang-gliding of "Heartbeat."
The majority of Toys hews closer to the Mrs. Skannotto oeuvre.  "Don't Drink the Wine" might have a message my wife doesn't want to hear, but the tune is uber-catchy, and "Grow" just owns everything awesome about the ska genre.  "Salo" slows the tempo down to near crooner level, avoiding a reggae/r&b mash-up by the tiniest bit.  The horns help a ton on that one, I must say.  Closing track "Resistance Is Fatal," starts with a very contemplative guitar solo from Mike Frederick, before launching full-bore into the second-fastest rocking track on the whole album.  The entire collection could not be this awesome without the full compliment of players, including bassist Dan Carter and drummer Alex Bochetto keeping pace.  These guys have been playing together for years, and it shows (in a very good way).
Taken as a whole, Toys represents significant stylistic growth while staying within the lines of ska.  While the genre might be marginal here in the 20teens, the late-90s saturation demonstrated a great deal about the range possible.  Mrs. Skannotto, by remaining true to their style find themselves musically checking out some new avenues and tones, which has resulted in a terrific ten song collection that cannot be missed by any fan of the genre.  Toys plays with styles and sounds, but is seriously excellent music.