Mike Herz and Emily Barnes – Closer to Home

CloserToHomeGuest review by Diann Zimmerman

“Each one of the tunes is really special to us like all of you, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We hope we’ve made you as happy as the start of this journey has made us.” – Mike and Emily, Closer to Home

Listening to the debut album from Closer to Home did just that – made me happy. The songs on this album remind us to have no regrets, look at the beauty around us and, most importantly, to slow down. Life consists of distractions and forces pulling us away from our dreams. How do we remain focused on our priorities? Feeling trapped, are we pulled or pushed out of it? Regrets? How do we avoid them?

Listen to these songs and find out how Mike Herz and Emily Barnes, the singer-songwriters who are Closer to Home, answer some of life’s perplexing questions.

Cornered in behind this desk always daydreaming about what comes next
I feel the tightening in my chest somebody help me breathe
I have those papers piled high cause there ain’t no need for me to say goodbye
There’s just one way to learn to fly that is wind against your wings

They say nothing cuts you deeper than
The things you have not done
So if you need me just took towards the sun

Let go of all your insecurities
Hold tightly to someone that you love
It’s too short
To not be who you want to be

You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole
I think it’s time that you let go of all this false control
And let it be
All good things are wild and free

You’re constantly busy always hurry up
You’ve gotta make it on time or your world will erupt
So you fly down the highway lead foot on the gas
Ignoring the beauty you so often pass

I first heard “Color Me” while on a flight. My usual travel scenario – laptop open, the world tuned out, focused on work. In the big scheme of things, that scenario doesn’t really matter. I was ignoring the beauty I so often pass. I closed my laptop, packed it away, opened the window shade, and gazed down at an amazing view of snowcapped mountains. Thank you, Mike and Emily.

Through an email interview today, Mike, yet again, proved that he’s the real deal. He’s not chasing a dream, he’s living it – writing songs, being a devoted dad, shaping the future of kids, and he’s not ignoring the beauty around him. He sees it clearly.

DZ: In a previous interview with Reverb Raccoon, he asked if you would like to become a well-known artist without leaving NJ. You replied that you have no plans to leave. You have your life there, the ocean, forest, NYC. Has that changed? Any plans to move?

MH: I think I’m in NJ to stay. With my daughter being so young and my mother becoming a full-time Grandma/Babysitter, it’d be hard to imagine a scenario where it could work any other way for the foreseeable future.

DZ: Being a musician requires self-discipline, talent, resilience, and tenacity. Which one is your greatest strength?

MH: Musically, I don’t think it’s a talent thing at all. I’m such a late bloomer in regards to playing the guitar and singing, that is has been a combo of tenacity, resilience and stubbornness that has gotten me to where I am at. I know people who sing in perfect pitch or others that just pick up instruments and find the groove of a song at the drop of a hat. That is not me. However, I was always a writer. I always felt a connection with words from a young age. I could turn a phrase, rhyme, or express myself on paper… long before creating music was a thought. I have been playing a lot of piano lately though, and I’ve learned how to transfer tunes that I wrote on guitar to the keyboard, so I guess that is progress.

DZ: How do you balance your real life with the artist life?

MH: I don’t do it well. I do enjoy aspects of teaching, mainly working with teenagers who are on the brink of entering the “real world” and also reading classic literature but I know I need more to my life. I have more to give and more to say. The balance with fatherhood is easy to me though. Not easy in the sense that raising a child is easy, easy in the sense of prioritizing. My daughter comes first and the rest can wait.

DZ: Fast forward 15 years. Your daughter wants to become a musician. What is your advice? How is that different than advice you’ve received in the past?

MH: If she ever wanted to be a musician, I would totally support it. I would be able to prepare her for the realities of the lifestyle, both pros and cons. I like the no fall back plan for the younger musicians. There is a window of time where, if you are good and passionate enough, you have to be all in. Then if it doesn’t pan out to what you desire you figure it out from there. What sounds better… being 22 with a college degree, 60K of debt and no real job opportunities or traveling the country, meeting people from all walks of life and sharing songs that you wrote from the depths of your soul? That perspective that I have contrasts the advice I’ve received which has pretty much been… “well, you have bills and a kid, so unless you can figure out a way to make enough money you really can’t leave your current job.” Which is 100% true and I have made peace with that.

DZ: Your songs tend to focus on conflict – leaving vs. staying. Staying is safe and comfortable. Leaving opens up opportunities. Is this currently a struggle for you?

MH: Leaving is not real for me, but these songs are co-written with Emily Barnes who at 23 years old has that option and the freedom to really go for it, so that part is authentic from her end. She has made tremendous strides in her career over the last few years and has that same passion I have with the time and blank slate to really go for it. I would not be surprised if she gets signed to a small independent label before long and really starts touring nationally full time at bigger and better venues. In fact, I’d be surprised if this doesn’t happen. For me, I can still arrange brief tours and travel but it needs to be concise and efficient to be worthwhile.

DZ: One of your lyrics says “Nothing cuts you deeper than the things you have not done.” What, if any, are your regrets?

MH: Regrets are pointless. It would’ve been nice if I found music earlier, but I cannot regret having not done so because I have a whole lot to be grateful for and I am still here and still doing it.

DZ: Which song on this album resonates the most with you? Why?

MH: There is not one song on the album that resonates more than others… at least not with me. There are lyrics or sections that always feel good to sing or hear. The line in “Traveler’s Song” about following the compass of your heart ended up working out really sweet in its delivery. All the songs have a lot of truth to them.

DZ: You performed a live online concert last year. I enjoyed it! Any plans to do more? Pretty please. :)

MH: We did do a last minute duo online show right before New Years that we did not really promote well at all. I will probably do another one in promotion of my next full length album that I am starting to dive into. So I’ll keep you posted on that one!

DZ: Any plans to perform Closer to (my) Home?

MH: I would love to make it down to Texas this summer for a little run of shows and if I do, I will try to make Houston happen!

Closer to Home’s EP is available for download on Bandcamp. Visit Mike Herz and Emily Barnes on Closer to Home’s website. Join Mike Herz on Facebook, and on Twitter. Drop into Emily Barnes’ website, friend her on Facebook, and follower her on Twitter.

And be sure to check out Reverb Raccoon’s previous reviews of Mike’s solo work, the album Overgrown and the single “Smoke Your Smoke and Drink Your Drink.”

Bonus Video 1: Emily Barnes & Mike Herz (Closer to Home) perform “If the Stars Align” at Cafe Improv in Princeton, NJ, 2013.

Bonus Video 2: Emily Barnes performs “Merry-Go-Round,” recorded ‘In The Moment’ on Saturday November 14, 2015 at the North East Regional Folk Alliance Conference in Kerhonkson New York.

Bonus Video 3: Mike Herz and “Still Behind.”

dzthumbDiann Z.

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Troy Santolla – Frat Rap

a4242014323_10Troy Santolla is young, semi-good-looking, and a Kappa Sigma at Appalachian State. And that combination has him pulling mad numbers of bitches. As Troy tells us in his new single, “Frat Rap,” he’s ballin’ 24/7 and enjoying every second of it.

“Frat Rap” is about the [apparently very good] life of a Kappa Sigma. It’s full of Kappa Sigma references, including some that non-members aren’t meant to understand. But even a total cargo shorts-wearing geed can relate to the spirit of this track. For the uninitiated, Geed = GDI = God Damn Independent, or someone who didn’t pledge a fraternity. Geeds wear cargo shorts, which are NF (not frat). Full disclosure: I’m a GDI. But I gave up cargo shorts a while back and I wear Sperry boat shoes every day. Boat shoes are FaF (frat as fuck). My favorites are a pair of Gold Cup Authentic Original Burnished Leather 2-Eye Boat Shoes. They were a Christmas gift from my awesome dimepiece GF who is a total 10/10 smokeshow. She’s into my dad bod.

“Frat Rap” is hilarious if you don’t take it seriously. It sounds like it would be a great recruiting tool. I know if I was a college freshman again and heard “Frat Rap,” I would head straight to the nearest Kappa Sigma chapter and say “Start hazing me.” Fluffy the Idiot Cat didn’t care for it, though. When I played “Frat Rap” for her she ran under the bed. Cats are NF.

The fraternity culture has taken some public relations hits lately. Google “fraternity suspended” and you’ll find a long list of infractions. But fraternities also provide large amounts of philanthropy and community service (even some that is not court-ordered). Their members have higher graduation rates than the GDI’s and, after four years of keg stands, tailgates, shotgunning beers, beer pong, shooting threes in IM basketball, drinking more beer, and doing other creative things with beer, most become productive members of society. Your boss is probably a fraternity man.

Troy seems like a pretty good guy. But when “Frat Rap” was featured on TotalFratMove.com, the most fraternity-friendly site on the Internet, the comments section oozed negativity. The top-voted comment: “This is an example of white privilege done the wrong way.” Troy joined in to respond: “I made the song for fun. White privileged??? I have a job, I pay my dues myself and I paid for my beats and studio time myself. Privileged my fucking ass. I’m definitely white though! I was messing around and made a song. Hate if you want I honestly don’t care. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram though @TroySantolla ! Got more music coming!”

The arch-nemesis of every fraternity chapter, besides geeds, their rival fraternities, and the school administration, is the national organization or “Nationals.” Nationals are a bunch of NF killjoy tryhards, and they didn’t see the humor in “Frat Rap.”

“Kappa Sigma Nationals actually suspended me for the song yesterday and told me I am going to be expelled if I don’t remove the song,” Troy told me in an email. “And I do not plan on removing the song.” I’m pretty sure Troy will land on his boat shoe-wearing feet. So let’s lift a red Solo cup full of Bud Light in his honor. But don’t lift a blue Solo cup. The blue cups are NF.

“Frat Rap” is available on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, or iTunes. And stay alert for Troy’s future releases. He has an album in the works and plans to drop a single on Valentines Day.

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Lydia Jayne – Christmas Spirit

LydiaJayneChristmasSpiritGuest review by Fluffy the Idiot Cat

Hi. I’m Fluffy. My friend Milkshake calls me The Idiot Cat. A long time ago – The Food Guy said it was year before last – I reviewed “Autumn Time,” a song by a kitten named Lydia Jayne. I thought it was a good song. Now Lydia Jayne has a new song called “Christmas Spirit.” She put it on the Winternet in December, but I didn’t find out about it until yesterday. Nobody tells me anything. I asked The Food Guy if it is OK to write about it even though Christmas is over and he said yes, the Christmas holidays don’t officially end until the Stupid Bowl is played. The Stupid Bowl is a game between the Horses and the Cats. I hope the Cats win. Last week the Cats pounced on the Birds, which is how it should be. I have never caught a bird. Milkshake and I are Indoor Cats. When I was a kitten I lived outdoors on the street in a cardboard box. Now I’m happy to live indoors. When Milkshake was a kitten she lived in a stable and had horsie friends. I think Milkshake wants the Horses to win the Stupid Bowl.

Milkshake and I had fun on Christmas. There were toys for us under the tree and more toys in a stocking. The Food Lady’s friends came over and Milkshake joined their party. I’m surprised she didn’t put a lampshade on her head. I stayed under the bed and played with my yarn.

SantaCat

On Christmas Eve, Milkshake stayed up and waited for Santa Claus but I fell asleep before he got there. Milkshake said Santa left me a lump of coal but I didn’t believe her. She was just pulling my tail.

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The Food Guy says that Lydia Jayne is a good singer. He especially likes the harmonies. He said the song has a nice structure, whatever that is. And he said Lydia Jayne is “The Real Deal, not some put up job novelty act.” I don’t know what that means. I like this song and I think you will like it too. You can listen to it any time of the year when you want to feel good. You don’t have to wait until next Christmas to listen to it.

You can stream or download “Christmas Spirit” from the Winternet on Bandcamp. Lydia Jayne has other songs there and some of them are about Christmas. I think you will hear a lot of music by this kitten some day. I’ll bet she like cats.

Here is “Autumn Time,” another good song by Lydia Jayne.

FullSizeRender (2)Fluffy

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Steven Lipsticks and his Magic Band: Why Isn’t This Guy Famous?

SLAHMBEons ago, in the Cretaceous Era of my youth, I washed ashore against the rocky substrate of Spearfish, South Dakota. The town had little to recommend it, save a view of red sandstone hills and a bar called Bernie’s that served cheap 3.2 beer at happy hour. Encountering a member of the local species, I inquired as to the opportunities for hearing live music. “Try the Holiday Inn out by the interstate,” he replied. “They’s a good band whats gonna play this comin’ Saturday night.”

The fellow spoke as if Saturday night was a far distant eventuality when, in fact, it was Saturday night. I dutifully trucked out to said interstate and settled in behind a table in a lounge that was completely devoid of other patrons. Not a good sign. As I sipped a plastic cup full of 3.2 beer that tasted suspiciously like a gassy 1.5% near-beer, four guys dressed like Mormon missionaries ambled onto the “stage,” a corner of the room without tables, sorted out their guitar-guitar-bass-drums lineup, and stumbled into “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” It was… very good. And I know that wasn’t the beer talking, because I’m not sure my plastic cup actually had any beer in it.

At that time I fancied myself a singer-songwriter and would occasionally throw down my $2 entry fee at an open mike night, figuring stardom was just a G7 chord away. And I remember thinking, sitting in the Holiday Inn Lounge out by the interstate in Spearfish, South Dakota: “These guys are a lot better than I am, and they can’t even get out of the Holiday Inn. What chance do I have?”

Fast forward (cough-cough) years decades. I seriously doubt that the Four Mormons ever made it out of the lounge. I never made it as a singer-songwriter, primarily because I could neither sing nor write songs. But, just as on that distant night in South Dakota, when I was surprised to hear good music where I least expected it,  I continue to be amazed by the volume of great music that is being created in the unlikeliest places: bedrooms, barrooms, basements, garages, apartments, tiny flats. People in every nook, cranny, crack, crevasse are recording music. The Music Industry may be dead, but we may be experiencing the Golden Age of musical creativity.

This week the Gift of Good Music comes to us from Bologna, Italy. Steven Lipsticks and his Magic Band has released a self-titled debut album – twelve tracks of pop, blues, and psychedelic folk – that is so good it will leave you thinking, “Why isn’t this guy famous?”

Steven Lipsticks is Stefano Rossetti, a guitarist-songwriter-singer responsible for almost every note on the album. Although described as a lo-fi “domestic recording,” meaning that it was recorded in a small flat by a single musician with a few friends helping out on the odd bits, the sound quality is better than the typical indie bedroom product. The instrumentation is crisp, the guitars covering a wide range of dynamics and styles. The vocals have a touch of recorded-in-the-living-room vibe, but Stefano’s straightforward, unaffected delivery makes them work. Think Syd Barrett’s “Love Song.”

The maturity of the songwriting is especially noteworthy: this is not a collection of half-baked ideas and guitar riffs. The arrangements are varied enough to keep your attention over the long haul, something many artists fail to accomplish in our single-track-oriented, put-the-iTunes-on-shuffle-and-go-for-a-run, societal mindset.

The musical sweep of the album is impressive. The tracks are diverse, yet fit together as a body of work. You will definitely want to listen to this one all the way through, start to end. The overall feel is a throwback to the album-oriented music of the mid-70’s, when you put the needle down on the edge of the vinyl and didn’t lift it off until you had to turn the record over for Side 2.

When I started this blog, two years and several lifetimes ago, my goal was to avoid being one of those reviewers who cites an endless reservoir of references and tries to name the old song that every new song sounds like. I just wanted to tell people if they should bother listening to the music. So to summarize Steven Lipsticks and his Magic Band: I like this album. I have listened to it many times, and I will listen to it many more times in the coming years. And you should listen to it, also. I think you will like it.

With the help of the internet, we “caught up with” Stefano Rossetti for a lengthy interview…

Your album covers a very wide range of musical styles. But the tracks hang together well as a song cycle, as a single entity. Was this planned, or a happy accident?

I knew from the start that Steven Lipsticks and his Magic Band would be an eclectic record because I wanted to put at least 10-12 of my songs in there and all of them were very different! But I’ve always liked the idea of “playing” with music genres, and I think that this sense of fun can be heard throughout the record. Maybe also the catchy melodies and the simple recording technique contribute to homogenizing the result. I just tried to make a tracklist that alternates ballads and faster songs to underline the variety of musical styles. I’m happy you enjoy it. Honestly, I’m pretty satisfied with how the record flows.

Many of the indie musicians I hear have an emotionally detached air in their lyrics. But your lyrics are much more personal…

Yes, there is surely a lot of autobiography in the lyrics, but also invented characters and many nonsense moments. In songs like “Being Together” and “Baby, You Should Know,” I mixed memories and imagination with interesting results, something that I’d like to do more in the future. In some other cases I paid more attention to the sound of the words, rather than their meaning.

What overall mood or theme would you use to describe the new songs?

I don’t think there is an overall mood on the record. Even when the most personal lyrics may look a bit sad, the music can be joyful. I like this contrast between opposite moods and I tried to apply it on some songs like “Dec. 8th” and “Still Riding the Tide,” for example.

I assume your first language is Italian. Do you find it difficult to express yourself in English?

No, not particularly. I have written songs in English since I was seventeen. I’ve always preferred English because of its sound. Italian is too wordy. [There's got to be a joke here about not being able to see the hands moving, but I'll let someone else make it. :) ]

As an American, I’m happy to have all of the world’s pop music in English. But it almost seems like cultural imperialism…

The bands that I’ve listened to since I was a kid are mostly from UK and USA. I started later to discover Italian bands (and there’s a lot of interesting bands, you should check out!). But I agree with you: in Italy there is always this sensation that if you don’t sing in English then nobody will listen to you abroad. In fact, there’s a lot of English-singing indie bands.

Do you consider yourself a guitar player who sings and writes songs, or a singer-songwriter who plays the guitar?

Definitely a guitar player who sings and write songs.

Your guitar playing has a lot of muscle behind it. Are you a fan of hard rock and blues?

I’m not a fan of hard rock. I listened to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple when I was at high school, but I soon got tired of both. I never liked guitar virtuosity. The only hard rock band that I still listen to is Black Sabbath, maybe because of their dirtier, more lo-fi attitude. I surely prefer blues and bluesy rock to hard rock. I’m a big fan of Dylan and the Stones, of course. And when I play solos I can’t avoid sounding bluesy because I often use the pentatonic scale. But I always try to add noise and notes to make the solos more melodic.

Many of the songs have both acoustic and electric guitars. It’s almost a throwback to the days when artists laid down a basic acoustic track, then layered on the electric guitars…

Yes, this was a trick to have a warmer sound, especially in songs on which I didn’t play the bass. That’s the case of “Riding the Tide” and the central part of “Aliens Hypnotizing Me.” I agree that it’s a very rétro technique, but I like it.

I had started to think that slide guitar is dead, or at least on its last breath. But you use it very effectively on a few tracks…

Yes, I love how slide sounds on strings and I think that it’s a very versatile instrument. You can do both bluesy and country sounds, or psychedelic effects, which is the case of “Stay Away from My Dreams.”

I hate it when reviewers ask about Influences. But when I listen to the album, I immediately think the Beatles and Green Day…

I’m not sure about Green Day, but the Beatles are definitely a big influence. I’ve always listened to them and I still do. But also the Kinks wrote timeless melodies and proto-punk hymns. And of course I love Syd Barrett: I’m a big fan of early Pink Floyd and Barrett’s solo records, they’re so ahead for their time. Yes, there are some punky tracks on SL&HMB, but I think that 70s punk and post-punk inspired me more than 90s punk-rock. However, I love 90s bands like Pavement, Guided by Voices, Weezer, and many Britpop bands including Oasis, another big influence. Blur are possibly my favourite band ever;  they’ve always been so eclectic, and Graham Coxon is a guitar hero for me.

What is your earliest memory of music that really caught your attention?

Maybe my mother listening to Italian 70s songwriters like Francesco Guccini and Fabrizio De Andre’ while I was playing with Legos.

Have you played in bands in the past?

Yes, many. But with previous bands I never came to record something “in studio.” I still have some live recordings, most part of them are rubbish, but there are also some interesting things, like the post-rock band in which I used to play bass guitar when I was 18.

Are you able – or do you have any future plans – to perform the new album live?

I’m searching for some dates. I could make stripped-down versions of the songs playing solo, but it’s not the kind of live that I prefer, so I’m rehearsing with two friends of mine. We’re just three, two guitars and a drum, so the songs will sound dirtier and definitely punkier live.

How is a typical track planned and recorded?

Years ago I used to record everything that came to my mind onto tape with a small and noisy recorder, and there are still some not-bad ideas there that, once developed, I’d like to use for the next records. For the songs of this album, I made very lo-fi demo versions with classic guitar and voice, recorded at home with my computer. Most of my songs are written with classic guitar because I’m lazy and why waste time connecting the electric guitar to the effects and the effects to the amplifier (I also live in a very small room!) when you can immediately play with a classic guitar that’s hanging on the wall?

When I decided to make the album, the final versions of the songs were recorded at home, track by track, with Garage Band and no sound card, except for some acoustic guitar tracks, the synths (played by my flatmate) and some voice (my flatmate’s brother lent me a microphone and a sound card). But most of the songs were recorded simply playing and singing in front of the computer without connecting the instruments to it.

I thought that the Digital Age had put an end to Hidden Tracks, like the Clash’s “Train in Vain.” But you slipped one in there at the end…

Ahh, you caught “Jar of Poetry,” the ghost track! Yes, I know it’s quite strange nowadays, but I wanted to have a very small part of the acoustic demo on SL&HMB, so I choose the first version of “Jar of Poetry Revisited,” that is quite different from the 4th track of the album, being a short acoustic ballad instead of a pop-punk song. My girlfriend wrote the lyrics of that old version, then, when I decided to turn it into a faster tune, I added a second verse and a solo. “Jar of Poetry” is instead classic guitar and voice, but you can also hear my computer’s fan, a great protagonist of the first demo!

How much of the drumming is Real vs. Digital?

Almost all drumming is digital. They’re loops that I have made with Garage Band. But there is also some real percussion and handclaps.

 And of course the obligatory Guitar Player Magazine question: what equipment do you use?

I have a Yamaha classical guitar and a 1996 made-in-the-U.S.A. Fender Telecaster, a small Vox amplifier (30 watts, transistor) and an even smaller Marshall amplifier (15 watts, transistor). Not many effects: an overdrive, a delay (both Boss), a Cry Baby and a Pro Co RAT, a very fuzzy distortion. My girlfriend lent me an Ibanez acoustic guitar and a friend lent me his bass, a very old one from the 80s. That’s it!

And finally, what message do you have for Reverb Raccoon’s vast hoard of loyal readers?

Follow me online, spread the word and listen to my record. It’s a good way to spend less than 38 minutes (you can also do other things in the meantime, I don’t mind)! And please let me know about some gigs. Me and my band mates can’t wait to play these songs live!

Thanks, Stefano! Those were some great answers to some not-so-great questions! Steven Lipsticks and his Magic Band is available for streaming and download on Bandcamp. It’s Name Your Price so be sure to pony up a few Euros or Dollars. It’s worth it. And be sure to wait for the ghost track at the end… The album is also available for streaming on Soundcloud.

Visit Steven on Facebook and tell him “Reverb Raccoon sent me!” Ciao!

Bonus Track: One of my favorites from the album, the folky-rocky “Dec. 8th.” Enjoy!

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Found Objects

atlasHe came in late one afternoon hot from football practice and raided the Kappa Alpha icebox. He also ate a dozen bananas and washed ’em down with a pint of whiskey. An hour later he was dead. It wasn’t sad at all. - From Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

This week we dedicate Reverb Raccoon to the objects we might find in the Kappa Alpha icebox: the Good, the Odd, the Less-Than-Optimal. And to bananas: ripe, green, bruised, infested with the percolating eggs of fruit flies, primed to burst forth and cloud your living space with their red-eyed vileness three days after you toss that seemingly innocuous peel into the trash, the very peel that, artfully placed in the path of the cartoon coyote, induces the dramatically acrobatic slip that sends him plunging over the canyon’s edge, his body diminishing as it retreats from our God-like eye until the small poof of dust signals the overdue cessation of his uncontrolled descent into a rocky oblivion.

And speaking of descents into oblivion, my latest Twitter follower is my good friend Chris Barron, lead singer of (the) Spin Doctors. I figure that either A) Chris has hired an intern to blindly follow every music blogger in the Twitterverse or B) Chris is a fan of solid music journalism and thinks a review by Fluffy the Idiot Cat will bring his latest solo project to the attention of the masses. Definitely the latter. I’ll try to help, Chris, but just to manage your expectations: Fluffy’s review of Naomi Pop was read by six people. Which means there are four guys in the band and two of them have girlfriends.

Chris is recording a new album with the working title If I Stop Laughing I’ll Cry. The three songs released thus far are stripped down and personal. Or as Chris describes them, “Think Leonard Cohen meets Jack Johnson in a dive bar that was nice when Cole Porter used to hang out there.”

“April and May,” featuring (the) Spin Doctors’ Aaron Comess on drums, is a fresh dose of post-punk, non-grunge, 90′s folk and pop. You will want to go out and vote for Clinton all over again. The other Clinton. The one who likes dogs. The song is vaguely Blues Travelersish, reflecting Chris Barron’s long personal and musical association with (the) B. Traveler’s John Popper.

Chris Barron’s songs are available for download on Bandcamp. And check out his other solo works like the excellent “I Love You, I Love You, Good-Bye.”

Visit my good friend Chris Barron’s website, then join me in following Chris on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

From Chattanooga, Tennessee, home of Rock City (“See seven states!”), Ruby Falls, and Moccasin Bend Mental Hospital, comes Jim Shorts, purveyor of “cheap, broke music.” You have to like a guy whose Bandcamp page is jimshortssucks.bandcamp.com. His new collection, Cycle Through Reruns, comprises eleven songs of dream poppy, shoegazey introspection. “Underdressed (Big Version)”  jumps out of the pack.

Yeah, it’s rough. But all of the elements are there: crafted songwriting, wistful Beach Boys vocal, cloudy wall of sound. This is Good Music. Join Jim Shorts on Facebook, where you might find this bio-blurb: “Jim Shorts is a project curated by David H[aynes] that includes contributions from Emily H[ampton] and other friends. As of March 2015, Jim Shorts has released 30 collections of material with no signs of stopping. Join Jim Shorts as they attempt to release 1,000 songs by 2016!”

When you’re trying to write 1000 songs, everything becomes a song.

George: What did you do today?
Jerry: Well, I got up, I took a shower, got dressed, and came here.
George: There’s a show, that’s a show!

Even doing your laundry becomes a song…

I don’t know what The Professor Buxton Experience is supposed to be. Is it art, a joke aimed at a professor, a musical Hypno Toad?

The 3-song EP, Experience the Professor Experience was originally offered for the fantastic sum of $30. Why not? I’ve theorized that it’s the price tag that divides trash from art. I could throw some paint on a canvas, offer it up for $5, and no one would want it. But if I increased the price to $5,000,000 people would be falling all over themselves trying to buy it. I don’t have 5 million dollars, so obviously I have yet to prove my thesis. A few days following its release, the price of the Professor’s EP was lowered to the more reasonable “free.”

Also giving away the product of their labor, Knuckleberry Finn, who invites you to download their latest album, Oink, Oink, You Capitalist Pig.

George: …and the Jews steal our money through their Zionist occupied government and use the black man to bring drugs into our oppressed white minority communities.
Walter: I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.
Reverb: No Proletariat Masses were oppressed in the making of this blog.

And finally, we have our Song of the Week: a gentle ballad presented in the spoken-word style of Medieval troubadours. What it lacks in melody, it makes up in narrative arc. Ladies and gentlemen, Reverb Raccon is proud to present the latest single from Atlas Rigging, “Relevance and Importance of Metal Fabrication.”

Be sure to visit Atlas Rigging’s website. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and tell them “Reverb Raccoon sent me.” Why? Why not?

George: You see, you see? I see things as they are and I say, ‘no!’ Uh, wait, you see things as they are not and you s- Wait, uh, you see things, do you see things as they are? What do you say when you see things?
Jerry: Lemme call Elaine and Kramer.
George: If I see things as they are, I would ask ‘why’ or ‘why not?’

Bonus Video: From way back in 1991, “Two Princes” by (the) Spin Doctors. The song was hailed as being Steve Miller-esque, leading to Steve Miller’s infinity-ith comeback. Note to Steve: If you’re out there, follow me on Twitter. I’ll be glad to review your next album.

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Fluffy the Idiot Cat Reviews Naomi Pop

IMG_0286Hi. I’m Fluffy. The Food Guy that I live with writes this Blog. I’m not sure what a Blog is, but you read it on something called the Internet. The Food Guy does most of his reading on the toilet, so I guess the Internet is like a big toilet where people go to read things. The Food Guy said, “That’s pretty close except the Internet has more crap in it than a toilet does.” The Food Guy likes to say things like that. His head is filled with what he thinks is knowledge.

Once a year, The Food Guy lets me write something for his Blog. Last year I wrote about a human kitten named Lydia Jayne and a song called “Autumn Time.” This year I am writing about a band called Naomi Pop. Their Bandcamp page says they are “just sum guys being dudes.” The Food Guy says they are Lo-Fi. That must mean they are good because The Food Guy likes this band.

Here is a song called “I’ll Let You Down.” It starts out like a song called “Sister Golden Hair” then it gets even better. The Food Guy said “More cowbell!”

I also like “Rock and Roll Radio.” The Food Guy says it sounds like the Rolling Stones meet the Modern Lovers. I don’t know what that means but I coughed up a hairball yesterday and it might be something like that.

I like Naomi Pop and I think you will like them too. Their music has a lot of energy but I don’t hide under the bed when I hear it. You can download Naomi Pop’s music on Bandcamp. It’s name-your-price but be sure to give them something because humans have to be fed, too. They also have a Facebook page and a Tumblr whatever that is. The only thing I don’t like about Naomi Pop is, on one of their Bandcamp pages they have a picture of a dog. I don’t know who the man with the dog is, but he looks like he probably goes down to the animal shelter and does weird things to the kittens.

BillC

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