30 Reviews in Five Days, Pt. 1

By John M. Borack

Here’s the first installment of my “30 Reviews in Five Days” project. I’ll be posting six CD reviews a day on five consecutive days, spotlighting lots of cool music in a number of different genres: some old stuff from 2013/14 that you may have missed, some new (and new-ish) releases, a few reissues and some surprises. Hope you find some new music to enjoy, and remember to support independent artists!

Ransom and the Subset – “No Time to Lose” (Tune Stack Records)
Band name sounds like it could be part a math equation. Music is stylized, well-produced pop ‘n’ roll and any number of these songs could be radio hits if given half a chance. “Girl I’m Not Afraid” sounds not unlike a Rockpile track with a bubblegum bridge, RanDair S. Porter’s vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Elvis Costello, and RanDair S. Porter might be the best name I’ve heard this year. Grade: A-

Phil Angotti – “Life and Rhymes” (Our House Records)
One of the Windy City’s finest proponents of pure pop pleasure, the venerable Phil Angotti offers us a typically solid collection of tuneful, low-key numbers, highlighted by the soulful “Unusual Me,” a boppin’ little tune called “Nancy,” and a re-recording of one of Angotti’s most beautiful songs, “Too Late Tomorrow.” Grade: B+

driftersContinental Drifters – “Drifted: In the Beginning & Beyond” (Omnivore)
In which a Bangle, a dB and a Cowsill are joined by a gaggle of like-minded musicians and move easily between Americana, soul, rock and just about every other pop genre imaginable over the course of a decade. The two-disc Drifted collects rare cuts, live performances and more, and proves that the Drifters were an ace cover band (Mike Nesmith, Tyrone Davis, Neil Young, the Hollies, and Richard and Linda Thompson, among others, get the Drifter treatment here) whose original tunes were often just as good as what they were covering. Quite possibly THE reissue of 2015. Grade: A

The Bottle Kids – “Such a Thrill” (Kool Kat Musik)
No frills pop sounds courtesy of one Eric Blakely, and one of the relatively rare cases where sparse-sounding production actually works better than the alternative. Inspirational lyric: “Driving down to L.A. with the radio on/rockin’ to the rhythm of the Plimsouls song.” Grade: B-

The Successful Failures – “Captains of Industry. Captains of War.” (FDR)
A curiously-titled effort from this East Coast outfit who crank up the guitars and write propulsive, poppy tunes like “1954” (my fave here), near-country stuff (with an edge) like “Falling Out,” and a song called “Navigation By the Stars” where they harmonize (nicely) on a line that’s either “do me on Sunday” or “doobie on Sunday.” Either way, cool song,  cool record. Grade: B+

The Anderson Council – “Listening Party!” (The Sinclair Recording Company)
More hard-edged pop-rock from the right coast, this one an EP that features three well-originals and three covers. The originals are slightly psychedelic, nicely angular, and mid-tempo and rockin’, respectively. The well-chosen covers include a slightly psychedelic’ “My Friend Jack” (The Smoke), the nicely angular “And Through the Wire” (P. Gabriel) and the mid-tempo and rockin’ “Joining a Fanclub” (Jellyfish). The band’s 2012 full-length, Looking at the Stars, is also well worth investigating; hopefully another long-player will be coming in the not-too-distant future. Grade: B

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