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Jesse Jukebox / Awesome!

Jesse Jukebox

Awesome! (Self-released)

http://www.jessefriedberg.com

From the press kit, “With Irrepressible energy and an outrageous sense of fun, Cleveland’s beloved family musician Jesse Jukebox (A.K.A. Jesse Friedberg), celebrates a positive message of high hope in his third kids’ album, Awesome! Packed with lyrical wisdom born of Jesse’s experiences growing up with ADHD…

As a child, Jesse felt misunderstood and different from other kids because of his ADHD. Here, he sets his sights on making sure that others like him know that they’re not alone, and that there is, in fact, a whole community of similar-feeling kids and adults. 

This six-song e.p. is all kinds of fun, and the only thing I was disappointed with was its brevity. Jesse sounds a bit like, and sings with the enthusiasm of, Jack Black, which is a good thing in my book. The arrangements are snappy and sparse, Awesome and Incredible Shoes stylistically remind me of Violent Femmes. Listen To Your Gut, which implores kids to listen to their inner voice when dealing with difficult situations, is my fave of the set. I like this disc a lot.

D.P.

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Tiny Bit Of Giant's Blood / Gigantosaur

Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood

Gigantosaur (Jumbo)

http://www.tinybitofgiantsblood.com

Boy, was I excited to finally get my mitts on Gigantosaur. The band Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood is made up of musicians that I already admire, so loving this was almost a forgone conclusion.

Lead vocalist Tony Rogers fronted Chicago band The Good for years, a group that produced one of my all-time favorite records of the 90’s, Milky White. Also hailing from The Good, guitarist John Scholvin, whose savvy playing so impressed me that I nicked him for my own band, The Bradburys. On bass is Jackie Schimmel, a rock-steady musician who was also in my favorite lineup of Brad Elvis’s Big Hello. Drummer Larry Beers is new to me, but you don’t get into an outfit like this by being a slacker. ‘Nuff said.

Photo By Lincoln Rogers

Gigantosaur is an apt description of this assembly, as meaty, muscular guitar is the order of the day. This is impossibly-catchy rock that weighs in far too heavy to ever be described as pop. Girl Over Here features a riff that’s pure Jimmy Page, with a middle section that fiercely gallops like a team of black Nazgûl stallions.

Other standouts include the pithy All Hail The Opening Band, an ode to a status that is both coveted and reviled, and a bravado-inspired cover of AC/DC’s  If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It). While I mention these few particular favorites, the entire disc brings the rock in a way that is equal parts bombast, joy and purpose. I humbly throw Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood the horns.

D.P.

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Green Day / Father Of All…

Green Day

Father Of All… (Reprise)

http://www.greenday.com

In 2008, Green Day offered up a serving of 60’s garage rock, recorded under the pseudonym Foxboro Hot Tubs. The record, Stop, Drop & Roll, came and went without much fanfare, though it was found and loved by guitar-pop lovers like me. Father Of All… is the legitimate offspring of The Tubs’ singular release, and it’s been well-worth the wait.

While Green Day’s use of three punk chords hasn’t varied much, here, Billie Joe Armstrong seems to be reinvigorated, wringing out new melodies and vocal moves that feel both fresh and thoughtful. Propelled by Tre’ Cool’s slamming go-go beat and muscular guitars, the title track really gets the ol’ blood pumping.

Armstrong coyly winks his 48-year-old eye at his own legend in I Was A Teenage Teenager, before the band plunges into Hamburg Beatles’ mode with the gritty Stab You In The Heart. It’s cool that at this stage in the game, the band is still looking to stake-out new ground, when they could easily just clone their past success, to lackluster affect. Father Of All… is really solid from top to bottom.

D.P.

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Justin Bieber / Changes

Justin Bieber

Changes (Def Jam)

http://www.justinbieber.com

Three tracks in and this sounds just like every other R&B-tinged pop record out there. That’s the nicest thing I can say about Changes.

D.P.

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Stone Temple Pilots / Perdida

Stone Temple Pilots

Perdida (Rhino)

http://www.stonetemplepilots.com

It’s never an easy row to hoe when a new member steps into a band replacing an original member. Vocalist Jeff Gutt has just such a task, having to walk a very narrow line somewhere between his own personal voice and that of Scott Weiland. In my humble opinion, he succeeds on all counts here.

Perdida is a soft, atmospheric affair, fleshed out by acoustic instruments that lend honesty to the songs. “Fare Thee Well” is a lonely, Southern ballad, and stands  confidently amongst the best tunes in STP’s back catalog. “She’s My Queen” is a dreamy love song, buoyed by clouds of hazy background vocals. 

My fave of the set is “Sunburst,” which aims for Abbey Road greatness, and very nearly achieves it. While not everyone might appreciate the band’s new direction, I’m betting they gain far more fans with Perdida than they lose. It’s refreshing to see an established rock band take a risk by shifting gears.

D.P.

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Huey Lewis and The News / Weather

Huey Lewis & The News

Weather (BMG)

http://www.hueylewisandthenews.com

In 2018, Huey Lewis lost his tonal hearing, from Meniere’s Disease. Lewis and his band took to the stage in Texas, and it immediately became clear that something wasn’t right. Lewis was singing a full note off from what the band was playing. The show was abruptly halted, and the rest of the tour cancelled.

Thankfully, before Lewis lost his ability to sing, the band was already seven tracks into recording a new record, Weather. Still masters at meat & potatoes rock and roll, the group has never sounded better, or more at ease in its own collective skin.

Her Love Is Killing Me,” chock-full of Lewis’s bluesy harmonica, Sean Hopper’s B3 and Johnny Colla’s sax, it’s everything that longtime fans could hope for. Other standouts include the Chicago blues number “Hurry Back Baby” and “Pretty Girls Everywhere,” a snappy doo-wop ode. If this is to be Huey Lewis & The News’s swan song, it’s a damn fine one.

D.P.

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Stepford Knives / Blue In The Face b/w I Don't Want Her (Anymore)

Stepford Knives

Blue In The Face b/w I Don’t Want Her (Anymore) 

(Loaded Goat) 

http://www.jamiehoover.net

In the interest of transparency, I have to say that I love everything that Jamie Hoover does; solo, with The Spongetones, The Van DeLeki’s, Stepford Knives, etc. I’m such a big fan of this guy’s music that I signed him and released his “Happy Hoover Days” CD on my own Vandalay Records label. I’m already in the bag before hearing a note of this new vinyl single (also available as a download).

Here, he’s teamed with Otis Hughes of Animal Bag, who sings lead on the slightly-spooky “Blue In The face,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on “Beatles For Sale.” Floating on acoustic guitars, it’s got a very similar vibe to “No Reply,” which I absolutely love about it.

Jamie takes the lead on “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore),” which is three minutes of snappy pop perfection. Otis’s harmonies blend excellently with Jamie. Combined with a nifty melody line, if ever a track begged for “Double A-side” status, this is it.

Adding the icing on this delicious pop cake is the always-eye-catching artwork of artist Issa Ibrahim and the beautiful blue vinyl of the platter itself. I tried to take a picture of it on my phone, but a picture just doesn’t do it justice. Buy this record, or download it, TODAY. 

D.P.

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Juliana Hatfield / Sings The Police

Juliana Hatfield

Sings The Police (American Laundromat)

http://www.julianahatfield.com

90’s icon Juliana Hatfield has been on a hot streak as of late. 2016 saw her collaboration with Paul Westerberg, The I Don’t Cares, release a fantastic garage-rock record, “Stab.” She followed that up with 2018’s unexpected “Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John.” The following year, she returned to her quirky alt-rock roots with  the beautiful “Weird.”

Here, she pays tribute to the bleach-blonde trio that dominated the early 80’s, The Police. Of course, she puts her own punky stamp on “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Next To You.” My favorite redo is her pouty take on “Hungry For You,” from The Police’s 1981 pop masterpiece, “Ghost In The Machine.” I hope Hatfield had as much fun recording these songs as they are to listen to.

D.P.

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Lolas / Bulletproof

Lolas

Bulletproof (self-released)

https://lolas.bandcamp.com/album/bulletproof

The Lolas have existed in one form or another, since 1998. Head Lola, Tim Boykin, has been the one constant since then, providing lead vocals and guitar. Lolas’ records have always been tight, no-nonsense affairs, and “Bulletproof” is no exception. Most of these tracks clock in at around the three-minute mark.

Boykin’s voice cuts through the mix like a young John Lennon, although the songs have many influences. “Desstroy” comes on like Ray Davies at his roughest and “Oceans Of The Moon” combines a Motown beat with a 90’s alt-rock attitude. It’s refrain of “Would you believe, there’s an ocean on the moon?” is catchy as can be.

My fave of the set is the driving “She Will Shake The World.” With a relentless drum beat and Ramones-inspired guitar work, it’s a head-bobber of the highest order. “Bulletproof” is probably the best full-on rock album I’ve heard yet this year, and will no-doubt end up on many year-end-best lists.

D.P.

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Tinsley Ellis / Ice Cream In Hell

Tinsley Ellis

Ice Cream In Hell (Alligator)

http://www.tinsleyellis.com

From Tinsley Ellis’s press kit…“A musician never got famous staying home,” says Ellis, who continues to perform over 150 nights a year. Now, with “Ice Cream In Hell,” Tinsley Ellis will again hit the highway, bringing his roof-raising, road-tested music to fans wherever they may be. “I’ve seen it all,” the Atlanta native says of his four decades on the road. “And a lot of my audience has been along for the entire time. It’s not always easy. But the payoff is the music. That’s the ice cream.”

The master of the searing Stratocaster is back, still working hard after 40 years. Just like a lot of his past releases, “Ice Cream In Hell” is a really nice mixed bag; “Last One To Know” is pure Memphis Soul, with growling B3 organ, “Foolin’ Yourself” is pure Chicago shuffle, and “Everything And Everyone” is a jazzy little Latin number.

This release is one of Tinsley Ellis’s best, and has been on “repeat play” in our office since it arrived last week. With a little something for nearly every ear, it’s impossible to resist.

D.P.