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  • Disc Reviews

    by Max Ink Staff Writers


    The Racing Pulses - The Racing Pulses vibrant new release Nothing To Write Home About

    The Racing Pulses - The Racing Pulses vibrant new release Nothing To Write Home About

    The Racing Pulses

    Album title: The Racing Pulses vibrant new release Nothing To Write Home About
    By Tommy Rage
    Posted: Dec 2017
    Label:
    (2355) Page Views

    Lose weight, quit smoking, save more money or put out a great album. These New Year’s resolutions may sound familiar to some of us, fail as we may at most.  The Racing Pulses, however, have kicked off 2018 by accomplishing their New Year’s resolution, releasing 10 brilliant tracks on their debut album Nothing To Write Home About

    While out on tour over the last two years, The Racing Pulses have taken their time in perfecting their first full-length release. Singer-guitarist Kristian Iliev propels the new release with strong vocals, which has gained rave reviews and radio play in several markets.  With a Wisconsin and New York & East Coast tour under their belt, the up-and-comers have showcased their finely tuned skills on Nothing To Write Home About. Steering the opening track, “King or Pawn?”, bassist Brian Blanchette lays down a smooth road for drummer Mike Newby to accelerate on. The infectious indie rock vibe keeps cruising along with “Intricate”, while Megatone Studio Producer Paul Schluter tuned-up “Mrs. Supernova” from the bands 2014 EP, which highlights the trio’s talents. With early jazz and blues influences while growing up, “Bookends” fuses a perfect blend between blues and a Modern rock sound. An additional hold over from their 2014 EP, “Mermaid” tells a humorous tale while sharing the road with all 3 musicians who merge a tight-rhythmic blend with whimsical lyrics.  Since 2012, The Racing Pulses have been honing their skills on every track of this masterpiece. A live show would certainly highlight the last track, “Falling Through The Floor”, with perfect space for up-beat bluesy jams buckled in with an alt-rock feel. 

    All ten tracks of The Racing Pulses first release Nothing To Write Home About yields to no one.  With such fine detail to songwriting, insightful compositions and a premium blend of jams and lyrics, this is in fact SOMETHING to write home about (or at least text/IM your friends to tell them about this great album). Check out The Racing Pulses release Nothing To Write Home About on iTunes, Spotify, Facebook and at www.theracingpulses.com.

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    Kyle Rightley - Making Home

    Kyle Rightley - Making Home

    Kyle Rightley

    Album title: Making Home
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Nov 2017
    Label: self-release
    (2505) Page Views

    Accompanied by a few well-chosen guitars and a talent for spinning honest tales from clear-eyed lyrics, Rightley’s solo album gathers strumming drumless love-songs washed in pithy hitchhiker’s pickin’ addressing open roads and underdogs with glowing folk-poet anecdotes. Add a dash of racetrack boogie, dreamy jangle-pop and crushed-velvet jazz and, “Home,” casually conjures rolling, green pastures and lonely, late-night interstates with warm, friendly memories and kindly, tempered perspective. Bright, chiming solos and cozy melodies pique ears and hearts alike as twang, sizzle and fuzz tumble over six-string rhythms with woeful steel and howling electric raising spirits in reinforced chords and gun-slinger licks. Celebrating the album’s release, Kyle and members of his other musical projects join together for a free show December 13th at Madison’s Mason Lounge.   

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    Lespecial - Cheen

    Lespecial - Cheen

    Lespecial

    Album title: Cheen
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Nov 2017
    Label: Techne Records
    (2461) Page Views

    Lespecial is a genre-busting trio from Boston/New York City that continuously pulls sharp left turns on their musical influences. One minute they’re sparse techno, then Buckethead-type weirdo shredding, then alt-funk in a Primus/Chili Peppers vein, with Talking Heads “Speaking In Tongues” era synth keyboard flourishes, to middle eastern flavored hip-hop and psychedelic reggae dub. Yet they somehow manage to retain a consistency and logical flow.

    For the listener that likes to be challenged, and prefers a widely eclectic musical palette in which to paint their imaginary soundscapes with. Recommended tracks:  “Jackwise”, “Sounds That We Do”, “Skull Kid”, and “American Apocalypse”.

    Lespecial performs in Madison with a concert at The Frequency, on Thursday, February 1, 2018.

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    Vixen's Janet Gardner  - Vixen’s Janet Gardner

    Vixen's Janet Gardner - Vixen’s Janet Gardner

    Vixen's Janet Gardner

    Album title: Vixen’s Janet Gardner
    By Tommy Rage
    Posted: Oct 2017
    Label: Pavement Entertainment
    (3172) Page Views

    What does a dental hygienist and 80’s rock icon do in her spare time?

    Janet Gardner, the former lead singer and rhythm guitarist from the 80’s rock band Vixen, may have settled down, but she did not go away by any means.

    Married to fellow guitarist Justin James, who has worked with members of Stained and Collective Soul, the two share a new venture which highlights both of their talents. After taking time away from the spotlight to go back to college and focus on a career in dentistry, the former glam-metal maven has compiled four decades of solo material on her 10-track self-titled album (). Reminiscent of Vixen’s 1988 hit singles “Edge Of A Broken Heart” and “Cryin’” Janet Gardner leads the first track “Rat Hole” with powerful vocals and clever lyrics, accompanied by a modern mix. Mandatory guitar riffs tucked halfway through “Hippycrite” shine from guitarist and producer Justin James. “Candle” showcases Janet’s strong vocals with a Halestorm-type grind, sharp grooves, and modern flare. 

    As the leader of an 80’s glitter band which previously opened for Ozzy Osbourne and Bon Jovi, no release would be complete without a power ballad.  “Best Friend” brings a nostalgic tear of joy for MTV videos and acoustic guitars.  The ‘ripped-jeans/bandana’ song closes out this revival release.  “The Good Or The Bye”, will make you wonder how many times you can rewind your Walkman cassette player to hear it again & again.

    You would assume that after stepping away from the limelight, that Janet Gardner might miss a beat. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having helped pave the way for current female-fronted rock bands such as In This Moment and The Pretty Reckless, Janet Gardner continues to shine with her solo project and remind us that there was time when female rock bands weren’t just a poster in your locker, but are now a permanent fixture on your iPod.  This is one of those albums. 
    Check out Janet Gardner’s self-titled album on youtube: https://youtu.be/HCCZeUSODNA

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    Dan Kolesari - Since You’ve Been Around

    Dan Kolesari - Since You’ve Been Around

    Dan Kolesari

    Album title: Since You’ve Been Around
    By Donny Stopiak
    Posted: Oct 2017
    Label: Self Released
    (2159) Page Views

    Becoming a parent for the first time changes one in insurmountable ways. For Milwaukee-based singer songwriter Dan Kolesari, he candidly put that experience to tune and verse with the creation of his sophomore release, aptly titled Since You’ve Been Around. The album, featuring ten stellar tracks of original lyrics and music, takes the listener on a journey following the poignant experience of his twins being born and the subsequent ways his life has been enriched for the better.  A worthy follow-up to his 2015 release, Waiting for You, this September 2017 release masterfully showcases Dan’s piano playing chops, passionate vocals, and innate songwriting ability.  A dynamic and impassioned performer, Dan will host an album release show at Biloba Brewing Company in Brookfield on Saturday, October 21st from 5-7pm.

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    Tori Amos - Native Invader

    Tori Amos - Native Invader

    Tori Amos

    Album title: Native Invader
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Sep 2017
    Label: Decca
    (2020) Page Views

    Gracefully relaying the enchanted mantra, “get you back to you,” the opening track, “Reindeer King,” is a fitting beginning to Amos’ fifteenth album. Suspended between butterfly sighs and orchestrated roars, the entire album seeks a mentoring center, casting nature’s self-correcting resilience as spirit guide to a world caught between psychological extremes and ecological upheaval. Bravely rattling sabers, Amos carves marvelous labyrinths fusing classical piano talent with rich, contemporary sounds, livening divine rhymes with funky tribal grooves and churning flurries of edgy arpeggios into choreographed seductions. From conjuring heart-breaking dawns to nurturing twilight-guided musings, “Native,” paints glamorous panoramas through globe-trotting rhythms and operatic melodies; illuminating modern follies through gorgeous metaphorical choruses anointed in heavenly chemistry. A mesmerizing entertainer, Ms Amos plays Madison’s Orpheum Theater October 26th

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    Casket Robbery - The Ascension

    Casket Robbery - The Ascension

    Casket Robbery

    Album title: The Ascension
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Aug 2017
    Label: Casket Robbery
    (2246) Page Views

    Monroe, Wisconsin’s, horror metal outfit Casket Robbery is back with a relentless new 3-song E.P. and an all-new line-up of Megan Orvold on vocals, Troy Powell and Cory Scheider on guitars, Derek Silloway on bass, and drummer Derek Bonn.

    ‘The Ascension’ E.P. showcases a more classic death metal feel than before; as pulsating, pounding rhythms mesh with throbbing tempos, shrouded with tortured vocals and sheets of ethereal Hellspawn orchestral choir sounds, which accentuate the intense mood, and made me sneak a glance over my shoulder on more than a few occasions while absorbed in the listening experience. This cadaverous cacophony keeps with the Casket Robbery tradition of being the perfect movie soundtrack music for creepy slasher movies with a very sick sense of humor. Which, of course, is why I like this so much!

    In a curious turn of events, Casket Robbery lists their influences as “The Evil Dead”, COLDCOCK Whiskey, Billy Squier, and Pro Wrestling, which make both perfect sense and no sense at all. Don’t think about it too much, just turn down the lights and turn up the stereo… and don’t be overly shocked or surprised if this music commences to raise the dead (although it’s all in your head).

    The official CD Release Party for Casket Robbery’s ‘The Ascension’ E.P. is Saturday, September 16, at Hijynx in Fort Atkinson, for a free show with live music performed by VIA, Three Left, and Lever.

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    Metz - Strange Peace

    Metz - Strange Peace

    Metz

    Album title: Strange Peace
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Aug 2017
    Label: Sub Pop
    (2042) Page Views

    A deluge of bruising refusals seeking sanity inside anarchy, “Peace,” releases stark, cathartic coercions through fuel-injected conjecture. Gunning in blunt industrial rumbles riddled in prickly street-savvy literacy, METZ’s rogue Morse code mojo hammers out cast-iron sounds from a collective wreckage connected to fitful pit-bulls pitching willful punk thrills as breakneck metal-blues regrouped into locked-jaw cannonball fodder splatters spring-loaded foreboding over smoothly executed explosions. Giddy with irrefutable conclusions while plagued by unconquerable questions, the Toronto-based three-piece squeezes profound urban guerrilla bounce from slippery rhythmic triggers, winding timely existential potential around sizzling demolition to construct hum-buckling crunches from spit-fire ire, coating hard-core semaphore with ballistic conniptions sliced in decisive righteousness and roasted over social corrosion.  Witness the band’s powerful prowess firsthand, September 23rd at Madison’s Majestic Theater.

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    Rainer Maria - S/T

    Rainer Maria - S/T

    Rainer Maria

    Album title: S/T
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Aug 2017
    Label: Polyvinyl
    (2752) Page Views

    Older and bolder, Rainer Maria’s self-referencing album announces a reinvigorated version of a band true to its indie-emo roots. A mature reckoning of well-placed outrage, the trio’s first new music in eleven years vents invested aggressions with tumultuous impulses. Hypnotizing lines blasted in blazing persuasions and probing undertow, Rainer Maria’s brainier experiments unleash boundless power grounded in textured pressure, cobbling throbbing oppositions to kick-start whip-smart riffs and conjure exacting clashes stitched in rhythm-driven insistence. Half-collapsed in sticky bass snakes and twisted guitar manipulations, the fluid, brutal, casually agile tracks are practically tactile coupling prudent left-brain lyrics fueled by power-punched drums to viscous head-trips shifting elliptical dynamics of compressed intensity with suspenseful séance nuance.  The almighty Rainer Maria play Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee Back Room September 15th.

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    Torn Between - Maintain Low Tones

    Torn Between - Maintain Low Tones

    Torn Between

    Album title: Maintain Low Tones
    By Tommy Rage
    Posted: Aug 2017
    Label: Mirage M'Hal Records
    (2325) Page Views

    Debut albums can be difficult.  Especially if you are just long-time friends, musicians and Janesville residents. However, a polished first release can also lead you to open for national recording artist Shaman’s Harvest in front of 600 at the Majestic Theater on August 20th (http://majesticmadison.com/event/shamansharvest/).
    That polished sound, mixed with a noticeable effort to take the current rock movement one step further, has led me to ask the question: “What took you guys so long?”  Formed in 2015, and previously playing in local Janesville bands such as Rev-21 and Modifier, the band members have enjoyed some local success but decided to join together to put out a brilliant first release. “Honestly, it came down to us missing playing together. We wanted to be in a good rock band with our friends”, shares lead vocalist Roland Bell.
    The 5 track EP Maintain Low Tones (via Spotify ) bridges the gap between rebel metal and 90’s rock. The first track “For Your Treason”, starts with a steady and familiar rock beat. Torn Between then takes rock where it’s headed next. With strong underlying guitar work by Mike LeBay and vocals by Roland Bell, they unleash their angst with a modern and bold driving force.  “Cut The Cord” pushes Brad Ploof (drums) and Andy Glass (bass) to the front, as they pave the way for what your teenage self would listen to if rebellion-rock was invented today.  “Time Cut Short” tells a tragic tale using a sweet blend of upscale production and genuine story telling. This tune combines the best from all four band members and begs for radio play. 
    For years bands have been trying to assemble hardcore metal with an up-beat ‘fun’ rock tempo. Torn Between does exactly that, while still giving metal a very modern feel. This small-town group will definitely make an impact in southern Wisconsin and perhaps even further as they continue to push current rock forward.
    Check out Torn Between when they open for Shaman’s Harvest at the Majestic Theater on August 20th, and check out their website for future up-coming shows.

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    Kevin Morby - City Music

    Kevin Morby - City Music

    Kevin Morby

    Album title: City Music
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Jul 2017
    Label: Dead Oceans
    (1969) Page Views

    An immigrant’s parable dressed in home-grown poems depicting nocturnal journeys drizzled with hobo hindsight and punk busking, “City,” is one jumpin’ joint whose rootless characters are often running in place; rambling companions wrestling with loss, redemption, hope and reclamation. A lo-fi wayfarer, Morby’s heart-sleeve philosophy form folksy pearls perfectly suited for groovy soft-shoe troubadours and laconic road-house refugees. The casually savvy guitarist harvests beleaguered genius through world-weary lyrics detailing gentle half-dreamt memories dancing around stammering jams and bouncing counsel. Spotlit in after-hours solitude, the stories Morby tell are the calm eye in a dizzying storm, a temporary friendship and thankful anchor that nonetheless takes you on a ride you’ll treasure forever. A vibrant and intriguing performer, Kevin plays Spring Green’s The Shitty Barn August 31st.

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    Greta Van Fleet - Greta Van Fleet’s  Black Smoke Rising

    Greta Van Fleet - Greta Van Fleet’s Black Smoke Rising

    Greta Van Fleet

    Album title: Greta Van Fleet’s Black Smoke Rising
    By Tommy Rage
    Posted: Jun 2017
    Label: Lava Music/Republic Records
    (8601) Page Views

    The Hammer Gods have parted the sky to reveal the second coming.  Dramatic? Perhaps. Yet, one listen to Greta Van Fleet will, in every way possible, remind you that classic rock is alive and well. The similarities to such bands as Led Zeppelin and Heart is undeniable.  The release of the first studio EP Black Smoke Rising and the single “Highway Tune” makes you check your iPod twice to make sure that you have, indeed, found a band from Frankenmuth, Michigan. 

    “Safari Song” brings Josh Kiszka (vocals) to the front of the classic rock sound with Jake Kiszka (lead guitar) laying down a gritty riff.  “Flower Power” echoes this nostalgic rock sound with Sam Kiszka (bass) and Danny Wagner (drums) paving the way with a Moog synthesizer bed which will keep you entranced.  The four song EP, produced by Al Sutton (Kid Rock & Hank Williams Jr) never loses sight of who they are; and where their influences come from.  The young bothers: Josh, Sam and Jake Kiszka along with childhood friend Danny Wagner have only one release from Lava Music, available through iTunes & www.gretavanfleet.com, yet it’s safe to say that these young rockers were raised by parents who had record players stacked with British Invasion bands.  The title track “Black Smoke Rising”, and last song on the EP, infuses harmonies with blues and a psychedelic mix to showcase sample jams by each band member. This foursome is on their way to ensuring that classic rock blended with new rock will never die. I’m not cheating on you Robert and Jimmy, I’m just in love with a great new rock band.  Dramatic? Yes, but Greta Van Fleet are that good. 

    Greta Van Fleet plays Shake The Lake Saturday June 24th at 5:45 on the Isthmus West Stage

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