Kal Marks: Universal Care [Album Review] 0 456

Kal Marks
Universal Care
Exploding in Sound Records [2018]



fire-note-headphone-approved






Who: Boston’s Kal Marks get the new year started off on the right foot. Universal Care is my first favorite new record of 2018!

Sound: Universal Care finds the band evolving into a distinctive brand of intense and monolithic noise rock. It is still Kal Marks; they have not gone soft, just more varied in their delivery.

TFN Final Take: For their fourth LP, Boston’s Kal Marks rip open 2018 with the scalding “Fuck This Guy.” It is a frightening, propulsive, almost tribal track. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what singer-guitarist Carl Shane is shrieking about, but I hope it is Trump.

Tracks two and three are more similar to the Kal Marks I have grown accustomed to from their past LPs. Noisy and dense rock. “Loosed” has a groovy bass-line fluttering around in it with punctuations of heavy guitar fuzz and ear-scouring vocals.

Track 3, “Springtime in January” sees Kal Marks step up the tempo and break into heavy punk territory. They place a disorienting pause towards the end of the track just to rev everything up for a final 30-second breakneck mosher.

“Grand Mal,” “A Place Amongst All the Angry Hordes” and “Adventure” are a few other highlights on Universal Care. Each track has its own little quirks and hooks that keep you moving through the album with ease.

The quiet clarity and honesty of “Ode” rips into your heart. Same goes for album closer “Today I Walked Down to the Tree, Read a Book…” it starts so soft and unexpected but eventually gives way to a noise-laden finale.

Universal Care is another fantastic album in Kal Marks’ remarkable discography. Highly recommended for listeners who like their rock noisy and dense. Fans of Pile, Baked, Washer, and the rest of Exploding in Sound Records artists should definitely give Universal Care a shot.

Kal Marks Website
Kal Marks Facebook
Exploding In Sound Records

Daniel Taylor

Daniel Taylor

Photographer/journalist for the U.S. Navy for 26 years. Music fan since forever. Music really hit him in the early 90’s when he heard the Pixies’ Doolittle LP. After that came Pavement and then Guided by Voices. His love for those bands formed his taste in music and he continues to search for that musical “high” today. Married for 18 years and currently lives in Japan.
Daniel Taylor

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Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 859

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Daniel Taylor

Daniel Taylor

Photographer/journalist for the U.S. Navy for 26 years. Music fan since forever. Music really hit him in the early 90’s when he heard the Pixies’ Doolittle LP. After that came Pavement and then Guided by Voices. His love for those bands formed his taste in music and he continues to search for that musical “high” today. Married for 18 years and currently lives in Japan.
Daniel Taylor

Latest posts by Daniel Taylor (see all)

Stars: There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light [Album Review] 0 425

Stars
There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light
Last Gang Records [2017]

ratings3_5






Who: Veteran indie pop band from Canada.

Sound: Indie pop with a heart and a head.

TFN Final Take: Stars is like a well-worn glove that is comfortable, reliable, but lacking in surprise or unpredictability. There is nothing wrong with that; they are still great at what they do. And what they do is construct a song, engage you, and give you space to reflect on what you’re hearing. My standout track is “Alone,” which has a chorus that stuck with me. The song takes its time to unfold and then slowly recedes into silence. “Real Thing” is another good one that throws an off-speed pitch for a chorus. Per usual, established fans will find a lot to like in the latest album and new fans will hopefully take advantage of Stars’ great catalog.

Stars Website
Stars Facebook
Last Gang Records

– Reviewed by Matthew Heiner

Daniel Taylor

Daniel Taylor

Photographer/journalist for the U.S. Navy for 26 years. Music fan since forever. Music really hit him in the early 90’s when he heard the Pixies’ Doolittle LP. After that came Pavement and then Guided by Voices. His love for those bands formed his taste in music and he continues to search for that musical “high” today. Married for 18 years and currently lives in Japan.
Daniel Taylor

Latest posts by Daniel Taylor (see all)

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