Miggs: Wide Awake


RIYL: Butch Walker, Matthew Good, Bon Jovi

Apparently Don Miggs has been making music and touring for several years, but as the bio for Miggs’ eponymous trio proclaims, they may be one of the “best bands you’ve never heard of.”  That’s a blessing and a curse, yet in today’s indie music scene, maybe more of a blessing if you can be heard.  Indie rock/pop label Rock Ridge was impressed enough with Miggs’ accessible, hard-edged alternative pop.  Miggs’ latest, Wide Awake, is 12 songs that ride as a roller coaster might – from addictive anthems like “Let the Games Begin” and the title track to Butch Walker-esque ditties like “Fire” and “Sincerity,” to balls-out rockers such as “Enemy,” with a positively stunning keyboard-driven ballad, “Crawl Inside,” to close out the set.  Miggs the vocalist sounds at various times like Jon Bon Jovi, Walker and Canadian rocker Matthew Good, and those are all guys with pipes.  Add in the production expertise of Ken Lewis (Fall Out Boy, Kanye West) and the rough edges of the band are captured on this release, yet effectively smoothed out as well. Intrigued?  You should be, because this is easily one of the best albums of 2010 that you….wait for it…..have not heard yet.  So do yourself a favor and go hear these guys.  (Rock Ridge 2010)

Miggs’ website: www.miggsmusic.com

  

Automatic Loveletter: Truth or Dare


RIYL: Pink, Alison Iraheta, Paramore

Rock band Automatic Loveletter is a bit of an anomaly. On the one hand, this sounds like one of those Warped Tour, Fuse-era bands that winds up on those tween TV shows. But on the other, this female-fronted outfit is just a damn good rock band with a singer that is clearly gifted. That singer is Juliet Simms, who has one of those voices you just can’t peg – it’s equal parts Janis Joplin and a female Butch Walker. Sound interesting? It is. But it’s more, because this young band has some killer songs on Truth or Dare, their debut album on Sony’s SIN (Sony Independent Network). That said, Simms’ voice can be shouty and one-dimensional at times, and that can distract a bit. But for the most part, this one is worth checking out. Among a solid set of 12 tracks, the best of the bunch are the opening anthem “Heart Song,” which is like one of those Pink/Butch Walker hybrids; “Fade Away,” which sounds like one of those teen summer romance songs; and “Day They Saved Us,” which is a combo power ballad/balls-out rocker. Yes, at times Automatic Loveletter defies description – you just have to hear it for yourself. But it’s all good. (Sony Independent Network 2010)

Automatic Loveletter MySpace Page

  

Saul Zonana: Phatso


RIYL: The Beatles, Butch Walker, Crowded House

Singer/songwriter/rocker Saul Zonana may sometimes experiment with different ideas, sounds and songwriting nuggets, but regardless, his music is almost always melodic and extremely appealing. Such is the case with Zonana’s latest, Phatso, self-recorded and produced in his hometown of Nashville with a small supporting cast. Zonana has also toured with and hung around the legendary Adrian Belew a lot the last few years, and some of Belew’s eccentric ways have rubbed off on Zonana where his songwriting is concerned. Tracks like “Boogyman,” “Mr. Pulsfuss,” and “Direction” are signature Saul, with the same Beatlesque harmonies and guitar tones, and are worth the price of admission here. But he veers left of center a few times, especially on the title track, which features female old-timey vocals and instrumentation. This one sounds like a radio commercial, but as far as that goes, “Really Expensive Cream” is not a song but a comedic bit that is actually meant to be a commercial. It’s funny, but it’s not something you’ll want to listen to over and over again. And two of the best tracks are the acoustic-driven “About You” and “In the Moment.” The former especially is not the type of song we’ve come to expect from Saul, but a really pleasant, stripped-down surprise. And with Phatso, surprise is the name of the game – from a good game at that. (20/20 Music 2010)

Saul Zonana website

  

Allison Iraheta: Just Like You


RIYL: Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Fergie

If you follow “American Idol” at all, you know that Season 8 (2009) was all about Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, and maybe some of you know current country act Danny Gokey, who finished third. But usually the other finalists are less memorable or fade into oblivion over time. Not so with fourth place finisher Allison Iraheta, who turned 17 during Season 8 but never showed signs of being that young. This young woman is so full of spunk and charisma, and has rocker pipes that should keep her financially set for a long time. Iraheta’s debut on Simon Fuller’s 19 Recordings/Jive, Just Like You, is one of those formula fests as pop/rock albums go – in other words, guys like Mitch Allan and David Hodges (Evanescence) were brought in to write with Allison, who winds up sounding more like Pink than anyone else. And if you’re into Pink, there is nothing wrong with that at all. Of course, some of this stuff is borderline annoying, like the Fergie-ish first two tracks, “Friday I’ll Be Over You” and “Robot Love.” But it gets better from there, starting with the powerful anthem of a title track, and later on with two of the best songs that somehow got buried here, piano ballad “Trouble Is,” and “No One Else,” (ironically co-written by Pink and “Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi), which is reminiscent of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best.” Come to think of it, Iraheta certainly has Turner elements in her voice, and that’s really saying something. No fading into oblivion here, just a really bright future. (19 Recordings/Jive 2009)

Allison Iraheta website

  

Butch Walker and the Black Widows: I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart


RIYL: Candy Butchers, Fountains of Wayne, Bryan Adams

Before he became as ubiquitous in the pop/rock music world as Kara DioGuardi and Diane Warren, Butch Walker was so totally cool. He fronted an indie modern rock band called Marvelous 3, a group that put out a few blistering albums of awesome power pop. Then Walker went out on his own and delivered one of the best rock albums of all time in Left of Self-Centered. Naturally, he started to get phone calls from other artists and labels and managers, wanting him to write with, produce and guide artists such as Pink, Bowling For Soup and Avril Lavigne. He also released a few more solo albums along the way. And while nothing measured up to Left of Self-Centered or the Marvelous 3 stuff, Walker has clearly taken two steps backward with his latest, I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. Maybe it’s because this one comes a little over a year after his latest, Sycamore Meadows, because being that prolific has a tendency to water down the material. In addition, part of the problem here is that while some of the songs seem catchy while you’re listening, you won’t be singing any of them afterward, because they’re not memorable, at least not based on the very high bar Butch has set for himself. There are a few exceptions, like “Stripped Down Version,” which has some slick guitar work and pretty harmonies, or “She Likes Hair Bands,” featuring lyrical snark reminiscent of the Marvelous 3 days. But on the likes of “Trash Day” and “House of Cards,” some of you die-hard Butch fans will be hitting “skip.” And while the closer, “Be Good Til Then,” carries a beautiful sentiment and was written for his very young son, the repetitive melody is more tired than anything Walker has ever delivered. I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, will, sadly, have Butch fans saying that they liked it better when his songs had heart. (One Haven 2010)

Butch Walker website

  

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