Category: Music Reviews

Buckle in the Bible Belt

Ha Ha Tonka
Buckle in the Bible Belt
Bloodshot Records
By Ben Griebel
4 out of 5 Stars

No reason to let their name fool you as Ha Ha Tonka’s new release Buckle in the Bible Belt is nothing to laugh at. Hailing from mid-state Missouri, the southern influence is readily apparent in their sound, but by track two, “St. Nick On the Fourth in a Fervor,” it is apparent that there is more to this band than standard southern rock. “St Nick” opens with an amazing a cappella harmony that has all the beauty and precision of a barber shop quartet. These amazing vocal harmonies take this band from decent to amazing and add a level of intensity that is hard to come by. From this gem of a song the band goes straight into the erratic “Gusto” which deals with the issue of meth use in rural areas, an subject that hits close to their hometown of Springfield, Mo. Ha Ha Tonka refuses to stray from tough subject matter, focusing their new album about the many problems that face rural areas like their hometown. “Bully in the Pulpit,” the eighth track, has the same fiery emotion of the very type of vehement southern preacher that the song mocks, conjuring up images of Jonathan Edward’s classic “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon. While the band spends a great amount of time showing their discontent with their rural upbringing, the album reflects the deep impact of local folk music.

The combination of beautiful gospel-like vocals, lyrics that bravely tackle home hitting issues, and a mean sounding guitar creates an excellent record. Even coming through my low fidelity speakers this album creates a presence and intensity that is undeniable, and suggests that this is a band to see live. Until then lovers of hard sounding folk rock are sure to love Ha Ha Tonka’s new album, Buckle in the Bible Belt.

In Our Name

Jose Gonzalez
In Our Nature
Peacefrog Records
By: Kelly Reed
4 out of 5 stars

In Our Nature is the second full-length release by singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s rise in the music industry has been sudden, but also very welcomed. If he hadn’t changed course of study, to no course, we might have never had the chance to hear such an accomplished musician. Born and raised in Sweden by his Argentine parents, Gonzalez originally went to a Swedish University to study microbiology. As his first full-length album Veneer was released in 2005, Gonzalez decided to leave the university and continue with his music. On his new record, Gonzalez’s voice sounds just as beautiful as his acoustic guitar and the soft back up vocalists that hum along to him as they clap rhythmically to the music. His song “How Low” starts the album off, and sets the mood and the theme for the entire album. It speaks of selfishness, mistakes, and hope, which transitions right into another fantastic song. In “Down the Line” Gonzalez’s second track the lines, “Come on over, don’t be so caught up. It’s all about colonizing. Don’t let the darkness eat you up,” come out and say exactly what he wants you to know. It is a great beginning, and he lays his message on thick. It reminds us of what we all should know, such as to not make the same mistake twice. Gonzalez sings what we feel, and helps get us through the bad days, stressful moments, and any moment in which we need to feel a little peace in our lives. He is not your Starbucks coffee house artist, Jose Gonzalez is not only enjoyable to listen to, but unique. Everyone should give this man a listen, because he is just that good.

Gettin' Gone

Gettin’ Gone
Ecstatic Peace Records
2.5 of 5 stars
By: Kelly Reed

Gettin’ Gone was released at the beginning of October, by MV & EE. The band consists mainly of Matt Valentine, and Erika Elder, while other musicians join them for different occasions. The sound sends your body into a time warp. Traveling back in time, to when folk mixed with the experimental psychedelic ruled the airwaves. Off Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace, the sounds are similar. There is slow distortion that ebbs and flows out of the speakers and into your ears. The distortion is fun to hear, and the music is overall relaxing. When they sing out, it is usually more of a rambling than actual singing. This is a bit strange at first, because how they sound is not what people normally hear. Some of the songs that are good off of Gettin’ Gone are “Easy Livin’” and “Speed Queen”. The title to “Easy Livin’” says it all for this song, it is very relaxing to listen to Matt Valentine sing out on this track. The song “Speed Queen” has a faster tempo then some of the other songs on Gettin Gone. The steady drum beat and a decent guitar line just fits with this band. Their lyrics almost surreal give a unique feeling to this band. They are a good listen, not the best, but good.

Letters Letters

Letters Letters
“Letters Letters”
Type Records
By: Kelly Reed
2 out of 5 stars

Starting off like a bad dream you cannot wake up from, Letters Letters opens their self-titled album up with screeching distortion that claws at the insides of your ear. Don’t let the first track keep you from listening from the rest of this album because there is some merit to it. For this Montreal/Chicago three-piece band, their debut album does hit some rough spots with raw, and unconventional tunes. Sounding more mechanical than human, their rhythmic electronic work syncs together like a well-oiled machine. This is definitely an album that you must listen to more than once, before you can begin to appreciate all the layers of work they have put into it. All of the talent that Letters Letters has, seems to have been hidden underneath this industrial style of music and the droning vocals of lead singer Mitchell Akiyama. Not all is bad, some people will really love this album, because it is very different. The song “Everyone’s Afraid of Fear” has a very interesting intro, which sounds like the wild amazon with a collaboration of instruments. After the intro pans out, Jenna Robertson takes over the lead vocals for the better and sings out that, “the unicorns have left their homes, everyone’s afraid of fear.” This album is perfect for when you wake up and find that outside your window it is raining and dismal. On that sort of day, you should listen to this album. It won’t make you feel better, but their music sounds just like you picture it. Letters Letters seem to try and get across a feeling more than anything, and if you are looking to feel happy, or have an intense sensation to start jumping around to some heavy bass, this is probably something that you wouldn’t want to put into you CD player.Letters Letters in the end comes across as alien, distant, and cold.