Friday, April 29, 2011

Title Fight Shouts Out A New LP Shed

Title FightIn 2003, a new three-piece act started playing local shows in Kingston and Wilkes-Barre, Penn. The original members included vocalist Jamie Rhoden on guitar, Ned Russin on bass and Ben Russin on drums. Even before they added Shane Moran, a second guitar, Kingston locals noted there was something about the band.

Never mind they were barely out of the sixth grade and only played about ten shows. Once they had a demo as a four piece in 2005, people started to take them seriously.

Four years later, the hardcore band with punk stylings recorded a split album and Erection Kids before producing the Kingston 7" with FlightPlan Records. FlightPlan Records died a few years ago, but Title Fight went on to work with Run For Cover Records and Six Feet Under Records.

Title Fight pounds out Shed in two weeks.

In January, as they were wrapping up a two-week recording session with Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand), they made another move to OneSideDummy. The change has already led to greater exposure. Title Fight is on a headline tour for the first time. Their single, Shed, was released for free on iTunes. They have a documentary in the works. Almost everything else? It's the same. Insane.

The new album is packed with 13 tracks that shout down everything and everyone around them. Every track is tighter much like the band, a testament to how this once teen punk band has come into its own as a headliner. And even though Rhoden's voice is arguably rougher, they are as relentless as ever in the studio and on the stage.

Technically, Shed is the band's first full LP. The Last Thing You Forget, which some reviewers mistook as a debut, was a compilation of everything they had produced since 2005. While it was smart to rerelease the work, it was difficult to appreciate who they were and where they were going. There is no such issue with Shed or their exclusive VHS documentary.

Title Fight is mostly hardcore with short, loud, furious songs. The three exceptions are Safe In Your Skin and GMT, which are more brooding and methodic. Where Am I? also changes things up a bit with its alt rock leanings. Stab has some pop punk underpinnings.

The best of the hardcore includes the title track, Shed, Coxton Yard, You Can't Say Kingston Doesn't Love You, and the 72-second punch packed in Missed. These are solid enough to keep the hardcore community in check while helping the band win over a broader crowd.

Shed By Title Fight Knocks Down A 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is no doubt that Shed packs the right punch. What I expect is some people to be put off by the screamed vocals. But the odd thing about any song on Shed is that the more you listen it, the more you realize it has to be played that way.

Shed by Title Fight is on iTunes. You can also get the title track as a free download there. Shed is also on Amazon. The VHS video was exclusive for album preorders, but you never know when SideOneDummy will release it again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Michael Marshall's Killer Move Is A Chilling Thriller

Killer MoveKiller Move is a novel about a Florida Realtor named Bill Moore. He’s doing well enough selling condos in the Florida Keys despite never reaching the level of success he always dreamed of achieving. Most people would be happy enough.

He's married to a beautiful wife. He has a large home in a tony gated community. He sees himself as upwardly mobile. His only failing is that the super success he plotted out on this five-year plan hasn't come to fruition. But Bill won't be deterred.

He's decided to put plans on the fast track by connecting with the “right” people. Unfortunately for Bill, falling in with the right people means falling away from any semblance of life as he knows it. His life will never be the same and neither will the lives of anyone around him.

The card waiting for him at the office one day says it all. "Modified."

Bill doesn't know what it means so he doesn't give it a second thought. In fact, Bill doesn't give much a second thought; he isn’t completely aware of the things happening around him until it hits him full force.

That someone who blew off a meeting with him has disappeared. An older woman he recently met with turns up dead. Bill’s wife discovers racy photos of his female co-worker on his laptop — photos he didn’t take and didn’t put there. And then his wife goes missing. Bill's life is being modified.

Killer Move is peopled with average folks and extraordinary individuals with secret lives and secret pasts.

Killer Move Alternative CoverIt’s the story of an unremarkable man who finds himself running for his life to save what he can as it slips from his grasp. There are twists, turns, and mostly unpredictable plot shifts.

The cumulation of them gives the novel a nice element of suspense and even terror. And while there is the requisite violence, it isn’t gratuitous. Where Michael Marshall succeeds with the work is that readers share a roller coaster ride with Bill as his life begins to unravel.

The looming question throughout the book seems simple on the surface. Who is it who wants to destroy Bill's life? And of all people on the planet, why is he the one being targeted? Maybe he is not the only one.

Author Michael Marshall will keep you guessing until the bitter end.

Michael MarshallMarshall is a London-based who author grew up in the United States, South Africa, and Australia. While he is an award-winning writer of best sellers, Killer Move proves he is only getting better with age.

Although best known for writing a trio of books: The Straw Men (an international best seller that has also been made into a comic series), The Upright Man, and Blood Angels, he also has several other titles that have won over fans. They include The Servants, The Intruders, and Bad Things.

As if that isn't enough, he also writes under the names Michael Marshall Smith, M. M. Smith, and is an accomplished screenwriter. In his spare time, Marshall and his wife own and manage a natural health and beauty store in London.

Killer Move Is Modified At 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Publishers Weekly has called Killer Moves a “subtle and unnerving story of the little things that can tip the balance of one’s life and send it spiraling into chaos.” While I wouldn't say the modification is subtle, the rest is a very apt assessment. While it's not a morality tale, it does remind you that the best things in life are barely noticeable until they aren't there anymore.

Killer Move is to be released on June 28, 2011. You can preorder a copy of Killer Move: A Novel from Amazon. Barnes & Noble is also accepting order reservations for Killer Move. Both offers include steep discounts.

This review is based on an uncorrected advance proof we received from William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poly Styrene Leaves Generation Indigo

Poly StyreneOn the eve of the Future Noise Music bonus track release of Generation Indigo, Poly Styrene a.k.a. Marianne Elliot Said was dead. The British punk rock icon's rebellious hollers will be heard no more. And the world is a little less for it all.

Styrene died on Monday, April 25, after fighting breast cancer that had spread to her lungs and spine. The punk among punks was 53.

Best known for fronting the X-Ray Spex in the 1970s and pushing musicians to break from the rank and file of conformity, Styrene went to work on her first solo release in years, only to learn she had cancer during the production.

Her swan song album, of which she missed the bonus track release by one day, is another groundbreaking mark on the music landscape. It's a celebration of how she saw the world differently, and dared other people to do the same.

Generation Indigo remains true to Styrene's mantra. Be like nobody else. Be yourself.

The forward-looking album that returns Styrene to her roots is a showcase for humorous musings on pop culture, the Internet, and fashion. She also tackles heavier topics of war and racism. And, notably across the entire album, is her relentlessly intelligent lyrics and love of life, even as she faced death.

You can hear it off the album too. Even one month ago, Styrene was promoting her upcoming return and granting interviews. One of her last interviews is featured on emusic, The Legacy Of Poly Strene, well written by Andrew Perry.

In the interview, she tells of how music was changing as punk musicians decided they could get up and play without being signed. She also provides insight into one of the tracks on the ambitious 13-track Generation Indigo lineup (counting a remix).

"It's just a fun twist on modern relationships," she said. "I think relationships can become more superficial and end before they even really begin, so we need to be careful and also maintain the importance of human contact."

The video was quietly released in March, capturing a modest amount of listens considering Styrene is one of the most influential punk female vocalists of the last century. The song is remarkable in that it proves Styrene masterfully retained her youthful energy. Throughout her life, she was an optimistic powerhouse, credited with helping start an underground feminist movement in the U.S. known as Riot Grrrl.

In turn, Riot Grrrl gave birth to bands like Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill. Her daughter Celeste Bell-Dos Santos is the deliciously punk frontwoman for the music group Debutant Disco. (Bell-Dos Santos also sings backup along with Styrene's sister on Generation Indigo.)

But those are different stories all together. Generation Indigo, which is Styrene's name for a growing generation (the same one her daughter was born into, as it pertains to spiritual auras) that will finally have enough of hate and wars. While a cantankerous critique on modern society, much like where she started in the 1970s, the album is upbeat.

Songs that have a sense of permanence include I Luv Ur Sneakers, Virtual Boyfriend, Trash City, and Kitsch. The heavier content includes Colour Blind and Code Pink Dub. In several interviews, Styrene said that had she written the songs today as opposed to months earlier, it would have been a different album, darker all around. The entire album is worth the download, with Ghoulish among the most underrated songs inspired by Michael Jackson.

Generation Indigo Shines Brightly With An 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Produced under the guidance of Youth (The Verve, Killing Joke, The Fireman, Edwyn Collins). She originally brought 15 songs to the producer, who kicked out several and told her to write five more with better hooks. You can also find what will become a classic video on YouTube, with Styrene running down the thoughts beyond every track.

Generation Indigo is available on iTunes. Generation Indigo is also on Amazon and a special edition CD was recently released at Barnes & Noble.

Rich Becker contributed to this review.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tombstone Is The Town That Won't Die

TombstoneThere is scarcely a saloon inside Tombstone, Arizona, that doesn't have its namesake film playing in a continual loop. Among the dozen or so television shows and movies referencing the town's infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone with Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp), Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday), Sam Elliott (Virgil Earp), and Bill Paxton (Morgan Earp) remains the town's favorite.

The reason is simple. Of all the references and reenactments, the 1993 movie does one of the best jobs immortalizing several historic moments with a flash of fact and fiction. And although the movie clearly sides with the testimony of Wyatt Earp, not everyone in the town of Tombstone agrees. Even today, there is considerable confusion in regard to who was armed and who shot whom.

The infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral.

Shortly after a prospector discovered an outcropping of high grade silver around Goose Flats in 1877, Ed Schieffelin began prospecting in the area and renamed the town Tombstone (reportedly after a solider warned him that a tombstone would be the only rock he would find). Within four years, it would grow from a population of 100 to the largest city in the Southwest.

ShootoutThe stage was dressed for a gunfight at the O.K. Corral as tensions grew between miners and cowboys (rustlers) with the Earps on one side and the Clantons and McLaurys on the other. The long-lasting feud between these families would culminate in making Tombstone one of the most famous boom towns in the United States.

It wouldn't end with the shootout either. Even the two competing papers in town took sides, with the Tombstone Epitaph praising the exoneration of the Earps and the Tombstone Nugget calling the judge's decision contemptible. In the months that followed, there were several assignation attempts, including one that rendered Virgil Earp disabled and another that killed Morgan Earp. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday would respond to the killings with what is now known as the Vendetta Ride.

Tombstone is the town that wouldn't die.

While the shootout at the O.K. Corral ensured the town would retain its historic relevance after most of the silver had been mined, Tombstone earned its slogan "The Town That Wouldn't Die" for different reasons. The town survived two major fires, which destroyed most of the downtown area. After both devastating fires, the townspeople rebuilt.

Tombstone CourthouseToday, the living town is an historic attraction. Many of the buildings that were rebuilt after the fires in the 1880s are still standing. Several have been transformed into shops, but other notables such as the Crystal Palace Saloon (best steaks), the Longhorn Restaurant (formerly the Bucket of Blood Saloon), the Big Nose Kate's Saloon (formally The Grand Hotel and best burgers and pizza) still serve meals.

Attractions in Tombstone include an array of walking, self-guided, and motor tours. Highlights include the Birdcage Theater, the Tombstone Courthouse, Epitaph Museum, and Boothill Cemetery. But before visiting those locations, quick guided tours around town on the Old Butterfield Stagecoach or Tombstone Trolley will help you become familiar with the town.

There are also two gunfight shows held several times a day. The first is the Helldorado Town Gunfight, which is a comedically historical take on life in the wild west performed by stunt actors. The second is a recreation of the shootout at the O.K. Corral, which attempts to provide a balanced, if not Clanton sympathetic, perspective.

Most hotels are short on frills, but fun.

Tombstone, past and presentThere are a variety of motels and bed/breakfast choices that can place you within walking distance of the town, including Crazy Annie's Bordello and the Silver Nugget, which are located on Fremont Street. A short drive out of town, just past Boothill Cemetery, there is Tombstone Holiday Inn Express and pet-friendly Best Western Lookout Lodge. We stayed at the latter.

If you are staying in Tombstone for closer to a week, make plans to visit some neighboring towns, including Bisbee for its small but informative mining and historic museum and the Copper Queen Mine Tour. The historic mountain mining town will change your perspective of the area compared to the more rugged and dusty town of Tombstone, which can be experienced fully over the course of two days.

Nearby, sprawling Sierra Vista has some history too. Specifically, the two museums at Fort Huachuca and the stunning limestone caves at Kartchner Caverns, which is north of Sierra Vista. (The most striking natural exhibit is not open to children under 7.)

Tombstone Steps Up At 6.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

As a tourist attraction, there are portions of Tombstone that feel closer to tourist entrapments while others remain an authentic part of history. Yet, it remains one of those experiences that places you face to face with a sense of the American West. When you visit, do your best to sync your schedule to the town. The day starts late and ends early, with dinner service ending at 8 p.m. (and the Best Western Lookout Lodge only serves breakfast).

Traveling to Tombstone requires some planning in that the closest commercial airport is in Tucson. Tombstone is approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours from Tucson and you can make most booking arrangements via Fare Buzz, which has a number of weekend travel deals.

If you schedule a return flight late enough in the day, visiting the Pima Air & Space Museum on the way back from the former boomtown is well worth it. It's one of the largest aviation museums in the world.

The two lower shots are recent photos that happen to line up with two historic photos. The first is the Tombstone Courthouse, 1882 and 2011. The second is Fremont Street, Tombstone, 1881 and 2001.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Self-Titled Debut Is All My Goodness

My GoodnessPick a series of a few chords inside any one of their songs and it's clear that Seattle hasn't lost any of its edge in the American music scene. The duo that makes up the band My Goodness is one of the best new finds on the indie circuit, fusing blues, punk, and rock into an urgently course and undressed sound that makes you want more.

Their new self-titled LP from the boutique label Sarathan Records, My Goodness, has everything going for it. The music is more complex than the Black Keys, with guitarist Joel Schneider delivering up unfettered vocals and a relentless guitar.

Drummer Ethan Jacobsen lays down a richly aggressive percussion to keep the songs together. Together, they're brilliant.

In fact, it's almost hard to believe that Schneider was once considered quiet and introverted by his choir teacher at the progressive International School in Bellevue. It's even harder to believe that his conservative upbringing restricted him from pop music.

From a shy choir tenor to a sizzling post-punk indie rocker.

That all changed when Schneider's choir instructor encouraged him to enter a jazz festival competition. He took first prize. Nine years later, he decided to team up with Jacobsen as a side project from his other electrifying band, The Absolute Monarchs. The result of this partnership is something to watch.

The music video is produced by upstart filmmaker John Meyer. Meyer produced the video by lining up almost a dozen cameras with various lenses, attempting to create a progressive video while retaining Schneider's vision for rawness. The song was shot in its entirety, requiring several takes to get it right.

"His [Meyer's] mom used to babysit me when I was 4 or 5 years old, maybe even younger," Schneider said in a recent interview. "My first memories were at his house."

The impossibility of one clean take wasn't limited to a single music video. The self-titled album was produced entirely on analog tape under the guidance of engineer Chris Common at Red Rooms Studio in Seattle. Analog produces a warmer, richer sound but makes it nearly impossible to cut, paste and move arrangements around.

The net gain is a live feel that Schneider says he wouldn't do any other way. In addition to I've Got A Notion, almost every track represents the freedom that Schneider and Jacobsen say they haven't had a chance to produce in their other bands, which is also how they came up with the name. My Goodness is all the goodness without an outlet.

Other standout drivers off the ten-track album include the opener Blackout Baby, the hard hitting and bluesy C'mon Doll, the fluid Let Me Free, and the angry Better Call Your Mother. The last track, Lost In The Soul, is an out-of-place but pleasant acoustic singer-songwriter track that suggests My Goodness has a tremendous range to tap for a long time to come.

The Self-Titled Debut By My Goodness Hits Hard With A 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Some consumer reviews are claiming this is the album of a band you'll want to say you knew them when. Sarathan Records might agree, given the boutique label says it knew it would sign them halfway into the second song during a live performance. There isn't much to argue about. It sets the bar for the best debut album out this year.

My Goodness has become hard to find, but the self-titled debut is still listed at Barnes & Noble. Schneider and Jacobsen say they are anxious to get on the road to share the album. Most of the songs sound like they have jam sessions built in, even if they are surprisingly tight in their structuring.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Billion Acts Of Green For Earth Day

Earth DayThe year 1970 saw the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and one of the largest Vietnam protest in Washington D.C., but some great things happened too.

Black Sabbath debuted what is sometimes regarded as the first heavy metal album, the astronauts on the crippled Apollo 13 mission safely returned, and Earth Day launched a new awareness for the environment.

It might be Earth Day, but the real accomplishment isn't about April 22. It's about 22,000 partners and organizations in 192 countries working to transform awareness into action through the Earth Day Network.

This year, the Earth Day Network has stepped up its challenge to get more people involved through its A Billion Acts of Green campaign, which asks people to make a simple pledge to do one thing that benefits themselves and the environment — even the tiniest contributions that range from buying more food from local farms to turning off the water while brushing your teeth.

The smallest contributions often have the biggest impact.

It might not seem all that significant on a small scale, but A Billion Acts of Green isn't small. More than 100 million people have participated. And some of these various efforts only seem small. This includes Pennies For The Planet, which asked school children to collect pennies to help save a natural sanctuary for endangered species. They collected 2.7 million of them ($27,500).

The same kind of inspiration struck renowned artist Vik Muniz several years ago. He journeyed from his home base in Brooklyn to Brazil to see the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

What he discovered there was a band of eclectic pickers, called catadores who look for and attempt to live off recycled materials. His collaboration with these people as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair. It was his hope that he might help them re-imagine their lives.

In addition to participating in the film, Muniz donated 100 percent of the “Pictures of Garbage” portraits created to the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho. The funds were used to build them new homes, fund the community's deficit, and improve its infrastructure, among other things. The documentary also provides a dedicated donation page, with the filmmakers advising that any donation be directed to the ACAMJG community through the BrazilFoundation.

Interestingly enough, the landfill seen in the film was opened in 1970. The same year that Earth Day was founded.

A Billion Acts of Green Is A Good Will Pick.

At least once a month, Liquid [Hip] highlights good will efforts undertaken by courageous people with big hearts. We don’t score them. That belongs to you.

We picked A Billion Acts of Green from the Earth Network because it was one of the most positive and individual-specific campaigns launched in conjunction with Earth Day this year. It requires little more than making a pledge to do even the smallest thing for the environment or the people who live in threatened areas.

Visit the website for upcoming screenings of Waste Land. You can also find the documentary Waste Land on iTunes. Perhaps it will inspire you to do something more.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sun Wizard Lights Up With Positively 4th Avenue

Sun WizardNewly formed two years ago, Sun Wizard bills itself as your favorite rock band when you were in high school, back when the world was a little bigger and everything you touched was a bit more golden. But there seems to be more to this four-member band from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Their new album, which was released with the help of Light Organ Records, features ten tracks of melodic rock with big guitar riffs and right light harmonies from two talented singers. On the whole, it is also a much stronger sound than the EP they put out in 2009 (Maybe They Were Right) and the digital 45 (Quick Acting Cold) that they put out in December.

Positively 4th Avenue adds a deeper indie sound, sometimes.

Certainly, some of the album has an easygoing, late Seventies indie rock vibe that fits the image of the band. But their best work breaks away from the overly light musings and adds more power to their timeless pop rock. Some people might not even hear the full potential with the band's first video featuring World's Got A Handle, but this is a fine start.

While the World's Got A Handle is light and wistful, gravitate toward their folk-infused Middle Of My Heart, the uptempo Sick of Waiting, and the more dynamic light lament within Buildings for a better feel for this up-and-coming band from Canada. And if you listen or download one song, make it Golden Girl.

While it is clearly one of the more vintage-sounding songs, every element inside the arrangement of Golden Girl is perfectly executed from start to finish. Perfect enough to keep it in heavy rotation longer than any other track. It delivers precisely what the band wants.

"Basically, our main thing is making well produced, timeless pop/rock songs that get people stoked and have the potential to be radio singles," said James Younger (guitar/vocals) after the release of their first EP. "But we're also ready to take our music out of Vancouver and onto the open road, to search for a life without beds, and for girls without boyfriends."

Although the band is new, it has roots that predate 2009. During the summer of 2008 three of the members, Younger along with Malcolm Jack (guitar/vocals) and Frank Lyon (bass), played an impromptu session on Vancouver Island. Immediately after, Younger and Jack started writing lyrics in preparation for a spring reunion. It was also about that time they added Ben Frey (drums) and officially became a band.

Positively 4th Avenue By Sun Wizard Lights Up At 3.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The album does have some weak spots. I'd even suggest skipping Safe And Sound, Sour Note, Too Much On Your Mind, and Little Less In Control. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the album isn't a promising start. The best this band can do is keep doing what they are doing, especially if they do more like Golden Girl.

You can find Positively 4th Avenue by Sun Wizard on iTunes. Amazon currently has an audio import of Positively 4th Avenue, but it has yet to be added at the store.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Source Behind The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment BureauWhile the film The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, might have only received a lukewarm reception on the silver screen, some people might feel differently about the source material. The movie is loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick called The Adjustment Team, first published by Orbit Science Fiction in 1954.

Loosely is the operative word. While the premise is the same, any other similarities are few and far between. The original, in contrast, represents everything great about the sci fi genre in the 1950s.

It begins when a clerk from the Adjustment Team is tasked with ensuring Ed Fletcher gets to work on time so an “adjustment” can be made to people within a designated “sector.” To do this, the clerk enlists the assistance of a summoner—a talking dog—who is to bark at an appointed time. Things go wrong because the dog falls asleep and barks a few minutes too late.

Sometimes letting a sleeping dog lie is the wrong thing to do.

Instead of heading out to work, Ed lingers at home and is interrupted by an insurance salesman knocking on his door. He reluctantly agrees to let the salesman in, and — one insurance policy later — Ed makes his way to the office two hours late.

When he arrives, something is wrong. Everything is gray. Anything he touches turns to ash. When Ed tries to escape, he is followed by members of the Adjustment Team. As he makes his way further away from the scene, everything starts to become “real” again. But is it?

adjustedSince Ed wasn’t where he was supposed to be when the reality adjustment took place, he hasn’t been “adjusted.” This wouldn't be a problem, except that he notices how everyone else has been adjusted.

The team hasn't given up on him. When Ed steps into a phone booth, he is levitated into the sky to have a discussion with the “old man,” the adjuster of adjusters. Once he learns a little about what happened, he is allowed to return to resume his normal life on the condition that he will never tell anyone—not even his wife— what he saw and what he knows.

Ed agrees, but this proves to be easier said than done. His wife wants to know where he’s been and suspects he may have been cheating on her. Ed, of course, has a hard time coming up with a believable excuse. There are a few more surprises before the story ends abruptly, and don't expect to fully get to know the characters in this short story. It only makes it all the more strange.

An adjustment to cover author Philip K. Dick.

Dick (1928-1982) was a prolific science fiction author who never received any real recognition for his work by readers and critics during his lifetime. His work was largely and sadly ignored by the masses, with his greatest success coming posthumously.

Philip K. DickHis novels and short stories typically explore topics such as destiny, free will, identity, metaphysics, and perception. To date, a slew of feature films have been made based on his work, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, The Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly.

The mental issues Dick grappled with all his life are often the issues his characters battle too. He suffered from terrible bouts of vertigo and nervous breakdowns at various points in his life. In 1974, he claimed to have been contacted by an extraterrestrial force, which he described as a pink beam of light. The experience even found its way in to his work, for which he was at once lauded and maligned by critics.

The Adjustment Bureau (Story) By Philip K. Dick Clicks At 5.5 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

While the Adjustment Bureau is available for 99 cents from the Kindle store on Amazon, the audiobook lends some additional life to the story. It's certainly worthwhile to consider.

Phil Gigante does a fine job narrating the story, staying true to the original and employing solid voices for various characters. It mostly works to good effect, especially, albeit briefly, as the talking dog. The audiobook clocks in at just under an hour, and it’s an engaging listen.

I’m guessing the audiobook company changed the name of the work to capitalize on the popularity of the movie. You can find The Adjustment Bureau on Amazon. You can also download the source audio version of The Adjustment Bureau on iTunes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Virginmarys Take A Ride

The VirginmarysHaling from Macclesfield, United Kingdom, it was hard to miss The Virginmarys last year. Their first EP — Cast The First Stone — falls in and out of my playlist on a regular basis.

However, as promising as Cast The First Stone seemed to be, it's the new EP, Just A Ride, that pushes The Virginmarys from a casual enjoyment to everything that a new rock band, even with a few vintage undertones, can sound like.

And that sound is big, surprisingly so from a three-member lineup. It's also the sound of a band that learned a few things after being on the road for the better part of a year.

One chance discovery put The Virginmarys on pace.

Shortly after the band came together two years ago, producer Toby Jepson (ex-frontman of Little Angels) happened to catch one of their live shows around the Manchester area. He was so taken by the band he helped them press their first EP at Chappel Studios, Lincolnshire in just three months from when they say they were founded.

The next well known they won over was Mike Fraser, who offered to mix the album. Classic Rock magazine even took a listen and called them one of the “Top 20 bands to watch for 2010.” Unfortunately, for whatever reason, not everyone was ready embrace the next Led Zeppelin (as some reviewers called them, an accidental kiss of death).

They are not Led Zeppelin by any stretch. But Ally Dickaty (vocals/guitars), Matt Rose (bass/vocals), and Danny Dolan (drums) do have more under the hood. Their new lineup features three gritty, fast-paced songs and one unpolished ballad.

Just A Ride is the first of four tracks that helps move The Virginmarys away from the classic rock moniker and toward something fresher, with a well-baked attitude that plays well on stage as people are taken in by Dickaty's guttural voice, especially when he is joined by the gruff-sounding Rose. Hearing them would convince some people they are ten years old, not two years new.

Then, add to all the energy delivered by Dickaty and Rose a drummer who is anything but in the background. Dolan puts more power into every beat than most percussionists, with his set frequently positioned further downstage than many bands. He is a sight to watch in his own right.

What makes Just A Ride even better is the added near-punk progressive aggression. There's more here than blues, psychedelic riffs, and heavy bass lines inside In The City and My Little Girl. And Stripped just proves the versatility of the band as they knock it all back into a folksy sad-saddled lament.

Just A Ride By The Virginmarys Rattles With A 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

If The Virginmarys can escape the stigma of being a throwback band, they just might live up to the hefty expectations of a few enthusiastic reviews last year. As a three-piece band, they clearly have the chops and momentum on their side. Now all they need to find are a few more introductions to a younger audience.

Just A Ride can be downloaded from iTunes. The new LP that replaced the EP can also be found on Amazon. Currently, the band is touring the United Kingdom. Signing up for the Townsend Records mailing list from The Virginmarys website earns you three more unreleased tracks, including China Girl, Portrait Of Red, and Thousand Times. The latter is worth it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Has An Edge As A Racer

Hot PursuitLast November, when Electronic Arts (EA) came out with its Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (Hot Pursuit), it added a dimension to racer games that is hard to beat. Hot Pursuit did exactly what it promised to do. It redefined open road racing with its stunning graphics and a variety of choices for game play.

The ability to play as a racer or play as the police creates an added challenge that many racers don't have — someone is out to not only beat you, but someone is out to wreck you in a game that falls somewhere between Mad Max (minus the post-apocalyptic world) and the underworld subculture of street racers from the Fast and The Furious.

Real car modeling and dynamic landscapes bring it all together.

The beauty of the game relies in part on the immersive landscape and real car modeling. EA Games gives a nod to Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Koeningsegg, and McLaren to name a few. Many of them are featured as racers and cops, with the fictitious Seacrest County PD having only a few less options.

Seacrest County is loosely based on Southern California's diverse landscape, with deserts, coastal roads, forests, and mountains. Each of the landscapes creates some rich environments with trafficked roads for high-speed chases during the day, dusk, or night, no matter what console, computer, tablet, or phone you play the game on.

Depending on whether you play as a racer or an officer, you will have a variety of objectives. Officers are primarily charged with shutting down racers using whatever means necessary, including ElectroMagnetic Pulse, road blocks, and (my favorite) spikes. However, there are other challenges, including timed response times and competition with other police.

Racers play the opposite objective. They either play to win, play to avoid police, or break as many speed laws as possible. Unlike playing the police (who primarily keep their eyes in front of them unless playing live opponents), racers have the dual challenge of avoiding traffic and natural obstacles while police cars follow tightly behind and attempt to run you off the road.

Game play adds portability to the experience with the iPhone and iPad.

I was originally introduce to the game because EA Games recently added Need For Speed Hot Pursuit LITE for the iPad in April. It's also available for the iPhone.

The free download gives you an opportunity to play one round as a racer and one round as an officer. One round is about all it takes to addict anyone who enjoys high speed gaming to purchase the full higher priced games ($4.99 for the iPhone; $9.99 for iPad). However, before you do make the purchase, you need to know that neither are full versions of the game.

While the landscape conversions are impressive, the vehicles do sacrifice considerable graphic quality (making it feel like a Wii adaption, although still slightly better). The game play is also stripped down, with a little less happening on the highway. This is somewhat disappointing given Firemint's Real Racing 2 HD proves you don't have to drop graphic quality. In fact, Firemint was the first to demonstrate the game play power of the iPad 2. It ports video at 1080p, making the tablet feel like a console game. (It also plays on the iPad and iPhone too.)

Even if there are more dynamics to Hot Pursuit, Real Racing 2 proves it is a plausible possibility. Still, while Real Racing 2 has the graphic edge and one of the most fluid racing experiences ever, there is something more of an adrenaline rush of a high speed pursuit that gives the EA game an edge even on the iPad.

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Roars To An 8.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

For the iPhone or iPad, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit might drop to 4.2, which is still solid on the scale. However, even with some of the sacrifices that EA Games made to make the game portable, it still provides all of the excitement you'll find on a console or PC.

The Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (Xbox 360) is available from EA Games. You can also find it for the PC, Wii, and Playstation 3. For Apple fans like me, head over to iTunes for The Need For Speed Hot Pursuit for iPad or The Need For Speed Hot Pursuit for iPhone. You can also pick up Real Racing 2 while you are there. Or, if you're still hesitant about the price of either game, try Uber Racer 3D Sandstorm for 99 cents.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Mansions Dig Up The Dead

Christopher Browder, MansionsOriginally based in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, (now living in Seattle), Christopher Browder has tapped out an interesting accidental career path for himself. Everything about him says he takes music seriously, but life not so much.

You'd never know it listening to Dig Up The Dead by the Mansions, which is Browder's one man band that recruits musicians for live performances. Fact is you might not know it listening to his earlier releases, New Best Friends or Best Of The Bees, either.

Yet it was just seven years ago that Browder was equally known for his self-described "weird obsession" with the song White Houses by Vanessa Carlton. So obsessed that he skipped his afternoon classes to record an acoustic cover of the song as his alter ego Bristopher Crowder. More covers followed, but now they are as hard to find as the band Once More Than Never.

Dig Up The Dead by the Mansions is bittersweet and unflinching.

As the latest self-produced album, Dig Up The Dead is superbly brilliant as a dark, brooding, and fuzzy mix of acoustic and alternative rock. It's the kind of music that makes you want to pour a whiskey sour and dig into the sincerity of it. It also makes you realize all his early sarcasms hint at what he calls a lack of confidence. Even one recent interview alludes to it.

"Last time the record sort of just came out and no one really knew about it, so that's probably what I expected this time," Browder told Musik Discovery. "But reviews have been really positive and it seems like people are getting into it and responding to the songs, which is kind of incredible and a huge relief."

Relief or not, Browder is just getting started. Word of mouth and a growing list of solid undercard reviews are carrying Dig Up The Dead forward across the Northwest. On the East Coast, you can catch him live in May when he plays Brighton Music Hall in Boston, The Studio at Webster Hall in New York City, and Club Hell in Providence for starters.

After, Browder will work over to the Midwest on a non-stop schedule with at least one show booked every day into June. Here's a clip of what you might get, keeping in mind he'll will team up with friends and strangers on tour (people like Jarrod Gorbel, David Bazan, Salvatore Cassato, Robin Dove, or Ryan Davis, to name a few).

Dig Up The Dead is the title track and sets the mood. But all ten songs on the playlist have a much bigger sound amidst the angst of it all. When you check out the samples, start with the crunchiness of Blackest Sky, the honesty within Close The Door, and the candid, open and seamless build that makes You Got Cool memorable.

There isn't a bad song in the bunch. It's almost impossible to believe that it was recorded mostly over a six-month period. During that time, Browder didn't even have a set place to lay it down. He just recorded in whatever house or apartment he happened to spending the night.

Dig Up The Dead By The Mansions Breaks Earth At 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Dig Up The Dead is exactly the kind of offering from the Mansions that ought to give Browder the lift he deserves. Past efforts have been solid but everything about this unpolished album nails the space between no concern for what anyone thinks and masterfully written, composed, and mixed. Browder is one to watch.

Dig Up The Dead is available for download on iTunes. You can also find Dig Up The Dead on Amazon. Browder also offered an unreleased acoustic edition with artwork drawn on the CD. Limited to 100, it sold out in hours.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Road Dogs Is A Leonard Underdog

Road DogsWhile some people considered Out Of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez an underrated film, it's the slightly lesser-known story Road Dogs that casts character Jack Foley (last seen headed to prison for 30 years) as an enduring figure. Its quick and dirty dialogue is read with an authenticity that entertains as every con in the book, including rogue FBI agent Lou Adams, tries to find an angle.

The book picks up almost to the minute where it left off. Foley befriends crime boss Cundo Rey, another character known from Elmore Leonard's ultra realistic LaBrava, in the van headed toward the place they will serve out their respective terms. From that point forward, the two forge a mutual friendship with Foley using his charm and Rey using his cash and connections to serve their time incident free.

Road Dogs is a game where everyone plays with duplicity.

While some people ping the story for having a weaker plot than some of Leonard's other work, this mechanism is precisely why the story works. Although Foley is clearly the protagonist, every character follows their own plot line, much like life. There isn't so much of a central plot as multiple plot points of view, each with an independent direction.

After Rey recommends his attorney and fronts Foley $30,000 in attorney fees, Foley finds his sentence reduced to a mere 30 months. Because the early release gives Foley an opportunity to be released before his benefactor, Rey suggests the celebrity bank robber stay in one of his multi-million dollar homes in Venice Beach, Calif.

Their points of view construct the first two minor plot lines woven together. Foley appreciates the friendship but expects Rey will want something in return. Likewise, Rey values the friendship, but tends to test the loyalty of everyone around him.

What would a bank robber do after you give him 30 years back?

Foley's test is waiting for him when he arrives in Venice Beach, where he meets an attractive young psychic named Dawn Navaro. Navaro, who also appears in Leonard's Riding The Rap, has been eagerly awaiting Rey's release from prison for eight years. More exactly, she has been waiting to con Rey out of his fortune.

She has already been working every possible angle, including Rey's partner Jimmy Rios, who handles the books and is supposed to keep an eye on Navaro, and Tico Sandoval, a semi-reformed gang banger who is also recruited by Agent Adams. Adams, naturally, has his own agenda. He is certain that Foley will be back in the bank robbing business at the first opportunity.

Navaro has plenty of half-baked plans to cash out millions. When Foley arrives, she adds him to her possible playbook by reinforcing his worst fears. According to Navaro, Rey considers him an investment. In actuality, Rey is more interested in seeing Foley make a new living, perhaps as a partner in one of Navaro's psychic cons. The mark is recently widowed actress Danialle Karmanos.

The exceedingly impressive rap sheet of Elmore Leonard.

Elmore LeonardElmore Leonard originally made his mark writing westerns (3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T) in the 1950s before becoming increasingly interested in crime fiction and suspense thrillers. Most people know his later work — 52 Pick-Up, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, Rum Punch (a.k.a. Jackie Brown), and Killshot (more than 30 films, 40 novels, and countless stories). He has also written two television series, including the short-lived Maximum Bob, Karen Sisco and Justified.

Sisco makes a minor appearance in Road Dogs, but is more often referred to than played out. Even more remarkable, Leonard's newest novel (Djibouti) marked his 60th year of writing fiction. And, much like Road Dogs, proves time and time again he has no interest in slowing down. If anything, he is speeding up, with his work seldom hinting at anything but the energy and veracity that cause newer writers to struggle.

Road Dogs By Elmore Leonard Takes A Bite At 4.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Road Dogs is a breezy, entertaining read with Leonard's incessant comfortability with dialogue over action. Here, he is obviously at home with four characters (and one cameo character) already fully fleshed out from previous books. Amazingly, although their paths unexpectedly cross, they remain true to form not only in their characters, but also at different points of development. Certainly not his finest, but all the more enjoyable as an underdog story.

Road Dogs: A Novel can be found on Amazon or in print from Barnes & Noble. However, anyone who wants to experience Leonard at his best ought to consider the audio adaption of Road Dogs from iTunes. Peter Francis James packs every sentence with all the assuredness and aloofness anyone might expect from Jack Foley and the brazen matter-of-factness of Cundo Rey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Papercuts Lands With Fading Parade

 Jason Robert QueverThere is an old saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself. But the truth is that sometimes it works. And sometimes it's not such a great idea.

Case in point: Jason Robert Quever always recorded and produced his own work at his home studio, Pan American Recording Studio. This is where his band Papercuts produced three solid releases since 2000. He got attention for his work on 2004's Mockingbird, 2007's Can't Go Back, and 2009's you Can Have What You Want.

But there is something decidedly different about his fourth album. That's because Quever wanted something different. Something bigger.

“I just knew that we wanted a big sound, like drums that really rang out a long time,” said Quever. I’d been playing more with a band, so I just thought about trying to get it as dynamic as possible, in a way that’s hard to do recording at home.”

He reached out to producer Thom Monahan (Beachwood Sparks), and recorded what would become Fading Parade at The Hangar in Sacramento. Some tracks were still recorded at home for posterity, of course. The result is Papercuts’ finest release to date. It features a virtual wall of sound that evokes a 60s cool Phil Spector and a touch of nostalgia.

Do What You Will is one of several standouts from the album. What is unique about all of the tracks is that Papercuts weaves in Moogs, Mellotron, strings, and even the autoharp. The recording methods vary from digital and analog.

And all of it, from beginning to end, is unexpected, unconventional, and unlike anything else. Enough so that one of our reviewers told me singer Mary Lou Lord said she wanted to know more about Papercuts.

Papercuts uncovers haunting melodies within a bigger production.

Although he is comfortable recording on his own, Quever admits that working with Monahan was a relief because it enabled him to focus more in his songwriting. This is a good thing. Fading Parade has Quever cranking out songs that offer up a more grown up writing style, and this puts Papercuts over the top.

To round out the band, Quever tapped musicians he knows. They have been playing as Papercuts' live band for the past two years, even if Papercuts is primarily Quever. His new bandmates include David Enos (keyboard and autoharp), Graham Hill (drums), and Frankie Koeller (bass). All of them lend strong chops to the proceedings.

If you want to know what to watch for, listen to the piano heavy Winter Daze and the brooding I’ll See You Later, I Guess. Of course, the jangly Do You Really Wanna Know features some cool Mellotron and Moog; and you can hear Enos on the autoharp in Do What You Will, which adds an unexpected element that works.

Fading Parade By Papercuts Whips In With A 6.5 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

All of the songs are tied together by their finely layered melodies, sometimes whispered and sometimes pained or world weary. The band's new label, Sub Pop, describes it as dream pop. I hear it more as adventurous, wistful, sophisticated, and nostalgic.

The band just played a show in their home base of San Francisco and has plans to head out on the road in the near future. Something tells me they won't be touring alone, but they will be touring and we're anxious to see some dates.

Fading Parade by Papercuts is on iTunes. You can also find Fading Parade on Amazon or look for the CD or vinyl edition at Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Detail In Almost Famous Denim

DenimDenim has been around a long time, but it wasn't until the 1950s that what was once known as "working people" pants picked up momentum as an everyday casual. Looking back, it almost seems ridiculous that some people considered denim a fad. No one can make the case now, 60 years later.

That is not to say denim doesn't go through its phases. Almost everything is on the market today: skinny, tapered, straight, boot cut, distressed, destroyed, and flare. But the best of denim isn't about the cut as much as the detail work.

The denim to look for is in the detail work.

Almost Famous jeans has garnered some attention since it was founded in 2006 because the designs and styles are smart and surprisingly affordable. Some people have offered up cautions that not all styles are true sizes, which means you might want to consider one size up.

Almost Famous jeansHowever, the Rhinestone Destroyed Flare Jean does contain 24 percent polyester and 2 percent spandex in the material to add some stretch without making them overly constrictive. These jeans were picked to illustrate the detail work. They have heavier stitching, including the back pockets, and rhinestone buttons above the front pockets as well as the back.

These jeans do have a flare, but fit tighter around the thighs. Unlike other brands, the stitch on the back pockets doesn't brand the jeans. Almost Famous sets its stitch and detail to the style of the pants, which makes it less likely for everyone to look the same. (About $35.)

For a comparison, look at the Siwy Denim Harley bootcut jean. While the jean has the signature contoured back yoke, tulip-shaped pockets, and higher back rise (all good), the back detail doesn't seem as striking for women's jeans. (About $216.)

Although harder to find, there's detail in men's jeans too.

For guys, you have to look harder for jeans with the right detail work. And the one brand that measures up is Affliction, because the jeans fit better around the hips and waist but maintain enough looseness in the rest of the pants.

Affliction jeansThe detail work isn't as dramatic on the front (which you don't really want), but there is some attention to detail on the back with a heavily stressed seam. On the Cooper Raw Flap Denim, the pockets also button down, making it better for anyone who rides a bike.

Almost all Affliction jeans fit the same with a relaxed fit. The difference is usually found in the style and shade. And while every pocket does brand the jean, Affliction varies the presentation. (About $134).

For a comparison, look at Diesel Men's Bootcut Jean at Amazon. The jeans are nice, but the look just doesn't feel the same.

Almost Famous Jeans Get Noticed At 6.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Almost Famous is the hero of this review, with its variable denim stylings that don't rely on a singular design. But Affliction also gets another nod for doing something for denim that other designers just haven't done. Both are great denim solutions, as are Siwy and Diesel. But the former two bring something a little better to the mix.

In lieu of Rhinestone Destroyed Flare Jeans, you can find Stud Detail Bootcut Jeans by Almost Famous at It retails for about $38 and they have other styles. The Cooper Raw Flap Denim comes direct from Affliction for about $134.

With denim back in fashion (not that it ever leaves), you can sometimes save significant money on sale events from Modnique. Within the last two weeks, Modnique has hosted two denim sales. One included dozens of brands, including 7 For All Mankind. The average savings on the latter was 50 percent off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jounce Pounces To Meet In The Middle

JounceBreaking the childhood star stigma isn't always easy. The success rate is relatively low, with many of them attempting to overcompensate in whatever role they're cast. Amazingly, however, that doesn't seem to be a problem for Danny Tamberelli.

Nobody remembers him as an 11-year-old in the quirky Nickelodeon show “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.” Nowadays, they only know him as the bassist for Jounce, an alternative rock band that came together after he, Matt DeSteno (guitar), and Joe Ciarallo (drums) graduated from college in the spring of 2004. All three contribute vocals, with Tamberelli being the most powerful of the three and often billed as the frontman. (Guest Marco Benevento also plays with the band on keys.)

“I’m passionate about acting, but this is what I was doing in the dressing room even then,” says Tamberelli of his love for playing music. “It’s cool to do both, but music has always been my primary outlet.”

Despite some old connections, Jounce didn't hit the road looking for any favors. Like any emerging band, they played hundreds of shows across the eastern United States as the opening act for bigger bands. They've produced two notable albums since, but none has as much rawness as Meet Me In The Middle, an EP released by the evanescent GreenFence Records.

Recorded at Site Y in Brooklyn, New York, mixed by Bob Suede (Richie Havens) and mastered by Marco Centola (Dawes, Kiddusi), the EP features five tracks with Precipitation opening it up with grungy vocals and a growling guitar. The sound capitalizes on Who Hates The Office, a hit from their album These Things.

Precipitation isn't the only track that strikes the right chords. Jounce has winners with all five, although Heat Of The Moment doesn't have as much vocal richness as the other tracks. But you might as well own all five on the EP, which includes The Heart Is Attached (a Miracle Legion cover).

If you wonder why the principal three play so effortlessly together, it's because they've been together since the 8th grade. Originally, they started with a jazz band and then kept reinventing themselves throughout high school and during breaks at college. They rely heavily on word of mouth, seldom using Tamberelli's other successes for fear of being billed as a novelty act.

"I’m proud of what I did, but the band is a group effort that we have all put blood, sweat and tears," Tamberelli told Buzzginder two years ago. "Jounce is only 1/4th me, so it’s not the way we promote."

They really don't have to. The music speaks for itself, even if the band has been mostly ignored by mainstream reviewers because of their grassroots focus. Watch for them on tour from time to time on the East Coast. We hope to see them out West some time in the near future too.

Meet Me In The Middle By Jounce Pounces At 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Sure, Jounce sounds like some other bands that have gone by the wayside, but the sound is one that is easily missed among today's lineups. With Meet Me In The Middle, Jounce proves how much Tamberelli has matured as a singer as well as the instrumental prowess of his bandmates. Around here, they come highly recommended.

Meet Me In The Middle is available for download on iTunes. You can also find These Things on Amazon or download some of their sophomore album from iTunes as well.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oliver Pötzsch Dresses The Hangman's Daughter

The Hangman's DaughterEven if you scour dozens of reviews, you still might not know what to expect from The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch. The reason is simple. There are plenty of distractions for reviewers to grasp at even though it's a crime thriller set in the 1600s.

If the novel were set in modern times, it might be the story of a reluctant prosecutor, bound by obligation to the state to sentence an innocent person even if they know the accused is innocent. And while carrying out his duty, he invests equal time in finding the real criminals. But it's not set in the 21st century.

The Hangman's Daughter is a fantastical historic fictional thriller.

The story takes place in the village of Schongau, Bavaria, in 1659. The principal protagonist, Jakob Kuisl, is a hangman, a trade like any other, passed down from one generation to the next just like most farmers, blacksmiths, and merchants were.

Kuisl doesn't just hang people. There is much more to his profession as a town executioner than meets the eye. He is responsible for other extolling punishments and extracting confessions. When he is not on the clock, he also dabbles in herbal medicines that most people consider akin to black magic (except, of course, when they have a need for herbal remedies).

When twelve-year-old Peter Grimmer is pulled from the river near dead and the villagers spot the mark of a witch on the boy's shoulder, hysteria quickly takes hold and grows as more children are murdered. They immediately suspect midwife Martha Stechlin who, much like Kuisl, practices herbal remedies albeit focused more on women and childbearing.

Die HenkerstochterThe suspicion is almost immediate, given Grimmer and other orphan, adopted, or otherwise outcast children are often seen playing near the woman's house. Grimmer's father had also long blamed the midwife for the death of his own wife during a complicated childbirth. Conversely, this places Kuisl in a strange position because he knows Stechlin is not a witch and feels indebted to her for bringing his youngest children, twins, into the world.

So while performing his dubious trade of extracting a confession, he also sets out to discover the truth with the aid of the local physician's son, Simon Fronwieser. Fronwieser has a kinship with Kuisl for two reasons. He respects the hangman's medicine more than his father's focus on the four humors. He is in love with Magdalena Kuisl, the hangman's beautiful 20-year-old daughter.

The only trouble with his infatuation are the taboos associated with an executioner's daughter. As much as executioners are needed to carry out sentences, they and their families are shunned for a profession that walks lock step with death. Most people in the town suspect he has been bewitched by the outspoken and studied girl.

A Bit About The German Author Oliver Pötzsch.

Most distractions over the recently translated book are associated with the added bit that Pötzsch is an actual descendent of the executioner’s dynasty. His portrayal of principal protagonist Johann Jakob Kuisl is based on his great-great-grandfather. The Kuisls not only existed, but also did work as executioners and had a reputation as healers.

Oliver PötzschPötzsch, born in 1970, has worked for years as a scriptwriter for Bavarian television and briefly for radio. He took time off to write his first book, which blended his passion for both storytelling and genealogy. He has written three historical novels centered around the Kuisl family and another historical novel. To date, not all of the work has been translated.

It's especially interesting that he also has a passion for dispelling the stereotypes of executioners as portrayed in film. The book was translated by respected translator Lee Chadeayne. Chadeayne does a fine job keeping the prose modern, despite some readers who protest the work is too pulpy.

The Hangman's Daughter Is A Cut Above At 6.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The prose won't wash over you as a work of literature, but the story is entertaining with a fresh voice. The research, especially as it pertains to the town of Schongau, adds an additional layer of interest. Some people paint it up as a mystery, but a slow burn thriller fits better. The translation is mostly contemporary and will feel out of place at times. But the language beats any historical thrillers that try too hard.

The Hangman's Daughter can be found on Amazon. You can also find The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch at Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Kills Goes Big For Blood Pressures

The KillsEver since American singer Alison Mosshart heard British guitarist Jamie Hince in the hotel room above hers, it seemed like two kindred spirits had struck sparks. Air mailing tapes back and forth across the Atlantic, the results eventually produced a minimalist indie garage rock sound with vibrant songwriting that sticks.

While it took several months for Domino Records to release their fourth installment after three years, the wait has been worth it. Blood Pressures is big sound delivered by a duo that keeps getting better, even if the album creates fewer shivers than No Wow did in 2005.

Blood Pressures is a tamer, richer, bluesier sound for The Kills.

Blood Pressures came together much the same way No Wow did, with both bringing something to the table. But unlike No Wow, they wrote more than half of it in the same building, surrounded by sketches and notepads to spark inspiration.

Even the bigger sound was planned out, which Hince has said came out of his fascination with how different instruments and sounds strike different emotional chords while listening to Roxy Music. He really wanted to pursue such rich arrangements, with sounds that begin minimalist and then build in complexity with every verse.

The result, including the addition of gospel singers on some tracks, makes Blood Pressures an excellent companion to their other three outings. Hince himself has said Blood Pressures is less external and more insular because there is less to observe while being stuck on the road during the tour. Some of this thinking even comes across in the first single from the album, Satellite.

At the same time, not all of the sparks are personal. Mosshart, who writes most of the lyrics for The Kills, tends to look for inspirational sparks like a line from a movie, picture, or observation. Once that happens, she moves the spark to a personal level until the lyrics start to feel as if the songs are writing themselves.

If this sounds more methodic and planned than No Wow, it absolutely is. As they both concluded after Mosshart moved to London, everything too planned eventually becomes pretentious when people chase the cool and forget to have fun. It's something they will need to find again before their fifth album.

Still, Blood Pressures is hardly a disappointment. DNA maintains some of the band's minimalist qualities. Baby Says is almost soothing with all its down-tempo steadiness. Nail In My Coffin hints at some of the urgency that was once synonymous with Mosshart. And Pots And Pans is one of the most underrated as it seeps in with restrained personal angst.

Blood Pressures By The Kills Skids In At 3.4 On The Liquid Hip Scale.

Mixed into a playlist with other songs by The Kills, Blood Pressures provides a striking contrast to everything else with its bigger sound and richer, slower and more complex rhythms throughout. At its best, it breathes out some new sound for the talented duo. At its worst, it almost seems like they've become a bit too comfortable — a state they used to warn others away from.

Blood Pressures by The Kills is available on iTunes. For a limited time on iTunes, you can even download Future Starts Slow for free. Otherwise, you can download Blood Pressures on Amazon or pick up the CD at Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

FuelTank Is A Portable Pocket Refill

Duo Fuel TankThere isn't any question about it. The second biggest concern with mobile after reception — iPhones, iPads, Droids, Atrix, Evo Shifts — is battery life. People are genuinely concerned with running out of power, which defeats the purpose of portability.

Some people even trade quality for battery life, but they really don't need to. There are plenty of rechargers that can extend the lives of portable devices for several hours or even days without too much concern for finding an outlet.

So I asked some friends what are their top three recharging solutions. The most common answer was solar rechargers, with the exception of one from Callpod. Callpod is a design and development company that specializes in intuitive mobile necessities.

And while their recharging solution does not include a solar charging feature, the Uno and Duo FuelTanks are among the most versatile, considering they are about the same size as a cell phone. Although they cannot be charged by the sun (which is a cool concept), the Fueltank design stores enough power that keeping the charger full is never an issue.

Callpod's FuelTank carries four to eight times the capacity of an iPhone.

Compatible with more than 3,000 devices, it does more than charge a mobile phone. It charges everything from PDAs and headsets to cameras and Mp3 players. To handle any portable device, you might need to purchase additional adapters.

But for the most part, the standard package meets the needs of most people. The Uno includes a mini-USB and iPhone/iPod adapter. The Duo also includes a micro-USB, which has the added benefit of not only being able to charge two devices at once, but also carries twice as much battery life.

Neither FuelTank is overly large. The Uno weighs four ounces; the Duo weighs eight ounces. Given it's roughly the size of a phone, you can pack it inside a spare set of shoes for a trip, pop it in a car glove compartment, or pocket it easily enough.

Some other inventive solutions to portable recharging.

While the Dexim P-Flip doesn't support every mobile device, it is a solid solution for some iPhone owners. The Dexim P-Flip extends the life of the iPhone 4, 3GS, and 3G models for up to six hours of talk time or 10 hours of gaming.

The design is smart, because it the flip works like a dock or even a case (although I prefer my iPhone naked). When you do have an outlet available, you can charge it with a cord. They also have a car charger (sold separately). But solar seems to be the way to go with one limitation, which is why the edge goes to the FuelTank. A full solar charge takes about 15 hours.

Premium Solar ChargerAnother variation in design is the Premium Solar Charger by XTG Technology. The initial design was obviously a car charger solution, given the unit comes equipped with suction cups to affix to a windshield. The USB connector allows anyone to hook up using their existing connector cords (assuming it is USB compatible). It also comes with a USB to mini-USB connector.

It also has a built-in twistable LED flashlight, giving it a secondary, although possibly unnecessary, function. Like the Dexim P-Flip, the device doesn't fully charge portable devices as much as it extends their life. XTG Technology says it charges most iPhones to 50 percent. Among solar chargers, this one seems to have the best consumer feedback.

Among solar chargers for iPhones, the Dexim P-Flip has a slight edge but the Premium Solar Charger is better for more versatility. Neither has the charging capacity of the FuelTank.

The FuelTank By Callpod Powers Up To 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The difference between solar and stored power solutions is the purpose — as a traveler or for boating solutions, the FuelTank is the smarter buy all around. The solar charges are cool, especially if you are looking for a survival solution because you can always recharge the device without any source of power.

You can find the FuelTank direct from Callpod, along with dozens of other portable and mobile solutions. The Uno is available for about $50 and the Duo for $70.

The Dexim P-Flip is a specialty item at Amazon. It retails for about $80, which is a big investment. The Premium Solar Charger is the more affordable solar option at about $30. You can find it on Amazon.

Some other quick battery saving tips: turn down the ringtone, turn off vibrate, power down Bluetooth and WiFi when not in use, reduce the background brightness, and skip the screensavers. All these tips are proven effective in lightening the load on batteries.