Tasty new music, with reviews brought to you in easily digestible 100-word form.
Juniper – She Steals Candy
It has been three years since Juniper Shelley released her debut album. And while a great deal has inevitably changed, some important things remain the same as before on her new and second record, the poptastic She Steals Candy. Juniper is supported in her musical endeavors by some Class-A talent, this time including Dave Amels (formerly of Reigning Sound), Steve Goulding (The Rumour), April March, and Dad aka Michael Shelley. With great songs from Delbert McClinton, Amy Rigby and the late Kim Shattuck, the album is a sure winner. She Steals Candy is pure pop for now – meaning 2023 – people.
Ape Shifter – Monkey Business
This wacky prog/metal/what-have-you outfit has been at it since at least 2017 when they released their self-titled debut album. This is high-concept stuff ot be sure, with turn-on-a-dime chord and tempo changes, crushing riffage, pig-squeals and a mighty, thunderous rhythm section. An instrumental power trio, Ape Shifter sounds a bit like Mötorhead crossed with Joe Satriani. The music is ambitious: they title one song “Promises of a Progressive future” and filled with humor. The whole affair has melody at its root, though; these songs aren’t merely vehicles for displays of instrumental prowess. No keyboards here, and absolutely none are needed.
Eyelids – A Colossal Waste of Light
I place a very high premium on melody; without that, the rest doesn’t add up to much. And the five members of Eyelids are like-minded in that regard. A Colossal Waste of Light is filled with memorable, creamy melodies. And the pedigrees of these guys seals the deal: they’re former members of Guided by Voices, Camper Van Beethoven, Jicks and Decemberists. Their pal Peter Buck plays 12-string guitar on two cuts, but even without him, this is wonderful stuff. If you dig what we used to call college rock, Eyelids’ latest album should be your next musical stop. Now, get!
Hunk – Hunk II
If your one-sheet mentions Cheap Trick, I immediately get skeptical: yeah, everybody wants to sound like Rockford’s finest. But if I read on and discover that you’ve toured with them, I’m interested. And then when I give the disc a spin and discover a band that builds on the glam rock of the ‘70s with the riffy singalong vibe of groups like Sweet, I’m sold. They even know the proper use of a harmonica; that alone sets ‘em apart from the pack. Play this for your friends; tell them Hunk is a great lost band from 1977. They’ll believe you.
Doug MacDonald – Big Band Extravaganza
MacDonald is a jazz guitarist and bandleader with many releases to his credit. For this project he assembled a 17-piece band, and composed nine original pieces (plus a Gershwin classic for good measure). Big band jazz is enjoying something of a resurgence (albeit on a small scale), and this album helps explain that. The group came together in 2002, a year when – you may recall – not a lot of bands came together. There’s a lively, spontaneous air to the set, the result of a two day session in 2022. It’s classic and fresh all at once, and very highly recommended.