The Mojomatics, Don't Pretend That You Know Me
The Mojomatics make a lot of noise for two guys, and a joyful noise it is. Their hype makes much of the country and bluegrass strains in their hard-driving pop-punk, but despite the presence of harmonica and a certain hillbilly Kentucky Headhunters vibe, the music fits right in with the post-Green Day likes of the Hives.
Like a good basketball team – or maybe more like a pair of beach volleyballers – the Mojomatics execute their fundamentals just right: short, speedy songs with big beats, some punchy hooks, and just as important, a sincere sound. The best tracks, like "Wait a While," "Miss Me When I'm Gone," and the countrified "Askin' for Better Circumstances," are keepers.
I wish the disc boasted more songs as good as those. But the beat and the high-spirited energy never flag. This is juicy garage punk that means what it says – and it comes from two Italian guys who can play the hell out of their guitars and drums.
Duane Andrews, Raindrops
Canadian guitarist Duane Andrews grafts strains of the traditional music of his home province of Newfoundland onto the Django Reinhardt-inspired "gypsy jazz" stylings in which he specializes. The result is endearingly homespun, but also surprisingly smooth. Andrews's originals mingle with traditional songs, plus here a tune by Mingus ("Fables of Faubus") and there a tune by Django himself ("Blue Drag"). Abetting his woody acoustic guitar are a number of supporting musicians, most notably the soulful trumpeter Patrick Boyle and the energetic Atlantic String Quartet. This will be a happy addition to anyone's rootsy jazz collection.
Brandie Frampton, What U See
Brandie Frampton is from Utah, which, despite the odd rituals favored by some of its denizens, is not "international" from the US perspective. Still, like the above acts, Frampton comes from something like a foreign country: namely, the age of fifteen, definitely a distant land as the crow flies from these fortysomething parts.
This girl doesn't have a huge voice, but she can sing, and she thankfully refrains from overdoing the belt or the twang as most teenage "future Nashville stars" do – rather, she sounds blessedly sincere. She's also got a great team of producers, musicians, and songwriters behind her (she co-wrote three of the tracks on this short, sweet nine-song disc).
The predominant flavor is Nashville country. There's some crossover pop appeal as well, but not to the point where it seems calculated. And there's no filler – all nine songs are good. Holy Nashville skyline, Batman!
Can it be that an artist barely into high school is going to find her way on to your humble correspondent's keeper shelf? Yes – yes it can.
Alex Statan, Go Big or Go Home
Alex Statan's pop nuggets are hard to resist. With a touch of ska and a punch of rock, the songwriter-vocalist delivers the five songs on his debut EP with conviction and plenty of humor. The only partial failure is "Interference," where he tries to get too heavy and "alternative" and ends up making something of a thud. "Future Luver" has a heavy sound, too, but it's funny and a little scary; Statan puts a little Todd Lewis quaver into his voice there and elsewhere. "Don't Hold Back (The Ass Song)," "High Note," and "A.D.H.D." all hold promise of a solid career delivering fun times for all.