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Music Reviews
Independent (Indie) Music

Music published independently of major labels reviewed with a discerning ear.

Steve Lieberman, Bad'lania Rising

Shopping on CD Baby leads to the most interesting discoveries. I often spend hours just linking from one artist to the next, listening to samples, and often being unimpressed. But occasionally, one artist jumps out at me, if only because of their difference from the norm.

Steve Lieberman has single-handedly created a separate subgenre of music: Jewish Flute Punk. On his album Bad'lania Rising, he lets rip on 21 songs (like opener "Big Carburetor 29" as well as "Pinball Machine" and "Boppin on the BopSide") collected from his long career of 38 albums. With numbers like "Die Like a Maccabee" and "Punk-Rock Chann'ukah," Lieberman gives a shout-out to his heritage and also shows his virtuosity by playing every single instrument on the album (including bass--no guitar!--and different kinds of flutes, as well as singing) with equal skill. This is truly a one-man Israeli, lo-fi, garage-punk spectacle.

Ian Anderson watch out! But I say that with the utmost respect, and so does Lieberman in his song "Ian Anderson." Lieberman's flute flies like a bumblebee. Punk has never been so melodic. Admittedly, the vocals are unintelligible a lot of the time, but, hey, it's punk! There's a lyric sheet for reading the meaningful words of songs like "Glad I Am a Vegetarian" and "Street Corner Preacher." At $5.00, how can you go wrong? Give this self-proclaimed "gangsta rabbi" a spin.

(Also be sure to check out Lieberman's more recent album, Jew in the Underground, which includes a cover version of the title track from Green Day's acclaimed album American Idiot.)

STEVE LIEBERMAN: Bad'lania RisingSTEVE LIEBERMAN: Bad'lania Rising

A hybrid of progressive rock, punk, industrial and world music with Jewish influence performed on bass guitars, flutes of all kinds, exotic instruments like the shahnai and snake charmer sounding just like a 74 minute ethnic festival gone out of control.

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STEVE LIEBERMAN: Jew in the UndergroundSTEVE LIEBERMAN: Jew in the Underground

An experimental, but highly danceable fusion of punk, industrial, jewish and dance music organized into 4 segments .

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Craig Moorhead, Stripper Music: The Second EP
Craig Moorhead, The Problem w/ Troubles

Things get fuzzy when you haven't slept, bright and blurry like bad TV
And man it's so so so so bad when they break into your favorite brain

After multiple listens to Craig Moorhead's album Bold Experiment, I wanted to hear more. Fortunately, around that time, he released Stripper Music: The Second EP, and it's even better in some ways than Bold Experiment.

Our man, Craig, is obviously stretching himself on each new release. Stripper Music opens with a lovely, soothing keyboard instrumental that could almost be called "new-agey" (but I won't). The second track, "Nothing to Do with What Happened," is one highlight off this album, with lyrics that are by turns serious, clever, and quirky. And his remix ("remixxx") of mk12's "The Heat of the Ninja" is a stunning foray into sound effects and overdubs, the like of which I have not heard from the usually "lo-fi" Moorhead.

Another stunner is his cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's song, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," showing us he is as good an interpreter as he is a songwriter. As a bonus, Craig has included two recordings of his friend, Thomas, taken directly (one assumes) from his answering machine.

Stripper Music is one of those albums that is excellent for listening to at work. You can pay attention to it, or, if your mind is needed elsewhere, you can just let it wash over you. It's a free download for a limited time (or you can stream it), so burn yourself an introduction to some of the best savant rock coming out of Maryland today.

And then, once you've "discovered" (I won't tell) the indie rock phenomenon that is Craig Moorhead for free, shell out a measly ten bucks for the lo-fi masterpiece The Problem w/ Troubles, the album Craig released before Bold Experiment. Historically speaking, The Problem w/ Troubles was a huge step in the evolution of Moorheadiana. It contains 21 tracks of genre-jumping creativity unlikely to be found anywhere else. Moorhead covers rock, country, and electronica with equal ease and the transitions are never jarring.

And for someone to go from the acoustic Americana of "Central America" to "It's Exciting to Be Excited," a track that could easily find a place on the Run Lola Run soundtrack, and in addition, having two songs ("The Problem w/ Troubles," "The Trouble w/ Problems") that are similar without being redundant, is an effort truly to be experienced. Although not as polished as his latest efforts, anyone could find something on The Problem w/ Troubles to call their own (my favorite is "The Lonely Astronaut"), as it is truly an album for everyone.

CRAIG MOORHEAD: The Problem w/ TroublesCRAIG MOORHEAD: The Problem w/ Troubles

Lyrics intertwine, genres change from song to song and the hits keep rockin' out from Craig Moorhead's lo-fi brain. This is savant rock at its finest.

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Shadow Pointe, Reason Beyond Acceptance

Western Massachusetts band Shadow Pointe have certainly set their sights high for their sophomore effort, Reason Beyond Acceptance. It is a progressive rock concept album about a young man who gets cancer and spends the rest of his short life researching the disease.

I'm actually finding it difficult to tell whether I like Reason Beyond Acceptance. I love concept albums, so that's a big point in its favor; I admire any band who even attempts to tie a dozen or more songs together with a single thread. And in this case, the idea is admirable, the lyrics containing just the right amount of pretensiousness, and the hard rock music is complex and suits the subject.

I think it's a little synthesized for my taste, however. Electric piano and synthetic guitar solos don't fit well with vocalist Craig Simmons's powerful pipes. (He sounds a lot like the lead singer of a band from the 1980s called The Front.) Had Shadow Pointe used real instruments, I would have no hesitation in giving Reason Beyond Acceptance top marks, and if you don't mind a heavy amount of synth, you should give it a try. I expect great things in the future from Shadow Pointe.

(And for the fans who just can't get enough, Shadow Pointe has also made available Reason Beyond Acceptance Live and The Making of Reason Beyond Acceptance (only at concerts), in addition to a remastered version of their first disc, simply titled Shadow Pointe.)

SHADOW POINTE: Reason Beyond AcceptanceSHADOW POINTE: Reason Beyond Acceptance

A combination of hard rock, metal, and progressive styles packed with punch and angst.

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  • ...more to come...