Male Gaze

King Leermale-gaze-cd-pic-4-king-leer

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

I come to this album a tad late; it just sort of slipped through the cracks, metaphorically. But, when I finally did get to hear it, I was quite taken aback by its power: the raw edge, the well-versed lyrics, matched with some great melodies.

I’m talking about Male Gaze and their recently released album, King Leer, on Castle Face Records, a label that has put out some amazing stuff by their foxy den of indie bands. Bands who, for the most part, have that raw, edgy, spirited style and the talent with which to stand out. That has been my experience with the various Castle Face bands whose albums I’ve reviewed off and on throughout 2016, so far: inspiring, loud bands, some with that wild abandon like MC5 or The Stooges; stuff that’s really amazing. And, so it goes with Male Gaze. They, too, have this raw, feral energy that they pour into their music.

Their new album, King Leer released over the summer, has been calling and calling to me like a siren singing her beautiful death song until, finally, I gave in and my attention was indeed grabbed until my brain was aglow with the electricity discharge flying off this album!

Anyway, Male Gaze hail from San Francisco, a city which has a lot of great venues and clubs to see bands/artists and pretty much every night of the week, somewhere in town there’s something good happening, live, worth seeing.

The new album King Leer starts off with “Got it Bad”, which reminded me a little of early Stooges stuff, what, with the buzzsaws that are the guitars churning up. The vocals are a bit deeper (pitch-wise) than Iggy, in fact he sounds closer to Ian Curtis, but more softly-spoken/sung. “Lesser Demons” is next and keeps the album going, rock steady. It’s got this low-fi, yet hi-fi, when it comes to the guitar solos!

When we get to about midpoint, songs like “Ranessa” and “Green Flash” both show off Male Gaze’s “softer side”. These are both ballad-esque, acoustic-tinged, reflective songs. Yet, that doesn’t mean they’re just fluff; filler to bridge the first few tunes with the last part. No, even though they’re slowed down and have a more “serious” tone to them, they’re still catchy and fit in well here.

Then, after those two aforementioned songs, it gets lively again, with “Easy to Void”; a song that…well, it has this seriously infectious groove to it. I hear at least two guitars playing here, each staying down, toward the low-end of the fretboard, plucking out these slick, groovy chords and so on. I may go as far as writing that “Easy to Void” is the best or one of the best tunes on King Leer.

Yes, this is truly a good, new, indie album. This is the sort of thing you’d whip out and play whenever some guy, probably in his 60s, by now, goes around declaring that “there wasn’t any good music at all, in the 1980s” or “today’s music is just awful; there’s no meaning to it; the corporate music industry is just like the state of the current movie biz: it’s all about making money for the parent company, whether that be Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Viacom’s Paramount, Sony Entertainment’s movie division making money for the company, back in Tokyo and, of course, Warner Bros. -the less said about them the better! Anyway, that guy would be partially correct; those people who share that sentiment, that “there’s been no good music since the 1970s” …well, first of all, they’re wrong. But the reason that they’re wrong is because they probably only listen to the radio and, for their own music collection, if they have one, consists of all corporate rock, typical stuff you hear on the radio all the time and these people soak it up; that makes them think that the only “real” stuff is the stuff they hear on commercial, corporate-owned radio stations, who play music on big, corporate-owned record labels, who routinely screw the artists on their labels out of as much money as they can or, put another way, they, by trying to save money, here and there, do whatever they can to get away with paying the artists under contract with them, as little as possible.

Meanwhile, there is a whole different subculture, I suppose you could call it, that has been thriving for…well, really, always. I’m talking, of course, about the independents: those intrepid, talented musicians who write and play music because they want to. They didn’t start a band so they could get “chicks and money”, they actually share a common bond: they love playing music, but, of course, if you get signed to some “major label”, your band is soon going to be pressured from the label suits to “just make a couple of changes” to one or two songs. If you relent and make those changes, you’re just telling these suits that you and your band are easily pliable and soon, there’ll be some asshole A&R guy hanging out in the studio when you’re recording there. Some dummy the label sent over to “keep an eye on things”. No way. Thank goodness for indie labels and the bands that have the integrity to make good music and not sell out to please some fleeting demographic, which really just makes it (that kind of music) ephemeral, at best. No thanks. I’ve got many independent albums by bands who control what kind of music they make; no apologies necessary! And these are albums that do stand the test of time. Just like this album, King Leer, no matter whether it sells a million copies or a few thousand, it’s still going to sound all right, in, say, 20 years.

So, bravo to Male Gaze for sticking it out and doing it the right way: as a labor of love (for music) and for doing it on Castle Face Records, who’ve been putting out great albums by some fantastic bands. Check out their Live in San Francisco series of CDs. Just check it out at – a place to check out, not just this album, but to get a view at all the bands on the label and they’re all available for purchase, as well.

Anyway – Great album!  Great album!   –KM.

Hi everybody.  How was your summer vacation?  A question to ponder, this last week of September, as, by now, all K-12 type schools have started, but, after, typically, a later start date, colleges & universities get their fall gig going usually around the equinox – Sept. 21.-also the day where it turns into fall from summer, sneaking in at night, when no one’s watching.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that after this post-which isn’t a review, anyway, I’m going to start condensing reviews down to a less wordy, but quite concise and reviews which get straight to the point – with the occasional exception I feel like writing.

Thanks for your patience, everyone -and support too!!  Some  new reviews of more great indie stuff just around the corner – I mean that, too!

But – I want to give everyone who reads Independent Review a little sneak preview of a new song by Romeo Crow, who’s been quite busy in the recent past, but who is now getting ready to get back in the studio and lay down some new, bitchin’ tracks.  Can’t wait!!  Meanwhile, for the moment, I hope you will enjoy this video for the new tune by Romeo Crow, “For the Weekend”.  More to come soon!!  Enjoy this, though, for now.  Thanks, KM. (Video to follow in 5,4,3,2,1…blastoff!)

Hi everyone.  I was made hip to this new song/video by Jen Gloeckner.  “Counting Sheep” is the name of the song.  It starts off with this angelic, mellow harp, playing a nice introduction.  Anyway, I hope you like it.  Feedback/Comments always welcome!!


Thee Oh SeesThee-Oh-Sees-Live-in-San-Francisco-513x513

Live in San Francisco

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

In another of the, so far, spectacular “Live in San Francisco” series of live gigs captured on these CDs which have been coming out over the last, uh…oh, three, maybe four years…(?)  I remember writing a review for the Live in San Francisco that Bronze did, some months earlier, this year as well as an older part of the Live in San Francisco set; (must be since I did this review, like, at least a year before I did the Bronze live CD review).  It was for the Live in San Francisco CD by White Fence, which was also very good and showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm, from both audience and band.

OK. So, let’s get to this one, the Thee Oh Sees live album, from, of course, SF (which, having lived in SF for almost five years, as well as catch quite a few great live shows there -only one time did I have to go outside of SF for a concert I wanted to see: Beck, in, like ’97 or so – it was the tour for the Odelay CD. Anyway, that show was at the Paramount, in Oakland.

As for this album, Thee Oh Sees recorded material from three nights’ worth of shows at The Chapel, in The City. DAMN, man…these guys are just off the hook! I’m about halfway through the album right now and, so far, everything I’ve heard has been delightful. The guitar is really good, here and their rhythm section: the bass and the drums, really are both out there, to be heard and felt; not just a vague time keeper in the background (at least the bass can sometimes be that way). Right now, “Man in a Suitcase” (no, not The Police song), has just finished and now, they’re going into this blistering, dynamo, “Toe Cutter Thumb Buster”. The more I listen to this album, the more I can hear just how good a guitar player John Dwyer is. Dwyer has dual roles, actually. Not only is he a phenomenal guitarist and one of the strong links which all make up the chain that are Thee Oh Sees. “Sticky Hulks” is a song that vacillates between being a kind of rock and roll dirge and a frenetic, guitar sandblasting away the tears. At seven and a half minutes, it’s the second-longest song on Live in San Francisco. The longest is the finale, “Contraption”, which, of course, is just dizzying with Dwyer’s incredible guitar as well as a tightly-knit band, altogether. Just one question: why do they feel the need to bleep out supposed words like “fuck” or “shit”, etc? This isn’t commercial TV or radio. Oh well, that’s a rather minor point compared to what sounds, underneath the psychedelic wash is some trippy surf-rock, but with distortion and in a bit of a Rockabilly pose. But there are a few more parts and, when Thee Oh Sees put them all together in just the right recipe, something mind-blowing is the result! Also, the live setting of Thee Oh Sees three shows at The Chapel give the neophyte T.O.S. listener a taste of what their live shows sound like.

As I mentioned, previously, that the longest tune on Live in San Francisco is the last song on the album, “Contraption”, five seconds short of 16 minutes. This is the perfect vehicle for which Dwyer to really show off his guitar chops. While the drums are interweaving their own rhythms which nevertheless, fit in, so you have to turn the bass amp, so, even though he’s noodling a bit, here and there he’s got his fingers (literally) on the pulse of the beat, via the bass!

If you want a quick summation of what Thee Oh Sees sound like, or, maybe, come across as, think of The Stooges’ raw, guitar-heavy, bombastic proto-punk, mixed with the Psychobilly fur-and-leather good times of The Cramps and that whole Southwestern “Whammy” mystique that [well – think of it: if you made a movie out in the AZ desert, you could do worse than The Cramps].

So far, this year, I have heard quite a few new releases that came from Castle Face Records, and now I’m at the point that whenever I get a new album to review, it’s always nice to find out it happens to be on Castle Face. Not everything I get, of course, is on Castle Face Records, nor does everything I review even sound like a lot of the bands on that label, but, well, I have a very wide range of musical tastes, and, on top of that, I can tell the difference between a band that puts a lot of talent and hard work into their work as opposed to some schlubs who’re just in it for the “chicks and the money”. Thee Oh Sees are far from being like that. They seem to have a knack for fiery, sometimes intense, yet complex tones, time signatures and maybe some secrets to their sound by way of their own special formula for guitar tuning. Whatever it is that makes Thee Oh Sees the special band they are, at least one of the most important, is their fertile imagination and (at least one hopes) all that as-yet-unwritten-down music to come. Can’t wait to hear what comes next! Oh, and go check out Castle Face Records’ website – here’s a link that’ll take you right to their Thee Oh Sees page. You can always go back and browse for other stuff, as well – – Happy Listenin’ -KM



Adult Karate

LXIIadult karate cd cover

Plug Research Music, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

One of the latest indie albums to hit the street is LXII, an EP representing the latest release from Adult Karate. So: make tracks to your nearest independent, “neighborhood” record shop and look for it – if not there, ask for it! Walk up to the clerk at the counter and let him know that you want to buy a copy of the new Adult Karate EP, LXII. He will, no doubt, inform you that “you know, uh, that, uh, you can…you know, download this album from the internet, or, at least, most likely find a copy available for sale on – but, after politely listening to the spiel, you, who are, like, quite aware of the fact that you could either find a downloadable version on the web or that you could go to Amazon. Jesus, tell me something I don’t know! That clerk is right, though, even if he shouldn’t be telling customers they oughta go shop online at Amazon, for better deals (ha ha ha) – Amazon and like sites on the internet are making the physical “brick and mortar” stores more and more irrelevant, as people don’t have to go all over town to find something. They can usually locate it online, whatever the online mart it is. Anyway, I’m digressing here. So, back to our band, Adult Karate and this new EP that has just come out: LXII.

Adult Karate is the latest project by KC Maloney, who makes up half of the duo that is Radar Cult. Starting from where Radar Cult leaves off, in terms of a minimalistic, cryptic hybrid of myriad electronic based subgenres. Atmospheric austerity would be one way to describe, at least, in part, the Radar Cult/Adult Karate style. Somewhere I read one description of AK as “Haunted House Music”, albeit, I’d add to that, “…haunted by a long-dead German or German-inspired minimalist (maybe tied to the Bauhaus school of German minimalism, circa 1919-1929.

The music on LXII washes over you like a cold but exhilarating shower of sound. For one, the title track grabs a hold of you with its pulsating keyboards and synths, Maloney providing some reflective, self-aware lyrics, his singing like a plasma that keeps all the parts stuck together.

Some songs worth mentioning include “Chased”, hauntingly exhilarating House music. “This is Never” also has a bit of a dark, yet groovy with the smooth synths, the “nightmare vibes” that course through this, as well as its magical attraction. The final track, “So Low” is a duet with Adaline. It’s a nice way to bring one down from the headiness of the album as a whole.

Interested in finding out a little more or are you up for buying a copy? Well, check out: – that’s a link to the video for “So Low”, featuring Adaline. Here is a site I found where you can buy LXII: – Happy Trails! -KM.

of Montreal

Innocence ReachesInnocence Reaches cover

Polyvinyl Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

It’s been about 11 years now, since I reviewed Satanic Panic in the Attic. Since that time, of Montreal have been blossoming and they continue to amaze. Their new album, Innocence Reaches is due to be released August 12th. Luckily I was able to get a hold of a press-issued copy so I could listen to it- over & over!- and then write up a review.

Well, first off, I must say that Innocence Reaches shows that Barnes & co. are still going strong. Kevin’s psycho-sexual, poetic lyrics are still in the mix. The song that of Montreal (or whomever it is that “picks” out what song will be a “single”) is releasing as the first single from Innocence Reaches is “It’s Different for Girls”, which has great lyrics; a kind of androgynous meditation on gender roles and the boxes people get put into, identity-wise; but in this case, Barnes wants to show that the old paradigm of “traditional” marriage (whatever that means) has, at long last, been replaced by a new, forward-looking, tradition-be-damned kind of thinking. However, even though “It’s Different for Girls” is the first single, myself, I actually liked “Gratuitous Abysses” better, just thought it a little groovier, but don’t get me wrong, I like both songs. Then comes the laid-back, floating feeling of “My Fair Lady”.

So, Innocence Reaches is of Montreal’s 14th album, a follow-up to last year’s delightful Aureate Gloom as well as the great live album, Snare Lustrous Doomings, capturing some great live stuff from Japan.

One thing I’m noticing about this album is that the tunes – some of them, anyway -have a little more edginess to them. I’m thinking of “Les Chants de Maldoror”, for one, which has some nice guitar work on it. “Chaos Arpeggiating” is also a great example of what makes this such a fabulous album. As far as I can tell, this tune shows of Montreal in a more rocking context. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that they suddenly turned into a metal band or anything like it. No, oM, since I first discovered them for myself, via a review, I saw them metamorphosing over the next couple years. For example, after Satanic Panic in the Attic, they came back with Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer, which, ever since I first listened to it, had changed from the jingle-jangle, psychedelic-pop of the previous albums, they got more and more experimental, musically. Then, the next year, oM came out with Skeletal Lamping, which, for me, anyway, was a real treat: a great album, with sonic precision, great lyrics, and songs that were mesmerizing. Then, after False Priest and a couple other albums, of Montreal put out Lousy With Sylvanbriar, which, I think, was the beginning of a new phase for of Montreal. What I mean is that it seems like Lousy… was the album that started oM on the road to a new paradigm: one that infused a little bit more of an edge to it, but without losing that singular sound that of Montreal does with such passion and flair.

Another funky, mellow tune is “Ambassador Bridge”, which is a catchy tune about a girl named Sara and how she’s “Coming down from Detroit”. It too is a soothing, laid back tune with infectious hooks and grooves.

All in all, Innocence Reaches is a remarkable album; it shows that Kevin Barnes and co. are still hard at work, doing their best to make the best music they can- all for you! As I wrote above, Innocence Reaches doesn’t come out until August 12th, but, if you’d like to have a sneak peak at the new video for “It’s Different for Girls”, then see it here:

The more I listen to Innocence Reaches, the more I like it. I assure you, long after I’ve finished this review, I’ll still be listening to Innocence Reaches just because I like it. One more thing: if you are intrigued by the cover art, well, that can be credited to Kevin Barnes brother, David, who has good artistic skills. This isn’t the first of Montreal album David’s designed; he’s done some intricate, trippy artwork for some previous albums. So, in closing, I just want to say that Innocence Reaches is a splendid, grand album which shows that of Montreal still has “it”. One thing, I must say: this album has really pricked up my ears: it’s a shift forward from their last few albums, which is always a good thing; if you’re in a band, you definitely don’t want to have a big splash on first being heard only to have that certain magic fade over the next few albums. To avoid this, a band needs to be flexible, willing to adapt and it doesn’t hurt to be a little ahead of the times! Good times, good times. -KM.

of Montreal group photo

OwenOwen King of Whys cover

King of Whys

Polyvinyl Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie


In contrast to the music that other Kinsella-based bands (Tim and Mike), like Joan of Arc, Owls, Friend/Enemy,etc, Mike Kinsella, who’s been making solo albums under the name Owen since his eponymously titled debut in 2001, has been using this vehicle to express various emotions, lamenting past relationships, as well as, with a minimal musical set-up: acoustic guitar, drums, bass, piano with the occasional horn here or strings there. The Owen persona gives Mike a chance to do things a little different. As opposed to the alt-pop or the (NOT)-emo of Joan of Arc, etc, which are usually awash in sounds and keep pushing the boundaries, re: lyrics as well as instrumentation, Owen’s albums are basically Mike, his acoustic guitar, his drums and if there’s a bass needed, somewhere, he’ll play that too.

Owen’s music is painted with introspective, reflective, personal lyrics, backed up with,  an acoustic guitar and drums, sometimes an electric guitar will make its way onto a part of a song, e.g., a melancholy solo that an electric, sans distortion, can articulate well.

One thing that stands out when listening to King of Whys is the “bigger” sound.  That’s due to the addition of session musicians in on the recording.  Something which is a new thing – for Owen, that is, not for Kinsella, though, who’s played, along with brother Tim, in a smattering of Joan of Arc albums, Owls, Friend/Enemy and, of course, the more Owen-like project, American Football, who only put out one album, but that one album has really gotten around, it’s certainly found an audience out there, and not, all the time, anyway, for just American Football, but for fans of all things Kinsella.  Similar to what Owls did back in 2014:  they put out their second album, also after a 15-year gap from when their self-titled debut came out, in 2001.  What was quite impressive as well as a delight to see that, despite their not having had recorded anything (even though the lineup included three people who would play continual roles, coming and going, with Joan of Arc, so, it wasn’t like they hadn’t worked together at all over these years).

2014’s Two was a brilliant album.  It was as if Owls, when they got together to play; picked up their instruments, just picked up right where they left off.

Anyway, so, later that year and into 2015, the trio that was American Football re-formed and went on a small tour, playing selected cities.  That proved to be quite successful and showed that Kinsella (and others in this same, Chicago indie scene) has a solid fan base, consisting of people you’d run into at an American Football reunion gig, an Owen show and a Joan of Arc show; one possible explanation as to why American Football’s recent mini-tour was so interesting is that convergence of fans, many of whom love Mike’s other projects:  Owen, Joan of Arc (who, alas, has been quite idle of late) as well as Owls, Make Believe, Cap’n Jazz (the early incarnation of what would soon blossom into great things; the band that started it all) and Ghosts & Vodka, to name the most obvious.

Having reviewed every album Owen has recorded since late 2004’s I Do Perceive, followed by At Home With Owen, then New Leaves and others, I can say with surety that King of Whys has reignited the spark I originally felt when listening to I Do Perceive. Long after I’d already written that review, I was still, regularly listening to I Do Perceive – I remember, still, that one “wow” moment:  that certain hook or sound or even a less tangible, je ne sais quois that, whether it happens on the first listen or whether it takes several listens (don’t expect this to occur with just anything; it has to have some sort of connection to styles, genres, formats, etc.that you’re already into), you’ll suddenly have this epiphany; like a spark flashing in your brain.  You suddenly realize that you have, as far as you’re concerned, anyway, a winner; so it was with I Do Perceive.  I was hooked.  I started listening to it just about every day.  Next, when I learned of Owen’s next album, I was really excited; I couldn’t wait to hear what was coming next; what did come next was At Home With Owen, which was another reflective, personal album, the songs are wonderful, well-structured and the lyrics, again, reflect much of Mike Kinsella’s personal baggage, for which Owen is, I’d guess, a cathartic vehicle for dealing with certain things in his past.  I’m not going to go too deeply into this, i.e., I’m not going to psychoanalyze Mike and interpret them.  That job is for the listener:  it is you who give it meaning, just by playing it – think of that as a kind of koan to meditate on.

The King of Whys finds Owen where we’d expect, but this time around, he used, for one thing, some outside help (this one wasn’t recorded in his old bedroom at his mom’s house). S. Carey, of Bon Iver, helped out on The King of Whys.  Bon Iver’s connection to Mike  was that Bon Iver opened up for American Football during their reunion tour, recently. This album also marks the first time Owen has worked with both an outside producer as well as a backing set of musicians.  The result?  In my opinion, it definitely ranks up among Owen’s best work.

I’m not alone in my thinking that The King of Whys shows Owen going in a slightly different direction, more musicality, bigger sounds, but Mike’s beautiful, reflective lyrics are still present. I’ve read some other write-ups on this album that also mention what a powerful album this is.  Some have even gone as far as calling it Owen’s best album yet.  I’ve listened to King of Whys several times, but I’ll have to listen some more and focus, to be able to best judge, IMO, the veracity of that claim.

Hungry for more?  For details about the CD and/or to purchase a copy, just go to: Hope you like it as much as I do. -KM.

Here’s a link in which you can lose yourself.  The new one from Lee Negin.  Have a look below.  Also, check out this playlist for a wider selection of material and visually stunning material from Lee;



Yellowingvritra CD pic

NRK, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

New, from Atlanta native, Vritra (ne Hal Williams), currently living it up in Los Angeles is Yellowing, some mellow hip-hop.

Vritra’s is a busy story, one which goes all the way back to when he was only 10. When in high school, Williams began NRK (short for “Nobody Really Knows”), a “hip-hop collective”, an engine for him to get his music out. It was in these early days that Vritra met Matt Martians, with whom Vritra started a friendship as well as a musical collaboration. The first project the two worked on together was the first project Vritra did for his fledgling NRK. Soon, Matt and Vritra joined forces and started Jet Age of Tomorrow. It was around this time Vritra moved out to Los Angeles to help Matt and Matt’s other band, The Internet, record their debut album, Purple Naked Ladies as well as to work with Matt on more Jet Age of Tomorrow stuff.

Bringing us up to 2014, Vritra, who, at this time was going by the moniker, Pyramid Vritra, recorded Indra and an EP, Palace, for Stones Throw Records.

Finally, we get to now: Pyramid Vritra has dropped the “Pyramid” and is just Vritra, a change which seems to represent more than just a cosmetic alteration; the new, clipped moniker seems to reflect a stylistic change to his music, as well as adapting his music to new, maybe wiser, more experienced place in life. This may be heard in the more intricate, mellow groove of Yellowing; its jazzy, suave feel, with elements of Drum & Bass, Jungle, hip-hop all grooving to a jazz-soaked backdrop. A perfect example of all this can be heard on the opener, “Fleeting Youth and Soundwave”. “PSA”, “Gumbi” and “Question and Demand” all are good examples of the coming together of years of experience, musical and otherwise.

Yellowing will be out on July 22nd. If you’d like to hear stuff from the album, go to . Hope you like what you hear. -KM.

Ghosts on the Road

Ghosts on the Roadghosts on the road cover

Self-Released, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

Let me introduce you to Justin Portz. He is the driving force behind Ghosts on the Road. This eponymously titled debut has just come out. On the album, it’s pretty much all Justin, playing the instruments, but, for live shows, he’ll put together a nice assembly of musicians with whom to work. I read a description of this and it read that the live shows are loose collections of willing friends

The opening number, “Dismal Midnight Hours” is the opening number and it works as a great way to start off the album. It really pulls you in; there’s a sense of excitement and as “Dismal Midnight Hours” is a fiery opener, it’s a great way to get people to keep listening (i.e., those who’ve never heard of Ghosts on the Road).

Portz was born in Southern Illinois and has, over the years, gone back and forth between Kansas City and St. Louis. So, basically, Justin’s a Midwestern guy. Not from some entertainment company-town, no, far enough away that he isn’t pressured externally or internally, from trying to be like what one sees on TV, etc. A lot of bands who come from various towns, dotted all through the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, or, Chicago -a lot of interesting, damn good bands have come out of Chicago.

Well, the songs on Ghosts on the Road are certainly different from the typical pop fluff one hears on the radio. While there is pretty much a “rock” band, they do have some interesting influences which make their way onto the album; a little bit of alt-country (i.e., nothing like the typical country stereotypes, eg, Garth Brooks, Randy Jackson (isn’t there an Alan Jackson too?) as well as someone like Taylor Swift, who can’t seem to make up her mind whether she wants to be a pop star or a country cowgirl. I’d say that the little bit of country licks Portz puts in here, work well because they seem to have close ties to blues-y music, giving the music a little extra “punch”

When you queue up the album and start playing it, the opening tune, “Dismal Midnight Hours” is a perfect way to get one’s attention. One of the things you can pick up from listening to Justin singing is that he has a strong voice – one that really helps to punctuate the song itself. He’s also a good guitarist, playing a nice, fluid solo, for instance, on the opener. But besides soloing, Portz is also good at maintaining a nice, crisp, rhythm guitar.

All eight songs on Ghosts on the Road are played and sung with sincere emotion. Portz’s alto (I think; it isn’t so deep as to be a baritone) voice is a strong one; his plaintive wails are part of what give the songs (e.g., “Blotto”, “Haunted”, “Sirens” and “Crash and Burn”). “Dead Letter” trades off crisp, clean guitar licks with Justin’s distinct voice, which has this natural projectionability – he’s able to reach from deep down in the diaphragm, to bring up a powerful, dynamic voice.

This is one album which, not having heard anything before by Justin, really impresses me. It also has some great production as well as superb engineering. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen and/or buy it, sound unheard. Take my word for it. If you want a good place to both give it a listen as well as purchase it, try – it’ll take you to their Bandcamp page, where you can thus proceed.

Keep an eye out for Justin Portz and Ghosts on the Road. More coming soon. I’ll try to keep abreast of what’s happening with Justin. Hope you get a chance to hear as much of Ghosts on the Road as you can! –KM.