Album Reviews

Orbis Max – Orbis Max: The first album-length release from the band since the addition of Dw Dunphy as their full-time lead vocalist.

Orbis Max, This Just In: “The band’s strengths like in rock / pop infused with Soul, Blues, and R&B flourishes, all employed to great advantage here.”

Bruce Smith, 1000 Horses: With “1000 Horses,” Bruce Smith becomes the latest warrior to rise above the pandemic and events of the last couple of years, delivering a fine follow-up to his previous effort, “Til The Wheels Fall Off.”

Bottlecap Mountain, Fib Factory“This is a band worth following. They’ll surprise you every time, and pleasantly so.”

Orbis Max: The COVID Collaborations 2020-2021“The whole album is a celebration of what Orbis Max does best, as well as a love letter to the creative process itself.”

Big Stir Singles, The Tenth Wave“This isn’t escapist entertainment, it’s dancing in the acid rain of our current society.”

The Armoires, Incognito“This is one of the most significant and essential albums of 2021.”

The Incurables, Funhouse“When this band sings “Muzzle to muzzle, anything goes,” you’re just as apt to visialize a David Lynch film as you are to envision sweet and cuddly Muppets.”

The Metal Byrds, Byrds On A Wyre EP“Any trip to the past with this band is immediately overridden by a ride into the future. They’re not looking back and they’re not standing still. They’re roaring down the rock and roll highway, and you should jump in and go along for the ride.”

Spygenius, Man On The SeaSpygenius can throw down pure pop for now people with the best of them…but there’s more, a LOT more, and if you can just sideline the need for a quick and easy to digest meal of what is expected, you’ll be thrilled with where this album takes you.”

Michael Des Barres, Anarchy In The U.K“As Michael sings “I wanna destroy passers by” with cool, detached weary smoothness and is joined by the angelic choir on “I…wanna be…anarchy,” we are visited by the ghost of Lou Reed via Dion And The Belmonts, the seemingly inexplicable gossamer thread that connects soul, doo-wop, and punk.”

It’s Karma It’s Cool, Woke Up In Hollywood“Hipsters And Aeroplanes” raised the question “This is great, wonder what they’d do with a full album?” That question’s now been answered…It’s Karma It’s Cool has delivered a solid, tuneful, thoughtful and engaging work of art. Here’s to many more.”

The Corner Laughers, Temescal Telegraph“Sometimes you play an album, and other times you enter a realm. The Corner Laughers could be described on first pass as gentle folk rock, with an undercurrent of psychedelia, but there’s a depth and complexity that stretches past what initially greets you on the surface.”

The Incurables, “Far Away”The Incurables’ debut single on Big Stir Records, “Far Away” b/w “Soda Pop” has arrived, and it’s an immediate confirmation of the drum I’ve been banging since I first heard the band last year…this band and this record label are a perfect match, and this union was written in the stars as the most inevitable moment of 2020. It was worth the wait.”

Kekker, Greatest Hits Volumes 1 + 2“The first ten seconds of this album will grab you coming right out of the gate, and it won’t let go for the next 30 minutes. “Greatest Hits Volumes 1 + 2” is easily one of the best albums of 2020, and its opener, “Doveroverland,” is only one of the 10 gems waiting for you.”

The New Fools, Mershmellow“Mershmellow” is 8 songs, 29 minutes of tuneful and engaging music.”

Bottlecap Mountain, Dismayland“What awaits you over the course of its 40 minutes is the spiritual core of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse persona, the swagger and sneer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and everything you ever loved about the Uncle Tupelo / Wilco / Son Volt Alt-Country triumvirate.”

Chris Church, Backwards Compatible“The 12 songs are all crunchers, heavy on the guitar with fantastic and bombastic drumming from the triumvirate of Nick Bertling, John Hawkins, and Jon Leeds.”

Dolph Chaney, Rebuilding PermitThe Big Stir winning streak of 2020 continues, unabated. Buy this one and prepare to be overwhelmed by its depth and compassion.”

Garden of Earthly Delights: An XTC Celebration“Garden of Earthly Delights” is beautifully packaged, lovingly crafted, and includes a whopping 36 tracks on the double CD, and an additional 17 if you purchase the Digital Download.”

Dolph Chaney, The Handling“It’s pure pop for now people that occasionally lands in the mud, is picked up, cleaned up, and sent into the fray once again.”

Popdudes: Ridin’ In My Car“This one hits ALL of the right notes coming out of the GATE, and stays there for its full 3 minutes and 23 seconds. The Beach Boys thing is a tough one to pull off successfully. There are nuances that make it or break it, and the nuances are all here on glorious display.”

Big Stir Singles: The Fifth Wave“You’re bound to find yourself surrounded by a brilliant swirl of creativity unbound, the sound of musicians in the modern era making music that will thrill you as much as the music you love from the past.”

Librarians With Hickeys: Until There Was You“Their debut single on Big Stir Records is further proof that the label intends to show no mercy in 2020, bringing you artists that have a proven, consistent track record of exhibiting a pure, unadulterated rock and roll heart.”

The Forty Nineteens: Tell Me…”  “The new kings of American Garage Rock have aligned themselves with one of the most creating, adventurous and caring record labels in the country, Big Stir.”

For The Record: A Tribute To John Wicks“Taking the album as a whole, the scope of creativity is staggering, the loss of a major figure in music is driven home in a powerful album that is equal an elegy and a celebration in equal portions.”

The Armoires. “Pushing Forty”The Armoires’ “Pushing Forty,” from their most recent Zibaldone album is the latest Big Stir Digital Single, released January 17, 2020. The B-Side, “Shame And Bourbon,” is a new track, and features the impressive viola skills of Larysa Bulbenko.”

Anton Barbeau, Kenny Vs ThrustMarc Bolan fronts The Doors with “Monster”-era Michael Stipe and Peter Buck from R.E.M. sitting in.”

Electric Black, The Calm Before“There’s guitar-a-plenty, solid rhythm and tight, controlled, wailing solos. This is smart, hard rock and roll…this is a distinctive and memorable debut album, and this band has a future. Get in on the ground floor…you’ll be glad you did.”

Popular Creeps Detroit, Bloodshot Red“There are few things better than hearing new music from friends of friends. Popular Creeps guitarist and vocalist Lenny Grasso is a veteran of Nick Zeigler and John Pozza’spre-Forty Nineteens band, The Leonards….”

The Speed of Sound: 30th Anniversary Scoop“The album is a must-have for music lovers who don’t want the full story revealed in the first couple of tracks. This one will keep you guessing as John and Ann Marie don their various masks and run with scissors across their sonic landscape.”

A Kool Kat Kristmas Vol. 3“Simply stated, “A Kool Kat Kristmas Vol. 3” is one of the most thoughtfully assembled and heartfelt collections I’ve heard to date. It runs the gamut of holiday emotions, celebrating the Winter Wonderland while not shying away from the darker aspects of the season. It’s honest and real and a wonderful addition to any Christmas albums you may already own.”

It’s Karma It’s Cool, “Wooden Buddha”“The music is tight and tuneful to be sure, but what sets It’s Karma It’s Cool apart is the ability to craft these seemingly innocent pop songs that have the same mix of complexity and metaphor found in the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper / Magical Mystery Tour” era.”

Big Stir Singles: The Fourth Wave...” Big Stir Digital Singles are released every Friday, and they gloriously run the gamut of all genres, offering many surprises along the way, and provide a bargain price for people seeking to discover the best and brightest in the modern music scene. This collection includes 25 tracks from 13 artists whose work has been previously released as a Digital Single.”

The Maten Starsley Band, “Rollin’ Again”“When you listen to “Rollin’ Again,” you’ll recognize it as the work of musicians who have gigged aggressively over decades. You don’t get to sound this good until you’ve been road tested, and the Matlen Starsley Band passes with flying colors.”

The Toms, The 1979 Sessions“The 1979 Sessions” is a fascinating snapshot / love letter to The Beatles, and what’s most interesting is that the only time it inches past 1963’s “With The Beatles” is in a couple of nods to noted Beatles acolyte Jeff Lynne. Other than that, it’s a glorious trip back to The Ed Sullivan Show on black and white TVs all across America.”

The Brothers Steve, #1...“Time races by as each track tumbles into the next, leaving you hungry for more. Micky, Mike, Peter and Davy would be proud of this one, as would be any garage band across America.”

Big Stir Records, Althanor Digital Single & Big Stir Holiday Maxi-Single” …2019’s Holiday Season has been a big one for Big Stir Records. In addition to The Brothers Steve’s “Holiday Magic,” previously released on this site, they have also released the Weekly Digital Single “I Remember You On Christmas” / “Approximately Eternity” from Athanor, and The Big Stir Holiday Maxi-Single, generously packed with eight tracks…”

Lannie Flowers, “Home”...”This kind of album is almost impossible to make. You have to start with a theme that is so broad and so wide that the common traits are scattered across a barren landscape, and you have to work out in concentric circles, painting images that are vivid and universal enough to resonate with a large audience. On “Home,” Lannie Flowers has achieved that impossible result.”

The Brothers Steve, “Christmas Magic!”“Christmas singles are a pretty easy shot for bands that want to take a “standard” and rock it up with a few new twists. It’s a much bigger challenge to create something new, heartwarming and fun, and that’s exactly what the Brothers Steve have accomplished on this single.”

Lloyd Meadows, “Oxford Synthesizer Club”“…noteworthy due to its ability to draw its inspiration and energy from multiple, well-known sources, without becoming shackled by them and mired into a single, easily defined sound.”

Shplang, “Los Grandes Excritos (1995 to 2019)“To paraphrase Amity Island police chief Martin Brody, if you want to put this band in a box, you’re gonna need a bigger box.”

The Incurables, “4 Play”“It shows the depth and scope of the band…at one minute, they can be the single greatest party band in America, at another, they can employ introspection and insight and they do it all, seamlessly, with clarity, passion, and precision.”

The Legal Matters, “Conrad”“In the simplest of terms, they have crafted an 11-song, 37-minute masterpiece that thoroughly obliterates whatever public conception may exist regarding “indie” musicians.”

Blaine Campbell, “Under The Tidal Wave”“This is a strong, brilliant excursion into a sound from days gone by that has been chased by many artists, who sometimes found that the true heart of the music had eluded them.”

Lannie Flowers, “My Street (North Florida Version)”“…a Wilbury-ish approach…a Tom Petty feel, but “My Street” also layers a Harrison-style slide guitar on top of a Petty Full Moon Fever / Wildflowers soundscape…”

Rattanson, “I’d Much Rather Be With The Noise”“A masterful blend of the Bo Diddley-inspired early Rolling StonesYardbirds, and topped off with a good measure of endearingly arrogant, swaggering, propulsive pre-punk garage rockers like Sky Saxon & The Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard.”

The Tor Guides, “Backwards In Reverse”“On Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson sang that he “just wasn’t made for these times.” Torbjorn Pettersson is also living in modern times, but he’s determined to make them fit his vision, his worldview. He wasn’t made for these times…these times were made for him.”

Super 8, “Turn Around Or”“Imagine an artist profoundly influenced by Ray Davies, the “McCartney / Ram” MaccaBrian Wilson, and the Country Rock twang of The Byrds. That’s not hard to do…those artists have entertained and inspired for half a century. But what happens when an artist lets that all out in one song?”

Mike Kosec, “Sun And Shade”“From Jersey to Georgia to Baltimore, it’s a travelogue of the human heart…”

Blaine Campbell, “Happy Faces” & “Movin’ On”…”a welcome visit from the “gentle folk” era of the sixties…”

Gretchen’s Wheel, “Black Box Theory”“Prepare to be astounded…”

Mondello, “Hello, All You Happy People”“Persistent, chugging, fuzzy rhythm guitars, solid base, rave-up drumming, breathless harmony vocals, and a churning, distorted guitar solo worthy of the late Bob Quine…”

Chris Church, “Limitations of Source Tape”“The heartbeat of the album is so similar to some of Todd Rundgren’s best works.”

The Yellow Melodies, “Life”“This album offers music that is fresh and familiar all at once, with a plethora of “plot twists” to please audiences who love good music, and are on the lookout for something unique.”

The Stillsouls, “Does My Love For You Come From Shakespeare Too?” b/w “Old Guitars Are Ghosts on the Sunset Strip.“…bold, fuzzy, cocky, and effortlessly cool.”

The Shrubs, “Another Day Goes By”“This is a CD you bring along for a road trip…pop it in the player, roll down the windows, and ride, baby.”

Trip Wire, “Once & Always”“The underpinnings are strong “alternative rock” tones a la R.E.M. with a blast of “Sticky Fingers” laid-back confidence, doses of garage rock, and a little psychedelia.”

James Clarke Five, “Parlour Sounds”“Cupid always knows where to aim his arrow…and the sound of this album is a brightly-colored bullseye directly over the right ventricle of every music lover who ever mentally strode down Abbey Road.”

The Grief Brothers, “Thirty Years On Woolford Street”“This is a stunning work of art. Avail thee of it, posthaste.”

The Epigones“Based on the four tracks on this EP, my gut (and reasonably seasoned ears) tells me “Pre-Green R.E.M.” and Robin Guthrie, in and out of Cocteau Twins. That’s right, it’s the sound of early “Jangle Rock” infused with post-punk, ambient guitar.”

The Speed of Sound, “I See You”“The Speed Of Sound’s take is largely faithful to the original, adding a little extra British Invasion “oomph” a la The Yardbirds & The Animals (think “Monterey”)”

The Incurables, “I Don’t Feel So Well”“Eloise” takes everything the band does well and wraps it up into a 3 minute and 44 second thrill ride.”

Armstrong, “Under Blue Skies”“Under Blue Skies” is an album about faith in the unseen, faith in something better, the desire to find sufficient joy today in order to make it to tomorrow.”

The Forty Nineteens: An Appreciation“This band is the original Paul Revere & The Raiders, without the Colonial outfits.”

The Jellybricks, “Some Kind Of Lucky”“Expectations were high for this new album from The Jellybricks, and simply put, they’ve exceeded all expectations. It is easily one of the most solid, rocking and joyous albums of 2019.”

In Deed, “Everest”“Crackles with energy, and electricity, and light, and wonder, and joy, all while coming from a peaceful and serene center…”

It’s Karma It’s Cool, “Hipsters And Aeroplanes”…“…lush and airy harmony vocals, and lyrics that depend on metaphors as much as literal meaning. It’s a multi-dimensional retro sonic feast.”

Jim Basnight, “Not Changing”“Jim is a chameleon, a master alchemist whose craft is the result of decades’ worth of writing, recording, and relentless gigging.”

The Persian Leaps, “Electrical Living”“Drew’s playground is the world of Power Trio / Power Pop music, but he plays by his own rules. He adds a few layers of mystery and ambiguity to his work, keeping things interesting.”

The GoAllTheWays: “Silly Girl”“Every once in a while, a project comes along that is so vibrant and heartfelt and magic that it restores your faith in the creative process. The new Big Stir Records single from The GoAllTheWays, “Silly Girl” b/w “Tourist,” is one of those projects.”

The Armoires, “Zibaldone”“The band’s penchant for a clever turn of the lyrical phrase is evident on “(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?,” while “Satellite Business” is another psychedelic sunrise gem, with emphasis on the tight harmony vocals.”

Taming Sari, “Thirsty From The Drought”“They’re a guitar band, to be sure, with the rhythm guitars slashing and burning through the verses and choruses, frequently punctuated with tight, focused solos.”

Mod Hippie, “Saturday Show”“Doug McGuire’s vocals are a true highlight, bending and stretching to wrap themselves around the constantly-in-motion music.”

“Big Still Singles: The Third Wave”“These compilations offer a perfect way to familiarize yourself with many artists that are outside of the major label orbit, and are generating creative, heartfelt music.”

Big Stir Magazine No. 4“It’s so positive, such a celebration, such a willingness to dance naked in the rain that the biggest mistake you could make would be to miss out on it.”

Michael Des Barres & The Mistakes, “Crackle & Hiss”“…a love letter to music, specifically the tactile sensations of vinyl.”

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts, “This Is The Sound”…”In 2019, Rock & Roll is alive and well, and if you want proof of that, look no further than “This Is The Sound,” the latest release from Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts.”

Bruce Smith Band, “Til The Wheels Fall Off”…”Bruce Smith’s November 2018 release, “‘Til The Wheels Fall Off,” is one of those rare albums that feels immediately familiar while totally fresh and original.”