Mark Suppanz has been a passionate music fan since the 1970s, when he would persuade his Mom to take him to the local mall to buy him 7” singles that he heard on Casey Kasem’s Top 40. His music tastes took a turn for the better in 1986 when his college roommate Lon turned him onto R.E.M., The Cure, The Smiths, and Joy Division, and upon graduation he frequented New Brunswick, NJ’s much-missed music club, The Melody. He discovered The Big Takeover in 1994 after happening upon issue #35 in a Tower Records in Mountain View, CA. He began transcribing interviews for the magazine in 1997, became moderator of its online discussion list in 1999, and began writing record and live reviews in 2000. Since that time, he has managed to see over 700 concerts while balancing a successful career in market research. He currently lives in Montclair, NJ, and in addition to attending shows, enjoys reading books and magazines, browsing record stores, watching movies, running, and traveling.
Along with RBM, Johanna’s House of Glamour, and Neurotic Cage, Underwater Kites is another of Boston-based experimentalist Bruce MacLeod’s guises, with one prior LP and six EPs going back to 1999.
Along with gruff, Glenn Danzig/Dave Vanian-evoking bellower Evil Heim, and anchored by formidable 65’s guitarist/bassist Joe Pugsley and Ryan Struck (who play bass and drums here), it’s no surprise this New Jersey horror-punk quintet sound like a Misfits and Damned lovechild.
Fans of this three-year-old Chapel Hill, NC quartet’s 2018 debut mini-album Giant will immediately notice the silkier, more incandescent stylistic shift on this follow-up four-song EP’s first two tracks.
The second LP by Pittsburgh’s Full Counts – formed by 1990-94 Gumball bassist/singer Eric Vermillion and Cynics drummer Mike Quinlan, who were both also in FOOD – is even better than their otherwise superb 2017 debut, First Out.
As he did on his 2019 debut LP Couch, Seattle’s one-man EDM virtuoso Paul Furio rotates between Depeche Mode/OMD/New Order synth-pop/new wave and tougher, Front 242/Nitzer Ebb techno/industrial on this follow-up five-songer.
Having backed Slim Dunlap, and opened for Tommy Stinson, it’s no wonder High on Stress evoke the rootsier side of hometown legends The Replacements; frontman Nick Leet’s emphatic, twangy drawl even conjures Paul Westerberg.
This three-songer blasts even harder than their 2017 “Wolves and Men” 7”, enhanced by the addition of second guitarist Ed Roessler to an already intimidating lineup of Joe Pugsley, Ryan Struck, and John Steele.
Behind her impassioned, one-of-a-kind voice and idiosyncratic songs, Helsinki, Finland singer/guitarist Jokelin’s solo debut Kaamos has a distinctive ambience that is enticing and transcendent.
This Queens, NY quintet’s fifth album dispenses with the too-conventional, leisurely-paced country/roots-rock that dominated their last LP, 2015’s 3 Shots, in favor of more buoyant, vivacious playing and arrangements.
Mastered by Frank Arkwright at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, this Escondido, CA-based foursome’s seventh album sounds more robust, expansive, and sonorous than their previous six.
Aided by 16 guest musicians, this Chicago troubadour’s third solo album adds plenty of new stylistic wrinkles to the homespun, Wilco-esque alt-country of his 2014 II and 2011 Archive + Spiral.
Aside from his familiar trill, the hushed, homespun folk Helsinki’s pleasantly-voiced Palonen fashions on TP is far removed from his previous outfit Kuparilinna’s punchier, ‘60s-inspired indie pop, surf, and psych-rock.
It’s been five years since New Jersey native Rose’s last album, 2013’s sumptuous Stars, Stripes, and Milestones. But boasting livelier and more luxurious production and arrangements, this self-titled sixth LP outshines it.
This follow-up to 2014 second LP Need to Feed finds this Providence, RI art-rock trio – fronted by likable, lovely-voiced lead singer and keyboardist Roz Raskin – still pursuing an unconventional approach.
Philadelphia-based Harvey makes mellower music than most of punk label Chunksaah’s strident, speedier-playing signees. But his moderately tempoed folk-rock is plenty resonant and robust.
This esoteric New Haven, CT art-rock duo consists of guitarist/keyboardist Paul Belbusti, also of prolific psych-folk outfit Mercy Choir, and drummer Michael Kiefer, of weighty sludge-rockers Myty Konkeror. However, Rivener sounds nothing like their other bands.
Listening to this New Haven, CT piano-fronted trio’s debut album, it’s hard to fathom that their powerful-piped lead singer Laini Marenick had never sung in front of anyone until her wedding three years ago.
Like a tape-recorded diary set to surreal, spooky sound collages, Berkeley, CA avant-garde artist Dominic Francisco’s second LP makes us feel like we’re prying into someone’s most private, painful emotions.
Born in Oxford, England, this tender-voiced troubadour expands upon the theme of his last three covers-speckled albums by re-imagining 14 love songs from his “early hero” Bob Dylan’s copious catalogue.
Compared to the more robust rock crunch of this New Haven, CT Americana/folk-pop collective’s 2014 Farther Out Beyond Today, the production and playing on Dreams is lighter and lither.
A couple of years after this Buffalo, NY outfit’s 2011 debut LP 4am, dazzling lead singer Mary Ognibene left the band. DM’s new vocalist Maria Sebastian is as breathtaking as her predecessor, and this EP’s three distinctive tunes showcase her multifarious skills.
Dubuque, Iowa’s sensual and soulful chanteuse Gloeckner doesn’t make many albums; this is only her third LP going back to 2004’s Miles Apart, and first since 2010’s Mouth of Mars. Yet Vine is worth the seven-year wait.
Blending breezy reggae with brassier jazz/bebop, Ontario’s two-time Juno Award-nominated pianist/singer Wilson’s sixth album is a polished, ear-pleasing pastiche.
Throughout veteran L.A.-based violinist Murphy’s Red Mountain Blues, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin frolic so euphorically, you’d expect an impromptu line dance to break out any minute.
In mostly foregoes the hard-driving rock crunch of this Seattle quintet’s 2015 Chaos EP, in favor of subtler, more intricate arrangements that better accentuate the velvety and vivacious voice of frontwoman stayC Meyer.
It took seven years for this Hoboken, NJ foursome to release their first-rate 2014 fourth LP Infinite Regression, so it feels fortunate to have this follow-up come only two years later. At is another alluring album.
This Long Island, NY/Maryland-based “space drone” outfit is fronted by two hypnotic female singers, Neptune Sweet and Sharon Malkin, the latter crooning in Hebrew. With subdued beats and celestial synths, Shin is a soul-purifying, inner peace-producing pleasure.
With its stratospheric synths, encircling guitars, battering ram drums, and baleful, bellowed vocals, Overseas is a revitalizing return from this strapping synth-punk outfit.
Following the indistinctive alt-rock direction and too-polished production of their 2014 fifth LP, Do Not Engage, this Vancouver drums-and-guitar duo’s sixth LP is their most exhilarating, explosive album to date.
I’m not sure what prompted former United States of Existence/The Jigsaw Seen drummer Schwartz to reissue this upbeat, Supertramp/Hall & Oates-like 2014 digital single as a 7”. But I still “really like” it.
Despite drummer/founder Joseph Joseph’s replacing of departed keyboardist Molly Pamela with bassist Nicholas Gunzburg as this Cleveland experimental duo’s “other half” in 2015, Junk is as spastic and strident as their previous releases.
Shoulder and hand injuries have shelved Atlanta guitarist Richard Coker’s punk and folk career, but his instrumental synth LPs keep coming – Fey is his eighth since 2012.
I described this 20-year-old Columbus collective’s 2009 second LP More Fiend as “ominous, trance-inducing space-rock, with hints of metal, psychedelic, and Eastern influences.” That could similarly sum up this new six-song, 43-minute fourth.
For those still tentative about diving into this atypical, atmospheric Bristol, PA trio’s 2016 fourth LP This Gilded Age, this double A-side 7” of two of its tunes is a tempting toe-dip.
Birmingham, AL’s Remy Zero released three major label LPs during their original 14-year run, before disbanding in 2003. This new trio comprises two original RZ members, along with their touring guitarist/drummer, and preserves RZ’s penchant for brawny alterna-rock.
Texas-born-and-bred Bell again avoids modern country clichés on her fifth LP, and first since 2010’s Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder.
On this hard-hitting new single, about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, London’s provocative, powerfully-piped Distras breaks free from stringent punk structures. It blends a ‘60s British Invasion/Merseybeat and girl-group sound with more contemporary, crunchy power pop.
I swooned over this fetching Chicago foursome’s “buoyant, shimmery” 2014 second LP Restless Hearts, which followed up their heftier 2010 debut The Spell of Youth. But Beneath manages to best them both.
On their 2015 first LP, I heard “Sonics/Shakers-inspired garage rock, Shellac-styled industrial/post-punk, and SLF Inflammable Material-era punk” in this college-aged Nashville band’s sound. That’s still accurate, as Teal contains many of the same characteristics as the full-length.
St. Paul, MN-based Bonar’s follow-up to her 2014 sixth LP Last War is even better, featuring more focused and finely-honed playing. As well, its arrangements are alternately aggressive and atmospheric, thanks to Bonar’s brawny and buoyant backing band.
This New York duo’s dreamy covers of these two familiar classic-rock staples are so assiduously crafted, and Eleanor Kleiner’s singing so stupendous, it’s like you’re hearing each song for the first time.
You might question the wisdom of a Helsinki band securing U.S. distribution for a debut LP sung entirely in Finnish. But one listen to this distinctive, charismatic two-year-old quintet, whose name translates in English to “Copper Castle,” and you’ll be captivated by their countless charms.
France’s forceful foursome Heming Wave have now morphed into this trio. However, the brash and bracing U.K. Britpop influences that Heming Wave invoked have been sidelined in favor of a more strident, stentorian style.
The echoed, East River Pipe-evoking bedroom recordings on Eric Bates’s one-man Turnsole’s self-titled, early 2016 debut are more defiantly delivered on this way different follow-up, an “abstract look” at the life of France’s tragic teen Joan of Arc.
The Firehouse 12’s pin-drop, church-quiet ambience and an attentive, breath-holding audience allows Sheveloff’s twinkling, deep-toned piano trilling and romantic, robust voice to register more prominently than on his previous platters.
Given that this sophomore LP from this Houston foursome deviates in so many directions from their 2014 “Some Change” two-song 7” single, it’s not a stretch to surmise the band’s status as hard-to-pin-down chameleons.
Every song on Minneapolis singer/guitarist Israel’s 13th LP Dan delves into the details leading up to or resulting from his divorce, while generally touching on the trivial but telling warning signs that can sour romances.
At nearly an hour in length, Hobbitozz is an ambitious rock opera/fairy tale, which this San Francisco prog-rock quartet claim is the “first in a multi-part series of psychedelic sci-fi/fantasy rock albums.”
Unlike NYC roots-rocker Mark’s previous seven with longtime backing mates The Van Dorens, Stowaways veers from the group’s signature barroom blues and country-rock style.
Named for a 1972 Isaac Asimov novel, this Seattle trio’s second album dabbles in plenty of that decade’s music styles – most notably its soul/R&B, funk, and disco – even more than on their 2014 self-titled debut.