monoblogue music: 2019’s top 5

For the sixth and final time, I’ve taken the albums I’ve reviewed this year and selected those I thought were the cream of the crop. It turned out to be a diverse group between newcomers and a couple repeaters from the past, and releases that run the gamut from a four-song EP to the wrapup of a three-EP trilogy that finally got its due this year. While I was definitely disappointed that the reviews basically dried up in the latter half of the year (so I only had 16 total) I actually had a pretty good complement of contenders, which will include an honorable mention.

So who made the cut in 2019? As I’m about to reveal, it’s a group that may seem familiar in a number of ways.

It’s the second time Rich Lerner made the list, following on 2017’s “Push On Thru.”

5. “Jammin’ With Juma” by Rich Lerner and the Groove (featuring Juma Sultan)

Original review: February 23.

Using the talents of longtime percussionist and Woodstock alumni Juma Sultan, who cut his teeth touring with Jimi Hendrix. Rich Lerner and the Groove put their own stamp on a number of covers (including one by Hendrix) as well as creating originals in a similar vein.

Lerner, a veteran of the music business himself, borrowed liberally from several corners of the musical world to create this album and mixed them together very well to create something worth listening to.

The first (and only) local band album I ever reviewed for this feature, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

4. “Wasted Time” by Future Thrills

Original review: January 19.

While the cover may remind you of a DIY effort, this one is actually well-produced and makes you wish they had twice the songs on the EP.

What sold me on this four-song collection was how they built off a punk-rock foundation by adding disparate elements and making them work well. You can tell they’ve developed a rather unique style that should carry them well as they write more songs and further refine their sound -just don’t overdo it and make it sound too packaged and you’ll be fine. They’re promising more stuff in 2020 and I’m going to be all ears looking forward to it.

2019’s coda to a trilogy that’s had one release in each of the last three calendar years.

3. “Fight To The Death” by Paul Maged

Original review: July 13.

The finale to a trilogy Maged released over the last three years, this ranking reflects the full trilogy. “Fight To The Death” is the angriest of the trio, but also the weakest: on its own it may not have made the top 5. On the other hand, 2018’s “The Glass River” and 2017’s “Light Years Away” would have been easy top 5 selections and they brought up the average, so to speak.

Maged has gotten a lot of mileage from having a previous #1 album here (2014’s “Diamonds and Demons”) so he may be a little disappointed in only coming in third. Still, the consistency of his good music overall (not to mention his constant marketing and other talents) is something to be commended. I doubt he and I would ever see eye-to-eye politically, but if I ever cross his path for a live show I can let all that slide.

The musical troubadour has kept himself busy touring in 2019 to support this fine EP.

2. “Words For Yesterday” by Benny Bassett

Original review: March 30.

It’s only six songs, but if you didn’t know Benny Bassett – or happened upon him at one of his regular hotel shows – this would be a great introduction. It’s music that would be right at home on a variety of outlets because it’s perfectly triangulated between straight-ahead rock, alternative, and the country-rock made popular in the 1970’s by bands like the Eagles and Poco.

If there were a smart producer or record label talent scout out there, they might grab up this onetime attorney and see what he could do with his songwriting ability and a little extra marketing push to help him along.

This one is a definite throwback. It might make you actually like ’70s music this time.
  1. “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny the Unifier

Original review: May 25.

As you more than likely have guessed from all the reviews and other music-related stuff I’ve done over the years, I grew up listening to what would now be described as classic rock.

But there were a lot of artists who didn’t quite get the airplay that Journey, Styx, Foreigner, or Led Zeppelin did, and a good number of those played what would now be described as “prog-rock.” This disparate group somehow found their way into the conscience of those comprising LSTU, though, and they carried the torch forty years forward in a great way.

So while I was carried back to 1979, I got to enjoy it with the updates and new technology that made it sound even better. “Final Notice!” turned out to be the final winner in the sweepstakes I call monoblogue music.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention a great instrumental album that just missed the top 5: back in May I reviewed a eponymous effort from an artist calling himself Versal that deserves some honorable mention here, too.

Anyway, to wrap all of this up: if I get curious enough I may see what my twenty-odd bands featured as top 5 artists over the years are up to. But this will close out monoblogue music as a regular feature. I will still do the occasional “Weekend of local rock” posts if I catch acts worth doing them for. (I really should have done one for Casting Crowns when they played here but that show was over two months ago now.)

I guess all that’s left to say for monoblogue music is thanks to James Moore at IMP for working with me all these years and, more importantly, thanks to you for listening.

monoblogue music: “Play Nice” by Cass Clayton Band

This was the album I was reticent to review, and the reason is simple: the first song is perhaps the weakest on the album. It left a bad initial impression on me, but once I left Dawes County and its bad take on a whole slew of “my little home town sucks and I’m leaving it in the rearview mirror” country songs I started to feel a little better about this July release from the Denver-based Cass Clayton Band.

It’s not the easiest collection to pigeonhole, and perhaps that was the intent. I detected more of a cool jazz influence on the next two tracks (Little Things and the title song, Play Nice) but that slowly yielded to where I thought the album shined the most: a trio of songs (B Side, No Use In Crying, and Tattered and Torn) which nicely straddle a tightrope between that little bit of jazzy-influenced singing and instrumentation more reminiscent of gospel-tinged southern rock and blues. This comes back for an encore in the finale, Strange Conversation.

Unfortunately, the songs toward the end suffer a bit from various factors: the odd cadence of You’ll See and the depressingly trite The Most Beautiful bring things down a bit; however, Doesn’t Make Sense almost takes things back. But I just couldn’t get into Flowers At My Feet and really didn’t see the purpose of adding the brief Slow Kiss before the finale.

Overall I can’t say “Play Nice” is a bad album at all. One thing it accomplished was putting the image of the live band on stage in my mind and getting me to think that they would indeed put on a pretty good show. (Another possible drawback to the album was Clayton’s usage of studio players in lieu of her touring band.) She does play a lot of shows in her home region, so there is a modest fanbase in place. Honestly, I’m of the opinion that, if this album was re-created as a live record it possibly could have flirted with a top 3 spot – the studio made it sound too cold and sterile.

But “Play Nice” will serve as the swan song for my album reviews, as I’m stepping away from that scene after almost six years and about 100 or so reviews. I just think it’s time to move on from here.

So, as I’ve almost always said, don’t take my word for it: I encourage you to listen for yourself. And thank you again for all the listening you have done. One last monoblogue music top 5 for 2019 will come on December 28.

monoblogue music: “Fight To The Death” by Paul Maged

It took about 6 to 8 months longer than I would have anticipated, but the long-running trilogy of EPs intended for release by New York-based artist Paul Maged has finally come to its conclusion with this six-song compilation “Fight To The Death.” (To bring you up to speed, I reviewed the first leg “Light Years Away” in November 2017 and second part “The Glass River” in May 2018.) As Maged explains in the release notes, “FTTD was delayed when Maged decided to release his political protest song, The Resistance, in October 2018.”

The Resistance is the penultimate song and last full-length on this final portion of Maged’s work. It’s one of two angry songs on the EP, the other being the title track which leads it off. In turn, the final song snippet, Illusions Go By, is a bit of an extension on a earlier version of the prelude to Life Goes By, a short track found on The Glass River.

The now-full length and restyled version of Life Goes By included here on Fight To The Death is more snappy, hip-hop, and upbeat. So perhaps Illusions Go By will be a leadoff for the next album whenever Paul brings it out.

But when you compare the three parts of the trilogy, Light Years Away seemed to be fun with some introspection, a theme that yielded to a more political tone on The Glass River given the subject matter of its songs. This one, on the other hand, is rather angry and Paul doesn’t care who knows it. To say he’s not a fan of the Trump administration would really be sugar-coating it.

However, I’m here for the music, and to be honest the two angry songs are pretty good. In particular, The Resistance has its share of Trump-like blather, but in reverse where the message is, “you will not kill the resistance.” It’s not your Baby Boomer father’s protest song, though: it’s heavy and amplified, so I enjoyed it (and got a good chuckle, too.) Fight To The Death is more power-pop on steroids, but it serves as a good introduction.

Actually, I can’t complain about the other two, either: Nightstalker brings together a number of disparate elements, while the ballad Off In The Distance not only evokes memories, but tosses in a little reference to a well-received previous album of his.

I don’t think this is the strongest of the three legs of the trilogy, but it’s definitely supportive enough and was worth the wait. As always when I can, I invite you to listen for yourself.

As I’ve said before, besides good songwriting talent Paul has his share of marketing genius. Now that this trilogy is finally put to bed, it will be interesting to see what comes next.

monoblogue music: “Story Of My Life” by Kevin West

This album will come out June 15.

To read the actual story of Kevin West’s life – or at least the biography he provides with his upcoming release, slated to drop June 15 – you would see that he’s never really settled into a location, or for that matter a musical genre. (Speaking of changing locations, it’s a shame he stopped updating his travel blog because it was interesting reading.)

Anyway, this is something I may have expected from a musician just starting out, but this upcoming six-song EP will be West’s fifth album spanning eighteen years. So this variety is a little bit perplexing, but I give him credit that he’s all but abandoned hip-hop, a career direction he attempted in the mid-aughts.

His soon-to-be-released compilation begins with a song called Best of Mine, which I thought was kind of a mashup between rock and country. It’s something like Neil Young may have tried, but didn’t come across quite as well to me. (There’s a video out for the song, but it didn’t want to embed into my post. Perhaps that’s a setting on his end; regardless I could only link.) This leads into what I thought was the best song of the six, the bluesy and boozy One Too Many.

After that, it’s a mishmash of styles – sometimes within one song. Those who like traditional country overtones might be into My Only Sunshine but it’s the sudden morphing of the saccharine Sweet Innocence into a jarring hip-hop style toward the end that really bothered me – not that it was playing out as anything overly special but just the placement and juxtaposition was too much.

Kevin then makes another changeover on the final two songs, grabbing a horn section and going to a jazzy feel on the title track Story Of My Life and instrumental Not For Nothin’. One distinction about this EP is that it has well-versed players on it – while Kevin didn’t always have the same personnel on each cut, he employed solid musicians (and Whitney Hanna, who was a good female backup singer) to create the EP, which he co-produced. Aside from the wrong move on Sweet Innocence, I can’t complain about the production aspect within songs. But the variance makes me wonder if Kevin will ever come up with a distinct sound of his own or keep trying on different things to keep up with some unknown set of musical Joneses he believes will be his meal ticket.

Or perhaps Kevin will ever be the traveling musical troubadour, sometimes living out of his van as he tours the country, jamming and playing for awhile in bands along the way. It may be the story of his life, but let’s hope this EP isn’t the final chapter because I think Kevin can find a better direction with his talent. And since I can’t share anything aside from the video, maybe the best place to judge for yourself would be his website or social media. Perhaps that changes two weeks hence.

monoblogue music: “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny The Unifier

Before cable and non-traditional outlets did away with “appointment TV” Memorial Day weekend was traditionally the beginning of summer rerun season. As an homage of sorts to that practice, I’m doing a rerun from an artist I reviewed a couple months ago.

The Starman was the single I reviewed from Lord Sonny The Unifier, the unusually named group that I noted at the time had an upcoming album, one where I noted “you might correctly imagine this album would almost have been more at home dropping in 1979 than 2019.” I was correct in noting a mid-April release date for Final Notice! in that it came out April 12, 2019.

Had this album actually come out in 1979, though, there would have been compromises necessary which aren’t needed with today’s technology and music delivery process. For one thing, given Lord Sonny’s track lengths and vinyl record limitations, the 1979 album would have had a maximum of nine songs meaning two from this release would have been on the cutting room floor or saved for a single’s “B” side. (Yet another obsolete reference for anyone under 30; anyway, my candidates would have been Satellite Eye and Love Is On The Line.) This would have left the five four-minute songs for side 1 and the four longer songs for side 2.

Final Notice! is an interesting album in that there isn’t one great good song that sticks out, particularly when you get past the two opening singles Right In Your I and The Starman. Instead, there is a particular vibe which reminded me of a more upbeat Pink Floyd (such as March Forth) or less glam David Bowie, like The Starman. The songs tend to be keyboard-based, with the usual featured toned-down guitar bridge or two tastier on some tracks more than others.

I suppose the only thing that might really detract from the album is that Greg Jiritano’s vocals can get a little grating at times. But more often than not he saves it with careful usage of harmony and backing vocals, which is unusual for a self-produced album. Lord Sonny’s release may never sell as much as Pink Floyd’s The Wall does in one day (as it came out at the tail end of 1979, making me feel ancient to realize that seminal album is almost 40 years old) but if you would only be interested in a copy for yourself, by all means listen for yourself. I think it may bring back good memories or make you want more classic pre-prog, post-psychedelic rock.

monoblogue music: “Legends In Their Own Minds” by Sundogs

You almost get two albums for the price of one with this new collection from the Seattle-based duo and friends known as Sundogs: out of twelve songs, about half would feel at home in the jazz-rock fusion landscape most famously populated by Steely Dan and the other half would lie squarely in the somewhat Southern, somewhat country, somewhat guitar-driven frontier of music bordered by the Eagles and Tom Petty. (In fact, to me the opening song Fallen Hero sounded like a Petty outtake except the Heartbreakers didn’t use electric piano like this song does.)

If they had been smart (or if it ever comes out in vinyl or cassette) they’d have done this sort of like G N’ R Lies but instead of live vs. acoustic it would be jazz fusion vs. classic rock. On the jazz side you’d have Snowman, which has a Santana-style opening, Did It Really Happen – sort of the title track as it has the lyrical reference – Castle, and End Of The World to close the side. I would be inclined to slide the instrumental Intro and Sahara as the fourth and fifth songs on that side to even up the sides. Not a perfect fit, but it would work.

I found that lyrically Snowman and Did It Really Happen were a little bit flawed and that Castle and End Of The World seemed quite alike. (In reality they are almost opposite on the album as tracks 2 and 12.) Intro/Sahara is a quite pleasant acoustic track.

And then you have side B, which is the rocker side. We could take that opener Fallen Hero and back it up with the potential singles Alive Tonight and Already Gone. (Yes, the title is the same but it’s not a remake.) Smart people might put those on the chart. Then could come the serious country rock of Hope and ballad Land Of Broken Dreams.

That leaves Johnny, which is an interesting song both lyrically and in its setup – it’s almost like two songs because the story is over about 2/3 of the way through a five-minute flat song, and a sort of funkified country lick shifts into a keyboard bridge. (They repeat the chorus on the outro but most of the last 90 seconds is instrumental.)

It also makes for an interesting video. Can you tell they had fun with green screens?

Someday I’m going to figure out what small town played host to the long motion shot. It’s like Google Maps street view without moving the mouse.

As far as the Sundogs band is concerned, it’s really two guys – guitarist Stan Snow and keyboard player Jed Moffitt. They play on all the tracks, but studio musicians from around the Seattle region fill in the other parts. If I hadn’t read it, though, I wouldn’t have known it by how the album was produced.

It’s a rule of mine, though, that you shouldn’t take my word for it. On this one you can check out their website and listen for yourself. You may find something you like in the vast variety.

monoblogue music: Versal (self-titled EP)

Sometimes in life things occur in an order for a reason. A couple weeks back I had a free Saturday so I decided to address the backlog I had of records to review. And after going through two records which were outside my genre and very complex to the point of being a little bit overbearing, I sat down and listened to this six-song instrumental EP and really appreciated its simplicity.

That’s not to say the EP is one-dimensional at all. In fact, the six songs are all done via the efforts of Houston-based and Puerto Rican native musician Javier Velez, who uses Versal as a professional name, but they are layered in such a way that makes this collection an enjoyable listen and a respite – even if it, too, is outside my preferred genre. Some of the tracks, especially the opener Eternal, made me wish a Christian artist would write devotional lyrics to Versal’s music. I bet it would work.

If I really wanted to be nit-picky I would say that the second track, Flamenco en Culebra, is a touch too long – otherwise the songs fit rather neatly into the four-minute timeframe that works well for most music. But overall this is a very fine collection of songs that may appeal to a wide range of discerning listeners.

In reading a little bit on Velez, he claims to be something of a child prodigy who mastered five instruments by the age of 17 and picked up three more since. But his day job led him to the film making and visual world, making this EP something which was on his bucket list until he finally found time to complete it over the last couple years. There are actually two more songs he’s envisioning, but he wanted to get these out for some unknown reason.

Anyway, if the other two come out soon it will be a blessing – in the meantime I encourage you to enjoy the original six and listen for yourself. It would soothe the savage beast.

monoblogue music: “Ten Years of Solitude” by Alya

There are some things in life I just don’t get. This is an album that is nominated for an award (the Independent Music Awards, which is a thing since this year’s is the 17th annual) and, on top of that, it has a video for Heart Shaped Hole that has been played over 3 million times on Youtube. (Once I get past the break for the photo I’ll embed the video, which is rather well-done to be honest.)

So why didn’t I like it, feeling that it was way too oversampled, overdramatic, and just plain fussy? (That and I really hate album covers that deface a face, so to speak.)

Maybe it goes with an artistic vision that I, a simple guy who spent his formative years watching corn grow in rural northwest Ohio, can’t figure out for the life of me. But it has pretty pictures and colors.

When I listened to it on Bandcamp, one of the sub-genres listed for it was “experimental pop” and maybe that’s the best description. Heart Shaped Hole is one of those experiments which succeeds, as well as Puppet Strings and Angel. Romano is an interesting song but I don’t know Japanese to understand the lyrics – ironically, it’s a song performed the least in Alya’s breathy singing style. That way of singing – admittedly, it’s been pulled off on a regular basis in the music industry – is what makes songs like Animals and Seven miss the mark.

The amount of experimentation in the songs seems to dictate how well they work. If the song is simple, like the ballad Hachiko, it comes off all right. But placing the vocals too far under the music as is done on Half of the Sun, or making Twenty Six a the song that made me think of the “fussy and overdramatic” description – well, that doesn’t work. Truly, I was relieved when the “let’s throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks” closing song Colorful Dreams came to an end because I was finished sitting through this.

Done with her vocals and a single producer, who presumably did all of the instrumentation, I think Alya’s vision for what was apparently a project long in the works just doesn’t match up with mine. It may match up with yours, though, so if you don’t mind Spotify you can judge for yourself.

There are fewer pretty colors there, though.

monoblogue music: “It’s Time” by Rose Ann Dimalanta Trio

I suppose It’s Time for me to do another music review. (See what I did there?)

However, I really shouldn’t make light of this serious effort by a musical veteran who spent nearly two decades in the business, building her brand to the point of having her very own fan club. And I can see why she had one, given a fairly sultry and smoky voice that goes well with some of the selections she wrote and placed on this album. It was an album which came about as those I review often do: songwriting ideas bounced off a friend who liked them and enlisted help in making them a reality.

Since I don’t consider myself to be either a fan or maven of the jazz genre she’s staked her position in, I have to grade Rose Ann’s trio on some of the things I found memorable in the album. Sometimes they aren’t so good, such as the bass line on the lead song Forever Day By Day that sounded just a little off somehow, the odd percussion runs on Latin Soul, or the cloying string session on Miles, the second single from an album that is actually nearly six months old as I review it.

But “It’s Time” has some good points going for it: the imaginative improvisation of 10 Miles To Empty, the intriguing lyrical turn in Happily’s Never After, or the dash of funk that made Mad Run an enjoyable tune, to name a few. Truly Love Someone counts in that regard as a duet, although I wasn’t quite sure if it were a statement in featuring another female singer.

Another interesting facet I’d not heard or thought of before was that of using voice as instrument: a unique and nonsensical chorus briefly comes into play on the otherwise instrumental (and aforementioned) Latin Soul as well as on Seven Days. Since these come into play toward the middle of the song and aren’t part of a lyric line, I count it as adding another instrument to the mix to go with the basic bass, drums, and keyboards on the album. (The rather unique cover features the names of the trio: Raymond McKinley is the bassist and Massimo Buonanno is the drummer as Dimalanta plays keyboards.)

If I were to categorize this one, though, it would be somewhere between the hard jazz of Dinner For One (at over seven minutes, it’s the longest track on the album) and the old “middle of the road” radio format that Measure Of A Man and That’s All could easily fit into. It’s not something I would listen to every day – I’m definitely a fish out of water when it comes to that style – but it’s well-done enough to be enjoyable to a certain segment of the population that’s simply not into current popular music and likes something with gravitas.

As I generally do, though, I’ll let you be the judge (via Spotify.) If you like it, then it’s time to add Rose Ann Dimalanta to your collection.

monoblogue music: “Words For Yesterday” by Benny Bassett

This may be one of the best, simplest, yet most descriptive album covers I’ve reviewed yet. (And yes, the music is pretty good, too.)

On April 12, you can get your hands on the forthcoming EP from the guy in the photo, who gets assistance from some solid backing musicians and harmony singing to put together what could be described as a musical smorgasbord. While Bassett would probably fit best in the singer-songwriter mold, the six songs on the EP have a variety of sounds to them.

The reason I said “descriptive” for the album cover is that the first two songs on the EP – songs which would be at home on an album by any number of classic artists like The Eagles, John Cougar Mellencamp, or Tom Petty, to name a few – evoke just the imagery that the cover does. Just the names alone – Window To Forever and Live Where You Love The Sky – create that vibe. Bassett’s roaming ways provide the backdrop to the video he did for the latter song, images that represent 40 stops along his way over the last year.

But just when you thought you had Benny pegged, he gets much heavier with my pick for the best song of the six, Down Below. Yet that’s not the last twist as he gets a little more bluesy with Find A Way. That’s another winner, as is the final ballad From You. The only song I have a bit of objection to is the slightly cheesy penultimate song, Building A Future. It is a romantic song of sorts, though, so it does have that going for it. Somewhere someone would love that song for a wedding.

Benny now calls Albuquerque home, but his real base of operation seems to be his SUV. Describing himself as “a solo troubadour,” Bassett has done hundreds of shows over the few years since Vintage Blue, a former band he was in, parted ways. With that breakup, Benny left the legal game (he’s a recovering attorney – my words, not his) and his former Chicago home behind. Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia page for Vintage Blue claims they played shows “from Los Angeles all the way to Ocean City, Maryland and everywhere in between.” (Stick with me on this one.)

That touring expertise and willingness to go play shows means that Bassett already has a post-album tour lined up; however, that just seems to be the extension of his pre-album tour he’s on now. April sees him playing in twelve states (so far), with everything from house parties to hotel appearances on the docket.

And I suppose one line from Benny’s review of 2018 immediately established a connection with me: he “grew (his) relationship with Aloft Hotels all over North America.” In fact, there are three he’s playing on his April tour: Bentonville, Minneapolis, and Detroit. That connection? It just so happens that there’s an Aloft soon to open in Ocean City – I know because my “real” employer designed it and I came in on the tail end of the drafting work. So perhaps Benny will be coming our way later this summer. (Wonder if he gets to stay free?)

Normally I would tell you at this point not to take my word for it, but to listen for yourself. Unfortunately, aside from the song video I put up I can’t steer you to a place to hear it. My advice: keep his social media page in mind for April 12 and that may provide some guidance.

monoblogue music: “A New Heart” by the Kevin Thomas Band

If you are ever out San Diego way, you might just run into Kevin Thomas. Just look for the upbeat guy enjoying life with the positive vibes.

There are ten tracks on his album, which has already hit the streets. (You can get a reasonably good taste of the style and vibe from the first single, The Big Picture. That is, if you don’t mind Spotify too much.)

In reading his bio, I came across a line that put his album into better focus for me.

On that fateful evening, influenced by the energy that it was also his birthday, he was previously at another club watching a heavy, angst-ridden band play. There he found that it was almost as if his soul was rejecting the music being played. He soon left the club and found himself in another club soaking up an artist performing with just an acoustic guitar, his songs, and his voice. “I noticed then that different vibrations of music can have either harmful or life-enhancing effects on the body and mind, that certain sounds can actually help you evolve spiritually.” he says. The path to A New Heart had begun.

from Kevin Thomas’s website bio.

I don’t think there’s a drop of angst in this one. And as Kevin is a longtime songwriter I can’t complain at all about the musical writing skills or the arrangements, which range from the more pop-styled Money Tree, Let Your Arrow Fly, and Mirror Mirror to the more jazz-funk Time and an upbeat track like Comfort Zone.

But there are some more hidden gems and quirks awaiting listeners as well: the intriguing opening and a cappella bridges of Reinvent Yourself, a more midtempo On My Way Out, and closer The Best Luck Around prove Kevin has more than one gear.

The only real complaint I have – and perhaps this is a matter of vocal taste – is that I don’t think Kevin has the voice to always carry out his intentions. The unevenness is what keeps a good song like the initial single The Big Picture from being a great song, yet songs that frame his voice well like the sort of Sublime-like High On Chocolate become the best ones on the album. Yet I could still imagine an Ocean City bar loving The Big Picture with its Caribbean flavor, so your mileage may vary.

As you may know, I tell people to listen for themselves. The piece of information I was given was that the album would be available March 29, but it appears he already has the music and availability on his band website. So I would go check that out if you like something in a more pop-rock edging slightly toward classic rock vein.

monoblogue music: “The Starman” (single/video) by Lord Sonny the Unifier

This is going to be a “value-added” review. I was originally asked to write on the single and video in the title, which this Brooklyn-based band put out back on February 8. However, one of the links was to the advance review copy of the album that The Starman is featured on, called “Final Notice!” So I’m going to talk about that a little bit, in part because The Starman is very representative of the collection as a whole.

Like I said, the video and single came out last month and, rather than make you deal with Spotify I’ll just embed the video for your viewing pleasure. It’s the same song.

The second single and video from the forthcoming release “Final Notice!” by Lord Sonny the Unifier.

Trust me, this video is nowhere near as weird as their first one from the album, the initial single Right In Your I.

But if you didn’t get the vibe from the latest video – which, admittedly, needs a lot of explanation to allow me to “get it” – you might correctly imagine this album would almost have been more at home dropping in 1979 than 2019. Strangely enough, the influential records listed by the band for their forthcoming full-length are smack dab representative of that album rock era.

I can hear a lot of those influences – or at least the ones that I know, since I haven’t listened to every track therein – on “Final Notice!”, which I believe is slated to come out in mid-April. And I have to say that, while all the songs are different enough to hold your interest, there’s really not a bad one in the bunch. Obviously there are some I like better than others, such as First In Space and March Forth (the latter really should be released to the world on Monday, naturally) but they all are pretty enjoyable in their own right. And the cool thing is that they can use 2019 technology now to make 1979 sound even better.

Now if you believe the backstory to this album – and after watching their videos there are a couple doubts creeping into my mind, but we’ll go ahead and roll with it – this band was a successor project for lead singer Greg Jiritano after he a) did a 6-year “extreme sonic experimentation” with a collaborator and band that produced music which couldn’t be performed live and went unreleased, and b) decided after plan A didn’t pan out to do a DIY project only to have the studio burn to the ground shortly before its release, destroying all of his work. So you are listening to plan C, which may very well be a good name for a band or album. (The rest of the Unifier band: Tyler Wood on keyboards, Derek Nievergelt on bass, and drummer Carmine Covelli. With a name like that, he had to be a drummer.)

Given the subtle but pleasing strangeness of Lord Sonny the Unifier and their album from another era, I can’t say plan C wasn’t the correct play.