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J Mascis + Friends - Sing + Chant for AMMA (CD) Cover Art J Mascis + Friends - Sing + Chant for AMMA (CD)

Devotional music is always a mixed bag and this is no exception. But it's also interesting to see a musician step outside of himself and experiment. Sing & Chant for Amma may not offer the conventional 'Dinosaur Jr' experience, but J's voice and guitar work are familiar enough to draw you in if you keep an open mind. The effect is somewhat like a Sunday morning jam session after a long exhausting festival. It's beautiful, sometimes winding and lazy, but always waiting to turn a corner. Sing & Chant for Amma beseeches without anger. This is an album of love songs, a perfect backdrop for a quiet day spent watching the clouds drift.

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J Mascis + the Fog - Free So Free (CD) Cover Art J Mascis + the Fog - Free So Free (CD)

Free So Free delivers 10 mainly mid-tempo alt-rock songs that are exactly what Dinosaur fans wanted. The songs on Free So Free are still simplistic, yet clever and catchy. Almost the only thing that was retained from the early Dinosaur is the accomplished guitar work. The guitar is, and always will be (I hope), the focal point of almost every J Mascis album, and it's no different here. The drums and bass sit in the back seat while the guitars drive this record, whether it be the acoustic riff or the wah-wah drenched solo. Free So Free is a reminder of how far J Mascis has come since Hardcore of Dead Wound, and how almost two decades after Dinosaur Jr's first release he still can write great songs that convey his emotions brilliantly.

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J Mascis + the Fog - More Light (CD) Cover Art J Mascis + the Fog - More Light (CD)

More Light alternates between soaring rock songs and sweet, lonely ballads. The album succeeds so well because Mascis sounds confident about what he’s doing. Each note seems placed right where it should be, yet the album has the same ragged, loose feeling of the best of Dinosaur Jr. Sounding both disheveled and together in the same moment is quite a feat. The album also has some of the best melodies Mascis has penned in years. On one level, More Light is such a great J. Mascis album because it rocks so hard and so well. Yet it also shows a wider range of musical styles than his work before. He’s not experimenting, really—in general he’s covering the same ground as always. But there are new stylistic touches throughout that really fit the songs, like the gentle piano on many songs. All in all, More Light has a true sense of progression to it, and it’s a great reminder of how talented a songwriter J. Mascis is.

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Jamnation - Self Titled (CD) Cover Art Jamnation - Self Titled (CD)

So, Jamnation is the product of Toledo, OH poet Dan McGuire and his appreciation of both the masters of psychedelic jam rock and his own beat-styled word mongering rants.  McGuire proves that he is not only a fan of this music (apparent by his selection of the finest in free improv psych bands here) but that his word craft is at the same level of musicianship as the bands he has chosen to "jam" with on Jamnation. It's as if he is right there in the room with each band, waiting, listening, absorbing the vibe until the right moment when he jumps in with his own instrument. He gives the music time to breathe and develop, and his stream of consciousness stories weave through the music with precise rhythmic syncopation.  His whiskey smooth voice is somewhere between a younger Tom Waits and Mike Douhty and the stories drift between the political and the humorous, always offering up profound observations in true Zen-inspired Kerouac fashion.

Jamnation was achieved by Dan McGuires cunning method of jamming poetry over the music by the JPT Scare Band, Eternal Elysium, and by two configurations of Denmarks Gas Giant, one version who go under the catchily unmemorable name Ild Hu.  McGuires rant succeeds because hes aware of leaving space for the jams to breath, but like some grey squirrel raised on mutoid GM acorn happy enough copping cheekfuls of Morrisons An American Prayer without the unsightly late '70s discoid influence. Yup, this is the Kim Fowley proto-Iggy response to Steppenwolfs John Kays Eastern European take on The Doors.

So, what does it sound like? Wah guitars, Ash Ra Tempel/Amon Duul 2-takes on Detroit hi-energy rocknroll, plus Hapshash percussion and campfires and lots of drugs in the darkness. It sounds inspirational and visionary and like every great freeform rant. Youve heard this all before already but never in this order. This is the new order. It digs a new hole and leaves it unfilled and ready for us all to excavate further. Its a vocal delivery from the other end of the universe that dares to leave huge swathes of instrumental passages intact, McGuire only ever interjecting briefly before then backing off so that the waves of sonic tsunami can rammel ya on his behalf.

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Jason Simon - Self Titled (CD) Cover Art Jason Simon - Self Titled (CD)

Jason Simon is the vocalist and guitarist of Dead Meadow.

Jason Simon is best known as the voice behind D.C.-based psychedelic/stoner rock trio Dead Meadow. The singer’s beautiful tenor vocals are at once distinctive and captivating, with the range and delivery to slowly draw listeners in and keep them engaged. On his solo project, Simon retains the spacey atmosphere of Dead Meadow, but uses acoustic guitar to affect a much quieter, more relaxed theme on the music. It is neither folk nor blues, but rather a style that lies somewhere in the middle; soft and calm, but still highly expressive, intelligent, and meaningful. Fans of folk musicians like Imaad Wasif and Harper Simon will fall in love with this album. Make no mistake—Jason Simon now has two musical avenues for creativity beyond the imaginations of mere mortals.

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Price: 6.66
Javelina - Beasts Among Sheep (CD) Cover Art Javelina - Beasts Among Sheep (CD)

Playing a pleasant mix of sludge, doom and stoner rock, the group would fit snugly between Orange Goblin, Bison B.C. and Zoroaster. In fact, throw those bands, High On Fire and a dash of Cursed and the thick, disgusting end-product would no doubt resemble something very similar to the monster that is Javelina’s new album Beasts Among Sheep.

Price: 12.99
Javelina - Self Titled (CD) Cover Art Javelina - Self Titled (CD)

Southern sludge it is, and Javelina heaps on plenty of influences with gusto and aplomb to put together a ripsnorter of an album. Throw in equal parts Eyehategod (speed it up a bit and use less heroin, though) and “Technocracy”-era Corrosion Of Conformity (well, add moments of “Blind”, too), add a dash or two of Soilent Green/ Goatwhore, and include a few post-thrash, sludge, stoner touches evocative of newer acts such as The Fucking Wrath, and you have Javelina’s debut full-length in a nutshell.

Frankly, this album is just damn catchy while being crushingly heavy at the same time. Although this genre has been done to death and Javelina are treading rather well worn ground, the mix of exceptionally catchy songs and the pure heft of this album has really grabbed a hold of me. Strong riffs, a dual vocal attack, a thick bass with plenty of huge chops, a generally mid-paced to up tempo structure with some great variation within songs, some sludge laden stoner navel contemplation, and even a few fleeting moments of melody are all present in spades on the debut. All of these disparate elements are seamlessly woven together to produce an excellent debut album that speaks volumes of the potential of Javelina.

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Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus - Bloom (IMPORT) (CD) Cover Art Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus - Bloom (IMPORT) (CD)

The grand return of the krautrock, and other similar musical pharmaceuticals, have yet again entrenched itself in many peoples ears. It is music with a retrospective way of thinking that takes its listeners on adventurous excursions deep into one's mind. Music that aims to broaden your horizon and consciousness. JI&TRM will make an impact on you in the same way with their second album Bloom; an innovative and highly personal take on the psychedelic rock and the very use of its many components and elements. As the indicating seriousness of the first line of the opening track reveals; "It's not a joke this time. I'm leaving reality for sure."

The band's musical references are more in a multi-colored fashion compared to its predecessor Elefanta and has really taken the songs straight through the prism. Because what we hear, among a number of things, is a massive use of sweeping passages of dripping wet guitars that shake and tremble well into the morning. Songs dressed in an oceanic reverb that pours through the panting rock and roll. Melodies that move in cycles and works that have a run time of more than nine minutes. The powerful debut of the organ can also be seen as a direct result of this change in influences, and the musical guest behind it, the gifted Patrik Kolar, whose masterful and accurate playing adds even further dimensions to an already well nuanced repertoire.

Price: 17.99
Jess and the Ancient Ones - Astral Sabbat (IMPORT) (CD) Cover Art Jess and the Ancient Ones - Astral Sabbat (IMPORT) (CD)

Finnish occult rockers Jess and the Ancient Ones are back rather quickly with their follow-up to their debut from 2012, this one an EP titled Astral Sabbat. Comprised of just three songs, two originals and a cover of the Shocking Blue song "Long and Lonesome Road", Astral Sabbat is somewhat short and to the point, but once again shows just how interesting a band Jess and the Ancient Ones really are. Led by the intoxicating vocals of Jess, the band creates plenty of vintage prog rock, hard rock, psychedelia, and metal behind her. With a sound that bristles with stinging guitar riffs & licks, classic sounding Hammond organ, and soaring female vocals, Jess and the Ancient Ones are part Deep Purple, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Yes, and ELP, all rolled up into one neat little package.

The highlight here is the bruising 15 minute "More Than Living",a hell of an epic song that has more power behind it than most bands put in a full album. With snarling guitar riffs and raging Hammond organ around every corner, this song also has plenty of atmosphere and intricate bits to please any prog lover. Both the heavy title track and the Hammond drenched "Long and Lonesome Road" show that this band has plenty in common with fellow retro/doom/prog/metal rockers Blood Ceremony, so if intriguing songs complemented by strong female vocals, crushing riffs, Hammond organ, and a healthy '70s vibe sounds tempting, don't hesitate to check into this one.

Price: 11.99
Jesu - Conqueror (CD) Cover Art Jesu - Conqueror (CD)

Better than the previous Jesu releases. Justin takes his melodies to new levels. They are lighter and more ethereal than ever. Maybe not as musically heavy as previous JKB stuff, but the emotion is there. God damn Broadrick can write!

Conqueror is the epitome of calm. As a full length release of only 8 tracks, the songs are lengthy. Yet without the pressures of time, each song is like a journey that builds and ends at an even flow. As a result there are no standout tracks, but a continual wave of sound washing out of your stereo. Playing this record also has the effect of turning whatever dingy digs you're in into a full blown cathedral. Instruments rise and fall out of nowhere, echoing and rebounding throughout the songs. The effect is incredibly relaxing. For all that is going on in the record however, there is an element of this album simply fading into the background. Yet this quality could easily see it used to great effect to soundtrack a film. However, if the time is taken to really listen to what is going on in this record, one would certainly commend the efforts Mr Broadrick has applied.

Elements of Conqueror could be enjoyed by anyone, but particularly those who desire the delights of musical experimental ism with a modern edge. This is a haunting, soothing and warming record all at the same time. While it might not change the world, it certainly gives everyone else much to think about. Enjoy the experience.

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