Archive for the ‘Los Angeles’ Category

RJMJ - Glamping

“Glamping is a portmanteau of glamorous and camping and describes a style of camping with amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not usually associated with ‘traditional’ camping.”


And now that you know what Glamping properly means, we finally have a sound to associate with it as well, in the form of Roger Joseph Manning Jr.’s new solo EP of the same title. So, let me first ask, how do YOU know about Roger and his many sonic contributions to the universe? Maybe you recently discovered a tiny mad scientist keyboard madman on a tour with Beck? Or…maybe you have hung on since his college rock indie days back in the late 80’s when he joined Beatnik Beatch with Andy Sturmer? For me, it’s what happened after Beatnik which put Roger on my radar at a very young age, that project was Jellyfish. Ask me about that another time if you already don’t know of how that band changed my life. Roger has been turning out music for 30 plus years at this point. Whether he’s doing session work, or pushing the envelope with one of his own original bands or giving us polished and scrutinized solo work…whatever it is, he’s certainly giving stellar efforts.

So…let’s discuss Glamping, cause for this moment, that is why we are here. This is Roger’s first new solo recording in about 10 years. And his agenda, as far as I know, was to put more solo music out for the last few years but he had gotten caught up with some other cool work outside of his own – Last Winter RJMJ surprised us all with an absolutely unreal Pledge Music campaign which would coincide with the release of Glamping…to get it out, to get it in the hands of music lovers and beyond. This was no regular run of the mill campaign. With this, came a peek into Roger’s world a bit. Video updates while on tour with Beck kept a smile on our faces, a glance (literally) into his closest as he sold off Jellyfish clothing from the early nineties (WOW!) Pieces of gear he was parting with, chances to hang and record shop with him and a slew of other fun and juicy bits to be involved with. Hardly 48 hours had passed on that campaign and a number of components had sold out. Roger considered it a huge success and I know was very touched by the response. And, because of that very reason he has promised more solo music, sooner than later. This whole thing also allowed him to reissue his first two records which both had Japanese releases and under the radar domestic ones as well. There is a lot to get into here and I don’t want to veer off course too much more…

So, again…Glamping. This 4 song EP is quite an appetizer to what will hopefully be followed soon by a main course. A contribution that leaves you with a belly rumbling, it whets a pallet that had been starving for a taste for nearly a decade. The perfect and pristine songwriting in which Roger has painted himself into a decadent corner for so long does not disappoint. An avid fan of the 70’s, Mr. Manning certainly wears his heart and influences on his sleeve for this one, maybe more than ever(?) It’s a very focused and streamlined collection of songs. Perhaps the fact that there are only four songs this go round didn’t leave much room for the wackier more experimental stuff to creep in. What you have here is four delicate yet deliberate songs keen on love, playful on adventure and confident in delivery. The production is clean and smooth with Roger doing the bulk of the work with a little help from some amazing friends. Brother Chris (the Witchdoctor himself) is present with some assistance in the vocal department and helping in general to bring all of this out of RJMJ. Jason Falkner plays some guitar, Bleu McAuley sings a little, Lyle Workman plays a bit of guitar too…it’s a cavalcade of radical folks curating a really unbelievable set of tunes that ends just a bit soon. These songs are sang so sweetly, it always sounds like Roger has a smile on his face when he sings and that attitude really comes across here. First track, “Operator” is a cute and clever song sprinkled with a dash of loneliness, “Operator, I need a favor…could you take some time, I’m in need of a connection in the worst way, so don’t say goodbye.” A song possibly too smart for it’s own good! Next up is “Funhouse”, which is appropriately titled as it is probably the most playful of the set, sounding like it could easily transport you to the carnival with just a little imagination. It is also, the only song which Roger writes the lyrics to completely on his own, the others have Chris Price assisting or handling them in full. Third track, “Is it All A Dream?” is my personal favorite, it’s just such a beautiful song with a chorus that you’ll be singing for days, a perfect pop song with hook, line and sinker. The EP ends with the longest in the collection, “I’m Not Your Cowboy”, a modest song about a modern man who simply knows his place and graciously accepts his role as a non-superhero. Perhaps the most complex of the songs, “Cowboy” is triumphant and ends the release big. The musicianship throughout is top notch of course. I just wish in the end that Roger had handled all of the lyrics on his own. Either way, can’t wait for more original music from Mr. Manning!

Listen to first track on Glamping, “Operator” below!

ALSO, If you have extra time, check out this great conversation I had with Roger a few years ago in which he drops many hints about Beck, Glamping and a bunch of other cool stuff!

Dino Malito

Throughout my many adventures of writing and music I have been lucky enough to stumble across treasures. Some I’ve had to dig for and some have been presented to me plainly and simply, as was this new EP from Dino Malito. Quite honestly, there is really nothing plain about it, more close to extraordinary. Getting to know Dino through his music has been a really nice experience for me. First with his band Serum from the late 90’s-early 2000’s to his current band Captain Black Heart and now with this solo offering. Dino and I had only come into contact with each other maybe about a year ago mainly because of Music-Survival-Guide. It’s just one of the cool perks I get from doing this wonderful thing.

On May 4th Dino will release his first solo EP through Domo Music Group. For a debut it is somewhat unusual as it is a collection of covers from Japanese New Age artist Kitaro. Nothing short of a sensation himself (Kitaro) being a Grammy and Golden-Globe winner for his compositions which use a variety of synthesizers and sounds. But for Malito, on this release, he has stripped down the walls and brought something peaceful, something of the earth and soil. Being a master of many a stringed thing he presents this tribute in such a reserved tasteful manner, bordering on perfectionist but pulling back ever so slightly before the true soul of the work becomes compromised or mechanical. This is a recording that makes you want to leave the chaos behind…of the world…of a hectic life. Music in so many ways heals. It’s something we can all relate to universally and that is truly beautiful. And there is plenty of beauty to be found in this small 5 track EP. What Dino set out to accomplish reminds me of a bit of my appreciation for John Wesley Harding who did something similar with his release, Trad Arr Jones, which was a tribute to Nic Jones, a London born folk singer. Harding compiled covers of Jones’ whimsical craft and presented them in such an irresistible way that I had to immediately hook myself on either of their works. And here, with Malito’s new EP, he may just do the same for anyone of us as this recording presents something truly magical. He even has the approval of Kitaro himself, “I was pleasantly surprised by these warm interpretations of my music…” So discover this with me as I peel back more layers of this wonderful release which is clearly from the heart of a truly talented individual. Thank you for sharing this with me…with us, Dino.

Dino at Domo

Order the CD

Order at iTunes


Dino at YouTube

In conjunction with my review from last week of the Captain Black Heart record, Budgie, I wanted to share the debut single and video for their song “Surf”.

The album will be released on Friday October 6th, wanted to give it another push. Please check these guys out, they have delivered a really wonderful record.

Read the review here:

It’s rare nowadays for a band to not really care about fitting in to some bizarre piece of the puzzle that has become a diluted and soulless musical landscape. It is just that very thing, the soul, that is truly lacking in today’s contributions to sound. To find quality in the current you must dig, peel back a layer, turn over a stone…it IS still there. And my friends, THIS gold nugget of a record is a firm statement that the above is indeed true. After 10 plus years from their debut EP, Captain Black Heart has delivered a full length debut record so well thought out in structure, lyric, melody and beyond. Upon each listen it grows like a flower reaching higher for a sun that seems so easily obtainable.

The duo of Captain Black Heart, Erwin Herceg and Dino Malito make this seem all too easy. Both hailing from a band in the very early 00’s, Serum, who had a criminally shelved and unreleased album ready to give the universe have prevailed and moved onward and upward. The years have been good to these gentlemen and Budgie is them tipping their hats to that gesture. Opener “Of Things To Come” swells with waves of vintage sonic psychedelia that could easily transport you back to a 70’s era garage band who knows how to twist a tone knob while tubes glow and burn up a hot Summer day. The somber dreaminess of the whole record is so pure and even at times delicate. Lead single “Surf” could easily make you wish for the sand between your toes. Herceg’s voice is painfully beautiful. “Don’t you think that they should just drop the bomb, cause it just doesn’t matter anymore…” A dark lyric painted so sweetly by his fair and tender rasp.

Budgie is so rich with instrumentation, both Malito and Herceg lend many a talented stringed thing or synthesizer to the album with help from a few friends along the way. Over the last two weeks I’ve listened to this album only to find a new song subtly announce itself to me, it’s hard to pin down a favorite. “Turn Off The World” is another vintage sounding cracked desert beauty with some growling bass buried so slightly under a lonely slide guitar as Herceg sings about the fondness for his seemingly wise Father. A tribute to life and love, “Someday youth will pass you by…I hope you get it right.” And, we all have tried to…get it right.

This record is a trip through the milky way, a sunburnt canyon, a night under the moon. Just listen to “Dead Crows” and tell me you can’t get lost right there. There is beauty in this pain and the Black Heart boys have the perfect prescription in Budgie. 

While most of the album is a mellow trip ala the 70’s they do sneak in a tune like “Sundowner” which reaches even farther back, dare I say even two more decades. It’s a welcome ice cream sundae slow dance on a prom night long lost.

As retro sounding as the album might be it’s also refreshing and confident without being even slightly pretentious which it has every right to be. It’s just a couple of guys that wanted to make a good record and whatever will be will be. A humble reflection on simple beauty. So, put on a big pair of cans and let that coiled wire dangle as you close your eyes and leave this world for 50 some odd minutes. You’ll be happy you did.

*For enthusiasts of Blind Melon, ZooKeeper and Prophet Omega.*

Budgie spreads it’s wings on October 6th. Please do yourselves a favor and discover some new music. Independent bands need ya!


Southern California’s own AFI return with…(The Blood Album), their first in almost four years since the dense and very dark Burials. Since AFI’s 2003 breakthrough masterpiece Sing The Sorrow the band has shown us a multitude of styles and soundscapes in the form of Punk, Rock, Pop, Hardcore and beyond. This new installment is no slouch, adding to the bands now very versatile catalogue.

Once again as with Burials, (The Blood Album) shows guitarist, Jade Puget writing all the music for the group, this time however also at the helm producing the record. Much like the Davey/Jade side projects Puget continues to expand the reach and grasp of his monster talent. The album is beautifully produced and very clean with few peeks and valleys, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing with a record so accurately executed. Clearly drawing heavily on their new wave influences this album presents the listener with a bit of a sigh of relief as it’s predecessor was vast and brooding. Not that this one opens all the windows to let the sun in but it does relieve those of us that really appreciate the bands pop territories. This is also probably the closest they have come to the Sing The Sorrow sound in years.

“Blood” opens with the sonic seducer “Dark Snow” with the foursome setting the bar very high which they manage to maintain. The catchy sway of single “Snow Cats” is commercial without seeming lame. More tracks like “Hidden Knives”, will most likely become an AFI classic, both danceable and singable. It’s hard to find something really wrong with this contribution. In whole, the album is pleasantly haunting (“Above The Bridge”), nestled in punk roots (“Pink Eyes”) while remaining flavorfully accessible (“The Wind That Carries Me”).

Put quite simply, AFI is a band that can bend a genre without coming off contrived or insincere and at the same time able to easily return to any style they have showcased in their 25 plus year run. Kudos gents!

(The Blood Album) will enter billboard top 200 at number five. The bands highest charting record since DecemberUnderground.


Posted: December 10, 2014 by Soda in AFI, Los Angeles, Music, Soda, Xtrmst
Tags: , , , , , ,

So, to have to “introduce” you to AFI would be something that sounds pretty silly being that they have been around since 1991 give or take and have had a few huge records in the past decade, specifically Decemberunderground which debuted at number 1 on Billboard in 2006…I say this because I want to get into a side project of Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s. Davey as you know has become an iconic singer and Jade, guitarist for AFI has proven over the last 8 years or so that he has become quite a force to tangle with both as a musician and producer.

The duo has ventured into another side project called XTRMST, different than AFI and the exact opposite of the duo’s other outing Blaqk Audio which is a dancey electronic venture.

Xtrmst album cover

Xtrmst album cover

XTRMST will go to show you that Davey still “has it” so to speak. People have complained for years how AFI left their punk roots, sold out, etc…I for one prefer what AFI has turned into, starting with the masterpiece Sing the Sorrow (2003) and onward.

XTRMST is an exercise in straight-edge hardcore turned up to 11. Mr. Havok has never sounded so full of rage, and it’s absolutely refreshing. Spitting “I fire on all five senses” in song “Extremist” and just letting us have it throughout the entire 14 tracks clocking in at 33 some odd minutes. Jade Puget’s guitar work has become something that really stands on its own, brilliant, subtle and complex at the same time. He has taken the horse by the reigns here, writing all the music, producing, recording and engineering. Same as he does with the Blaqk Audio records, Davey handling all the vocal and lyrical abilities. (Jade even wrote all the music for AFI’s latest offering, Burials)

Lyrically, XTRMST is absolutely letting you know that this is a certain kind of record if you will. Touting the straight-edge lifestyle to the nth degree, Davey and Jade both being as such and also vegans. “This is who I am!” screamed with conviction in opening track “Words for the Unwanted”. This is not an album made to draw in AFI fans; it’s specific in nature and in fact may even alienate some listeners. I myself am also straight edge and vegetarian and feel that a record like this is both appropriate and needed. Let’s face it, these guys don’t need to try and sell you a record. Here they are flaunting their art and expression and something they feel very strongly about.

The album was released a few weeks ago only on vinyl with a CD being included, but being very much an after thought. A small zine was also created to coincide with the record showcasing straight edge culture and people, artists, musicians that live this lifestyle. A video for “Conformist” was also released around the same time. The band will also be performing its first show this January in California. I’m hoping more dates will be announced…

XTRMST is dirty and dark, loud and powerful, running its nails down the backs of non believers and big talkers everywhere. “Raise the X!”


Posted: November 19, 2014 by Soda in Los Angeles, Music, Serum, Soda
Tags: , ,

One of the main things I wanted to achieve with this blog was exposing people to different bands/artists that might not have ever been heard of, while at the same time, being able to tackle acts that, well, everyone may know. I want to romanticize newer records and older records just the same, as that’s how I often feel about music in general, just really attached to it like a love affair. For the most part since I started these musings I’ve stayed mostly current, so I’m going to take the opportunity for this installment to talk about a record from 2001 by a band called Serum.

In all honesty, I don’t know so much about this band; back in ‘01 I was given a promo of their self-titled debut. It was a one sheet promo with no information inside about the group or members, etc. The only information was on the back cover which basically addressed the production and the label they were on, Brick Red Records, which I was actually familiar with because I was into another artist from this imprint called Math & Science, which is a total opposite sounding performer in relation to Serum. And really, I’m not quite sure if this CD was ever properly released as I’ve only ever seen promos.

Anyway, I took the record home and obviously liked it enough to add it to my collection. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I revisited it and got heavily into them and this great, lost recording. By this point, they were done, their site was defunct and well…it’s been hard to dig up much about them at all.

It’s a drag how so many awesome bands never get found out; luckily I keep my nose heavily to the underground and often make great discoveries. Not sure how big they were back in 2001 or so in Los Angeles from which they hailed from. I imagine it was hard for them to really find their niche in the Alternative/Rock world given the sound they so perfectly projected which was somewhat borderline Psychedelic Classic Rock while maintaining an Alt Rock vibe.

Serum gave us an 11 track self-titled record that almost at times sounds like a glorified demo. It’s raw and under produced, but I mean that in the fondest of ways. There is a charm and subtlety here that was captured and put down onto tape in such a gracious fashion. The whole album sounds like it was done through old combo amps and vintage everything. Singer Erwin Herceg’s voice and delivery channels both Shannon Hoon and Janis Joplin fondly as he sings “Through love I learned to fear, through fear I learned to hate, through hate I learned to love, all over…all over again,” in one of the many stand out tracks, “Bleed”. His whole vocal performance on the album is delivered in such gravelly soul that it kinda warms your heart. Erwin’s approach is both tender, and humble.

Serum Album Cover

Serum Album Cover

Back to the whole psychedelic vibe, another true champion of a song, “Rocket Scientist” gives us one of the best gang vocal hooks I’ve heard in the past 15 years, “Take me to that magic place where mosquitoes sing and the ants all dance, and all the fish walk around with a smile. Where the sky is green and the grass is blue and you don’t have to take off your shoes just to sit, and talk for a while.” A fun and jangly piece which again is delivered in such an endearing fashion by the entire band, you really get the idea that they were completely content with the musical offerings on this album; it’s not showy or overly complex and therein lies the appeal.

An interesting tidbit about this LP is the secret track titled for the bands namesake, “Serum”. It’s probably the best sounding and most polished song on the whole record. Could be they finished the album and threw this on last minute, cutting it at a different studio with a different producer or engineer, who knows, it’s almost puzzling but it’s just so damn sweet and leaves you so grateful for another song, indeed craving a second album.

Although I was unable to dig up much about Serum online I did find that two of the members, Singer Erwin Herceg and instrumentalist Dino Malito had gone on to collaborate on a project called Captain Black Heart (not even sure if this partnership is still active) in which I still need to dive into and am excited to do so as more music from these guys is a joyful thought.

So, if your interest is peaked, hop onto Amazon and grab a super cheap copy of the Serum record and treat your ears.