REVIEW: Dispatch - Circles Around The Sun

After not having recorded new music for almost 11 years, Dispatch hit us all with their self titled EP in 2011, but didn't stop their. Their first full album of new music in 12 years, "Circles Around The Sun," is everything that Dispatch fans have come to love about the band and more. The biggest standout of the album is it is reggae-free, something that may seem like a downside, but it's really not. The rock filled album showcases the bands incredible ability to write well-written songs that are firmly planted on their lyrics and their instrumentation. The band will see minimal commercial success with this album on the heels of the title track single, as well as the hype that has been building around the album over the past 8 years since they "officially" broke up. Now we know that the band just needed a break, and after very successful solo careers (which still will continue) they reconvened reenergize, older, wiser, and more understanding of the collaborative creative process. As always each band member serves as lead singer and has their own individual compositions showcased, but the band as a whole came together to deliver some incredible tracks that are both a reminder of the past and a outlook to the future of the band's sound and intent. "Not Messin'" and "Josephine" could have appeared on any previous release, but sound like they could only have been released by the band at this stage in their career. "Get Ready Boy" is a lyrical masterpiece by Chad, telling the simple story of leaf falling from a tree in such a profound way. "Feels So Good" is Pete's crown jewel from this collection, as it is all about the birth of his first child. Brad's stamp on the album is not only in his incredible drumming, but also in the song "Flag," an ode to Native American strife. The band goes all experimental on "We Hold A Gun," whose sound is a departure from most of Dispatch's signature sounds as if it may have been heavily influenced by Radiohead and psychedelic era Beatles. The boys are back, and from the looks and sounds of it, it seems like this reunion is more of a reconnection and will not be short lived. The band has much more to bring us both as a whole and from its individual members, and this is just the beginning (again)!

REVIEW: Rayland Baxter - Feathers & Fishhooks

If there was an award for "Rookie Of The Year" in the music industry then Rayland Baxter would win it. Sure, the Grammys give out a Best New Artist award, but this is a different thing. The thing about Baxter's debut album is that it is like an album that a seasoned veteran would have released. It is grown up and catchy at the same time, but doesn't seem gimmicky or like a copycat. There are a bunch of songs on the album with are updated versions of Rayland's originals which he's been showcasing on his website and his own independently released EP, but on this album they get the full treatment they deserve and make their previous incarnations seem just like demos. "The Mtn Song" is by far one of the best of the album and quite possibly within the top ten songs of the year. It's simple and straightforward, but allows the listener to become wrapped up inside the lyrics. Other standouts include the first single "Driveway Melody" and "The Woman For Me." At the core, the entire album is just a man and his guitar, but the layers of instrumentation and melody lift each lyric to a new height. Rayland Baxter is not going to get the praise he deserves because too many music fans are going to overlook this album, and that's a shame. But those who do will find a diamond and will fall in love with his music instantly.

REVIEW: The Dirty Heads - Cabin By The Sea

The Dirty Heads' first album was a giant success, both sonically and commercially, so much so that they actually released it twice. The second go around is what really put them on the map as a standout in the work of alternative rock and reggae genres. As for repeating the success the band saw with that album, it was going to be challenging. They met that challenge head on and while the new album may not be giant radio hits from start to finish, it does have a quality the debut did not: it is a complete album. "Cabin By The Sea" is the type of album that you put on and listen to from start to finish and the sum total of the album is much greater than the individual parts. Sure, there is that hit single ("Spread Too Thin") and Rome Ramirez guests again ("Mongo Push"), so there are elements that made the first album great carrying though. The thing is that the band seemingly put so much more heart, soul, and energy into creating an album this time out that just a collection of songs. You will find yourself rocking out to tracks like "Hipster" and "Dance All Night" which features a guest appearance by Matisyahu. You will also find yourself surprised on songs like "Smoke Rings," which features the vocal contribution of Del Tha Funky Homosapien, and is the bands closest attempt at a true rap song. "Burn By Myself," "Love Letters," and "Day By Day" all showcase the band's excellent way with lyrics, and keeps the album flowing smoothly. All in all, the Dirty Heads may have already arrived, but their new album shows that they are here to stay and are ready to define and redefine their genre, one which they have already embraced and conquered.

REVIEW: Allen Stone

Allen Stone's self titled debut album for ATO Records is a thing of beauty. Not many artists are putting out such organic and funky in this way. The entire album is indie soul, which is not really a defined genre. It's true, there are many musicians who have mastered soul music, but Stone, a son of a preacher from Seattle, WA is not your typical soul artist. In fact, one look at him, and you'd expect to see him fronting an indie rock or alternative reggae band. The album's lead track and lead single "Sleep," is already making itself a huge presence on the airwaves, and rightfully so, as it is an upbeat, horn-filled, funky soul rock song that's easy to sing along and dance to. The most well written track closes out the album. "Unaware" is a lyrical masterpiece and is delivered well with the prominence of Stone's smooth and jazzy vocals and the simplicity of the acoustic guitar. Stone also enlisted some musician friends (Dave Barnes, Andy Grammer) to help cowrite some of the album's other standout, but makes a case for himself as a superior songwriter and vocalist. This is the type of music that doesn't really fit into any one classification, making it very much accessible to a plethora of music fans.