“Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not”

Dinosaur Jr.

“Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not ”


Dinosaur Jr. is alive and well in today’s alternative music scene. This new release “Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not” is a powerful, full-throttle tour-de-force. They stay true to their alt-rock roots and have produced another album with a stripped down sound, letting the powerful lyrics and J Mascis’ characteristic gritty voice drive the music.

Their sound is very raw. Eschewing the high-polish tricks of the pop-production world, they instead choose to stick with their well-known, well-worn garage band style. The drums are explosive, with long-time drummer Murph pounding away song after song. Distorted guitar riffs and thumping bass lines add lots of energy to the mix.

The album opens up strong and doesn’t let up much throughout. The opening track “Goin Down” is an upbeat distorted rocker that indicates what direction this album is going. The second track “Tiny” would almost have a 50’s rock feel to it if the guitar wasn’t so distorted. It’s a catchy tune, like most of the tracks on “Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not”.

The album is a follow-up to the self-titled solo acoustic release by songwriter / singer / guitarist J Mascis, which received significant critical acclaim. That one is still in regular rotation on my playlist. That feel continues on the song “Be a Part”, which has a gentler sound and Mascis’ voice really shines. He’s been compared to Neil Young a lot, but Mascis’ voice is in a lower range. I think the comparison is more apropos to the gritty quality of his sound. There’s a magical quality about it that really penetrates through your brain and hits the heart with darts of emotion.

One of my favorite tracks is “I Walk for Miles”. It’s a straightforward thumper with a really catchy hook in the vocal line. It has the sound of an old garage band, but one the blows you away with its raw power and haunting lyrics. The vocals really carry the album. The hooks are great and his voice is so distinct and beautiful in its unpolished way.

Another track I really like is “Mirror”. The lyrics are very emotional, and you can hear the pain in his voice as he explains, “I’ve been crawling around since I met you”. When the chorus kicks in, you can feel the heartbreak as he sings “waste of time” again and again.

I love to hear bands that can achieve greatness without lots of fancy production and artificial shine. These 3 boys of Dinosaur Jr. have stuck with the same raw alternative sound they developed in the early 90’s and haven’t changed a bit. I love it.

Tom Matthew,

Two Ton Music

“A Moon Shaped Pool” – Radiohead


“A Moon Shaped Pool”

XL Recordings

Radiohead is one of those bands that defies all expectations. They have been surprising and shocking fans for over 20 years with both their constantly evolving sound and their tendency to throw convention out the window.

After achieving commercial pop success with their radio hit “Creep” in 1993, they turned away from creating mainstream music sounds and progressively got further and further from the norm, carving out masterpieces of creativity and passion. Albums like “OK Computer” and “Hail to the Thief” shattered expectations and helped launch Radiohead to super-stardom, all while being shunned by mainstream radio.

They’ve now released their 9th studio album entitled “A Moon Shaped Pool”. It continues their latest trend of slower, more ambient songs carried by Thom Yorke’s etheric vocals and driven by electronic beats from a variety of sounds. Tinkling pianos and acoustic guitars are found more than electric guitars.

It opens up with the best track, “Burn the Witch”. They released a really cool and somewhat creepy music video with it, shot with a very retro “Davey and Goliath” type animation. The combination of children’s show imagery with the haunting sound of the chorus and high strangeness in the content achieves a very poignant effect.

The rest of the album gets pretty laid back after that. “Daydreaming” is a beautiful song featuring soothing piano arpeggios, strings with some delay effects, and Thom Yorke doing what his does best, lulling you with the emotions in his voice and his thoughtful lyrics.

I was happy to find a couple of older songs that have never been recorded in a studio album before. “Identikit” and “True Love Waits” have been played live for years and sound great with the studio polish. The songs are brimming with feeling despite the slower tempo and sparse arrangements.

Breaking up the slower tunes are a handful of more jarring numbers, sounding like something out of a futuristic scene with questionable environments. They like to use some noise and discordant elements, serving as contrast to make the bright songs seem so much brighter.

This isn’t the kind of album that is going to convert you to a Radiohead fan if you’ve never listened to them before. It seems like a more artistic statement. They’ve left the music formulas behind long ago, in their ancient history. But if you’re a fan of their more recent work, you’re bound to enjoy this mellow, strange trip through the mind of Thom Yorke and his talented mates.

Tom Matthew, Two Ton Music

“Revelation Pt. 2” – Stephen Marley

Stephen Marley    

“Revelation Pt. 2 – The Fruit of Life ”

Ghetto Youths International

Bob Marley left an enormous impression on the world in his short life, bringing reggae music from a small island in the Caribbean to the entire world. His legacy is eternal, and no one carries the torch of that legacy better than his son Stephen Marley.

There are lots of Bob Marley’s children who are well known in the reggae scene: Ziggy Marley is perhaps best known, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley is very popular on the club scene, and there others. But Stephen Marley captures the character of his father’s music so well, singing for human rights and morality with a voice that is strikingly similar to that of his father.

Stephen Marley’s recent release “Revelation Pt. 2 – The Fruit of Life” is very much a continuation of his last album “Revelation Pt. 1 – The Root of Life” which took the Grammy for best reggae album in 2012. This time, he brings even more of a hip-hop element into play in many of the songs. It works well, bringing a modern feel to his style, and it’s done tastefully. Having been a producer for most of his early career, he has a great ear for what pops in a mix and how to write a great hook.

I’ve got a whole list of songs on “The Fruit of Life” that have been stuck in my head for the week that this album has been out. Track 3, “Revelation Party” is really catchy pop-reggae anthem featuring Marley’s gorgeous voice front and center. It features his central theme of positivity in the face of adversity, standing up for what’s right, and doing it with the joy of a righteous struggle.

“Father Of The Man” features Wyclef Jean and has a powerful hook, repeating at intervals “I am the keeper of the flame”. It’s got some great lyrics about being strong, being proud of your roots, and fulfilling your destiny. He is singing about picking up the burden his father Bob Marley carried and continuing on his mission – a mission of human values and strength in the shadow of the Babylon system of materialism, selfishness, and greed.

In track 4, “So Unjust”, it opens with a blistering social commentary from legendary hip-hop artist Rakim, then leads into the melodic hooks that Stephen is so famous for. The lyrics are so good: “Don’t bargain for fish that’s still in the waters; The world is so unjust, you don’t know who to trust, my bredren; Cause in who you put your trust, they themselves get bought by the system”.

I could go on and on about the other tracks – Damian Marley in “Perfect Picture”, the hooks in “The Lion Roars” featuring Rick Ross, the haunting voice of Stephen in “Babylon”, and more. If you like reggae at all, or if you like modern music with some pop / hip-hop flavor, you’re going to absolutely love this. If you’re not on the side of truth and human rights, give this a shot anyway and maybe it will change your mind.

Tom Matthew,

Two Ton Music

“You Want It Darker” – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen      

“You Want It Darker”

Columbia / Sony

Leonard Cohen always blurred the lines between life and death. His deep voice was sorrowful, powerful and humble. He almost defies categorization, as he mixes dark brooding archetypes with religious imagery and a feeling that he’s just not telling you everything. He has made a huge impact on the world of music with his originality and his powerful sense of drama.

Cohen passed away this past November just weeks after the release of his final album, “You Want It Darker”. The critics had already been writing that with this release he seemed to be preparing for his passing on to the next world.

“You Want It Darker” delivers on its promise. Like much Cohen material, it is deep, slow and peppered with choirs and conversations with higher powers. Ever philosophical, he delves into his familiar metaphors of light and darkness, life and death, pleasure and pain.

The album kicks off with the title track. It’s a sparse arrangement where Cohen is almost speaking to you in his quiet, deep voice. So much of this album showcases his restrained power. He has such a powerful voice, but only brings it out for moments of great contrast when he’s already got your feelings in his grasp. He is almost a master of persuasion with his subtlety, mystery, and sense of grand wisdom.

I love the second track, “Treaty”. Cohen lays down some nice metaphoric imagery. The song has a thematic throwback to his hit “Anthem” from his 1992 masterpiece “The Future”. He speaks of struggling to come to terms with the battles of life, and wants to lay down his arms.

“On the Level” has a little bit of a gospel feel to it, with a shuffling beat and full line up of backup singers. He always straddles the line between dark and light – sitting on the fence with a leg dangling on each side. The chorus intones “They ought to give my heart a medal/ For letting go of you/ When I turned my back on the devil/ Turned my back on the angel too”.

Cohen telegraphs his own passing with “Leaving the Table”. The theme is pretty clear in the slow, melodic lullaby: “You don’t need a lawyer/ I’m not making a claim/ You don’t need to surrender/ I’m not taking aim/ I don’t need a lover, no, no, no/ The wretched beast is tame/ I don’t need a lover/ So blow out the flame”.

It’s always sad to see legendary artists give up the ghost and leave us behind. Leonard Cohen takes us to church with him one last time with “You Want It Darker”. It’s a fitting tribute to his own life which was so full of dramatic contrasts. He always seemed to be wrestling with the gods. I’m grateful to have been touched by his works. Rest in peace, poet of the deep.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music

“The Temple of I & I” – Thievery Corp

Thievery Corporation

“The Temple of I & I”

ESL Music

Thievery Corporation has been blending world music with electronica for over two decades. This Washington D.C. outfit is always keeping it fresh while incorporating groovy elements from the past. The new album “The Temple of I & I” mixes together lots of styles and has a very fun vibe.

This album draws a lot from hip-hop. Critique of government and a desire to fight for a more conscious world comes through in a lot of the songs. “Letter to the Editor” is a hip, fast and lyrical rap jam with an infectious chorus and some cool atmospheric effects.

“Ghetto Matrix” is another fierce hip-hop track with some hard hitting lyrics from Mr. Lif. The chorus has a cool hook and repeats “It’s on you/ It’s your mind/ It’s a complex plan to keep you confined”. Social awareness runs prevalent throughout the album.

I was surprised to find so many straight-up roots reggae tracks on here. “Strike the Root” has that classic keyboard skank and a sweet horn section punctuating the breaks. The feel is super groovy and the vocals are a spot on island sound.

“True Sons of Zion” is another sweet reggae track with a mid-tempo feel, some nice delay on the vocals, and an impassioned chorus singing in unison with a lone trumpet. The lyrics are straight up Rasta and delivered beautifully.

There are also a few electronic / trance / dubstep jams on here too. The album-title song “The Temple of I & I” is one. Thievery Corporation does an awesome job using modern technology to create interesting and catchy riffs. I love hearing people who are on the cutting edge of new music, pushing the line into fresh territory.

Some slower atmospheric stuff emerges in the middle of the album. French lyrics abound in “Time & Space”. The next track “Love Has No Heart” is another downtempo song with emotional vocals and sensual lyrics. Despite being a little more relaxedl, these songs have steady rhythm and interesting sound effects fill the space in the sparse arrangements.

“The Temple of I & I” is an album that keeps rolling strong from front to back. After the chill section, it kicks into second gear with some very cool tunes. There are a few more reggae tunes and some really catchy hooks all the way through.

It’s pretty cool to hear an album that covers so many styles, yet blends them seamlessly together without forcing it. The songs all seem like members of a family and give the album a very cohesive feel. I’m going to be listening to this one for a while.  Highly recommended.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music

“In Mind” – Real Estate

Real Estate

“In Mind”


Indie rock is one of those genres that can mean anything. There are bands with lo-fi sounds like The Strokes that sound like they were recorded in their garage. There are psychedelic bands like Tame Impala that make the listener feel like they’ve taken too many ‘shrooms. There are wildly innovative bands like MGMT that use a lot of electronics and sound effects.

Real Estate does none of these things. They just make pleasant songs with thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies. I loved their last album “Atlas”, and their recently released follow-up “In Mind” follows much of the same formula. Beautiful vocals, tasteful production and lots of great guitar lines create a very listenable and enjoyable sound.

The album opens up with their first single “Darling”. It carries the signature Real Estate sound – mellow arpeggiated guitars and soothing vocals with a little bit of extra reverb and some swirling phasing coming and going throughout. They have a real talent for blending sounds, tastefully done harmonies and great use of dynamics.

I love that they can make use of the indie rock sound in a tasteful way, creating interest and modernity without the effects becoming the dominant force of the material. The songwriting still comes front and center. Tunes like “Serve The Song” keep an easy pace and paint a beautiful scene without getting carried away.

“Stained Glass” is one of my favorites on here. It has a little bit of a syncopated rhythmic feel, and the harmonies sound heavenly when the chorus kicks in. I really don’t want to compare them to The Byrds, but I can’t help noting a little bit of that kind of sound throughout the album, especially on this song.

“In Mind” isn’t a dance album or a high-energy party starter. It’s more of a Sunday drive through the country kind of feel. Slower songs like “After The Moon” and “Two Arrows” ease down the pace somewhat and meander in and out of a dreamy, cloudlike state.

The rest of the album really doesn’t stray too far from their formula. Real Estate has a characteristic sound, and they stay loyal to it throughout. Too many indie rock bands try to do too much and cut across too many genres. These guys do a great job of being tasteful and interesting at the same time. The vocals are very nice, the guitars soothing, and the whole piece of work is very cohesive. I recommend checking it out – this is something almost anyone could enjoy.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music

“Deep Field” – Mammal Dap

Mammal Dap

“Deep Field”

Mammal Dap Music

In the heart of Western Mass, Northampton has long been home to a very vibrant music scene with a deep love for jam bands and groove projects. Mammal Dap has been central to that culture for several years, bringing an incredible amount of talent, energy and vision with their music.

Colin Jalbert lays down some really tight rhythms on the drum kit. I can hear the influence of Andrew Barr of The Slip in his playing style. Zack Cross is a force to be reckoned with on the keyboards. He knows when to get crazy and when to reel it back in. Killian Karlsson is always pushing the sound to higher levels on the electric guitar with mind-blowing leads. Their new bass player Reed Sutherland has jumped right in and lays down a solid bottom end.

Most of these guys studied jazz at music school. They’ve focused on taking that knowledge of the past and combining it with new and innovative sounds of the future. Zack Cross said of their influences, “…artists like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, anyone willing to push the boundaries of genre to create something really awesome and fresh-sounding. Hip-hop and R&B is definitely a major influence as well, the way the vocals interact with the beat in that music inspire a lot of the rhythms we use in our melodies.“

Mammal Dap continues to impress with their new release, “Deep Field”. It’s a sonic tour through various dimensions of the universe. It’s like a kaleidoscope of sound that is rotating constantly through your field of vision. Zack said, “The thing we seem to hear the most from first time listeners is that we sound like video game music, which we are totally fine with. It’s like if you took that and mixed it with cinematic indie rock, then added a little Prince!”

When asked about the coming year Zack responded, “We are going to be on tour through Spring/Summer of 2017 in support of “Deep Field”. Fans can find all the details about that on our website, mammaldap.com. We’ve got a few music videos for the songs from that EP that we want to make, and we also have at least 9 or 10 completely new songs that nobody’s even heard yet, so we may even have more new music for y’all coming soon!”

I’m excited to see these guys continue to grow as a band and constantly push the envelope of their sound. Their live show bursts with a kind of energy that you just can’t contain in a CD. I’d recommend getting on the Mammal Dap train early – these guys are the real deal.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music

“Stony Hill” – Damian Marley

Damian Marley

“Stony Hill”

Republic Records

When you think of reggae music, the first name that comes to mind is Bob Marley. Next, many people will consider his children – Ziggy, Stephen, Julian and Damian. Each has their own particular style and each has made a major impact on reggae music.

Damian Marley has chosen to make his mark on the dancehall scene rather than roots-rock reggae. He has a bombastic style and dramatic lyrical flow that has launched him into superstardom in the world of urban Jamaican music.

It has been 12 years since Damian Marley released his last album, “Welcome to Jamrock”, which earned him a Grammy award for best Urban/Alternative performance. In the years since, he has made many appearances on his brothers’ albums and on the works of the biggest reggae acts of the 21st century. We finally have a new album from the creative genius himself, and it is a real gem.

“Stony Hill” is pure fire. Solid from front to back, it is full of dancehall and reggae hits. Punctuated by his signature rhythmic lyrical sound, almost every song on this release is a catchy work of art. Bucking the trend of filling albums with guest appearances, it is mostly a pure Damien Marley work punctuated only by the inclusion of his brother Stephen on tracks like “Medication” and “Perfect Picture”.

One of my favorite tracks is “Time Travel”, a conscious dancehall number with catchy rhythms and lyrics expressing concern about the current state of affairs in the world: “What’s real life / What’s virtual / What’s fiction / What’s factual / Who’s partial / Who’s neutral / Who’s actin / Who’s actual / What’s cheap talk / What’s action / What’s fractioned / What’s plus or subtraction / Aquarius, then Pisces / Al Qaeda, then Isis / Stock markets in crisis / Government raise tax and prices / Countless warships on the high seas / Gang war and the streets full of sirens”. The chorus punctuates his feelings with “What will the future bring / If my little son is seven years old / What will the future bring for him”.

I could write several pages breaking down all the different songs on here, but you really need to hear it for yourself. Other highlights are “Nail Pon Cross”, “Living It Up”, “Looks Are Deceiving”, “The Struggle Discontinues”, and “Everybody Wants To Be Somebody”.

Dancehall isn’t for everybody, but there are a good handful of straight reggae tracks on here too. Damien Marley is a real pro, and it’s a thrill to hear another solid piece of work from the legendary family.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music

“Lily of da Valley” – Jesse Royal

Jesse Royal

Lily of da Valley

Easy Star Records

Jesse Royal is one of the hot rising stars in Jamaica’s modern reggae scene. In his short career, he’s already had a #1 single and achieved industry respect for his powerful voice, fantastic hooks and strong songwriting.

He follows in the tradition of other modern day Jamaican reggae stars such as Chronixx, Protoje and Jah9 who have dug deep into their cultural roots whilst maintaining a very modern feel. Innovation and creativity abound in this modern new-wave reggae and Jesse Royal is a strong part of this movement.

“Lily of da Valley” is his first full-length album, and it’s pure fire. He comes out swinging with the opening track “400 Years”. It’s a hard-hitting social critique about injustice and the struggle of minorities to overcome their history. Like most of the album, it’s a thoroughly modern blend of classic roots-rock reggae with a contemporary urban feel.

The album features “Modern Day Judas”, which rocked the top of the charts in 2013 as his first big single. It’s got a catchy chorus, chilled out beat and some nice keyboard hooks. The song addresses themes of loyalty and honesty in dealing with friends and critics.

Another one of my favorites on here is “Always Be Around”. It has a great melodic feel, and one of those hooks that just gets stuck in your head on repeat: “I would never let you down / Always be around”. Again, it features heavy roots-reggae elements with threads of dub and electronic sound effects weaved throughout.

“Lily of da Valley” also features the mandatory herb-praising track with “Roll Me Something Good”. It’s an upbeat number with a light feel and an extremely catchy chorus repeating “The chalice have to bubble all night”. When I saw him in concert this winter he had the audience doing a call and response with it, with thousands of people singing it back to him.

I am thoroughly impressed with this album. It has dance numbers and ballads, all punctuated by his incredible singing voice and knack for putting together a great hook. The production is amazing, and every song front to back feels like it belongs. Even if you aren’t a reggae fan, you can still find a lot of enjoyment from listening to this great work.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music

“Grateful Dub” – Roots of Creation

Roots of Creation

“Grateful Dub”

Bombshelter Records

Debuting at number one on the Billboard reggae charts, New England’s own Roots of Creation have successfully launched a thoroughly enjoyable album of Grateful Dead covers. They have done a great job being faithful to the original vibe of the songs whilst adding their own particular flavor – reggae and dub.

Brett Wilson is the driving force behind the band, and his love for the Dead has been no secret. Every time I’ve seen him solo or with Roots of Creation he has pulled out some tunes from the Grateful vault. His talent and artistry shines on this album, bringing a lot of energy and creativity to the project.

They’ve brought an impressive cast of all-stars from various genres to help them carry the torch for Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. Opening up the album is a stellar version of “Fire on the Mountain” featuring the one-and-only Stephen Marley. They follow up with support on other tracks from the likes of local favorite Hayley Jane, G. Love of Special Sauce fame, Fortunate Youth, and several tracks with long-time organist of the Jerry Garcia Band, Melvin Seals.

The song selection is great. They hit on both mainstream favorites like “Ripple” and “Friend of the Devil” as well as deeper cuts such as “Standing On The Moon” and “Black Muddy River”. Some of the songs stay remarkably akin to the original, like the note-for-note guitar solo in “Casey Jones”, whereas on other tunes they take it in a whole new direction, like the instrumental dub version of “Shakedown Street”.

One of the highlights for me is “Deal” which retains its full swing appeal and features some New Orleans vibe with what sounds like an accordian comping the backbeat. “Sugaree” kicks off with some heavy blues feel before the segway into a sweet reggae beat.

It’s not always easy to pull off an album covering a legendary band like the Grateful Dead. You run the risk of sounding banal in copying the original too closely, or on the flipside, taking it too far away from the original and hence sound like you’re trying too hard. Roots of Creation manages to walk that line expertly, creating something that is new and interesting to vibe to while still pulling at the heartstrings of longtime Deadheads like myself.

Brett Wilson and Roots of Creation have done a nice job producing a very fun album that will be sure to tug at your memories while putting a bounce in your step. They accepted the challenge of turning covers into something refreshing and new, and they have done it with style. I highly recommend that you check out “Grateful Dub” and get back to the magic of a ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, no wind to blow.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music