I was pleasantly surprised by Fake Problems whenI saw them open for The Gaslight Anthem last Friday
. I can understand the comparisons to Against Me!, but I wouldn't say these guys are a junior version. Sure, the band's members are young, but the band (especially frontman Chris Farren) doesn't
young or directionless. The band released their third album,Real Ghosts Caught On Tape
, a few weeks ago and here's an acoustic version of one of its tracks.--Eric Grubbs
Brooklyn's Small Black has a dense, electronic-based sound that reminds me of a less hostile version of Suicide--the legendary protopunk duo, not the act of self-annihilation. Distortion, feedback and garbled vocals are all major elements in Small Black's dark vision. "Bad Lovers" is a great song from the band's 2008 debut EP,New Chain
. Small Black's soon-to-be-released full-length is supposedly a bit more refined. Whatever the case, Small Black makes its way to The Cavern on October 30 (my birthday!) and I, for one, hope the band's seediest tendencies are on full display.--Darryl Smyers
Ashley Ray's self-titled EP provides proof of a rising talent. Even the thin, whiny voice of Eli Young Band's Mike Eli, who duets with Ray on the standout track, "Dirt Cheap," isn't enough to dilute the aching, yet powerful presence of Ray's distinctive, country vocal. Comparisons to Miranda Lambert will be inevitable, but Ray does enough with her debut that few folks will have a hard time differentiating between the two twangy spitfires in the coming years. This collection boasts a couple of understated girl-power anthems that display vulnerability while still cutting a powerful, defiant figure.--Kelly Dearmore
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No, it's not the first cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" to bubble up. Probably not the last one, either. But Alex Parks does this version simply and gorgeously. The production on the song was done with a lot of TLC, too--first it's non-existent, then sparse, and, lastly, just enough to complement the vocals. Well done.--Alan Ayo