Jersey Record Reviews

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‘Growing In,’ I Can Make a Mess


Growing In
I Can Make a Mess

From: Hammonton, New Jersey. I don’t know about you, but when the weather gets hot, I eat local blueberries every day. As I travel around this land, I sample the competition, and I say with 100 per cent confidence that while South Carolina may have the peach-edge, and California might beat our strawberries by a nose, there is nothing like a Jersey blueberry. I believe it has something to do with the loaminess of our soil, or the marsh grass, or the nuclear power plants. Look, I’m not a botanist. Continue Reading →

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Single review: ‘Nirvana, If Only,’ Sean Kiely


“Nirvana, If Only”
Sean Kiely

From: Jersey City. Here’s a theory, supported by absolutely nothing: The same obstacles that make Hudson County a challenging environment for electric rockers provide a comparative advantage for small acoustic combos. Or ought to. Options are limited for loud rockers in Jersey City —they can try to squeeze the act and the amplifiers into a corner bar, or turn down the volume to accommodate the crowd at a restaurant or gallery. A talented busker, on the other hand, can set up anywhere and entertain anybody. Continue Reading →

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The Porchistas boldly go where no Jersey band has gone before


Shoot It at the Sun
The Porchistas

From: Montclair. Right by the Walnut Street train station, to be specific. I mention the neighborhood because everything about the Porchistas is neighborly, and demands to be viewed at a granular level. Alan Smith, the head honcho of the Porchistas, has thrown himself into local public culture as nobody but politicians and certain musicians ever seem to do. Happily, he isn’t running for office. Continue Reading →

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Review: ‘We Don’t Have Each Other,” Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties


We Don’t Have Each Other
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties (Hopeless Records) 

From: We Don’t Have Each Other stars the militantly Pennsylvanian Dan Campbell, who sometimes goes by Soupy, in the role of Aaron West, an East Coast sad sack. West is a Brooklyn transplant from Upstate New York (we know this because his dad is a Bills fan), and an important flashback in his story happens somewhere in New Jersey. Campbell’s reflections on the Garden State haven’t always been too friendly: in “This Party Sucks,” a memorable early song he wrote for his main band The Wonder Years, he rhymed “North Jersey club scene” with “Girls Gone Wild B-team,” and I think we’re all painfully aware of what he’s getting at there. Regardless of any misgivings, The Wonder Years has become a consistent draw in Asbury Park, and his tales of broke urban living have won him a nice-sized audience and many nods of recognition on the lee side of the Delaware. But it’s Campbell’s (mainly) silent partner on We Don’t Have Each Other who connects the album most firmly to New Jersey: producer Ace Enders, frontman of Hammonton rock band the Early November. Continue Reading →

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EP review: ‘Make It Happen,’ The Rock n’ Roll Hi-Fives


Make It Happen
The Rock n’ Roll Hi-Fives

From: Joe Centeno, the guitarist and support singer of the Rock N’ Roll Hi-Fives, has been a hard man to miss in Hudson County for a long time. That’s not just because of his voluminous locks: he’s also been a key member of two very good local bands. Plug Spark Sanjay, a group that came on like a heavier version of Built to Spill, practically lived at Maxwell’s at the turn of the millennium; American Watercolor Movement, a more experimental outfit with songs like hallucinatory travelogues, scored the tumult of mid-’00s Jersey City. The Rock n’ Roll Hi-Fives band photo suggests strongly that Centeno doesn’t live in Hudson County anymore. In it, he’s making loud music with the rest of his band in a basement practice space outfitted for that purpose, and good luck finding a neighborhood in Jersey City that’d currently let a rocker get away with that. Continue Reading →

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CD review: ‘Hesitant Alien,’ Gerard Way

Hesitant Alien
Gerard Way (Reprise)

From: Gerard Way grew up in Belleville and was living in Hudson County at the time of the formation of the act that would make him famous. Early on, My Chemical Romance fit the profile of a striving local band: the combo played basement parties along with all the other punk rock shlubs. Commercial success made Way a citizen of the globe, and let’s just say it’s been awhile since he was eligible to run for Congress in the eighth district. Format: Eleven-track LP. Hesitant Alien is Way’s first solo album since My Chemical Romance broke up, and it’s an attempt to establish a musical identity for him outside the context of a group about which most music listeners have a definite and concrete opinion. Continue Reading →

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‘Rose,’ The Front Bottoms: EP review

The Front Bottoms 

From: Matt Uychich and Brian Sella went to high school about as far north in Bergen County as you can get without crossing into New York. That imaginary border makes all the difference: The Front Bottoms get to be part of the great tradition of lyrical, ironic, emotionally forthright New Jersey pop-rock. Put them 10 minutes up the Parkway, though? They’d be New York State musicians. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? Continue Reading →

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‘Penny the Dreadful,’ Those Mockingbirds: CD review

Penny the Dreadful
Those Mockingbirds

From: Montclair, which is a good base of operations for a working band. A couple of places for independent musicians to play, quick escape routes to New York City and Philly, a community that supports artists, and a modest-sized, Live Nation-controlled concert hall for guitar-toting aspirants to dream about. Or not. There are probably a few recalcitrant punks in Montclair who wouldn’t appear at the Wellmont Theater even if they were asked politely. Those Mockingbirds isn’t that kind of band. Continue Reading →

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