Music Review Archives. Band Stuff. Work Stories in Progress.

Check out some of the ExMogul Music reviews from the archives, below.

I reviewed music on and off for about 15 years, while I took a break from singing and doing gigs.

Now I've flipped that around. And here's my band, SPEED LIMIT 70.

December 29, 2008


Zank wrote the music for his latest CD “Without a Bridge” while traveling around the world. Accordingly, there are bits of lots of styles of music embedded in his tracks. “Sorry” opens with a swampy slide guitar and strong vocal, pulling in elements of bluesy rock ala Black Crowes and adding in a twist of some John Mayer’s pop vocal inflections. The slide guitar changes tone and attack during the background of the chorus and adds a nice undertone to this part of the song. The song builds well and is catchy and has cross-genre musical appeal. “How it Feels Right Now” immediately brought to work the music of ironic pop singer/songwriter Nick Lowe and his classic “Cruel to be Kind”- with its similar drumming beginning in the second verse of the song and continuing throughout. Like Lowe, Zank’s vocals are upbeat and there is nice use of vocal harmony. This song ventures into roots/country/rock and has a great (albeit short) guitar harmony lead that gives a nod to southern rock. “The Last Car Ride” uses some great rotary guitar sounds underneath the vocals, which give this track a dreamy edge. The lead break introduces a monotone guitar sound that works to simulate an engine, with the dreamy edge layered on top. “Growing Old” spotlights a story-telling voice, with the vocals out front with simple accompaniment. Beautiful harmony vocals bring out a poignant chorus. There is much more music to sample on Zank’s site. For more:

December 19, 2008


Ahmond is a Brooklyn-based singer songwriter whose music can best be described as atmospheric adult alternative with a folk-world undertone. Being of the old school variety, I hear elements of Bowie in his voice, with perhaps a touch of Cat Stevens thrown in for good measure. There is fluidity in his voice that makes listening to his music very relaxing and captivating - especially in the opening track “A Boy You Once Knew.”

Go to Africa” introduces tribal drums, some choral embellishments and a bit of a percussive drive; it is an aptly named track. Ahmond’s press material notes that this track has been compared to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and although it is less layered than Simon’s track, the comparison is valid. Orchestral strings add a nice touch to the outtro.

You’re the Life” has a bit more of an upbeat pop feel, which reminds me of old The English Beat tracks on Special Beat Service. A 21st century comparison might be Regina Spektor. This song is less dreamy and pushes Ahmond’s voice to its harder-edge pop side. The instrumentation suggests a more radio-ready feel than the prior tracks.

The Modern Realm” immediately brought to mind some Gavin DeGraw, with its luscious piano and matter-of-fact vocal treatment. Dare I even say maybe Carole King would be a fair comparison? This song could easily find its way into the background music of a television show, as the main characters drift apart during a dream sequence.

Thundershoes” and “Those Damn Things” continue to showcase a vocal diversity – ranging from dreamy introspective tones on “Thundershoes” to a Bowie-like treatment prominent in “Those Damn Things.” On the latter, Ahmond lets his voice gulp, soar, and semi-yodel, as it ranges freely from upper ethereal notes to deep bass-y grumblings.

Listen for yourself at or

December 18, 2008

The Screaming Wheats

The Screaming Wheats are a newly formed trio based in Brooklyn who have just made their music available for public consumption. A four song sample on their myspace gives a taste of what they’re about: a slightly psychedelic trippy sensibility in an indie low-fi package. Stripped down and catchy, “White Laced Hood” features a few Beatles elements, cool vocal octave harmonies and fun crowd oohs and aaahs. “Like a Caveman” is insanely catchy with its chorus: “like a caveman, with his big fuzzy brow…” The lyrics are fun and beg the listener to sing along. A brilliant cacophony of guitar distortion and power chords explodes in the middle before the verses come back in. The pop noise element of the song, with its plainly delivered lyrics, brought to mind the energy of Kurt and Nirvana. The final two tracks “Indian Warlords live jam” and “Candy Cane Butter Pants live jam” are just that – jams. I love jamming because it lets the players take risks and go places that they might not normally go, and these jams do just that. Middle Eastern tonality is spotlighted in the warlords jam, and would be perfect music to play while watching a screen of lava lamp color swirls. The candy cane jam trips a little less, has a more driving bottom-heavy vibe. Equally adventurous and free-spirited. Listen at

December 12, 2008

Stone Avenue

Stone Avenue is an alt-folk band based in Florida whose music is “for truck drivers and migrant workers.” That may or may not be tongue-in-cheek; their hometown of Floridatown, FL is certainly not Disney. In any case, their music suggests a laid back vibe, some lazy hanging out in the summer, sitting around with friends, jamming. The recording has a low-fi appeal. I know it’s probably been said before, but “Shooting Broken Horses” is pure acoustic Dylan, from its vocal treatment, to the signature harp tone. “Up Your Tree” suggests a trippy Garcia-style guitar meander with Shannon Hoon joining in on vocals. I’d like to hear the guitar leads and fills a little more prominent since they give the song a nice kick. “Operator” introduces a bit of a reggae vibe and a talky vocal style that makes the lyrics more accessible. “This is the News”, a track recorded live in Nashville, comes blasting out of the gate with more energy than any of the earlier tracks. I would imagine this track captures more of the band’s true attitude and musical vibe. “Reading is Sexy” has a “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” vibe, and some risqué lyrics about the appeal of reading. You’ll have to see for yourself:

December 11, 2008

Snoose Junction

I like nothing better than a good solid jam. And given the choice, I’ll chose live shows over studio recorded stuff most days. The ability to play and compose and create on the fly is something that I consider a gift, and few are so brave to attempt it. Even fewer do it well. But jamming will often take you to musical places not yet explored. So when Seattle-based Snoose Junction sent me a link to a live freeform recording done on the air on KEXP Radio, I was intrigued.

"The Last Days Of Ballard Saga Cycle" is the name they've given to this epic. Because the recording is one hour long, with the first two songs taking up just about 50 minutes it is a little difficult to review the songs as songs. So let me just say that there are elements of all the classics in here: Hendrix’s feedback noise, Anastasio’s noodling, and madman chattering ala Pink Floyd, some trippy Dead-head danceable stuff, some Neil Young-style vocals, and some crunchy bottom heavy Zeppelinesque bits.

If you’re a fan of any of the above or want to listen outside the box, I invite you to jump right in. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Listen here: or check out some of their other music on myspace:


Breathy intimate vocals on the opening track “Bukowski” bring to mind the styling of the late Jeff Buckely, but perhaps not as dramatic. Closely mic’d and sparse – with limited acoustic strumming and lonely piano fills, the song is compelling and draws the listener close. The only criticism would be that it never seems to get where it is going; at 2:23 it could be a prelude to another song. The next track “Nerve” brought to mind Springsteen singing “Philadelphia” with its semi-anguished tone and delivery. Nice use of harp leads gives the track a little Dylanesque quality. “Conscience” kicks up the pace, and pushes a driving folk pop tempo throughout. Kallish’s voice explores its harder edge, with success. “King of Kings” brings the imtimacy back to the fold, tells a story, connects with the listener. Listen at:

December 10, 2008

Brian Sizensky

In the course of a day, a lot of music filters into our brains: TV commercials, random car stereos, ringtones…it can get to be a sonic blur. It takes a lot to break through the din. But for me, Brian Sizensky’s music did just that within the first few minutes of listening.

The opening track, “Nice Tomorrow” starts with some dreamy acoustic picking and straightforward vocals. Pretty soon pure harmonies enter the picture and the song kicks into gear with snappy drumming. It takes a verse or two to start singing along and then you’re playing the track again. The dynamic of the acoustic verses alternating with the full on accompaniment works nicely in the song.

Plain Girl” sticks with the catchy pop formula, but shows us the edgier side of Sizensky’s voice, which is strong and radio-ready. His keen use of harmony and vocal fills like old school do-wops makes this track misleadingly upbeat. It isn’t until the audio news clips and rapid fire commentary is inserted in the middle until you realize not all is rosy.

All I Need” takes me to some of the bands that had 90s radio locked up: Gin Blossoms, Hootie & the Blowfish, and that type. With their perfect balance of vocal harmonies, strong lead vocals, interesting and punchy strumming patterns, and sharp drumming – the music they made appealed to may different audiences. Similary, "All I Need" does the same, and has much of the same balance and appeal. Great acoustic guitar work in the outtro of this track that unfortunately fades out a little too quickly.

Aralyn” combines some smooth 70s pop and 00s male pop vocals, with maybe a little Uncle Kracker’s “Follow Me” guitar lick thrown in for good measure and a pinch of country rock on the side. A catchy full-bodied chorus with a bevy of (or a few multi-tracked) backup singers is a nice contrast to the groove of the verses. A nice little wah guitar break and some bass plucking introduces the bridge and provides a nice little turn around.

Born a Queen” introduces the simple-spoken version of Sizensky's sound. One of the strongest aspects of all of Sizensky’s songs is his ability to build on a song. “Born a Queen” begins with Brian’s simple strumming, unencumbered solo voice; then adds some nice guitar swells in the background, then builds on the vocals with harmonies. It is a nice contrast to the "everything all at once...go to 11!" style so favored in much of today's music. This song has a twangy quality to the music yet is not overly Country. It brings to mind the country-rock sound of the old school Eagles.

I suspect comparisons to other smart pop songwriters like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson are inevitable here. But on his edgier stuff Brian explores darker territory and introduces a more rock-based sound. His songs are all solid tracks that show his knack for catchy songwriting, insightful lyrics and smart instrumentation. Listen for yourself at

July 3, 2008

Unknown Component

Unknown Component is the one man show also known as Keith Lynch. His newest CD draws on many of Lynch’s influences – which he lists as Radiohead, Dylan, Coldplay, Nirvana, The Beatles, and others.

Lynch’s songs seem to straddle two different vibes: an atmospheric one – almost Pink Floyd meets Coldplay – and a melancholy pop one – Nirvana meets Brett Dennen meets early Beatles.

In the first vibe, “Between Guilt and Relief” features dreamy emotional vocals that seem to highlight to conflicting feelings of walking away from a difficult situation or relationship: “I can see one hundred people like me, one thousand people like me, they’re always walking the streets…in between the thought of guilt and relief, exists a will to believe, it’s always walking the streets… I wrote a note, and it was written with greed, when I spoke, I struggled to breathe…if I show what was never believed, how do I know what is in it for me…” Also in a similar musical vein is “Identifying Interpretation”.

Brought Up to Be Put Down” is a more pop-based tune, with its rough-edged melancholy vocal treatment bringing to mind the voice of Kurt Cobain or Billie Joe Armstrong. On “Into the Sun” the vocals are assertive, and the intended vocal strain adds a nice edge to the tune.

Another strong track is “Retrospectively Speaking,” with a catchy melody, nice use of harmony, and a haunting lyric: “Remember you said you’d be okay, well that was ten years ago today, Remember you said you’d be alright, well that was a decade ago tonight, In a make shift rowboat, the current takes us swiftly down the line, down the line…A rescue mission with blindfolds, a better way to keep this hope alive, down the line.”

Lynch has self-released a great deal of material over the last few years, most of which can be found on his website:

June 25, 2008


fourTothree is a trio based in Franklin Square, NY. Several tracks from their new CD are featured on their myspace page.

First up, "So You Cry," highlights the emotional edge to singer/bassist Matt Ruggiero’s voice, as well as nice acoustic guitar strumming by Greg Patane. Solid drumming by Rob Hendrick, ever-present in all the band’s tracks, drive the song hard and give it a nice aggressive edge.

"What You Did to Me" starts like a shot right from the gate, with an energy that never lets up. Great drumming, interesting rhythmic shifts and catchy lyrics make this track as good as any current rock radio hit.

"Don’t Hate Me" has a nice tremolo guitar intro, which gives the song a bit of a 90s feel and makes it sound different than other tracks. The 90s vibe continues through the song, bringing to mind bands like Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Other strong tracks are "Green Light Story" and "Tumbling Down", which feature vocal harmony, clean lead vocals, and a solid rhythm section.

My teenage daughter, who is all about pop/emo/punk gave her thumbs-up to each of the songs featured on the band’s myspace - with "Tumbling Down" being her clear cut winner ("I like everything in this song!"). She likened Ruggiero’s voice to Patrick from Fall Out Boy in "So You Cry". For "Green Light Story" she felt the band had a sound similar to that band also, but actually were a lot better than Fall Out Boy. And "Don’t Hate Me" brought to her mind the work of Sum 41.

fourTothree does just about everything right in their new songs. Visit their myspace at

June 24, 2008

Gaby Moreno

Gaby Moreno is a singer/songwriter originally from Guatemala, now living in Los Angeles. The two songs featured on her site hint at great things to come.

The track "Wrong Side of the Road" has a funky/swampy groove in its chorus that brings to mind the work of MOFRO, with its octave harmonies, gospel backing vocals, and tasty guitar licks. This is in contrast with the verses, which nicely feature breathy intimate vocals, and bring to mind the sound of Colbie Caillat.

"Still Unknown" highlights the fluidity of Moreno's voice and has sparse musical treatment that features delicate acoustic strumming, subtle keyboard string swells and ethereal backing vocals.

Visit Gaby's myspace at

June 22, 2008

Ross Royce

Oh yeah. This is rock and roll baby. Let's do this thing. (Mrs. Vain)

Ross Royce's myspace page opens with "That's Not Me" which brings to mind elements of 1970s David Bowie and similar-era Kinks' tunes. Like both of those artists, Ross Royce expresses a lot in misleadingly simple lyrics. The song features nice surf guitar stylings over some vocal narrative rambling and laughter, ala Pink Floyd on Dark Side of the Moon.

With lyrics that read: "Are you really gonna whip me, are you gonna make me moan? I think you're really, really wanting to really, really rock n' roll..." it's no surprise that "Mrs. Vain" has a rough edge that is driving, a guitar that is distorted, and a vocal style - again very reminiscent of David Bowie - that alternates between talky shouts and smarmy sung lines. A fat and funky keyboard lick accompanies driving guitar chords during a musical break which works really well for the down and dirty element of the song. Segueing into a rotary chorus-y keyboard effect over some oohs and aahs, the song makes its point quite clearly. As Royce says in this opening line: this is rock and roll baby. Let's do this thing.

"Suzanne's Meditation" is a dreamy little ditty that brings to mind Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks' song "Sara". With no vocals, this is a mood setter, showing off the band's keyboard skills.

"Mixed Up World" is a driving and upbeat pop song with disgruntled lyrics - again bringing to mind the work of The Kinks, with their similarly unhappy pop ditties - I feel so plastic so lock me in a cage, I'm running around naked like I've got road rage. With its refrain "we live in a mixed up world," and a steady drum beat, the song communicates the non-stop feeling we have in our day to day world. Midsection of the song mimics sirens, features a plaintive scream and conveys noise, madness, endless interruptions.

"Get it Together" opens with quiet acoustic guitar strumming, and quickly turns harder edged with some distorted power chords, which carries the song until the final section of the song - when female vocals are introduced with great success. Not unlike Merry Clayton's contribution to the Rolling Stones' classic "Gimme Shelter", the singers at the end of "Get it Together" really make the song, and drive it to a nice conclusion.

"Rock and Roll is Gonna Soothe My Soul" is a straight-up, four chord rock and roll romp complete with drum solo mid-song, with Royce commanding us to "get up off your ass!" The song brings to mind the music of The Ramones, Ozzy, Bowie and MC5 - which gives it an irresistible old school feel.

Visit Ross Royce's website at:

Styrofoam Junkies

The first track - "Touch" - on the Styrofoam Junkies myspace lets you know that you're going to experience a whole range of music influences and eras: the crunchy alternative opening chords give way to an almost 70s-hit-radio sound ala Hall and Oates. It's instantly catchy because it feels familiar. Yet, interspersed between the verses are hip hop shouts, vinyl scratches, and some old school Beastie Boy noises just to add an additional twist and throw the listener off guard.

Next up is "Come Alive" which starts off heavier and darker than the first track - more feedback, distortion, harder power chords. The song breaks out to some ethereal keyboard swells, and then the pop jumps in. The band has got catchy down pat, and the vocal harmonies are a nice element riding on the harder power chord wave. The middle lead break seems a bit long and detracts from an otherwise excellent song.

"Meant to Fade" opens up with precise, almost military drumming and arpeggiated guitar plucking and seems heavily influenced by the opening of The Eagles' classic "Hotel California" - which is further reinforced by the chord movement and the basslines. With the exception of a different vocal line during the verses, the connection is hard to shake - as the vocal harmonies have an Eagles-like precision to them as well. Although being compared to The Eagles is not a bad thing by any means, it does add a derivative element to the song.

"These Days" highlights strong vocal harmonies, precise drumming and a - once again - very catchy pop melody. Like the other songs featured on the band's page, this track is radio-ready.

Kate Starr

I have a particular soft spot for girl-fronted bands from NYC since I used to be in one, and when I did the music publicity thing in the 90s I produced 2 girl-fronted band CDs called Go On Girl. But I digress. It's not about me, after all.

In my inbox was a request for a review by Kate Starr, a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Brooklyn, NY. I immediately was drawn by the opening energy of the first track on her myspace page, "Miss Liberty", which right away brought to mind the best of the 90s alternagrrrl music I think still holds up in the 00s: Hole, Liz Phair, L7, and that ilk. With distorto guitar, driving drumming, sing along pop sensibilities, this track begs to be played again and again. A stick in your head single that has no filler and gets right to the hook, "Miss Liberty" succeeds on all levels.

"Ache" follows and opens with the cello-like darkness of a mourning guitar, and the heavy bottom of a simple but very present bassline. Kate shows us her dreamy side on this track, with echo-y and almost Cranberries-like vocal sensibility. A sparse treatment works well on this track, uncluttered instrumentation lets the strength of the vocals and emotions shine through. Reminiscent of Annie Lennox's "put it all out there" vocal style, this song is extremely gripping when Kate lets her vocals soar while singing about the ache she feels.

"Walking in" has a more singer/songwriter vibe than the earlier two tracks, almost giving off a Chrissie Hynde meets Sara Bareilles meets Rickie Lee Jones feeling. The chord changes are interesting and go in unexpected places, and Kate's vocal delivery is talky in places - which makes the song very captivating and compelling.

"Say Something Beautiful" shows off the depth of Kate's voice and her ability to reach through the recorded medium and really connect emotionally with her material and, in turn, her listeners.

According to the information on her myspace page - Out of over 2,000 bands, Kate Starr was picked by Perry Farrell to be a top 4 finalist in Lollapalooza's Last Band Standing Competition.

Visit Kate's website at: