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.

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: