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