Sensational teen prodigy Hannah Gill mesmerizes throughout her ‘I Feel Awake’ EP

Hannah Gill‘I Feel Awake’
Hannah Gill (self-released)
4 stars out of 5

Armed with a powerful voice that makes her sound at least twice her age, 17-year-old newcomer Hannah Gill has already earned comparisons to the likes of Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) and Lana Del Rey. It only takes a single spin of latest EP to “I Feel Awake” to see that those comparisons are more than justified.

Hannah Gill CDThe Maryland native impresses at every turn on the four-track, 16 minute release and mesmerizes on the title track, “Love and Glory” and “Evergreen.” After several spins of the too-short record, I turned to the Internet to hear more from Gill.

Among many other Gill performances, there’s a ridiculously awesome cover of Hozier’s “Take Me Church” circulating at http://bit.ly/1sbbgF8 that comes close to exceeding the original. Make sure to check it out. This kid is the real deal. (Jeffrey Sisk)

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The Dodos strike while iron is hot with latest full-length ‘Individ’

The Dodos‘Individ’
The Dodos (Polyvinyl)
3.5 stars out of 5

Indie rock duo The Dodos wasted no time making a successor to 2013 platter “Carrier.” Vocalist/guitaris Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber wanted to capitalize on the strides they made during the “Carrier” recording sessions and the result is terrific sixth full-length “Individ.”

PRC-284LP-COVERART_HIres“The best time to make is a record is right after you’ve finished one,” Long opines. “There were things I didn’t want to forget, sounds that we had just scratched the surface of making that record that I wanted to capitalize on. Songs came together easily, there was not a lot of questioning, just moving ahead with the feeling that we were on the right track.”

The Dodos got back to their roots on the nine-track release by focusing on just guitar and drums in much the same way they made 2008 breakthrough release “Visiter.” The approach works, as Long and Kroeber soar on standouts “”Precipitation,” “The Tide,” “Competition,” “Goodbyes and Endings” and sprawling set closer “Pattern/Shadow.” I can only presume the lads are already hard at work on album No. 7. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Latina punks Go Betty Go return to the fray with ‘Reboot’ EP

Go Betty Go‘Reboot’
Go Betty Go (self-released)
3.5 stars out of 5

Latina punk quartet Go Betty Go were on top of the world a decade ago, having generated plenty of (well-deserved) buzz as one of the genre’s rising stars. They built their reputation on relentless touring and in the early part of the new millennium were part of two Warped tours and knocked their socks off at the South By Southwest festival.

PrintNicolette Vilar, sister Aixa Vilar, Betty Cisneros and Michelle Rangel continued to raise their profile with the 2005 release of full-length debut album “Nothing Is More” and landed a national tour gig with MxPx. Sadly, Go Betty Go never finished that tour as Nicolette, citing exhaustion and saying she was burned out, up and quit the band.

After spending the ensuing years wondering what might have been had Go Betty Go stayed together, we get at least a partial answer in new EP “Reboot.” The original lineup is back together for a high-octane collection of six tunes that packs quite a punch. Songs like “By Your Side,” “It Haunts You Now,” the Spanish-language “Tartamudo” and “Cemetery Stone” are terrific and shows that Go Betty Go still have what it takes. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Down With Webster to invade Pittsburgh’s The Smiling Moose on Tuesday, Feb. 3

020315-Down With WebsterToronto-based pop/rock/rap outfit Down With Webster return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at The Smiling Moose. They’ll open for The Blueprint (Jonny Craig, Kyle Lucas & Captain Midnite) at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the all-ages show, which also includes Prospectz Nation, are $16. The Smiling Moose is located at 1306 E. Carson St. on the city’s South Side. Call 412-431-4668 or visit http://www.smiling-moose.com for additional information.

Aussie icon Paul Kelly enlists some first-rate support for ‘The Merri Soul Sessions’

Paul Kelly‘The Merri Soul Sessions’
Paul Kelly (self-released)
4 stars out of 5

Paul Kelly is adored in his native Australia, widely considered to be one of his homeland’s most accomplished singer/songwriters. He’s built an impressive discography over the years, with more than two dozen albums to his credit since 1981. For latest project “The Merri Soul Sessions,” however, Kelly turned to a host of guest singers — including Clairy Browne, Vika & Linda Bull, Dan Sultan and Kira Puru — for a soul summit of sorts.

Paul Kelly CD“I started to imagine a soul revue type record performed live in the studio with a variety of singers and the one band,” Kelly explains. “From Feb. 17 to March 1 (of last year) we camped in Soundpark Studios in Australia and recorded a song a day, with Sundays off.”

Initially, “The Merri Soul Sessions” was released as a series of four 7-inch vinyl singles, but for the U.S. release all eight of those tunes have been included along with three new tracks. The results are nothing short of spectacular, with Kelly & Co. delivering the goods on keepers “What You Want,” “Keep on Coming Back for More,” “Where Were You When I Needed You,” “Thank You,” “I Don’t Know What I’d Do” and gospel-tinged closer “Hasn’t It Rained.” Good stuff. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Glammy garage rock quintet Prima Donna return with ‘Nine Lives and Forty-Fives’

Prima Donna‘Nine Lives and Forty-Fives’
Prima Donna (Alive Naturalsound)
3 stars out of 5

Glammy garage rockers Prima Donna have been kicking around Southern California for more than a decade, seemingly forever on the edge of finally breaking into the mainstream. “Nine Live and Forty-Fives” is Prima Donna’s fourth album — and first since middling 2012 effort “Bless This Mess.” It’s not a great record, but there’s a raw energy that merits some attention.

Prima Donna CDPrima Donna are one of the rare rock bands who utilize saxophone in their songs, courtesy of Aaron Minton, and that does help them stand out a bit in the garage-rock pack. “Nine Lives and Forty-Fives” is a solid 11-track album that rolls by in an economical 33 minutes with eight originals and a trio of cover tunes.

The originals are the standout cuts, with Prima Donna especially impressive on “Pretty Little Head,” “Born Yesterday,” “Living in Sin” and “Eat Your Heart Out.” The covers of Dwight Twilley (“I’m on Fire”) and Blondie (“Rip Her to Shreds”) aren’t particularly memorable, but the quartet does fine work with The Rubinoos’ “Rock and Roll Is Dead.” (Jeffrey Sisk)

Jessica Pratt’s vocals lift latest LP ‘On Your Own Love Again’

Jessica Pratt‘On Your Own Love Again’
Jessica Pratt (Drag City)
4 stars out of 5

Jessica Pratt has one of those voices that make you sit up and pay attention. It’s not a beautiful voice in the traditional sense, not with the slightly nasal timber, but it’s without a doubt one of the most interesting and compelling around.

Jessica Pratt CDWe were first introduced to Pratt and that voice via her 2012 self-titled debut, a deceptively simple album that wisely surrounded the vocals with a couple of acoustic guitars. She continues in that vein on sophomore platter “On Your Own Love Again,” a terrific nine-track effort that cements Pratt’s status as one of my favorite young artists.

She comes out of the gate clicking on all cylinders with “Wrong Hand,” “Game That I Play” and “Strange Melody,” and Pratt later scores with “Moon Dude,” “Jacquelyn in the Background” and personal favorite “Back, Baby.” It’s time you got to know Jessica Pratt. Trust me. (Jeffrey Sisk)

‘All These Dreams’ finds Andrew Combs building on his strengths

(Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller)

(Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller)

‘All These Dreams’
Andrew Combs (Loose Music)
3.5 stars out of 5

Nashville-based singer/songwriter Andrew Combs seems poised to take the next step up the career ladder with the release of sophomore album “All These Dreams.” With an ear-pleasing blend of pop and country, Combs builds on the strengths of his 2012 “Worried Man” debut.

Andrew Combs CD“I feel like this record has a much different thread that ties the songs together than ‘Worried Man,’ which was more raw and bare-bones,” Combs explains. “‘All These Dreams’ explores more complex arrangements, lyrics and musical tones. Roy Orbison and Paul Simon were definite different influences.”

Opener ‘Rainy Day Song” is the best of the bunch, but Combs also scores with “Strange Bird,” “Long Gone Lately,” “In the Name of You,” “Slow Road to Jesus” and “Suwannee County.” If Combs, who will be featured later this year in the documentary “Heartworn Highways Revisited,” continues to evolve and mature as a songwriter and performer, the sky’s the limit. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Suburban Living show great promise with self-titled debut

Suburban Living‘Suburban Living’
Suburban Living (Papercup)
3.5 stars out of 5

Wesley Bunch, the Philadelphia-based musician who records under the Suburban Living moniker, has a throwback sound that could have landed him a spot on the soundtrack of any John Hughes film of the 1980s. Suburban Living’s self-titled full-length debut, like his 2012 “Cooper’s Dream” EP, is filled with layered guitars and hazy synthesizers over the steady rat-a-tat-tat of a drum machine.

Suburban Living CDThere’s little wasted space on an eight-track release that whisks by in a tidy 26 minutes. Along the way, Suburban Living impress with “Dazed,” “Different Coast,” “Faded Love,” “New Strings” and “Wasted.” Bunch flirts with greatness on this record and with a little more seasoning, he just might get there the next time around. (Jeffrey Sisk)

Minnesota rappers Doomtree impress with ‘All Hands’

Doomtree‘All Hands’
Doomtree (Doomtree)
3.5 stars out of 5

Minneapolis underground rap collective Doomtree have seen members Sims, Lazerbeak, Dessa, Cecil Otter and P.O.S. go on to varying levels of success on their own, but they’re never better than when spitting their rhymes together. “All Hands” is Doomtree’s first album since 2011’s underwhelming “No Kings” and finds the gang in fine form.

Doomtree CDWith five emcees sharing the microphone, Doomtree are very much a collaborative band and their chemistry is evident throughout the 13-track slab. To write “All Hands,” Doomtree sequestered themselves in a cabin with no cellular reception so they could work uninterrupted and that unity of purpose serves them well.

The one-two opening punch of “Final Boss” and “My Own Nation” set the tone for “All Hands,” and Doomtree also sizzle on “Heavy Rescue,” “80 on 80,” “Mini Brute,” “Beast Face,” “Off in the Deep” and “Marathon.” At more than 57 minutes, the album overstays its welcome by about a quarter, but there’s a lot of good stuff for you to enjoy along the way. (Jeffrey Sisk)