About Jack Mesenbourg

Jack Mesenbourg is a writer, musician, photographer, and artist from Minneapolis. He has spent his years hopping around the country, scribbling notes & scratching pictures in poorly organized journals along the way. Traveling with him have been his passions and distractions such as music, gardening, baseball, cooking and finding good local beer. Hopefully his projects provide you with some insight, provoke some thinking or at least give you a little amusement.

Song Review -Partial Traces “Ruins of Rome” from the album Panoramic / Ruins of Rome 

Always check the B-side first…something I started doing a long time ago to mixed results but it paid off well here.  Not that there really is a B-side these days in many cases..but you get the point.  Not to say I have any objection to “Panoramic”…I just like this track better 🙂

There is something very poignant in the stark way in which this song begins.   And it is not just the discordant keys but also the way that the vocal cuts in over the top.   It sets an immediate mood…mournful, accepting…maybe a little sad humor.   The words here are simple yet evocative – lines such as “you like how it covers up the trash with the snow,” tell you much about the scene and also about the people involved in the story.  

The instrumentation is good here also, starting off slowly and building as it moves along.  It is a nice sonic journey that adds to the atmosphere and tone of this entire track.   And I really like that tight drum in the second half…hammering away…very nice. 

The last 40 seconds or so of this get a little too muddled for me but there is also a message there which does work…just a personal issue for me I guess:)  And at the very end there is a very graceful final 10 seconds that cleans it all up very well…kind of a static good-bye.  

Overall, there are a lot of good musical layers in this song.   These musicians, who have turned out such great music both together and separately over the years,  shine through here and I would definitely recommend it. 

You can check out more of their music and information on the Bandcamp page https://partialtraces.bandcamp.com

And please remember to support your local musicians wherever you are…community is powerful! 

Song Review -Avenues “Supersonic” from the album We’re All Doomed 

I have always liked a hard-driver of a song and this one is a great example of just that kind of energy.   It comes in with some crisp, heavy drums and gets right to the point.  Much of the track maintains that initial drive but I really liked the bridge at the one-minute mark. It provides a nice contrast to the rest of the song while still maintaining the sonic feeling of the music.  The production quality is also well done with the vocals clearly out front while maintaining a good instrument mix in the very near background.   The lyrics are fun but also a little creepy (“she locks the cellar door behind her”) and the energy is…well, like everything else that Avenues does so well.  

Side note there that their video for “Lights Out” is a cool Halloween-type production and worth a look.  

You can check out more of their music and information on the Bandcamp page https://avenuesrock.bandcamp.com

Support your local bands & artists – community is powerful! 

Song Review -Chamberlain “Fairytale of New York (Feat. Gabrielle Sterbenz)” – Single

Well, Happy New Year…and if you know me you are not surprised to see me writing a review for a cover of this epic Pogues song.  There are of course some songs that should just be left alone in their original version but I have never considered this to be one of them.  Even though Shane and his mates original from 1987 has been imbedded in the soundtrack of my life for many years, I consider the song free game for a redux.   Not to say all covers of it have been good…but everyone is welcome to try.  

This version by Chamberlain stacks up well and I really enjoyed playing it over the recent holidays.   They kept the pacing about the same and also utilized the vocal talents of Gabrielle Sterbenz for the female vocal.  Her voice is well-suited for this song and also pairs well with David Moore as they take us through the classic story told in the tune.  If you get a chance you should check out her music also (link below).

Well played all around by some talented musicians although sadly no tin whistle….but that is a rare talent to find these days.  And the shaker that puts the rhythm down in the background is a unique sound.  

You can check out more of their music and information on the Bandcamp page https://chamberlain.bandcamp.com

Gabrielle Sterbenz here —> https://gabriellesterbenz.bandcamp.com

Please remember to support your local bands – community is powerful!

Song Review – Buffalo Nichols “Back on Top” from the album Buffalo Nichols

I have always and I am sure always will…love a tune with a slow, slightly jangly blues riff …just like this song.   I suppose that leaves me as biased listener but I just cannot help it and this selection really delivers on what I love about those kinds of songs.  The guitar and drum here provide such a solid foundation and allow the tune to unwind slowly.  Nichols also has a slightly smoky voice which adds a little bit of Memphis night club atmosphere when he sings and it all comes together well.   A really good song from what I consider to be a breakout album from this Wisconsin-based musician – highly recommended 🙂 

You can check out more of their music and information on the Bandcamp page https://buffalonichols.bandcamp.com/releases

Please remember to support your local musicians, artists and businesses – community is powerful! 

Song Review – Rid of Me “Traveling” from the album Traveling 

Well, I meant to post this as a “hot release” right when Rid of Me released this debut album on Bandcamp (12.03.2021)…however, I am late 😦  So, with apologies….

This song delivers exactly what Rid of Me have in their tagline “heavy, melodic punk” and in this case that is a good thing.  I am sure we have all heard the bad version of this genre and it does not go well.  This is the other kind.  The overlay of sound is so entrancing that I did not mind having to hunt around a little to pick up the underlying lyrics.  And those words are quite interesting all to themselves.  I spent several long minutes figuring them out and what they mean to me and you also might find it a useful exercise.   It will get your imagination working for sure.  Being mostly unfamiliar with this band, I did a quick search and found a slightly disturbing but riveting video for the song “Dealing” which is also off of this record.   You can check that at punknews.org and I am sure in the other usual places.   This is a solid release  and the rest of Traveling measures up well and gets my recommendation.  I have to get out and see this gang live somewhere for sure:)  

You can check out more of their music and information on their Bandcamp page https://ridofme.bandcamp.com

As always…support your local bands and artists and buy direct from the source when you can – community is powerful! 

Album Review – Wyldlife – “Out On Your Block”

Wyldlife - "Out On Your Block"

Yes, I know that I am going back in time for this one.  I was listening to the more recent release from Wildlife called “Year of the Snake” and even though that is a good record, my own mind said, “They had one I liked more…sometime in the past…when was that..?”  At which point I dug through a lot of old music info and realized it was “Out on Your Block.”  And no, I do not have any criticism of “Year of the Snake” to offer…but my personal opinion is that this 2017 release is just better….and the cover art is quite interesting.

If you are not familiar with Wyldlife I think they are best described as a punk / rock and roll cross with an edgy 80’s sound and style.  They play very well and put together solid songs that sometimes seem simple on your first listen but usually have a good bit of complexity running around in the background.  

This album kicks off with “Desperate Times” and this one has a nice, driving guitar that carries it along very well.  I think my only complaint is that the vocals are a  little bit too “screamy” at some points but it still sounds good.  That is followed up by “Teenage Heart” that has a definite 80’s beat and feel to it…and I mean that in a good way.  The lyrics even reflect that era as does the call-out chorus line.  I really like the bass work on this song also as it provides a great foundation for the music and peeks through at the just the right moments.  

The next song “Keepsakes” is one of my two favorites, both because it tells a simple but good story and also for its punchy delivery of the music.  The lyrics, such as “you were misery that I couldn’t figure out,” are compelling and stark.  That is followed up by “Deadbeat” which has really good guitar sound and even though this is a typical “youth / angst” type song, it is put together and played well.

Track five is “Bandida” which is a guitar and drum driven bopper that will get you jumping along with it if you are so inclined.  It provides a good lead in to “Contraband” which I would call an explosive song.   Building right up from a great drum intro this song has great nervous energy running though it accompanied by wailing and screeching guitar.  The taunting vocal delivery and the drop-out ending seal the deal – a great song. 

“Suburban” is the “meh” song for me on this album as it is a bit too squeaky and whiny for me.  It is followed by “120 Minutes” which is most notable for the guitar work at the 2:30 mark and “Cuffed” which has some very interesting lyrics, good bass lines and some atypical musical moments. 

Last up is “Get Loud” and this one is well worth the wait and another favorite of mine.   The best part of this song, and something that really adds to its overall quality, is that it does not come in super loud like you might expect.   It starts subtly with some swinging drums and guitar, the vocals creeping along and everything slowly building up to crash over briefly at 1:20.  It then holds before slowing down again.  This song is the longest at 4:07 and needs all of that room to develop fully and really shine.   There are a few lyrical gems in here also such as, “beneath the streetlights I wonder why I’m always chasing abuse.”  

Overall, a great album and enjoyable to listen to both for fun and for more serious musical appreciation. 

You can check out more of their music and information on their Bandcamp page https://wyldlife.bandcamp.com

And please remember to support your local music and art scene – community is powerful! 

Album Review – Romperayo e DJ Tudo + Sua Gente de Todo Lugar- “Rhythmic Emancipation” 

Romperayo e DJ Tudo + Sua Gente de Todo Lugar- “Rhythmic Emancipation”

We are going with some world sounds for this review and I am really pleased that I found this album when I was checking out the releases from the Names You Can Trust label out of Brooklyn, New York.  It may be outside of even the wide-ranging path I follow when listening but that is exactly what I love about exploring music.  There is so much out there, so many great rhythms, melodies, different textures, influences and cultures to experience.  I also often have my Joe Strummer moments and I can definitely see Joe sitting around listening to this record and enjoying some of the sounds.   

This starts off with “Los Mariguano Boys” and I really like the drum rhythms that lead off in this track.  It has a nice, pulsing beat to it that gives it some fun and flair.  That leads into the next song, “Guaracha Campesina Proletaria,” which is just as nice of a rapid tempo dance number as the name implies.  There is a really nice melody line in here, which I believe is delivered on guitar.  There are some subtle changes in tone that also lend some depth.   Right about the 1:30 mark some great horns kick in and catch your attention.  There has always been something about that combination that has peaked my interest and this selection is a great example of the reason for that feeling. 

“La Macumba” is the third selection and I believe the title references a folk religion although I admit I did not have time to look into it further before writing this post.   There is some nice vocal work at the beginning accompanied by the cowbell and then the horns come in to layer in a little mystery.  I really like the trumpets that you can find in the 1:30 to 1:55 range of this track.  The final song is “Encuentro” and I am still trying to work out the sound that lies  underneath the horns at the beginning.  The slower tempo of this arrangement  gives you a real sense of anticipation.  The military style drum beat leads some structure that plays off the horns in an odd but alluring way.   My only complaint here is that I feel this one runs just a little too long.

Overall I really enjoyed this album and the music is just right for a late evening get together or a mid-afternoon at the pool and beach.  There is also some nice artwork on the album cover.  

As I stated above, I picked this up via Names You Can Trust and you can check out their other releases at https://nyctrust.bandcamp.com.

As always, if you have the opportunity, please get out and support your local music and artists – community is powerful ! 

Album Review – Dave Hjin “Live at the Forbidden Auditorium”

Dave Hjin – Live at the Forbidden Auditorium

Cruising around the inter-webs last week I happened upon this recent release and gave the first two songs a quick listen.  They intrigued me and I searched out some information on Dave, learning that he is (or was?…maybe he graduated:) a student in the jazz studies program at Toronto’s Humber College.  As always, these kinds of folks intrigue me as I have had my own fun trying to explore music theory and the many mysteries of making good sounds.  It was then that I knew I had to hear this entire release…both for my own enjoyment and also education.  I figure if nothing else, hearing tunes put together by a legit music scholar could only be a good thing.  Here are my thoughts….

The first selection, “19.11.10” is the star of this record in my opinion.  There is something both triumphant and haunting about this song.  The music brings the high points (especially the drum line), carefully offset by the more melancholy lyrics.  I love the bass line that grinds along underneath and several unique sounds off the keys, random but appropriate.  The vocals take over a bit around 3:05 and provide an uplifting, if slightly chaotic, conclusion.  

“Pre and Post” follows this and starts in a fairly simple way before shifting tone at the 1:50 mark.  That change elevates the atmosphere of the music significantly while still leaving the straightforward lyrical structure running underneath.   Then, rather suddenly about 90 seconds later, everything changes again when the guitar sounds come in by themselves.  Some nice effects also provide literal howling instrumental sounds in this section.  The two parts of this track seem disparate to me although I figure I may be setting myself up for a music lecture…some connection that I do not understand.  I’ll happily take the lecture as a learning opportunity 🙂 

That selection is followed by “Like A Bull,” and I really like the synth melody here and there is a rather disconcerting Vox effect that lends a nice amount of depth to the atmosphere of this track.   This is the song on the album I am a little bit indifferent about although there is really something about the cacophony that begins around 2:55.   It is very interesting and I do like the guitar work in this section although you have to hunt to find it under the mix in some parts.  

Next up is “One Foot Above” which features a pulsing feedback effect over a booming monotone kick drum.  It works very well over simple yet elegant lyrics such as: “When do you think the world will end, when the water’s been dry for longer than we remember.”  I do feel that the middle part of this track goes on a little bit too long and loses some of its impact along the way.  There also is a vocal effect that I am not certain works well from the listener perspective anyway.  The upside of this middle part though it that it really builds some tension.  And that leads to the 4:30 mark.  The guitar here is terrific and releases all that built up suspense while some fantastic atmospheric effects really crash into you.  Around one minute of awesomeness follows ..and then this song once again gets a little bit strange.  

The penultimate offering is “Zalazac Sunca.”  There is, perhaps unsurprisingly given the title, something a little bit summery about this song.   It is simple and clean also and has a lilting sway to it that will leave you humming along long after you have stopped listening.  

The album finishes up with a demo track called “Folk Riff,” which is a simple but nicely put together piece of music.  I really like the track separation on the two guitar parts as it conveys a nice duality if you are listening closely.  Some additional background and atmosphere begins after the first two and a half minutes which expand the tone of this song beyond its simple, folksy beginning.

This is a really nice overall listen and I would definitely recommend checking it out.  The arrangements are so interesting and I am picking up nuances each time I give it another whirl.  If you are so inclined, pay attention to the layering within each song as there is some hidden gems to discover.  I also suspect there are some lessons in there …for me at least.

You can check out this and related music from David at his Bandcamp page https://davehjin.bandcamp.com.

Please remember to support your local music and artists – community is powerful.  

Album Review – DEHD “Water”

DEHD – Water

Music Review 

Album Review – DEHD – “Water”

Sometimes I pause as I am flipping through my music collection, whether it be vinyls, CD’s, digital, etc and have the lucky pleasure of being reminded of a past sonic discovery.  My most recent happy moment came after I loaded “all songs” in my digital library and then flicked a finger across my trackpad several times, letting the selections scroll past like slot machine symbols.  The screen landed squarely on DEHD’s releases and most particularly their 2019 release “Water.”  So yes, we are going back in time for this one even though they do have a more recent, and very fine release, called “Flowers of Devotion.”   Backwards to a good memory…

The first time I heard a song off of this record it was “On My Side” and that song has remained a regular visitor to my listening experience, mostly via inclusion on several playlists.  It has a warm, familiar feeling when I hear it, one of those fuzzy songs from the past.  Even the disconcerting delivery of the lyric “time is on my side,”…works perfectly within the tonal structure of this track.    I have also often found myself thinking that this song would somehow have fit in perfectly on the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack or maybe even “Sid & Nancy”…dated references I know but let me know what you think? 

Jumping back to the first track of the album, it leads off with “Wild,” a simple word that is conveyed repeatedly through the song over a demanding, almost breathless drum beat.   Next up is  “Lucky,” which has a simple, clean start with a nice melody and a notable, and I think very effective, vocal change at the end ….”I long to be, I long to be, I long to be lucky.”

The next track starts very abruptly and features one of my favorite lyrics from this album, “never looking back, oh my baby, a heart attack waits for me when I dream of days past.” That is just good writing if you ask me; stark, clear and evocative.  I also like the way the lyrical lines are layered over the guitars ..it is messy but really good.

This is followed by “Do You” and then “Wait,” which has a  unique combination of styles and swaying rhythms.  The punchy guitar on this one does the job of accentuating the lyrics very well.  The vocal differences also play off each other effectively in this composition.  The next track is “On My Side” (already discussed) and then “Sunbeat,” which has a cacophony of sounds that mix with a singular drum beat…and works so well in some odd, unexplainable way. 

Coming up next on this album is “Push the Crowd,” which has a happy-toned beat that is hiding a darker message.  There is also a secondary lyric that knocks around in the background, part of the time in sync with the main lyric and at other times different.  I have never quite puzzled out the entirety of that secondary piece which leaves me feeling a little short of understanding.  An ongoing mission for the future I guess…

The next three songs are; “Love Calls” (which is the only miss on this release for me as it seems detached and something with which I could not find a connection), “Lake” (I love the guitar in this one), and “Happy Again” (the second song I ever heard by DEHD and one that I believe is a great example of the style and sound for this band).

The next track is my favorite on this record.  “Long Way Home” has a bit of the Blasters wrapped up in it (especially in the guitar sound) and is stylistically different from the other songs on “Water”.”  The album then finishes up with the eponymous track which is classic DEHD and conveys that special combination of comfort and discord that for me is the foundation of what makes them unique.  Those two effects come in waves throughout the song as it switches tone and the simple drum underneath holds all of it together.

Overall, the is a great record and continues to have an impression on me much the same as it did when I first heard it – no one sounds like this band.  Their songs are mostly short, direct and have a tone and atmosphere that belongs solely to DEHD.

If you are so inclined, check out their music and info on their Bandcamp page https://dehdforever.bandcamp.com

And please remember to support your local artists and bands – community is powerful! 

Album Review – Citizen “Life In Your Glass World”

Citizen – Life In Your Glass World

So, I was kicking around Bandcamp looking at Michigan artists and came across this album by Citizen.  I have to admit, I had not heard of them before despite what I later discovered were several very solid prior releases.   Having listened through a few times to this one, here are my thoughts …

They kick this off with “Death Dance Approximately”, which earns an immediate place on my list of fantastic song names.   Right at the beginning there is a very brief organ sound…which for some reason I think is great.  There are some tempo changes in this song that work really well and the drum is especially effective.  Listen to the lyrics also as they are notable.  One line that really caught me was,  “I beat myself down until I cave in, I will pry and I will claw just to be heard.”   It really evokes an internal struggle for me.  

The bare bones drums that are in “I Want to Kill You” are great as is the guitar work on this tune.  The beat here will certainly get you hopping along!  Listen for the unique guitar right around the 2:25 mark – fascinating.

“Blue Sunday,” provides a nice down-shift from the first two songs and the Vox effect here plays very well with the tone and message in the music.    There is really good atmosphere in this song and the cleaner guitar that comes in around 1:47 provides a good counter-punch to the other tones.

When “Thin Air” begins,  the few few seconds of it have my brain scrambling as it immediately brings to mind some other song…which as of this writing I have still failed to come up with.  That is not to cast any shadows here on Citizen, as the remainder of this song is all their own.  There is a lyric line within, “I remember when you used to say that it’s time that complicates you,” which really caught me and gave me something to ponder.. 

The next selection, “Call Your Bluff,” has a solid, quick beat at the beginning that really builds anticipation and is combined with some poignant lyrics to make this a strong part of the album.  I really liked the big sounds toward the end.

“Pedestal” is next, and all I can say is that …I really like the stark drum and the chanting lyric style…but the song kind of lost me along the way.  As per usual, that usually means I missed something and I hope that you can find it when you listen.  

You can definitely put on your dancing shoes (or boots…) for “Fight Beat” which has a great groove line right from the start and very interesting atmospherics.  It is followed by “Black and Red,” which is the only song on this record with which I could not find any connection.  On “Pedestal” I had the beat and style that I could hang onto but this selection left me behind completely.  When that happens I do try to figure out why and in this case I think it is the range of styles within the song.  Individually I like those pieces; however the arrangement here is just a little too chaotic for me. 

Next up is “Glass World.”  It has a great guitar sound at the beginning with a drum that cuts in between which really sets a solid foundation.  The pacing on this song, which is on the slower end for the record in general, is very effective in delivering the tone and mood.  That is followed by “Winter Buds” which, rather appropriately, has a melancholy ambiance and is lyrically very strong. 

A very effective and fitting end-cap for this release is provided by “Edge of the World.”  It has a driving beat that coveys an anxious energy throughout the middle part of the song. 

Overall, this an album worthy of a buy and much listening.   This band plays tight and brings a distinct style to this recording.  This is some combination of emo- dance and punk that is very effectively stitched together.  Although you can hear the various influences throughout, they blend them together well and make their own sound from those disparate pieces.  They also have a knack, even on slower paced songs, for providing a lingering dance beat just below the surface almost waiting to explode.  It does not always show itself, but it is there and gives you a sense of anticipation.  

You can check out info and music from Citizen on their Bandcamp page https://citizenmi.bandcamp.com

Please remember to support your local bands, musicians and artists – community is powerful!