Live CDs Did A Lot To Help Audiences Get Their Concert Fixes In 2021

Courtesy: KScope Records

As December (and the year) continues to wind down, Phil’s Picks is far from winding down.  There is still much more to share from Phil’s Picks in the final weeks of this year, including today’s year-ender list, that of the year’s top new live CDs.  In years past, Phil’s Picks has had an abundance of live material, including live DVDs and BDs, but this year, offerings from that field were far slimmer, likely due to the ongoing pandemic.  On the opposite side though, there were plenty of live CDs released this year.  Audiences across the spectrum got live material to enjoy this year.  The metal masses got new live material from the likes of Destruction, Motorhead, and TesseracT.  Jazz fans got new live content from the likes of Doug MacDonald, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Sextet.  Rock audiences got new content from the likes of The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Foghat.  Even reggae fans got a little something new from a “live” recording from Bob Marley.  Simply put, 2021 was still a good year for new live music releases, if only on CD.  To that end, Phil’s Picks is offering once again this year, the Top 10 New Live CDs.

As with each and every list presented by Phil’s Picks, the list also features five additional honorable mention titles, bringing the total to 15.  Every single act and title listed here is deserving of its own applause, being that enjoyable.  There is no bad release.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Live CDs list.


1. TesseracT – P O R T A L S

2. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Live at Knebworth

3. Harold Mabern – Mabern Plays Coltrane

4. Destruction – Live Attack

5. Motorhead – Louder Than NoiseLive in Berlin

6. The Allman Brothers Band – Down in Texas ‘71

7. Bob Marley – The Capitol Session ‘73

8. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Sextet – The Democracy Suite

9. Doug MacDonald – Live in Hawaii

10. Foghat – 8 Days on the Road

11. Eric Clapton – The Lady in the Balcony

12. The Hawkins – Live in the Woods

13. The Philadelphia Orchestra – Blue Symphony No. 2

14. Harold Land – Westward Bound

15. Enrico Rava – Edizione Speciale

That’s it for this list.  Again, there is no bad recording here.  Each act and title deserves its own share of praise and applause.  With this list done, this year’s music year-ender lists drops now to only three – the year’s top new rock, hard rock/metal, and overall albums.  From there, the attention will turn from music to TV and movies.  Stay tuned!

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The Hawkins Debuts New Record’s Final Single

Courtesy: The Sign Records

The Hawkins premiered the third and final single from its forthcoming record this week.

The band debuted its single, ‘Jim & Kate’ Friday. The song is the third and final single from the band’s forthcoming mini-album, Aftermath, which is scheduled for release Oct. 15 through The Sign Records.

The song’s premiere follows that of the mini-album’s first two singles, ‘SVAANG’ and ‘Turncoat Killer,’ both of which are streaming through the band’s official Bandcamp page. Audiences can also pre-order the new record at that site.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Jim & Kate’ advances the sound that the band has produced in its existing catalog. Instead of the stoner approach that the band has so commonly gone with in its existing work, the song takes more of a pure, garage rock approach and resulting sound.

Front man Johannes Carlsson talked about the song’s lyrical theme in a prepared statement.

“‘Jim & Kate’ takes place in the aftermath of a s*** hitting the fan,” he said. “Over and over again. You’re once again standing in the rubble, trying to make sense of what just happened and grasping for pieces to supposedly glue together. Shock and denial mixed with has-tingly trying to fix things. The intro is kind of like that to play as well. It’s a bit like being half awake and thinking you’re late to work.”

The song’s lyrical theme follows the overarching theme of Aftermath. That is because the six-song record is presented as a six-part concept record of sorts. It follows the destructive aftermath of broken relationships.

More information on The Hawkins’ new single and record is available along with all of The Hawkins’ latest news at:



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The Hawkins’ New “Live” EP Is A Positive Companion Piece To Its Latest LP

Courtesy: The Sign Records

Livestream concerts have become all too much the norm ever since last year thanks to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  One can only hope that real live music will return sooner rather than later this year so that audiences and acts can finally get back together in one setting.  Until then, those livestream shows will sadly remain the norm.  While so many acts out there have relegated their live performances to paid online shows, independent rock band The Hawkins is taking a slightly less traveled road.  The band will help audiences continue to get their live fix Friday when it releases its new “live” EP Live in the Woods through The Sign Records.  The seven song recording stands out in part because of its featured songs, which will be addressed shortly.  The production of the featured songs adds to this recording’s appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing puts the final touch to the recording’s presentation.  It will also be discussed later.  All three items noted here are key in their own way to the whole of Live in the Woods.  All things considered, they make Live in the Woods a relatively enjoyable new way for audiences to get their live fix while they wait for the return of real live music.

The Hawkins’ forthcoming live EP Live in the Woods is a unique way for rock fans to get their live music fix while they wait for the return of actual live concerts.  At the base of the recording is its list of featured songs.  Seven songs make up the record’s body, all of which come from the band’s sophomore album, Silence is a Bomb (2020).  Considering that the album in question consists of 12 songs, what audiences get in this set list is a presentation of more than half of that record, just in a semi-live setting.  While it would have been nice to have had a sampling of work from the band’s debut album Ain’t Rock n Roll (2017) or the two EPs that preceded it – Guantanamo Bassline  (2014) and Part II: The Puppet Show (2014) – the featured set list still makes some sense here.  After all, this recording’s release will come Friday less than a year after the release of Silence is a Bomb.  Considering that most live performances are held in support of an act’s most recent studio recording, it makes more sense that this, taking place of any live shows, would largely promote The Hawkins’ latest album.  Keeping all of this in mind, the main body of Live in the Woods serves as at least a relatively appealing element.  The production of the recording’s featured songs adds its own appeal to the presentation.

The songs that make up the body of Live in the Woods were recorded at two different locations — a barn somewhere in the forests of Sweden, and at Brasstacks Brewing, which brewed the band’s latest signature craft beer, Olsson Lager.  The natural settings captures well, the sound of the band in a live setting, just without an audience.  That lack of an audience meant particular attention had to be paid to all of the audio from each recording.  Audiences will be pleased to know that none of the instruments overpower one another, nor do the vocals get washed out or even overpower the instruments.  Simply put, everything is balanced expertly throughout the course of each performance.  Given, The Hawkins is not the first band to record a live performance “in studio” (basically).  Between The Buried and Me took the same approach years ago before everyone was going livestream concerts and live studio recordings.  That aside the approach taken here, what with its production, resulted in a performance that audiences will agree sounds just as good as it looks in its presentation.  The overall production of the songs featured in this recording and the songs themselves join to make for even more appeal, and are still just a portion of what makes the recording so appealing.  The sequencing of the recording’s featured songs rounds out its most important aspects.

Listeners will notice in taking in the recording, the presentation’s sequencing keeps the energy high throughout.  The only point at which the recording even remotely pulls back in terms of its overall energy is in the opening bars of ‘Roomer.’  Even that change in energy is temporary at best.  Once the song gets going, it doesn’t look back, keeping the energy flowing steadily throughout and on into the rest of the EP’s featured songs.  In other words, the energy stays high throughout this record and only eases up at the recording’s end.  Taking that into consideration along with the fact that the sequencing also ensures the stylistic approach of each song is different from the last, the result is even more appeal.  Keeping all of this in mind along with the importance of the EP’s featured songs and their production, the whole of this recording proves to be a good way for The Hawkins’ fans and for rock fans in general to get their live fix until such time that real live music finally returns.

The Hawkins’ new “live” EP Live in the Woods is a presentation that will help tide over the band’s fans and rock fans in general until real live concerts finally return to the world.  It is also a good marketing tool for the band in its efforts to market its most recent album Silence is a Bomb.  That is proven in part through the songs that make up the body of the recording.  The songs are all pulled from the record in question, which was released just last year.  The production of those songs expertly captures the feeling of a live show from The Hawkins, pointing back to why this recording serves as a feasible live alternative for the time being.  The sequencing of the recording’s featured songs puts the finishing touch to the presentation, ensuring listeners will remain engaged and entertained through this element just as much as through the content itself.  Each item noted is important in its way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make the recording a positive companion piece to The Hawkins’ latest studio recording and an equally appealing live work for rock fans and the band’s fans alike.  Live in the Woods is scheduled for release Friday.

More information on Live in the Woods is available along with all of The Hawkins’ latest news at:



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‘Silence Is A Bomb” Is An “Explosive” New Offering From The Hawkins

Courtesy: The Sign Records

Independent rock band The Hawkins is scheduled to release its sophomore album Friday.  The 12-song record – Silence is a Bomb – is a record that given the right support will certainly make lots of noise.  That is thanks to its musical arrangements and its lyrical content.  The album’s penultimate song ‘Fisherman Blues’ is just one of the songs that serves to support the noted statement.  It will be addressed shortly.  ‘Minuette,’ the record’s midpoint, is another example of the album’s strength and will be discussed a little later.  The same can be said of ‘Hilow,’ which comes early in the album’s run.  All three songs do their own part to make Silence is a Bomb.  All things considered, they make the album a work that holds its own against its more well-known mainstream counterparts and its independent contemporaries.

The Hawkins’ sophomore album Silence is a Bomb that deserves its own share of noise in the mainstream music realm.  That is because its musical and lyrical content together is just as strong as anything that works from the band’s more well-known cohorts have released to date.  That is proven in part through the album’s penultimate song ‘Fisherman Blues.’  The song’s musical arrangement is deceiving, starting out in fact in a decidedly blues fashion.  However, that blues approach only lasts but so long before the band – Albin Grill (drums), Martin Larrson (bass), Mikael Thunborg (guitar, vocals), and Johannes Carlsson (vocals) – launches into a more fiery approach roughly one minute into the song.  The approach that the band takes here is in a familiar neo-classic rock style.  Listeners can hear influences of bands, such as Queen and KISS here alongside Led Zeppelin.  What is important to note is that even with those influences in mind, the song’s arrangement is still its own distinctly unique presentation that will keep listeners engaged and entertained.  Even more interesting is that even as infectious as the song’s arrangement is, its upbeat energy and tone goes somewhat counter to its equally familiar lyrical theme, but at the same time works so well with that content — that of a broken personal relationship.

The topic of the broken relationship (whether it is just personal in general or romantic is unknown and beside the point is inferred in the song’s chorus.  Carlsson sings in the chorus, “I don’t want to be here with you anymore/’Cause you are taking me down with you every time you fall/Catch me if you can/You f****** cannonball/We’re here ‘til the hook comes ripping you apart.”  That’s a pretty strong statement in just a handful of lines, and leaves little doubt as to the song’s lyrical theme.  It’s just a portion of what makes the song’s theme so clear.  Carlsson makes mention in the song’s lead verse of “Pulling away from the pain/The past pulling me apart” and that “I hear voices everywhere/Inside Out/Inside out/Through every scar…”  Those brooding lines that open the song work well with the song’s chorus, to illustrate the thoughts and emotions of someone who has gone through a lot emotionally and is just done with it all.  Again, this theme is accessible for pretty much any listener.  Add in the equally infectious musical arrangement, and audiences get a song that is even stronger and more proof of the album’s strength, too.  It is just one of the songs that serves to show why Silence is a Bomb is so worth hearing.  ‘Minuette’ is another important addition to the album.

‘Minuette’ clocks in at barely over one minute, yet is still its own powerful work.  The song’s arrangement is a hard-hitting garage punk style work that ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment just as much as ‘Fisherman Blues’ and any of the album’s other works.  It lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of Jet, The Darkness, and other similar acts.  That fiery energy in the song’s musical arrangement is just one part of what makes it stand out.  It couples with the song’s equally strong lyrical theme to add to its interest.

The lyrical theme featured in this brief but so energetic song comes across as being another work about a relationship.  Some of the lyrics are difficult to decipher without a lyrics sheet to reference.  However, there is mention here of a “siren song” and of a “reflection” while the song’s subject asks the other person to “just give me a little more slack.”  Hopefully that interpretation is at least somewhere in the proverbial ballpark.  Either way, the seemingly intense lyrical content will engage and entertain listeners in its own right.  When it is considered along with the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the song connects with listeners in its own unique fashion.  Each side considered together here, the song leaves no doubt as to its importance in the bigger picture of the album and is just one more example of why the album is such a successful new offering from The Hawkins.  ‘Hilow’ is one more way in which the album shows its strength.

‘Hilow’ is another key addition to The Hawkins’ new album in part because of its musical arrangement.  The arrangement stands out just as much as that of ‘Minuette’ and ‘Fisherman’s Blues.  This song’s arrangement is more of a pop rock style work that will take listeners back to the 90s.  It is comparable to works from the likes of Gin Blossoms and Goo Goo Dolls among others from that era.  The song’s lyrical content joins that arrangement to add to the song’s interest.

The lyrical theme here seems to center once more on the topic of a relationship that has ended.  What is ended here is that considering the wording that can be deciphered, it would seem that maybe this was a relationship that ended less negatively than others, but still did not end on the best note.  This is inferred as Carlsson sings in the song’s second verse that he “still had so much to say to you.”  This even though the song’s subject sings in the song’s chorus, “I see your highs/I see your lows/I see them everywhere I go.”  it really is a matter that will connect with listeners in that it seems to find the two people in the relationship at a unique position.  Maybe it is that post breakup moment in which maybe the healing has started.  It would be interesting to learn precisely what is happening here.  If in fact that is what is happening here, it would explain the more positive sense that the song’s arrangement establishes.  Keeping this in mind, it shows even more why the song is such an interesting addition to The Hawkins’ new album.  What’s more, it shows even more why the album is such a positive new effort from the band.  When this song is considered along with the other songs examined here, and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album becomes a work that although independent, is just as enjoyable as anything that The Hawkins’ more well-known counterparts have released past or present.  It is a work that is just as deserving as so many others to get a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new rock and independent albums lists.

The Hawkins’ new album Silence is a Bomb is a strong new offering from the independent rock band.  That is due in part to its musical arrangements, which are diverse in their own right, displaying elements of pure rock, emo, and even punk among other rock sub genres.  They collectively make the album appealing in its own right to listeners.  The record’s lyrical themes are just as accessible as their musical counterparts.  This is proven through all three of the songs examined where.  When those songs are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries, the whole becomes a wok that deserves consideration on this year’s lists of top new rock and independent albums lists.  It is scheduled for release Friday through The Sign Records.  More information on Silence is a Bomb is available along with all of The Hawkins’ latest news at:









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