Well, summer is finally here and I don’t know about you but for me that means lots of Beach Boys, Ramones and classic 60s Reggae/Ska/Rocksteady on the stereo. Now, like I stated in my review of Unitone HiFi/Jefferson Belt‘s split 7″ (read it here) I am fully aware that it’s a bit snobbish attitude but my main problem with modern reggae is the production. It’s just too clean-sounding and lack the grit and sheer oomph of let’s say Lloyd Charmers‘ outings. French group The Rockin’ Preachers might still sound a bit too polished but they thankfully avoid the modern dancehall sounds and sure have the vibe and songwriting down!

Four songs of upbeat, midtempo summer-esque reggae/ska vibes are served up on their debut (?) EP (the last one an instrumental version) – my favorite being Give Me Some Light. Great, great musicianship and some really good vocal delivery from the lead singer and his back-ups (sorry, no names as their site is low on info and no linked website) proving me once again wrong. Enjoy yourself (it’s later than you think)!

Sample track: 

Website: N/A

Dancehall isn’t really my cup of tea to be honest. Being more into the ’60s style of reggae, ska and rocksteady it always sounded wrong to my ears on account of not being performed on analog instruments. Might be a snobbish attitude, but production to me is an important issue and the modern sounds of Jamaica seem to have way more in common with rave partys on Crete than burnt out island studios where geniuses like King Tubby or Lee Perry could be found behind the controls. Anyway, I’m glad I discovered New Zealand outfit Unitone HiFi and their 2008 split 7″ with Jefferson Belt ’cause they proved me wrong.

On their Up to Eleven the band offers up a tasty blend of heavy classic reggae dub sounds mixed with modern electronica, managing to give us retro freaks our fill while still having enough dancefloor feel for those more “modern inclined”. Nice samples, thick bassline – perfect to groove on. Tons more material on their Bandcamp, so check ’em out!

Sample track:

Bandcamp: http://unitonehifinz.bandcamp.com/
Website: http://www.myspace.com/unitonehifi

Wild Belle

January 16, 2012

A great blend of roots reggae and modern electronica is served up by married (?) couple Natalie and Elliot Bergman on their debut 12″ EP/digital release Keep You. Making music under the Wild Belle moniker, they offer up some nice dub reggae sounds with some slight surf-ish guitars and a fitting vocal delivery occasionally bringing to mind Duffy.

There’s certainly lots of commercial appeal to this outfit and the track has “airplay” written all over it. Apparently not available as a download, so buy the vinyl version and/or keep your fingers crossed they’ll release more material soon.

Sample track:

Bandcamp: http://wildbelle.bandcamp.com/
Website: http://www.facebook.com/wildbelle

Rocksteady Breakfast

December 17, 2011

Minneapolis outfit Rocksteady Breakfast offers up a nice blend of punk/SoCal hardcore and UK-flavored rocksteady on their self-titled debut released earlier this year. Nice snotty vocals alternating between English and Spanish covering pretty classic themes, nice horn section with some neat organ noodlings, and even though they’re not breaking new ground musically it’s still catchy with nice hooks, the occasional sing-along chorus and a healthy dose of Punk Rock sloppiness.

Fans of Rancid, The Specials or Operation Ivy should definitely check this out, and it’s a free download, so what ya got to lose?

Sample track:

Bandcamp: http://rocksteadybreakfast.bandcamp.com/
Website: N/A

Holly Cook

December 15, 2011

On her self-titled debut album Hollie Cook offers up nine classic reggae songs in the vein of old Trojan Records artists like Phyllis Dillon and Rita Marley. Produced by Prince Fatty himself, we’re talking a collection of great sounding reggae pop with hints of the classic girl-group sounds of the 60’s (she actually covers The Shangri-Las Remember (Walking in the Sand)). Add old veterans like George Decker from The Pioneers handling the musical duties you’ve got a sure-fire hit, and Holly (actually the daughter of Sex Pistols‘ drummer Paul Cook!) is rightfully getting exposure in various media.

One album and three 7″ singles has been released to date (all available for download as well!) and there’s a free download available on her site. If you’re an old fan of reggae/dub/rocksteady or maybe just heard an occasional track with Bob Marley you’ll definitely enjoy this!

Sample track:

Bandcamp: http://holliecook.bandcamp.com/
Website: http://www.holliecook.com/

International Observer

December 14, 2011

Well, here’s a blast from the past! Remember 80’s top charters The Thompson Twins? Well, originator Tom Bailey moved back to his native New Zealand and has been keeping himself busy with writing and production work until early 2002 when he launched The International Observer, a sort of modern update of the classic, heady dub sounds of the 70’s! So far he’s released three full length albums and the same amount of EP’s, all available through Bandcamp.

A sort of ambient take on the classic sounds of King Tubby and especially The Scientist, his material is an interesting blend of pretty trippy ambient (including some dancefloor friendly numbers) with some healthy roots I rarely hear in modern dance music. His latest release From the Dungeons of Dub EP was released in October 2010.

Sample track:

Bandcamp: http://internationalobserver.bandcamp.com/
Website: http://www.myspace.com/internationalobserver