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Mike Vasas and the Beasts of Burden
Mike Vasas and the Beasts of Burden
Grammy Hall Records

Needs more cowbell? While true that the cowbell is among the instruments used on Mike Vasas and the Beasts of Burden self-titled debut (along with the mandolin, dulcimer, marimba and harpsichord), one would be hard pressed to say that this album needs more of anything. As it stands, it represents an eclectic mix of sounds that, to use a cliché, "make beautiful music together."

Mike Vasas has compared to the likes of Neil Young, David Bowie and Bob Dylan (I would add AMC's Mark Eitzel to that list), and the Beasts of Burden cite influences as widespread as The Arcade Fire and the Beach Boys. However, to try and compare the band's overall sound to other artists is difficult -- there's simply so much going on here. The album opener, "Cross the Border," starts out with simple guitar and folksy vocals, but adds layers of sound as it marches on towards a climax. "Makeshift" is a sort of bluesy lounge, Bob Dylan playing at Ziggy Stardust, and "Slavery"'s dreamy soundscape conjures up images of Wilco and Radiohead. Much of the album features thick, rich layers of instrumentation, but Vasas himself seems to shine brightest when accompanied by the slower, simpler melodies of songs ike "Selfish Circles" and "One Day."

Favorite Track: Track 11, "Shells"

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Michael Fiegel is a freelance writer and graphic designer. His diverse background includes journalism, radio copywriting, technical writing, game design and music reviewing. He is best known as the creator of the Internet cult sensation, Ninja Burger. He can be reached at or at his website,

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