Friday, May 26, 2017

Slowes - Times EP

The music world is awash with electro-pop, which raises the question:  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Of course, that is a trick question because the answer depends on the songwriting and performance.  When we sorted through new electro--pop recently, the duo that seems to us to drip with promise is Slowes.  The multifaceted Copenhagen duo has just delivered their debut EP Times, and we have it on repeated plays.  Opening song "Anymore" and the third track, "Enough", offer perfectly crafted, glossy, neo-R&B synth pop.  The title track presents moody, dubby experimental pop.  Track four is "U", a bittersweet new wave song about wanting someone who wants someone else.  The EP's mood becomes slower and more contemplative with "Heartbreak Again" and "OOX", the second of which is a slow burner that is becoming a favorite around here.  Love and loss with solid melodies and beats and R&B influenced vocals -- a very good debut and highly recommended to start your weekend.

Slowes is Jack Kilburn (vocals) and Anders Hamann (beats).  Times EP is out today via Distiller Records.

Distiller Records

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sea Pinks - Watercourse

We consume a lot of music here at WYMA World Headquarters.  Hell, we consume even more music than beer and pizza, and we consume so much beer and pizza that we are working on our beer budget for October -- October 2023, to be exact.  And what we are looking for is the magic that makes an indie band worth recommending over other indie bands.  The magic can be a specific attribute of a musical work or, more often, a combination of attributes.

Today's special magic is brought to us by the Northern Irish imagineers known as Sea Pinks.  The trio's sixth album, Watercourse, quite simply does what its predecessors have done, only better.  And that is transporting us to a special place where you hear the sea, feel the sun and wind, and celebrate being alive.  It isn't so much a time and place, although there are plenty of echoes of '80s and '90s guitar pop and hints of California rock.  The guitars jangle, chime, and crunch, while the propulsive rhythm section provides a solid backbone.   The lyrics are bittersweet, yearning, and searching, not so much offering answers as setting the stage for your own musings -- perhaps with some sly guiding. Fittingly for a band inspired by sea grass, the arrangements are relaxed, although by no means languid.  In fact, this may be the most forward of the Sea Pinks albums in memory, suggesting some Glasgow/Postcard Records and Dunedin in the DNA, but leavened with some surf and country rock touches.  The magic is the performances that only hint at influences and leave us with the impression that this is Sea Pinks music, and nothing else.  And we think it is the perfect soundtrack for whatever action you have planned for summer days.

Sea Pinks are Neil Brogan (guitar/vocals), Steven Henry (bass), and Davey Agnew (drums).  Watercourse is out Friday, May 26 via CF Records.  See the Bandcamp link below for details.  May and June tour dates for the British Isles and Europe are listed below.

Bandcamp for album

Tour Dates:
25 May - Rosin Dubh, Galway
26 May - The Grand Social, Dublin
29 May - Bush Hall, London
31 May - Supersonic, Paris
1 Jun - Bar Hic, Rennes
2 Jun - DIY Cafe, Lille
3 Jun - De Nieuwe Anita, Amsterdam
4 Jun - Coin Aux Etoiles, Mons
5 Jun - Gruner Jager, Hamburg
6 Jun - Internet Explorer, Berlin
7 Jun - Kunstkeller, Furth
8 Jun - Schuur, Lucerne
9 Jan - Hirscheneck, Basel
10 Jun - Le Salopard, Biel
11 Jun - Handmade Festival, Guastalla
17 Jun - Black Box, Belfast

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Feature - Banishing Ritual

It seems to us that the usual template is for musicians to form bands with the intent of making it "big", or at least continuing until making it big isn't going to happen.  And then there is Feature.  The trio is Liv Willars (guitar/vocals), Jen Calleja (drums/vocals), and Heather Perkins (bass/vocals), and they released their debut LP, Banishing Ritual, on April 7, 2017 (following an earlier EP and split single).  Their farewell LP, Banishing Ritual, was available on April 7, 2017, and they had already disbanded.  Now, we could just say "oh, well, at least they quit before it all got stale" and move on to ongoing bands who will appreciate kind words for what they mean to their future.  But the thing is, you deserve to know about good music, and musicians that produce good music should be recognized even if the project is defunct.

So, what is so good about Banishing Ritual (other than being the best damn album Feature ever released)?  The answer is that this is a melodic, but loud album of punk and post punk rock that will remind the listener of Sonic Youth, The Ramones, The Breeders and The Slits.  The performances are intense, with powerful chords, snappy choruses, plenty of buzz and distortion, and a bit of drone.  The vocals are engaging' particularly when the three members hit their bubblebum punk groove, and the spirit of the proceedings is palpable.  Perhaps the best summary is provided by the band on their Bandcamp page: "Tuneful but weaponized".

Banishing Ritual is out now via Upset the Rhythm.  See the Bandcamp link for details.  And a thanks to The Finest Kiss blog for letting us know about this fine album.

Upset The Rhythm

Monday, May 22, 2017

"So Long" by The Popguns

One of the many things I've learned in life is that there is never a bad time for a new song from The Popguns.  And the theorem has been proved right again with the arrival of "So Long".  Flowing, melodic, bittersweet -- it is classic stuff from one of the the best indie pop bands.  It is available for a few more days as a free download from the Bandcamp link below.  If you want both tracks, or if you fail to act before this Thursday, you can still buy the single, comprised of "So Long" and companion track "Sugar Kisses" as a digital download.  For a bit of cold cash, you also can get a CD with "So Long" and "Sugar Kisses" if you are lucky enough to act before the very limited supply of CDs is gone.

And in June, Matinee Recordings will release the new album, Sugar Kisses, which will include both of these tracks plus eight other gems.  June is looking good to us!

Bandcamp for "So Long"
Matinee Recordings page for Sugar Kisses

Jessica Says - Do With Me What U Will

Jessica Venables writes, records and performs under the name Jessica Says.  Possessed of an excellent voice and captivating delivery, the young Melbourne singer's brand of intense pop understandably draws comparisons to Kate Bush.  Venables is a classically trained cellist, and on her new album, Do With Me What U Will, she favors rich arrangements and high gloss production which provide an interesting contract to her direct lyrical content.  The song styles are varied among cabaret, pop, and even dance (see "Queen of the Night" and "Collarbones").  This is an album that reveals new delights with every listen, and we never tire of hearing Jessica's voice.

Do With Me What U Will is Jessica's second album.  The long span between her 2009 debut and this release is due to severe injuries she suffered in a fall.  The album is out now via Chapter Music.  See the Bandcamp link for details.

Bandcamp for Do With Me What U Will

Friday, May 19, 2017

Zebra Hunt - In Phrases

Opening track "I Won't Blame You" commences with  two notes followed by the rhythm section rolling in like thunder on a summer day in the mountains, and then joined by guitar chords jangling like Bobby "Fuller's I Fought the Law".  Welcome to In Phrases. Welcome to the world of Zebra Hunt, a world where energy, melody, deft writing, exquisite timing and a bit of grit, and a bit plus more of jangle, transport you to places that only good music can take you.  You feel the thump of the drums and bass in your chest, the jangling and ringing guitars in your brain and you get blissfully lost in the moment.  The Feelies did this for us, The Clean did this for us, The Bats and The Chills still do it.  The promise was evident in Zebra Hunt's previous work, but In Phrases puts them on the list.

The songs on this album are focused, the stories specific, personal and relateable.  We feel the yearning, the lust, the loss, and the regret.  The performances are confident -- the sound of a band that believes in what they are doing and believes that we will like it as well.  And the execution is as impeccable with mid-tempo songs as it is with the blistering jangle rockers.  The bottom line is that in our opinion In Phrases is the best example of New Zealand-style guitar pop not on Flying Nun, Fishrider, Merge or Trouble In Mind (your move labels, your move).  If we had the budget, they would be our choice for a house band.  As it is, they are a prime example of why we take the time to tell people about indie music.

Zebra Hunt, in alphabetical order, are Aaron (guitar), Erik (bass), Mitch (drums), and Robert (guitar/lead vocals).  In Phrases is available digitally on Bandcamp, and physically via Jigsaw Records in the US and Madrid's Tenorio Cotobade Records for the rest of the world.

Zebra Hunt's Bandcamp for In Phrases
Jigsaw Records page for In Phrases
Tenorio Cotobade's Bandcamp for In Phrases
Tenorio Cotobade Records

Those Unfortunates - Nothing Isn't Beautiful

Two of my favorite albums of the year so far are released today, and we'll deal with them one at a time, starting with Nothing Isn't Beautiful by London quartet Those Unfortunates.  I'll begin by noting that I am a mature, stable man with no hipster pretensions, thus it should be understood that few albums even tempt me to use emoticons.  But if I were a weaker man, Nothing Isn't Beautiful might be the one to do so.  And happy emoticons they would be.

Those Unfortunates crafted the album as 13 stories of the highs and lows of a year living in the Big City.  We are treated to reactions to boredom, the living death of endless middle management, a failed theatrical performance and a few happy stories as well.  And it all is done in a literate, wry manner and in styles ranging from jaunty jangle pop to pastoral folk pop.  Only the band can advise you of their influences, but at various times I hear bits of Orange Juice, Cats on Fire, Syd  Barrett, The Kinks, a less punky Ballboy, and, on the quieter moments, John Blain Hunt's Butcher Boy project and Firestations.  The album radiates intelligence and a flair for storytelling, with the melancholy offset by endearing melodies and able grooves.  And without exception, I find it completely captivating.  In fact, if anyone wonders why there haven't been more posts lately, blame Those Unfortunates, as I keep reaching for their album.

The first half of the album contains the more immediately upfront crowd pleasers, in particular "A Question For Mr Richardson", "Repertory Man", "A Song For Brampton Court", "The Consolations Of A Life I Know" and ... come to think of it, the entire A-side is really top drawer stuff.   The latter half of the album is lovely stuff as well, it simply is -- with the exception of "In Lavender" -- a more laid back set of songs that choose to reveal their charms more gently.

Nothing Isn't Beautiful is available in digital and CD formats via Midnight Bell records.  See the Bandcamp link for details.  And I'll note that although I wrote this feature without the use of any digital emoticons, the look on my face in the mirror after listening to Nothing Isn't Beautiful may constitute an organic emoticon.  I'll have to live with that.

Bandcamp for Nothing Isn't Beautiful
Midnight Bell Records

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hush Machine - Hush Machine

Fortunately for Western Civilization, anything arguably artistic that I endeavored to do in high school hasn't been memorialized for the ages.  And I expect that is true for most of us.  But 21 year-old Sam Boatright of Lawrence, Kansas isn't most of us.  A few years ago when Sam was a junior and senior in high school he wrote and recorded some songs, eight of which are now available on the self-titled album available under his moniker Hush Machine.  If you are expecting Hush Machine to contain quiet, dreamy and yearning music appropriate for a artistically inclined teenager, you are in for a surprise.  A very pleasant surprise, we expect.  Because what Hush Machine dishes out is robust, new wave glazed garage with a vibe (and vocal quality) not unlike the Strokes.  Exciting, a bit raw, and played with energy and confidence.  This debut is just too good to ignore.

A couple of songs are below, and the entire album can be streamed at the Bandcamp link.  Hush Machine is a digital and CD release via Jigsaw Records.

Bandcamp for Hush Machine
Jigsaw Records

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Arid Sea - New Roman Twilight

We promised 'free music Wednesday' and that is what you are going to get.  Our second (and likely final) free album of the day is New Roman Twilight by Seattle band The Arid Sea.  The album was released as a limited edition CD in 2005, and received positive and well-justified reviews from those privileged to have heard it.  Weaving elements of dark folk, Gothic post punk, psychedelic and melodic indie rock, it presents a swirling array of broad strokes, dynamic structures and a myriad shades of grey and black.  Yes, the atmosphere is undeniably moody and infused with sorrow.  But a beating heart and rays of tentative hope peak through.  It is a masterful, heartbreakingly lovely work, and we are pleased that the band has again made it available.

The Arid Sea was Joseph Mass (drums), Michael Guillory (bass) and Isaac Aubrey (guitar/vocals).  Several of their other releases are to be found at the Bandcamp link, and we understand that more may be available in time.  There has been some chatter about a reunion as well, and we will let you know if we hear more about that.

Bandcamp for New Roman Twilight

Greatest Hits Summer 2017 - A free album from Labrador Records

We declare today 'free music Wednesday', and our first offering is from Sweden's Labrador Records. A number of that label's releases have featured on these pages over the years, most recently fine albums by The Legends and Djustin.  Now Labrador has generously decided to provide a summer soundtrack including songs from the two aforementioned albums, as well as songs by The Radio Dept., Club 8, and Red Sleeping Beauty, among others.  Stream it below, then hit the links and 'pay what you want' for an excellent set of songs.

Bandcamp for Greatest Hits Summer 2017
Labrador Records