Friday, August 29, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Dancing With Mr. D

Keith Richards once remarked that the Rolling Stones went to Jamaica in November 1972 to record Goats Head Soup because it was the only country that would let him in. The resulting record was far more laid back than its predecessor Exile on Main St

One of my favorites is the lead track, the dark and brooding "Dancing With Mr. D". I love the slow burn and groove of this one, fitting well with the death imagery:    

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Psychotropic" from Los Tones

One of our favorite psychedelic garage rock bands, Sydney, Australia's Los Tones, have laid another delicious tracks on our grateful ears.  "Psychotropic" as a swampy swing, a rock attitude and plenty of ragged edges found in the best tunes from the garage.  The song is taken from their debut album, which will be out in October.  If you can't wait, the single can be purchases at the Bandcamp link below.  Great stuff -- play it loud and proud!


Preview: Bumbershoot, Seattle, Aug 30 - Sept 1

The Replacements, 2013

It's not too late to get yourself to Seattle this weekend for one of year's most enjoyable festivals, Bumbershoot, now in its 31st year. It's held in the heart of that scenic and great city on the grounds of the 1962 World's Fair. There's an unusually wide variety of music, comedy (Eugene Mirman!), authors, and visual art, and even a family friendly series of offerings ("Youngershoot").

I'm heading up there Sunday for the privilege of seeing The Replacements (photo above) and an all star tribute to Big Star featuring original drummer Jody Stephens, performing the band's classic record Third / Sister Lovers  with Mike Mills, Ken Stringfellow, Mitch Easter, Chris Stamey, various other musicians of note and a 12 piece orchestra.

Festival headliners include Wu-Tang Clan, Elvis Costello, Foster the People, Panic! At The Disco, and The Head and the Heart.

We'll report back on what we see up there, especially how the mighty Replacements, or what's left of them, performed.

Many bands we've covered here at WYMA will play at Bumbershoot, including Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, Red Fang, Los Lobos, Polica, Pickwick, and Lonely Forest.

Everything you need to know about Bumbershoot, from lineups for how to get tickets is at their web page:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

REVIEW: The Griswolds - Be Impressive

Be Impressive from The Griswolds is one of those albums that seems to have the ambition to live up to its name.  It has accessible melodies, big hooks, engaging choruses that invite you to sing along, solid rhythms with a touch of the tropical and tendency to provoke dancing, and energy to spare.  So, you ask, should I like it?  For my money, the answer is yes.  This is pop/rock that always has a place at the table.  Music doesn't need to have an edge, or a controversial point of view.  It can just be fun for those many, many listeners who want fun.  And Be Impressive is packed with an impressive amount of fun.  But more importantly, this debut album from four young Australians is about as smart and sharp as pop music can be.  And one of the many things I love about it is that you don't need huge studio budgets and teams of guest musician, hired hook specialists and beat producers to create music that you really, really want to hear when you turn on the radio or que up a playlist.

If you haven't heard The Griswolds, you might be inclined to think I'm overstating their case, so I invite you to take them for a test listen with their hit single from the album, "Beware the Dog".

The Griswolds seem to be on the right track for a long stay on the music scene, and they even have an appropriately named track to celebrate it.

The Griswolds are Christopher Whitehall (vocals/guitar), Daniel Duque-Perez (lead guitar), Tim John (bass) and Lachlan West (drums).  Be Impressive is out now via Wind Up Records

By the way, The Griswolds are in the United States now and you may be able to feed off of their energy at one of the remaining tour dates:
8/28 -- Albany, NY -- Hollow
8/29 -- Burlington, NY -- Higher Ground
8/30 -- Rochester, NY -- Montage Music Hall
9/3 -- Lansing, MI -- The Loft
9/5 -- Kansas City, KS -- Sporting Park
9/6 -- Tulsa, OK -- The Vanguard
The band will then resume touring in Australia.

Wind Up Records

Monday, August 25, 2014

"14 Years Young" from Food Court (free download)

When bands announce an upcoming record, you can be sure that they hope you remember.  Otherwise there wouldn't be any point.  Well, Australian garage rockers Food Court have announced that they will release their Big Weak EP in early November.  Are potential buyers going to remember?  I expect that the name of the band helps with a certain demographic.  They go to the mall, they get hungry, and they decide to go to the food court.  Hah! There is the reminder that the EP is coming.  But sometimes you need something more.

Well, Food Court has that something more.  They are giving away "14 Years Young", the first single off of Big Weak, as a free download on Bandcamp.  This indeed is the right stuff.  We download this raucous nugget of rock excellence, play it daily and remember, even crave, the EP.


REVIEW: Peter Escott - The Long O

The Long O is very intriguing album of somewhat idiosyncratic, keyboard-based ballads and experimental pop from Hobart, Tasmania's poet and musician Peter Escott.  It is true that his output as one half of Native Cats was keyboard-based pop as well, but it seems to me that the similar choice of musical weapons doesn't add up to more of the same.  Without his Native Cats conspirator, bassist Julian Teakle,  Peter's range of expression swings away from that project's dance-oriented tunes to something more insular and dreamy.  The piano, synth, melodica and a touch of guitar are his only tools other than his voice.  The minimal instrumentation leads results in a bounty of space around the chords and lyrics, which both lends power and creates a sense of distance.  There are no players other than Escott on The Long O.  And coupled with Escott's restrained delivery, the overall effect is as if discovering the song and piano man at the nightclub playing for himself after closing.  But rather than feeling like I'm getting leftover material not deemed good enough for the drinkers who stuffed bills in the tip jar, it seems to me that I'm getting the songs that actually mean something to the piano man.

The songs vary between brief snips and more lengthy works.  Some tracks such as "O", are decidedly experimental, while others, "Ship of Theseus" for example, is more meditative.  More straightforward pop is on offer with "My Heaven, My Rules", "No One", "Mealymouth", and "Believe In The Devil World".  For my money, "My Heaven, My Rules" is the highlight of the album and, in fact is one of my favorite songs of the year. Driven by Escott's piano, the song is a crooner's recap of a relationship, in which he points out that the other party never had to live by his rules.  "Mealymouth" is a dream pop creation, all appealing haze.  "Believe in the Devil World" is another delicious slice of cabaret, sung over a simple organ riff and drum machine.  You can stream three of those tracks below, but to stop there would deprive you of the power of "No One" and the quiet, meandering beauty of "Desmond's Song".

Peter Escott - My Heaven My Rules from BSR on Vimeo.

The more dreamy "Mealymouth" --

Bedroom Suck Records

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Introducing: Little Shoes Big Voice

Introductions are important for new bands.  While it is unrealistic to expect a fledging act to be fully realized from its inception, the songs have to be good enough to attract some fans and prompt the right people pay attention.  It seems to me that London duo Little Shoes Big Voice got it just right.  Jack Durtnall and Emily Harvey previously released the moodily engaging "Nightfall" without much fanfare, and now are following it with the gorgeous soul-infused electro-pop "Blue Veins".  Taken together, the songs make a convincing statement that this is a project to watch.


Friday, August 22, 2014

REVIEW: Laura Jean - Laura Jean

On her self-titled fifth album, Melbourne-based Laura Jean supports her formidable vocal instrument with a notably sharp set of songs.  With a couple of exceptions, including the delightful "Don't Marry The One You Love", the arrangements are sparse, allowing full attention to be drawn to Laura Jean's performance, the quality of the material, and the delightfully backing vocals from Norway's Jenny Hval.  The material leans to the intimate, but is decidedly not claustrophobic.  The effect is that of a close friend reading aloud from her journals, and thereby sharing her observations, memories, insecurities, and short stories, as well as dispensing advice.  In addition to a satisfying thematic range, the artist varies her delivery along a broad range in these ten tracks.  "Don't Marry The One You Love", which is one of my favorites of the set, reveals excellent pop chops to deliver a rather unexpected message regarding romantic attachments.  On two other standout tracks, "Here Comes the Miner" and When I First Brought Him Home", Laura Jean displays old English folk stylings and a touch of southern Gothic, respectively.

Lead-off track "June" walks the line between pop and folk, with an upbeat melody but a haunting vibe, and contains some of the best vocal interplay between Laura Jean and Hval on the album.  "How Will I Know When I'm Home" is a moody, dreamy track with simple piano accompaniment.  The lovely "First Love Song" understandably was chosen as one of the single released in advance of the album.  Stream it below and experience the exquisite phrasing and quite emotional weight of that track and the following "Sister All I Have Are My Arms".  A songwriter this good, deserves a top flight vocalist, and a vocalist this good deserves first class material.  Fortunately, Laura Jean has found herself.

I recommend this album for late at night with your headphones on.  Be warned that the headphones may have formed dents in your head by the time you remove them.

Laura Jean was recorded in Bristol, UK, by long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish.  It is available in digital, vinyl and compact disc formats via Chapter Music.

Chapter Music

Rolling Stones Friday: Honky Tonk Women

We're on vacation this week and not much time to write. So let's go with a sure fire winner that needs little explanation.

"Honky Tonk Women" did not appear on a studio album, but was released as a single in 1969.  Mick Taylor had just joined the band and transformed the song, magically I would say, from its earlier acoustic hoedown version "Country Honk" that appeared on Let It Bleed.

The first 15 seconds here are one of my favorite song openings ever - first cowbell, then drums, then Taylor's nasty guitar lick:

Keith Richards had this to say about "Honky Tonk Women", one of the band's signature songs and biggest hit singles: "It was a groove, no doubt about it, and it's one of those tracks that you knew was a Number One before you'd finished the motherfucker."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: The Hobbes Fanclub - Up At Lagrange

Someone must have been under the impression that I had a landmark birthday on the close horizon (I'm still 29 and holding firm, thank you).  How else to explain finding in my inbox Up At Lagrange from The Hobbes Fanclub?  This is an album that seems to be an ingenious distillation of three of my favorite groups: The Close Lobsters; Teenage Fanclub; and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with a good bit of Ride for good measure.  The album has feedback, jangle, reverb, big hooks and soaring choruses.  It sounds like 1,000 guitars all energetically on task.

It begins with the "Into the Night", a perfect shoegaze song for driving under the stars with the windows down and the summer breeze blowing your hair -- you know, hazy vocals and jangling guitar.  The following "Stay Gold" (stream below) is a jaunty song with upbeat riffs bracketing a simple chorus.  "Your Doubting Heart", one of my favorites, perfectly marries shoegaze and college rock in fine Close Lobsters style.  Track four, "The Boy From Outer Space" is a soaring Teenage Fanclub-meets-Ride tune, with affecting oohhs and aahhs, and  "I Knew You'd Understand" could be its birth twin.  "Run Into The Sea" hits TJ&MC territory with pulsing percussion, and loud and jangling guitars with a touch of feedback.  There are echos of early Ride in "How Could You Leave Me Like This".  Track 8, "Outside Myself" is another standout track that that recalls the The Close Lobsters hits that I still regularly find time to play.

Is this cutting edge music?  No, of course not.  But the game here was never to invent, but to thrill.  And thrill it does.  If I did things like make year end lists of top albums, I would include this one.  And because I do make such lists (and publish them), I assure you that Up At Lagrange already has a spot.

The Hobbes Fanclub is Leon (guitar/vocals), Louise (bass/vocals), and Adam (drums), and they reside in Bradford, UK.  Up At Lagrange is available via Shelflife Records in vinyl, digital and CD formats.

Shelflife Records page for album