Saturday, March 5, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-4: Louche FC, Moscow Olympics, DJ Y alias JY, The Viceroys

Here is the fourth in the weekend series of pop from around the world. Listen and explore.

The Louche FC is a Manchester, UK four-piece signed to SWAYS Records. The style is jangly indie noise pop and shoegaze with female vocals, almost like a combination of early 60s girl-group pop and Swervedriver with some Orange Juice jangle. Or, as some do, you can call it "Orbison Shoegaze". The song below is "Motorcycle Au Pair Boy". Check out the following Myspace link for two additional nice songs, especially "Back Bedroom Casualty". I hope that we get an album soon.

The Louche F.C - Motorcycle Au Pair Boy by sways

UPDATE: Here is a video for the above song, performed live in Manchester:

And another great song at a little slower pace:


Many of us were disappointed with the Moscow Olympics in 1980, but we now have a reason to celebrate the Moscow Olympics. This version is a promising shoegaze group from the Philippines. The guitars wash over the listener in chiming waves.



It is modern and it is German so, of course, it is electronic and time to dance! Here is DJ Y alias JY from Munich.

If you like his work, click on the link below and get busy downloading a bunch of his mashups.

DJ Y alias JY's downloadable mashups

We'll end with an acoustic version of "Heart Made of Stone" by Jamaica's Viceroys. The cut is from the wonderful 'inna de yard' series, which seeks to present reggae classics as composed in the yards of the ghetto residences.

Inna de yard website

Inna de yard Myspace

REVIEW: Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

I try not to have expectations when I listen to a new record. What if a favorite band wants to try something completely different? In my opinion, they ought to have that freedom, really they've earned it. Take this new Mogwai disc for example.

Autotune, really? Well, in my opinion, it works. Where the first track, "White Noise" is a pretty typical Mogwai track (slow build, eventually overwhelming you with its raw power), "Mexican Grand Prix" (video below) develops steadily from an odd sort of synth click track, while speeding up and eventually adds some chanting autotune vocals. Not what I'd have expected, but it adds a nice touch. I hear Kraftwerk (of course, it's a road song), but filtered through American Analog Set and, of course, amplified to rock.

A delightful video with Glasgow streets and people rushing by at a dizzying pace, this reminds you that Mogwai are from the same place as Teenage Fanclub and Idlewild... I, for one, tend to forget that. But listen to "San Pedro" and "How to Be a Werewolf" and you will be reminded.

Seems to me there's a little more variety here and it's all very well-done. "Letters to the Metro" is a beatiful, country-inflected song, but of course at its conclusion, you are taken right into the choppy, rocking "George Thatcher Square Death Party" which layers in some more autotuned vocals over a punk backbeat and raging guitars. Then you're into "How to Be a Werewolf", which is gorgeous throughout... Let's not waste any more time. This is a fantastic record. I really don't think they've hit a false note on the whole thing. Go get it.

Website: Mogwai

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Old Stuff: The Jangle

No reggae lecture this Friday. Instead, I'm going to indulgently post some clips of old bands that may not be well known, but produced one of my favorite sounds in rock: The jangling, chiming guitar common in powerpop, indie rock and even twee. Many would recognize the sound from the early catalog of The Byrds. There won't be any analysis because there isn't much to say other than my music pleasure sensors max out on this sound. My only regret is that I have to limit the representative bands and songs from the chosen bands. Most of these bands are bands from the '80s UK pop scene, many of whom were considered part of the "C-86" era.

Scotland's Close Lobsters (which is the answer to the trivia question, what did the band do when some members wanted to call the band The Close" and some wanted to call it "The Lobsters"). These guys get two slots, because it is my post.

However, my favorite band name of the bunch -- 14 Iced Bears

The Popguns, from Brighton, UK:


The Chesterfields

The Jasmine Minks

Mighty Mighty

I'll save some of my favorites for another Friday.

Old Stuff Friday - The Soul Corner - Aretha

The Grammys and all the media attention about her illness got me thinking more than ever about Aretha. What can I say about the Queen of Soul except that she is my favorite singer of all time? I could post 50 songs from her, but in keeping with my Soul Corner tradition I have to pick just one.
Stevie Wonder wrote this song for Aretha, so this week's soul pick "Until You Come Back to Me" is great on great:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I would walk a thousand miles . . .

Been up in Chicago for a week trying a case, and homesickness has set in. This isn't facebook, but it made me think of this video -- not just this great song, but this version, played by Will Johnson at the house of some guy named Mike.

Okay, here's another good version, where Will plays with Patterson Hood and the Screwtopians.

And then there's this fantastic cover, by a former Drive by Trucker, Jason Isbell. We know all the Truckers are and were great Centro-matic fans.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Emerging Seattle Bands: Beat Connection

As the days get longer and warmer, can it really be too early to be on the lookout for some chill summer tunes? I thought not! Fusing indie rock, synth rock, bedroom pop, dance pop and a bit of world beat, and washing it in sunshine, seems to be the recipe for Seattle's Beat Connection. A case in point is "Silver Screen":

Sure, it sounds like it may nothing but studio wizardry, but Beat Connection known for killing it live, as well. Seattle's City Arts magazine named them fifth in their 'Best New Bands 2011' poll. Moreover, their chops are being recognized outside of Seattle as well as they'll be in Austin in mid-March for SXSW, and their song "Silver Screen" was chosen by Drowned in Sound blog as the single of the week. All of this is even more impressive when you realize that the gang seems to still be in their early 20s.


The name of the eight song debut EP is Surf Noir. Some of the songs were available in mp3 format previously, but they have been mastered for the release of the EP.

"In The Water":

Beat Connection on Myspace

Monday, February 28, 2011

REVIEW: Lifeguards - Waving at the Astronauts

Lifeguards is Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard, and those two are a match made in pop/rock heaven. Since Gillard first joined Guided by Voices and donated the great "I Am a Tree", they've made great guitar rock together. In addition to the GbV albums from Under the Bushes Under the Stars through Half Smiles of the Decomposed, they've put together some great side projects, including 1999's Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (great advice because, as Bob once opined from the stage, "they just might save your flaming ass someday").

Point is, a Bob/Doug piece is just about guaranteed to make rock fans happy... and Waving at Astronauts certainly does.

Here's the first track, "Paradise Is Not So Bad". Check out the little vocal "hiccup" in the first line... the kind of thing that distinguishes great rock vocalists from the rest of 'em:

She stumbles down a -
Corridor of drunken madness

LIFEGUARDS - Paradise Is Not So Bad by seriousbusiness

It's a Pollard pop/rock tour de force, as are several of the other tracks on the record, but this being a Pollard disc, there's plenty of psych, punk and prog. Check out the restrained guitar solo on track 3, "Doing the Math", and the punk backbeat on 4, "Product Head"... and the overall rollicking rock freakout of track 6, "Sexless Auto".

I don't think anybody synthesizes the disparate influences from the golden age of album rock (say, 1977, the year of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pink Floyd, Television and Judas Priest, The Sex Pistols and Kraftwerk, David Bowie and Neil Young...) like Robert Pollard, while still managing to do new, or at least interesting, things with them.

And then there's the Pollard wordplay. Try not to smile as snippets like "same face the pie got smashed" and "shocking outcomes and hot propositions/from the out of body builders" rise above the mix...

Pollard and Gillard are clearly interested in the concept of the hero: astronauts, volunteer firemen, lifeguards... and I would put them in that category, at least in spirit, for doing their part to save rock's flaming ass from itself. While the industry continues to founder and lurch from one kid-friendly trend to another, there are guys like Pollard and Gillard, working in places like Dayton, Ohio, to deliver rock excellence to folks like us. Speak kindly is the least I could do.

Buy the record: Serious Business Records Website or Ernest Jenning Records Website

Here's a song-by-song account written by Doug Gillard on his Facebook page. I found this very enjoyable for several reasons, not least of which is the opportunity to discover the motivation for some more of Pollard's seeming non sequitir lyrics (check out Doug's explanation of the line "Post modern science is a trip" in "Keep It In Orbit":

Doug Gillard Song Notes for Lifeguards' Waving at the Astronauts

Sunday, February 27, 2011

REVIEW: The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh

I don't have nearly the time to listen to music that I once did, so any new young artist has to elbow past the likes of Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, The Rolling Stones and R.E.M. to get in heavy rotation at my house. I try to keep up, but don't do nearly as well as the other 3 writers here, though often still manage to find new stuff that I like a lot. But few if any of them bore a hole in my soul.

But I have flipped over The Low Anthem. They first came to my attention through a music industry friend who knew my tastes and ordered me to go pick up their 2009 release Oh My God Charlie Darwin. It was my favorite release of that year. For me, it's always about the songs, the compositions themselves, and the Low Anthem write beautiful, rich, revealing and unique songs, my favorite on Charlie Darwin being "To Ohio", which Emmylou Harris will be recording on her next record.

So when I heard they had a new one coming, I was eager to hear it. Smart Flesh, recorded in an abandoned spaghetti sauce factory in their Providence RI hometown, is a bold, sweeping effort, full of quiet spaces, beautiful vocals, and unique multi-instrumentation, much of it played on old found instruments (pump organ, clarinet, fiddle, saw, dulcimer to name a few). It is hard to compare the Low Anthem's signature sound to anyone, but I do hear hints of the Band, Leonard Cohen and Vic Chesnutt, maybe not in any linear way but more for the thoughtful artistry and masterful writing.

While they are certainly not a rock band in any sense, they can turn it up when they want to. Two of the most immediate songs here are the noisy, fast-paced "Boeing 737" and "Hey All You Hippies" a catchy stomp that could have found a place in the Camper van Beethoven catalogue.

But it's the slow quiet material that defines the aptly named Low Anthem and leaves such an indelible impression.

"Matter of Time" with its haunting church organ sound, and the hushed somewhat odd "Burn" stand out in particular. And while it is easy to label them an Americana band due to the timeless somewhat rural feel here (despite their urban East Coast zip code), that doesn't really fit due to the relative lack of guitars and little in the way of a conventional singer-songwriter sound. But they do easily deliver up a couple perfectly crafted country folk songs like "Apothecary Love" and "I'll Take Out Your Ashes".

The video for lead track here "Ghost Woman Blues" sums them up well and shows the factory where they recorded, its high ceilings and empty spaces used to great effect here to create an expansive, vaguely mysterious sound.

Charlie Darwin continued to reveal itself over a year of frequent listens, and I suspect Smart Flesh will as well. Like a lot of my favorite artists, the Low Anthem require the listener to extend some effort too, but then richly reward you when you do.

This is a terrific record from an important new voice in American music. The Low Anthem deserve to be heard.

For more on the band and the recording of Smart Flesh, here's a link to an article from the New York Times.

Low Anthem Feature From NY Times: Feb 20, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-3: Tiny Tide, Johnny Lee Hart, Baffin Island, Sonny and the Sunsets, Finley Quaye

Spinning the big world pop wheel to see who we will discover this weekend, we have four sets for you. And don't retire early, because the best may be the last set.

Ah, shoegaze -- Tiny Tide from Italy helped by Johnny Lee Hart from Leeds, UK, is the first stop. The name of the song is "Come Along Pond":

Come Along Pond by tinytide

If you like it, it is available as a free download:

Free Tiny Tide song on Soundcloud

The next spin of the wheel takes us to Baffin Island. No, not the actual island, but a group named after Baffin Island because it is the geographically equidistant from Glasgow, Scotland, where Melanie Whittle of the group Hermit Crabs resides, and Boise, Idaho, where Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of the group The Very Most reside. It is well done indie pop ear-candy. The bad news is that I wasn't able to embed anything for you. But the good news is that your effort at clicking the link below not only takes you to a page where you can listen to their 3-song release, you also can download a mini album for free.

Baffin Island on EardrumsPop

The wheel is spinning, it stops, and I...push it to the slot I want. I can do that, because it is my post. And what do we get out of such indulgence? Low-Fi garage rock -- Sonny and the Sunsets from San Francisco. This group is signed to Fat Possum. They have released one album, and their second, Hit After Hit comes out in April. "I Wanna do It" will be on the April release:

Sonny and the Sunsets on Myspace

Sonny and the Sunsets

I wish I could write that I'd been following the career of Finley Quaye for years, but discovering this terrific song was a bit more haphazard. When the weather was its usual inhospitable self last winter I searched the library system for non-Hollywood movies to watch while riding my road bike on a turbo trainer. One of the movies was a UK indie release set in Scotland called "Late Night Shopping" (by the way, a female lead in the movie, Kate Ashfield, also was in "Shaun of the Dead", and one of the characters in Shopping is named Shaun, so she is required to repeatedly say "Shaun" in yet another movie, and I think she is more talented than that; but I digress). While the soundtrack to the movie was good, the standout was the closing song, and here it is:

The son of jazz musician Cab Kaye and brother to one and half brother to another jazz musician, Quaye was born in Edinburgh but raised in England. His mother died of a heroin overdose when he was 10, and he didn't meet his father until he was an adult and his band's tour hit the same town as his father's band.

I think Quaye has a great voice, but doesn't always choose or write the best material. But when he gets it right, it is real right. He has had successful songs and albums in the UK.

Finley Quaye on Myspace

"Sunday Shining" is, for me, a rare kind of song that I hear and immediately put it on the "great" shelf, but "Dice" just kind of kicks me where I feel (and speaking of feeling, feel free to ignore the silly graphics on the video). "Dice" was composed with William Obit and Beth Orton.