Saturday, April 2, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-8: Various Cruelties, The Weeknd, Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo

Our weekly exploration of pop music of various genres from around the world.

From the UK, our first act is Various Cruelties. I'm loathe to use the much overused "amazing", but to quote Sir Paul, baby I'm amazed. I absolutely love the soulful singing, 60s pop mix of surfy-rootsy guitar and strings.







Various Cruelties Website

Various Cruelties on Facebook

The next act is from Canada, and calls itself The Weeknd. If you follow other music blogs (a bit slutty of you, but I like that in a reader) you've likely read about them this week. Generally, the music is R&B style vocals from Abel Tesfaye and sounds from Doc McKinney and Illangelo. The release is called House of Balloons and the buzz is building.





The Weeknd website

The Weeknd on Facebook


Strut Records just sent out a notice that Orchestre Poly-Rythmo is releasing Cotonou Club, its first album in 20 years. This long running group from Benin West Africa has been playing since the late 60s. The music is a mix of Afrobeat, highlife, funk and soul with a bit of traditional West African music. Here the album track "Pardon":



And here are two older tracks:





Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo on Facebook

And just for fun, and because it is almost Sunday, here is some music with a reference to church from the 2007 album by Jamaican-born former US Marine, Shaggy:



Shaggy Website

Shaggy on Facebook

Son of the Tainted: "Operatic" from Exist * Resist

You never know where your next good music recommendation is gonna come from (well, unless you subscribe to this blog by RSS feed or something). I got a MySpace friend request from "Son of the Tainted" and after I listened to some of his music, happily accepted. Seems to be angling for soundtrack work, but this is very strong on its own. RIYL Mogwai, the National... powerful, brooding and very well-done.

Here's a YouTube video he posted:



There are three albums on SoundCloud, all rock instrumentals and all really good.

Exist * Resist by Son Of The Tainted

Son of the Tainted on Soundcloud

Son of the Tainted MySpace Page

Son of the Tainted Facebook

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Old Stuff: Advice for Living from Ballboy

I'm headed off to British Columbia for a few days to ski, so I've decided to turn over my duties to a guest poster. Since the advice received from Ballboy for Valentine's Day was well received, I thought it might be useful to mine that source for some more general advice on life and living. We here at When You Motor Away are all about self improvement. So let's turn it over to the readers and Ballboy

Reader: There is a clerk in the record store I frequent who is dismissive about my music choices. What approach should I take?

Ballboy: "Avant Garde Music"



Reader: I have a problem with this person who frequently argues with me about personal matters and I don't know how to extricate myself and get on with my life. Any suggestions?

Ballboy: Why yes, yes I do. I suggest saying "I Don't Have Time to Stand Here With You Fighting About the Size of My Dick":



It also helps to toss out some lines about guns and dead people just to make them a bit more unlikely to want to keep hanging around you.

Reader: I'm hoping that you can help me, Ballboy. I think I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd, but it seems so comfortable for me, and I keep thinking they'll change.

Ballboy: "You Can't Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Around With Arseholes":



Reader: Ballboy, I expect that even you can't help me with my unusual problem. My girlfriend and I are both cannibals, and we love each other but are a bit afraid of each other. Do you have any thoughts.

Ballboy: Simple, my friend, look your beloved in the eye and say "Kiss Me, Hold Me and Eat Me":



Reader: I think that my relationship with my girlfriend is running out of steam. How to I handle this?

Ballboy: I think honesty is important. Try telling her that "All the Records on the Radio are Shite":



I hope the readers find this helpful. Further inquiries can be addressed as follows:

Ballboy website

Ballboy on Facebook

Old Stuff Friday - the Soul Corner - the Rev. Al Green

Well hopefully this one needs little in the way of introduction. And I give a shout out to my pal who requested an Al Green Soul Corner. I sincerely appreciate that anyone is tracking this weekly exercise enough to make requests. (Regulars here, including our loyal readers in Denmark (hej dejligt at se dig her), please send the requests my way).

It takes next to no arm twisting for me to go with the Rev. Al.

So how do you select just one Al Green song? I picked one that slays me, knocks me dead every single time. And that is over 35+ years of more listens than I could possibly count.

Everything about this song is perfect - the lead vocal of course, the musicianship, production, background vocals, etc etc. And if you don't get a little stoked when that greasy organ comes in right at the top of the song, well I can't help you.

"Love will make you do wrong, make you do right.... Make you come home early, make you stay out all night long." Oh yeah.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

REVIEW: Twilight Singers -- Dynamite Steps

I think the ideal conditions for reviewing an album include listening to it half a dozen times in quick succession and then putting it away, and then picking it up for another few listens a week or two later. On a well-produced record, you really hear things that in that second phase that you missed on the first few runs. The problem is, if you’re interested in having your review read by people, that kind of process is going to mean that you’re either the last idiot to jump on the train, or that you’re some contrarian hipster douche. Thankfully, our ethos here at WYMA doesn’t include such indulgences as ‘wanting to get read by people’ or that sort of thing. For example, next week, I’m going to review the latest Spin Doctors album. Watch me.

So fate has decreed that I have been able to let the new Twilight Singers album ferment an appropriate time since its February release, and now, after a second round of listens, I can say confidently that this is one of those records that will be in my rotation ten or twenty years from now. Greg Dulli and I were born within 10 days of each other, which makes him old enough to be referred to as a national treasure. And dammit if he isn’t, having given us gems like “White Trash Party” which is in frequent rotation twenty years after it was released. Since that album, “Up in It”, he and his bands have produced at such a high artistic level that terrific albums like this new one get nothing near the exposure they deserve. I remember several years ago wondering why ‘Teenage Wristband’ wasn’t played every ten minutes on every Clear Channel station, and thinking that the obscurity of such a perfect pop song is Exhibit A of what’s wrong with the music industry.

‘Dynamite Steps’ ought to sell a million copies, or units, or whatever the hell they’re called. It won’t, though, because of the tyranny of high expectations. This album is not demonstrably better than ‘Powder Burns’ or ‘Blackberry Belle’, but that does not mean it is less than a supreme rock and roll triumph. It’s got everything we want in a Greg Dulli effort: sleek production that is nonetheless guitar-centric (with indulgent use of the wah-wah pedal, god bless them), menacingly suave yet somehow cantankerous vocals, and lyrics that are unapologetically seamy. In fact, this might be Dulli’s strongest vocal performance of his career. Despite that he struggles with pitch on the opener ‘Last Night in Town’, the rest of the album is pretty well flawless. Combine this with what Dulli himself said is the most band-centric recording approach he has taken in the Twilight Singers part of his career, and you have something that ought to be on anyone’s year end best-of list.

It’s hard to pick out highlights on a record that works so well as a whole. I’m partial to the loud stuff, and ‘Waves’ hits that spot for me while still having all the drama you expect from this band. Check out the video for ‘On the Corner’ to get a good feel for the overall vibe of the album – then go get the album and go see them live (they’re out there right now).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tournamental - Go vote for your favorites!

From Pollard's Facebook, I followed a link to this site:

Tournamental: Forcing Art to Compete

Current matchup is GbV vs Lynyrd Skynyrd, and while I do favor GbV, I think these two ought to be facing one another a bit later in the competition...

From the explanatory post at the outset of the tournament in February 2011: "The tournament is primarily a great way to waste time, have fun arguments and watch old concert footage. Secondarily, it is about forcing pieces of art to compete with one another."

And here's the bracket.

Some of these, honestly, look like an NBA vs a high school team more than a 1-16 in the NCAA's. Prince vs of Montreal? But that's why they play the games!

First step: Let's eliminate Billy Joel. Whatever we disagree on, surely we can all agree on that...

My Cousin, The Emperor: The Subway EPs

If, like me, you kind of miss Whiskeytown now and then, this may hit the spot for you. My Cousin, The Emperor is singer/songwriter Jason Reischel and his band: Terry Quire on guitar, Michael Feinberg on bass and Danny Wolf on drums. They're based in Brooklyn and have just released a pair of EP's titled The Subway EPs. Volume 1 is Prospect Park West, and is the more acoustic of the pair, with wonderful vocal harmonies and plenty of steel guitar and a bit of lead guitar to supplement the excellent strummed acoustic. Volume 2 is Broadway-Lafayette, and the more rocking of the two. Both are written and performed at a very high level... if there was a place for country-rock on the radio, it's likely that these would be hits.

Regardless, folks who are willing to check out new music will be richly rewarded for giving My Cousin, The Emperor a listen. If you're in the NYC area, they're doing a show in Brooklyn April 9.

Here's a video of them performing "I Cried For You" from 2009's A Long Way From Home:



Click here for a free download of "Nothing Left for Us to Find" from Volume 2:

FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD: My Cousin, The Emperor - "Nothing Left For Us to Find"

And you can stream and download all three records at their Bandcamp page, and learn more at their website or MySpace pages.

Bookmark their website, as they will likely be touring to support those EPs... and probably put on a great show. Not to mention, they aren't likely to get all upset and have you kicked out for requesting "Summer of 69".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Sounds of Scotland--Part 7: SHe'S Hit, Fiction Faction, Peter Parker

What does the doctor order for a rainy Tuesday of a week that promises, no, threatens, to seem longer than the usual? New bands with energy and swagger, that's what. And here are three from Scotland.

We're kicking it off with SHe'S Hit. To my ears they seem to tend towards the garage band genre, but they've also been tagged with post punk and dirty surf. I'm not sure that I know what dirty surf is, but at first blush I strongly endorse the concept musically, if not environmentally. Formed in 2008, their name comes from a song by the Australian band Birthday Party. The members are David Wilson, Mike Hanson, Philip McLellan, Cammy Wilson and Fraser McFadzean. There are several "honorary" members, including Scott Paterson of Sons and Daughters and Jen Paley of Astral Planes. Drowned in Sound picked them as a band to watch. They also were picked to support Dead Weather in concert in 2010.

"Re:Peater" is their first single:



"Shimmer Shimmer"

Shimmer Shimmer by She's Hit

You can hear a bit of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Stooges in these guys, and I hope there are plans for an album in the near future.

Facebook
Myspace
Soundcloud

Our next welcome jolt of energy is delivered by Fiction Faction, a Glasgow four man indie rock band that also incorporates electronic elements. Or, as they put it "keyboards on guitars that sound like guitars played on keyboards". The influential BBC DJ Vic Galloway has tipped them as a band to watch for this year, as have other UK publications and blogs.

I really like this tune -- "Malenky Lizards":
Malenky Lizards by Fiction Faction

And one of the things I really like about the band is that they don't feel wed to the folk rock conventions of many of their peers -- and that isn't on knock on their peers and what their peers are producing as readers of my posts can attest. In my view, the lads of Fiction Faction are modern post punk. The list their influences as Blur, Echo and the Bunnymen, Soft Cell, Pulp, The Cure and XTC.

"Count to Ten"



The members are Dave Richards, Paul Mclean, John Paul Dunne, and Graeme Ellis, and they released a single on 17 Seconds Records (whose founder operates a very nice blog called 17 Seconds) in January of this year.

"Appirations"



Facebook
Soundcloud (additional tracks)
Bandcamp

Finally, a big dose of sexy energy and, for US fans, a bit of mystery, the unsigned Glasgow band Peter Parker.



I don't have any more videos for this pop group, but there are more songs on at the Myspace link below. There also doesn't seem to be much recorded material, but the band seems to gig actively in the UK.

Facebook
Myspace

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Caulfield Sisters: "I See Your Face" from Mohawk

The Caulfield Sisters are three women, none named Caulfield... but they play really good rock music. They've been featured on High School Reunion, a compilation of 80's covers playing the Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want", and their latest is a 2-song release on iTunes. They do a good job at that noisy jangle that you will recall hearing from bands like Jesus & Mary Chain and a comparison to the Breeders isn't out of line.

Hopefully the album Mohawk will be released soon, but here's a recent live performance that gives a good idea of their sound:



The Caulfield Sisters on American Laundromat Records

Caulfield Sisters Myspace

Credit where credit is due: I heard this on the KEXP Song of the Day podcast, where I have discovered a lot of really good music and which I highly recommend.

KEXP Song of the Day - Caulfield Sisters

REVIEW: The Baseball Project Volume 2: High and Inside

Baseball and rock'n'roll go extremely well together. Going to the ballpark to see your team is like going to your favorite club to see a great local band. You get to hang with your pals, drink a few beers, watch the action, and swap stories. But hey, word to the wise, when you are sitting in the baseball stands quaffing down the brew and talking to your boys Louie and Jackson there about your favorite new bands, don't forget to be paying attention for the screaming foul ball that might be headed your way (more on that particular risk later).

Baseball provides much superior stories and context for rock'n'roll than other sports - colorful figures, terrific jargon, quirky unwritten rules, a rich history, bizarre mishaps, managers in uniform, and timeless statistical milestones (.300 hitter, 20 game winner, etc.). And no one tells better baseball stories than the Baseball Project, the alternative rock version of the Traveling Wilburys - highly skilled, experienced craftsmen on loan from their day jobs and having a ball - Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey from R.E.M. and the Minus 5, and drummer Linda Pitmon (Miracle 3), with various all-star guests, including Craig Finn, Ben Gibbard, Robert Lloyd, Ira Kaplan and Steve Berlin.

Some songs here on the Baseball Project's second record center on an individual player: "Ichiro Goes to the Moon", "Pete Rose Way", "Here Lies Carl Mays", and "The Straw That Stirs the Drink" (a hilarious homage to Reggie Jackson, written in the first person and delivered perfectly matter-of-fact by Wynn, "There are superstars and then there's what I am"). Other songs here outline an aspect of the game or baseball culture ("Chin Music", "Fair Weather Fans").

One of the best songs here, "Panda and the Freak", a garage rock high-velocity fastball, touches both bases, starting with a celebration of the rich history of nicknames in the sport ("Goose, Bird, Penguin, Rooster, Vulture - and your bird can sing. And the greatest nickname of all time Death to Flying Things)", and then honoring in detail two current players on McCaughey's beloved San Francisco Giants. Seen here performed live last summer with pinch hitter guest Mike Mills from R.E.M.:



Fans of The Hold Steady (like say, me), especially those from Minnesota, will love Craig Finn's emotional ode to his beloved team "Don't Call Them Twinkies" ("The Minnesota Twins are making Minnesotans proud..... These are grown men, these are heroes, please don't call them Twinkies"). And for Mr. Minnesota out there, you get a double shot of your baseball love because Linda Pitmon grew up outside the Twin Cities, and in "Fair Weather Fans" she too passionately displays her undying loyalty to the Twinkies (oops, so sorry Mr. Finn, Tigers fan here and old habits die hard; "my bad!").

You can listen to "Please Don't Call Them Twinkies" inside this link: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/music_blog/archive/2010/09/dont_call_them.shtml

But the best story here is one I'd never heard. Did you know that Hall of Famer Bob Feller, the "Heater from Van Meter" himself, once threw a pitch that was fouled off and struck his own mother, and on Mother's Day no less?! More recently, the Twins' Denard Span ripped one into the stands and hit his mom (a Spring training game so at least not on Mother's Day, thank god). It's all true and now captured in song. Learn all about foul balls targeting in on loved ones in the wickedly funny cautionary tale "Look Out Mom".

Another bonus to this record - the fine explanatory liner notes for each song, as here where McCaughey recounts the Span incident and concludes "You figure, what are the chances? Hey, Richie Ashburn hit the same woman with foul balls twice in the same at bat. Heads up people!"

The song that may be the most biting and memorable is "Buckner's Bolero" where McCaughey painstakingly outlines every lapse in judgment by other Red Sox that preceded that fateful error in the 1986 Series (e.g. "If Jim Rice had twice taken an easy extra base....And Bob Stanley sure picked a bad time to uncork a wild pitch, and I'm sure he's still thinking that you could have blocked it, Rich.... If one play killed the Sox, can you please tell me which?"). McCaughey's sympathetic version of history paints Buckner as the ultimate scapegoat, whose solid 22-year career ("10,000 at bats and close to 3,000 hits") was obliterated by one routine, albeit historically untimely, fielding error. These lyrics are required reading for all you grudge-carrying Buckner haters out there: http://lyrics.wikia.com/The_Baseball_Project:Buckner

Here's an earlier live version of the Buckner song without the delicious spaghetti western/Latin drama (trumpet, pedal steel etc.) of the new recorded version:



Of course, being a diehard Detroit Tigers fan, I have an especially soft spot for the warm nostalgic lead track, Steve Wynn's "1976", a jangly ode to the great Mark Fidrych, sadly now deceased, but forever etched in our memories as the carefree pitcher who captured the nation in his magical rookie season, "Golden hair flowing down, on your knees grooming the pitcher's mound." I love the spirit and jangly sound of this one and have had this tune rattling around in my head for a week. Listen here:



As on their previous effort, the music and writing on Baseball Project 2 is so strong, that fans of The Dream Syndicate, R.E.M., the Hold Steady and smart guitar rock will find plenty to like here even if they don't care that much about baseball. It is a very good thing when you get an entire record of Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey going at it on guitars. But Volume 2: High and Inside is a baseball fan dream. The lyrics are remarkably well done, sure to warm any fan's heart with their detail and sharp wit.

Heads up people! The Baseball Project have outdone themselves. I find this a bit stronger overall than the debut record simply because the tunes are even better.

And by the way, with Opening Day upon us this week, I'm feeling, highly objectively of course, that despite Cabrera's off the field problems, Zumaya's most current injury, and a somewhat questionable starting rotation after Verlander and Scherzer, the Tigers could surprise people this year....and I've not lived in Michigan for 30+ years now, so, like Ms. Pitmon, "a fair weather fan is not what I am even though my zip code has changed."

Band web page, tour dates etc.: Baseball Project Page at Yep Roc Records

Official site: http://thebaseballproject.net/

Link at stevewynn.net

Midnight World Pop Scout-7: Hot, Cool and Dread: Sofrito, Robot Science, Rootz Underground

Our friend Josh recently returned from a brief jaunt to London, and gave us a tip about the a DJ who lived in the same building as a friend of his. The DJ is part of an Afro, Caribbean and Latin music collective called Sofrito. According to their website the collective consists of DJs Hugo Mendez and Frankie Francis alongside The Mighty Crime Minister. Their album, Tropical Discotheque, is packed with great grooves, spanning highlife, calypso, west African rhythms and cumbia from Latin America. For years this collective has had the reputation of being the definitive life of the dance party in London, the Mediterranean or wherever. Now you can have it in your own hard drive, and it could well be your go-to summer party soundtrack.



Soundcloud preview mix of album on Strut:
Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque mini-mix by DJ Hugo Mendez by Strut

A bit of backstory:



Sofrito Website
Second Website
Facebook
Myspace

Robot Science is University of California at Berkeley student Charlie Yin. His sound is icy, dreamy electronic and dance.



Bandcamp
Myspace
Facebook

Rootz Underground is a modern roots reggae band from Kingston Jamaica. But roots reggae really isn't a term that does them justice. There is a rock element, and a flair for showmanship that takes them beyond the perceptions of their base genre. Here is "In the Jungle" from their 2008 album Movement:



They have played SxSW in the past, and currently are touring in Europe.
And "Hammer" from the same album:



"Victims of the System"



Website
Myspace
Facebook