Saturday, April 9, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-9: Airlines, Honey Pies, Alpine, Deadly Winters

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

I think we're all ready for some "Island Disco", aren't we? Well, Airlines is banking on it (please ignore the bad pun). And where would you expect to find the perfect merger of chill island tranquility and disco? Why, Los Angeles of course, where crafting fantasies is both art and industry.

Below is the entirety of the EP Visions that was released earlier this year.


And since we're in a fun mode, and an island mode, and headed west anyway, why not check in with Australia. Tonight, the island continent presents The Honey Pies. The Honey Pies are four guys who describe their style as pre-post-rock, or, as they explain "Combining the unassuming guitar pop of the 50’s and 60’s with some of the fuzzier, kookier rock of the 90’s and pre-apocalypse". Here is their video for the song "Don't Mention the War" (which I expect is a Monty Python reference, and that earns points in this blogger's world):

Of course, being a diligent reader, you probably can't avoid noticing the frequent use of Gary Busey's visage in the video. I know how exciting that is for all of us, but the band provided the following notice: "PS. Obviously we want to avoid any unnecessary confrontation that might arise as a result of this video, so please, if you are friends or friends of friends with Gary Busey, please don't let him know about this video. We are fucking terrified of him."

If you want to check them out further, you can stream their album Think of England here:


Staying with our island these, we now present Alpines -- a London-based group. They use the term night pop, but I've also seen their style described as electronic dubstep.


"Ice and Arrows"


Let's end with some acoustic music from further north on the same island: Edinburgh's The Deadly Winters. The four members are Masters Gregory Jones, Graeme Chyla, Michael Edie and Christopher Blair. The band writes that they formerly were a rock act but are transitioning to "story based music". The song is "Tura Mae" and it is available free at the Bandcamp link below:

"The Liar and the Thief"
The Deadly Winters - The Liar and the Thief (demo) by The Deadly Winters


Friday, April 8, 2011

Old Stuff Friday - The Soul Corner - Solomon Burke

The death of the legendary soul singer Solomon Burke last year was a sad event for me. Though I was familiar with a couple of his songs from the early 1960s, notably "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," covered by the Rolling Stones among others, I dove far deeper into the music of "The Bishop" fairly recently through the terrific "comeback" records he made with 2 of my favorite artists, Joe Henry and Buddy Miller. I would especially recommend "Don't Give Up on Me, " a near perfect CD.

In a famous quote, Jerry Wexler was once asked who was the best soul singer he ever heard, Aretha with the Muscle Shoals band, Otis Redding with Booker T's band, etc., and Wexler answered, "Solomon Burke with a pickup band."

So here's a recent performance of the title track from the Joe Henry record:

And while we generally just include one song each week on the Soul Corner, the Bishop was so much bigger than life, he gets two. Here's one of his early hits, "Cry to Me":

Joe Henry wrote a beautiful piece when Solomon Burke died:

Friday Old Stuff: The Vaselines

For this band, the buzz and the legend are longer than their recording and performing career and ..... What? You ask how a band that released an album last year qualifies as "old stuff"? I'm getting there, but listen to a song while I continue.

"Son of A Gun"

The Vaselines were formed in 1986 by Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, Glasgow kids in their early 20s who then were a couple. Originally a duo, they added James Seenan on bass and Eugene's brother Charlie on drums. They recorded two short EPs. In 1989, as their first LP, Dum Dum was readied for release, the band broke up. In total, they last three years and recorded fewer than 20 songs.

"Rory Rides Me Raw", supposedly a song about a bike with a rough saddle:

Why the fame? For one, they were good. Whether you call their brand twee, lo-fi, indie pop, punk, DIY or garage pop (and I've seen all labels employed), they were energetic, lewd, perverted, silly, original, charming, and naive. And while they could be chancy live, given a tendency to drink before performances, they were good songwriters--especially if you like songs about sex, or songs that might be about something else but definitely could be about sex as well. One reviewer calls the Sup Pop compilation of The Vaselines' material, The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History, "the Holy Grail of indie pop music".

Second, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana loved them and said they were his favorite songwriters. At his request, they reformed to open for Nirvana in Edinburgh in 1990, and the story is that Kurt named his daughter after Frances. Nirvana covered The Vaselines "Son of a Gun" and "Molly's Lips" on record, and "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for A Sunbeam" on MTV Unplugged. Kurt's opinion didn't make them good--they were good on their own--but he helped make them famous beyond Scotland.

"Monsterpussey", supposedly about Frances' cat:

"Molly's Lips", the original pre-Nirvana version:

After The Vaselines disbanded in 1989, Kelly and McKee both recorded with other projects. In 2008 they were invited to play at Sup Pop's birthday party. They toured in Europe and South America, and decided to record a new album. So 20 years after their first album, they are a recording band again.

This promotional video for the 2010 album, Sex With An X shows that Kelly and McKee have a refreshing resistance to "growing up":

The Vaselines - Sex With An X from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

Artist Page on Sub Pop Website

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Centro-matic 24 song sampler: Free Download!

While we await Candidate Waltz (due out June 21, with tour starting the next day in Nashville), the band has decided to make a download available:

Free 24-song Centro-matic Sampler

I don't need it. I have everything they've ever released. But you do.

Meanwhile, here's a recent video of one of their new songs:

Centro-matic Website

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

REVIEW: Red Fang - Murder the Mountains

Our buddy Josh from Seattle has actually had beers with more WYMA guys than I have. In fact, the only time I've ever had beers with a WYMA person, Josh was with us. Excellent guy, and I've learned a ton about great music from him over the years. Anyway, it was Josh who first alerted me to the existence of Portland, Oregon's asskicking heavy rock band Red Fang. Like many, my first experience with Red Fang was through what is perhaps the greatest rock and roll video of all time -- "Prehistoric Dog." The "Prehistoric Dog" video, like the most sublime Greek tragedy, has all the elements of the human experience: fights to the death, shotgunning beers, puking, Olympian rock and roll, a 1967 Olds Cutlass (my first car was my dad's '69 Cutlass) and LARPers. It also has the greatest spoken (not sung) line in rock video history: "Hey Gandalf, nice dress!" What the hell, there's no sense being cute about it -- here's the video:

In early March of 2009 Red Fang took their two EPs and combined them into their first full length album. One night in early March of 2009 I went to a Modest Mouse show at Disco Rodeo in Raleigh with my daughter. It was so crowded and smelly and smoky that we left after the first band. My daughter felt guilty about wanting to leave, but not so much when I told her my plan was to drop her off and hit the Pour House downtown for a show with Red Fang and the superawesome Early Man. I completely lucked out. At the merch table I bought the Early Man EP (along w/ the just-released-that-day Red Fang) and asked the bass player to sign it for my daughter. I told him we'd been at the MM show. He asked how it was, and I told this longhaired metalhead that we had left because there were too many smelly hippies. He burst out laughing, and ran about the bar getting his bandmates to sign the CD for my daughter. Great guys, all of them, and both bands played phenomenal sets -- proving that there's no substitute for loud music in a small place. One of the best shows I've seen in the past few years.

If you watched the "Prehistoric Dog" video, maybe you'll identify with me when I say that I was worried about Red Fang. Think about it -- they hit that song so pitch perfect. It's a flawless rock song. Then they put it in the greatest video ever. And they didn't even have a full-length album. Where the hell did they get the budget to do such a professional production? Who paid the fooking LARPers? And despite that when glued together the two EPs made a very fine heavy music album, something made me think I wouldn't see these guys again.

Then a couple of days ago, the great website announced that a new Red Fang album was imminent. They also announced that it was streaming over at NPR. Red Fang? NPR? Isn't NPR the station with the announcers whose voices project at exactly the same amplitude of my car's engine? I believe I have tinnitus as a result of putting CDs in the car stereo after growing bored with stories about summer dance festivals narrated by Neal Conan.

So I've listened to the new Red Fang album, "Murder the Mountains" several times now, front to back. It might be my favorite album so far this year. "Prehistoric Dog" was not a fluke, I am happy to report. The new album is bursting with Iommian riffs propelling perfectly constructed 3 and 4 minute metal jams. I guess the exception, at least as to time, is the nearly 6 minute "Wires", which is the best song on the record. Check it out.

This album is still new to me, but I'm so blown away by it that I don't think I'm overstating to say that it belongs on the shelf next to Kyuss circa "Welcome to Sky Valley", or mid-90s Fu Manchu. The vocals (traded between guitarist Bryan Giles (no, not the ex-Brave/Padre, but thanks for asking) and bass player Aaron Beam) match up to those great bands in every way, in a wonderfully indulgent production by Chris Funk of the Decemberists. The album release date is April 12, but it'll be streaming at the NPR link above until then. If you're too tired to go there, here's another another great new tune, called "Hank is Dead"

and a nice live version of a scorcher ("Sharks") from the first album

And what the hell, here's my second favorite song off the first record, "Reverse Thunder"

Thanks Josh. And thank God we still have bands making music like this. Save your dimes between now and Tuesday.

Website: Red Fang (find MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. here)

Papercuts: Fading Parade

Looks like Sub Pop signed this artist and re-released their earlier stuff in January, then this full-length in March. Sounds good, it's pretty hazy but with surfy reverb on the guitars and other effects that provide sonic depth, and a good rhythm section (he's called a one-man band, so maybe it's him, but the drumming is good, so...) When people talk about pop music with substance, this is the kind of thing I like to think they are talking about.

Here's the video for "Do What You Will":

Do What You Will

Papercuts | Myspace Music Videos

And here's another video: "Once We Walked in Sunlight":

Papercuts - Once We Walked in the Sunlight from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

And here's a free track at Sub Pop:

Website: Papercuts at Sub Pop

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spellbound in Seattle: Craft Spells -- Idle Labor

Despite only getting the first glimmers of spring here in Seattle, my summer soundtrack just became considerably more robust with last week's release of Idle Labor by Craft Spells. Craft Spells was founded by Justin Vallesteros, who is from the Seattle area, but until his recent move back was living in Stockton, California. He has been recording as Craft Spells for a few years and has a couple of 7" to his credit. Recording Idle Labor was a solo project, but he recently formed a band consisting of himself (guitar), Jack Doyle Smith (bass), Javier Suarez (guitar), and Peter Michel (drums) to play live and promote the album.

"Party Talk"

The style is jangly guitar chords over synth rhythms, with baritone vocals that have a haunting Joy Division/New Order quality. While I love nearly all of the music of my adopted city, I think the sound from Craft Spells is a welcome addition to the mix: A jangling, chiming counterpoint to alt-country and steel pedal guitar. I suppose there will be a tendency to burden them with a genre, and if so, it likely will be bedroom pop. But I argue that additional elements of new wave and modern production burst them out of the confines of bedroom pop. And I think that over time this band will resist the confines or any narrow category.

"Scandinavian Crush"

And the same song live, last weekend here in Seattle, to demonstrate how the sound becomes more guitar-oriented live.

As you can hear, in a live performance the guitar sound is predominant, resulting in a more organic sound.

"You Should Close the Door"

Idle Labor is on the Captured Tracks label, as is Beach Fossils, and the two groups have been touring together.

"The Frog Rose High"

And here is a jangly gem from the back catalog -- "Sun Trails"

Craft Spells Myspace

Craft Spells on Facebook

Sunday, April 3, 2011

REVIEW: Yuck - Yuck

"Why are they called Yuck?" asked the child, "Don't they want people to like their music?"

Of course they do, I thought, they're just being silly, having a little fun. And it occurred to me that, to a refreshing degree, this band is about the music and not the marketing. They're just playing what they like (and, by the way, what I like - don't know when I've come upon a debut that was so easy for me to love right out of the wrapper).

Throwing the guitar fuzz-laden "Get Away" and "The Wall" out there for starters, this band declares its intentions to honor the great 90's rock of precursors like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., and honor it they do. I also find some delightful similarities to a personal favorite, Centro-matic... a feedback/guitar explosion is never far away, and they're always very well-placed.

This record is impeccably sequenced. The feedback-drenched loud stuff flows right along into the gorgeous vocal harmonies and strummed acoustic of "Shook Down" (but, again, with jangling electric guitars never far away), and they do this to great effect throughout the record. "Holing Out": oh, man the guitars! and then "Suicide Policeman" is a beautifully sung ballad that reminds me of Wilco's "How to Fight Loneliness".

There is really nothing bad I can say about this record. I'd like to thank Fat Possum for finding/signing these folks, and especially the band: Ilana Blumberg, Max Bloom, Daniel Blumberg, Mariko Doi, and Jonny Rogoft, for making such an enjoyable record. And, keep it up, Matt Pence!

Here they are playing "Get Away":

Yuck - Get Away from Yuck on Vimeo.

And here's the b-side to "Get Away":

Doctors In My Bed by Yuck

Website: Yuck at Fat Possum

Website: Yuck Blog