Saturday, April 30, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-12: Shit Robot; Belleruche; Bomba Estereo

Shit Robot is Marcus Lambkin. Marcus lists his home town as Dublin, New York and Stuttgart.
He recently released the video for "Losing My Patience" from the 2010 debut LP From the Cradle to the Rave:

Shit Robot - Losing My Patience from DFA Records on Vimeo.

In addition to creating very good house/disco/electronic dance rock, the videos display an inventive visual style.

"Take 'Em Up"

"Tuff Enuff"


Belleruche is a London based three piece consisting of Kathrin DeBoer, DJ Modest and Ricky Fabulous. They record on the Tru Thoughts label, and their LP 270 Stories was released in October 2010. Their sound is bluesy electronic soul.

"Clockwatching" (2010).

"Fuzz Face" (December 2010)

"Late Train" (2009)

"You're Listening to the Worlds" (2009)

Bandcamp stream of Liberty EP HERE.


Bomba Estereo is a electro pop dance group from Columbia. The members are Liliana Saumet, Simon Mejia, Kike Egurrola, and Julian Salazar, and they formed the band in 2001.



"Pa Ti"


Friday, April 29, 2011

Okay, see if you can pull a theme out of this.

It's Friday, and time for old stuff. I decided to go all thematic on yo asses. See if you can guess what it is. I'm trying to make it challenging, but I'll give you a hint: It happened, and you now will be able to return to your normal existences.

As a big thank you to our curiously large Danish readership, we'll start in Copenhagen, 1977.

Assuming a right turn at Albuquerque, the route from Copenhagen naturally passes through Bakersfield.

And we all know it is a very short distance from Bakersfield to Parts Unknown.

And for the denser (or more patient) among you -- there are older versions of this out there, but the crowd banter here is worth the click in and of itself.

Old Stuff Friday - The Soul Corner - Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette's story is too long to do justice to here, but, after being signed and ignored by Motown as a young singer, then snapped up by the great Jerry Wexler and Atlantic Records only to again be dumped without ever releasing an album, the Detroit native toiled in obscurity for decades.

Then in 2005, Joe Henry produced a remarkable collection of songs (I've Got My Own Hell to Raise) all written by females, perfectly suited for Ms. LaVette, and she got her first widespread recognition. Here's a live solo performance of one of that record's stand out tracks "I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got" (Sinead O'Connor), bare, brave and bold:

That album was followed by another terrific CD, Scene of the Crime, where Bettye was backed by the Drive By Truckers and produced by lead Trucker Patterson Hood. The Truckers gave her a greasy Muscle Shoals style of rocking soul that fit her tough and powerful voice well. And with those 2 releases, Bettye, by then in her '60s, suddenly had herself a successful career, with wildly great press, many TV performances and near constant touring.

Bettye doesn't just sing a song, she takes it hostage, redefines it, transform it from her own hardscrabble life experience and drains every last bit of emotion out of its lyrics and melody.

She's an American treasure and a testimony to never ever giving up your talent or dreams.

If you aren't familiar with her, do yourself a favor and pick up I've Got My Own Hell To Raise, easily one of my favorite CDs of the past 10 years. Here's "Joy" from that record (penned by Lucinda Williams) which then leads into "Let Me Down Easy" one of her earliest releases from 1965:

Bettye LaVette web page:

Friday Old Stuff: Index -- Black Album + Red Album + Yesterday & Today

Partially reflecting my inherent personal preferences, and probably also reflecting the era in which I started listening to popular music, I've always been drawn to psychedelic and garage rock sounds. I wouldn't want an exclusive diet of that music any more than I'd want an exclusive diet of quality ale...[Sorry, I think this analogy is broken beyond repair and I'm going to shut it down now]. Anyway, for those who share such tastes, I recently learned that Lion Production has combined the two mid-60s LPs, and a disc of previously unreleased material, from Index. Index hailed from affluent, suburban Detroit (specifically, Grosse Point) and played a druggy, edgy, psychedelic/garage rock. They weren't really well known even in their day, but give the music a try. You might just question whether Ian Curtis listened to Index before or during his Joy Division days, but I don't think there is any doubt that Iggy was a fan. The name of the compilation is Black Album + Red Album + Yesterday & Today.

"Fire Eyes"

Index's work boasts feedback, fuzzy guitars, an upfront rhythm section, and psychedelic riffs. But the fans find the beginnings of punk in their music as well, and I can't say they're wrong.

"Rainy Starle"

Index members were guitarist Jim Valice, drummer John B. Ford and bassist Gary Francis. The songs recorded by Index include original compositions and covers by other groups. But even in the case of the covers, the band makes the song their own.

"Israeli Blue"

The band's original name was Chicken Every Sunday. Originally, they were a party band, but became more interested in pursuing the psychedelic space in 1967 after hearing Jimi Hendrix recordings.

"Street Crime" has a more garage rock feel:

Founded in the mid-60s, the band was done by the end of the decade.

Lion Productions
Band biography

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cool Video Thursday

We featured Scottish garage/dirty surf band SHe's HiT last month. In advance of the June release of their LP, they are releasing the wonderful "Shimmer Shimmer" as a single. Here is the video:

An Horse will be discussed in the future, but for how here is the video for "Postcards"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Okkervil River: I Am Very Far, due out May 10

For some reason, these guys never really captured my attention until I spent some time with the disc they did with Roky Erickson last year, True Love Cast Out All Evil:

... that thing is a masterpiece, and I really got in sync with Okkervil River, and am consequently very excited about their upcoming disc. I'll add them to the list of awesome Texas rock bands I can't say enough good things about: Centro-matic, Old 97's, Deathray Davies...

This song, "Wake and Be Fine", is terrific.

Free track available here:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

REVIEW: The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

Big sound, really an immense rock sound from this Welsh trio (my first exposure to them, in fact, was one of Rocksteady's early Midnight World Pop Scout posts). I'm not sure I've heard guitars like this on a pop/rock record in quite a while... sure, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, those bands really crank them up, but even at their loudest, I don't recall hearing their guitars shred like they do on some of these songs. And that doesn't even mention the drumming, which is gigantic, too. I'm reminded of Big Country, remember them? Look, I know my Welsh from my Scots, but still, there are similarities... the guitars are loud, strong and make all kinds of cool sounds, the drumming propels and anchors the big sound and of course, music like this requires a very strong vocalist.

Singer Ritzy Bryan has the vocal presence to stand in front of a band with a gigantic sound, which is saying quite a bit, and the harmony vocals are outstanding, too.

Video for "Whirring":

I think "Whirring" is the album's centerpiece and it certainly showcases all that this band is doing: the amped, treated guitars, the huge drum sounds and of course the strong, clear voice of Bryan. But they keep the pedal to the metal throughout and hit very few low points from beginning to end.

Here's another track: "Austere"

The Joy Formidable sound great to me, and they sound familiar in a way. I find myself trying to summon the exact analogue, but the best I can do are references like the above, and another band that I really liked, Creeper Lagoon. Like the music supplied by Creeper Lagoon in Orange County, this band's songs could certainly supply the emotional underpinnings of a coming-of-age movie with a twist. Who knows, perhaps the deal's been struck. They are on a major label, after all.

I suppose great things are expected, and I hope they come for this band. But even if they never make anything else quite this good, The Big Roar is worth celebrating... and cranking.

The Joy Formidable Website

Lost in the Trees

My favorite piece of music is not, as I may have expressed in a less guarded moment, Mclusky's 'whiteliberalonwhiteliberalaction.' My favorite musical composition is, rather, much more refined and civilized -- too civilized, in fact, for the likes of this damned place. Believe it or not, after a few beers the other night, I dialed up a version of it on youtube and almost -- almost -- posted it. I didn't, though, on the theory that if a friend lets you move into their apartment after you've just won your commitment hearing, you don't automatically rearrange the furniture, despite that such would, objectively, class up the place.

Anyway, that favorite musical composition is 'Fantasia on a Theme By Thomas Tallis', by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It's a breathtakingly powerful piece of late romantic classical music. Vaughan Williams is among my favorite composers in great part because he was obsessed with his native country's folk music, and his music was infused with it in very much the same way Yeats's poetry was an expression of his own obsession with what he perceived to be a vanishing Irish literary tradition. For both Williams and Yeats, the traditions they sought to preserve were largely unwritten, but rather passed orally from generation to generation. Williams, thankfully, took many trips into the English countryside to "collect" his country's folksongs by transcribing them. Many of these found their way into some of the most beautiful orchestral compositions of the twentieth century, including "Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1", "A Lark Ascending", "In a Fen Country", and his "Fantasia on 'Greensleeves'". His symphonies are crammed full of folk music, most notably, to me at least, his 5th ("Pastoral").

I really love classical music, but when I take a step back and think of my favorite composers, they seem to be the ones who are infatuated with their native music traditions. These include Bedrich Smetana, the "father" of Czech music, Mahler, Sibelius, Borodin, and even 'post-modernists' like the recently departed Henryk Gorecki. Of the Americans who borrowed heavily from native folk music, the most accomplished (to me) are Charles Ives and, of course, Aaron Copland. The Ives 2d Symphony is quintessentially American music, as are "Central Park in the Dark" and the later "Three Places in New England." Really, the only reason these works aren't regularly cited on blogs such as this is that the arrangements are for orchestral players. But make no mistake, those players performing Ives are truly kicking out the jams. They also are mining and thereby enriching our indigenous music traditions in very much the same way as a Cass McCombs or Titus Andronicus are -- and I'd argue just as unselfconsciously.

Well, that was supposed to be a much shorter and less didactic lead-in to a note about a very exciting band out of Chapel Hill called Lost in the Trees. The band is a collective (there are 7 of them right now, I think) of classically trained musicians who passionately play orchestral instruments in arrangements of the band's own rural folk songs. To be sure, there are also acoustic guitars, accordions, and other noises you don't hear at the symphony, all mixed in with frontman Ari Picker's beautiful, eerie yet unaffected vocals. There's also a certain gothic tinge to some of the songs, bringing to mind things like "Country Death Song" by the Violent Femmes. Check out the stunning video for the title track of their 2010 album on Anti- Records, "All Alone in an Empty House" and I imagine you'll agree. Ari Picker, by the way, is the dude watching events unfold from the chimney, and the ethereal backing vocal is by Emma Nadeau (I think). Just a fantastic song.

Much of the dark subject matter that permeates LITT's music flows from some gut-wrenching personal tragedy Picker has endured. To his credit, he's not afraid to talk about it, but to the band's credit, the songs certainly stand on their own musically and lyrically. A quick google search will find all that stuff. What am I, your waiter or something? Check out another really pro video for another great song -- "Walk Around the Lake".

The intrepid Chapel Hill label Trekky Records put out the original iteration of "All Alone in an Empty House", and the band's earlier EP "Time Taunts Me", so here's to them and their vision. Lost in the Trees is on the road (playing in Seattle as I write). Go say hello to them and buy their records.

Lost in the Trees website

Trekky Records website

Emerging Seattle Bands: Whalebones

Do you like '60s and '70s Neil Young/Crazy Horse style rock? If so, I think you might like Whalebones. Whalebones are a Seattle three piece composed of Justin Deary, Faustine Hudson and Bradford Button. The music reflects psych and folk rock influences with a lot of fuzzy guitar. The group is finishing an album for release later this year.

"I Don't Want to Live in the City No More"

"Surrounded by Fire" live at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle, April 2, 2011:

"Hawk Feathers" live at the Comet Tavern in Seattle, February 2011:


Monday, April 25, 2011

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 11: Zoey Van Goey

Zoey Van Goey is referred to as a Glasgow band, which makes sense as they are based in Glasgow and are signed to the respected Chemical Underground label founded by the members of The Delgados. The details are a bit more complicated as the founding members are non-Scots Mike Brennan (from Canada), Michael John McCarthy (from Ireland), and Kim Moore (from England), all of whom met at Glasgow University. Adam Scott added to the mix in 2010 (I don't know his country of origin).

Their first single was "Foxtrot Vandals" (2007)

The band's talent is evident by their music, and by the people they attract. "Foxtrot Vandals" was produced by Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch and released on Say Dirty Records (the label founded by the twins who anchor Glasgow band Wake the President). Their second single, and first LP The Cage Was Unlocked All Along, both were produced by Paul Savage, the former drummer for The Delgados. The style is adventuresome and eclectic. One reviewer referred to them as 'the Postal Service with a sense of humor', but I think that is too limiting. My view, which is rarely wrong, is that they are more like a combination of Yo La Tengo, the poppier stylings of The Delgados and The Magnetic Fields. And that alone should interest the discriminating reader. The second LP, Propeller Versus Wings, also produced by Savage, was released in February 2011.

"The Cake and Eating It", from the new album:

The songs on Propeller Versus Wings touch on a number of styles, but all seem to spring from that same artistic personality, a bit goofy, a bit nerdy, a bit adventuresome, and a penchant for entertaining.

"You Told the Drunks I Knew Karate", from the new album:

"My Aviator", from the new album:

My Aviator from Eoin .N. Devlin on Vimeo.

By way of background, "We Don't Have That Kind Of Bread" from the 2009 release The Cage Was Unlocked All Along

Artist's page at Chemikal Underground