Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 17: Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers

Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers is a strong contender for band name of the year (a contest I just declared, in my usual backhanded fashion, here on When You Motor Away). Happily, the music lives up to the name. The sound is an intriguing mix of rough and tumble Glasgow, swampy American roots, blues and garage rock that the band calls Doom Wop. Although I think their take on the elements is unique enough to call their own, there are reminders of Long John Baldry (probably a lost reference to many of the young readers), Tom Waits, The Kinks and bit of Northern Soul. In addition to some of those artists, the band includes in its influences Nick Cave, The Monks and American bluesmen Junior Kimborough, RL Burnside, and Bo Diddly.

"Lemonade" was released earlier this year on Re: Peater Records as a split 7" with SHe'S HiT's "Shimmer Shimmer".

Jacob Yates' real name is Jacob Lovatt, but the band is identified on Facebook as "Jacob Yates, Jamie Yates, Rick Yates and Michael Yates", so I'm not going to dig further into the names. Jacob is the former frontman for defunct Uncle John & Whitelock, which was known for their live performances. I don't have the opportunity to see them live, but based on recording and other reviews, they can rockabilly stomp and sing a boozy ballad with the best of them.

The band is releasing an album entitled Luck and the end of the month, also on Re: Peater Records. If I can get a hold of a copy, I'll review it for you on these pages.

A clip of Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers live:

"Can't Stop" is another split with the SHe'S HiT lads.

The following two songs comprised a 2010 release by the band.

Although we usually put two or three bands in our New Sounds of Scotland series, we're going to give the entire stage to Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers today.


Monday, June 6, 2011

REVIEW: Cults, Cults

When the buzz about a relatively new band increases to the level that most of the blogs and e-zines are breathlessly urging you to pay attention, many of us have a tendency to resist. But in the case of the new self-titled album from Cults, I urge you to embrace it. Cults is a swaggering and sexy set of sugar-coated songs of (slightly twitchy) romance, broken hearts and low level unease. For me, quite simply, it is eleven nuggets of joy.

Listen to "You Know What I Mean" while you keep reading.

New York based Cults was formed by transplanted Californians Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, who previously studied film. The band now has grown to five members. When I first listened to the songs on this album, I felt the same excitement I felt when I first heard The Raveonettes' "Attack of the Ghost Riders". Like The Raveonettes, Cults take a elements of classic pop music and update them for current audiences. And both groups rely on a guitar driven sound with percussion and bass up in the mix, coupled with female vocals. However, Cults don't aim for the Phil Spector/wall of sound effect with multiple reverb connections, employed so well by the Danish duo. Cults favor surfy, even rootsy, guitar figures with more modern rhythmic patterns for the bass and drum and a few vocal samples.

Given Cults' founders formerly studied film, perhaps it is no coincidence that I (and other reviewers as well) find the songs on the album have a cinematic quality. But despite the bouncing melodies and sugary vocals, this isn't John Hughes soundtrack material; it is Tim Burton/David Lynch stuff. And perhaps there is no better example that the dark little backwards storytelling in the video for album opener, "Abducted" (sorry, you may need to endure an advertisement). The song is a love song, telling the male and female sides of a relationship in terms of a psychological abduction. And it isn't a happy story.

The songs on Cults manage to be simultaneously exuberant and dark, with catchy melodies and vocals that draw you into the drama embodied by the lyrics. For example, a superficial listen to "Go Outside" subsequent evokes a sunshine and happiness created by the melody and girl-group vocals. But the song begins with a clip of Jim Jones (of Jonestown cult suicide infamy) and the lyrics reveal the singer's dissatisfaction with a companion that won't go outside, but rather chooses to "stay inside and sleep the light away". The song closes with "I think that you should wake up/I think I want to live my life and you're just in the way".
"Go Outside"

In my opinion there isn't a bad track on this album. Don't overlook the second track from the end, "Romper"; it is a stomping track that leaves a good aftertaste. Should you be bothered that it is over in fewer than 35 minutes? Of course not--do as I do and hit the replay button. You'll have over an hour of joy.

The vampy "Most Wanted"


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Moon Duo: Mazes

Just last week, I was wondering when we'd get something new from Wooden Shjips, a psychedelic band from SF I discovered last fall. Yeah, I know, you already knew about them...

Going over a few recent KEXP podcasts, I discovered a Kevin Cole podcast (Vol 249, "Hey Ho Let's Go") that contained this song:

Lo and behold, that's Ripley Johnson, the lead guitarist from Wooden Shjips! Moon Duo has been making music for a few years, and this is their latest, released March 29 on Sacred Bones Records.

Moon Duo- Mazes by sacredbones

Here's a live in-studio performance on KEXP from last year.

Had seen their name, probably on double bills with some other bands I like, but this is the first I've heard of their music, and I like it a lot. If you like Neu, Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, or maybe the place where those three would theoretically overlap, you ought to check out Moon Duo. Really good music, made with care and some incredible guitar work.

Moon Duo Myspace

Moon Duo Website

Midnight World Pop Scout-17: Jacques Green; Woven Bones; Circle Pit

Welcome to the 17th edition of our quick exposure to pop around the globe. This week we have an act from Canada, and we've done some lazy scouting via a label in my back yard, although it has given us bands in Australia and Brooklyn.

"Another Girl" from Jacques Green is a stunning track from this Canadian R&B/House artist. I know little about Greene other than he is from Montreal and records on the LuckyMe and Night Slugs labels.

There are a number of quality songs at the Soundcloud link below.

Recent tune "Rinse"

Rinse, march 24th by Jacques Greene


Now we have a home delivery of psychedelic garage/noise pop from Woven Bones. Woven Bones are from Austin, Texas but relocated to Brooklyn. They have released a couple of songs for Hardly Art Records, and will be releasing a full length for that label later this year. They previously release records on the Sweet Rot Records label, among others. I love the sound this band makes.

"I Gotta Get"

"Creepy Bone" is a previous release for Sweet Rot Records:

Artist Page at Hardly Art Records

Circle Pit is a duo formed a few years ago in Sydney, Australia by Angela Bermuda and Jack Mannix. For live shows the group expands to include Harriet Hudson, All Haddock and Jeff Lewis. In the United States, Circle Pit is signed to Hardly Art Records, a subsidiary of Seattle's Sub Pop.

Following is the video for their single, "Speed Limits":

Here are two songs, "Slave" and "Honey", which show the band's slowcore, goth face.

Circle Pit - Slave / Honey by hardlyartrecords

The band has a poppier face, as well, demonstrated by "Another Trick":

Artist page at Hardly Art Records

Emerging Seattle Bands: Sports

You may be under the delusion that the life of a music blogger is all high pay, limos, private jets, fancy parties and beautiful companions. And of course you'd mostly be right. But some bands, the very people we are striving to launch into their own world of limos, private jets and groupies, make it harder. Yes, I'm looking at you, Sports. Put "sports" in a search engine and see what you get. And I don't even like baseball!

However, I forgive this Seattle electro rock outfit because they sound so damn good. Here is "Every World Is A World of Your Own":

Sports lists their record label as Crash Symbols, but they don't provide much other information.

Here you can stream their 8-track album, Sports (nice, I can search for "sports" "sports"), which was released in April.

If you like the sound of this album, it is available at the Bandcamp link below for name-your-price.


REVIEW: Robert Pollard - Lord of the Birdcage

Bob Pollard's poetry put to music? Reminds me a bit of the song "Factory of Raw Essentials", 1:25 of meandering, beautifully-sung poetry from 2002's Universal Truths and Cycles of which I never tire... when Bob wants to put the lyrics front and center, it usually yields results like that... and this:

"I got a smashed middle finger
Let me explain that
Big kids were shooting the rock
It was a nine pound rock
I tried to stop the rock
You can’t stop the rock
It rolled over my finger
Crushed it like a grape..."

You can't stop the rock. True, and ain't that a great thing? Here's a nice explication of this song at No Ugly Babies.

This record definitely meanders and it is nowhere near as focused as the Lifeguards or Boston Spaceships discs he released earlier this year... but that's kind of the point of poetry: exploration of the sounds and relationships of words. Considering the words themselves, not so much what they mean, but how they sound, can be a very rewarding way to listen to Pollard. It's just a little more obvious here.

And it finishes strong, with "Holy Fire", an angular rocker, leading into "Ash Ript Telecopter", which just rocks.

Here's another one of the rockers, "Aspersion":

Listen in its entirety at Spinner.

Buy download at GBV Digital, and CD at Factory of Raw Essentials. Or do what I did, go by your local record store and buy a copy. Reward them for stocking Bob's records.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Old Stuff Friday - The Soul Corner - The Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band

The Soul Corner has been to Chicago, traveled down South and nearly set up residence in the Motor City. So it's time we head to the West coast.

And man does this bring back memories for me. When I was a young kid in 1969 and "Do Your Thing" came on the radio, you could guarantee the parents were turning it down and sending you the disapproving look. I think that whole jungle thing made them a little nervous.

This cooks, starts with an easy sunny day vibe, then just gets down. Love the crazy guitar sounds in the last minute.

Let's give Charles Wright and his crew one more, "Express Yourself", with a fun video that should put a smile on your face as you head into the first weekend of June, dare I say, almost summer:

Lo-Fi Goodness: Crystal Swells

Up the road a bit from me is Vancouver, British Columbia. The music scene up there mostly is a mystery to me. But if Crystal Swells are any indication, I'll have to pay more attention. The sound is garage/noise pop, and is played with plenty of energy. This may be the perfect soundtrack for your end of the week pints. Hey, I think I'll try that...

You can stream their entire six track January 2011 release, Goethe Head Soup, here. If you like it, it is $2 US at the Bandcamp link below. And it may be worth it just for the name of the album.

They also released an album, Crystal Mountain Girls, in 2010. A link for a free download of that album is at the Bandcamp site.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cool Video Thursday

Domino Records has released this video for "Breaking Fun", which will be the first single from Mirror Mirror by Sons and Daughters. As you can hear, in this album the band is moving towards the more minimal style of its earlier work, Love the Cup and The Repulsion Box.

From Is Tropical, this one takes me back to childhood:

IS TROPICAL - THE GREEKS (official music video) from EL NINO on Vimeo.

And here is "Zorbing" from the debut album by Stornoway. Anyone feeling a bit dizzy?

Finally, a nice video from The Onion's AV Club about Ardent Studios.

Memphis: Ardent Studios - Home to Big Star, The Replacements, Isaac Hayes, and more

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

REVIEW: Steve Earle - I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, CD and Novel

Having beaten drug addiction, imprisonment, divorces and untold struggles, Steve Earle is making up for lost time. His string of records over the past 15 years has been extraordinarily good, for my money better than the music that made him a star 25 years ago.

He’s acting on TVs shows The Wire and Treme. He married the gifted country singer Allison Moorer and they have a new baby. And now he has published his first novel, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) with the same title as his brand new CD (New West Records).

Earle’s newest music hits on all his favorite touch points – folk, country, rock, Cajun, Celtic, bluegrass. He is quick to credit Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark as his mentors, and that type of story based, careful writing remains Earle’s strength.

Not surprising for a guy in his mid-50s releasing his 14th studio record, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive does not break new ground or see Earle reinvent himself. Why would we want that? Instead, we get a series of very well crafted songs, with Earle’s writing at the top of his game. He brought in T Bone Burnett to produce, a major break from Earle’s usual self-production. Burnett, in turn, brought in an A list of musicians – including Greg Leisz, Sara Watkins, T Bone himself on guitars, and perhaps most importantly, the great Jay Bellerose on drums. The recording was done very quickly, in less than a week, and has a warm, organic, live feel. Every song is a strong one and the writing here is simply outstanding.

Here’s the lead track “Waiting for the Sky to Fall”:

And just because he’s in love, a new Daddy, in the best shape of his life, and artistically hitting on all cylinders, Earle hasn’t gone soft or given up his unflinching political voice. There’s a raging anti-George W. Bush rant (“Little Emperor”), and two about the ravaging of South Louisiana (“The Gulf of Mexico” and “This City”).

If you have ever enjoyed Steve Earle's music, but not checked in awhile, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is well worth getting. If you are a younger reader here or somehow missed the boat on him but enjoy Americana music, it’s a perfectly fine place to start.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through the novel and loving it. I went to see Earle read from I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive at a local bookstore last week. He was warmer, funnier and more self-deprecating than I expected (somehow I had him pegged as an artist I love who I would be well advised not to approach if I ran into in an airport). He says he was inspired by the Harry Potter series, by which I think he meant to create something that moved freely from the real to the fantastical. Here we have the ghost of Hank Williams Sr. lurking about starting conversations, a well meaning drug addled fake doctor, a mysterious young Mexican girl who seems to be performing miracles, very realistic street and drug scenes, all set in San Antonio in 1963. The Kennedy assassination is worked in there too. It’s raw, real, funny, and warm in an odd way. Life, death, love, loss, redemption, it's all there.

Good writing is good writing, song or novel. Steve Earle is making the most of his gifts and proving he can do it all.

Link for the novel: http://www.amazon.com/Ill-Never-This-World-Alive/dp/0618820965/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306986737&sr=1-1

Artist web page: http://steveearle.com/