Saturday, June 11, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-18: Pearls; When Saints Go Machine; I Break Horses

Time for our weekly series of pop music around the work. This edition has indie from Australia, electro rock from Denmark, and shoegaze pop from Sweden.

Pearls are a band from Australia that plays drone/noise pop conveying "sad love songs". Pearls consist of Ellice, Cass and Ryan, and they record with the Re:Peater Records collective based in Glasgow.

"At Home With You"

"Better Off Alone"


Copenhagen, Denmark gives us electro/dance rockers When Saints Go Machine. The band consists of Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild, Jonas Kenton, Simon Muschinsky and Silas Moldenhawer. The band was formed in 2007. One member is a vocalist, two members play keyboards (one of whom also is a vocalist), and one member plays drums. Their debut album Konkylie is scheduled for release this year.

"Fail Forever"

When the Saints Go Machine is signed to EMI Scandinavia. As of when I wrote this post, they were offering two free tracks in return for a "like" on their Facebook page.

"Church and Law"

Kelly by When Saints Go Machine


Another Scandinavian entry is I Break Horses, from Stockholm, Sweden. The sound is dense, shoegaze with an unmistakable Scandinavian pop gloss. Their 2011 album, Hearts consists of nine tracks. The band lists its influences as My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Slowdive. The members of the band are Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck, and they record on the Bella Union label.


I Break Horses - Hearts from Bella Union on Vimeo.

Bella Union

Scottish Video Saturday

I think I've mentioned a few times before that Glasgow's Wake the President is my favorite indie pop group. "Elaine" is the first single from the album that will be released later this year, and now there is a video for it:

"Come On Girl" by Belle and Sebastian:

Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers covering Tom Waits "Down In the Hole" and the album launch for their new album, Luck:

Electro indie pop group A Band Called Quinn with "Wolf Cries Boy":

Scottish band Found recorded this video for their song "Anti Climb Paint" in a bakery. While the band plays, the bakers create confections that resemble records.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Old Stuff Friday - The Soul Corner: Erma Franklin, "(Take a Little) Piece of My Heart"

Okay, you think you have it bad, overshadowed by a sibling?

How would you like to be Erma Franklin, younger sister of Aretha?

But you are a good singer in your own right, so a major record company gives you a great new song to record - "(Take a Little) Piece of My Heart". It does pretty well, reaching #62 on the Billboard charts and the top 10 on the R&B charts. Not a bad start to your career.

But a few months later, the song is covered by a band called Big Brother and the Holding Company on their debut record. As if being compared to Aretha Franklin weren't tough enough, now you have to compete with Janis Joplin?! Damn, that ain't right.

But listen to this original version, which I suspect many of you have not heard before. I love this slow groove. Erma can hold her head up high.

And Erma sang back up on various of her older sister's songs, including one you might have heard called "Respect". So Erma's place in music history is secure.

Next week I will stay with this overshadowed sibling theme. Let's see if any of you can guess what's coming. It's one of the great soul ballads, by the little known younger brother, though this song made it very big and has its rightful place in soul history. ("Anonymous" SZ in Chicago - you can't guess, you know me too well, so it's too easy for you).

Emerging Seattle Bands: My Goodness

Groups don't need to be large to produce a large sound, as proved by Seattle duo My Goodness. Guitarist and drummer Joel Schneider and Ethan Jacobsen produce a dense, bluesy rock and roll--with a touch of surf--sound that puts them on a par with Ohio's Black Keys and Vancouver's Japandroids. This is the sound you want, and expect, to hear in a dimly lit bar where you've gone to have a few drinks and want to get lost in the music. They are signed to Sarathan Records, and released a self-titled LP this spring.

"I've Got A Notion"

According to Grant Brissey, of The Stranger magazine, when he saw My Goodness live they played 10 songs, declined requests for an encore, and asked for shots of Tequila. Yep, we're in rock and roll territory.

Check out the Audio page on the official website for a player with three songs as well as a free download.

Live performance from this spring:

Live performance from last fall:


Thursday, June 9, 2011

We Are Animal: "Luminous Lights"

"Luminous Lights"? Hey, that's redundant AND alliterative!

And it really rocks. This is a Welsh rock band, currently on tour in the UK...

And here's one from back in the fall (oh, I'm late on these guys, too?):

And a more recent track on Soundcloud:

Work by We are animal

I like their sound, will keep an ear out for an album.

We Are Animal Facebook

Cool Video Thursday

The history of Seattle music isn't all about grunge and DIY indie and twee. And now there is a documentary that shows Seattle's old Soul and R&B history. Here is the introductory video.

Wheedle's Groove Official Trailer from Jennifer Maas on Vimeo.

"Work", by 1, 2, 3

Video for Nine on the Line by Johnny Reb

Times New Viking has just released this video for "Try Harder":

Times New Viking - Try Harder from Merge Records on Vimeo.

If you are a fan of Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) of Animal Collective, here is the video for "Slow Motion":

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Am Harlequin: "Marianne"

I Am Harlequin is very talented London-based do-it-all artist, Anne Freier.

"Marianne" is the advance track from a forthcoming single, available via download here:

and at Soundcloud:

I am Harlequin Debut by I am Harlequin

I'd advise giving a listen to all the tracks there, as she varies her approach pretty widely. She's got a very, very strong vocal presence.

Here's a video of a solo piano/vocal version of "The Liberty":

From her website: Her influences range from classical music, particularly the Russians of the 20th century (Prokofiev, Rimski-Korsakow, Rachmaninoff), to the advanced choir arrangements in Stephen Sondheim musicals, as well as Kate Bush, Rickie Lee Jones, Grace Slick and Joni Mitchell, whom she grew up listening to.

When Anne is not at work on I am Harlequin, she can be found working on a chaos of scores and scripts. But she admits that the bulk of her time is spent on writing new material for I am Harlequin.

“I am long not out of ideas. There’s a lot more to come.”

I'm not going to give you any comparisons. She's pretty unique, and definitely worth checking out.

I Am Harlequin Website

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"