Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons, RIP

Iconic saxophone player of the E Street band died of complications from a stroke he suffered last weekend. He was 69 years old.

Midnight World Pop Scout-19: AM444; Why Don't We Love Lucy; Satellite Stories

This week's edition includes our first ever entry from China, as well as bands from Denmark/Norway and Finland.

AM444 is based in Shanghai. The members are ChaCha, who has provided vocals for trip hop, downbeat, dubstep and reggae projects, and DJ and producer Jay Soul, who is from Amsterdam. AM444 released an LP named Eye Wonder, in April on the PAUSE:MUSIC label.

This is a video for "Eye Wonder"


Why Don't We Love Lucy is an electro-pop/soul group from Denmark and Norway. The members are Benjamin Dante (vocals), Mads Froberg (bass and keyboards), Bo Blaksteen (guitars and keyboards), and Jonas Jarlkov (drums and samples). They released an LP entitled CPH-OSL in March 2011.

"Bohemian Girl", live.

A live version of "Sonic Bird".


Satellite Stories are from Oulu, Finland, which I understand is located near the Arctic Circle. Their indie pop reminds me of Vampire Weekend. The songs are very upbeat and, in fact, the band describes their style as "party indie". They like the 60s, they like to dance, I think they like to be happy and make you happy.

The members are Esa (vocals and guitar), Marko (guitar), Jyri (bass), and Olli-Pekka (drums). At this point, they seem to be unsigned.

This song is named "Helsinki Art Scene"

Satellite Stories - Family by satellitestories

"Kids Aren't Safe in the Metro"
Satellite Stories - Kids Aren't Safe In The Metro by satellitestories


REVIEW: Centro-matic - Candidate Waltz

Candidate Waltz is the latest, long-awaited full-length record from Denton, Texas band Centro-matic. Will Johnson, Scott Danbom (keyboards, violin, harmony vocals), Matt Pence (drums), and Mark Hedman (bass and guitars) have made a terrific rock record that's catchy, crunchy and raucous. There's plenty of tension/release, plenty of great guitars, of course one of the best rock vocalists in creation and a few twists: for example, the lead track, "Against the Line" features some electronic effects, a new touch from Centro-matic, and a few of the other songs have some effects and found sounds, but for the most part it rocks.

"All the Talkers" is a straight-ahead rocker that seems to be about the experience of discovering a new favorite rock band, sort of cutting through all the chatter and being blown away by their sound. Certainly an experience most Centro-matic fans will relate to... it's got two fairly distinct parts, with a bit of a stop in the middle, but they're knitted together pretty well. "They played until we had been won... It was not like the night before." Bit of an understatement, that.

"Iso-Residue" and "Solid States" are two of the poppiest songs Centro-matic has done: "Iso-Residue" has a real upbeat drumbeat underlying a sing-songy intro and some snippets of keyboards that jump in and out, but fortunately a squall of guitar feedback ain't far away. About 1:10, to be precise, where the guitar comes in over the piano and takes off. "Solid States" proceeds similarly and transitions to a soaring guitar solo, but it keeps the upbeat backing throughout.

"Estimate X3" is a slow build Centro-matic ballad reminiscent of "Janitorial on Channel Fail" or "Covered Up in Mines"... and it leads into the wall of sound intro and reverb-drenched vocals of "Only in My Double Mind" (video and downloadable track available below):

"Shadow, Follow Me" has a real country feel with pretty piano lines and hushed vocals, and leads into "Mercedes Blast"... back to the full guitar onslaught almost from the beginning... Johnson sings over a restrained electric guitar line that moves in and out for a full minute until the drums, bass and keys kick in, but even then it's pretty controlled for about another 45 seconds, a few more guitar sounds are added and the song takes off, just really beautiful rock music. Finally, speaking of guitar lines, check out the riff on "If They Talk You Down", choppy, insistent, and underlying another soaring solo.

All in all, this record proves that Will Johnson's songwriting and creativity are still at a peak and that Centro-matic show no signs of slowing down. The first Centro-matic record I ever heard, All The Falsest Hearts Can Try, just knocked me out and at the time, I figured if this was all we ever heard from this band, the world would be better for it, but there was that hope... That was in 2001! Since then, there have been six Centro-matic albums, various EPs and South San Gabriel releases, and absolutely no diminution in quality.

This record will be released Tuesday. If you like Centro-matic, do not delay. If you don't know them, give a listen. They'll play until you have been won.

US summer tour starts this week:

Wednesday 06/22 – Grimey’s Records @ 6pm (Will Johnson solo)
Wednesday 06/22 – The Basement – Nashville, TN
Thursday 06/23 – The Earl – Atlanta, GA
Friday 06/24 – Athfest – (in front of the) 40 Watt Club – Athens, GA
Saturday 06/25 – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
Sunday 06/26 – DC9 – Washington DC
Tuesday 06/28 – North Star Bar – Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday 06/29 – Great Scott – Cambridge, MA
Thursday 06/30 – The Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
Friday 07/01 – Mohawk Place – Buffalo, NY
Saturday 07/02 – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH
Sunday 07/03 – Schubas – Chicago, IL
Tuesday 07/05 – Euclid Records – St. Louis, MO @ 5pm (Will Johnson solo)
Tuesday 07/05 – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO
Thursday 07/07 – Dan’s Silverleaf – Denton, TX
Friday 07/08 – Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
Saturday 07/09 – Cactus Records @ 1pm (Will Johnson solo)
Sunday 07/10 – Waterloo Records @ 5pm (full band)
Sunday 07/10 – The Mohawk – Austin, TX

Centro-matic Website

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

This post will be concise. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will release an album named Hysterical this fall. There is a fine new song out now named "Same Mistake"--

The song is available for free download at this link.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Old Stuff Friday: Steve Winwood

Haven't done an Old Stuff Friday post in quite a while... and I don't think I spend enough time writing about my fellow Nashville residents, so when I heard "Arc of a Diver" the other day, I thought it was time to kill two birds with one stone, and feature the great Steve Winwood. Well, he's a part-time Nashville resident...

He started out as a 14-year old soul shouter in the Spencer Davis Group, brought on board by his older brother Muff. Before he left to form Traffic at the age of 18, he had recorded this absolute classic:

Traffic had a truly amazing run of great albums, including Mr. Fantasy, Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die, and The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys:

In the middle of Traffic's run, Steve teamed with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce to form Blind Faith, just a little side project:

And at one point he found time to stop by the studio to play organ on this song with his friend Jimi:

He played and jammed with, and led various rock and jazz collectives throughout the early and mid-70's before releasing his very first solo album in 1977... and since this is an old stuff post, I'll take it just a little further to 1980's Arc of a Diver:

And I would end it there, except that I would like to close with another Nashville reference and describe one of the greatest acts of rock and roll courage I've ever witnessed. In 1998, the Music City Bowl was just getting its start as the proliferation of college football bowl games continued, and as part of the TV draw they were thrilled to have the great Steve Winwood. I doubt anyone would have blamed him and his band for shrugging off an outdoor halftime show in 15 degrees with 20mph winds and freezing rain, but when the time came, there was Steve playing "Roll With It"... I wish some video of the performance was available, but it probably belongs to Disney since the game was on ESPN. All I know is, I was impressed.

His website is worth a visit and bookmarking for future visits... today they're featuring a vintage video of Traffic performing "John Barleycorn Must Die".

Steve Winwood Website

Old Stuff Friday - The Soul Corner "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"

Part 2 in our 2 part series on the overlooked sibling. Being Aretha's little sister was tough. But it was not much easier to be David Ruffin's older brother.

David Ruffin was not only one of the greatest of all Motown and soul singers (the guy sang "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" for goodness sakes), but David was a larger than life figure. David Ruffin cut a very wide swath in Detroit as Motown's first rock star, a legendary ladies man and party boy.

But quieter older brother Jimmy Ruffin cut for my money one of the greatest Motown singles, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted". A perfect song with a tremendously effective and heartfelt vocal.

This classic has been recorded by many, but my favorite cover is Joan Osborne's; though not even a singer of her obvious gifts can top the original. But this is a great rendition from the must see documentary film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", backing by an all star cast of the Funk Brothers, the original Motown session musicians.

REVIEW: King Post Kitsch -- The Party's Over

I became aware of some intriguing King Post Kitsch recordings in 2010. I liked them and listened to them, but didn't focus much on the artist. This spring, I became aware of the quite excellent free EP he released on Bandcamp (highly recommend, by the way), which we noted a few weeks back. I also became aware of increasing buzz surrounding his new album, so I resolved to investigate further.

Charlie Ward, AKA King Post Kitsch, is a young Glasgow lad who moved to London to study sound engineering. Over the last three or four years, in addition to his work on the sound boards, he has been writing and recording the songs which comprise The Party's Over in various locales in England and Scotland. The album, which is released on Matthew Young's Edinburgh-based Song By Toad Records, contains ten songs of impressive quality and variety. Ward writes his intentions large right out of the gate. The first song is "Portland Street Pt 2", which reminds many of us of the great Syd Barrett (it also may be the first rock song with a piccolo riff that you hear this year). The second song is the lo-fi garage stomper "Don't You Touch My Fucking Honeytone", the name of which was a working title that never was replaced.

King Post Kitsch - Don't You Touch My Fucking Honeytone by Song, by Toad

Delicate Cloud Cult-like dream pop infuses "Fante's Last Stand", which is the third track. It was written after Charlie read a story about John Fante writing his last book.

Fante's Last Stand from King Post Kitsch on Vimeo.

One inevitable tick ingrained in the chattering class of music bloggers is "name that influence". In some cases, we may actually be naming an influence. In others, we may just be telling the reader what the music reminds us of rather than identifying an actual influence. In either case, it serves a purpose when we are trying to describe to you music that you can't hear. With that background, I note that Charlie's apparent influences are of the best possible taste. In addition to the aforementioned Syd Barrett, other influences noted by reviewers (or Charlie himself) are Echo and the Bunnyman, The Kinks (in "Walking on Eggshells", which is provided below), Bon Iver (I don't hear that one, but I don't "get" Bon Iver), The Zombies, and perhaps even my beloved Sonics ("Honeytone"). And "You Talk Too Much" calls to mind the power pop of Big Star, while "The Werewolf Hop" reminds me of Warren Zevon for more than one reason. But on a broader scale an album of this variety, wit, bravado and production quality calls to my mind Robyn Hitchcock, 69 Love Songs-era The Magnetic Fields and, perhaps, a slice of The Beatles' White Album.

"Walking on Eggshells" is one of the album's highlights. Charlie commented that it started out as a folk song, but transformed when he ran an organ through a distortion pedal.

King Post Kitsch - Walking on Eggshells by Song, by Toad

The Party's Over is the opening statement of an artist of great promise, and it is an album that I am very glad to have and enjoy now, and reference later when listening to his subsequent work. I think for Charlie, the party's just beginning.

Album link at Song By Toad Records ("Walking on Eggshells" available free)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

REVIEW: David Bazan - Strange Negotiations

If you're familiar with Bazan, you know the background: he was the writer and leader of the band Pedro the Lion for years, making music in which he talked about God and man and their complicated relationship. The band had a good sound, but I don't recall hearing a Pedro the Lion record I liked anywhere near as much as this disc. In fact, I will admit that I'm just now catching back up with Bazan, having heard the song "People" and being drawn in by the music and lyrics... and happy to discover that Strange Negotiations is a terrific record.

Some of the songs on here are absolutely irresistible: if they didn't rock so hard, the lyrics on "People" and "Wolves at the Door" would pull you in anyway. But they do, and they do...

The record has a big sound, and Bazan is putting it all in the service of, for want of a better term, preaching. While his recent solo albums apparently detailed his "breakup" with God, I would swear a lot of this record is written from a point of view you could only ascribe to an omniscient, loving being who cares enough to tell some unpleasant truths:

From "People":

i wanna know who are these people
blaming their sins on the fall
who are these people
if i’m honest with myself at all
these are my people
man what else can i say
you are my people
and we’re the same in so many ways

"People" is an amazing song. I will resist the temptation to just quote the whole thing here, because the lyrics are better heard in the context of the music.

And from "Messes":

you used to keep me a secret
that nobody else could know
made me feel so alone
but i’ll be damned if i let it show
but now it’s like you hardly know me
so i’ve been busy minding my own
but i’m finding your finger prints
in some places they don’t belong
be careful cause the lights come on
without a warning

Matthew 25:13, anyone? Whether written from the point of view of God or an angry, disillusioned former Christian, that's a message that is truly timeless and it's wrapped in a stunning, beautiful rock record.

Listen at Soundcloud:

Wolves At The Door by David Bazan

[UPDATE]...And here's a video for "Wolves at the Door" from a recent live performance:

David Bazan Website

David Bazan at Barsuk Records

Cool Video Thursday

The first video is for "Adversity" by Beach Fossils.

"Little Smug Supper Club" by Ted Leo.

This is a portion of a video from a new project called Demoniaques, comprised of Tamaryn and Dee Dee Penny of the Dum Dum Girls. The project name is a tribute to the French film maker Jean Rollin.

Les Demoniaques - Teenage Lust (teaser) from Honey Suckled Video on Vimeo.

From Discopolis, Scotland's hottest young electo-rock band, we have "When Ghosts Get Angry".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Discovery: Shimmering Stars

I can call this garage rock without fear of complete contradiction, because the music was born of Rory McClure's initial recording in his parents' garage in Kamloops, British Columbia. However, apparently the impetus for young Rory's endeavors was the discovery of some old Everly Brothers tapes, and a listen to the following Shimmering Stars' songs highlights the Everly influence. Here is a stream of a self titled LP they released in 2010. The first song is available for free download.

The band consists of Rory McClure, Andrew Dergousoff, and Brent Sasaki (some descriptions call them a four piece, but the label only lists three members), and they are based in Vancouver, British Columbia. They recently signed to Hardly Art Records, which will release the band's LP, Violent Hearts, in the fall (the European release will be on Almost Musique). The music is classic melodies and harmonies with a fair amount of shimmer and reverb.

Update: Here is a video for the song "I'm Gonna Try":

Shimmering Stars - I'm Gonna Try from Salazar on Vimeo.

Artist link at Hardly Art Records

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

RIP Carl Gardner (The Coasters)

Carl Gardner, lead singer of the Coasters, died on Sunday. The Coasters were loosely part of the doo wop movement of the late 50's but they were immensely influential architects of rock'n'roll. The Coasters had a string of innovative and infectious hit songs written by the team of Leiber and Stoller. Gardner's lead vocals were a big part of their magic.

"Poison Ivy" was one of these hits, so cool that a member of the Cramps took her name from the title of the song. This live version was recorded long after the band's heyday, but Gardner's voice still sounds great:

And in the classic "Yakety Yak", Gardner sang the immortal words:

Don't you give me no dirty looks
Your father's hip he knows what cooks
Just tell your hoodlum friends outside
you ain't got time to take a ride.

"Young Blood" was one of their best known songs and has been covered by Leon Russell, Bad Company and many others, including even Scotty McCready on this season's American Idol, and another band you may know:

Read more about the Coasters in their Wikipedia entry:

Emerging Northwest Bands: Point Juncture, WA

The title of the series (i.e. Emerging Seattle Bands) had to be modified for this edition, because Point Juncture, WA is a collaboration of four Portland, Oregon musicians -- Amanda Spring (vocals, drums) Victor Nash (keyboards, vocals) Skyler Norwood (guitar, vibraphone) and Wilson Vediner (guitar). In the past six years they have released three albums. Juxtapony (2004) and Mama Auto Boss (2005) were solid Pacific Northwest indie pop. In 2009, they released Heart to Elk, in which they displayed a broader array of influences and a broader palate of musical expression.

In May, Point Juncture, WA released their latest full length, Handsome Orders on Mt. Fuji Records. The album was recorded in the band's home studio. However, don't assume that home recording means low quality. The songs are both lush and energetic. The guitars are reverbed and fuzzed, while the vocals have a boy/girl delivery.

"Violin Case" is the first video released with respect to the album:

Overall, I think that Handsome Orders is the sound of a band growing up. That isn't to suggest that their prior work was juvenile or disposable. What is means is that the variety of music on this album, coupled with the quality of the musicianship, makes this album a remarkable effort. Some tunes are orchestral or dream pop. The closer, Boston Gold, is a fuzzed guitar power pop tune. However, the variety doesn't result in chaos or disconnect. The band lives together, cooks together, and has toured extensively together. It is a tight unit and the listener can sense their ability to feed off of each other.

"The Economics of Basketball" is a lovely song:


The album possesses a full sound. Bass, guitar, keyboards, horns, drums, and even dissonance is all part of the texture to support and accent the melody. The album isn't like many other indie pop albums you will try this year, but I suspect you'll agree that it is a delightful discovery.

Here is a live version of "New Drags", the fifth track on the album:


Monday, June 13, 2011

REVIEW: Tedeschi-Trucks Band - Revelator

Revelator is the first disc from Derek Trucks, his wife Susan Tedeschi and their large band. It has been in the works for the last 18 months or so, but the idea has been germinating since they first met in 1998, when Trucks was on tour with the Allman Brothers Band. First observation: these folks can really, really play and sing. From Trucks' Duane-inspired slide guitar to Tedeschi's clear, strong vocals, the double drummers, and the horns and Hammond B3 organ, it all reflects great ability and dedication... but there's something more here, a love of tradition that makes their approach irrestible to me. If you know anything about my tastes, you may be aware that "originality" is not something I value in and of itself. And while the influences and precursors are easy to spot, that's not a hindrance in the least.

Here's a video about the making of the record:

Most of the songs feature plenty of Trucks' stinging slide guitar work, especially on the outros of the 5:00-plus "Midnight in Harlem" and "Bound For Glory". But he plays all kinds of guitars on here, and Tedeschi contributes some guitar work as well. And there are some nice soul ballads: "Simple Things" features the Hammond B-3 and piano moreso than the guitar, and "Until You Remember" has a nice horn intro, and also some excellent piano playing.

Here's a video of them performing "Midnight in Harlem" live:

Tedeschi's vocals, while clear and strong, are refreshingly not "oversung": notes are not stretched, twisted and tortured like in so much "neo-soul" music. It looks like she at least co-wrote 8 of the 12 songs on the record, and she sings them to let the songs shine through, with obvious respect for her blues, soul and gospel forebears. And the smoothness of her vocals are nicely offset by the earthy sounds of Derek's guitar:

The band is built around a husband and wife guitar/vocal team, and a lot of the support (keyboards, bass, composing and arranging) is supplied by a pair of brothers (Oteil and Kofi Burbridge), who have played with Tedeschi and Trucks in different groups and arrangements for several years. There are multiple connections and stellar resumes all over this record, but the thing that is obvious to me is the respect all these players have for Tedeschi, Trucks and their musical vision. The players are very comfortable playing together and this results in a cohesive record that goes from soul with horns to Southern boogie to gospel-tinged chorus, to the all-out rock of "Love Has Something More to Say".

If you like Southern rock, I highly recommend giving this a listen. You'll find musical reminders of Southern rock bands like The Allman Brothers Band and The Marshall Tucker Band to go along with the obvious touchpoints of blues, gospel, soul and swamp rock.

Tedeschi Trucks Band Website

Stream at AOL

REVIEW: Edinburgh School for the Deaf -- New Youth Bible

Behold the good news, today brings us the release of the New Youth Bible -- the word of the day brought to us by Edinburgh School for the Deaf. Our first verses are from "Of Scottish Blood and Sympathies". The track starts out with a squall of feedback, but then settles into a measured story of death and transition.
01 Of Scottish Blood and sympathies by Edinburgh School for the

The second track, "Eleven Kinds of Loneliness" is a delicate, sad song of lovers parting. And it bridges to one of the highlight tracks, the sonic maelstrom of "13 Holy Crowns", in which the protagonist seems to be challenging the Almighty. Yes, a weighty topic, and the music matches it.
03 13 Holy Crowns by Edinburgh School for the

The players in ESftD are:
Ashley : Vocal and sweeter guitar
Jamie : Drums
Grant : Bass guitar and shouting.
Kieran : Vocal and sourer guitar.
The musical space in which ESftD travels is that space bound by pop melody and noise, the same territory explored by such worthies as The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Ride, the lamented Manhattan Love Suicides, The Velvet Underground and the recently reviewed Crystal Stilts. More specificly, ESftD straddles the noise pop/shoegaze line, with a bit of attitude. Some have used the term "shoepunk", but the band seems to prefer Death Jangle. For some bands, the danger in this style is that in the band's pursuit of feedback drenched waves of sound, the songs become shapeless. ESftD deftly avoids that pitfall because the rhythm section of Jamie on drums and Grant on bass masterfully provide a structure to contain and shape the songs, allowing Kieran and Ashley to turn up their guitars.

But despite the fuzz and feedback, furious bass and driving percussion, pop songs are at the core of the bands' work. Admittedly, the pop songs here are not songs of cheer, but I find that to be part of the charm. In one of my favorite tracks, twins Grant and Ashley remind us that "Love is Terminal:
Love is terminal, Love is terminal
At first it hides it's sickness,
At first it wouldn't dare confess
It hides it's wounds in powders and lotions,
It hides it's sores and dries it's eyes
It never complains and it's all brave smiles
Love is terminal, Love is terminal...

Originally, the song is in Grant's voice. When Ashley drops in, one wonders whether the female voice will provide a hopeful counterpoint. But her contribution parallels Grant's--"Love is terminal".
05 Love. Is. Terminal by Edinburgh School for the

A final aural note for this post is provided by my favorite of the slower tempo songs on the album, "All Hands Lost". The song is a lament over what has been lost, or is being lost, and the feeling that what is left is unsatisfying. Thus the refrain: "I need something better than this to stare into/ Something less haunted, something less haunted, something else."
04 All hands lost by Edinburgh School for the

In my view, this is a noteworthy debut album. The band has a vision, a sound that many will find of interest, and the ability and drive to perform it. I look forward to the refinement of Edinburgh School for the Deaf. If I may offer a listening note, in my view all of these songs are to be played loud, as that is the way the band plays them.

The world is a sinful place, my readers. And while I can't speak for you, I don't want to be at the end of the year without a New Youth Bible to keep me straight. If you agree, seek the good word at Bubblegum Records.

Bubblegum Records