Saturday, July 30, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-25: Trwbador; Clams Casino; Top Girls

Tonight we visit Wales, New Jersey and North Carolina. Actually, you do. I've already listened to them and I'm going to run the Torchlight 8K.

Trwbador is a Welsh band consisting of Owain Gwilym and Angharad Van Rijswijk. They call their music folktronica. Trwbador have released two EPs, It Snowed A Lot This Year and Sun In The Winter EP. Their sound is a precocious wide-eyed wonder kind of pop.

Sun In The Winter EP by Trwbador

Clams Casino is the performance name used by Mike Volpe, from New Jersey, whose primary fame is in building backing tracks for rappers. However, he now is becoming known for his own more chilled out tracks consisting of his own beats and samples of other artists. He recently released the Rainforest EP on Tri Angle, and not long ago he released Instrumental Mixtape.

"She's Hot", from Mixtape

"Treetop", from Rainforest

"Waterfalls", from Rainforest


Top Girls is Evan from North Carolina, and he makes ambient, electronic, gaze pop, and soul music. What do all those terms mean, especially when mashed together? Click the play button below and find out.

Rise, released this month.

Attraction, released in June 2010.


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Soul Corner - "You're No Good"

The Soul Corner's following is small but loyal. And we aim to please. One of our most enthusiastic readers, a Notre Dame grad of course, told me just today about liking earlier posts with rich context, as when we unearth unheralded original versions or present overshadowed siblings.

So this week in a shameless effort to please our favorite fan, the Soul Corner presents both - an unheralded original version by an overshadowed sibling.

I'm guessing that few of you know the original version of "You're No Good" by Dee Dee Warwick. (Did Dee Dee Ramone take his name from her? I have no idea but it would be cool if he did). Yes, Dee Dee is Dionne's sister. That's a tough break right there. Good luck naming 5 better 60's R&B singers than Dionne Warwick.

Dee Dee's potential hit song was produced by the great team of Leiber and Stoller. It seemed to have it all going on.

But somehow the more pleasant and jazzy version by Betty Everett climbed higher on the R&B charts just months after Dee Dee's release in 1963.

Of course the mega-hit version was in 1974 by Linda Ronstandt. You know it and love it. And let's be clear here - Linda Ronstandt is a truly great singer. As good as it gets - Dionne Warwick good.

The song was later covered by Elvis Costello, Reba McEntire, Ike and Tina Turner, Van Halen, Michael Bolton and many others.

But Dee Dee Warwick's version was first, and not to be forgotten. When she proclaims "you're no good" or says "left a scar", there is no doubt she means it. And that whole party line of "feeling better now that we're through"? I'm not buying that.

Get to Know: We Are Augustines

One of my favorite bands a few years ago was Brooklyn-based Pela. I thought their LP, Anytown Graffiti was excellent and earned them the right to stardom. Regardless of the validity of my opinion, the public was not completely on message. As the group worked to record a follow up, a variety of tensions, including contractual and financial issues, pulled the group apart. The album wasn't finished, but the group was. The entire story is longer and more complicated, and is available on their Website linked below.

Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson of Pela stayed together, becoming over time, Augustines, and now We Are Augustines. The album they created is Rise Ye Sunken Ships, which was released last month as a digital only release on iTunes. "Book of James", which I've provided below, was written by McCarthy after his brother James, a diagnosed schizophrenic, committed suicide. In my view, it is the centerpiece of the album.

"Book of James":

The wonderful "Augustine", which gave rise to the band's name:

Most of the album was written while Pela still existed. The songs reflect the turmoils of the band, and the various components of McCarthy and Sanderson's lives. Both come from family backgrounds of substance abuse, and McCarthy's mother, as well as his brother, was schizophrenic. With that emotional weight, the album could have been a weepy morass. Instead, it is a triumph born of excellent songwriting and heartfelt performances. The songs are confessional, and speak to the potential for redemption. The sound has a blue collar, anthemic indie rock feel pleasantly reminiscent of Springsteen.

McCarthy and Sanderson have added drummer Rob Allen to the group. Oxcart Records is listed as their label.

We'll close with "Chapel Song", which has a more mid-tempo pop feel to it:

We Are Augustines "Chapel Song" from Matthew Mills on Vimeo.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 21: United Fruit; John Wean

We have standards this week. They may be arbitrary, but at least they are standards. To be one of the bands in edition 21 of the New Sounds of Scotland, the band has to have two words to their name. They also need to present a contrast in sound from the other band. The winners are hard driving alt rockers United Fruit, which has just released an album, and engaging indie poppers John Wean, which has released their first proper single.

Unsigned Glasgow rockers United Fruit get in your face. Not in a bad way, it's just that they are rockers of a type less often seen and heard these days, and they understand that an assault on your senses is the way this music is played. And oh, they play it well. United Fruit's recent album, Fault Lines, hits with a frenetic pace from the opening note, and doesn't let up. If there is any justice in this music world, this album will mark their breakout.

The members of United Fruit are
Iskandar Stewart (vocals and guitar), Stuart Galbraith (guitar and vocals), Marco Panagopoulos (bass), and Ross Jenkins (drums).


Glasgow-based John Wean are Conor Cartwright (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jude Smith (vocals and bass guitar), Stuart Anderson (lead guitar), and Simon Coakley (drums). The band has been honing their indie pop sound for a couple of years now, leading to the recent release of the single, "Desperate Dan (She Told Me She Was Single)". The song is classic indie about a boy falling for a girl who fails to disclose that she has a boyfriend. A tough boyfriend.

Desperate Dan (she told me she was single) from John Wean on Vimeo.

While their isn't much recorded output from John Wean at this point, I'm betting that we will hear more good tunes from them in the future.


Cool Video Thursday

"Summer Solstice" by Crystal Antlers

"Is It Me" by The Kooks provides a bit of a history lesson regarding old technology.

"Legacy" by Alcoholic Faith Mission

Alcoholic Faith Mission - Legacy from Bryn Chainey on Vimeo.

"Easy" by Pure X

Pure X - "Easy" from Malcolm Elijah on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New song - Joe Henry "Odetta"

The only thing better than a new Joe Henry song is the promise of a new Joe Henry full release. And this exclusive piece from NPR previews a new song, "Odetta" from an upcoming record called Reverie due out in October.

Of course we here at WYMA are totally in the tank for all things Joe Henry. But damn does this sound good. Joe explains the song to NPR in his own words, and it's always a treat to get a peek behind the curtain from an artist of this magnitude.

Joe Henry web page, where he has more to say about Reverie:

REVIEW: Boston Spaceships - Let It Beard

Sometimes, when considering Robert Pollard's recorded output, the word "sprawling" seems small. But let's start there... Let It Beard is big, real big. Kind of like the sound of a good '70's arena rock band, that big. Six listens through, and I still don't have a favorite song big... but the early candidate is certainly the four minute, sprawling (there's that word again, doing its best) "Tourist U.F.O." with its icing-on-the-cake J Mascis solo on the way out. "Hey, you got Mascis in my Pollard! No, you got Pollard in my Mascis!" But who's complaining?

Starting with the opener, "Blind 20-20", which changes at least four times in 3:03, this album is in fact a thrill ride and, as Pollard stated "a concept album about the sorry state of rock and roll"... the concept being, it would seem, "Let's quit screwing around with this precious crap and bring back the four P's". It's got all the ingredients of a great Pollard record: humorous double-take-inducing lyrical non-sequitirs, constant instrumental and tempo changes, razor-sharp guitars underpinned by a terrific rhythm section. Actually, in most cases it consists of Chris Slusarenko and John Moen underpinning, well, Chris Slusarenko, who does a great job both ways and is given credit for essentially pulling together the instrumental structure of the record. And please note well: Moen, who has played with Elliott Smith, Steven Malkmus and The Decemberists, is a hell of a rock drummer.

Other highlights include "I Took On the London Guys", featuring Steve Wynn on a very psychedelic-sounding lead guitar, "Make a Record for Lo-Life", which has a real Big Star swagger, "Let More Light in the House", which features a bit of prog art-rock - Soft Machine with banjos? Bob even sounds a little bit like Robert Wyatt to me on this one... "You Just Can't Tell" features some throbbing Colin Newman (Wire) punk guitar and "Chevy Marigold" will strike a chord with anyone who has a fancy for great blues-based rock music.

And to cover the Pop in the four P's, here's a nice ballad, "Christmas Girl", with a strong Pollard vocal and a sweet trumpet break :

Download Christmas Girl MP3

Pollard's fifth release this year is his best, and that is taking nothing away from the previous four, the Lifeguards' Waving At the Astronauts, Mars Classroom's The New Theory Of Everything and Pollard's Space City Kicks and Lord of the Birdcage. He's certainly in the zone with five quality discs just a little over halfway through the year, not to mention wrapping up the GbV Classic Lineup Reunion Tour. Folks, let's hear it for the Iron Man McGinnity of rock and roll.

Boston Spaceships Website

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

REVIEW: Motopony -- Motopony

I like bands that can describe their music in interesting ways. Seattle/Tacoma's Motopony describes their music as "glitch folk", "hard soul", and "hope and roll", and they sum it up as "Chief Seattle's revenge channeled through a hybrid engine drone". My translation is that Motopony plays indie pop with folk elements and a persuasive, but restrained, use of electronics. And on their recently released album, Motopony, they also are innovative and adventurous in finding ways to delight their listeners.

Motopony's flexibility is demonstrated by the first three tracks on the album. Album opener, "June", is an engaging dream pop piece reminiscent of Cloud Cult. The second track, the catchy "King of Diamonds", is the first single. Some have compared it to Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah, but vocally and in terms of rhythm it reminds me of Rusted Root. In it, vocalist Daniel Blue sings of searching for something he realizes that he already has:

Motopony - King Of Diamonds from tinyOGRE on Vimeo.

"Seer", the following track, takes a very different approach, laying down a sinuous groove. While lyrically introspective, musically it is an invigorating bit of funk from the glitch poppers.

The band consists of Daniel Blue (vocals and guitar), Buddy Ross (beats and keyboards), Brantley Cady (lead guitar), and Forrest Mauvais (drums). Their ablum is on the tinyOGRE Entertainment label. The band presents many interesting facets: Excellent songwriting; a marriage of electronic and organic instrumentation; and unusual tunings. This debut album, and all of its components are a success, but it might be worth buying just for the gorgeous "God Damn Girl", which begins with the repeated phrase 'God damn girl your wounds are beautiful'. I don't have a studio recording of the song to share with you, but here is a version from a live show.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Richard Buckner - Our Blood ... streaming on NPR ... out next Tuesday

If you know Richard Buckner's music, you're as excited as I am about this release...

Here's the link to the NPR streaming site (which will probably be taken down after August 2)...

And here's a link to Buckner's website, with a tempting offer of a limited release bonus track, "Willow", if you preorder on iTunes.

On first listen, this is exactly what I'd hoped it would be and, like all previous Buckner records, so much more than I'd have reason to hope for. His voice, his guitar work and the arrangements are spare, haunting and absolutely beautiful. I can't think of anyone outside Neil Young who can use an acoustic guitar and his voice (with some hushed piano, slide guitar or synthesizer in places) to evoke this much feeling. For example, listen to the piano backdrop to "Collusion", and the overlay of piano, synthesizer and deep acoustic guitar behind his sparse vocals on "Thief".

Buckner will be touring with David Kilgour in the second half of August. Sounds like a great double bill to me... and these are already two of my favorite records of 2011.

REVIEW: Brilliant Colors -- Again and Again

In terms of geography, Brilliant Colors reside in neither Scotland nor New Zealand, but very roughly between the two in San Francisco. But musically the band seems to have one foot in the Creation Records/C-86 camp, and the other in the Blue Nun camp. The result on their new album, Again and Again, on Slumberland Records is jangly, noise pop bliss with a punch.

"'Round Your Way"

Brilliant Colors - 'Round Your Way from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.

Again and Again is a developmental step for the three ladies that comprise the band -- Jess, Diane and Michelle. The more punk stylings of their earlier album often are embellished here by engaging melodies, warm guitars and confessional, wistful songs, such as "How Much Younger".

However, the punkier, and darker, side edges back into the mix with songs like "Back to the Tricks", below, or "Painting Truths".

Again and Again eschews traveling a broad spectrum of influences and styles to provide a cohesive, even disciplined, set of perfect summer music. And its been on daily rotation on the Rocksteady74 players since summer arrived in Seattle (which was less than a week ago, unfortunately).

By the way, album track "Cult Face" reminds me of The Shop Assistants, and that is a foolproof tactic for getting my attention.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

REVIEW: Joey Ryan and the Inks - Dennis Lane

Don't know exactly what they've got in the water in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but whatever it is, it's got folks making really catchy, melodic rock music. In addition to MN rockers Rogue Valley, who inspired a WYMA post earlier this week, Joey Ryan and the Inks (who were also featured on here a while back) have got a new one, Dennis Lane, coming out July 30. Extremely catchy and well-crafted, Ryan's band does pop-rock as well as anybody playing today.

In the reviews on the band's website, there are some comparisons to the Beach Boys, and I guess in terms of melody and the harmony vocals, there's a comparison to be made, but I don't think that's the first place I'd go for a comparison. To me, Joey Ryan and the Inks' music more calls to mind some of the great Southeast pop rock titans like the dB's, Let's Active and the Connells, and later, Superchunk. There's even a little bit of R.E.M.-style jangle.

Here's a video of them performing "Jester In the Wind" in The Current (Minnesota Public Radio, 89.3) studios:

Dennis Lane is a good listen from start to finish, bright and sunny in places, rocking in others, easy on the ears without being insubstantial. While very catchy on first listen, it stands up very well to repeated play. The songs are all well-done, the rhythm section is strong, there's a very pleasing variety of guitar sounds... and Ryan is a great singer for this type of music.

You can listen to "The Troubled Poet" from Dennis Lane, as well as several songs from the previous album Well, Here We Are Then, at the band's website:

Joey Ryan and the Inks Website