Saturday, August 27, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-29: The Weeknd; Lenticular Clouds; Octanone

This weekend's ramble takes us from Toronto to Barcelona to Switzerland.

Fewer than six months after the release of the deservedly well-received House of Balloons (which we covered here), The Weeknd has issued Thursday. The sound continues to be a hazy, sleazy late night version of slow contemporary R&B, but on this version their is a bit more in terms of guitar riffs and industrial sounds, and a generally more claustrophobic feel. However, while it doesn't have the same feel as House of Balloons, it doesn't feel completely different. Perhaps it is best described as another chapter in the same story.

"Life of the Party", in which the protagonist persuades a female to participate in group sex.

Details regarding the Toronto project are still sparse, and I imagine that the lack of information is deliberate. The vocalist is Abel Tesfaye, and the producers responsible for the tracks are Doc McKinney and Illangelo. The rapper Drake is involved to some extent, and is featured on one of the tracks. I understand that The Weeknd project anticipates creating a trilogy, and we should expect the third installment this fall. Thursday is available for a free download at the website linked below.


"Rolling Stone"


Lenticular Clouds is a Spanish electronic chillwave/dreampop group that produces some very engaging and interesting music. The album Ciencia​/​Conciencia was released in July, and you can stream it below. It also can be purchase for one Euro. I'm not familiar with the exchange rate, but you may be able to purchase one of our fifty states for a Euro right now, so it seems like a good deal.


The members are Albert Zaragoza Gas and Guillem Ber tar, and they are based in Barcelona. Their music is released on LEDlight and Neonized Rec.


Octanone is Swiss Lucien Montandon, formerly drummer for the group Alt F4 and known for his mastery of drums and all sorts of beat making implements. He is beginning to create an artistic persona as Octanone. in the video below for the song "None" he plays with a drum pad, Loop Station and Kaoss effects. His debut EP is expected in September.

octanone live at spalenring from octanone on Vimeo.


Friday, August 26, 2011

The Soul Corner - "People Get Ready"

I got married 16 years ago today. It's not always easy being married, especially if you are married to me, so this one goes out to Elisabeth.

Our wedding was a lovely affair, held outdoors at a rural inn south of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Elisabeth is not at all religious and wanted music that sounded warm, humanistic and spiritual, but not theologically dogmatic or love song sappy.

Our dear friend Joe Henry and his pal Mike Russell played an acoustic instrumental version of this song right after we took our vows and and it sounded perfect:

REVIEW: Forty Winks - Bow Wow

With a cover that calls to mind the raging debate Spinal Tap had with its publicist (the one that led to Nigel's all-time great observation "Wot's wrong with bein' sexy"), this thing comes roaring, really snarling out of the gate with the punky, bouncy opening track "Beneath Her Feet". It's a twelve-song tour of pop/punk styles that features keyboards and horns in spots but really, throughout it's guitar-based New Wave-inspired good time rock music.

Here's "Beneath Your Feet":

In places it reminds me of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, which I suppose is a way to say it sounds a bit like the Smithereens with a bit more of an edge. Honestly, they sound like they could go either way: they're a real good punk band - the evidence isn't hard to find on YouTube - but they could definitely garner a large mainstream audience if they wanted to play it that way. Me, I like the punk...

Here they are playing "Way Out" at a club in Bologna:

Going back a little ways, here's a video that somebody posted on YouTube five years ago, and it's real punk:

Kind of like "garage rock from Japan", there's something about "punk rock from Italy" that makes you look twice, and this record grabbed my attention with really well-executed and hard-rocking songs from front to back.

... if it just wasn't for that cover art... What's Italian for "Wot's wrong with bein' sexy?"

Forty Winks Website

Forty Winks on Pure Volume

Emerging Seattle Bands: Witch Gardens

Despite living in Seattle, local band Witch Gardens wasn't on my radar until Seapony sent out a message recommending them. So thanks to Danny and the rest of the Seapony gang, because Witch Gardens definitely is worth knowing about. Listen to a live performance of "So Many Parties" while we continue the discussion:

The group consists of guitarist Casey Catherwood ("Christ"), who is a long-term member of the DIY scene in the Puget Sound area, bass player Beth Corry ("Branch"), drummer Sara Beabout ("Alice", and autoharpist Karolyn Kukoski ("Agatha"). The band recently released Alice, Agatha, Branch & Christ, which is a very well executed, melodic lo-fi delight. While the album clearly has a homemade feel, the songs are well conceived and upbeat. We've provided the Bandcamp link below so you can stream the entire album. You'll be happy you took the time to listen.

The eight-track album Alice, Agatha, Branch, & Christ:

"Lifeguard" is an non-album track with a fun video:


Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Discovery: The Routes

We like garages, and we really like rock. And we really, really like garage rock, wherever it originates. I feel confident in saying that right now The Routes are our favorite Japanese garage rock band. The Routes aren't trying to invent something new, and they aren't following the fuzzy take on the garage sound played by many current bands. Instead, they produce a clean and faithful version of the 1960s UK and US garage band sound. Their most recent album is Alligator, which is released on Dirty Water Records:

A glimpse of the band live--"Willie the Wild One" from 2008:

Dirty Water Records

New Discovery: Tomorrow's Tulips, Eternally Teenage

Released in July, this record combines several endearing subsets of indie rock in one package... I'll label it "Lo-fi Beach Punk Goth Wall of Sound" and maybe some of that will grab you, make you curious enough to give a listen. RIYL Ty Segall, Black Lips, Crocodiles, Vivian Girls, stuff like that.

Here's a video for the title track, apparently the song's been finished for a while and they built the album around it:

And here's a video for song 11, "Wednesday":

There's a pretty casual attitude and pace to the whole thing, but sometimes Alex Knost lets the guitar wail, and Christina Kee's a pretty good surf punk drummer and can sing a little bit... maybe she'll get more lead vocals as they go on.

Heard on Indiefeed, a song-a-day podcast I recommend.

Tomorrow's Tulips on Facebook

Tomorrow's Tulips at Galaxia Records

Cool Video Thursday: TV Girl, Snow Patrol, The Head and the Heart, Chromeo

I love this video: "Baby You Were There" from TV Girl.

"Called Out in the Dark" by Snow Patrol. We haven't heard much from Lightbody and company for a while, but this is a trademark Snow Patrol song and a nice video concept.

Seattle's The Head and the Heart with "Cats and Dogs"

Chromeo with "When Night Falls"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midweek Roundup: Pictures of Then, Heidi Klum's Bangs, Breton

We get these things, we find these things, we thought we'd share them with you...

Pictures of Then is a Minneapolis rock band with a nice guitar/piano sound. You can download two tracks from ...And the Wicked Sea if you sign up for their mailing list. Who knows, maybe if enough folks east of the Mississippi sign up, they'll drive their van across the Mighty Miss, the old Miss, the Old Man... Deep River!

Heidi Klum's Bangs is a new group of young practitioners of the "Elephant 6" sound: acoustic guitars, horns, chimes, all in service of a bit of a concept album: Palace Pier. Check it out at their Bandcamp site... they've got a "name your price" special going right now:

And here's a pretty amazing video (and very intense song) by UK group Breton. It's a single called "The Commission" which is to be included on Other People's Problems, the album they plan to release in February 2012.

You can also listen on Soundcloud:

Breton - the Commission by bretonlabs

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

REVIEW: The Semis - Decapitator Blues

On their latest release, the Semis have thrown me a bit of a curveball. Having been introduced via the single "Popov" earlier this year, I was expecting Teenage Fanclub-style power pop to dominate Decapitator Blues. Of course, the title might have been a clue for me... but opening track, "Fun In the Sun", does carry on in a similar fashion - play it right after some classic Teenage Fanclub and tell me what you'd expect from this band. It's perfect: harmonies, jangly guitars, breakneck pace - everything a power-pop fan looks for.

Here's "Fun In The Sun"

And here comes the curveball: song two "Snuffed," is a really great bit of raunch reminiscent to me of the Stooges and the Stones, and that's the style that carries on pretty much throughout the balance of this record. Two songs later, "Ciggy Fun Boy" sounds for all the world like a Keith Richards vocal outtake. Here's the song "Faux Fur", with a hard, ragged guitar riff over breakneck drums and bass:

Here's a video of them performing the song "Echo" earlier this summer:

The 6:10 "Echo" is pretty psychedelic and kind of British Invasion-sounding, and is followed by a 2:17 sludge guitar workout called "Echo Part II" which is a little more psychedelic, and "Screwtop Wine" with some growling guitars, staccato drums and slurry vocals, before closing on a short but very effective guitar solo. The closing track, "The Ballad of Andy Howard", finishes with some even crazier guitar playing which echoes out on a delicate pedal steel outro. All in all, these guys cover a lot of rock and roll turf and while I know this isn't easy to do, they make it all sound very natural. Great guitar riffs are all over the place.

The band consists of Billy Summer, Matt Simmons, Kyle Lovell and Jay Schultz, and they seem to be fairly well-known in the Tampa area... I'm of the opinion that more folks should know about these guys. I don't know if any of you are familiar with a band from Athens, Georgia (sadly, defunct for several years now) called the Glands, but the Semis really remind me of them and that is a compliment of the highest order. Check them out on Reverb Nation. I think this is a terrific record.

Crooked Fingers - New Song "Typhoon"

Around the When You Motor Away offices it is a time for celebration whenever Eric Bachmann gets his Crooked Fingers mojo in gear. And he has. The new album, Breaks in the Armor, is set for release on October 11. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the opening track, "Typhoon", which is available to download.

Crooked Fingers - Typhoon by MergeRecords

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 25: Adam Stafford; The Deportees; Happy Vandals

Adam Stafford is a Glasgow-based musician and film maker. His album, Build A Better Harbour Immediately, was released yesterday on the new Wise Blood Industries label. A previous project of Stafford's was called Ya'll Is Fantasy Island. His film making credits include a short documentary, The Shutdown, made in collaboration with Alan Bissett and a music video for The Twilight Sad’s single "Seven Years of Letters" (which was nominated for Best Video in the New Scottish Music Awards 2011).

Build A Better Harbour Immediately is an indie rock album which finds Stafford deftly employing several different styles, echoing dream pop, doo wop, gospel and others. Because he is a mature songwriter and confident performer, he manages to deliver at each stage. The entire album can be streamed below, but if you only have the time or inclination for one track, I recommend "Shot-down You Summer Wannabes", which is Scottish Doo Wop. Honest.
Shot-down You Summer Wannabes by Adam Stafford

Build a Harbour Immediately

Stafford's Page at Wise Blood Industries
Wise Blood link for album

The Deportees are from Aberdeen, Scotland. Their music touches on rock, pop, country and folk, with a lot of vocal harmony, giving it a Celtic folk/rock sound. The members are Adam Keenan, Christy Keenan, Adam Morrice, Diarmaid O'Gallagher, and Ricky Osborne
The just released two-track EP I Lost Her to the Sea


Happy Vandals are Marc, Lam & Lew, from Perth, Scotland. They play indie surf pop with a touch of Calypso rhythm. Their music is on PoltergeistRecords, but the tracks below are available free at Bandcamp or from their website.

The delightful "In the Sun"

"Samba 62"


Monday, August 22, 2011

REVIEW: Will Hanson - Moving a Body

We gave Will Hanson some virtual ink recently to profile a double A-side. We have reason to do so again, as his label, 12/26 Music, releases Hanson's Moving A Body today, August 22. Moving A Body is a full length produced by Jamie Savage and Oli Bayston in Glasgow with funding from Creative Scotland. The album is the delightful product of Hanson's resolution of several artistic tensions. One is his indie pop songwriter muse. Another is his penchant for sweeping cinematic tracks. And woven through the album is his maturity to let the instruments speak without his voice. Accordingly, the influences listed with respect to this album include songmen such as Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave and Anthony and the Johnson, indie rock icons such as The Delgados, and experimental types such as Mogwai, Sigur Ros and Portishead. (One reviewer suggested that this album might be what one could expect if Leonard Cohen was forced through a synthesizer, which is an interesting illustration.) I'll also add that Will's love of an off kilter lyric reminds me of Robyn Hitchcock.

Two of the best examples of Hanson's skill in crafting engaging songs are tracks two and six, "The View From Ebury Bridge" and "The Bats", respectively. Perhaps fittingly given the Chemikal Underground connection with his production team, both tracks start out on an intimate basis with Hanson's voice drawing the listener forward to hear his voice, and then build like a track from The Delgados. Here is "The View From Ebury Bridge":

And here is "The Bats", which is emerging as one of my favorite tracks on the album:

Hanson's music has taken him from his hometown in London, to New York (with his former band, Proxy), to Glasgow. The band for the album is a six piece, and between Hanson's melodic talent and the skill of such a large compliment of musicians, Moving A Body succeeds in being expansive, warm and versatile. I think it is the mark of an artist hitting his stride.

For a change of pace, here is the dark and atmospheric "Deathbed Conversion", a track which has drawn a lot of attention from reviewers:

Album closer, "And So..."


Sunday, August 21, 2011

REVIEW: The Big Sweet - Ultraviolet Rain

The Big Sweet is a power-pop quartet from Cleveland, Ohio who bring to my mind an imagined collaboration of XTC with Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, with more than trace elements of Big Star... what I'm trying to say is that these guys have a way with a hook, a backbeat and a guitar line and really can put it all together. The music is catchy, and very well-crafted.

The band consists of Sam Regas (Vocals, Guitar), Brad Berbari (Guitar, Keyboards), Matt McDonald (Bass), and Drew Watson (Drums, Percussion, Effects), and this is their second record. From the opening of "Laces" with its ultra-jangly guitars and infectious backbeat, the pop/rock ambitions of The Big Sweet are on full display, and the promise is kept on song after song.

"In And Out of Style" is a power-pop ballad with lots of tempo changes and jangle, "Softened Gold" is fairly similar, but shorter, then "N-C" stretches out with some guitar solos... all of it with some terrific vocals reminiscent, to me, of Lloyd Cole and Alex Chilton. The centerpiece, the 7:01 "Wet On Canvas", is full of synths, layered vocals and all kinds of guitars, and it swirls and swirls...

Listening to Ultraviolet Rain with no knowledge of the band's background, I'd expect this is the work of a group of power-pop veterans who had been gigging in other bands for years, collecting their own songs and finally taking the big step of booking a studio and a producer and laying it all down. And I'd be wrong. These are kids who went from borrowing their parents' R.E.M., GbV, Mats and Big Star records to covering that stuff, to recording and coming out with this very accomplished record before they're old enough to vote. Highly recommended for folks who dig power pop.

You can check out the music and stream a few tracks at their MySpace and Facebook sites:

Big Sweet MySpace

Big Sweet Facebook