Saturday, September 17, 2011

New video from the Parson Red Heads

The Parson Red Heads released this video of "Burning Up the Sky", a very effective blending of a recent concert performance and an impromptu session in the alley outside the same club.

They are on tour in the US now with Viva Voce, see dates here, including at one of my favorite clubs, Schuba's in Chicago on Sept 19:

Prior WYMA feature story on the Parson Red Heads here:

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Soul Corner - Charles Bradley

As mentioned earlier this week, I saw Charles Bradley perform at MusicfestNW and it blew my mind. I was not familiar with him, actually went to the theater to see the previous act Motown/Funk Brothers guitarist Dennis Coffey (who was great), and fortunately stayed for the main event.
Bradley, 62 years old, just released his first full CD, No Time For Dreaming (go buy it today!). He is tearing it up on his first coast-to-coast tour and making every second count. His appreciation for this opportunity and his deep goodness and humanity radiate from him.

His show made me feel so good! Dig this:

Bradley's journey was not your usual one to a hip indie rock musicfest - lived in the streets, joined LBJ's job corps in the 1960's, got trained as a cook, traveled around the US and Canada holding restaurant and odd jobs, and barely made ends meet. But Bradley loved old soul music, loved to sing and finally about ten years ago landed a regular gig in a Brooklyn bar as a James Brown imitator.

Here's his TV debut on Carson Daly show performing "The World (Is Going Up in Flames)", the lead track on No Time for Dreaming:

Bradley got discovered by the good folks at soul revivalist label Daptone Records (Sharon Jones etc), was paired with the Menahan Street Band, some of Brooklyn's finest young soul musicians from the Dap-Kings and Budos Band, released a few singles and now this great new CD No Time For Dreaming. This CD will for sure make my top 10 list for 2011 and has not left my CD player this week. His lyrics, vocal phrasing and timing are amazingly great, especially for someone starting a recording career at this stage of life. He's moved far beyond James Brown tribute status with his own distinctive vocal style, rooted in the classics but a powerhouse soul'n'rock combination all its own.

My favrote song on the CD is "I Believe in Your Love", a ballad with a slow slinky groove. Love the moment at the 1:35 mark, "Baby when you get your mind right [female backup singers: "Get it. Get it."], come and talk to me and I might give in to your love." I love that - "I might...". Keep her working, brother.

Want to learn more about Charles Bradley? Here's a terrific 9 minute piece with an interview and more live footage:

This is an amazing success story. The Soul Corner has a new hero.

New Discovery: Bonfire Nights

Ruth Nitkiewicz, Stephen Foster, and Nicole Hoaran are Bonfire Nights, a psych/pop/noise band that lists its location as London and Brisbane. I think they have a great sound, rocking but with a bit of a jittery, anxious atmosphere. They've been touring with Sons and Daughters in the UK. We've provided a video or their single, "Own Worst Enemy", as well as a full set of their songs from Soundcloud. Don't miss their cover of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks".

"Own Worst Enemy"

Showcase by Bonfire Nights

Session recorded live under the streets of Brisbane:


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cool Video Thursday Annex

I had no idea what to do with this, but felt a need to post it. Because, what the?

Cool Video Thursday

"Rose Red" by Sons and Daughters, inspired by a Scottish serial killer called 'Bible John' who picked up his victims at the Barrowlands Ballroom, a famous Glasgow live music venue. In my view, "Red Rose" was one of the highlight tracks on the group's fine 2011 release, Mirror Mirror.

"Replicate" by British group Fanfarlo

Little Dragon with "Brush the Heat". We profiled this band on the Midnight World Pop Scout about a week and a half ago.

A gentle little study on relationships called "By Your Hand" from Los Campesinos!

"Better Off Without You" by Summer Camp

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Midweek Roundup - And the Giraffe, The Pack a.d., Folks, Sorrows, Sands

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

And the Giraffe is a Florida/Tennessee-based duo that plays thoughtful, stretched-out music that in places reminds me of Papa M and in places reminds me of a quieter Richard Buckner. They've released an EP, Something For Someone, which you can check out (and download free if that is your desire) at their Bandcamp page. Personal favorite is probably song 2, "1055":

The Pack a.d. has a new record out this week: Unpersons. We reviewed it (short version: raucous, rocking, snotty and real good!) here, and the band has created a new video for the song "Take":

Folks is a UK band that is in the process of finishing up an album due out in early 2012. Here's a song they've made available for download, "Avalanche". Great jangly guitars and a nice pace to this one, not to mention it gets to rocking out about 2:00 in:

Avalanche by wearefolks

They're currently on tour in the UK. Check out their Facebook to learn more.

The re-formed punk/power pop group Sorrows is on tour and has made the title track from their recent release Bad Times Good Times available for free download here. It's real good punk/pop, a la Flaming Groovies, Plimsouls, and the like. Check out their Facebook if you want to learn more, including tour dates. You can buy it at Bomp! Records.

Finally, here's a California band Sands, who released a four-song EP this summer. An intriguing mix of blues-based psych and country rock... if you didn't know they're from California, you'd guess it pretty quickly. It's worth checking out:

New Song: Saints of Valory's "The Young Sons"

The Austin, Texas rock outfit Saints Of Valory have just made a new song available. And here it is for your listening pleasure. If you like it, you can download it at the link below.

"The Young Sons"


New Sounds of Scotland--Recent Singles: We Were Promised Jetpacks; Cancel the Astronauts; Maydays; My Tiny Robots

This edition spotlights recent releases by four bands based in and around Edinburgh. The first band already has made a name for itself, but I'm expecting big things from from the remaining three in the future as well.

We Were Promised Jetpacks has released "Medicine" in advance of the October release of their new album, In the Pit of the Stomach:

The album will be released by FatCat records.


We've mentioned Edinburgh (formerly Aberdeen) indie pop group Cancel the Astronauts before, and since they are releasing a proper single, we'll take the opportunity to mention them again. But frankly, we'll probably mention them from time to time anyway because they are a good band and deserve it.

The band are Matt Riley, Kieran McCaffrey, Michael Craig, Neil Davidson, and Chris Kay.

During the summer we profiled the indie pop band Maydays. The talented folks recently released the single "By Appointment to..." The songs have a nice melodic feel and the vocals are excellent.

Maydays are Joe (vocals), Swannie (guitar), Kev (guitar), Tittles (organ), Calvin (bass), and Darren (drums).

My Tiny Robots have made this smashing anthemic indie pop song available for free download (see Bandcamp link below) as a teaser for three singles they will be releasing beginning in October.

My Tiny Robots are Gareth Anderson, Dylan Childs, Ryan Marinello, and Russell Williams.
Soundcloud (other songs)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

REVIEW: Bloody Hollies -- Yours Until the Bitter End

In my year end top 17 list of albums from 2010, I offered a small wish-list of things I might like to see happen in 2011. I can't remember what they were for the most part, but they were music related -- no world peace or end hunger or all that -- more along the lines of long-term goals like forming a Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds tribute band or maybe even an April Wine tribute band. The thing I do remember, though, is I was hoping that after a four year silence, the Bloody Hollies would release a new album. Well today that last wish was delivered with a vengeance, as Alive Naturalsound Records released the scorching fourth full length from the San Diego blues punk four-piece, Yours Until the Bitter End.

The Bloody Hollies started out as a three-piece garage band in Buffalo. On their brilliant 2003 debut Fire at Will, they wore their AC/DC influence on their collective sleeve. Songs like "Downtown Revolver", "Blood Pressure" and "Hard Bitten" sound like they could have been covers from Let There Be Rock or High Voltage. The next record, 2005's If Footmen Tire You, saw strains of swamp and surf creeping in, without any loss of intensity. Singer/guitarist Wesley Doyle moderated his voice from the full-on screech of the first record to something closer to a Gun Club-type menacing wail. Being with Alive Records meant a little more production budget -- spent very wisely on legendary Detroit engineer Jim Diamond. Three songs on that album, "Mind Control", "Gasoline" and "Raised by Wolves", are in my all-time top 100.

In the wake of Footmen's significant critical acclaim, Doyle moved to San Diego and reformed the band as a four-piece, bringing on Joey Horgen to amp up the bluesy side of things on slide guitar, and a Superfly TNT, Guns of the Navarone rhythm section in drummer Matthew Bennett and bassist Eric Noorgard. Every critic who bothered to listen to it called 2007's Who to Trust, Who to Kill, Who to Love one of the best pure rock and roll albums of that or any year. Songs like "The Rain", with its beautifully excessive wah-wah lead, "Attica Rocks" and "Satanic Satellite" (so cool it ended up in a video game commercial) should have established them as festival headliners across the globe. Alas, they didn't, and we've had to pay for it by waiting lo these many years for their next step.

Fortunately the wait is over, and it was worth it. For the new record, the band went back to Jim Diamond, and he and they are pushing the sound boldly forward. That's not to suggest they're blazing new trails here -- they're not. Leave all that stuff to Grizzly Bear and Panda Bear and whatever other ursine chamber acts might be out there. Yours Until the Bitter End is but a further genius refinement of the garage/swamp/blues/punk amalgam that they do far better than anyone else.

The album opener, "So Grey, So Green", starts with a rumbling bass/drum that's then sliced with a western guitar motif supported by campy organ that feels lifted from a Wall of Voodoo song. It avoids becoming new wave by reverting to a primal progression of bar chords and Doyle's plaintive wail -- that is, textbook Bloody Hollies.

My favorite two songs happen to be the two heaviest -- "Dead Letter" and "I Dream of Bees". The former might be classified, with a nod to Diamond, as pure Detroit garage muscle. I remember when I was a kid and listened for the first time to "What is and What Should Never Be", and thought that the idea that four guys could create this much pure noise was maybe the greatest thing that ever was. "Dead Letter" sounds nothing like that song, but there's a point where the sound is so loud, so pure, so insistent, that the band sounds possessed. It might be their finest moment, but "I Dream of Bees" makes me have second thoughts about that. I posted the video for this song a few days ago, but an encore posting is better than another goofy reviewer's description.

There are people with better music taste than I who I'd expect to point to a less harsh, more bluesy tune like "Dirty Sex" as being the high point, and I'd find it hard to argue the point. It's based around Horgen's electric and acoustic slide guitars, including an overt homage to Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying." Fantastic stuff. I understand that the band is offering "Dirty Sex" as a free download, but damned if I know how to link you to it. I'll try to figure out how to do that, and if I can, I'll either edit or it'll be in the comments section. You can listen to the song here.

If I had to complain, it probably would take the form of expressing my hope that the band avoid getting too campy with the B-Horror lyrics/guitar/keyboards thing. "Good Night, Sleep Tight" at points comes perilously close to reminding me of Count Floyd introducing "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses" on Monster Chiller Horror Theater. That is, until my mind is wiped by yet another blistering lead.

I usually like to post more musical evidence with my fawning reviews of my favorite bands, but "I Dream of Bees" is the only new song supported by a video, live or otherwise. I posted some other Bloody Hollies videos, as well as a link to a stream of the entire first side of the new album, in this post about six weeks ago.

Check this record out. It might be the best of the year.

REVIEW: Shimmering Stars - Violent Hearts

Sometimes genius is found in a number of little things done right. A case in point is Vancouver, B.C.'s Shimmering Stars and their debut release, Violent Hearts. Shimmering Stars have taken the simple, stripped down melodic approach to pop employed in the 50s and 60s, crafted songs with timeless themes (with a few twists), and performed them with full-on reverb, three part vocals and Phil Spector-style wall of sound. The result is a sound that feels both engagingly fresh and yet, familiar. There probably is no better way to dive into the album than to listen to its best track, "I'm Gonna Try", showcased in the fine video below. The song begins "Walking down the street / and I wanna kill everyone I see / how come I don't like anyone I meet?". A bit later the song gives us what to me is the best line -- "I've lost my mind / I'm losing you / It's just as well". "I'm Gonna Try" is two minutes of pop bliss:

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

The members of Shimmering Stars, Rory McClure (guitar, vocals), Andrew Dergousoff (drums, vocals), and Brent Sasaki (bass, vocals), all grew up near Kamloops, B.C. and have played in previous bands, but they formed this band only 18 months ago. The genesis for the songs on Violent Hearts was Rory's fascination with old Everly Brothers footage. He wrote the songs using the Everly Brothers approach as a platform, giving the songs a modern indie spin and penning lyrics focusing on relationships and the failure that is endemic to them. In one interview he noted that there may be some ex-girlfriends portrayed in the songs, but they probably wouldn't be flattered. Yes, you will be reminded of the music of an earlier generation, but that generation didn't tend to feature lyrics with the same level of violence and anxiety.

My second favorite song on Violent Hearts is the bouncy "East Van Girls" (note to those unfamiliar with Vancouver, "East Van" refers to East Vancouver).
"East Van Girls"

Shimmering Stars - East Van Girls from MAGIC CHILL on Vimeo.

Violent Hearts was recorded at the Garage Mahal in Kamloops, which I understand is otherwise referred to as Rory's parent's garage. The album is released on Seattle's Hardly Art label in North America and Almost Musique in Europe. If you like the kind of music I like, you owe it to yourself to check out this album. Go ahead--you deserve it; you know you do.

"Dancing to Music I Hate"

Bandcamp (Demos)
Hardly Art

Monday, September 12, 2011

MusicfestNW dispatch #2 - Pacific NW bands - Blitzen Trapper, Fernando, Sarah Gwen Peters, Moondoggies

Usually at these festivals I try to check out bands I have not seen before or at least can't see often. But somehow the sets I enjoyed most this weekend by NW acts were, with one exception (The Moondoggies), bands I am familiar with.

Blitzen Trapper's new CD American Goldwing is being released tomorrow and it's a good one. Mixed by top shelf engineer Tchad Blake (Tom Waits, Pearl Jam, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello etc etc), the new record is a big step up for this terrific Americana band. They played a high energy set at a packed and sweltering Crystal Ballroom on Friday night (we get one heat wave per year and it happened to be this weekend) and while the crowd reacted best to the older familiar songs, I thought the new songs were by far the highlights. I particularly liked the keyboard sounds, really tasteful. Fans of the Band and similar timeless Americana music should pick this record up (link at end of this post).

I can think of no higher compliment than this - Fernando Viciconte (performs under his first name only) is Portland's Bruce Springsteen. Fernando's songs brims with energy, compassion, intelligence, and most of all, heart. His live sets are always a thrill ride and I try to see him whenever he plays. Here's a cool film set to what I'm talking about:

Sarah Gwen Peters is an artist on the verge. Her debut record is in final mixing and looking for a label. I've heard it and it is stunning. Great songs, voice, well played, everything. There is an authenticity to Sarah that I find intoxicating.

Often compared to Lucinda Williams, Sarah writes in a very direct manner and lays it out there, while managing to stay away from anything sounding even remotely self-indulgent. She played a great set with her very tasteful guitar player Scott Weddle (Amelia, The Flatirons) in a packed pizza parlor on oh-so-hip North Mississippi Ave on Friday night. I love this film and recording, but this performance here is far quieter and subdued than Sarah's live shows and the upcoming record:

One tricky thing about these festivals - with so many bands playing, one can be tempted to hear the first song by one band and decide to scoot out and down the street to see another band instead. Had I done that for the Moondoggies from Seattle, thinking it was the sort of hippie jam band stuff that doesn't do much for me, I would have missed a varied, ambitious and rocking set. Fans of My Morning Jacket will like the Moondoggies.

Band web pages:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dispatch from MusicfestNW: Centro-matic, The Romany Rye, Charles Bradley

Wednesday through tonight was the big MusicfestNW here in Portland OR, a boutique version of SXSW where a dozen+ clubs put up a different band every hour on the hour from 9:00-1:00. You buy a wristband and make your way through the maze of bands, bars, music and beverages.

There were some larger shows held outdoors downtown in a big public square (Iron and Wine, Band of Horses, etc.).

I saw a dozen plus bands, but rather than review them all, in keeping with our masthead I will just write up a few that I really loved.

Three sets stood out. Soul man Charles Bradley killed me. Bradley's history is a long story and an especially good one, so we'll tell it in this Friday's Soul Corner. But here's a little taste from the "Screaming Eagle of Soul":

And WYMA's old friends Centro-matic lived up to the lofty pedestal we've put them on here. Their set made me think of one of my favorite observations about music, which came from Ian MacKaye of Fugazi who told a buddy of mine that "There are 2 types of music - signals and echoes. And I am interested in the signals." Will Johnson sends out signals. On the surface he might appear a typical son of Neil Young, alt-country rocker. But the compositions, lyrics, musicianship and singing are all so careful, thoughtful and original that every song is a revelation.

Centro-matic is one of the first bands that our fearless leader John Hyland turned me onto when we first connected maybe 10 years ago, and I've enjoyed their recorded output. But this is the first time I've seen them perform and it's just that much better live. Will Johnson has simply got it - magic flows from his guitar and voice. And the band is right with him - as with all great bands, the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Here's some very recent Centro-matic footage from this tour, giving you the flavor of what I experienced:

The other non-NW band that I was really impressed with was The Romany Rye from LA. Another rocking alt-country sort of outfit but with great vocals, big harmonies and a terrific warm vibe. Here's two:

Many Portland and Seattle bands played and I'll write a piece in a day or three on some sets I enjoyed by some local Portland and nearby acts. And please check back in Friday to hear about the great Charles Bradley.

Band web pages:

REVIEW: Howling Bells - The Loudest Engine

In announcing this release, the band made much of the impact the location (Las Vegas, the Great American Landscape) had on the music on it, and in listening, I'd say they ain't lying. They're laying down a very heavy blues-based foundation -- a big, American rock sound with a psychedelic lean a la The Doors. But lead vocalist Juanita Stein can really sing, and her clear, strong voice is not the least bit overwhelmed by all this rock.

The Loudest Engine starts out with "Charlatan", which is something like Maria McKee fronting Queens of the Stone Age, and rolls into "Into the Sky" (we posted the video previously here), which has a beautiful, transcendent vocal fronting a very tough-sounding rock band. "Wilderness" is more of the same, but things slow down a little bit on "Secrets", giving the band a chance to demonstrate some real skill at varying the tempo - it doesn't all have to be heavy. "Don't Run" is a bona fide ballad, a country-sounding acoustic-based song that really suits Stein's phrasing. "Gold Suns, White Guns" exhibits a wall of sound quality with some psychedelic guitar over the second half of the song. Again, the common thread throughout the album is Stein's vocals, and Howling Bells are smart to feature it this prominently.

The record is out tomorrow (Monday, Sept 12). Right now you can stream the album at their Facebook site, or visit Howling Bells Website to find out about buying it.