Saturday, September 24, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-31: The New Tigers; High Places; Taavi Peterson & Üdi; Rootz Underground

Midnight World Pop Scout returns with four bands, one from Finland, one from LA, one from Estonia, and one from Jamaica. Explore and enjoy!

The New Tigers are from Finland. They play a dense but melodic brand of guitar pop. Think Galaxie 500 or Yo La Tengo. The band released their self-titled debut album on September 21, and the following video is of the album track "Velvet Jam":

The New Tigers - Velvet Jam from appu jasu on Vimeo.

The band is Janne Kauppinen (bass), Kece (drums), Appu Jasu (guitar/vocals) and Valtteri Virtanen (guitar/vocals).

And here is a live version of "Pocketful of Sand"


Los Angeles' High Places is comprised of Robert Barber and Mary Pearson. They play experimental, atmospheric electro rock. The album Original Colors due on October 11 on Thrill Jockey.

"Altos Lugares"

High Places - Altos Lugares from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Here is a live performance of "Year Off" for Fader TV:


What do we know about Taavi Peterson & Üdi?Singer Taavi Peterson initially trod a more mainstream route, entering and finishing third in the Estonian version of Pop Idol. The next year he formed Üdi (which I'm advised means “bone marrow” in Estonian). The group focuses on indie rock, although Peterson does some solo work as well. "Tibet Ocean" is a recent song from the group:

This song is from the first year of the band:


Rootz Underground was featured in one of our Midnight World Pop Scout posts earlier this year. They are a modern roots reggae band with a rock edge, and are based in Kingston, Jamaica. We mention them again because they recently released a nice song featuring Sherieta Lewis, and it is a free download at the Bandcamp site.


REVIEW: Elba - Elba

Elba is a Seattle band I've just discovered (late again, sorry about that!). They play a brand of indie rock you're familiar with: sometimes called post-punk, it's a catchy sound with terrific guitars and nice harmony vocals on top of a sometimes jittery, sometimes almost languid rhythm section. Variation in tempo makes it interesting, but what keeps me coming back to this record are the guitars and they way they're employed to drive home the songs. As I listened to the soaring solo which closes out "Statues and Shipyards", to my mind the standout of this record, I checked the track time because I was thinking "This must be one of the longer songs, there's a LOT of guitar on here"... the song is 2:30. They do a lot but they don't waste time, and that's as worthy of admiration as their excellent songwriting and musicianship.

There's not a wasted moment and I don't think this record is ever less than stellar. It's instantly become one of my favorites of 2011.

Here's a download of "Statues and Shipyards", listen for yourself.

Here's a video for "From a Sinking Ship", which has a part that reminds me of R.E.M.'s "We Walk". I get reminded of all sorts of good bands: R.E.M., the Feelies, Modest Mouse, the Replacements, Oasis... a strange aggregation, I suppose, but evidence that while they do exhibit influences, these guys are making a sound that's their very own.

Look, I could go song by song here but suffice it to say I love this record and if I've ever steered you right before, you ought to go get this record right away. And pay these guys something... they've earned it.

You can download it at their Bandcamp, along with three more records.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Soul Corner - "Mr. Big Stuff" - Jean Knight

Been so distracted by a crazy week at work and the R.E.M. breakup that I had no idea what song I was going with today. Then driving home from work just now, this chestnut came on the radio - "Mr. Big Stuff" which hit #2 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1971; by New Orleans native Jean Knight on Stax Records. A great single, sampled so many times it probably keeps some lucky publishing agent busy.

So we dedicate this one to all the ladies out there. Don't let those phonies push you around. Jean Knight sure knew how to bring him down a peg or two.
Here's a terrific live version with the full on Stax treatment:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

REVIEW: Cristina Bautista - Gold Parts

Gold Parts is music with a heart. Perhaps a bruised heart. Perhaps at times an angry heart. But there definitely is a heart and it belongs to a rocking bass player named Cristina Bautista. It is pop music ("confrontational pop" in the artist's own words) with aggressive guitar and upfront bass and rock energy. More than that, you get well crafted songs delivered by a remarkable young voice. You can hear Bautista's self-described influences of Ted Leo and PJ Harvey (more the former in this set than the latter, to my ears), but the vocal instrument is a rare gem and would stand out in any style.

As I understand it, Gold Parts is about Bautista's recent journeys in life, and doesn't ignore the messier parts. The lyrics are available on Bandcamp and, presumably, with a purchase of the album. But I can't really describe it better than she does:
Some people pull themselves together so quietly no one realizes there was any falling apart to begin with.
I'm certainly not about to do that.

So, with the stage set in Cristina's own words, enjoy the ride:

Bautista, now in her early 20s, has been playing in Seattle bands since her teens, and recorded a four song EP in 2006. The busy woman also serves as the bass player for the rock band Visqueen. She recorded Gold Parts at the House of Breaking Glass in Seattle. The band for Gold Parts is Cristina Bautista (voice, bass), Jeff Gall (drums, voice), Eric Howk (guitar), and sometimes Leif Andersen (guitar, voice). The EP is released on Seattle-based Local 638 Records, which is owned by Visqueen's lead, Rachel Flotard.

I've included this recent live version of EP track "Heartless" because I think it illustrates the passion and energy that Bautista brings to her music.

This is an acoustic version of the third track on Gold Parts:
"I Don't Want You" (live, acoustic)

I strongly recommend giving this young lady and her band a chance to entertain you.

Local 638 Records

Cool Video Thursday

Car theft and flirting in "Hunny Bunny" from Girls

Talented UK artist Emmy the Great with Paper Forest (In The Afterglow of Rapture), a single from her second album.

"Palomino" by Mates of State

"Nervous Breakdown" from Shimmering Stars

Shimmering Stars - Nervous Breakdown from Salazar on Vimeo.

"Milkshake" by Yuck

Milk Maid is sufficiently DIY that the album was recorded in an apartment, so the DIY feel of the video for "Dead Wrong" is appropriate

Milk Maid - Dead Wrong from FatCat Records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Song from The Twilight Sad - "Kill It In The Morning"

Champion Scottish brooders The Twilight Sad are releasing an album No One Can Ever Know on Fat Cat Records in February 2012. We understand that the album will expand on their big sound with increased keyboards and programming. The band also will release a single -- "Sick" -- from the album in November 2011.

"Kill It In The Morning" will be the closing track to the new album. If you like it you can download it for free from the band's website, which is linked below.
The Twilight Sad - Kill It In The Morning by Fat Cat Records

The Twilight Sad are Andy MacFarlane, James Graham, Mark Devine. Martin Doherty and Johnny Docherty are touring members.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stream the New Album from Dum Dum Girls - Only In Dreams

We consider the upcoming September 27 release of a new album from California's Dum Dum Girls to be good news. And we consider Sub Pop Record's decision to make the entirety of Only In Dreams available to stream to be good news on top of good news. Perhaps we should call it the hot fudge sundae of good news. So what have Dee Dee, Jules, Bambi, and Sandy fashioned for us? Introspective lyrics, harmonies produced by a four voice attack, and the amalgamation of 60s girl group, noise pop and punk that we would demand from Dum Dum Girls. To my ears, it is a very good album.

Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams by subpop

Artist page at Sub Pop Records

Rocksteady's Single Pick of the Week: We Are John Wean's "Desperate Dan (She told me she was single)"

Yes, the video for "Desperate Dan (She told me she was single)" from We Are John Wean was featured in our Cool Video Thursday feature a few weeks ago. It is here again because the fellows have released the tune as a single. They also are giving those who register on their website a chance to be selected to be extras in the video for their American promo. Be advised, however, that the promo is to be shot in Glasgow. We Are John Wean is Conor Cartwright, Jude Smith, Stuart Anderson, and Simon Coakley, and they are based in Glasgow.


Monday, September 19, 2011

New track from Kid Icarus - "American Ghosts"

Though it would appear to be the title track, this song did not make it onto Kid Icarus' recent album American Ghosts. But they assure us it will make the re-issue.

Reissue? Here's hoping they put together a follow-up EP, especially if they've got a few more tracks this good.

Kid Icarus - American Ghosts (The Song) by Kid Icarus (Scranton)

REVIEW: Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls

I sometimes get a bit nervous when first listening to an album, particularly a debut album that I have eagerly anticipated because of one or two previously released songs and, perhaps, comments made on the internet by others. To be realistic, the odds of high expectations being met completely aren't favorable. I fear discovering that the album is mostly filler, or that the band tried things it can't do. I can't help it, I grew up in a time where the major labels made a point of putting out albums with a couple of good songs and others you struggled to like before just giving up. Well, in the case of the self-titled debut from Veronica Falls, such worries are unnecessary. This is a remarkably good, and remarkably complete, indie pop release.

Veronica Falls' music takes from several styles -- C86, noise pop, '60s guitar pop, The Velvet Underground -- without being chained to any of them. Comparisons have been made to US bands Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Brilliant Colors, but I think such comparisons are too confining. The dueling guitars are taut and precise, the rhythm propulsive. The music isn't dreamy music that gradually envelopes you; this is bold music that grabs your attention. And then there are the vocals, confident girl-boy harmonies that remind me of The Seekers (for you young folk, that is a '60s reference and is meant as a high compliment) and other groups from that era.

The songs on Veronica Falls are an amalgamation of dark and light "Bad Feeling" is a fine and representative track, combining an insistent and intense musical foundation for vocals that are sweet to the ear but deliver a more ominous message.

Veronica Falls - Bad Feeling from Philippa Bloomfield on Vimeo.

The combination of melodic sound and dark messages permeates the album. Some of the tracks, like "Found Love in A Graveyard", "Right Side of the Brain" and "Beachy Head" have more insistent, aggressive melodies like "Bad Feeling". Others, like the anthemic "Wedding Day" boast soaring pop melodies. But the bittersweet remains; the song begins "So sorry I missed your wedding day / I didn't know, just what to say", followed by the chorus: "Except you don't look at her like you're looking at me,
She'll never know that's the way, it will be". In the second chorus, vocalist Clifford repeatedly asserts "You don't love her, like you love me".

"Misery" ("Misery, has taken over me / Misery, my old friend / Come with me, I see Misery / Stay with me, 'till the end") also is an excellent pop song with a dark core:

The last clip for this review is "Beachy Head", which seems to me to be a racing, jittery version of surf rock, about a suicide:

Veronica Falls - Beachy Head from Philippa Bloomfield on Vimeo.

Veronica Falls is Patrick, Roxanne, Marion, and James. Several of the members are from Glasgow, but the band are based in London. The album is released on Slumberland Records.


Carlos Forster - "I Walk I Talk" from Family Trees and Other Songs of Warmth and Melancholy

Forster, former leader of the band For Stars and guitar contributor to early M Ward records, is back making records after taking a few years to pursue a career apart from music. On Family Trees, he is playing some dreamy pop/rock, with layered sounds and good understated guitars. Download a free copy of "I Walk I Talk" here:

Record was released online in July, apparently physical copies not available yet, at least according to the website. Worth checking out, especially if you like M Ward (who also plays on the record).

Carlos Forster Website

Sunday, September 18, 2011

REVIEW: The Janks - The Hands of Time

The Janks are LA-based brothers Dylan and Zack Zmed with Garth Herberg, and they play an intriguing blend of old and new... for fans of some of Jack White's heavy stuff with the Raconteurs, there's common ground... check out the heavy start in opening track "Demon Dance", for example. But for all-out fans of 70's rock, there are points of reference, too. And songs like "Dead Man", with its mixture of Thom Yorke-style vocals, acoustic guitar and keyboards, are just good old-fashioned rock music. Like I said, intriguing. Here's the video for "Dead Man":

The title track, "The Hands of Time", starts out like a Fairport Convention track and is definitely the ballad of the bunch, really putting the vocals up front to emotional effect. "Rat Racers" combines The James Gang with Queens of the Stone Age, maybe... it's a nearly six minute track with plenty of good electric guitar and a swagger you used to only hear on album rock stations back in, you guessed it, the 70's.

The next few songs: "Billy The Kid", "Can't Give Up", "Echo Whispers" and "Don't Hide Your Eyes", slow it down, indulging in a lot of emotional, sometimes whispered vocals over hushed acoustic guitar, electric piano and pedal steel. It's real pretty stuff... until "Separation From Your Body" gets the guitars cranked back up again, and brings it to a crescendo with more soaring guitar solos and layered keyboards over drumrolls fading in and out.

"Drama King's Ball" features a reggae beat and a sneered vocal that will bring to mind the last couple of White Stripes records. A circus interlude, the :42 "Adolescence", leads to the heart-rending "When I Was a Kid", "Child Prodigy" and "Get Out of Town".

According to the artist, it's a concept album. "The album is like musical theatre," says The Janks' Dylan Zmed [Vocals, Guitar, Keys, Percussion] "The first half develops the plot of a young boy who comes from a broken home, while the second reflects the visceral intensity of growing up from separated roots. At the end, we see there's possibility for change."

This record will be out September 27 on Sprouted Records.

The Janks Website