Saturday, January 14, 2012

Midnight World Pop Scout: First Aid Kit; Hhappiness

Because it's always midnight somewhere....

Tonight we have two groups from Sweden who have a discernible American feel to their music

Johanna and Klara Söderberg, sisters from Stockholm, comprise First Aid Kit. However, if you didn't know they were from Sweden, you'd guess--just based on the sound--that they were from the southern United States. And to my ears, the sound isn't a glossy Scandinavian cover of the Americana/country genre, but an authentic and warm presentation of our roots music. And I'll admit to a fondness for bands that list snowball fights as a band interest.

Johanna and Klara released The Big Black & the Blue in 2010, and now they are releasing The Lion's Roar. Here is the title track --

The same track on Soundcloud, if you prefer--
First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar by Wichita Recordings

Even if I weren't convinced to like this group before, finding a song about Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons sells the deal quite nicely.

Blogfather John Hyland advised me that First Aid Kit released a this single on Jack White's Third Man Records.

My understanding is that the albums and one or more singles are available on Amazon and iTunes.

"Ghost Town" is a single from First Aid Kit's debut LP--

Twitter ( @FirstAidKitBand )

Hhappiness is an lo-fi, experimental pop rock group from Stockholm--so experimental that they even have an extra "h" in their name. The group was formed three years ago but they are just now releasing their debut recording, the three-track bananas EP, on the French label, Almost Musique. The track here, "All Kinds of Trouble" seems to me to be a Swedish-Americana stomp. I know that may sound weird, but it actually is a nice track.
hhappiness - all kinds of trouble by AlmostMusique

"Bananas" --

Almost Musique

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Sounds of Scotland: Laurence and the Slab Boys

Alright, I'll admit that a key factor in my decision to check out the music of Laurence and the Slab Boys was the name. Another factor was commentary by persons whose musical opinion I value. But neither of those factors would have been enough to result in a profile here. As always, it comes down to the music. Try "Space Dream #2" --
Space Dream #2 by Laurence and the SlabBoys

Laurence and the Slab Boys consists of Larry Reid, Josh Brady, Matt Smithson and Lee Walsh. They are based in Glasgow, although Reid spends his time shuttling between Glasgow and Berlin, where he DJs. They describe their music as a noisy form of dream-pop and "post-apocalyptic folk". I don't have any problem with those descriptions, but I will point out that there is a very dance-oriented aspect to the demos to which I've listened. I'll also note that the band seems to eschew loops, laptops and other technical wizardry, and just relies on its core instruments and Larry's voice to paint the picture. What a concept!

"Ballroom Killer"
Ballroom Killer by Laurence and the SlabBoys

Larry has advised me that the group is assembling an album, so I'll leave more detailed discussion of the music to a proper review of the album. However, I wanted our readers to get a chance to listen to a few tracks and, I hope, look forward to the album.

"Chinese Burns"
Chinese Burns by Laurence and the SlabBoys

Twitter ( @TheSlabBoys )

The Soul Corner - "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down"

There are two triggers for this as today's choice.
I took a clumsy spill and hurt my head the other day. Feeling good now though. So the joke's on me here. From the great Sam and Dave:

And I learned about the original version by Sam and Dave from the supercharged cover by Elvis Costello on his 1980 rock'n'soul masterpiece Get Happy!. This video is a fantastic period piece. Whether this video was tongue in cheek as I assume, or not, I love everything about it:

Which brings me to my second trigger -- Important note to our Portland readers:
Tickets to the Elvis Costello singing songbook show at the Schnitzer Theater go on sale today. If you have seen him before, I know you'll be there. If you haven't, now's your chance. Not many better performers out there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

REVIEW: Various Artists - Where Is Parker Griggs?, Compilation from Alive/Naturalsound Records,out this week...

Radio Moscow's The Great Escape Of Leslie Magnafuzz was one of the coolest things I heard in 2011 - Parker Griggs' crazy hard rock guitar is terrific.

Apparently the 2011 incarnation of Radio Moscow disintegrated onstage just the other night, with Parker Griggs being taken to the hospital to sew up his head after he and his drummer threw an electric guitar back and forth in anger. With a new rhythm section, Griggs is continuing the tour. Your guess as to how long this incarnation will last - judging by the comments on the YouTube video of the incident, Griggs ain't the easiest guy to work with.

Radio Moscow is on the label Alive/Naturalsound Records, from which came some of our favorite discoveries of 2011... and they just keep coming. Here's a previously unreleased Radio Moscow track "The Stranger":

RADIO MOSCOW "The Stranger" by Pavement PR

Here's a previously unreleased track from labelmates Lee Bains III And The Glory Fires - which is available on the Alive/Naturalsound label compilation Where Is Parker Griggs? A full length from Bains is due out in April - more on that when we get to hear it, but hopes are high.

LEE BAINS III & The Glory Fires - Everything That You Took by Pavement PR

Pretty good soul music-- and on this label (and compilation) are acts ranging from heavy rockers Radio Moscow, Welsh blues punk duo Henry's Funeral Shoe, Detroit punk rockers Gardens, and California punk screamers The Bloody Hollies (all reviewed on WYMA in 2011), not to mention Bains, the retro- Crazy Horse-meets-Jack Bruce stylings of The Buffalo Killers, Texas garage/beach/soul from Hacienda, and the Howling Wolf-inspired stomp and growl of The Black Diamond Heavies. Enough variety and quality to keep you tapping your feet, shaking your butt and/or banging your head for days... really. Most of the tracks on this compilation are exclusive to this record, but give a good sense of the various artists' body of work.

This is a terrific compilation. I am mighty impressed with the quality of every band I've heard on here, and everything we've gotten from Patrick Boissel's label. Going back a ways, it was the original label for the Black Keys (The Big Come-Up) and the first time I heard of it was fellow WYMABlogger Hardy's ardent recommendation for the Bloody Hollies.

Alive/Naturalsound Homepage

REVIEW: Raw Feels - Raw Feels

Some towns are known for music (such as Memphis, Detroit, Austin, Seattle). And often towns that are recognized on a music map are known for a specific style of music. Lately, Fredericksburg, Virginia is becoming known for its emerging shoegaze scene. A few years ago my attention was drawn to Skywave, which produced a dense, heavy, but melodic sound. That band transitioned into Ceremony, which we profiled in 2011. The new kids on the Fredericksburg block are the trio Raw Feels, who have just released their seven-track debut, Raw Feels on Bad Friend Records.

Raw Feels' sound boasts a guitar-focused sound that may remind the listener of My Bloody Valentine, or of Skywave or Ceremony, and probably is best described as post-punk, shoegaze or space rock. Here is standout album track "Isolation" --
Raw Feels - Isolation by BadFriendRecords

If you prefer, here is the track on Bandcamp:

While there is variety among the tracks on Raw Feels, the constants are the deadpan vocal delivery and commitment to a dense soundscape of distorted guitar. While the band is not equal to Ceremony at this point in time, it is a welcome and promising addition to the scene for those of us who appreciate this genre.

"Much More" is one of the more accessible tracks on the album:

The songs on the album were written by frontman Ben Wood, or by Ben and guitarist Chris Carr, and recorded by Ben Wood, Chris Carr, and John Fedowitz of Ceremony and Skywave (in John's basement). John also produced the album. Making it a musical family affair, Ben also plays drums for Ceremony, and Chris plays bass for Ceremony. And mentioned only because it is a cool name, one of Ben's former bands was called Carlos, I'm Pregnant

And here is a live performance of the track "Raw Feels" captured at The Dunes in Washington, D.C. --

Twitter ( @RawFeels )

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Pop/Punk Discovery: The Pharmacy: "Dig Your Grave" EP due out Feb 3

The Pharmacy are a New Orleans-by way of Seattle pop/punk band with a keyboard out front (Farfisa, almost) and a singer who sounds like a pretty upbeat Richard Hell.

Intrigued? Check out:

And here's a recent video "What Are You Doing With Your Life" or "WAYDWYL" (your choice):

They're headed out on a long tour soon, with a full length album to be released later this year.

The Pharmacy on Facebook

EP will be out Feb 3, full album expected sometime after that.

Get to Know: Mondrian

Intelligent pop, with hooks, melody and careful craftsmanship characterize the music of France's Mondrian. The group was formed in 2007, and released an EPs in 2010 and 2011. To begin 2012, they have released a new album entitled The Flood of Kool. And the first single, "Paris", is available for free download:

If that little taste is interesting, and I certainly think it is, you can stream the entire album here:

The two constant members of Mondrian are Roman Oswald and Morning Crash, and they are listed as the songwriters for the band. It appears that other performers contribute from time to time.

While the principal reason for writing about the band today is to alert our readers to The Flood of Kool, we would be doing a disservice if we were not to include a couple of the videos inspired by songs on the band's first release.

Here is the funny, and a bit shocking, "Last Breakfast on Planet Surf"--

Mondrian - Last Breakfast On Planet Surf from NYSUfilms on Vimeo.

In "Beware! The Killer!", we are reminded of the dangers of love and lies--

Mondrian - Beware! The Killer! from NYSUfilms on Vimeo.

Twitter ( @popmondrian )

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Get to Know: Spooky Campers

Spooky Campers are Samuel T. Hill (guitar/bass/vocals), James Gaudet (guitar/bass/vocals), and Daniel Ethier (drums), and they are from Halifax. The band issued two releases in 2011 via Sunken Sounds (see Tumblr link below). The first, Shitty Campground, was recorded "one day in May" 2011 and released on May 13:

The sound is a lo-fi, gritty mix of indie rock styles including post-punk and surf. And while it all has a loose, one-take feel about it, the music seems all the better for it. I read that the band is on hiatus while one of its members attends school in Europe. I hope that doesn't mean the end of Spooky Campers.

Spooky Campers' second 2011 release is TAPE # 2, which is dated June 30, 2011:

Both releases are available for free download at Bandcamp.

Sunken Sounds on Tumblr

Monday, January 9, 2012

REVIEW: Guided by Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory

Hey guys! Robert Pollard's got a new record out, and it's great!

It seems like I start about 80% of my posts that way, but in reality, it's probably closer to half. But of course, it's frequently true. Having released six strong rock records in 2011, Pollard - this time, with his GbV Classic Lineup mates - has put together an excellent collection of songs to kick off 2012. On the one hand, it's about what you'd expect - the four P's (pop, punk, prog and psych) are in abundance. On the other, it's far from a rehash... it feels very fresh to me.

"Laundry And Lasers" kicks off the record with a slice of krautrock-style synth leading into a strong Pollard vocal -- and at about 1:02, the rhythm section and guitars kick into gear and it's Classic GbV... no doubt about it. The fake British accent is front and center. "The Head" is a short, lo-fi rocker, and song three is the previously-released "Doughnut For A Snowman" - just a beautiful pop song with wistful vocals and strings, leading into some nice harmonies. "Spiderfighter" is a Tobin Sprout vocal, starting with an Eastern-influenced first half -- just the thing to jump into after a perfect pop song like "Doughnut", but finishing up with a pretty solo piano and Sprout vocal, bringing back fond memories of Sprout contributions like "To Remake The Young Flyer". The GbV reunion is full of great stories, and one of my favorites is this piece from a local Michigan paper about Sprout's "secret past".

"Hang Mr. Kite" is a nod to Bob's Beatle roots. As with so many of his best songs, it is in the vein of a great pop or rock artist but with the Pollard touch. "God Loves Us" ventures a bit more into the punk side of the Four P's, then "Who Invented The Sun" is another Sprout vocal with piano - a delightful 1:21 of spare beauty.

Other highlights to me: "Waves", a super-catchy Sprout pop rocker, "Chocolate Boy", a short, beautiful pure pop gem, "Either Nelson" ("I challenge you to rock", shouts Bob) and the closer "The Unsinkable Fats Domino." Just in case you haven't already seen it, here's a video of them performing "Domino" on the Letterman show, complete with Demos' striped white pants, an onstage fall... only thing missing is the cooler.

Here's a link to my earlier post, containing links to download a couple of the songs on the record.

Get to Know: Literature

When you write about music, particularly if you (meaning, in this case, me) spend a lot of your music writing time looking for new, emerging and little-known bands, it is exciting to find a band that isn't just interesting, but is remarkably good and ready to take on the world. I suppose one could feel foolish for taking so long to discover them, but I lack that specific gene sequence. So, without irony or self-reflection, I present Literature. Literature is an Austin, Texas band formed in 2009, and they've released two albums and a three song 7". The line-up is Erik Smith (drums), Nathaniel Cardaci (guitars and vocals), Kevin Attics (guitars and vocals), and Seth Whaland (bass). The sound is an energetic and melodic post-punk and new wave sound. Enjoy "Arab Spring", the title track for their new album:

If you like that, you can stream the entire album here:

Literature's brand of music is fun, and honors its influences without mimicking them. I'm betting that Arab Spring earns them a deserved following. What do you think?

Here is "Cincinnati", from the 7" of the same name:

"It's Cruel"

Voice Academy Records

Sunday, January 8, 2012

20th Century Tokyo Princess - I've Never Been Happy And I've Never Had Fun

From Random Old Records in Cincinnati, we recently received a submission from one of the dirtiest, sludgiest garage bands we've ever heard. Yes, they're that awesome. They've recently released I've Never Been Happy And I've Never Had Fun on cassette or via download on Bandcamp.

Here's a video of "99 Years":

And here's a link to their Bandcamp. Highly recommended, but you have got to have a taste for grunge, punk and true lo-fi madness. You like old Richard Hell? Heartbreakers? Johnny Thunders? Definitely give this a listen.