Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Video from The Honey Pies


My current favorite Australian band is the talented and fun-loving The Honey Pies. We profiled them earlier in 2011, and showed our love for their late 2011 LP, Carpe Carp, here. The gang has just released a video for the track "Henny Penny" from that album. It finds them goofing on Adelaide's mall street preachers (which apparently are famous in that corner of the world). It is a fine song, so enjoy.

The Honey Pies, HENNY PENNY from Laneway Pictures on Vimeo.



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Friday, January 20, 2012

Soul Corner - Etta James 1938 - 2012

It is odd that I mentioned Etta James in the Soul Corner piece I wrote last night and posted this morning about Johnny Otis, then learn that she passed away today.

While her death was expected, it's a big loss. She is truly an American legend. It's hard to imagine that kind of presence, that true R&B queen, coming along again given the changes in culture and the music industry. It's a sad day for soul music.

Here are a few examples of her strong and true vocal style and monster talent.

It doesn't get more soulful than "I'd Rather Go Blind":



"I Just Want To Make Love to You", what a vocal!:



And we'll finish with a terrific 1989 live version of her 1968 signature song "Tell Mama":



Rest in peace, Etta James and thank you for being a guiding light for American music.








The Soul Corner - Johnny Otis, 1921-2012

Johnny Otis died this week. Otis was the son of Greek immigrants but self-identified as an African American, and became a major R&B pioneer as a performer, songwriter, producer, record label owner and talent scout (he discovered Etta James among many others). He worked in politics, hosted a music TV show in LA, had a longtime R&B radio program in LA, wrote books and was the father of R&B guitarist Shuggie Otis. And he did quite a bit more.
It's a fascinating story and you should read about Johnny Otis here:


Let's celebrate his remarkable life with his signature song "Willie and the Hand Jive" and this vintage TV performance:




Johnny Otis' official web page is well worth a visit: http://www.johnnyotisworld.com/

Get to Know: Strawberry Whiplash


As regular readers know, I'm very much drawn to jangly guitar pop. In one of my early 2011 posts, I profiled Bubblegum Lemonade, the project of Glasgow musician Laz (Lawrence) McCluskey. Last summer I learned that Laz also belongs to a duo called Strawberry Whiplash with a vocalist named Sandra. Laz and Sandra have released a few fine noise pop recordings over the past several year. However, they are on our radar today because they are about to release a new three-track single on California label Matinee Recordings. Here is title track "Stop, Look and Listen" --
Stop, Look And Listen by Strawberry Whiplash



I should point out for those unfamiliar with Laz's Bubblegum Lemonade output, that there is nothing wrong with Laz's vocals. However, I think that joining with Sandra allows Laz to focus on on the fuzz, reverb and jangle that he does so well, and takes the music up a level.

Also on the recent recording, "Luck Is The Residue Of Design" and "In the Blink of an Eye" --
Luck Is The Residue Of Design by Strawberry Whiplash

In The Blink Of An Eye by Strawberry Whiplash

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

So what's going on in Richmond?

Well, a hell of a lot, that's what. Richmond is a great music town, and if you're a punk rock fan, well, like I said, it's a great music town. Here are a couple of bands that prove the point.

Iron Reagan is a supergroup of sorts, featuring members of the excellent Richmond hardcore crossover band Municipal Waste and DC's Darkest Hour. Earlier this week they put up a 4 song, 5 minute long EP on Bandcamp. True to their name, these songs will take you back to some of the best 80s hardcore, including the best iteration of Suicidal Tendencies and the Cro-mags. It's available for download at the super-low price of whatever you want to pay -- but you ought to throw 'em a few simoleons. This is very tight musically -- just top-shelf stuff.


I came across The Haverchucks months ago, and am remiss in not mentioning them until now. They've got more of a pop vibe to their sound, but they're still loud as hell. They released a terrific 5 song EP at the end of last May with buzzsaw guitars and excellent vocals. It's on their Bandcamp site for that magical price of something/anything/ornothing. I'm partial to the more abrasive tunes, but the third track, "I Won't Try", might be the greatest song the Ramones never wrote.


Update: new video/single from Lisa Hannigan

It's cold, dark, dreary and very wet here in Portland Oregon. But we are lifted up this morning, grinning from ear to ear, with the release of this wonderful new video from our beloved Irish lass, Lisa Hannigan. One of our favorite songs from her stunning CD Passenger.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour


The Birthday Suit is a self-described side project of Rod Jones of Idlewild, and he's brought along a lot of what's great about Idlewild... and added a female vocalist, Jacqueline Irvine, to help with some harmonies. Big rock guitar riffs and overwhelming harmonies abound.

Here's "Do You Ever":

The Birthday Suit - Do You Ever? by abadgeoffriendship

Check out the guitar intro and the lush choruses throughout the second track, "Hope Me Home":



This song goes big, not only in the guitars but the bass, pounding drumbeats and the harmony vocals as they repeat the chorus over and over. It's a pretty familiar formula, but makes for good listening when done right. "They Say I Love You" is a ballad which starts out with pretty sparse instrumentation but builds throughout with strings, guitar and again, those strong harmony vocals. "On My Own" is pretty much what you'd expect from an Idlewild side project - fast, big guitar sounds, propulsive drumming and plaintive vocals.

I love the guitar tone on this record, and there's also a bit of country rock sound here and there... check out track 6, "Are You Ok?", for one example. The record ends on a very pretty note, a country rock ballad with nicely played piano and male/female vocals. Jones leads the first half, and Irvine leads the second half, and she's got a really nice voice. Pretty unexpected, and nicely-played.

They're going on tour in the UK soon:

February Tour 2012

Friday 10th - Legends Rock Club, Newcastle
Friday 17th - Coast, Arbroath
Saturday 18th - Tunnels, Aberdeen
Sunday 19th - King Tut's, Glasgow
Friday 24th - The Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
Sunday 26th - The End, Birmingham
Monday 27th - The Garage, London
Tuesday 28th - Fibbers, York
Wednesday 29th - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

We never get tired of excellent Scottish rock. You ought to know that about us by now.

The Birthday Suit Website

The Birthday Suit at A Badge of Friendship

New Single from Cursive: "The Sun And The Moon", off I Am Gemini, out Feb. 7 and 21


Omaha indie rockers Cursive will have a new record, I Am Gemini, out February 7. Here's the first single, "The Sun And The Moon", a hard-driving rock song. Cursive is singer/songwriter Tim Kasher (vocals, guitar), Matt Maginn (bass), Ted Stevens (guitar, vocals), Patrick Newbery (keys) and Cully Symington (drums). When I have a chance to listen, you may be able to read more about it here. In the meantime, enjoy this as a preview of the upcoming record, and tour.



Read more, find tour dates, or pre-order at Cursive's website or the Saddle Creek Records online store.

On tour with Cursive will be another Omaha band, the more "shoegaze" inclined Conduits. More on them later (hint, they're excellent).

REVIEW: Former Bullies - Golden Chains


I'm being completely honest when I tell you that if I'd heard the 15 tracks of crunchy, jangly, 60s-style garage, psyche rock that comprise Golden Chains, it would have been in my top 20 albums of the year. I didn't, so it wasn't. But that doesn't mean that I can't set the record right by highlighting the album now. Here are the video version and the Soundcloud version of the title track --

Former Bullies - Golden Chains by CF Records

Former Bullies are a Manchester group that has been in existence since 2003. Apparently, there have been a lot of line-up changes, but the constants are Nick Ainsworth (guitar and vocals) and Tom Settle (drums). The current bassist is Matthew Taylor. The music has a relaxed, lo-fi vibe. But listening to the tracks, you get the sense that these guys know exactly what they want to deliver, and how to deliver it. This is the complete package of garage psych, bursting with melody and fuzz. I couldn't find a track on the album that I didn't like and didn't want to repeat.

"Black Cloud"

Former Bullies - Black Cloud by CF Records

"Waiting for You"


Now, here is the bad, or good (if you are a vinyl collector), news about sourcing Golden Chains. It is available in vinyl (if you like, MP3s can be purchased) and is super limited to 250 records. Apparently it isn't available in CD or from on-line services. The label is CF Records, and the link for purchase is here. The label seems like nice people. Maybe if everyone demands that they make and ship a load of CDs, they'll do it.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

REVIEW: The Babies - Cry Along With the Babies EP



As I've written before, I have a fondness for indie music with a genuine DIY feel to it. Probably prime examples are local icons Beat Happening and the beloved Glasgow bands, The Vaselines and The Pastels. So I was quite happy to explore the new EP of demos, Cry Along With the Babies, by Brooklyn band The Babies. The six tracks, amounting to twenty minutes of music, reveal a band working on ideas, taking risks, and learning what they can do well. While a few of the tracks were re-recorded and re-worked to appear on other recordings, the versions on this EP remain in their raw and vulnerable form.

The first song is "Big Mercedes", a charming acoustic song that would fit proudly in a K Records compilation. "Trouble" features probably my favorite guitar accompaniment of the album, and may be my favorite song of the set at this point.

The Babies - Trouble by New Images

"My Tears" takes the set back to the acoustic side, and serves as a sweet 1:37 bridge to the aching Americana of "More Stage". "Hey Mama" features an catchy blues riff over a shimmering pseudo bass rhythm, and is "number 2 with a bullet" for me on this album. "That Boy" closes the album out on an appealing electro-folk note.

This album is what I call a grower. At first listen, the reaction is "nice". Second time through it is "I really enjoyed that". Third time through you start noticing delightful little details you missed in earlier sessions. It is a heady mix of Americana and dusty, trip-worn DIY, and we all want more if it.

The Babies are Kevin Morby (also in Woods), Cassie Ramone (also in Vivian Girls), Justin Sullivan, and Brian Schleyer. Their prior releases include the 7" Meet Me in the City on Make a Mess Records, All Things Come to Pass on Wild World, a self-titled album on Shrimper, the 7" Here Comes Trouble on Teenage Teardrops, and a cassette entitled Live at the Smell on Kill/Hurt. Cry Along With the Babies is released on New York label New Images, which is run by Matt Mondanile of Real Estate and Ducktails. The connection goes a bit deeper as The Babies are touring this month with Real Estate.



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Monday, January 16, 2012

New Video from The Bats for "Spacejunk"

"Spacejunk" is one of the many wonderful songs on the 2011 LP from The Bats, Free All the Monsters (WYMA review for the album here). Since I liked the album well enough to rate in my # 1 for the year (see list), I'm always happy to have another opportunity to plug it. Yesterday, when I checked my messages after my birthday party (yes, dear readers, I am very old), John had sent me a message alerting me to the new video for "Spacejunk". The song is great, and the video is the interesting result of filming a live performance with five simultaneous cameras. Enjoy.

"Spacejunk"


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Flying Nun Records

Free EP from King Post Kitsch


King Post Kitsch, the recording name for Charlie Ward, released an album last year (review here) that I rated # 11 on my year end list. His majesty has just released the three song EP which he is offering for the introductory low, low price of 0 (in dollars, Euros, pounds, yen, marks or whatever). If you somehow missed The Party's Over, or one of the other EPs from KPK that I promoted here last year, this is a good way to start your collection.

The three tracks well illustrate why it is difficult to categorize Charlie's music. The title track, "Nocturnal Wandering", is an appealing instrumental. Track #2, "They Make the Same Faces Whether Fuck or Fight" is a rousing punk stomper. The final song, "Movies and Magazines" closes the proceedings in graceful folk fashion.

And there you are, six minutes of quality pop music at a price even you (yes, you) can afford. And if you don't like it, Charlie will refund your purchase price.



Charlie is a Glasgow native, but he works in London as a sound engineer.

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Honoring MLK Jr. Day with his favorite song

Music played a key role in the freedom movement. And the great Mavis Staples and her family were right in the thick of it.

Linked here is a clip of Mavis talking about the first time she saw Dr. King in person (the second clip in the box below "Meeting MLK"):



Here's a tremendous live recording of "Why Am I Treated So Bad", the song that Mavis says was Dr. King's favorite. In addition to everything else the great man accomplished, looks like he had good taste in music as well:



Mavis Staples web page: http://www.mavisstaples.com/

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Update - new video from And The Giraffe

Discovered these guys last year - a Tennessee/Florida duo (Nick Roberts and Josh Morris) making languid pop music with some nice guitar lines and hushed vocals. Here's a video they made for "Underground Love" which was my favorite track:



You can still download this record "name your price" at their Bandcamp site:

Update: Blitzen Trapper - new video and tour

I'm still not sure how Blitzen Trapper's fine 2011 CD American Goldwing did not make my top 20 list. I should have been like Rocksteady and just picked more CDs! It's a terrific record from a band on the way up, working very hard and getting even better every time I see them.

Here's their latest video, "Takin' It Easy Too Long", one of my favorite songs on American Goldwing, more gentle than most of their stuff, very pretty.

Blitzen Trapper has also announced a March tour across the Western US with WYMA favorites the Parson Red Heads. Both bands are excellent live performers, and this is not to be missed. Make your plans now.
March 4 – Arcata, Calif. @ Humboldt Brews
March 5 – Sacramento, Calif. @ Harlow’s
March 6 – Visalia, Calif. @ The Cellar Door
March 7 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Troubadour
March 9 – Santa Barbara, Calif. @ SOhO Restaurant and Music Club
March 10 – Long Beach, Calif. @ Alex’s Bar
March 11 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ The Crescent Ballroom
March 12 – Tucson, Ariz. @ Club Congress
March 14-17 - Austin, Texas @ SXSW
March 19 - Albuquerque, N.M. @ Launchpad
March 20 - Telluride, Co. @ Sheridan Opera House
March 22 - Salt Lake City, Utah @ The State Room
March 23 - Boise, Idaho @ Neurolux (Treefort Music Festival)