Saturday, April 14, 2012

REVIEW: Leigh Marble - Where The Knives Meet Between The Rows

Leigh Marble is a Portland-based singer/songwriter who will release on April 24 his third album Where The Knives Meet Between The Rows, an intimate, very emotional collection of songs written through a very challenging period of Marble's life. On songs like "Walk" and "Holden", the emotion is right on the surface, and on songs like the gentle, dirge-like "Evil" and the longer "Nail", the emotion informs the entire track.

Click here for a download of "Walk" the opening track - a slow building, country-tinged track that revives, for me, memories of the great Joe Ely... another sharp observer of the human condition and the triumphs and tragedies that make up a life.

"Jackrabbit" (download available here) is a masterpiece, a full-bodied country rock ode to hangers-on, or as Marble introduces the song "strippers and politicians". Your choice, I suppose. The song starts in a bit of a minimalist vein, like "Walk" with a quicker tempo, but in the chorus it really gets going as Marble sings over the top of a rollicking drumbeat, keyboards and guitars in full roar:

"Who's bought out shares of your loyalty
Let's follow the dollar and see
Who's waiting in the wings to collect
As their demands get more direct?"

Here's a video of a recent performance of "Pony":

Well-written and extremely well-played, this album is out April 24 on Laughing Stock Records. On this record he has help from Erin McKeown, and local Portland musicians Jesse Emerson (Amelia, The Decemberists), Matt Harmon & Kali Giaritta (of The Ascetic Junkies), and Rachel Taylor-Brown.

Leigh Marble website

Saturday mini concert: Bare Mutants live at the Empty Bottle

Chicago-area recording engineer Shimby McCreery has a passion for, and demonstrable skill at, recording live music. His "Live at the Empty Bottle" series is well worth checking out--follow the links at the Bandcamp page for this session or the "Main Bandcamp" link near the end of this post. The session presented here is the February 6, 2012, gig by Chicago band Bare Mutants, a band that also appeared on these pages a few months ago. And don't be surprised if this isn't the last time they are mentioned here.

Shimby gives you a full 37 minute set, so enjoy the concert!

Bare Mutants are Jered (guitar,vocals), Seth (bass), Pete (drums), Leslie (organ), and Jeanine (vocals, percussion).

Bandcamp for Bare Mutant's session
Facebook for Bare Mutants
Main Bandcamp Page for Shimby Presents: Live at the Empty Bottle
Facebook for Shimby Presents: Live at the Empty Bottle

Friday, April 13, 2012

REVIEW: PreTeen -- Squeeze

As the readers of this blog know, we really like championing bands that turn us on, and we can be somewhat insistent about it. We don't care whether the labels, radio stations or advertiser-funded press agree with us. One of the bands I've written about at least twice before in San Francisco's PreTeen. Their Keep It Nice EP from 2011 still is available free. Of course, because I told you to download it free last year, I expect you all did. If you didn't, you are unlikely to get credit from this course.

However, today's post is about the band's latest release, Squeeze -- eleven songs of endearing, loose, lo-fi guitar pop that I think is among the best non-chemical mood enhancers available today. For me, the music on Squeeze straddles garage, indie guitar pop and dream pop. The songs are well crafted to hook you in, capture your attention, and end long before their welcome is worn out.

Here are a few tracks to demonstrate the quality of the album, but the entire LP can be streamed below, and can be downloaded FREE at the Bandcamp link. By the way, as a listening tip I find that PreTeen's songs sound best with the volume turned up. The vocals are more accessible and since the music isn't abrasive, the listener is enveloped in the wonderful lo-fi fuzz.

"Maiden Lane"

"It's Fantastic"

You can stream Squeeze in its entirety here:


The Soul Corner - Otis Clay, "That's How It Is"

Otis Clay was born in Mississippi in 1942, moved to Chicago as a young man and resides there to to this day. He had some minor hits, and then became a reliable club performer, and later an effective community activist on Chicago's West side.
The vocal on "That's How It Is" is a favorite of mine. Hard to believe this 1967 song is not better known:
Love the name of the record label - "One-derful! Records". With that name, too bad it didn't become a major force like Stax or Motown.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FIDLAR issues Don't Try EP

Our post regarding FIDLAR's "No Waves/No Ass" single a few weeks ago received an enthusiastic response, so we assume that the assembled masses who forgo food to pay the cable bill so they can continue to read the blog in these tough economic times will joyously celebrate at the news that the Mom + Pop label released the band's Don't Try EP earlier this week. The EP features four tracks, "No Waves", "No Ass", "Black Out Stout", and "Got No Money".

Here is a live version of the great third track of the EP, "Black Out Stout" --

To remind you of the great punk/surf this band generates, here is an embed of the EP's first two tracks from the March single:

FIDLAR is Brandon, Max, Zac, and Elvis, and they are based in Los Angeles. I think that without FIDLAR, life is more than a little more boring. And for you lucky Midwesterners, FIDLAR will be playing Lollapallooza on August 4.

For a bit of fun, here is a little tour video of the gang --

FIDLAR Tour Video #1 from FIDLAR on Vimeo.

Mom + Pop

Introducing Jeff Beam

Yes, children, before Pink Floyd was the Pink Floyd of the The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd was fronted by a genius madman by the name of Syd Barrett. And just so you know where I stand with respect to Mr. Barrett, I listen to a compilation of Syd Barrett's solo work and the Pink Floyd album he created, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, far more often than I listen to the post-Barrett Pink Floyd output. Some of you linear thinkers may be wondering why I'm blathering about my quirky devotion to Barrett's music in a post allegedly dedicated to one Jeff Beam. Well, the answer to that admittedly relevant question is that Jeff Beam creates the kind of quirky, jangly, psychedelic folkish rock that Syd did so well (and Robyn Hitchcock still does).

Jeff has released a nine-track LP titled Be Your Own Mirror. It is available as a name-your-price digital download, or a minimum $5 CD or cassette tape. You can stream it here and judge for yourself, but I think it is really good stuff.

Jeff lives in Portland, Maine, to which he moved from Brooklyn. This month he is touring in the Northeast United States. He also plays in a Portland group called Milkman's Union.

The very nice track "Now" from Jeff's LP is available as an EP with a few non-album tracks (including a cover of Ray Davies' "Phenomenal Cat"). Here is the link to the Now EP --

Twitter ( @Jeff_Beam )

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Next Shiny Thing - Distractions discovered on the way to somewhere else

I noticed a common element in live Sly Stone videos while selecting clips in honor of Sly Stone's birthday. In each of the videos, Sly sported a runny nose worthy of former Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis

Sly Stone sported a shiny upper lip on a number of performances throughout the 70's.

The sheen was the direct result of massive cocaine ingestion. As I watched more clips, I realized the tell tale sign was a constant.

Shortly after Sly's B'day I was checking out clips of Merle Haggard. As I am wont to do, I became distracted by performances by George Jones. In addition to being, perhaps, the finest country singer of all time, George was renowned for his battles with the bottle, Tammy Wynette and prescription drugs. George's drug of choice were black beauties -pharmaceutical amphetamine (aka speed). Strictly speaking, a black beauty was a tablet of Biphetamine, manufactured by Strasenburgh Labs before finally being pulled from the market in 1998. Black beauties allowed George to engage in the buzz maintenance required by prodigious alcohol consumption and nightly performances on the Country & Western Circuit.

Check out George's eyes in this clip. The man is wired for sound. The same look I used to see in tweaking truckers and bikers in my bartending days. I am sure he had to fight turning three minute songs into two minute ditties.

Other notable examples of video intoxication are Sid Vicious

Shane McGowan pushed the edge of the alkie envelope while performing with the Pogues.

During my years as a bartender I witnessed far too many substance fueled crash and burns. The blues greats were particularly susceptible. However, folkies were every bit as susceptible - John Fahey and Phil Ochs were two notable disasters I witnessed.

Ty Segall & White Fence - Scissor People (at Room 205)

San Francisco garage rocker Ty Segall and Los Angeles' White Fence (Tim Presley) have recorded a joint LP entitled Hair, which will be out soon on Drag City Records. We'll review that album closer to its release date, but meantime we wanted to share with you this live recording of album track "Scissor People". You may note that their buddy Mikal Cronin helps them out in the session. As you can hear, this is a fruitful collaboration. By the way, the recording is part of the Room 205 series sponsored by Incase. The videos in the Room 205 series are always excellent and we highly recommend them.

Check out this new Red Collar song!

One of the most anticipated releases of the year so far in my neck of the woods is the new album from Durham, NC's Red Collar -- Welcome Home -- due out on 12 June. The band has built a rabid following based on their incendiary live shows and their two excellent releases -- 2007's The Hands Up EP and 2009's Pilgrim. I've seen a lot of Fugazi comparisons on the web, but my own sense is that while there's a definite Dischord Records vibe (both musically and politically), I hear more of an Americana-inflected Jawbox, or even Burning Airlines influence in there. They've posted a terrific new song called "American Me" over on Alternative Press. Go have a listen and then put this record on your half-Christmas list. Heck, you know it's going to be great just from the album cover.

After DIY-ing it all this time, they've just hooked up with the excellent Tiny Engines label for this one. Tiny Engines is home to a bushel basket of great bands, including one of my favorites from last year, Philadelphia's Restorations who'll be playing at the Red Collar release show (also with Cleveland's Signals Midwest and Durham's Maple Stave)on 19 May at Motorco in Durham. That's too good a lineup to miss, so I plan not to.

I suppose, that, having read two full paragraphs of my turbid prose (yes, turbid with a "b"), you think you deserve something. I'd tend to agree, so here's a nice concert video of a great older Red Collar tune, "Used Guitars".

Red Collar's page at Tiny Engines (if my mom were to read this post, she'd need this)

REVIEW: The Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls

The sudden rise of the Alabama Shakes is quite a story. A year ago the band was working day jobs in Athens, Alabama, playing to crowds of 20-30 people, and self-financing their first recording with no record label or other support.

Fast forward to this week - Boys and Girls was released yesterday by ATO Records following a good old fashioned major label bidding war, the band got an excellent feature story in the Sunday New York Times, has two sold out shows in New York City, an appearance on David Letterman, and then embarks on an almost completely sold out tour that will take them to Canada, Europe, the UK and various US cities.

So why all the buzz? It's not complicated. Brittany Howard has got it. This 23 year old is blessed with a killer voice that naturally combines soul, blues and rock'n'roll. She plays guitar like her life's on the line. Somehow a young woman who was delivering mail a few months ago is now earning comparisons to Janis Joplin and Bettye LaVette. Yes, that is sort of ridiculous, but she's damn good!

In an age of Auto-Tune, ProTools, American Idol, and a maximum of 150 characters, people are starving for something genuine and lasting, and Brittany Howard and The Alabama Shakes are, as a Southern friend of mine likes to say, as real as a heart attack.

And sometimes a new band takes off because of a great song, and for the Alabama Shakes that song is "Hold On", which sounds like nothing else except just what you've been waiting for. It literally leaps out of your iPod or car radio, a young band busting out and just grabbing it, like the White Stripes on "Seven Nation Army" or Pearl Jam's "Jeremy".

Howard sounds like such an old soul, right at the onset of "Hold On" (lead track on the CD) -
Bless my heart
bless my soul
didn't think I'd make it
to 22 years old

There is something completely timeless about Howard's voice, her writing, and the band's playing. It has no self-conscious retro feel, instead coming across completely instinctual and deeply passionate. What I like best about Boys and Girls is its greasy sound and rough edges. This vibe of 'let's just play and not over think this' comes through especially well on "Hold On" but also the album's 3rd song, "Hang Loose", a terrific rock'n'roll song that wouldn't seem out of place in a Bruce Springsteen live set.

The band has far more in common with say the Drive-By Truckers and old Rolling Stones records than any slick neo-soul of today. Boys and Girls hisses, crackles and rocks, while wearing its Southern working class hero heart on its sleeve, as here on "Rise to the Sun" with its garage rock feel:

Brittany Howard and Heath Fogg both play guitar with real feeling without ever overdoing it, while the rhythm section of bassist Zac Cockrell and drummer Steve Jackson play like old pros with a groove that would make them proud just west of Athens Alabama down Hwy 72 in Muscle Shoals. Add the tasty piano and keyboards and all it's all there - the rock and the roll.

They can slow it down too. One of the highlights here is the title track "Boys & Girls" a ballad that recalls the Memphis soul sound and even Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand". Howard's fine writing skills avoid the typical cliches, as demonstrated on this title track, where she laments the loss of a super tight childhood friendship, their platonic relationship sacrificed to the complications and outside pressures of adolescence. A good song topic, real stuff, Howard not looking over anyone's shoulder or dressing up in someone else's clothes.

The band has the confidence and the right instinct to keep things economical, the 11 songs here clocking in at 39 minutes, though still finding room to kick things into a higher gear at the end of cuts like "Be Mine" that have a Southern rock jam band spirit without the guitar cliches. Here's a live video of "Be Mine" from our friends here in Portland at KINK radio:

The entire CD is being streamed here free (for awhile anyway):

You need to be as true to the feel and the real as the Alabama Shakes themselves and go buy this one at your local independent record store.

And let's not forget that our fearless leader here at WYMA, John Hyland, tipped our readers off to the Alabama Shakes on October 18, 2011, which probably seems like a lifetime ago to the young folks in this band given the deserved but truly crazy turns turns in their world during the past few months.

My advice? Get on this bandwagon now while there is still a little room.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Stammer - "Follow the Leader" from The Stammer EP

The Stammer is a Philadelphia-based postpunk band - incorporating psych, garage and some great guitar lines. Like the pace, the drumming, noisy keyboards and the layered guitars. First song, "Follow the Leader", is a quick trip - 2:16 to be exact, and a good taste of what they're up to. You can download and check it out for yourself:

Download of "Follow the Leader".

And you can sample or buy the whole thing here:

You know what occurred to me? If you, like me, ever wished the Walkmen would pick up the pace a little bit sometimes, check this out. Feels like the drummer's driving the car, and I like it.

Star Anna: Live acoustic performance

Star Anna is a very talented local (i.e. Washington state) musician who possesses one of the most wonderfully heartache-drenched voices in indie music today. We covered her strong 2011 release here, as well as her concert at Seattle's Neptune Theatre in November. The album and concert were with the full band, known as Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, but today we have an interesting live video of her solo session at the Roastery at Caffe Mela in Wenatchee, Washington. I think it is a wonderful display of Star's vocal talents.

Star Anna - Only Guessing - Live at Caffe Mela in the Roastery from Voortex Productions on Vimeo.

Star Anna is signed to Local 638 Records in Seattle.

Local 638 Records

REVIEW: Bear In Heaven - I Love You, It's Cool

I Love You, It's Cool, by Brooklyn's Bear In Heaven, seems to me to be a very specific type of electro-pop. It is as characterized at least as much by its warmth and sensuality as it is its shoegaze density and rhythmic danceability. And yes, that is a lot of textures to absorb in ten pieces of pop music. But all credit to Bear In Heaven, they make it work. Here is a single from the album, "Reflection of You" --

My current favorite from the album is "Cool Light" --

I hear a bit of Depeche Mode in this album, but I Love You, It's Cool is more lush, more intimate, and distinctly more layered and vivid. It represents excellent pop/rock craftsmanship and is likely be find its way to many summer soundtracks, on the beach and in the club.

Bear In Heaven is Jon Philpot, Joe Stickney, and Adam Wills. I Love You, It's Cool is out now on Hometapes / Dead Oceans Records

"Kiss Me Crazy"

Twitter ( @BearInHeaven )

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Guitar Rock Discovery: The Nico Blues - Die Happy

Hoboken, NJ-based rock band The Nico Blues sounds like they're having a great time on their new EP Die Happy. Released in February on their own label, Tiny Giant Records, it contains enough high-energy guitar-based rock songs to keep you nodding and tapping along from beginning to end. They've got a terrific rock sound, kind of punk, a little psych, a touch of garage, kind of glam, and definitely melodic.

They have enough confidence that you'll like it, they are currently making it available on Bandcamp for "pay what you want".

Here's a 2011 video for "Living Proof":

Check out their website for more info on their music, live shows, etc.

REVIEW: Baby Grand - Arts & Leisure

You know what really fills out the day as winter slides into spring? For one thing, great indie pop with jangly and chiming guitars and top quality female vocals. But who would provide that, you ask? Today's answer is Sacramento's Baby Grand. You may not be familiar with the band, but after listening to the music, you will want more. They have been around, with various line-ups, for years, and their recently released LP, Arts & Leisure, out now on Test Pattern Records, is their fourth album since 2002.

For me, the discernible influences for Baby Grand are Camera Obscura (especially the tone and phrasing of the vocals) and Belle & Sebastian (with respect to the careful orchestration of the songs). Take the album's second song, "My Song 15", for a little test drive. The official video delightfully contrasts the sweet sound with a car chase from and old movie.

The primary vocalist is Gerri White, who also plays acoustic guitar. The remainder of Baby Grand is Tim White (drums), Cory Vick (guitar), Leon Levy (bass), Christina Maradik (viola, percussion, vocals), and Jeannette Faith (Rhodes piano).

My current favorite song on the album is "Fool for Your Love", a live version of which is below --

Baby Grand is an assured band with a broad palette, encompassing folk, 60s girl-groups, and orchestral pop. If you're like me, you'll find a lot of delights in Arts & Leisure.

I'll close with a live version of album track "I'll Say Goodbye" --

Test Pattern Records

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mai Mai - Mai Mai

Since it is Easter morning, we'll bring you something a bit different--perhaps quite different. Mai Mai is the project of Sean Morin, a Portland, Maine musician who combines chamber music and popular forms of music. I'm not going to tackle dissecting it, but as the musician who recommended it to me suggested, there is a lot of "ear candy" here. So all of us here are WYMA virtual headquarters hope you enjoy the holiday, and invite you to let Mai Mai be part of you soundtrack.

Twitter ( @MaiMaiEnsemble )