Friday, June 1, 2012

The Soul Corner - The Chi-Lites "Have You Seen Her"

Vocal harmonies played a huge role in soul music. Exhibit A:

And don't you love that wah-wah guitar opening?  This song has more pop hooks than you can count.

If this gets stuck in her head today, and you are not productive at work, tell your boss to try suing the Soul Corner but of course we won't respond. It's an assumed risk of listening to a slow jam like this.

The Chi-Lites were, as you might guess from the name, from Chicago.

"Have You Seen Her", inspired by the doo-wop music of the 1950's, made it all the way to #3 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1971. But the Chi-Lites hats and 'fros charted at #1.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nick Waterhouse - Time's All Gone

Jim Desmond just profiled a fine work from JD McPherson, and emphasized his love and appreciation for music of the '60s.  So it seems to be an excellent time to post my review of Time's All Gone by California's retro guitar-slinger, Nick Waterhouse.  Nick doesn't mine the '60s garage scene or the mid '60s soul scene.  He goes back to the late '50s and early '60s R&B.  The sound features Nick's shredding guitar and raw, immediate vocals, both of which hit all the right stylistic and emotional notes and are more effective for being indifferent to session musician perfection.  And it features a great rhythm section, smooth back-up vocals, and a couple of dirty saxophones.  Ladies and gentlemen, this isn't a mimicry of your parent's music, this is roadhouse R&B from the American south.  You listen to it and feel it.  It seems to me that in the background there could, or should, be the sounds of a couple courting, a couple fighting, and maybe a few broken glasses.

For a sample of the music from Time's All Gone, here is one of the top tracks, "Some Place" --

Nick Waterhouse's music is drenched in tension, sexy vibes and muscular horn and guitar riffs. But overall, it is vibrant, fun music.  It has enough polish to have style, and enough lo-fi and loose threads to be immediate and real.  I understand that with his live band, the Tarots, the effect is breathtaking.

Here is one of my favorite songs from the album (and a great video, IMHO): "I Can Only Give You Everything" --

Time's All Gone is out now on the Innovative Leisure label.  This is my late night summer soundtrack, and it could be yours.

Nick also runs Pres Records, which has released material by another of my recent favorites, Allah-Las.  In fact, Nick produced "Catamaran", one of the tracks on that group's excellent spring EP.

Twitter ( @nickwaterhouse )
Innovative Leisure (label)
Pres Records

New Discovery: JD McPherson - Signs And Signifiers

I love 1950's and 60's American music. Love it, spend a great deal of time listening to soul, early rock, garage rock, R&B, classic country. But somehow the current and often popular "retro" acts generally leave me cold,  just too uninspired and unemotional. And when I do find a contemporary act whom I dig working in a traditional style, it's more often than not a late bloomer like Charles Bradley, or say Bettye Lavette making a comeback record.
But the Alabama Shakes aren't the only new act bringing back the real R&B. JD McPherson, an art teacher from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma has made one hell of a debut record Signs and Signifiers. Here's the insanely catchy lead track and single "North Side Gal":

And as good as it is, "North Side Gal" is not the sole high point, as this entire CD cooks, swings and just gets it. JD's giving away a free download of "Northside Gal":

McPherson's a terrific singer with great phrasing. His band has just the right loose feel, complete with bass slaps, great piano work, toe tapping drum fills, and a fleet of vintage Cadillacs' worth of great guitar sounds.
Signs and Signifiers simply leaps out of the speakers. Check out this title track with its killer guitar hook intro, updating both Bo Diddley, and more modern rock licks like Johnny Marr's "How Soon Is Now?":

The CD reminds me less of any of its particular influences like Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Buddy Holly than it does say Dave Alvin, artists with the deep respect for classic sounds, but with their own voice and spirit.

McPherson has been quoted as being just as big a fan of The Ramones and Wu-Tang Clan as he is of any '50's blues or rockabilly artists, and that deep musicality really shows here.

Rolling Stone is streaming the entire record here:

You can listen once but then you gotta go buy it. I promise you it sounds particularly good played loud with your car windows down.

McPherson is on tour now and lucky for me, pulling into Portland this Saturday at my favorite bar in town, Bunk Bar. This is good.

Get this record. Summer's here and the time is right.

PS I Love You - a couple of new videos from Death Dreams

PS I Love You has released one of the best records of 2012, Death Dreams. I reviewed it here, and if you want to save the wear and tear of clicking your mouse to read my review, let me just tell you that it is shred-tastic.

They've released an official video for "Princess Towers", which I thank Rocksteady for alerting me to:

And here's a live in-studio version of "Saskatoon" released by their label, Paper Bag Records:

I like their style - it's two-person heavy rock, but the style leans more toward Crazy Horse than Black Keys or White Stripes... and I think the guitar is just fantastic...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Discovery: Skyline Pigeons - House of Mysteries

Skyline Pigeons is Santa Barbara/Los Angeles, California-based sisters Roxanne and Caroline Teti. The record features pectacular vocal harmonies, and a variety of rock styles from garage country-rock to shoegaze... They were inspired by the experience of losing their home to the Santa Barbara wildfires and starting over - a lot of emotion, and a real sense of having to work to evoke that which has been lost.

Here's the video for the song "Lucid", full of lilting vocals, strong piano lines and understated electric guitars:

Their debut album, House Of Mysteries will be out on June 5. They have made two songs available to download, the jagged, guitar-based "Tennessee" and the piano-based ballad "Lucid".

You can buy it at their Bandcamp site:

REVIEW: White Fence - Family Perfume

Tim Presley is a hard working man.  More than that, Tim Presley is an inspired man.  As a member of Austin, Texas garage/folk rock group the Strange Boys, he has participated in recording music over the past few years that other artists would be proud to call their own.   He has been a member of space rock group Darker My Love.  Under the name White Fence he released two albums before this year, and he combined with Bay Area workaholic Ty Segall this spring to produce the wonderful garage rock album Hair (our review here).  Those of us who are mere mortals would be inclined to rest, and most of us would have long exhausted our inspiration.  However, as White Fence, Presley has released the double album, Family Perfume, on the Woodsit label.

Family Perfume is 28 tracks of glorious psychedelic, lo-fi garage rock, evocative of early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayers and the Beatles psychedelic work.  Sometimes dreamy, sometimes poppy, sometimes California acid, and sometimes a few different approaches in the same song.  "Swagger Vets and Double Moon" is an acid/glam jam --

The pop side is well represented by "A Hermes Blues" and "It Will Never Be", the latter of which is reminiscent of the Kinks.

And a woozy acid folk approach in "King of the Decade", from Vol. 2 --

With 28 tracks, and an experimental approach, it is quite likely that not every track will connect with every listener.  But there are an abundance of gems, and relatively few that struck me as more ordinary.  Of course, I'm a fan of Syd Barrett psyche/folk anyway.  Frankly, I looked at the couple of lesser tracks as transitional moments.  Overall, the album displays a masterful ability to craft melodies, and, at the end of the year when I revisit this album in relation to other albums, I expect that it is going to rank highly.

Volume 1 of Family Perfume was released digitally and on vinyl in early April; Volume 2 was released in those same formats in mid-May.  A CD comprised of both volumes also is available.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

REVIEW: Craft Spells - Gallery EP

Craft Spells Gallery EP continues, rather than departs from, the sound featured on the band's 2011 debut, Idle Labor.  And that's fine with me.  There may come a time when Justin Vallesteros and his musical pals need to tweak their sound or direction to please themselves and their fans.  But at the moment, the template still delivers aural pleasure.

"Still Left With Me" begins  Gallery EP with a fast-paced, upbeat melody and an clean, effective hook.  Even Vallesteros' sometimes laconic baritone brims with life.  The track wouldn't be out of place in the New Order portfolio.

The second and third tracks, "Warmth" and "Burst", respectively, are aptly named.  The former conveys a Radio Dept. level of intimacy, while the latter is a pop song brimming with life.

As a whole, the EP is a high energy amalgamation of shimmering guitars and synths, and insistent rhythms.  The subtle differences from Idle Labor are improvements--more intricate, fleshed-out songs and, generally, a more upbeat vibe.  Even when Justin is gloomy, there is a danceability and undeniable vibrancy to this music.  If you already liked Craft Spells, you'll want to add this to your collection.  If you haven't tried them, this is a good place to start.

I understand that for purposes of composition, Vallesteros is Craft Spells.  For performances, the group is Vallesteros, Jack Doyle Smith, Javier Suarez and Andy Lum.  Most of the members are based in Seattle, but I recently read that Vallesteros is living in San Francisco at the moment.

Gallery EP was available May 15 on Captured Tracks.

Twitter ( @craft_spells )

Introducing:Deathline, and new single "Ten of Clubs"

Deathline is a London duo (by way of Sweden and Japan) with an arresting sound.  It combines noir post punk sonic fury with electronica and garage, and it all sounds a bit dirty.  That is, it sounds dirty in a very good way.  The band is releasing their new single, "Ten of Clubs" now, and for a limited time it is free at Bandcamp and Soundcloud (links to both are provided below) along with three remixes of the song.  Sample "Ten of Clubs" and remixes here:

Deathline are Jennie Werlemar (lead vocals/bass) and Kaoru Sato (guitar/programming/vocals).  They released a kick ass rock album entitled SixtyNine in 2009 (listen here), and they've been working the tour circuit and honing their sound since then.   Jennie and Kaoru recently recorded in California with Josiah Mazzaschi, who has worked with Smashing Pumpkins and Built to Spill.  Those sessions produced "Ten of Clubs".  The sound is dense and full of fury and swagger, and Jennie's husky vocals have drawn valid comparisons to Nico.

Download and enjoy. You have nothing to lose but your innocence.

Website (Tumblr)
Twitter ( @Deathline )

Monday, May 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Dentals -- Tennessee

We love music here at When You Motor Away.  We also love beer.  So I was delighted to find in my inbox a 13-track album of excellent guitar pop with many references to beer.  And what better time to profile the album than a holiday weekend in the US.

The group is The Dentals, and they are from Switzerland.  However, the album was recorded in Tennessee, and was named after the place of its birth.  Thus, we have a Swiss band with a name that evokes teeth, releasing an album named Tennessee  Any questions so far?

The gentle pop opener is not about beer, but the band couldn't resist referencing beer in the title: "A Song Not About Beer" --

The second and third tracks, "I Am an Artist" and "King Without Crowns", boast a more upbeat tempo, but continue with endearing melodies and wistful vocals somewhat reminiscent of Seattle indie pop band Tullycraft.  Both are among the better pop songs I've heard this year.  Now, I already liked this album before I heard the fourth song, "I Love You Even More", but the refrain in that track distilled in a short phrase the essence of true love: "I love you even more than beer".

You won't be surprised to learn that The Dentals are a band with a sense of humor.  Additional tracks are titled "Heading for the Door Again", "Not Every Idiot Knows How to Drive A Car" (a bit confessional, this one, as apparently the lead vocalist is not a good driver), "I Am Well But You Are Paul Weller" (originally named "Scotland Made Me Fat"), and, after 12 tracks, a final track simply named "B-side".

In "Career for Beer", the boys muse about the working world --

The dentals are Fabio (guitar, vocals), Roman (guitar), Jonas (bass), and Dave (drums).  The group was formed in 2002.  They describe their brand of music as Alco-pop, and while they admit that they haven't really accomplished anything as a band, they point out that they haven't really tried, either.

"Give Me A Second Chance" shows the band can put a bit of muscle in their pop --

The album was released on May 25.  There will be a release party on June 29, 2012, in Lucerne, Switzerland. That is a long way for many of us to travel for a party, but I'm hoping the WYMA private jet will be available. I expect that the party will feature quite a bit of beer.

It's summer, treat yourself to fun pop that justifies your beer habit.  You deserve it.


Aggie Doom's new Single, Bring Me the Head

On days like this, I love my job.  I really love my job.  I get to listen to new music that is interesting and exciting, and then tell you about it..  And I really am excited about Bring Me the Head, the new two-track single from Glasgow's Aggie Doom.

It seems to me that the starting point for Bring Me the Head  is minimalist '60s garage rock.  Then add a dose of voodoo glam and you've got something quite striking--primitive, insistent rhythms, music and lyrics with a fangs-exposed and claws-out edge, and some very nice girl-group harmonies.  But unlike their garage rock second cousins, Aggie Doom   allows a lot of space in the music, which builds tension without ramping up the volume.  Some have called it "darkwave", and I think that is a good tag.

So, be our guest and take the single for a spin.  The entire run-time is about 6:15, and you wouldn't want to miss the B-side, "Cakewalk".  If you're like me, you'll want to allocated enough time to replay it a few times.

Aggie Doom  are Claudia Nova, Scott Caruth, Hillary Van Scoy and Joan Sweeney.  The band has drawn comparisons to Bush Tetras, Romeo Void and Keenex, and while I can understand the comparison, I think this band takes their own path with a higher dose of atmosphere and less emphasis on punk.

At the moment the single is available only in a limited run of 300 vinyl 7" records. One hopes that broader distribution or, even better, inclusion in an EP or LP happens in the future.  The label is the small, Livingston, Scotland label Soft Power Records.   The folks that run the operation clearly have a good ear for emerging bands, as their groups have featured on these pages more than one would expect given their size.

Soft Power's Bandcamp page for the single
Soft Power Records