Friday, June 8, 2012

Wild Cub: New video and download of "Wild Light" from upcoming Youth

Wild Cub are a Nashville-based duo, Keegan DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock, playing Talking Heads- and '70's pop/soul-influenced dance rock. They'll be at Bonaroo this weekend - and we'll have more from them as we get it. Here's the video for lead track "Wild Light":

Here is a free download of "Wild Light".

The Soul Corner - Jr Walker and the All Stars "Shotgun"

It's been a while since we visited the Motor City, so here's a true Motown classic for you:

This one has a special connection to our many WYMA readers who went to the University of Notre Dame. Junior Walker (Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr.) was born in Arkansas, but raised in South Bend Indiana, where he started forming bands and playing on local TV shows at a very early age.

Jr Walker and The All Stars were the rare true group of musicians at Motown, as most artists were individuals or vocal groups backed by the Motown studio musicians (The Funk Brothers). However, the legendary Funk Brothers rhythm section of bass player James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin did play on the studio version of "Shotgun".  

Jr Walker was a tremendous musician and one of the rare sax playing lead vocalists.

Which begs a question - why do such few contemporary rock or R&B bands use saxophones any more? Those guys the E Street Band did okay with one.

We like this one so much, we'll give you a bonus live version from the Hullabaloo TV show, with some some very stylish dancing going on, a little Mad Men-era eye candy for your weekend:

REVIEW: Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion

Sometimes, it is just about the voice, and this is one of those times.  And by this introduction I am not dismissing the songwriting, which is impressive, or the careful, supportive arrangements.  But the story here is the voice - a powerful gospel-quality instrument expertly modulated to express the appropriate emotion and nuance.  The voice belongs to Canada-born, London-based Cold Specks, whose debut LP, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, is out now on Mute Records.

Here is album track "Blank Maps" recorded live at SXSW.  The performance in the video is just the artist and her acoustic guitar --

Al Spx is the pseudonym for the artist who performs as Cold Specks.  She describes her music as "doom soul", but don't assume from that label that she is some hipster with aiming for a gimmick.  The artist, and the album, is a powerful, sincere gospel-tinged folk-pop. Spiritual and focused on mortality without being religious, capable of alluding to dark times without wallowing in pain and self-pity.  And through it all, there is the voice, vulnerable, aching, sometimes in pain and sometimes angry, but in control.   Treat yourself to a first look at an artist that has the potential to entertain for years to come.

"Holland" --

In terms of performance credit, other live players with Cold Specks are Pete Roberts, Thomas Green, Tom Havelock, Chris Cundy, and Sarah Jones.   Additional contributors to the album are Jim Anderson, Rob Ellis, Marley Ellis, Terry Edwards, and Ben Christophers.

"Heavy Hands" (live) --

Twitter ( @coldspecks )
Mute Records

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hey Sholay - new single, "Burning" -out next week

Hey Sholay are a five-piece group of musicians, filmmakers and artists from Sheffield and Leeds, who play upbeat psychedelic pop, not terribly far removed from Arcade Fire... although the vocals remind me more of Turin Brakes - that's a good thing. Here's their official video:

And here's a live video from Sheffield Cathedral, recorded by Exposed, a Sheffield-based music guide:

It'll be available June 11, and the album, entitled ((0)), will be out in September:

Two Gallants - free download of "Broken Eyes" from The Bloom and the Blight due out in September

Two Gallants is Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel, and they've got an album, The Bloom And The Blight, due out in September. In advance they have released this download of the acoustic track "Broken Eyes". If you like good country rock with acoustic guitars, harmonica and rough-edged harmony vocals, give this a listen.

Looking forward to hearing the rest of it when available - it's my understanding that the rest of the record, produced by John Congleton, rocks a little harder than their previous work.

Two Gallants Website

"La Nostalgie De La Boue", new demo from Edinburgh School for the Deaf

Long time readers of WYMA are aware that I am a big fan of Scottish band Edinburgh School for the Deaf.  I ranked their 2011 debut album, New Youth Bible (review here), ninth in my year end list, and profiled their spring single "Orpheus Descending/Orpheus Ascending".  The band has lost one member and gained two since those recordings.  I understand that they have been working on new material and will play in at least one summer festival.  The band recently shared a demo of a new song.  It starts out softly, but builds in classic ESFTD fashion.

Since some of you may not have been readers in the first half of last year, here is one of my favorite songs from New Youth Bible, "Love Is Terminal" --

The band's current line up is Aggie, Alex, Ashley, Grant and Jamie.

Twitter ( @ESFTD )

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Place To Bury Strangers - "And I'm Up", advance track from Worship, due out June 26

Brooklyn-based A Place To Bury Strangers are playing fuzzy, upbeat punk/pop with melancholy, echo-laden vocals. Throw in some electric guitar picking, and it's primo noise pop. This track has me wanting to hear more...

Here's a video for "You Are The One":

Record is available to pre-order via SC Distribution here.

REVIEW: The dBs "Falling Off the Sky"

Falling Off the Sky defies two nearly universal rock'n'roll maxims.

First - let's admit it - reunion records are rarely if ever as good as those the band made in their heyday. Sure we are excited to hear from [fill in the name of your favorite band here] again. But odds are that 6 months after the reunion CD comes out, it begins to collect dust while you are reaching for the old stuff when you want hear you some [fill in the name of your favorite band here].

Second, as rock bands get older, experienced and technically very sound, the music may achieve some degree of mastery but more often than not it loses feel and energy. These late career rock records rarely have much magic to them. Being instinctive is a powerful element in rock'n'roll, while self-consciousness can suck the life out of of a song. It's a fine line - a band getting better isn't always better.

But somehow the dBs pulled off the high wire act. Falling Off the Sky is the dBs at their very best - tuneful, creative, energetic, surprising, tight, and yes masterful.

This project brings back the original lineup that existed only from 1977-1982, four boyhood friends from Winston-Salem North Carolina: singer-guitarists Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, backed by Gene Holder on bass and Will Rigby on drums.

While they never found commercial success, they were a pivotal power pop band in the burgeoning American DIY scene and inspired the bands that followed after them - R.E.M., the Replacements, Jayhawks, etc., and across the ocean, U2 and Teenage Fanclub cite them as a big influence.  They were the American equivalent of XTC and Squeeze, a highly skilled and influential left-of center band with pop hooks, jangly guitars, and great ideas galore.

Stamey left in 1982 to pursue a solo career, while the dBs, led by Holsapple, carried on until 1988, touring relentlessly and making some quality new dBs music. As a producer, Stamey played a pivotal role in the development of many younger artists, including fellow North Carolinians Ryan Adams and Tift Merritt, and in the current day with WYMA favorite The Parson Red Heads. After the dBs hung it up, Holsapple was a touring member of both R.E.M. and Hootie and the Blowfish, while making some very good music of his own especially with the Continental Drifters.

This reunion wasn't driven by million dollar offers to headline Lollapallooza or place a new song in Men in Black 3. You can hear in every track that this was old friends coming back to the musical chemistry that brought them together in the first place.  But most importantly, they came with new ideas and a sense of artistic urgency, rather than being out to take a stroll down nostalgia lane.

On Falling Off the Sky, Stamey and Holsapple's again demonstrate the incredibly complimentary styles that made Stands for Decibels (1981) and Repercussion (1982) such classics. It is tempting to cast Holsaapple as the garage rock / power pop / Southern blued-eyed soul man, and Stamey as more art rock avatar, Big Star meets Tom Verlaine / Television.  But both of them are versatile and master songwriters who do all those things and much more, every single one of the 12 songs here standing on its own, with variety and depth, skill and passion.

The CD kicks off literally with a wake up call: Holsapple's "That Time is Gone", a pure blast of rock'n'roll adrenaline, confidently announcing: Sure it's been 30 years, but we're back and ready to bring the rock - "You'd better wake up, wake up, wake up!"

Listen here:

Here's an amateur film of a recent live version at SXSW:

Next up is Stamey's "Before We Were Born", a gorgeous and catchy love song. Listen Here:

Throughout Falling Off the Sky, Stamey's vocals are remarkably strong and emotionally touching. Not many rock singers are better in their late '50s than they were in their 20's, but Stamey's impeccable phrasing and tone throughout this record are outstanding.

The CD has many many high points and not a single clunker. My favorites - from Holsapple, the New Orleans flavored "Wonder Of Love", a catchy power pop tune "World to Cry", and two beautiful soulful ballads "I Didn't Mean to Say That" and "She Won't Drive in the Rain Anymore", the latter a pure slice of Americana pop, the type of Holsapple song that has long been such an inspiration to R.E.M., Ryan Adams and so many songwriters. And from Stamey -- a truly perfect pop song "Send Me Something Real" and the wistful and nostalgic closer "Remember (Falling Off the Sky)" with a very cool gradually increased tempo that brings the CD to a dramatic close.

"Send Me Something Real" should serve as a manual for aspiring pop songwriters - well balanced verse / chorus structure, great hooks, big fat guitar sounds, excellent production with effective use of strings, a couple well constructed bridges, and a pull-you-right-in opening and a satisfying dramatic finish. Truly kids, this is how you do it.

And did we mention how great a rock drummer Will Rigby is? He pushes it here throughout with a toughness that pulls all the parts together.

The year is nearly half over and Falling Off the Sky assumes the lead position as my best CD of 2012.  

Falling Off the Sky will be released by Bar/None Records on June 12.

You can listen to the entire CD here:

Artist web page:

REVIEW: Monophonics - In Your Brain

Peanut butter and jelly, gin and tonic, Scott and World's Sexiest Man lists -- some things just go together.  I submit that funk/soul and psychedelia, in the right hands, belongs in that list as well.  And the right hands are, without a doubt in my mind, San Francisco's Monophonics.  The band's latest statement is In Your Brain, out now on Ubiquity Records.  A great introduction to the sound of the album is "There's A Riot Going On" --

In Your Brain is 14 tracks of meaty, swirly psych/funk.  Fans of Sly and the Family Stone will embrace it happily, but it also reminds me of stuff we used to hear in clubs in Chicago "back in the day".  There is genuine urban swagger, rhythms boasting big muscles and horns that punch into the brain pan.  And the gritty, soulful vocals suit the style perfectly.

Title track, "In Your Brain" --

The band has been together for about seven years, originally as an instrumental outfit.  The current lineup is Ian McDonald (guitar), Myles O'Mahony (bass), Alex Baky (saxophone), Ryan Scott (trumpet), Austin Bohlman (drums) and Kelly Finnigan (vocals and keyboard).

"Deception" --

Have you been sitting on the couch too much? Need motivation to get out and experience life?  Let this one get In Your Brain and the problem is solved.

Twitter ( @monophonicsfunk )
Ubiquity Records

Night Noise Team - Pieces EP

Night Noise Team is based in Edinburgh, so they count as one of our New Sounds of Scotland bands, even though the two main players, Sean Ormsby (vocals and guitar) and Fabien Pinardon (bass) are Irish and French respectively.  Sean and Fabian write, record, produce and arrange their music, but for live shows they at Marco Morelli, Stephen McLaren and Keith Kirkwook.  On June 11, the band releases the four-track Pieces EP, and I think it is worth your attention.  It features bright pop, vocal delivery that can be deadpan, louche or arch, and some funky rhythms.  And it is irrepressibly clever and upbeat.

Oh, you want serving suggestions? Saturday morning wake-ups with a cup of good coffee will work for many of you.  But it is positively wicked after midnight with the-whisky-you-shouldn't-have-after-the-third-pint.

"Picking Up the Pieces" --

"Lightning Girl" --

Pieces EP is available on Permwhale Records as a download, only.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Plastic Animals - Automaton EP

Edinburgh's Plastic Animals produce intriguing guitar-based soundscapes comprised of soaring melodies, atmospheric vocals and arrangements - sometimes bright, sometimes distorted and disintegrating - at the forefront of the mix.  Whether you call it noise pop or sludge (one of the band's names for their sound), it is excellent stuff.  Last weekend they released their new record, the Automaton EP, and I've been playing it quite a bit around When You Motor Away towers.  The hazy, layered guitars have been perfect for my mood, and the music is both entertaining and relaxing.

You can stream all five tracks below.  The first track is "Yellowcraig", which is named after a windswept stretch of coast.  The bass is upfront and rumbling, the guitars jangling, and the voice is towards the back of the mix.  With this as the opening track, I couldn't help but give the whole thing a listen  You might note that the fine second track, "Ghosts", can be downloaded free.

The members of Plastic Animals are Mario Cruzado, James Lynch, Dave Wark and Ben Slade.  While formed in 2006, the band endured a less active period for a few years.  In 2011, they awoke from their collective beauty rest and issued the five-track Dark Spring EP, which I profiled here.

Here is the video for "Ghosts" --

Twitter ( @plasticanimals )

REVIEW: Mystery Jets - Radlands

 Radlands, the new LP from London's Mystery Jets, could well be subtitled "Syd Barrett and the Kinks go to Austin".  And for listeners, that is a very good thing.  To flesh that beginning out a bit, yes, this London band decamped to Austin to write and record parts if the album.  And yes, it bears elements of Barrett psyche/folk rock, the Kinks and its Austin incubator.  And yes, it is a good album.  It is sunnier, and folkier, than the band's three previous albums, although the boys rock out a bit, particularly in the latter half of the album.

Here is "Greatest Hits", about a couple splitting up the relationship, and the joint record collection --

Mystery Jets remains a British band, and Radlands isn't an Americana album, despite the band's time writing and recording in Texas.  But the album is more roots-oriented, and less keyboard-driven, than the prior albums.  The result is an album where the songwriting stands out, and reveals the band to have good pop instincts.  Whether it represents a new path for the band or a detour, they can be proud of Radlands.  If you like the songs we've provided here, I recommend you check out the album.

The anthemic "Someone Purer" --

Mystery Jets are Kapil Trivedi, William Rees, Kai Fish, and Blaine Harrison.  I've also seen lists that include Henry Harrison, Peter Cochrane, and Matt Park, and references to Kai leaving the band.

Radlands was recorded in Austin and London, and co-produced by the band and Dan Carey.  It is released on Rough Trade.


Twitter ( @mysteryjets )

Monday, June 4, 2012

REVIEW: Crocodiles - Endless Flowers

On their new album Endless Flowers, San Diego's Crocodiles are really hitting their punk/psych stride. This album is full of gems that remind of the Smiths, Ramones, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and forebears like The Beach Boys (with considerably more muscle and noise, obviously).

They have released a couple of advance singles, but trust me, every song on this record could be a single. Dark, noisy, catchy and joyous - the guitars are cranked up, the punk backbeat on the drums is revved up, and the vocal harmonies are almost overwhelming, they're so good. In fact, to me, the key to this record is the way all the sound comes very near to being out of control... but, except for the meandering, strange "Hung Up On A Flower", they pull off the feat of being simultaneously very, very tight and yet nearly out of control. In addition to lead man Brandon Welchez (vocals, guitar), The Crocodiles consist of Charles Rowell (guitar), Marco Gonzalez (bass), Anna Schulte (drums), and Robin Eisenberg (keyboards).

Here's the title track:

Here's "Sunday (Psychic Conversation No. 9)", my favorite track on the album. I really like the pace of this song and the vocal harmonies.

And here's a nice acoustic version of "Electric Death Song" that really points up their way with guitar chords and vocal harmonies:

The record's on Frenchkiss Records and available starting tomorrow - June 5. If you like rock music, you're gonna want it.

Crocodiles Website (

REVIEW: Being There - Breaking Away

Rarely has the sound of growing up, conflicted by uncertainties about the future and mixed emotions about the teenage years, sounded so damn good.  But listening to Breaking Away numerous times in writing this review, the quality is manifest.  Being There has a knack for melodies and note-perfect fuzzy and chiming guitar hooks that will remind you of classic Teenage Fanclub.  The songs are well written and contain a warm dose of self-depreciating humor.  And the slightly understated vocal delivery manages to sound sincere without being too earnest.  Of course, none of this would be too surprising from a long term band that had honed its craft over the years, made their mistakes and emerged on the other side as professionals.  But Being There are four young men who formed the band in late 2010 after meeting at Manchester University.  They spent 2011 touring in support of other acts, such as Noah and the Whale and Los Campesinos!, and put out a single.  They then recorded their first album in two weeks, and have began to tour to support it.  Clearly, these guys are on the advanced track.

"The Radio", which previously was released as a single, is my first choice to demonstrate the great sound of this album --

Breaking Away begins with distorted guitars and a drum beat evocative of "Just Like Honey", then launches into the Guided By Voices-style indie classic "Back to the Future".  The fast-paced title track is followed by the wistful "Tomorrow".  And then we have another of my favorite tracks, "To Allen Ginsberg" --

Breaking Away has a noisy, C-86 feel overall, but the band ably changes pace and provides some slower tempo songs as well.  Still, in an album full or gems, the faster, noisier ones shine brightest.  One of such is "17", is the album's first single --

Being There are Sammy Lewis (vocals and guitar), James Robinson (bass and vocals), Tom Rapanakis (drums), and Nick Olorenshaw (lead guitar), and they now are based in London.  Making good decisions can make a career, and this band is showing good instincts.  For a label, they choice London's wonderful Young and Lost Club, which Lewis had worked with as a solo performer; for a producer, they chose Richard Formby, who has worked with Spectrals and Wild Beats.  They've toured with experienced bands, and played well known festivals.

Breaking Away is available today, June 4.  And I highly recommend you check it out.  This guitar pop album may be the score to your epic summer adventures.

"Back to the Future" --

Twitter ( @_BeingThere )
Young and Lost Club

Sunday, June 3, 2012

REVIEW: Guided by Voices - Class Clown Spots A UFO

By now, it is surely no surprise to learn that Robert Pollard and the recently-reunited Guided by Voices have another sprawling, 20+ song rock album ready for release. After all, it's been six months since the last one! Class Clown Spots A UFO, out Tuesday June 5, is another result of 2011's GbV Classic Lineup Reunion Tour and the recording sessions that grew out of that reunion. Nor is it a surprise that this is one of the best rock releases of 2012.

Lead track "He Rises! (Our Union Bellboy)" is a guitar-driven track in the very recognizable GbV style - chiming electric guitar is well-featured, backing a typically strong Pollard vocal, and the pop/punk are the two P's in evidence. But the next track, "Blue Babbleships Bay", has some real Circus Devils moves - which is my way of saying it's 1:18 of bracing 70's prog-rock, an element that's always been present in Pollard's music, whatever the lineup. After all, Pollard has always included all four P's (prog, pop, punk and psych), and this is not any different.

"Forever Until It Breaks" is the first Tobin Sprout vocal, and is a pretty song - acoustic guitar and keyboards predominate, as you'd expect. "Class Clown Spots a UFO", the title track, is just spectacular. It's as if Bob set out to write a song whose catchiness would never be topped...

Check out this delightful blog post from No Ugly Babies, regarding the evolution of "Class Clown" - it's no surprise that the longer Pollard works on a song, the better it gets.

"Hang Up And Try Again" starts out with a ripping lead guitar line, a la "Little Lines", but with some vocal twists and a very strong bass line that ends up driving the song, before it dissolves into laughter. But "Keep It In Motion" is a melodic pop gem that showcases Pollard's and Sprout's wonderful way with a vocal, on top of some dreamlike acoustic guitar and keyboard sounds... and then it abruptly gives way to the wonderful, sprawling psychedelic electric guitar epic "Tyson's High School."

It goes on like this. My head spins as I listen to songs that are sure to become favorites - the 46-second "Roll of The Dice", for example. Who the hell can write a 46-second song that will get stuck in someone's head? Or another Toby vocal, "Starfire" - which reminds you of the heights these guys can hit together as it sails skyward, impossibly becoming more beautiful and lighter as it goes along. And the previously-released "Jon the Croc", more heavy psychedelia:

And "Hang Up And Try Again", which leans heavy and prog, with a bass line that reminds you of why one of this band's most-beloved covers is a Who song:

Some of the songs, like "Fly Baby", "Be Impeccable", and "Lost In Space" are glorified demos, the latter leading abruptly into album closer "No Transmission", which is a straight-ahead rocker. The whole thing, despite the vastness of the musical cornucopia here, leaves me eagerly anticipating the next release in this series - The Bears For Lunch, due out in November.

Out Tuesday on Rockathon Records or via GBV Digital.

Late Saturday/Early Sunday Odds and Ends

In case you forgot about Cats On Fire, whose 2012 release we reviewed here (hint, it's one of my favorites of the year), listen to the album track "It's Clear Your Former Lover" --

We like Jeff Beam, and profiled him a few months ago ( link ).  He has shared a video for "Whispering Poison in His Ear" --


"Waiting" is a 1992 track from The Ropers, a DC band. It is a great song, in my view.  Thanks to Slumberland Records for posting it on Soundcloud.  As they said when they posted it, "a classic of US shoegaze pop...blend[ing] sweet harmonies with brash Rickenbacker overload, never sacrificing the tune to mere noise."

Pop/ska band Kid British seem to have endured a few lineup changes and label issues, but they have a new EP recorded for LAB Records, and it will be coming out later this month.  Here is track "Until Monday" --