Friday, August 24, 2012

REVIEW: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes

Listening to Mature Themes, the just-released LP from Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, is like being inside a fantastical pop-music amusement park.  It springs from the fertile, idiosyncratic musical musings of  Ariel Pink, who has a talent for combining his own take on underground LA with excellent pop music and a genuine sense of humor.  The sounds of Ariel Pink on this album are much more pop and mainstream than his bedroom compositions of the last decade.  But tempos and styles change frequently, and the subject matters require some attention if you want to keep up.  For example, there is a bouncy tune about "Pink Slime" -- yes, the almost-meat that the American food industry manages to get many customers to pay for.  "Schnitzel Boogie" may be the only song you hear this year that discusses sausages.  And we should mention that one track is likely to be your favorite song about a nymphomaniac lesbian.

But that is the way amusement parks are.  You jump from ride to ride, and circle back for your favorite ones.  You eat food you wouldn't normally eat. And at the end of the day you are tired, but willing to plan the next trip to the park.  I certainly intend it as a compliment when I tell you that Mature Themes reminds me of Frank Zappa.  Sure, it has more pop and less shred, and the perspective of its commentary seems more internal and less focused on society generally.  But it shares the sense of adventure, and the willingness to walk at the edge of musical convention.

This album is well worth your time.

Ariel ("Pink") Rosenberg, Tim Koh, Kenneth Gilmore and Joe Kennedy.  Mature Themes is released on 4AD.


The Soul Corner - Marvin Gaye "Trouble Man" (live)

Marvin Gaye referred to "Trouble Man" as the "most honest" song he ever wrote. It was the title track for a film that was known mainly for this amazing song.
By the time Gaye recorded this in 1972, he had broken completely free of the Motown formula and was making some of the most innovative music of the time, combining a great deal of jazz with his soul / pop sensibilities and deep soul vocals.  He wrote and produced the song, and played many of the instruments on the studio version.
I can't locate the date or location of this live version (help anyone?), though I am guessing it is later in the '70's. Terrific stuff, with a particularly tasty sax solo towards the end.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Natalie Pryce -- And Other Tales

Natalie Pryce are here to provide musical entertainment.  That isn't to say that they are here to make you feel better.  In fact, this Glasgow band may help expose that last raw nerve.  But they will make you feel, and it will be an interesting musical ride.  They have a new album to  showcase their talent, but they are trying to raise funds for the physical pressing and distribution.   If you go to their website, you can click on the button and contribute to their cause.  Participation ends on August 31.  Let's let Mark Swan, the lead vocalist for the band tell the story:

As Mark explains, the album was recorded in two days with one take for each track.  The approach gives the album a visceral live performance feeling.  And the music itself is highly visceral, veering between  heartache and bitter anger.  There are twelve tracks, and each is named after a person or character.  The first have of the album focuses on females, the second half on males.

However, they also have made ... And Other Tales available for free download, and there is a link for that on their website as well.  Here is excellent album track "Elizabeth" --


In addition to Mark Swan (vocals/harmonica/melodica), the members of the band are Greg Taylor (guitars), Steven Litts (bass), and Stephen Coleman (drums).

Take a walk on the wild side, and experience other tales ....


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New video/song from Frightened Rabbit

Glasgow's Frightened Rabbit has built a loyal and growing following over the past five years.  The group plans to release the State Hospital EP in September.  However, they recently released this video for the title track.  It isn't a happy affair, but it is a good song and a compelling video.  And we expect, and get, excellence from Frightened Rabbit.  But happy stories are not guaranteed.

Twitter ( @FRabbits )

Hipster Death Squad - The Break Up

For my money, some of the most engaging and intelligent electro-pop hitting my ears these days comes from Hipster Death Squad.  Winnipeg's Micheal  Glucki, who is the one man band behind Hipster Death Squad, has a genius for composing melodies that you don't ever want to end.  This month brings a six track mini-LP entitled The Break-Up.  The sombre title reflects the tone of the record, which encompasses loss and sorrow.  But the music is no less wonderful for the melancholy, and may be his emotionally richest work to date.  Look, don't hesitate.  Commit to listen to the first track, "Not The One", and I think you'll want to stream the entire album.  And it is available at Bandcamp.

Twitter ( @HpstrDthSq )

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Honeydrum - Brokenhearted With A Busy Schedule

Today is a happy day:  The day that Honeydrum  -- a favorite indie band from New Jersey -- releases their new EP, Brokenhearted With A Busy Schedule.  It is six tracks of lo-fi, fuzzy pop gems, with some delightful '80s accents.  And you can stream it all here.

You can purchase the tape from GNAR Tapes, the link for which is below.  You also can download the EP for an attractive price at the Bandcamp link.

GNAR Tapes

New Stuff - Peter Buck "10 Million BC"

Peter Buck is a restless guy. So no one should be surprised that he has already finished a solo record just 11 months after R.E.M. unexpectedly called it quits.
Nor should it surprise anyone that his solo record was done quickly with none of the careful polish of an R.E.M. record.
But it is a surprise that Buck handles the vocals.
An advance track is out there as of yesterday. "10 Million BC" is indeed a throwback in its primitive garage rock glory. And yes Peter Buck is singing beneath all that distortion.
We track a whole lot of young garage and punk bands here at WYMA, but you'd be hard pressed to find a recent song with a better rock'n'roll feel than this. And that piano solo at the end is the icing on the cake.
10 Million BC

Buck will be previewing his new songs Sept 21-22 at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle WA USA. The band name (for that night at least) is Richard M Nixon, though it's Buck's usual co-conspirators Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, who have played with Peter for many years in both the Minus 5 and R.E.M.

The Complete Beat = Complete Happiness

Combining ska, pop, new wave, world beats and politics, The  English Beat (known simply as The Beat in their native UK) were one of the top bands to emerge from the two tone movement of the late '70s and early '80s.  They played their first show in early 1979, in their native Birmingham, and were finished in 1982 after three successful albums.  The band was formed in 1978 by Dave Wakeling (vocals/guitar) and Andy Cox (guitar).  They attracted bassist David Steele with an advertisement referencing the Flaming Groovies.  Drummer Everett Morton was discovered through acquaintances at a hospital where Steele was employed.  Ranking Roger (Roger Charlery) joined after the The English Beat opened for his band, and showed themselves to be the better outfit.  The eventually added Saxa (Lionel Augustus Martin), whose Saxophone was an key element of the band's sound.

The English Beat's success was attributable to several factors beyond the then-popular fusion of pop and ska also also played by groups such as The Specials.  First, the group benefitted from strong songwriting from several members, including Wakeling, Ranking Roger, Steele and Cox.  Second, they enjoyed the rare advantage of two lead vocalists, the more pop-voiced Wakeling and the gifted toaster, Ranking Roger.  The final factor was the musical abilities of the members.  Cox and Wakeling provided a strong dual guitar attack.  Steele's basslines are among the best I've heard in pop music, and I believe could have held his own in Kingston as well as Birmingham.  Everett Morton was a hard hitting drummer with soul band experience and reggae knowledge, and his proficiency helped stitch together the disparate elements that made the band what it was.  Saxa, 50 years old when he joined the band, was a singular force, with deep reggae experience (playing with Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker, among others).  Eventually, Saxa retired from live performances and was replaced by Wesley Magoogan.

When the band broke up, its members went on to distinguish themselves in other projects such as Fine Young Cannibals (Steele, Cox and (briefly) Morton), and General Public (Wakeling, Ranking Roger).  Eventually, Ranking Roger and Wakeling cut the unusual deal allowing Wakeling to perform as The English Beat in the US, and Ranking Roger to perform as The English Beat in Europe.  If you check the "tour" tab on the website link below, you'll see that Dave is busy touring the rest of this year.

To the delight of fans of The English Beat, such as me, The Complete Beat box set was released this year.  It combines the band's three studio albums (in some cases, with bonus tracks) -- I Just Can't Stop It (1980), Wha'ppen? (1981), and Special Beat Service (1982) -- and includes a fourth two-disc album containing 15 dub, dubwise, extended and remixed versions of some of the hits, three sessions from John Peel's UK radios show and five tracks from their live performance in Boston in 1982.  And, of course, a booklet with historical information and photographs is included.  Since I already owned all three studio albums, what is the attraction?  Bonus tracks and the booklet certainly are part of it.  But in truth, the material on the fourth disc is worth the price on its own.  Folks, this is great stuff!

To remind you of the quality of the songs from this band, I've provided some clips from each disc below:

From I Just Can't Stop It --

And this fusion of a somewhat cleaned up version of the very blue Jamaican tune "Whine & Grine" and a political shot at Margaret Thatcher --

From Wha'ppen? --

"Monkey Murders" --

And from Special Beat Service --

"Spar Wid Me" --

From the fourth disc, the extended (12") version of "Two Nice to Talk to" --

The extended version of "Hands Off ... She's Mine" (I played this at my wedding) --

Facebook for Dave Wakeling's The English Beat

Monday, August 20, 2012

Black Twig - Paper Trees

If one is looking for interesting new music (you really don't need to do that on your own, you know; we'll do it for you), Finland should not be ignored.  And one of Finland's best contributions to the scene this year is Paper Trees by Black Twig.  Beginning with a platform of droning psychedelia, and then energizing the proceedings with the noisy power pop of, say, Teenage Fanclub, or even the more explosive sound of Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine, the music is refreshing, and a sure hit for fans of electric guitars.  For a taste, here is Paper Trees's opening track:

The guitars ring and chug with style and formidable power,  and the rhythm sections drives the songs with aggressive purpose.  One of my favorites is "Lake Song" --

"Death Scene" is among the better power pop songs of the year --

Black Twig is Aki Pohjankyro (vocals, fuzz boxes), Aleksi (crash cymbals), Janne M. (ring modulators) and Janne V. (distortion pedals).

Paper Trees is another triumph for Soliti, an indie label that is having a very good year.  The album is out now, and is available digitally from Amazon and iTunes.  I'm not certain about the availability of physical copies in the US, but if you contact Soliti I'm sure they can help you out.