Friday, October 5, 2012

New Spanish Rock Discovery: Prats - Pla B

Prats is composed of former members of Spanish rock band Madee and The New Raemon, and the group is named after lead singer and keyboard player Marc Prats... This is well-made rock music, thoughtful and nicely-paced with some very lively guitar work in some of the songs and open space and delicate instrumentation that highlight the vocals in others.

Here's the video for "PlaDelirant":

And here is a live acoustic version of "Bestia somrient":

It's a nice mix of acoustic music (both guitars and piano), and electric guitars - and the vocals are evocative and expressive, even if they ain't in English (as I've said before - not an obstacle for me, if the sound is right). Prats reminds me of Peter Murphy as a vocalist, but the music sounds more like Coldplay - in a few ways, one of which is that it's so smooth you may not notice the quality of the guitar work on first listen. Give it a few spins...

Available on BCore Disc.

The Soul Corner - "Oh No, Not My Baby"

Maxine Brown hit the charts in 1965 with this terrific Carole King / Gerry Goffin composition.

That's Dee Dee Warwick on harmony vocals.

Many artists did later versions of the song, among them Rod Stewart, Manfred Mann, Cher, and the great Linda Ronstandt who stayed very close to the original arrangement and sound on her 1993 rendition:
One more from another one of the great all time singers:

You know you have yourself a truly great song when there are three versions out there that are this good by artists of this stature.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

REVIEW: Dwight Yoakam - Three Pears

For a lot of us who monitor the indie music world, it would be possible for Dwight Yoakam's Three Pears to get lost in the shuffle of excellent September releases - but that would be a shame. There's still nothing like a Dwight Yoakam album... has it really been 26 years since Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.? More to the point, seven years since Blame the Vain, his last studio album full of Yoakam songs?

First question, to get to the point: is it worth the wait? The answer is an unqualified hell yes. The quality is, as always, excellent. Yoakam leaves no detail to chance - but the music never sounds overly "produced" - there's always an edge. Here's a live performance of the title cut, co-written with fellow celebrity and country convert Kid Rock:

Yoakam said he was sitting on that song for years and years, and had a thought to reach out to Kid Rock to see if he'd help finish it. It's not surprising that Yoakam had a song that another songwriter could help him finish in one sittting. There is nobody else who inhabits so fully the place where good country and good rock music meet...really, the place where both of them started out together in the 40's and 50's, and incorporates all the best features of both.

Check out "Rock It All Away" - a combination of Yoakam's pitch-perfect country vocals, a strong rhythm section and what sounds to me, like a very well-done reprise of the Velvet Underground "Sweet Jane" guitar lick:

On "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" (a 50 year old Bakersfield guitar rave-up originally done by Joe and Rose Lee Maphis - if interested, check it out here), Dwight and his band really, really let go -

Apparently, it has been a live Yoakam choice for a while, which makes sense. But on the record, they really rock out, and let loose with a scream reminiscent of Bob Weir's in "St. Stephen". The scream reminded me of a time I saw Yoakam in concert, and he was introducing his version of "Some Dark Holler": "We're gonna do an old song I've known a long time. Heard it on my grandma's radio. A lot of people done it. The Grateful Dead done it. But we ain't gonna do it the way the Dead done it."

And yet, of course, Yoakam's a part of the California music scene in every meaningful way - not only has he covered the Dead and recorded songs they also recorded, but he got his start playing with California punk, rockabilly and rock bands... after giving himself a musical education in the Bakersfield style of country music.

And then there's his new musical compatriot Beck Hansen. Three Pears finds Yoakam paired with Beck, who I've thought of as a bit of a kindred spirit to Yoakam - if you doubt Beck's country bona fides, I urge you to go listen to his duet with Emmylou Harris on "Sin City" on the Gram Parsons tribute album Return of the Grievous Angel, and his cover of "Your Cheatin' Heart" on the Hank Williams tribute Timeless, not to mention his supersad, superslow Sea Change, a feast of sad vocals and guitar reverb.

But here Beck is bringing a razor-sharp pop sensibility that is very much in line with Yoakam's own. This really is a good pairing... Here is "A Heart Like Mine", the song produced by Beck:

Like the best of Yoakam's music, it rocks like a freight train and wails like a hurricane, while featuring pop touches - British invasion backbeat and guitar jangle - worthy of two of the very best craftsmen working in any branch of popular music these days.

There's "Missing Heart" - an absolute overdose of great pedal steel, the playful "Waterfalls", and the title cut, which Yoakam describes as having been inspired by John Lennon.
This is a great record, up there with the best work Yoakam's ever done, which means it's up there with the best work anybody's doing. It's likely to reside near the top of my list at the end of 2012.

Listen, read, buy: Dwight Yoakam Website

REVIEW: Delicate Cutters - Ring

There is something delicious and immediate about good southern rock; it sounds live even when it is recorded.  Today's exhibit for that phenomena is Ring, the third album from Alabama's Delicate Cutters.  It is a swampy slice of southern-Gothic energy, driven by great female vocals and accented by a massive dose of spine-tingling fiddle.  This group likely sounds unlike anyone else you are listening to these days, and you'll be happy to have discovered them.  Lest you think I'm overselling things, here is a live version of the opening track, "Where the Cottonmouths Hung", recorded at The Metro in Birmingham --

Ring was recorded at Ol Elegante Studio by Lester Nuby III and was released on Birmingham's Skybucket Records last week.  The band is Janet Elizabeth Simpson, Brian Moon, Kevin Nicholson, and Chance Shirley.

One of my favorite songs on the album is "You Want Her" which, in my view, should be subtitled "and you want this album".  The song is the first single from the album, and a free download is available on the band's website --

Twitter ( @delicatecutters )
Skybucket Records

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

REVIEW: The State Broadcasters - Ghosts We Must Carry

As we've noted before on these pages, some of the best Americana-shaded indie folk these days is coming from the UK.  One stellar example is the new LP, Ghosts We Must Carry, from Glasgow's The State Broadcasters.  Of course, this type of music doesn't jump up and grab your throat and shout "pay attention".  It invites you to listen carefully and thrill at the deft little touches, which better prepare you for the well planned killer hook or understated home run lyric.  So yes, The State Broadcasters make you do a bit of the work, but it is worth it and you'll be a better person for it.

The album deals with loss and sorrow and, as the title suggests, the fact that we carry ghosts with us throughout our lives, but in a way that makes you feel better at the end of it than the beginning.  For all the sadness, you'll find a lot of joy, and perhaps a bit of salvation, in the music.  Try tracks "Kittiwake" and "Trespassers" and see if you agree that great song craft can gilt the message for the listener.

The weight of the ghosts seems a bit heavier on songs such as "Where I Belong" and "The Writing's On the Wall".  But the beauty of the music and the promise of redemption keeps the proceedings afloat.  And the listener is reminded that masterful musicians understand that giving notes space can have more effect than increased volume.

It isn't my usual practice to post so many tracks.  But I expect that many readers, particularly in the US are not familiar with the band, and I think it is a valuable service to display their range.  And despite that, I am compelled to provide one more track -- an utterly captivating cover of Billy Bragg's "The Only One"  I've never been able to play this one only once.

The six-piece The State Broadcasters is comprised of Graeme Black (guitar/vocals), Pete MacDonald (piano/trombone/vocals), Fergus MacDonald (guitar/banjo/accordion/ukelele/other effects), Gill Fleetwood (harp/vocals/other effects), Cameron Maxwell (bass/trombone/vocals), and Susan Appelbe (cello/percussion).  The Ghosts We Must Carry is out this week on Olive Grove Records (link below)

Olive Grove Records

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New and free song from Tea Cozies

Today we have a present for all our readers.  No, of course we didn't actually buy you anything.  But the great Seattle garage rock group Tea Cozies is prepping the world for their October 30 release of a new EP by giving away the free track "Muchos Dracula" --

Tea Cozies are Jessi Reed, Brady Harvey, Jeff Anderson and Garrett Croxon.

We'll discuss the new EP as we approach the release date.

Twitter ( @teacozies )

New Shoegaze Discovery: Infinity Girl - Stop Being On My Side

Infinity Girl is a terrific new Boston-based band playing noisy, melodic guitar rock - shoegaze, yes, but that's not the only style. The band is composed of singer/guitarist Nolan Eley, drummer Sebastian Modak, Kyle Oppenheimer on guitar and Andrew Ransom on bass. The songs are well-constructed and part of the reason may be that Eley was developing his music as a solo act when approached by Modak at a show, asking if he wondered what the songs would sound like with a full band.

Lots of feedback, strong bass/drum support and plaintive vocals combine to make this music very compelling. It's noisy as heck, and almost (but never quite) gets off the rails on the big rockers like "Please Forget", "Blood And Dirt" and "Void", which calls to mind Swervedriver, but with a more delicate touch on the vocals.

Here's a live version of "Please Forget":

And for a little variety in the tempo, Eley's even thrown in a Yo La Tengo-style ballad, "Even If"... But I think the best songs on the record are the biggest-sounding ones, especially the high guitar sounds and crashing drums of the 6:26 "By Now".

Check it out, and buy it if you like it, at their Bandcamp site:

Infinity Girl Website

REVIEW: The Pollies - Where the Lies Begin

When I tell you that The Pollies reside in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, you might assume that they play southern rock.  And while you would be correct to some extent, I caution against listening to Where the Lies Begin with a oh-this-will-be-southern-rock filter.  Yes, there are some southern accents and southern musical flourishes.  But the classic Muscle Shoals sound is only a basic ingredient with which indie rock, soul and folk rock blend into a tangy stew.  The breadth of the arrangements, the accomplished songwriting and heartfelt delivery demand that this album be taken on its own terms as an indie rock statement of a truly accomplished band.  This is great American storytelling that was two years in the making.  Here is the opening track --

The second track, "Something New", displays the band's indie rock bona fides, while "Joe" is a Dylanesque ramble, "Little Birdie" is a rousing hoedown and "Rebel Man" is top notch southern rock.  And track nine, "The Ashes of Burned Out Stars" is a slowburning epic that will take you on a seven plus minute emotional journey.

The Pollies are Jay Burgess (guitar/vocals), Chris James (bass/vocals), Matt Green (guitar/vocals), Daniel Stoddard (steel pedal/keys/effects/vocals), Ben Tanner (keys) and Reed Watson (drums).

One of my favorite songs is "The Well".  The only version I have for you is this live version, which suffers from variable sound quality, but here it is:

The bottom line from this northern boy is that Where the Lies Begin is a southern album that demands your attention.  And you won't regret it.

Twitter ( @thepollies )
This Is American Music (label)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bowerbirds - The Clearing... Nashville to California, tour starting next week

Bowerbirds will be on tour, working their way west, starting in Tennessee (Nashville 10/9, Memphis 10/10) and ending up on the West Coast:

10/09/12 Nashville, TN - The High Watt w/ Strand of Oaks
10/10/12 Hi-Tone Cafe, Memphis - TN w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/11/12 St. Louis, MO - Off Broadway w/ Strand of Oaks
10/12/12 Columbia, MO - Mojo's w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/16/12 Santa Barbara, CA - SOhO Restaurant and Music Club w/ Strand of Oaks & Rainbow Girls
10/17/12 Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/19/12 San Diego , CA - The Casbah w/ Strand of Oaks
10/20/12 Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent Ballroom w/ Strand of Oaks & Perfume Genius
10/21/12 Tucson, AZ - Club Congress w/ Dusted & Perfume Genius
10/23/12 Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/24/12 Salt Lake City, IT - Kilby Court w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/26/12 Boise, ID - Neurolux w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/27/12 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/28/12 Seattle, WA - Neumos w/ Strand of Oaks & Prypyat
10/29/12 Vancouver, BC - The Biltmore Cabaret w/ Strand of Oaks Khingfisher
11/01/12 San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall w/ Strand of Oaks

If you're not familiar with them, check out the video for "Tuck The Darkness In":

Or this one for "Sweet Moment":

It's pretty, mostly acoustic music, although there are moments that remind me of Magnolia Electric Company... they're a North Carolina-based duo: Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, who recorded this in Bon Iver's studio in Wisconsin - hence the interesting combination of simple, mountain-based acoustic plucking and some of the more lush backing sounds.

REVIEW: Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber

Melody's Echo Chamber is the project of Melody Prochet, and is the product of the merger of two disparate styles.  Melody, a classically trained vocalist, was an instrumentalist for the pop band My Bee's Garden when she became enthralled by the scuzzy psychedelia, and in particular, the bass effects, of Australian rockers Tame Impala.  Subsequent discussions with Tame Imapala's Kevin Parker led to Kevin's production of Melody's debut LP in his home studio.  The result is Melody's Echo Chamber, a sonically intriguing and satisfying record of dream pop tinged with psychedelia and a bit of darkness.

"I Follow You" is the opening track --

The discerning dream pop fan likely will hear influences from Broadcast, Stereolab and even Cocteau Twins.  But this album manages to carve its own path, and no vocalist can be upset about a favorable comparison to Keenan, Sadier, or Fraser.  What is particularly good about the album is that Prochet and Parker didn't become fixated on a narrow style.  At times the tracks are characterized by layers of sound and, unsurprisingly, echoes.  At other times, the production yields space around the sounds, adding punch and a hard edge.

Here is the album's second track, "Crystallized".  Note the song's transition to distorted bass tones and a dominant rhythm at the 2:40 mark.

Melody's Echo Chamber is out now on Fat Possum in the US, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, and will be released in early November by Weird World/Domino in Europe.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Introducing -- Woolen Men

Woolen Men is a Portland Oregon three-piece that plays makes spacey, psychedelic, lo-fi garage rock.  They came to my attention because they shared a bill with The Mallard earlier this year, and we like The Mallard quite a bit around here.  They have released recordings on Eggy Records and Gnar Tapes and Shit.  The members are Rafael Spielman, Lawton Browning and Alex Geddes, but I don't know much else about them.  I think it is good stuff.  Give it a chance.

But now to the music.  Here is "Way Over My Head" from The Hair of the Night, which was released in January 2012 on Eggy --

The '60s tinged garage rock of "Guess I was Dreaming" --

There are two more releases on the Bandcamp site linked below -- one from 2011 and one from 2009.

Eggy Records
Gnar Tapes and Shit