Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Tift Merritt "Traveling Alone"

Tift Merritt burst on the Americana scene 10 years ago poised for stardom with a beautiful voice, a warm and irresistible persona, and a dynamic stage presence. But she never wrote "that hit", radio died, the music industry crumbled, and she was too smart, NPR-like and too hard to pigeonhole to break through in a Z95 / American Idol world.

Despite 4 critically acclaimed records, files full of fawning national press, national TV appearances and an Austin City Limits DVD, last year the North Carolina native found herself dropped by her major label and her manager, and back to square one, traveling alone as it were.

So Tift did a very smart thing - wrote a series of songs exploring feelings of things breaking down and things picking up, and went into a studio in her new home of New York City and quickly recorded them.  If you want to make a great record in just 8 days, my advice would be to enlist the A team like Merritt did here - one of the very best guitarists in the business Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Joe Henry), drummer John Convertino (Calexico), and multi-instrumentalist Eric Heywood.

The resulting Traveling Alone is the best overall work of Merritt's career, a deceptively simple record, warmly produced by Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Laura Veirs). Martine puts the vocals front and center which is where they should be on anything Tift Merritt voice ever gets near. Merritt has learned to use her voice more subtly in better service to her songwriting, which has also steadily improved over the course of her career.

Certainly one of the highlights is the title track:

Also, the gently rocking "In the Way":

Tift does a great duet "Drifted Apart"with fellow Tar Heel Andrew Bird who matches her gentle voice for gentle voice like Roy Orbison singing with Emmylou Harris, simply beautiful:
(Sorry for no video above, but hey there are worse things in life than spending a few minutes looking at Tift Merritt sitting at a bar table).

One more, "Sweet Spot", this one live in a radio studio:

Traveling Alone will make a great many best of 2012 lists, including mine. Even the most casual fan of Tift Merritt needs to go buy this record now. And for anyone who has not discovered Tift Merritt before, this is the place to start.

Artist web page: Tift Merritt

New single from September Girls

Sarah, Lauren, Jessie, Caoimhe, and Paula comprise the Dublin group September Girls.  I am a fan of their fuzzy, reverb-heavy guitar sound and girl-group vocals.  We wrote about their previous release earlier this year ( "Wanting More"/"Secret Lovers" ), and are covering them again because they are releasing a new two track single on Monday, October 22.  The single is called "Green Eyed" and includes the title track and B-side "Danny Wood".  The release is on Scotland's small Soft Power Records, an indie label that applies their limited resources only to really good music.

We have both tracks for you to try here.  "Green Eyed" has a palpable dark tinge to it, and may remind you of The Raveonettes.  "Danny Wood" is a rousing indie pop song.  I love them both.

September Girls - Green Eyed from jessie ward on Vimeo.

The single is available in a limited run of vinyl, for which Soft Power Records is accepting pre-orders.  I do not know who will win the US presidential election, but I know that the vinyl run for "Green Eyed" will sell out.  You can buy it in digital format at the Bandcamp link below.

Soundcloud Link for the single
Soft Power Records

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Soul Corner - It's Got to Be Mellow

Leon Haywood had this hit in 1967, the smooth "It's Got to Be Mellow":

The song is a beach music classic in the Southeastern US.  

Haywood is from Houston. He had some funk hits in the 70's and wrote Carl Carlton's hit "She's a Bad Mama Jama"
Enjoy this classic. 

REVIEW: Delay Trees - Doze

What if the Beach Boys had been a dream pop/shoegaze band from Finland?  They might have been Delay Trees.  Originally from Hameenlinna, Finland and now based in Helsinki, the group has just release their second full-length, Doze, on Finland's stellar Soliti label.  Try them out with showcase track "HML" is about their hometown --

On Doze Delay Trees launch from their pop song template into varied melodic dream pop improvisations.  The result is a melange of hazy, melancholic soundscapes that tugs at the listener's emotions and memories.  Each track boasts its own personality -- "HML" has a pop feel, "Dream Surfer" is dream pop, while others verge on the post-rock boundary.  "Future" simply rocks.  So it wouldn't be fair to any of them to declare a specific track to be typical of the album.  Its gentle nature means that it doesn't demand more than the listener is willing to give, but that means Doze is the perfect background for a number of situations, including a late night meditation or an afternoon in the sunshine.

The members of Delay Trees are Rami Vierula, Lauri Jarvinen, Sami Korhonen, and Onni Oikari.  The band was formed in 2007 and has released two EPs and one LP prior to Doze.

Twitter ( @delaytrees )

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Single "Work It Out" by Twerps

Twerps is the second act from Melbourne that we are highlighting this week.  No, we're not in a rut, we're mining a vein of great pop music.  Twerps have a delicious guitar sound that evokes Yo La Tengo, Go-Betweens and the Flying Nun label bands.  They have followed up their fine 2011 release with the Work It Out 7".  The vinyl version is available October 23rd, but the digital is available now.

The 7" has three tracks, the title track and two B-sides.   The title track is a brilliant bit of guitar pop that stands up well to repeated listens.  I've provided the Soundcloud link and a Vimeo video for the track.  The Soundcloud link is reliable, but the video link only loads sporadically.  Here is "Work It Out" --

Twerps - Work It Out from Chapter Music on Vimeo.

Twerps are Marty Frawley (guitar and vocals), Jules MacFarlane (guitar), Rick Milovanovic (bass) and Pat O'Neill.  Rick also plays bass in Boomgates, which we featured a couple of days ago.

The band is touring the United States at this time.  I've provided the tour schedule below.

Here is one of the two B-sides:

Tour dates:
10/14 – Purchase, NY @ SUNY Purchase*
10/15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie*
10/16 – Baltimore, MD ­@ Baltimore, MD*
10/17 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat*
10/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Public Assembly !
10/21 – Montreal, QC @ Le Cagibi *
10/22 – Toronto, ON @ Silver Dollar *
10/24 – Gambier, OH @ Horn Gallery-Kenyon College
10/25 – Chicago, IL ­@ Empty Bottle
10/26 – Northfield, MN @ The Grand Event Center †
10/27 – St. Paul, MN ­@ Turf Club
10/29 – Missoula, MO @ Ole Beck VFW Post
10/30 – Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
10/31 – Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar$
11/02 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
11/03 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite
* = with Alex Bleeker
† = with Gap Dream
$ = with White Fang, Dignan Porch
! = Panache CMJ Showcase w/ Turbo fruits, Dent May, Dignan Porch, Mac Demarco, Vockah Redu

Chapter Music
Underwater Peoples

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Introducing PUPS

PUPS is Caitlin, Rose and Katie of Vancouver, British Columbia, and they play sweet, energetic indie pop.  The "Rose" in the lineup is Rose Melberg, whose stellar lo-fi pop credentials include Tiger Trap, Go Sailor, The Softies, and Gaze, as well as some solo work.

To introduce you to their music, they have two tracks for you to enjoy and download for free.  You know what to do ...


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

REVIEW: Boomgates - Double Natural

What is a "double natural"?  One meaning refers to an obscure music notation.  Another refers to certain roll of the die in a game of craps.  But in the case of Melbourne's Boomgates, Double Natural means a debut album of well crafted songs performed with the relaxed assurance of musicians who seek to please themselves and support each other, with the confidence that the rest of us will appreciate it.  And it every respect that matters to me, it is a triumph.

Boomgates' existence may be evidence that the perfect way to build a supergroup could be to have a worthwhile goal other than being a supergroup.  The goal in this case simply was for a few friends already in other bands getting together to play for fun.  And apparently is was fun and the output was good, so a few more friends were invited.  The lineup coalesced with Steph Hughes (vocals and guitar) from Dick Diver, Rick Milovanovic (bass) from Twerps, Brendan Huntley (vocals) from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Gus Lord of Teen Archer (guitar) and Shaun Gionis (drums).  A few 7" ensued and, some time down the road, they found the time to record an album.  This assemblage works so well because despite all of the individual talent, no one seems determined to call undue attention to themselves at the expense of the whole.  The music on Double Natural features Hughes' and Lord's wonderful loose, jangly guitars that sometimes remind me of Aussie greats The Go-Betweens and Lucksmiths, but sometimes sound like The Velvet Underground.  The drums provide a solid foundation and Milovanovic"s sinuous bass varies between rhythmic accent and a lead instrument (for example, a segment of "Whispering or Singing").  One of the most delightful elements is the vocal interplay between Brendan and Steph.  Sometimes they take turns, sometimes they sing together, and sometimes they duel in a call and response structure.  The varying structures alone are brilliant, but the different vocal qualities make it truly interesting.  Brendan's energetic style embraces both singing and talk-singing, and has a sardonic Camper Van Beethoven tint.  Steph's innocent, almost naive, approach contrasts perfectly to give a combined savory and sweet vocal delivery.  And the overall effect is of a series of conversations.

Track 5, "Cartons and Cans" is a song ostensibly about the suburban ritual of sorting recycling, but of course about other things as well.  The beginning chord progression will delight fans of 60s guitar pop, and perhaps remind you of a Sam Cooke favorite. Two minutes of pop bliss, right here --

The other bands of the members of Boomgates have different styles, and the album incorporates elements from all of them.  There are taut post punk moments, country stylings and a bit of 90s slacker to go with the jangly pop.  What ties it all together is the broken-in comfort of the songs and sincerity of the emotions.  Nothing seems forced or artificial; nothing seems like an attempt to try another genre -- it is all Boomgates.  For a taste of one of the more muscular jams, enjoy this video for "Whispering or Singing".  The first line references a freight train, and the remainder of the track delivers --

I certainly hadn't planned on Boomgates shouldering their way onto my playlist.  But the ten tracks here make one of the most compelling demands on my listening time that I've faced this calendar year, and I have no doubt that it will be on my year end list of most recommended albums.

Here is a nice video of a song from a show from April 2011.  If it fails to load, try this link.

Boomgates - Cameo @ Boogie Festival, Tallarook (23rd April 2011) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.

As to sourcing this music, the label is Brisbane's Bedroom Suck.  I've provided the link below, but I don't know what the prospects or costs would be for obtaining a physical copy in the States.  The album is a available in mp3 format from Amazon and the relevant link is below.  If for some reason you remain uncertain about the album, try a few samples on the Amazon page.  In no particular order, try "Cows Come Home", "No Excuses", "Hold Me Now", "Hanging Rock" ... oh hell, just try them all.

Bedroom Suck Records
Amazon link for Double Natural

Monday, October 15, 2012

New video - Tame Impala cover (by little kids)

Found this via a tweet by Tame Impala's label - Modular People. If you like, check out more videos by PS22's kids on their YouTube channel:

Our Tame Impala review, again, here.

New 7" from The Spook School

I'm a bit hurt, but not hurt enough to look like the dude on the cover art below.  Why am I hurt?  Because The Spook School didn't advise us that they were releasing a new 7".  I mean, what is the point of being a stalker, um, internet music blogger, if it doesn't entitle one to a bit of the old advance.  But release a new single they have - "Here We Go/Cameraman" was out on October 10.  I could sulk about it, but I am loathe to show weakness.  Besides, I really like this Edinburgh band's music.

Here is the video for the first track:

By the way, this release is out on Cloudberry Records, a US label that likes jangly guitar pop, so we are likely to check out their catalog soon.

And here is the stream of both tracks:

The Spook School is Naomi Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamley.

Cloud Berry Records