Saturday, November 17, 2012

Let's honor 1988: The Replacements

We here at WYMA are a little giddy today over our 11-0 football team. It reminds us of our most recent glory days in the late '80s, early '90s, when the Fighting Irish were in the national championship hunt every year, and not forgotten for us music geeks, great American rock blasted across the quads on America's most beautiful campus and its game day parking lots.
When Cierre Wood broke off that long TD run on a picture perfect option play in the first quarter today, it immediately brought this to mind, echoes of glorious Notre Dame teams and tailgates past :  

And this:

More recently, there's this beautiful mess:

For rock trivia, did you know that the 'Mats longtime sound man and engineer Tim Powell was an Notre Dame grad?  

My favorite personal ND 'Mats story - their mgr Peter Jesperson game me a cassette advance of Tim in September 1985, shortly before it came out. I headed off to ND for a game the next day. We brought a boom box into Lee's Ribs and blasted it in there after the game, then ended up at Bridget's late that night, where we paid the bartender $20 to turn it up full blast and play it all night on continuous loop. ND fans celebrated beating Michigan State 27-10 and heard Tim, arguably the great rock'n'roll album in American history, before anyone else in the US. A Midwestern celebration of the highest order.  
It sounded like this: 


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Soul Corner - "The Tracks of My Tears'

One of the first music conversations I ever had with WYMA's founder and fearless leader, John Hyland, was about today's song. We both marvelled at its perfect construction, unforgettable lyrics and array of pop hooks.

Smokey Robinson is an absolute master and this is one of his very finest moments. Some good footage here:

Introducing: The Rosy Crucifixion

I don't know where you go for morbidly focused hillbilly garage music, but of course I go to Glasgow.  That's right, Glasgow's The Rosy Crucifixion delivers crashing and twanging roots guitars, female vocals and garage ethos.  My research indicates that the members of the band are Emily MacLaren, Stuart Evans, Andrew Power and Conal Blake.  I don't believe that you'll find any records to purchase, but perhaps if you obsessively play their music the band will be encouraged to officially release some records.

Here are some demos, some or all of which appear on a compilation of current Glasgow music arranged by three of that fair city's indie labels.  You'll hear thunder, twang, harmonies and surfy riffs.  You'll be amazed, thrilled, and want more.  You may look over your shoulder on the way home, as well.


Introducing: Dick Diver

The music of Melbourne's Dick Diver has a certain scruffiness to it.  That doesn't mean that it is sloppy or poorly executed.  In fact, it is exciting, high-quality music from a band with great promise.  What I'm trying to convey is that their music has a comfortable, well worn vibe to it; it just feels like it belongs in your life.  In that way it sounds like little else you'll listen to, despite hints of many other bands you surely have heard.

I make no claim to being an expert, having stumbled on the band after writing a recent post about Melbourne's Boomgates, which shares with Dick Diver one Stephanie Hughes.  The other members of the band are Al Montfort on bass, and founders and guitarists Alastair McKay and Rupert Edwards.  Steph is listed as a drummer, as well as one of the vocalists, although I seem to recall a video in which she was playing a guitar, so my information may not be current.  The name of the band may be taken from a character in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

In 2011 Dick Diver released the excellent LP New Start Again, which is embedded for your streaming pleasure further down in the post.  However, looking forward, the band will be releasing a new LP in 2013 on the Chapter Music label.  In the meantime, they have issued the five-track Alice EP.  The title track will be on the forthcoming album, but the other for tracks are only available on this EP.  You can try it here, and obtain it at the Bandcamp link below.

Here is the opening track from the 2011 LP --

Dick Diver - Through The D from Chapter Music on Vimeo.

The deliciously laid back "Head Back" --

Twitter ( @dick_diver )
Chapter Music

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Twin Cities Shoegaze/Psych Discovery - Pony Trash (new EP out 11/27)

Pony Trash is a Minneapolis/St. Paul rock group comprised of members of other area bands, including Chambermaids (who we featured here) and Polica (who we featured here). They have a self-titled EP due out November 27 via The Old Blackberry Way. That's the name of the new label on which it will be released, and also the studio, where lead man Neil Weir makes music and produces music for other Minnesota artists.

It's dense, kind of alternates between dark and sunny and features loads of really good electric guitar - in other words, great rock music. The label "shoegaze" is used, by the artists themselves, and I suppose it applies in part, but it is sort of limiting - their sound is much more expansive than that. The record features some astounding guitar work - sort of surfy, with the strings bending, and very full. The vocals are sort of mixed down - at least it sounds a bit that way to me - but the vocal harmonies are terrific.

Here's the video for "The Weight Of The Night" - this stuff reminds me a good bit of the late, great Love Tractor and that is a compliment of the highest order from me:

You can listen for yourself, and order a limited edition vinyl, here:

New song from Veronica Falls

I rated the debut full length (our review here) from Veronica Falls to be my sixth favorite album of 2011 (2011 list), so it will be no surprise that I welcomed the news that Bella Union and Slumberland will be releasing a new Veronica Falls album, Waiting for Something to Happen, in 2013.  I have no further details, but Slumberland made this song from the album available to stream this week.  It is good stuff, and I think you'll understand why I'm counting the days until the entire album is available.


REVIEW: Local H -- Hallelujah! I'm a Bum

How you gonna live at 40?
How you gonna live it down?
How you gonna live at 40?
Whatcha gonna tell your kids?

Scott Lucas asked those questions way back in 2004, in the classic song "Heavy Metal Bakesale" on the fifth Local H album Whatever Happened to PJ Soles? In the intervening years, Lucas himself has waded that Rubicon into middle age. So how, then, does Scott Lucas live it down, now that he's a couple of years on the other side of 40? Well, he lives it down by releasing the best Local H album yet, and then hitting the road to tour the hell out of it.

The album, Hallelujah! I'm a Bum, takes its title from a hundred year old hobo folk song, and like every Local H album, it showcases a tense interplay of empathy and fury. Despite the vocal similarities, I've always considered Lucas to be less Kurt Cobain and more Paul Westerberg -- an opinion I'd refrain from expressing if I didn't think this album proved me right. That is, for maybe the first time in this band's body of work, Lucas seems less a brash, bad-tempered smartass and more a wistful, careworn smartass.

In fact, some of the best moments on the album are when he's not trying to be a smartass at all. On "Blue Line," Lucas expands the record's "concept" beyond ruminations on the ennui and frustrations of real people struggling in a depressed economy, observing more big-picture tears in the social fabric:

It's getting hard to realize
A sense of self in other eyes
. . .
The "we" is dead

Lucas, a Chicagoan (originally from Zion, IL), has set the scene on the Blue Line train that runs from O'Hare through downtown and out to the western suburbs -- which in winter is, for many of the desperately poor, the only respite from the elements. Check it out:

Although several songs on this hour-long album tilt toward the anthemic, there's no shortage of those muscular, caustic tunes necessary to a proper Local H effort. Among my favorites is "Paddy Considine", a worthy effort to do for the English actor something along the lines of what Jonathan Richman did for Pablo Picasso.

It's hard to overstate how excellent this album is from front to back, with perfect pacing, recurring lyrical themes, and plenty of noise. Lucas always has been a great lyricist, but there are some stunning phrases on this record -- e.g., "a gauntlet of goodbyes" (from "Say the Word") -- that suggest he's one of those rare rock and roll artists whose voice as a writer continues to improve as he gets older. Indeed, he seems to be embracing his 40s. You can see this very thing in the first video from the album, for the song "Cold Manor", although he probably is not as quick to fight people in the crowd as he used to be.

"Hallelujah! I'm a Bum" was released in September by Slimstyle Records. Get it in time to be familiar with it when you catch them live, which in my case, will be on 15 December at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. Check the other dates at the band's page linked below.  First, though, here's a brilliant concert video. It's not on the album, but it did happen.

Local H page

SlimStyle Records

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Krautrock from Spain - Jupiter Lion

Jupiter Lion is a Valencia (Spain, not California)-based band playing some terrific driving music - in fact, this self-titled album is about the best driving record I've gotten in years. It's krautrock in the Kraftwerk and Neu! tradition, but it's a little heavier, calling to mind things like "Interstellar Overdrive".

The group consists of Sais (vocals, synthesizer and programming), Jose Guerrero (Bass guitar) and Gonzo In Vegas (drums). It was recorded with the help of Pablo Peiro, the bass player from Betunizer, another really good prog-rock band from Spain (we featured them on WYMA here). Gonzo's a hell of a drummer - he's got the "motorik" thing going very well here, getting into a groove that Klaus Dinger himself would be proud of. Check out the way the songs build from drum/bass, to add some drum fills, then Sais gets going on the synths. They're certainly not inventing a new style - what they are doing is playing this style very, very well.

Here's the video for "Silver Constellation":

And you can listen, and download, here:

There's a unifying approach to the record, but some variety in the ways the six longish songs are constructed. The quality is consistently good throughout. If you've got a taste for prog rock, kraut rock or really, any kind of instrumental rock, do yourself a favor and check this out. You can read more, or buy the record, at BCore Disc.

REVIEW: The Pharmacy - Stoned And Alone

This record is a blast - a Kinks-inspired blast of super catchy power pop with a fuzzy guitar edge. The Pharmacy is Scottie Yoder on vocals and guitar, drummer Brendhan Bowers, and keyboardist Stefan Rubicz. They hail from Seattle, so the grunge/garage bona fides are real. But they've spent a good bit of their recent history in New Orleans, which may be the source of the soulful touches on many of these songs ("Top Of The Ivory Stairs", for one) and the general party-rock atmosphere at work on Stoned And Alone.

The record is very entertaining throughout, and they are not new to WYMA. We have written earlier this year about them. In January, when they released advance single "Dig Your Grave" (read here), and in May, when they released an EP via Seayou (read here).

Here's a new video for "Dig Your Grave":

THE PHARMACY - DIG YOUR GRAVE (MUSIC VIDEO) from brendhan bowers on Vimeo.

This record features those earlier songs plus several more - at 13 songs, it's definitely a good use of your time and money, even if you already got some of the earlier stuff. And they offer a download of "Baby Be", one of the catchiest tunes on the record.

It's very upbeat, as opposed to the ambling "Lazy Bones" which has a real easy pace and some laid-back guitar and keyboard riffs, and the slow/fast/slow/fast "Where Do You Run To?". The variety in tempo adds to the appeal, as does Rubicz's uniformly excellent keyboard work. Yoder's a very good rock vocalist, and Bowers does a great job keeping the pace and driving things along on rockers like "Pines".

It's on Old Flame Records in the US and Seayou Records in Europe - either way, it's terrific.

Introducing: The Velveteen Saints

We writers slice and dice music into genres, sub-genres and various styles to help us describe a band's sound to the readers, but sometimes music is best described simply as rock and roll.  Such is the case with the Glasgow teenagers, The Velveteen Saints.  I have very little information about them, but their Facebook page suggests that they haven't been together long.  However, we really don't need a lot of detail when what we want is good music.  Make no mistake, these guys deliver good music, and I think they have a bright future.

Give the lads a try on the anthem Rock N Roll Is Dead, with a chorus that name checks Joe Strummer, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

I don't think that there is any music to purchase or download at this point, but you can stream songs on the band's Facebook and Soundcloud pages.  Links to both are below.

Keep an eye on this group -- The Velveteen Saints can help save music from middle of the road urban pop.  If they come to the States, I'll help arrange the tour myself.

Twitter ( @VelveteenSaints )

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

REVIEW: Guided by Voices - The Bears For Lunch

The Bears For Lunch, which is Guided by Voices' third album of 2012, is also their best of the year... and perhaps their best in quite some time. From the beginning of full-on rocker "King Arthur The Red", this is the sound of a band that is hitting its stride - well past last year's "Can they still do it?", well into "Well, hell, maybe they can do it as well as they ever did!" Certainly, Pollard's solo records in 2012 have kept up the quality, but there is still nothing like a Guided by Voices record.

Listening to the breakneck rhythm section and guitar riffing on that opening track, one has the impression that Pollard has done what might have seemed impossible. He has reunited with Tobin Sprout and brought production values that GbV really only started to employ after this original lineup broke up. But even better than merely having the old gang play the old songs in a new way, they've cranked out 19 terrific new songs.

It's not for me to pick out highlights - the whole thing's a highlight - but "Hangover Child" is terrific, with a heavy riff and multi-tracked vocals in Pollard's trademark British accent intoned over what sound like at least six or seven changes in a little under 3 minutes. And the next cut, "Dome Rust", is full of punk-inspired guitar riffs... later on, "White Flag" is a heavy guitar rocker in the tradition of "Official Ironmen Rally Song" or "Not Behind The Fighter Jet". Here's "White Flag":

Here's another one of my favorites, "Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere":

The Tobin Sprout tracks, including "The Corners Are Glowing", "Skin To Skin Combat" and "Waving At Airplanes" are as pretty and smile-inducing as the best songs Sprout has ever contributed to GbV. Sprout's gentle vocals and some sweet string sounds lead toward about a minute-long outro of psychedelic rock guitar on "Corners", and the impossibly high multi-tracked Sprout vocals of "Skin To Skin" over growling electric guitar are terrific. The vocals on "Airplanes"... just beautiful stuff.

If you're a fan, don't waste any time. If you're not sure, you can check it out for yourself and see what all the fuss is about. The record is out tomorrow on Guided by Voices, Inc. - you can buy at GBV Digital or you can order a cd or vinyl at Rockathon Records.

Also, if you look on iTunes, you can find three of the songs with B-sides available to buy.

REVIEW: The Babies - Our House On The Hill

The Babies are not taking baby steps.  The Brooklyn band has quickly evolved from a noise pop side project to an exciting indie band with a broad palette of expression and an engaging ability to marry pop melody and rock energy, and then adorn it with menace, sweetness, melancholy and a satisfying arsenal of musical touches.  And the coming out party for the grown up band is the full length Our House on the Hill, out today on Woodsist Records.  The first single, "Moonlight Mile", provides an excellent preview of the album's quality.

I was interested to learn that the band spent two months of 2011 in Los Angeles, because my first impression upon listening to the album my was that the album seemed more closely related to some of the better music coming out of the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, than to the material I've heard from Brooklyn.  The music ranges from fast-paced post punk to house party rave ups to Americana dirges.  And it has an authentic, sincere feel that gets under your skin.

The Babies are Kevin Morby, Cassie Ramone, Justin Sullivan and Brian Schleyer.  As has been well covered, the band began as a side project for Morby (of Woods) and Ramone (of Vivian Girls), along with Sullivan on the drums.  Schleyer and his bass joined more recently.  However, The Babies is no longer a side project, and that is good news for indie rock fans.

Album page at Woodsist

The Babies are embarking on a lengthly tour to support Our House On The Hill.  Here are the dates and venues:
11/13 Brooklyn, NY - Knitting Factory
11/14 New Haven, CT - BAR
11/15 Montreal, QC - Il Motore
11/16 Toronto, ON - Silver Dollar
11/17 Detroit, MI - Garden Bowl
11/18 Chicago, IL - Schuba’s
11/19 Madison, WI - Mickey’s Tavern
11/20 Minneapolis, MN - 7th St Entry
11/21 Des Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews
11/23 Kansas City, MO - Riot Room
11/24 Denver, CO - Hi Dive
11/25 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
11/26 Boise, ID - Neurolux
11/28 Portland, OR - Holocene
11/29 Vancouver, BC - Media Club
11/30 Seattle, WA - Barboza
12/01 Olympia, WA - The Northern
12/03 Reno, CA - Holland Project
12/04 Sacramento, CA - Bows and Arrows
12/05 Oakland, CA - 1-2-3-4 Go Records
12/06 San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill
12/07 Santa Cruz, CA - Crepe Place
12/08 Pomona, CA - VLHS
12/09 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
12/10 San Diego, CA - Eleven
12/11 Tucson, AZ - Topaz Tundra
12/12 El Paso, TX - Lowbrow Saloon
12/13 San Antonio, TX - Korova
12/14 Austin, TX - The Mohawk
12/15 Dallas, TX - Bryan St Tavern
12/16 Memphis, TN - Hi Tone Cafe
12/17 Birmingham, AL - Bottletree
12/18 Atlanta, GA - 529
12/19 Durham, NC - The Pinhook
12/20 Richmond, VA - Strange Matter
12/21 Washington, DC - Comet Ping Pong
12/22 Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie

Monday, November 12, 2012

REVIEW: Joshua James - From The Top Of Willamette Mountain

From The Top Of Willamette Mountain is the latest and third album from Utah's Joshua James, and it is a triumph, a record you can truly get lost in. Like some of My Morning Jacket's best work and the recent Damien Jurado record we reviewed here, it features excellent and affecting songs, a variety of tempos, a lot of reverb, terrific songcraft and a unique lead vocalist.

He's really got an amazing way with a song - on the acoustic ones (opener "Mystic" and "Doctor, Oh Doctor") he and Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, Gardens and Villas) mix it just right. On the more rocking songs, he and Swift excel at building them to what would seem a peak, only to top that with a well-placed pedal steel, nicely multitracked vocals or a string section.

You can download "Queen Of The City", the second track on the album, here. I think it's the best song on the record, and that's saying a lot - there are lots of very good songs on here. "Feel The Same" is a pretty ballad with some sobering lyrics: "I started wishing for a chemical to make me feel/ A little more animal and a little less real" - and all kinds of effects backing up a pretty simple construction. "Holly, Halej" is a beautiful, soaring yet understated rock song - almost a hymn with drums, bass, electric and pedal steel guitar.

Here is a video for "Ghost In The Town":

You can learn more, or buy the record at his label, Intelligent Noise. The record came out last week - so you're in luck. It's available now.

As a bonus, here's a video of James performing Tom Waits' "Green Grass":

Even if his songs weren't so good, his voice might draw you in. But his songs are very good. 

New Beach Guitar Pop Discovery: Cayucas: "Cayucos/Swimsuit" - new single out now

On the video for the single "Cayucos" by Cayucas, the beach scenery is fitting: the reverb and acoustic strumming are reminiscent of Brian Wilson-style pop music. It's also got a bit of the same feel as Vampire Weekend, except it swings a little more "Caribbean" whereas VW stays more in an Afro-pop mode. This stuff is very catchy and upbeat:

Cayucas is led by Zach Yudin, a native of Southern California with a confessed love of classic beach pop. They have released a 2-sided single, "Cayucos" and "Swimsuit", which sounds a bit like a 2012 reimagination of "Sloop John B" - nice organ work, handclaps, with a lot of nifty little electronic touches.

You can listen and buy both songs here:

They will have an album out in 2013 on Secretly Canadian. Looking forward to hearing more.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

REVIEW: John The Conqueror - John The Conqueror

John The Conqueror is a Philadelphia-based blues/rock trio: Cousins Pierre Moore (vocals & guitar) and Michael Gardner (drums) are originally from Jackson, MS, while bassist Ryan Lynn is a native of Philadelphia. They are working in the same general territory as The Black Keys and Dirtbombs - blues/rock with a little (or a lot) of added spice. Between the two, Moore's vocals seem a little more soul-based than Black Key Dan Auerbach's blues style... not surprising given a provenance of Mississippi crossed with Philly.

Make no mistake, this album (their self-titled debut) rocks hard, throughout. The guitar intro on "Lucille" is scorching, leading into a stomping rhythm section backing strong multitracked vocals and a nearly psychedelic guitar line. If you remember what you've always liked about rock music that hews close to the blues and soul traditions, you will be well-disposed to enjoy what JTC is doing.

There's also a punk influence, best heard on stuff like the fast guitar intro to "Say What You Want", which is a 2:25 rant that keeps a high energy level throughout. Here's a taste:

And here is video they made while recording album cut "I Just Wanna", another good representation of their style:

It's on Alive/Naturalsound, which has not let us down yet... we've featured labelmates Lee Bains III, The Buffalo Killers, Brian Olive, Left Lane Cruiser and Radio Moscow. John The Conqueror is a welcome addition to that roster of hard-rocking bands, and heir to the Alive/Naturalsound tradition started by The Black Keys themselves.