Saturday, December 1, 2012

REVIEW: Pile - Dripping

Boston post-punk band Pile is playing some pretty aggressive (and, at the same time, melodic) rock music. On their latest record, Dripping, the bass-heavy hardcore sound is somewhat reminiscent of The Pixies, or maybe The Offspring - a full-on bass/guitar attack supporting very strong, but somehow disaffected vocals, at the same time sacrificing nothing in the way of songcraft. I'm also reminded of some post-punk metal bands like Mastodon... but no one comparison is right on, which to me is a good sign. There are some nice downbeat moments on here, too - the short, penultimate "Steve's Mouth" is almost sensitive.

There's definitely some dissonance, but the good kind, like maybe Slint? I don't mean to overdo the comparisons, but with a band that's new to me, it is kind of inevitable that I gravitate to them, especially if they are good ones like they are with Pile. After all, the point is to entice you to listen...

Here's the lead track, "Prom Song":

You can check out the album, and buy a download, at Bandcamp:

You can order the vinyl at Exploding In Sound Records. I like it, and look forward to exploring the back catalog a bit.

Saturday morning soundtrack

For your Saturday morning soundtrack, we have some sunny Southern California tunes.  First on the bill is Catwalk, which has been on these pages in the past.

The second band on the bill is Maria.

Friday, November 30, 2012

This is some kind of test.

See if you can identify the thread running through this post.

Alright, if it's not clear from this picture where we're headed, I'll have to help you out a little on the others.

She doesn't look happy, does she?

Looks like Brett Somers showed up to work drunk again.

Right here, Buck Dharma and Eric Blair have just asked for LESS cowbell.

"Excuse me? I should stick my thumb up my what?"

What? You still don't get it? Do I have to do everything around here?

This song flat out cooks, and might be the best song so far this year. It'll be on the their album Honeys, forthcoming from Sub Pop in February, '13.

 This has been a test.

REVIEW: The Spook School - I Don'Know, You Don't Know, We All Don't Know The Spook School

I try to keep up with the fine young Scottish band The Spook School, and I closely follow the releases of the small but supremely tasteful Scottish label Soft Power Records.  So you can imagine how much I appreciated the potential economies to my work load when the band and the label agreed that the next EP from The Spook School would be released by Soft Power.  Thanks, guys, I'm very grateful.  (Oh sure, it is possible the parties also had subsidiary reasons, such as business reasons or mutual respect, but I can pretend it is about me if I want to.)

But, was it all worth the effort?  Well, yes -- yes it was.  I Don't Know, You Don't Know, We All Don't Know The Spook School is a delightful five-track blast of Spook music.  This band has a rare ability to combine the pace, energy and fuzz of garage with the twee side of indie.  And it is showcased well on lead track "I Don't Know".  The song begins slow and twee, but then transitions between noise pop and twee again, and then again, with male and female vocals taking turns.  "We Don't Know" is a fun tune that is garage pop from start to finish.  "That's When I Ran Away" has a slack Sonny and the Sunsets/Camper Van Beethoven vibe, but with more noise.  Ahhh ... deliciously loud guitars!  The affecting melancholy of "Something" is stunning change of pace.  It is restrained, emotional and captivating.  I pressed repeat twice.  And then we have the garage jam of the fifth track, the name of which is "Can You Ever Trust A Man Who Thinks Matt Damon's Really Cool?"  I'll say no more.

The album will be released on December 17, but we are front running the release because Soft Power is taking pre-orders for the cassettes, which are a limited run and are likely to be spoken for by savvy shoppers prior to the official release date.  At that point, your only choice would be the digital copy.  Not that having the digital only is a bad thing.  Consider the alternative: No new EP from The Spook School (I won't be tricked into typing the name of the album again).  Exactly; unthinkable.

The Spook School is Naomi Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamley.  They are located in Edinburgh.

Bandcamp for the EP
Soft Power Records

The Soul Corner - "We're A Winner" The Impressions (feat. Curtis Mayfield)

Last Friday's Soul Corner was by far the most viewed ever, so I want to build off the thematic narrative of last week, while also tipping the cap to the amazing Bruce Springsteen show I saw this Wednesday night in Portland OR. It was the most soulful Bruce show I've ever seen. To my ears, Curtis Mayfield hovered over the arena all night and not just when Bruce played bits of the Impressions "People Get Ready" a couple times during the course of the festivities.

So put those themes together and you get this week's Soul Corner song, The Impressions' "We're a Winner":

Released in 1967, written and produced by the great Curtis Mayfield (who has been previously featured here at the Soul Corner), "We're a Winner" was of course not about a football team, but a far higher calling, the Civil Rights movement. "We're a Winner" became an anthem for the times, an empowering  song that gave voice to the complex emotions of the African-American community. It was exactly the sound and heroic sense of purpose that inspired Mr. Springsteen and his E Street Band throughout their distinguished career.

Here's Bruce and a band of all stars covering Mr. Mayfield as he was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 1994:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tiny Birds - Local History EP

The Local History EP by London's Tiny Birds has been getting a lot of play around my abode of late.  The band's music has been referred to as sad songs with happy music, and I suppose that is a good starting point.  Certainly the music, which is I'll describe as indie rock with folk accents and bright African "high life" flourishes, is energetic major key stuff of high quality.  It even contains a song titled "John Travolta".

Local History is self-released, and may be flying too low under the radar to gain major traction.  I think that's a shame, as it presents five really good songs.  The EP is available as a limited edition CD, or as a "name your price" digital download.  Click on the Bandcamp link below for details.  And, as is our custom, you can take it for a test drive here.  You'll appreciate the plush surroundings, attention to detail and smooth engine.

By the way, Tiny Birds are Matt, Mark, Tim, Tom and Dave.

Twitter ( @tinybirdsongs )

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Introducing: Queen Jane

You may not have expected this, but Cumbernauld, Scotland is the home of the best Afro-pop inflected indie band you've heard in a great while.  James McGarragle, Chris Harvie, Mark MacDonald and Craig Lindsay comprise Queen Jane, a group which remains unsigned only due to the corruption and sloth rampant in the A&R segment of the music industry.  A good introduction to their sound would be the Romantics EP, which just has been released this week.  If you worked forward from their promising Confetti EP to their early 2012 EP, Denver, to now, you'd readily see the maturing of this group.  Get on the bandwagon now, boys and girls.

The lads took the time to create this video for EP track "Josephine.  It is a rousing, energetic tune and I think you'll enjoy it --

Queen Jane - Josephine from Queen Jane on Vimeo.

As I noted above, the most recent past release is the Denver EP.  The video for track "Those Summers" can be viewed here, and the entire EP streamed below.   I should note that the entire Denver EP, with a bonus amount of Afro-pop guitar, is available as a free download at Bandcamp.  I think you can figure out what to do about that, don't you?

Queen Jane - Those Summers from Queen Jane on Vimeo.

The 2011 debut EP, Confetti, is available as a free download at their Bandcamp page.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Post-Rock Discovery: Ninetails - Slept And Did Not Sleep EP

From Liverpool comes math-rock band Ninetails. They're playing with precision, but also with emotion. The bass lines are propulsive, the guitar playing is strong and vocals understated, in places reminiscent of Chris Martin and Thom Yorke. The band consists of Ed Black, Jordan Balaber, Phil Morris and Jake King. They are playing a heady mix of indie rock with world beat and dance-rock elements and some unexpected twists and turns that hint, to me, of a jazz background for at least some of these guys. Their new EP is Slept And Did Not Sleep, due for release Dec. 10.

Here's the video for "Maybe We":

And here is a live performance of "Rawdon Fever" (my favorite cut on the record):

And you can stream it at their Soundcloud site:

The album will be out soon on Superstar Destroyer Records... looking forward to more from them.

REVIEW: The Garlands - The Garlands

The self-titled LP from The Garlands, out today on Portland, Oregon's Shelflife Records, is another worthy addition to the catalog of great Swedish indie pop.  I expect that they could claim to be musical cousins with fellow Swedes The Radio Dept. and The Concretes.  But looking beyond the borders of their home country, there seems to be a kinship with Rose Melberg's Go Sailor project and the UK's Camera Obscura, The Popguns and The Shop Assistants.  As you would expect with that introduction, the melodies are delightful, the harmonies soaring, the guitars full and chiming.

The Stockholm-based band originated in 2007 as a studio project with Christin Wolderth providing vocals and Roger Gunnarsson playing the instruments.  The current line-up for live performances is Christin joined by Patrik Lindgren and Einar Ekstrom on guitars, Maria Grum playing bass and providing backing vocals, and Robert Klaesson on drums.  Apparently Roger doesn't participate in the live act, but still is involved with the recording process.

Here is album track "Open Arms", which also has been released as a single --

The Garlands have mastered the indie pop template.  With one exception, the songs don't break the three minute mark.  While the vocals are invariably sweet, the pace and brawn of the arrangements keep the proceedings exhilarating.  And the overall effect is happiness -- what more could you want from an album at the beginning of winter?

Shelflife Records

Monday, November 26, 2012

You Should Know: Reverberation Radio

Hey music fan -- do you think you are wired into the indie scene?  Certainly reading WYMA is an essential step.  But we think that everyone should know about Reverberation Radio.  The concept simply is this:  Every Wednesday the boys of Allah-Las (who would be welcomed as our official west coast house band if we ever got a west coast headquarters) and some of their friends curate a playlist.  You can stream it, and you can download it.  There will be songs you've heard before from bands you know, there will be songs you've never heard from bands you know, and they'll be songs you've never heard from artists you don't know.  But you'll enjoy the ride whether it is one of discovery or one of nostalgia.  Here is the link to the Reverberation website.  If you use Facebook, you can like-and-subscribe and get weekly notifications when the new weekly edition is available (Facebook for Reverberation Radio).

This has been a public service announcement. You may now return to your normal lives, but with a new and improved soundtrack.

New Video from Allah-Las

Our love for Allah-Las around WYMA headquarters is no secret (review of LP here).  One of my favorite songs on their self-title debut album was the Byrdsian "Vis-A-Vis", so I was thrilled to learn that they made a video for the song.  Enjoy "Vis-A-Vis" and a story about a postcard with Southern California as a backdrop.


REVIEW: Deathline - Nova

Nova is the exciting debut LP from Deathline, the London-based rock/electronic duo consisting of Jennie Werlemar (vocals and bass) and Kaoru Sato (guitar and programming).  Featuring thundering industrial beats, menacing guitars that bring to mind Suicide gleefully distorting the Stooges and Velvet Underground and Werlemar's distinctive low register vocals, this album could be your dark mood choice for the Winter.  Give it a try with "Ten of Clubs" --

DEATHLINE - Ten of Clubs from Deathline on Vimeo.

Nova's atmosphere is dense and foreboding, with synth lines and guitar riffs cutting through the fog.  In the wrong hands, these elements could be suffocating.  But the 13 tracks here are exhilarating, even liberating.  And it is all distinctly Deathline -- too dark and swaggering to be shoegaze, too noir and industrial to be psychedelic, too post-rock to truly be garage or blues rock.

If you like what you've heard, check out the Bandcamp link, where you can stream and buy the entire album.

Twitter ( @Deathline )
Bandcamp for Nova

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Texas Alt Country Discovery - J. Charles and The Trainrobbers - Upon Leaving

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers is a Dallas-based outfit playing punk-inflected country rock with the added bonus of some really gorgeous pedal steel. Produced by Centro-matic's Matt Pence, this record has a big sound that belies the fact that it's their first release. Put another way, this band has surely been refining its chops for years - they don't come out of the box sounding this strong.

From the opener's mournful a capella harmonies to the hard rocking guitars of later cuts like "Something", Upon Leaving sets the level high and keeps it high throughout. Strong, strong choruses and, again, I just can't say enough about the pedal steel. The band's lineup consists of J. Charles Saenz (Guitar, Vocals), Steven Visneau (Drums), Justin Young (Bass, Vocals) and Danny Crelin (Pedal Steel Guitar). Saenz's vocals are a bit reminiscent of a younger John Mellencamp, but this is much more C&W-leaning. Other touchpoints may be the Drive-by Truckers or Jason Isbell, in their harder-rocking country moments.

Here's a video of them performing "Something" - check out the way they build to the chorus and layer in the vocal harmonies and pedal steel on top of a very strong country rock sound:

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers is a welcome addition to my collection of terrific alt country from the DFW area (Centro-matic, Slobberbone, Old 97's)... looking forward to hearing more from them. The record is available via the label End Sounds.