Friday, December 14, 2012

REVIEW: Emotional - Feeling

Emotional is the name of the solo project of Brian Wakefield of San Francisco band Melted Toys.  Its debut album Feeling was recently released via Portland, Oregon label Gnar.  And please believe me when I tell you that Feeling is one of the most intriguing and satisfying indie pop albums I've heard this year.  Is is lush, melodic, hook-filled and inventive.  Brian loves his reverb, echo and other psychedelic effects at least as much as he likes his jangling guitar.  This is an album that encourages you to sit back and let images of hazy sunny California afternoons flood your mind.  Sample it here with "I Hate the Sun" (with UK artist Keel Her (Rose Schafeller) guesting -- there will be more on her music later this month).

Emotional - I Hate the Sun ft. Keel Her from Gnar Tapes on Vimeo.

There is a lot of technology in the effects, but the atmosphere remains lo-fi, chill, and a bit warped.  Feeling has become my go-to relaxing music lately.  I don't think that will change soon.

The entire ten-track album only costs $7, so I think it ranks as one of the holiday bargains.  Stream the entire record here and judge for yourself.

Gnar Tapes

The Soul Corner - The Fantastic Johnny C, "Boogaloo Down Broadway"


If you are going to be a one hit wonder, make it good, and while you are at it, have a memorably awesome name.
And The Fantastic Johnny C and his 1967 classic "Boogaloo Down Broadway" certainly fit the bill.

Johnny Corley was working in Philadelphia and singing in church when he got discovered by local producer Jesse James, who recruited him to record "Boogaloo Down Broadway".  Reportedly, James  played the resulting unreleased recording for a friend of his who said, "Oh man, that's fantastic. What are you going to call this guy?"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Introducing: The Holiday Crowd

Fans of indie pop should become familiar with Toronto's The Holiday Crowd.  Their most recent release is the double A-side single "Sick Days".  The record is available on Shelflife Records in the US and New Romantic in Canada.

Both "Sick Days" and flip side "Born Under A Different Sign" boast upbeat arrangements with excellent vocals that may remind one of Morrissey or Ian Curtis in a buoyant mood.  This is great driving music that never fails to put me in a good mood.

The Holiday Crowd is Imran Haniff (vocals), Dave Barnes (drums), Alex Roberts (bass), and Colin Bowers (guitar).

"Never Speak of it Again", from their January 2012 release Over the Bluffs --

Shelflife Records
Twitter ( @theholidaycrowd )

Introducing: Hunk!

Would you like some Hunk! for the holiday season?  I suppose you are the picky type and you want more information before committing.  Well then, Hunk! are two young ladies and one young man from Ireland (Galway, Cork and Kerry, to be specific).  Sundra and Niamh founded the band and later added Ger to pound the drums.  On aural evidence, this crew likes lo-fi, fuzzy guitar pop and is unafraid to make some noise.  Their debut into your world comes via Livingston, Scotland's Soft Power Records, which is releasing a two-track single on December 17.  Note that the record will be available only on a very limited basis: 100 cassettes with a download.  Whether separate downloads are available after the cassettes are gone, I do no know.  Listen to the tracks below, and if you like them contact Soft Power soon, because their stuff sells out quickly.

Bandcamp link for single
Twitter ( @hunkband )
Soft Power Records

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

REVIEW: Trapped Mice - Winter Sun

Winter Sun from Edinburgh's Trapped Mice wears its heart on its sleeve.  And the heart is bruised, melancholy, angst-ridden, uncertain and perhaps a bit scared, although redemption raises its wary head from time to time.  But the music is beautiful none the less, and it is performed with power and sincerity.  And the discerning listener will find humor among the gloom, especially if your sense of wit is best enjoyed like your Martinis.

I'm under no delusion that this music will hit the sweet spot for every listener, as appreciation requires buying-in to the palpable intensity and, ultimately, the vocal style of Ian Tilling.  But at its best, it is the kind of music you drop everything to hear.  Try it out with the song which, for me, is the centerpiece of the album -- the lovely "Mona Lisa".

The genre could loosely be described as chamber pop or alternative folk, but there is a bit of a rougher edge which many have compared to Texas band Okkervil River.  The themes include endings and transitions, and overall the album has a wintry feel that echos the name of the record.

The band is Ian Tilling (vocals and guitar), Dave Friend (guitar and keyboard), Brian Pokora (bass and ukulele), Lucie Miller (violin and keyboard), and Barry Jackson (drums).  While they previously issued a couple of EPs, Winter Sun is their debut album.

Winter Sun was recorded on Ian's computer in his bedroom, but was professionally mastered.  While the result may seem a bit lo-fi, that approach seems to fit the material.

The album is out now on Armellodie Records.  You can stream it in its entirety below.

Twitter ( @trappedmice )

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New video for Boomgates' "Flood Plains"

I was very impressed with Double Natural, the 2012 LP from Australia's Boomgates (WYMA review) released on Bedroom Suck Records.  I have a good excuse to mention them again, as they have released a video for the lead track, "Flood Plains".  Here you go --

Boomgates - Flood Plains from Nathan Ceddia on Vimeo.


REVIEW: The Bixby Knolls - Near And Undear

Bixby Knolls is an LA-based heavy rock band led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Curt Barlage and features the talents of drummer Sammy Fayed, bassist Christian Morales and guitarist Cesar Saez De Nanclares. It's LA glam rock, and Near & Undear features some rock influences any soul-loving hard rock band would be proud to claim: Roxy Music, The Four Tops, The Clash, Joy Division, The Stones, New York Dolls, Primal Scream... as lead man Barlage claims: “Our record reminds us of Bobby Gillespie and Joe Strummer in a fist fight.” Sometimes you can hear a band and guess what's in their record collection. If a band is willing to tell you up front about their record collection, what's left but to assess whether they did it justice?

Lead track "Supervised War" is heavy as can be, all tribal drumbeat, glam noise guitar and disaffected vocals. Next up is "Through The Cracks" (available for download here) - a slow-burning song with about 2:00 of drums and chanted vocals with a couple of savage guitar breaks:

"It's All A Lie" is a soul/psych/fuzz workout, and "Runnin' And Runnin'" (in my estimation, the best song on the record) juxtaposes a ridiculously catchy Four Tops drum/bass line and soulful Barlage vocal with another hypnotic fuzzy guitar lead. This is some very fun music, which leads to the obvious question, how would this come across live? By way of answer, here's a video of "Running And Running":

"Reina Del Mezcal" brings in some Tex-Mex organ, but again it's backing very strong fuzzy lead guitar and Barlage's R&B-meets-glam vocals... as well as several changes in tempo. "Waking Up The World" and album closer "Want It All" turn up the punk influences - calling to mind New York Dolls as well as Jim Carroll Band (remember them?). "Autumn Will Fall" is a little more straightforward rock song with, again, plenty of good guitar work, perhaps even a bit of jangle.

Over the course of the record, the band plays with these and other influences, always with Barlage's strong vocals up front, a rock-solid rhythm section of Fayed and Morales, and slashing riffs from Saez De Nanclares and Barlage. In terms of the completeness of their self-proclaimed list of influences, I'd say they could proudly add Alejandro Escovedo (especially in light of his side projects Buick McKane and The Nuns) It's an exhilarating journey over the course of 11 songs that ensures The Bixby Knolls will be worth keeping an eye on.

REVIEW: King Post Kitsch - Repulsive Sunsets EP

If it takes When You Motor Away to lead the coverage for Repulsive Sunsets EP, the new release from King Post Kitsch, then we'll do it.  And we'll take the point position with our usual disregard for our personal safety, as well as the rules of spelling, grammar and common sense.  We only care about the music anyway.

Where was I? Oh yes -- Repulsive Sunsets EP.  The first essential thing to know about the music fashioned by Glasgow's Charlie Ward and his musical-alter-ego-which-has-developed-into-a-real-live-band King Post Kitsch is that the songwriting really is a cut above most of what is out there.  And the really remarkable thing about that quality is that Charlie manages aggressive garage stompers, acoustic folky songs, and everything in between (well, no disco or EDM yet) with convincing mastery. Perhaps this effect is at least partially due to Charlie's work as a sound engineer, or perhaps it is the inevitable outcome of a dark arts ritual (the latter is beyond or expertise since our goth intern failed to return from a latte run).

The second essential thing is the ability of Charlie and the band to assure you that they are all-in on the music.  If you're going to devote the time to listen, they are going to play with passion and drip sweat to make it worth your while.  Would you like to sample it?  Of course you would.  Here is the lead and title track -- dare I suggest that it is a thinking man's garage anthem?

The second track, "Every Face", displays the band's restraint, and serves as a bridge to the the moody and faster-paced "Blood and Glitter".  In this track, the spare instrumentation -- first a repetitive guitar line and then a piano -- frame and highlight the lyrics.

With track four, "Make the Same Faces Whether Fuck or Fight", we are in garage-stomper territory with a a roots freak-out on guitar and a bit of distortion.  The lyrics are simple, but one of life's simple truths doesn't necessarily require footnotes, does it?

The EP closes with an acoustic version of the title track.  A little percussion and guitar and a solo vocal performance which allows you to appreciate the lyrics.  And those lyrics -- a large dose of delicious bitterness wrapped in a pretty song.  It really provides a fine close to the album.

And this brings us to the final essential thing about King Post Kitsch -- when you get finished exploring this EP, his 2011 LP The Party's Over, and if you were lucky enough, some of his prior work which isn't available now, you'll wish that Charlie stopped eating, drinking and trying to live a life because we need more King Post Kitsch.  I think he's being a wee bit selfish.  However, with a live band for the first time, this release has the feel of a coming out party, so let's cut the debutante some slack as I think there is more to come.

Repulsive Sunsets EP is released by Edinburgh's Song By Toad Records, and it is out now.

Bandcamp (for prior LP and a single)
Twitter ( @kingpostkitsch )
Song By Toad Records

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Americana Discovery - Joey Kneiser: Moonlight For The Graveyard Heart

Glossary's Joey Kneiser has an EP, Moonlight For The Graveyard Heart coming out tomorrow (Dec. 11), and it's a very enjoyable piece of Americana. When I say "Americana", think beyond just "anti-Nashville" and include in your universe artists like The Band. Because (and I know this is a very strong statement) this 5-song EP reminds me of some of Rick Danko's work, both in the Band and his solo stuff.

Kneiser's got a very pleasant but slightly off-kilter croon, and on this disc has created five really enjoyable slices of well-sung folk-rock. Lead track "So Many Midnights Ago" features pretty sparse instrumentation backing his plaintive wail about lost times and forgotten people - really, just an acoustic guitar and some synthesizer for the first 2:30, then the song fills out into a lush piece of pop that calls to mind Wilco's Summerteeth or something similar (which, in turn, if we're honest with ourselves, calls to mind lush 70's pop like ELO). The second cut, "Born With A Black Eye" starts out in the lush pop territory, with some gentle, meandering guitar sounds - the song reminds me quite a bit of an old favorite, "Moonlight Mile". Given the album's title, I don't suppose that's entirely a coincidence.

Enough with the comparisons to album rock titans of the '70's... take a listen... and for $4 you can take it with you and listen any time you want.

I really like this record, and a little more each time I listen. Score another one for This Is American Music.

REVIEW: Dignan Porch - Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen

If you are a frequent reader of these pages, you already will be familiar with two bands that we think are recording excellent psychedelic rock, Radar Eyes and Bare Mutants (both from Chicago, by the way).  Add to that list, with star if you please, London's Dignan Porch.  You can be sure that this group has the hazy psychedelic sound completely dialed in, and any doubters need only listen to the evidence on their sophomore LP, Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen.  The astute fan may note that the album was released on Captured Tracks several months ago.  Yes, it is true that I'm late on this review, but my delay was unavoidable and involves matters of national security.  More or less.  And in any case, this post is in time for your year-end lists and holiday shopping, so I think we are good here.

Dignan Porch originally was the solo recording project of Joe Walsh.  The current line-up consists of Joe Walsh on guitar and vocals, Sam Walsh on lead guitar, Hayley Akins on keyboard and vocals, Ben Goodwin on bass and Stephen Keane on drums. In addition to the psychedelic element I noted, there are bits of shoegaze, and at times when the keys kick in I detect a resemblance to Inspiral Carpets.  And they display a great ear for both atmosphere and melody while never forgetting the hooks.  If you like fuzzy, lo-fi psychedelic rock, this may be your first choice.

Try out their great sound on tracks "Pink Oil" and "Sad Shape" --

If you want to stream the entire album, or buy the digital via Bandcamp, here is the link.  I believe the vinyl may be sold out.

Twitter ( @DignanPorch )
Captured Tracks

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Introducing: Matt Norris & The Moon

Today's weekend introduction is Edinburgh-based folk rock band Matt Norris & The Moon.  The band's origins date back to 2009, when Matt Norris and Tom MacColl met while attending university in Edinburgh.  The group was completed with the addition of Dave Law, Helen Cookson and Dale Birrell.  Their style includes multi-part harmonies and a full arrangements featuring guitars, fiddle, drums, flute, accordion, stand up bass, keys, and trumpets.  Listening to this band is improving my rainy Sunday by a considerable measure.

"Roots Below" is the lead track on their This Kingdom EP, which was released earlier this year on 17 Seconds Records.

This video for EP track "Shadow From the Sun" includes clips from Edinburgh's Hogamanay celebration.

Here is a stream of the entire EP, which is available at the Bandcamp link.

Twitter ( @mattnandthemoon )