Saturday, January 26, 2013

REVIEW: Goodman - What We Want


Goodman is Michael Goodman, a New York-based artist playing some terrific power-pop. On his recent release, What We Want, sometimes I'm reminded of Cheap Trick, sometimes Fountain of Wayne, and sometimes of slower and sadder stuff, maybe some Beach Boys ballads. The music is meticulously put together, all the parts in service of the whole sound - whether fast and catchy or slow and melancholy.

Here is the lead track (and the single, if I had to pick), "Night Person". It's upbeat, catchy and the vocal harmonies are right-on:


Another of my favorites (you see, I much prefer the upbeat stuff, even thought it's all got some melancholy behind it) is "Another Man":

 

And, to show you the slower side, here is "Yawning" - Goodman's got a really good grasp of all kinds of pop hooks. This one's got some swing, almost kind of doo-wop:


The record is out now, and well worth checking out. You can buy it at the Soundcloud via the links above, or at Bandcamp.

Playlist: Rich's Best of 2012

I'm new to this game, so I didn't prepare a 2012 year end "best of" list.  However, that didn't mean that I was not, for my own music geek self, preparing a Spotify list all year long.  In case you are interested, these were some of my favorites from last year.  Rock.

 

PLAYLIST: 100 Influential Albums

I was greeted this morning by a Facebook posting from the WYMA page.  The post announced
"When" owns 62 of the 100 Influential Albums.




I appreciate  the fact the creators of the list did not have the audacity to add the word "Most" to the title.  While not the most influential, it is a good list.  The quiz has gone viral - their website has crashed.  Here is a Spotify playlist with the bulk of the albums (1308 track/3 days) on the list.  Put it on shuffle and enjoy.



Review: The Traditional Fools - The Traditional Fools


Among Ty Segall's many past projects was the 2008 release by The Traditional Fools.  Comprised of Segall, Andrew Luttrell and David Fox, the trio's lone, self-titled album of lo-fi, thrashy, surfy garage sold out and has long been unavailable.  A 12-song set of mostly short, uncomplicated garage songs, the album rates high on energy and fun.  And thanks to In the Red Records, it finally is available again.

My preferred manner of consuming this music would be a beachside shack full of sweaty dancing fools, better to enjoy the primal scream and rootsy, surfy guitar of "Layback" or "Shredstick".  But I'll gladly take it any way I can get it.  It is lo-fi, dirty, and messy in all the gloriously right places.  If you are a garage rock fan, Traditional Fools isn't a historical footnote, it is a missing brick in your (garage) wall.




"Milkman" --



"Party at My House" --




In the Red Records




New Italian Garage Rock Discovery: Wildmen/Capputtini 'I Lignu - "Drunkula"


Italian garage rock outfit Wildmen will be releasing their first album on March 1, and you are gonna want it... as long as the rest of it is as awesome as "Drunkula", a single they released recently in combination with Capputtini 'I Lignu :


And here's a new video for another advance track, "Haters Gonna Hate":


Hell, I like the titles almost as much as the music... but I really like the music.

From our friends at Shit Music For Shit People (who released one of my favorite records of 2012 - actually #8 - Strange Hands' Dead Flowers). They're actually really nice folks and they think a lot of you, especially if you buy their great music. But would you pay as much attention to a label called "Nice Music For Nice People"? No, I didn't think so.


Friday, January 25, 2013

New song from Waxahatchee - "Peace And Quiet" from upcoming Cerulean Salt

This is one of the most-anticipated records I can think of - at least by me. Great voice, and those guitars! The album is due out March 5... and this teaser video for album track "Peace And Quiet" was just posted today:





And here's a track from the previous record, American Weekend:



A little more info from their label, Don Giovanni, here.

Tour dates:

01-29 Poughkeepsie, NY - Vasser College
01-30 Wilkes-Barre, PA - Crimson Lion Hookah Lounge
01-31 Ithaca, NY - Cornell University
02-01 Cohoes, NY - The Icehouse (house)
02-02 Burlington, VT - Wristwrens (house)
02-03 Newmarket, NH - Fuckingham Palace (house)
02-04 Cambridge, MA - All Asia
02-05 Easthampton, MA - The Flywheel
02-06 New Haven, CT - PAC
02-07 New Paltz, NY - Mosh Depot (house)
02-08 New York, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg
02-09 Providence, RI - Squidamps
02-16 Purchase, NY - SUNY Purchase




Mogwai releases new track "Wizard Motor" from upcoming Les Revenants ST album, EP available now

Mogwai has supplied the score to a French zombie series, Les Revenants. Here is the first track, "Wizard Motor"...



The four-song EP is out now, the full soundtrack album is due out in February.

Mogwai at Rock Action Records


REVIEW: FIDLAR - FIDLAR


Literally, FIDLAR stands for "fuck it dog, life's a risk".  More broadly, it reflects the punk attitude and concerns of one of the better punk bands to recently emerge from Southern California.  Possessed of a range that includes redline-level hardcore and punk pop, and imbued with an understanding that if they write about what interests them, they are writing what their audience wants to hear, their self-titled LP nails the landing for the fans, and gives the finger to the critics.  The track titles include "Cheap Beer", "Stoked and Broke", "No Wave", "Max Can't Surf", "Wake! Bake! Skate!", "Blackout Stout", "Paycheck", and "Cocaine".  It may be simple, but it isn't a cliche if it reflects life.  And the quality of the compositions and performances reveal the musicianship to be well above the garage band status indicated by the lyrical themes.  FIDLAR, then ably walks the tightrope between serious musical chops and wish fulfillment for the skate/punk crowd.

"Black Out Stout" encapsulates what I like best about FIDLAR -- a great guitar riffs and a shouted, anthemic chorus discussing one of my favorite food groups.



The band's garage pop abilities are on display in "No Waves".  And that bassline never fails to make me happy --



And here we have the rapid-fire skate-punk anthem of "Wake, Bake, Skate" --







Given the genre, the final score for FIDLAR is determined by the fun quotient, and it earns a fist-pumping high grade.  It is out now on the Mom+Pop label.

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Friday Nuggets - The Sonics "Psycho" (and "Strychnine")

A band so cool they named an NBA team after them!
The Sonics ruled the Seattle rock scene before Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain were born. And make no mistake, the Sonics were just as edgy and punk as any Seattle band to follow them.
They had a truly wild and revolutionary sound, though looked like nice boys from the Pacific NW.

This video of their classic song "Psycho" is crazy, such a period piece, I'm not sure what to say:



And The Sonics are so great, we will, only 3 weeks in to Friday Nuggets, break our guideline of one song per and give you a bonus song, "Strychnine", which I was introduced to by the smoking cover of this that is a staple of the Minus 5's live shows

Here's are the Sonics:  
 

The Sonics, with a mostly intact lineup, still perform today. You Portlanders should join me and go see them on Feb 15 at the Hawthorne Theater.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Art Rock Discovery: Gliss - Langsom Dans


Gliss is a Danish/American three-piece, and their new album, Langsom Dans, was released on January 22nd, 2013 via Modern Outsider.

Here is the video for "Weight of Love":

Gliss - Weight of Love from Gliss on Vimeo.



Members of the band are Victoria Cecilia, Martin Klingman and David Reiss. Langsom Dans was recorded in LA, and mixed by Michael Patterson (Trent Reznor/NIN, Beck, Ladytron) and mastered by Henrik Jonsson (Lykke Li, The Knife).

They move easily from dance rock like the 5:30 "In Heaven" to slower, atmospheric songs like "Black is Blue" with its slowed-down tempo and wavery guitar... almost like somebody slowed down some Jesus & Mary Chain and put a female vocal on top of it. If that sounds intriguing, well, that's definitely a good description of some of the songs on this record. "Blur" has a slowed-down drum and bass line with a languid vocal, the whole thing drenched in reverb. Cecilia's vocals are in places reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, and overall the music is very full and lush, and stands up well to repeated listens - I liked it more every time I listened.

Here are three of the songs - previously released as part of a two-song single in the fall:



And you can download album track "Blur" at this link.

Gliss Official Website


REVIEW: Hilly Eye - Reasons to Live


As a devoted, if not obsessed, Titus Andronicus fan, I must admit that I was a bit concerned when I learned that Amy Klein was leaving the band after the tour for The Monitor.  Why change something that was seemingly perfect?  Why risk harming, in any way, my favorite live band?

Thankfully, Titus' great performances with a new lineup in 2012 and the fantastic Local Business combined with the newly released Reasons to Live by Hilly Eye (featuring Klein on lead vocals and guitar and Catherine Tung on drums) (Don Giovanni Records) allow me to rest easy knowing that I did not lose a favorite, but gained one.

On Reasons to Live, Klein and Tung make beautiful noise together.  From droning, fuzzed-out guitar noise to angry and sometimes epic guitar rock, Hilly Eye's debut never disappoints.  Summoning the spirits of Sleater-Kinney, early P.J. Harvey, Patti Smith, Sonic Youth, and My Bloody Valentine, Reasons to Live excels at hypnotizing listeners and then jarring them back to reality with powerful and magical moments and riffs.

Importantly, this is not just noise rock.  Sure, the noise on this record is most immediately apparent, but what makes Reasons to Live great is what lies underneath the noise:  strong songwriting, Klein's skilled guitar work, and Tung's powerful and straight ahead attack on her drums.

Hilly Eye is a talented and exciting new band, Reasons to Live is an exceptional first effort, and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

Breaking Away by Being There now available in the US


One of my favorite albums of 2012 (my list of recommended albums is here) was Breaking Away, the debut LP from young UK band Being There.  In response to my review, a number of US readers expressed disappointment that it was only available in the US at a rather high import price.  However, we have good news for you -- the album now is available in the US on iTunes for $9.99 (link).

Being There puts their own great stamp on guitar sounds from the '60s, '80s and '90s.  Remind yourself below:



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New Lo-Fi Psych Discovery: Gayze - Black Soul



And when I say lo-fi, I do mean LO... but great. Funny thing is, the cover art led me to expect a slick bit of shoegaze or dance-rock... and instead what spilled out of the speakers was a mid-60's Sunset Strip-inspired psychedelic freakout that reminds me fondly of that great Allah-Las record we featured in some of our "Best of 2012" lists. Plenty of reverb, and indecipherable lyrics - even better!

You can listen, and even download, the EP right here:



And you should... they've got three of the four P's nailed (psych, punk and pop abound). It's out now on Bleeding Gold Records.



New Pony Time song - "Because I Care"

We recently featured a review of Pony Time's terrific new punk/rockabilly album Go Find Your Own, and are happy that they are willing to share another of their songs with you:



This shows some confidence on their part, and I think it's warranted... give this a listen and I think you'll see what I mean.


REVIEW: Young Fathers - Tape One EP


We have covered numerous Scottish bands over the past three years, and we continue to believe that it is one of the most fertile music scenes on the planet.  The trio Young Fathers hails from Edinburgh, yet their music differs from the indie pop, folk rock and related genres in which the other bands we cover generally fall.  Comprised of vocalists Kayus Bankole, Alloysious Maasquoi and Graham Hastings (with Graham also serving as beat master/producer),  Young Fathers merge rap, hip hop, and electronic with a hooky  pop sensibility (and reportedly boy band dance moves) to produce a vibrant, expressive, realistically gritty yet hopeful urban collage that has me completely enthralled.

Reportedly the members met at a club in their teens.  Now in their early 20s, they have played a number of shows and released a few singles.  Their eight-track debut EP, Tape One, was released as a free mixtape over a year ago.  However, they recently signed to Anticon, which re-released the EP on January 22.  Featured track "Romance" boasts a pop vocal delivery over skittering percussion --


Young Fathers - "Romance" from anticon. on Vimeo.

"Rumbling" lives up to its name with an aggressive, up-front bass and drum supporting rap lyrics and a chanted chorus.  And there is a "tossing the caber" reference to Scottish culture.


Young Fathers - "Rumbling" from anticon. on Vimeo.

Opening track "Deadline" uses a droning bass note and tribal drumming with chanted vocals to signal Young Fathers' determination to follow their own muses.



This is an album painted in vibrant and varied colors.  You owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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REVIEW: Camper Van Beethoven - La Costa Perdida

On the eve of their 30th anniversary as a band, it stands to reason that Camper Van Beethoven are not neatly fitting into any box. Even in their heyday in the late '80's, sharing arena show bills with R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs, on the verge of major stardom, and under pressure from their major label to deliver a radio hit, Camper Van Beethoven made mincemeat of musical categories and created wildly original music. 

La Costa Perdida honors their legacy. While many songs start with a familiar enough base of folk-rock, California pop or 70's hard rock riffs, they quickly introduce elements that take the songs in far more interesting directions, maybe a ska beat, or a waltz element or a Middle Eastern sound. For CVB, this is a tried and true approach, though it's far too quirky, and frankly, at times weird, though wonderfully so, to be called a formula.  

One song here in particular truly stands out for me - "Northern California Girls", which maybe started as their idea of a weird Beach Boys song, and then goes from there.

   
La Costa Perdida (translates as the lost coast) was written and recorded fairly quickly in Big Sur California and many of the songs introduce the sort of California hippies, outsiders and beautiful losers that lead songwriter David Lowery has always gravitated towards. That is on full display on "Too High for the Love-In" a shaggy dog story involving an acid trip, an angry wild bird loose in a living room, a viper bite, anti-poison venom, you know, the usual pop song kind of stuff. Meanwhile on that song, the band lays down some wild psychedelia of its own.

Lowery's outsiders, no matter how odd, are never mocked and generally are just keenly observed, with a mix of genuine curiosity and subtle sympathy.

The strength of Camper Van Beethoven, however, isn't the surrealistic lyrics or unpredictable structure  of the songs, it is the chops of the players and their unique chemistry as an ensemble. The songs were co-written by Lowery with bassist Victor Krummenacher, guitarist Greg Lisher and violinist Jonathan Segel, each of whom bring their own sensibility but just the right feel. Above all else CVB are a real band and at this point they really know what they are doing.

Another highlight is the lead track "Come Down the Coast", a gorgeous folk-rock song that might fit just as easily on a Cracker record, Lowery's more straightforward rock'n'roll band.    Here's a a recent live version:



Listen to "Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out" here.



La Costa Perdida has 10 fine new CVB songs. Highly recommended.

Artist web page here, see especially tour dates, as Camper Van Beethoven especially excels as a live band.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

REVIEW: Buck Owens - Honky-Tonk Man: Buck Sings Country Classics


Even if you've listened to everything in Buck Owens' catalog, you haven't heard these songs yet. That's because they were recently assembled from archival tracks recorded for broadcast on Hee Haw.

Honky-Tonk Man consists of backing tracks the Buckaroos recorded for the television show, with the original tracking vocals that Buck recorded, and the skillful engineers involved in this project put it all together to make one of the best country reissues I've ever heard - even if, again, it's not "technically" a reissue!

The tempo varies, but is mostly upbeat - there are fiddles and even, on a few of the cuts, banjos, but one of the highlights for me are the guitars and Buck's vocal on "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water" - just a terrific performance. One of the slower-paced tracks is a cover of Jimmie Rodgers' "He's In The Jailhouse Now" - a pretty faithful reading, but of course with the Buckaroos' stamp on it. And there's a Tex-Mex lilt to Charley Pride's "Is Anybody Going to San Antone?", the requisite swing to Bob Wills' "Stay A Little Longer", and a real boogie to "The Bridge Washed Out" that show these guys could play it any way you want it. Here he is, singing with his son on Hee-Haw - this is the title track:



Buck's singing was, as always, terrific, the playing was uniformly excellent, and the recording is clean. This is an unbelievable treat for anybody who likes the Bakersfield sound, Buck Owens, or country music in general. It's out this week on Omnivore Recordings.

Honky Tonk Man at Omnivore Recordings Website


Mount Moriah releases preview track "Bright Light" from Miracle Temple, due in March


Mount Moriah (Heather McEntire, Jenks Miller, Casey Toll) has prepared a followup to its debut album, and it will be out in March. For now, they've released this terrific country rocker which should help create some serious anticipation for the full album. The piano and vocal are particular highlights, to me... very much looking forward to listening to the whole thing:



As Scott observed in his recent review of the Dorado project, there seems to be a resurgence of great new music at the intersection of traditional country, rock and soul sounds - this is another terrific example. The way the rollicking piano leads into the guitar lead, and the echoes of Dolly Parton in her voice - just wonderful. Recorded in Nashville!

Here's a video released in the fall - the song, "Plane", is from their self-titled debut album:



Mount Moriah on Merge Records


Veronica Falls releases new song "Buried Alive"



We are within a few weeks of the release of one of the albums I have most been looking forward to in early 2013 -- the sophomore LP Waiting for Something to Happen from London band Veronica Falls.  A few months ago we profiled "Teenage", the first single from the new album (link).  Now the band has released a second track, "Buried Alive".  While the lyrics are characteristically dark and quirky, the music is poppy and buoyant.  Save your pennies for this one.


Waiting for Something to Happen will be released by Slumberland in the US and Bella Union in Europe.

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Reverberation Radio #46

It's Wednesday and time for another curated sonic trip from favorites Reverberation Radio.  Put on the tie dye and step into their psychedelic wayback machine.


REVIEW: Dorado - Anger, Hunger, Love, and the Fear of Death


There has been a lot of good music coming out of the deep south in the past few years.  Really good music -- adventuresome, varied, and unapologetically distinctive; taking the best elements of southern rock and roll and fusing them with other good ideas to create a new southern rock and roll.  One of the good examples of that music was Alamalibu, by Birmingham's Through the Sparks (our review here).  The frontman of that band, Jody Nelson, has just staked his claim as a forerunner of the new southern rock with his Dorado project.  And the claim takes the form of Anger, Hunger, Love, and the Fear of Death, just released on the This Is American Music label.

This album seems to have its own mind, and the musicians are along for the ride, and to play their part in the grand play.  There is no slavish devotion to any genre, and in some cases the songs themselves shapeshift along the way.  The sense is a collective of stories that are psychedelic and southern Gothic in spirit, if not always in form, and delivered over music that is part art rock, part southern rock and part indie pop.  Perhaps it is best summed up as Nelson & Friends' Magical Mystery Tour, but that would invoke some copyright issues.

To make the album, Nelson called upon his Through the Sparks mates and other collaborators.  The full list of musicians is Jody Nelson, Shawn Avery, Greg Slamen, James Brangle, Jason Taylor, Helen Gassenheimer, Gary Wheat, Thomas Mimikakis.  The album was recorded at the Alamalibu studio in Birmingham.



On "Modern Man" the listener gets a pop song with a country twang --



Apparently Nelson has described his creative process as making a mess, and then cleaning up the mess.  As you can hear with "Where's My Girl", Jody's messes clean up well.



"Ape of Dorado" might have been a Syd Barrett song, if Syd had been a southern boy --



The album, and our review, closes with the lovely folk pop of "Birds of Paradise" --



Atlanta label This is American Music seems to have become a critical hub of the new southern rock scene, so it is fitting that Anger, Hunger, Love, and the Fear of Death is its first release of 2013.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Blues-Rock Discovery (and free track): Nick And The Ovorols - Telegraph Taboo


Nick and the Ovorols is Nick Peraino (vocals, guitar), Carlos Showers (guitar), Vic Jackson (bass) and Lance Lewis (drums) and they are a smoking hot blues-rock band. On parts of Telegraph Taboo, I am fondly reminded of ZZ Top's Deguello - one of my favorite blues albums. And Peraino's very strong, expressive voice is a bit reminiscent of Warren Haynes'. In fact, if you're a fan of the blues-influenced rock of bands like Govt Mule and Haynes' latter-day work with the Allmans, you will do well to give this a try.

From the upbeat stuff like "Take the V Train" and "Chitown Via Greyhound" to the beautifully-played slow instrumental "Soundtrack to Life" with its twin guitar meanderings, the electric guitars (stinging lead or slide, or both) are at the center of the show... although the rhythm section of Jackson and Lewis have no trouble keeping up and even, on songs like "Honey Please", leading the way.

Nick's band is well-known in Chicago where they have been in residence at Kingston Mines and have shared the stage with folks like Buddy Guy, Sugar Blue and Taj Mahal. This is the first studio release from this band.

Here's a video of them performing the Tempts' "Shakey Ground" last year at House of Blues in Chicago:



(The Temptations original featured Eddie Hazel on lead guitar, so I give Nick extra points for great taste in guitar players.)

They're offering a free download of "Try Me" (click here to download or see Soundcloud below):




REVIEW: California X -- s/t



Here it is the third week of January -- in fact, I started listening to this album about a week after I posted my 2012 best-of list -- and I'm ready to say that if another album comes this year that hijacks my crappy stereo like this one, well, that'll mean it's been one hell of a good music year.



California X is a loud band from Amherst, Massachusetts, fronted by a singer/guitarist named Lemmy Gurtowski, and with a bass player named Dan, and a drummer called Cool. The web is aglow with praise for this terrific album, which was released by New Jersey's excellent Don Giovanni Records (Brick Mower, Screaming Females), but there's a prevailing groupthink emerging tying this band's sound uncomfortably closely to Dinosaur Jr. I think it's a facile comparison. They start with, "Hey, they're both from the same town!" as if the only music young Lemmy was exposed to while growing up was what he heard at Saturday night hootenannies down in the stock room of Mr. Drucker's dry goods store. Then there's "Well, Lemmy G. and J. Mascis both know where that gain knob is located on their respective amplifiers." This is a salient point.

And make no mistake, Dinosaur Jr. is a great band, but they're a great band that doesn't sound all that much like California X. Not to belabor the point, but for example, I always got the feeling that the only reason J. Mascis sang at all was to relieve boredom he would experience between solos. Instead of mumbling slackerisms, Lemmy's singing is emotive -- at times yearning, at times almost euphoric. And for what it's worth, Dinosaur Jr. never put a Voltaire quote at the end of a video:



As you can tell if you hit play above, these songs are basically well-wrought, fuzzed out power anthems. Certain parts of certain songs make me think of Japandroids, and No Age, and even a metal act like Red Fang. The guitars in "Mummy" remind me of mid-90s Superchunk (the song is the 2d track of this embed):



My favorite of these eight strong tracks is "Lemmy's World", the chorus of which is an unmistakable homage to one of the all-time great power anthems, the Foo Fighters' "Everlong". I wish a version of this song were available to post, because I promise you if you heard it, you'd own this album shortly thereafter. Although I probably say this too often, don't make the mistake of conflating identifiable influences with lack of originality. Joseph Conrad did not just finish reading Judy Blume, get a cup of coffee, pick up a pen, and write Lord Jim.



Check out California X at Bandcamp and Tumblr and Facebook.

Visit all the great bands at Don Giovanni Records.


New Soul Discovery: Renny Wilson - Sugarglider


Renny Wilson is an Edmonton-based artist playing a current take on old-school smooth soul music, with psychedelic pop touches and even some forays into motorik. Wilson is clearly extremely talented, and no matter which genre (or combination of genres) he's playing in, he's smooth as hell.

Here's the lead track "By And By" - a truly delightful flight on a cloud of funk bass, saxophone and synths:



The beat is strong, his voice is soulful whether he's operating in falsetto range or a little bit lower down to anchor the song. If you recall Lewis Taylor (man, I miss that guy), do not miss a chance to get this record. The music is more horn-based than Taylor's, but absolutely as soulful. And he's a terrific vocalist.

Here's the song "Nobody":



And you can stream the whole record now at Spin.com - although this will probably be taken down closer to release date (next Tuesday Jan 22). It shouldn't matter - if you like soul music and have been wondering where to find it, you'll probably pre-order this before then anyway.

Here's the video for "Could've It Been Me?":



Out January 22 on Mint Records. You can follow the link to pre-order now.


Divine Fits - "My Love Is Real" - new video

Funny story: when I got this video to post, I checked it out and said "boy, could this guy sound any more like the guy from Spoon?" Of course, the guy from Spoon is in it! If you already knew that, there isn't much I can tell you about Divine Fits except that they have produced a new video for "My Love Is Real" from their debut album A Thing Called Divine Fits:



Here's the stream from Soundcloud:



For our readers in Australia, keep an eye out, they are currently on tour down that way. US dates to come soon - check their website for more.

Divine Fits at Merge Records


Monday, January 21, 2013

Introducing: Coasts and new single "Oceans"



Coasts are a Bristol, UK band that plays anthemic pop songs.  Their debut single is "Oceans" and will be released on February 25 by Tidal Recordings.  Soon thereafter, Coasts will release the Paradise EP.  The band was formed in 2011 by Chris, Liam, James, David and Ben, all of whom were students at Bath University.

The thundering percussion and soaring keys and vocals of "Oceans" reveal a band that has no hesitation about reaching for the grand musical moment, and has the chops to get there.



Here is the sunny pop and bubbling bass of Stay", a track from early 2012 --



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REVIEW: Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic


We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is Foxygen's second record, and the first proper album from the San Francisco duo (Sam France, Jonathan Rado). And it's terrific, a real joyride through various rock and pop styles - you will see various sources throughout the music press try to name them all, and the fun part is that they are probably all correct:  Mick Jagger/early Stones, Lou Reed/VU, 60's Elvis, Dylan, Eric Burdon/Animals... and I'm just getting started.

Lead singer France sounds a bit like he's singing through a filter, but his voice comes through fine, if that makes any sense. To me, this record works fine as a pastiche of found old rock sounds, but it works better as something completely new - hence the title. Foxygen are not the 20th century ambassadors of peace and magic - hippies and acidheads - they are something more self-aware and their music is more consciously constructed, but no less fun for that.

To go through song-by-song would take quite a while, but suffice it to say that I really love the countrypolitan-meets-John Wesley Harding-era Dylan-meets Metamorphosis-era Stones touches of "No Destruction" (piano on the beat, gently chugging rhythm and softly sighed backing vocals on the choruses, to name a few). There are so many truly delightful touches to this record, they would be impossible to list... and I'm certain I'd miss some. In a way, I'm reminded of Paul's Boutique - and the fact that people are still cataloging the references and artistic debts in that sucker has in no way limited our 23 years of enjoyment.

It's impossible to resist the instant recall most of these songs cause - "San Francisco", with its Summer of Love vibe (and lyrical references), is an example. But it's also an example of how they're having fun::

I left my love in San Francisco
[female response vocal] "That's okay, I was bored anyway"
I left my love in a field
"That's okay, I was born in L.A."

Video for "San Francisco":





And "Shuggie" is a little masterpiece of psychedelic funk with some glam/soul touches - it engages in the kind of gear-shifting that characterized last year's Take The Kids Off Broadway, and ends with a sing-along chorus:





They've come a long way in less than a year, since Take The Kids first showed up - and this record is bursting with creativity and really wonderful sounds. It makes you want to allow yourself some optimism about what their next step may be - Foxygen certainly has left a lot of doors open for themselves, and demonstrated a ton of talent.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

REVIEW: The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law


The Joy Formidable have been featured on our blog before - Scott first came across them and featured their music on a Midnight World Pop Scout, and I posted a review of their terrific 2011 album The Big Roar. Their follow up, Wolf's Law, is due out next Tuesday (Jan. 22) on Atlantic. The high standard set by The Big Roar is met and possibly exceeded on this one.

The Joy Formidable still rock extremely hard - I'd call this a drum-based sound and in some ways they remind me of the Foo Fighters. I'm not surprised to learn that since releasing The Big Roar, they toured in support of that band - there's a lot in common. It's exciting music, but very melodic for all that. There's not much change in the sound from that earlier record, nor should there be - The Joy Formidable have nailed a very exciting sound, and if anything have perfected it in the time between then and now. There are a few new sounds - check out the Jack White-style guitar work on "Little Blimp". And the pace gets pretty breakneck, showing perhaps a bit of a punk influence, on "Bats".

Here's the video for lead cut "This Ladder Is Ours":





Here is the video for "Cholla":



There are a few ballads ("Silent Treatment", "The Turnaround"), but even on those, the sound is big and anthemic, with liberal use of swelling string sounds to supplement Bryan's strong vocals... if nothing else, she get a chance to show her range. Just in case anybody thought she would not be able to carry songs without all that rock accompaniment - she has no problem with the slower stuff. "The Turnaround" is beautifully sung. It's just that big rock is what The Joy Formidable do best. And when they are at their best, much like the Foo Fighters, they make you reach for the volume knob and turn it up.

Joy Formidable website