Saturday, February 2, 2013

New video and song for upcoming release from Super Water Sympathy - Hydrogen Child

Super Water Sympathy is a Shreveport, LA-based band playing what they call "Water Pop". It's pretty straight-ahead rock music, but with a big sound. The 5-piece band consists of brothers Billy and Clyde Hargrove (bass and guitar, respectively), Ryan Robinson (drums), Jason Mills (keys), and Ansley Hughes (vocals). They're all very good, and work together very well... and it all supports Hughes' big, big vocals. 

There's creativity, optimism and a sense of fun on display. Check out this video for "Uh oh!":

They're giving away a download of "Sunday School Dress" - click here.

The song will be available to buy in February and the album is due out in April.

Lambchop's William Tyler has new track "Cadillac Desert" available now, album in March

William Tyler is a Nashville guitar player - well, that's not saying much, is it? I mean, didn't John Sebastian say there were thirteen-hundred and fifty-two of them? Let me go a little further - William is an outstanding guitar player and is recognized as such, even in Nashville. He's played with Lambchop, Silver Jews, Candi Staton... and more. He also has a solo album - Impossible Truth - due out in March, and it's full of reasons to understand why Tyler stands tall in Guitar Town.

Here's a track, the 6:34 "Cadillac Desert". It's a bit of a wanderer - meandering between acoustic guitar with feedback to acoustic guitar with washes of pedal steel behind. A bit reminiscent of Richard Buckner's Devotion + Doubt, or going back a little further, the blues-based acoustic work of John Fahey (but with some distortion/feedback plus pedal steel). This is beautiful stuff.

It'll be on Merge Records - and you can pre-order now.

REVIEW: Obedient Wives Club - Murder Kill Baby

So, you are sitting and thinking - OK, you could be walking and thinking, that works too - and what you are thinking that you have explored much of the new music in your city, and your country, and on the other side of the US/Euro reflecting pool, and you want something that both sounds great and is new.  You quite specifically don't want to buy that new split single from Dick Cheney's Hammer Toes/Wind Feathers because you know someone will look at it in your hands and say "I loved their old stuff" (and you will agree with them, silently).  Do not despair, dear reader, because we here at WYMA have your solution: Murder Kill Baby, the new five-track EP from Singapore's Obedient Wives Club.  The essential elements of construction in this fine record are Spectorish wall of sound, jangle and distortion on the dual guitar attack, female vocals, and enduring melodies.  Quite simply, this is great stuff. I've been following the band for a couple of years, and the musical abilities and songwriting just keep getting better.

Now, here's the important and tricky part.  If you want to buy a physical copy from Soft Power records, you can't wait.  The cassettes are sold out in the pre-order stage (supposedly in fewer than three hours) and there are a limited supply of CDs.  Here is the Bandcamp link to get in on the action.  As an alternative, or when Soft Power's supply is exhausted, you can source the CDs or digital downloads from the Happy Teardrop label in Singapore.

Title track "Murder Kill Baby" is a song you'll want to put on repeat -- '60s girl group harmonies, loads of jangle and guitar effects.  "Razor Wire Love Song" features a soft/loud, slow/fast dynamic with a solo, plaintive female vocal.  But of course, the guitars kick in for the finish.  "Requiem For A Lover" has the pace and bittersweet atmosphere of that slow song played at the end of the dance.  You know, the kind of song that had everyone jockeying to dance with THE ONE that you had been aching to share the last dance with the entire evening.  The fourth track, beginning with about 45 seconds of guitar so sweet that you are willing to have it be an instrumental, is a wistful indie pop tune with a languid pace and delightful layers of sound.  The EP finishes with the grand musical statement "Thousand Tears/Broken Heart".

Obedient Wives Club is YinQi Lee (vocals and keys), Keith Tan (guitar), Cherie Ko (guitar), Sulaiman Supian (bass) and Lennat Mak (drums).

Here is a video for the title track --

After February 25, you may be able to find physical copies at the following locations: Rough Trade (UK), Norman (UK), Monorail (UK), Beethobear (Taiwan), The Stone Records (Japan), Jigsaw(US) and VollWert(Germany).  For the US buyers, Jigsaw is in Seattle and is a quality outfit (link).  I also can personally vouch for the indie bona fides of VollWert.

Soft Power Records
Bandcamp page for Murder Kill Baby
Happy Teardrop Music

New Pop/Punk Discovery: Val Ventura - "Sun Down California"

I know nothing about Val Ventura, except that I like the punk energy and guitars a lot... came across this upcoming release on Sir Psych's Facebook... and after giving a listen, I'd like to share it with you:

And here's a promo video for the upcoming release:

Wax Idols release track "AD RE:IAN"

Wax Idols has been on our bands-you-really-should-know-about list since 2011.  The only thing that has changed since then is that Heather Fortune and her band are even better.  We'll discuss all that a bit more in a five or six weeks when their new album, Discipline & Desire, is closer to release.  Today's post it simply to present the album track "AD RE:IAN".  If this song is representative of the album, Wax Idols will deserve to earn a very large audience.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Zombie Girlfriend

It has been a long, long time since we brought you any Hungarian garage rock, so we'll rectify that lapse by presenting Zombie Girlfriend.  No, not your zombie girlfriend, but the rock band from Budapest Zombie Girlfriend.  I don't know a lot about them, but they sound good.  If you like them, check out their additional releases at the Bandcamp site.

And to underscore the globalization of pop music, here on a US-based indie music blog is a cover of a song by the New Zealand band The Chills, played by the Hungarian band Zombie Girlfriend.  And it is a free download.


New Power-Pop Discovery: Khalid Quesada - "Radio Silence"

This is an upbeat piece of melodic guitar pop - nice vocal harmonies and some good guitar riffs. Khalid Quesada is a Philadelphia-based artist who bears some similarities to the catchy guitar pop of artists like Cheap Trick, Monkees or the poppier stuff from Elliott Smith. Quesada has made this single available for download:

You can listen to more, and learn more about him, at his website.

REVIEW: Northern Portrait - Pretty Decent Swimmers

One of the undeniable joys of an obsession with music is the first listen to a new gem by one of your favorite bands.  It is fresh but familiar, exciting and every note confirms your wisdom in taste in choosing them as a favorite.  But perhaps an even better feeling is your first exposure to a band which, while previously unknown to you, immediately becomes an inseparable musical companion.  Such is my feeling about my new musical friends, Northern Portrait.  The Copenhagen, Denmark, trio of Michael Sorensen, Stefan Larsen, and Rune Reholt play a jangly, hyper-melodic indie pop with soulful vocals that will remind the knowing listener of The Housemartins.  And the knowing listener knows that vocal similarity with The Housemartins is a very, very good thing.

The occasion for meeting Northern Portrait is Pretty Decent Swimmers, a four-track EP available digitally and in 10" vinyl from Matinee Recordings.  In my opinion, all four tracks are instant pop classics, and are perfect for lightening your mood during the cold, dreary winter.  But you don't need to take my word for it, take a quarter of an hour and listen below.

Northern Portrait's previous work includes a couple of EPs, an LP, and a 7".  I regret that they weren't on my radar in the past, but I don't intend to let them out of my sights.

Matinee Recordings

Friday Nuggets - The Easybeats "Friday On My Mind"

The Easybeats were an Australian band, all of the members of which had emigrated Down Under from Europe. They went to Abbey Road Studios in London to record "Friday On My Mind" which became a worldwide hit in 1966 and landed them as the opening act on a Rolling Stones tour of the US.

No one, nothing else that bugs me
More than working for the rich man
Hey I'll change that scene one day 

It reamins one of the great launch-the-weekend songs of all time.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Psych Discoveries: Smoking Trees and Sir Psych

If you like Tame Impala (and, really, who doesn't?), I'd encourage you to go check out The Smoking Trees and affiliated act Sir Psych. The Smoking Trees, near as I can tell, consist of Martin Nunez - who I believe is Sir Psych, and Al Rivera - L.A. AL. The Smoking Trees is referred to as a duo. I expect the identities will become more clear, because I expect to hear more from these two in the days ahead.

This stuff is a lot of fun - lovingly put together with all kinds of psychedelic effects. There are delays, overdubs, washed-out guitar sounds and plenty of reverb.

The title track to The Smoking Trees' album Acetates is a perfect way to sample their sounds, and it even contains a short "intermission". Most of all, it contains some terrific guitar work:

Another track - "See" -  lots of reverb on the vocals, chaotic drumming and some wild guitar work:

As for the Sir Psych album, The Popsike World of Sir Psych, it's a wilder affair - more effects, less guitar, but no less enjoyable. It's structured as a sort of tour of '60's "Swinging L.A." - and the conceit works pretty well... but of course, it wouldn't if the music wasn't so good.

Here's a video for "Every Colour I Know":

And here's "In A Popsike World":

The album contains 18 "base" songs and another 16 alternate versions and previously unreleased song including alternative versions of some of the Smoking Trees songs.

This is a tremendous achievement for two guys... It's derivative, yes, but derivative of some great, great stuff.

Sir Psych Website

Sir Psych Facebook

New Jazz "Version" Discovery: Daniela Nardi's Espresso Manifesto - Macchiato67 - Via Con Me Remix EP

Italian-Canadian singer/songwriter/producer Daniela Nardi and her project Espresso Manifesto have recently released an album of Paolo Conte songs, and to take the tribute a little further, on Feb. 14 will release a sultry, super-cool EP: Macchiato67 – Via Con Me Remix.

The EP is a collaboration with Italian DJ-Composer Gerardo Frisina (Schema/Ishtar). The Macchiato67 EP consists of 3 tracks – a Club Mix, a Vocal Remix and an Instrumental Remix.

Nardi says of her choice in working with Frisina, “I really love the Italian lounge scene and have been a fan of Gerardo’s work for some time. I thought it would be really cool if I could introduce a new generation to the works of Paolo Conte. By adding the treatment that we did to the tracks, it helps bring a freshness, new life and if anything further show how timeless Conte’s tracks are when you can make a remix out of it and it sounds like a contemporary track.”

This is a great discovery, to me - the music is terrific, but I always find it interesting and fun to discover alternative versions - a way to kind of see or hear the artist at work. And the music certainly swings.

Daniela Nardi's Espresso Manifesto Website

"Water Damage", new song from Dick Diver

I profiled Melbourne's Dick Diver on these pages a couple of months ago (link).  I remain impressed with their cool vibe and organic, jangly style of guitar pop.  I'm happy to report that the band will deliver an LP titled Calendar Days in March on the Chapter Music label.  In advance of that release, they are sharing track "Water Damage".  Featuring a delightful guitar introduction, trading male and female vocals and a gentle melody, it prompts me to wonder whether we can skip February.

Artist page at Chapter Music

REVIEW: Pia Fraus - Silmi Island

Pia Fraus is a shoegaze and dream pop band from Estonia, formed in 1998 by art school friends.  Over the following ten years they logged a numerous hours performing and miles touring, and recorded four LPs.  This month, old fans and potential new fans can experience the bands' best tracks from 1998-2008 on Silmi Island.  There are 13 tracks on the vinyl album and 15 on the CD/Digital; all tracks have been remastered.

Pia Fraus' sound is characterized by dense, layered textures of guitars, synths and vocals, although when called upon the rhythm section steps to the fore (for example, "You Look Fine", below).  And their production decision to bring the boy girl vocals up in the mix and penchant for varying the pace and intensity of the tracks give them a distinct and welcome place in the dreamier end of the shoegaze spectrum.  Most importantly, while capturing the sonic approach of their shoegaze forebears, Pia Fraus never ignored the hooks and melodies that make songs memorable.

One of my favorites --

An excellent example of Pia Fraus' dream pop style --

The members of the band are Eve Komp (vocals and synth), Kärt Ojavee (synth), Rein Fuks (guitar and vocals), Tõnis Kenkmaa (guitar), Reijo Tagapere (bass), and Margus Voolprit (drums).  Former members included Kristal Eplik (vocals) and Joosep Volk (drums).

Silmi Island is released by Shelflife Records in the US and Seksound in Estonia, and is available on vinyl and CD as well as digital download.

Shelflife Records

REVIEW: Cuddly Shark - The Road To Ugly

The Road to Ugly is a heady stew of punk, country, alternative folk, and indie rock from Glasgow's Cuddly Shark. The trio pulls no punches.  The songs are, for the most part, brief, straight-ahead blasts of energy with talk-sing vocals.  The social commentary also is straight ahead, almost brutal, but it all comes across with a genuine sense of fun.

"Overpriced" displays the band's punk side --

Cuddly Shark are Ruth Forsyth (bass), Jason Sinclair (drums), and Colin Reid (guitar and vocals).  The band was formed in Elgin, in the Scottish Highlands.

"The Devil In You" begins as a folk song, but breaks into a county punk stomp before the one minute mark.

And for some punk fun, here is "Body Mass Index".  The title to the album is taken from a lyric in this song.

The Road to Ugly is out now on Armellodie Records.  If you like your rock on the punk side, with humor and a bit of country, this is an album to check out.

Twitter ( @cuddly_shark )
Armellodie Records

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oceanography - "Drinking Water", new track from Parachutes of Plenty EP

Oceanography is Oakland's Brian Kelly - he's playing rock music that's exhilarating: simultaneously earthy and soaring. His voice is strong and they lay down a heavy bass and drum rhythm under the guitars and keyboards. They're not reinventing rock, and it's not real complicated stuff... they're just playing it really well. Kelly's the main driver here, but he has help from a cast of players including drummer Kathleen Richards and organist (and engineer) Scott Barwick.

From "American Cars", which starts out with a squall of guitar feedback, to "Drinking Water", which builds a little more slowly, they've put together a wall of sound that should appeal to folks who like good guitar rock.

The EP came out in December, and the band has made this single available for free download:

Video for "Napoleon Holiday" - this one has a little more majestic pace to it:

This is really good stuff - these five songs definitely create some expectations.

Oceanography website


Not So Guilty Pleasure - Steve Marriott

In a parallel universe  I post a daily acknowledgement and celebration of a musician's birthday.  Today was the birthday of one of the finest rock 'n rollers I ever had the pleasure of seeing in person.  Steve Marriott would have been 66.  As the front man of two hit bands - Small Faces and Humble Pie-  he was one of the exemplars of blue-eyed soul.  Each band was widely recognized as being among the tightest live bands in rock history.  Two musicians were recruited to replace him when he left Small Faces.  Ron Wood and Rod Stewart were the musical replacements for one man.  Get out the air guitar, turn  it up to 11 and enjoy one of the greatest RnR or R&B tenors/shouters.

With Small Faces:

With Humble Pie and Peter Frampton (yes that Peter Frampton.)

More Humble Pie:

Laura Stevenson - new track "Runner" now, album due in April

If you've been with us a while, you may recall Laura Stevenson and the Cans' Sit Resist - we raved about it back in 2011 (WYMA Review here and Best of 2011 - with delightful video for "The Healthy One" - here).

Great news from their label Don Giovanni, a new album is due in April... and they've released an advance track now. And no surprise, it's terrific - jangly guitars, upbeat rhythm and her clear, bright voice:

You can buy the song in a limited edition EP at Don Giovanni's website.

New Restorations Album in March! New Song NOW!

Philadelphia's Restorations is one of my very favorite bands of the past few years. The band's members came together out of disparate, yet punk, pasts, and truly have created their own sound -- a careening, anthemic twin guitar foundation interspersed with Jon Loudon's grainy vocals and a brutal rhythm section. Their stellar 2011 self-titled full-length was at the top of my list for that year, and last year's 2 track release A/B was on the shorter-than-full-length-best-of list for anyone who did one (and you can check that out and buy it here).

This year finds the band signed to LA's SideOneDummy Records, who have announced that there's a finished, mastered album ready to hit the streets in March. And if we're lucky enough to see a headlining tour on the heels of the release, don't miss them. A week or so ago they posted a terrific new song, "New Old", which you can hear below. It'll get you on the bandwagon.


"Dance Bear" single from Snakadaktal

The title track to "Dance Bear", from Melbourne's Snakadaktal, is the best slice of dream pop I've heard in a long time.  Dreamy but distinct lyrics, engaging melody and an irresistible rhythm, it reveals a band with excellent composition skills and confidence in their performances.  The other A-side "Air" is a delightful pop tune with male and female vocals taking turns.  While more subtle than "Dance Bear", it also is, perhaps, more impressive in structure and execution.  The songs are available as a double A-side single from London's excellent little Young and Lost Club label.  Young and Lost Club also has made available as digital downloads "Chimera" and the Chad Valley Remix of "Dance Bear.  Those downloads can be accessed at the Soundcloud link at the bottom of this post.

You can stream all four tracks below --

Snakadaktal is Joseph (guitars), Sean (vocals, guitars, synths), Barna (drums), Phoebe (vocals, synths), and Jarrah (bass).  The members are barely out of high school, but have toured extensively in their native Australia.  "Dance Bear" sold over 10,000 copies in Australia.  It is being released in the UK by Young and Lost Club next week.

Twitter ( @snakadaktal )
Young and Lost Club

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

REVIEW: Wake Owl - Wild Country EP

Wake Owl is singer/songwriter Colyn Cameron, native of Vancouver and current resident of Portland, along with Aiden Briscall (violin, electric guitar), Josh Daignault (bass, clarinet), and Andy Shauf (drums, clarinet). Their new EP is out today (Jan. 29) on Vagrant Records.

We've written about them before - since first discovering them back in the fall (WYMA Post here) and again recently, when the video for the lead track, "Gold" was released (WYMA Post here).

And for another take, here's a remix of "Gold" by Noah Hyde/Magic Sword:

What we liked about that first song, and now the rest of the EP, is Cameron's strong clear, voice and the clarity with which the group plays. Like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Wake Owl put everything right up front - nothing is obscured, and it all fits together well.

Here they are performing "Gold" recently - proof, if needed, that Cameron will be able to bring his strong but delicate music across in a live setting:

You'll be able to catch them live in February and March:

You can now buy the EP at iTunes or at Amazon.

Swamp Dogg is off the Leash - Again.

Not all reissues suck.  Some are great.  Two reissues from soul iconoclast and Nixon enemies' list member Swamp Dogg (aka Jerry Williams) will be released by Alive Natural Sound Records. They are reissuing  Swamp Dogg's newly remastered first two records from the early '70s: Total Destruction To Your Mind and Rat On! on March 5th. This music will be available on black vinyl or CD.  Swamp Dogg is offering fans free downloads of "If I DieTomorrow" (from Total Destruction To Your Mind) and "Creeping Away" (from Rat On!).

Swamp Dogg wears many hats - performer, songwriter, arranger, anti-war activist and producer.  His own words help us understand why record companies had difficulty embracing the man: “Commencing in 1970, I sung about sex, n*ggers, love, rednecks, war, peace, dead flies, home wreckers, Sly Stone, my daughters, politics, revolution and blood transfusions (just to name a few), and never got out of character. He did not get put of character when he created what has been described as one of the 10 worst album covers of all time: 

So as another original,  Lord Buckley, so eloquently stated:  "Hipsters, flipsters and finger-poppin' daddies knock me your lobes."  The first taste is free. His music is rock, it's country soul, it's classic R&B and it's funk.  Take away the impeccable Stax horn arrangements and it's stone cold classic country.  Enjoy.  Rat on brother, Rat on.

The following sounds as if it were written for Otis Redding, George Jones or Charlie Rich. Swamp Dogg is Everyman.

Introducing: Pageants, and their new single

Long Beach, California's Pageants formed a couple of years ago when founding member Rebecca Coleman left Avi  Buffalo.  Originally a duo, Pageants now are three, with Coleman (vocals and guitar) joined by Devin O'Brien (guitar) and Dylan Wood (drums).  An album release is planned for later this year, but they are whetting our appetites with the two track single, "Musings of the Tide/August Moon".

The title track features a delightfully crunchy guitar and Coleman's clear and warm vocals.  It is the kind of song that whispers "you love me, don't you?" as it worms its way into your ears.  "August Moon" features a more languid rhythm and an almost Americana vocals.  Overall, the single displays stellar vocals and a great melodic sensibility.

Based on this single alone, our wait for the album would be impatient.  But we've listened to a couple of demo tracks on Soundcloud, as well, and our impatience is only increased.

Link for purchase
Twitter ( @pgnts )

REVIEW: The History of Apple Pie - Out of View

Guitarist Jerome Watson and vocalist Stephanie Min began The History of Apple Pie as a bedroom project, posting their output on Myspace.  When their songs attracted attention from labels and agents, they added members and a proper band was born.  Although attracting considerable buzz, the five-piece took its time to refine its sound and work on songs, while releasing the occasional single to meet the demands of a growing fan base.  And now, in the form of the ten-track Out of View, it is time for the coming out party. Or, if you will, to take the pie out of the oven.

The first thing that should be understood about this album is that quick and simple assumptions and comparisons are likely to be wanting, if not false.  Despite the group's name, the poses in some of the promo photos, and the sugary vulnerability of Min's lead vocals and Kelly Owens backing vocals, this group is no twee fuzz pop band (although "You're So Cool" (video below) is, undeniably, a pop song).  And yes, the sound reflects a respect for Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Ride and Lush.  But the major chords, energy, pace, and those sweet vocals again, provide distance from those rock ancestors.  So, while tracks like album opener "Tug", "Do It Wrong" and "Glitch" burnish the band's reputation for shoegaze and distortion, tracks like "See You" and "Mallory" illustrate that the reality of The History of Apple Pie is more complex.  And more entertaining.

The album's second track, "See You", has been released as a single, and is my current favorite --

If the listener isn't all-in after "Tug" and "See You", the poppy 'dance-gaze' of "Mallory", which also was released as a single, should seal the deal.  It serves as a summary of the album: Melody, noise and energy in an appealingly sweet package.

"Warrior" and "Glitch" ably demonstrate the band's rock chops.

The History of Apple Pie is based in London.  The complete line-up is Stephanie Min (vocals and guitar), Jerome Watson (guitar), James Thomas (drums), Kelly Owens (bass and backing vocals), and Aslam Ghauri (guitar).  Out of View is out today, January 29, on Marshall Tell Records.

Twitter ( @thoapband )

Monday, January 28, 2013

REVIEW: Radar Brothers - Eight

The Radar Brothers' latest album, Eight, starts out quietly enough, with an almost whispered baritone vocal... but it doesn't take long for the guitars to kick in. And they really never let up, throughout the 43:00 plus of the record. There is an interesting juxtaposition of the amped-up guitars and the laid-back vocals throughout the record, and as noted, the trend begins on the first track, "What If We Were Banished"...

It's a little reminiscent of Mark Eitzel or The National, but I think it rocks harder than those, and certainly gets more psychedelic. In fact, there are times on this record (parts of "Couch", "Disappearer") that remind me of Pink Floyd. "Ebony Bow" is gorgeous - the guitars, piano and overlaid vocals all combine to give the sense of drifting along, not being in a hurry, and enjoying the journey.

It's a very interesting record - all the songs are around 4 minutes long, all are mostly midtempo, and the vocals are, for the most part, pretty sleepy... except for the 3:08 "Time Rolling By", which has got some serious giddyup, both in tempo and the volume on the guitars. And the song is more than half over before the vocals kick in. It's a good change of pace, and a very good rock song.

If what you're looking for is a record that combines well-played rock and alt/country with great guitars and occasional psychedelic flights, you will want to spend some time with this record.

Radar Brothers at Merge Records

Introducing: Bored Spies

One tactic for keeping on top of good emerging music is to pay attention to what bands you like are paying attention to.  And paying attention to what members of bands you follow do when they aren't with those bands.  Recently John advised me that the twitter feed for a Singapore band I follow, Obedient Wives Club, stated that their guitarist, Cherie Ko, was releasing a single with her project Bored Spies.  Knowing that the hardworking Ms. Ko (who also has a solo project called Pastelpower) was involved in the band was sufficient reason for me to track down the release.  The fact that one of the members may be named Panther was also a good reason (I didn't have time to look for my copy of the Blog's rules, but there may be a rule that we have to profile any band with a female vocalist and a bass player named Panther; and if we don't have such a rule, we should).

By the way, the full band is Cherie Ko (guitar, vocals and keys), Orestes Morfin (drums) and Panther Lau (bass).  Another source states that the band consists of Ko, Morfin and Sooyoung Park.  Apparently the members hail from Singapore, Korea and Canada.

The A-side of the single is "Summer 720".  The track begins with crunchy, psychedelic guitar and then transitions to a summery, mid-tempo pop track featuring Cherie's sweet vocals.  The B-side is "沙鼠E", which is an atmospheric dream pop tune that gathers steam very nicely over its three minute run.  With this slim introduction, familiarity with Ko's prior work, and the knowledge that they have been invited to play a Spain's Primavera Sound Festival in May,  I'll score this band as one to watch.  But even if you aren't inclined to track bands, this single stands on its own merits.

Twitter ( @boredspies )
Facebook for Pastelpower
Facebook for Obedient Wives Club

REVIEW: Dolly Varden - For A While

Why are Midwesterners so earnest? Could it be that the lack of mountains or ocean together with brutal winters and hot, humid summers bring a dose of humility? Or perhaps the landscape triggers a need to adopt an approach to life that is forgiving and generous in spirit?

I honestly don't know, but somehow a band as grounded and earnest as Dolly Varden could only hail from the Midwest, in their case, the capital of the Midwest, Chicago.

Dolly Varden, led by husband and wife Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen, has been making music since the early '90's, received great press, developed a devoted following, but never achieved the success that might have awaited this 5 piece band. And on their new release, For A While, it's clear that they accept that and are secure in who they are and what they do. And what they do is write and perform unusually well structured and thoughtful songs, moving comfortably from folk to alt-country to jangle pop ("Walking the Chalkline Again") to rock ("Done (Done)"), all exceptionally well done and with a distinct Midwestern wholesomeness that is completely at odds with the cynical and insincere age in which we live.

Which isn't to suggest the songs are light or always particularly upbeat.  For A While is quite often stark and keenly observational, looking at people and situations as they are. The opening track, "Del Mar, 1976", is a conversational recall of growing up, with good memories of sliding down hills, and seeing Buck Owens perform at the fairgrounds, but also the singer's depressed Mom upstairs crying in bed, and an alcoholic lady next door ignoring her poorly behaved twin children. But Dawson's voice is a naturally warm and soulful one, which makes these reminisces come off sympathetic without any trace of regret or bitterness.

On "From Saskatchewan to Chicago," Dawson traces the migration of the men in his family, starting with his great grandfather heading out for California, through the current day to Dawson in Chicago. I am reminded of the Silos and another great Midwestern roots rock band, The Vulgar Boatmen, in Dawson's plainspoken telling of the journey, its ups ("fishing all summer in the river behind our house, I was singing to the trees, singing to the water") and downs:

My grandpa took a job as a teacher in New Mexico
It was the height of the Depression
Thee was nowhere else to go. 

Christiansen takes the lead vocals on the title track:

I particularly like "Temperamental Complement" a more experimental rock-oriented track, and the beautiful folk song "Mayfly" (snippets of which are highlighted in the interview linked in the following paragraph). Dolly Varden has had the same lineup since 1995 and their comfort and trust in each other is evident. Guitarist Mark Balletto seems to add just the right lead or pedal steel fill at just the right time. The record benefits greatly from being recording essentially live in the studio, the making of it discussed here:

True to their sincere Midwestern roots, Dolly Varden close the record with a song called 
"Thank You", a spirited romp that without saying so exactly just screams with the joy of the band playing together and for us.

For A While is a very warm, engaging record. You should buy a copy. Visit the Dolly Varden web page where you can read a write-up by Dawson on each song, and buy cd's and vinyl. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Postpunk Discovery: Tunabunny - Genius Fatigue

Tunabunny is a band from Athens, GA with a funny name and two female vocalists (Brigette Herron and Mary Jane Hassell), playing guitar-based, free-form jazz-influenced postpunk... that's a stab at a "genre", but it's rare that a band will be able to call to mind influences as diverse as The Pixies, Captain Beefheart, The Breeders and Sonic Youth - all in one record. Their debut, Genius Fatigue, is out Tuesday (Jan. 29) on HHBTM Records, and is highly recommended.

I featured them a while back, when I first heard them - happy to see that the album is getting released. For the hard-rocking side, check out "Duchess for Nothing":

Check out the great guitars on "Form A Line":

Heck, there are great guitars throughout this record.

Here is a recent video, for "Locusts" - from a split 7" they did in 2012 with Shrag.

REVIEW: Dead Leaf Echo - Thought And Language

Thought and Language is the new album from NYC-based dreampop/shoegaze outfit Dead Leaf Echo.  They are playing it very lush and loud - the guitars are spectacular, and it seems each song features more soaring leads than the one before. There is a series of songs in the middle of the record - "Internal", "Language of the Waves" and "Memorytraces" - each between 4:40 and over 6:00 - that remind me of nothing quite so much as the music of Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine. The singer's voice is a bit reminiscent of Adam Franklin's, and the guitars soar, swirl and just kind of drown you in the sound.

They are new to me, but they have clearly been at this for a while - I am tremendously impressed with their playing, with the structure of the songs and most of all the quality of the music. It's headphone music, but I imagine it also comes across very well live - it's completely immersive.

The band has produced a video for "Kingmaker", the lead track from their upcoming album Thought And Language:

Kingmaker from dead leaf echo on Vimeo.

And here's the track:

Here's another video - a live performance of the album cut "Birth":

Thought And Language is due out in March, but you can listen to a little more of their music at their website now - and you should. This is a band with a very full, engaging rock sound.

Dead Leaf Echo website

New Blues Rock Discovery: Arc & Stones - Arc & Stones EP

Arc & Stones is a Brooklyn-based rock foursome (Dan Pellarin- Lead Vocals/ Rhythm Guitar/Keys, Ben Cramer- Lead Guitar/Vocals, Eddy Bayes- Bass/Vocals, Joe Doino- Drums) with a 5-song self-titled EP due out February 12. They have a strong rhythm section and Cramer can really wail on the guitar - it's all build around that and Pellarin's soulful voice. Here's the video for "Silence" - give this song time, it really builds and the guitar in the chorus is terrific:

And you can stream the song "Say Goodbye" here... similarly, it builds to a crescendo:

It's recommended if you enjoy the blues-based rock of Warren Haynes, Kings of Leon. or Gary Clark Jr., but this has more acoustic and slow-build components to it.