Saturday, February 9, 2013

SXSW Preview: Spider Bags

SXSW is not for everyone.  You need to be able to stay on your feet, drunk, for 15 hours a day for 4+ days while listening to loud, loud rock and roll (if you are there to hear folk music or dance bands, we cannot be friends).  However, if you can survive and enjoy that process, then SXSW is great.  Unfortunately, great just doesn't cut it when you pay $650+ for a badge and another $1000+ for flights, rooms, etc.  To take SXSW to the next level of mind-blowingly incredible, as it is most years, you have to prepare.  This is the Super Bowl of Rock and you should prepare like you are the head coach of the greatest Super Bowl team of all-time (the Pittsburgh Steelers (of course)).

There are two ways to properly prepare:  (1) skim through the 2000+ bands listed on the SXSW site, listening to those that have promising descriptions; or (2) attend with friends who have great taste and just follow them around begging for advice for 4 days.  I do both.

Over the next month or so, I (with some help from the aforementioned friends) will be previewing and reviewing some of the bands that we expect to be the sleeper highlights of SXSW.  I'll start here with one of my favorite bands, Spider Bags, THE band that you should have heard in 2012.

I am not going to say a lot about these guys because their music speaks for itself.  Spider Bags are the Charles Bukowski of wonderfully rough and majestic drunken southern garage rock.  Lead singer and primary songwriter Dan McGee, who I hope (both for the sake of his own health and my selfish need to hear this band for the next 20 years) is not living the life of the characters in his songs, musically and lyrically captures the misery of being down and out, and the joy of fighting back against it, better than anyone in rock.

In their 2007 release, A Celebration of Hunger, Spider Bags blew me away with a record that included 2 or 3 of my favorite tracks of the last 10 years, including the epic "Darkness in My Heart": 

Despite its aching and depressing beauty, "Darkness in My Heart" is not even the best song on the record.  Instead, McGee's "Waking Up Drunk," seemingly about the consequences of trying to drink away that Darkness, stands out as a true classic.  I like to think of it as the long lost bonus track from Beggars Banquet that would have made that record the best of the Rolling Stones' releases.

Enough dwelling on their glorious past.  More recently, in 2012, Spider Bags released the stunning Shake My Head, a gloriously sloppy and soulful rock masterpiece.  Brilliantly recognized as the #1 most overlooked record of 2012 by the well qualified folks over at Pop Matters, Shake My Head, is a wild and rollicking soul and rock guitar romp.  Get it.  Every song on the record is great.

Grab a beer and bottle of whisky and enjoy!

And, if you are going, don't miss these guys at SXSW.


New High-Energy Guitar Rock Discovery: All Sensory Void - Relax Man You're Actually Just Energy Condensed To A Slow Vibration

With that reassuring (and true, as far as it goes) title, Nico Blues member Eric Goldberg (aka All Sensory Void) embarks on a terrific six-song pop/punk journey. Guitars and vocals are very good, and the pace is exhilarating. I like the growling guitar in the leads, and I like the slashing guitars behind the chorus in songs like "Essentially Existential". Yeah, I just like guitars. So this is right in my sweet spot.

Here's the first track, "All Sensory..."

All Sensory Void Website

New Post Punk Discovery: The Dirty Nil/Northern Primitive (split single)

From north of the border, two new friends have emerged... The Dirty Nil has a new record out, a split 7" with Northern Primitive. It's plenty heavy - the first cut, "Zombie Eyed" has a punk energy that demands you play it loud, and the second, "Positive Bondar" is a little more drawn out - but no less heavy. Pounding drums, heavy guitars, shouted vocals - pretty exhilarating stuff.

Here's the video (Northern Primitive go first on this):

Here's an earlier track from a short EP by The Dirty Nil, "Little Metal Baby Fist":

Here's an earlier track from Northern Primitive, "Docking Guard" - and this 4-song EP is available on Bandcamp as well:

Friday, February 8, 2013

New Pop/Punk Discovery: Shy Mirrors - Negative Collector

Shy Mirrors (Mike Downey, a Swede by way of Chicago, IL) is a fantastic discovery - their new album, Negative Collector, may be the best thing you hear this week. It sounds like Weezer having a fight with the Ramones. It contains elements of garage, surf, punk and power pop and the thing about it is, it's better than I can possibly make it sound.

If, like me, you continue to enjoy the sounds of Jeff the Brotherhood, Pujol and the patron saint of Rocksteady74's WYMA output, Ty Segall, you ought to waste no more time reading - just give a listen.

Free downloads are available for the tracks streamed above:  "Tinted Windows" - a 1:50 guitar jam that calls to mind the ..., and for "First Wave Out" - an even wilder skate-punk sounding track that just thrashes its way through 1:43 at the end of the record. You getting this? Sub-2:00 jams, Ramones comparisons and Weezer melodicism (is that a word?)... sure, you can have these two songs for free, but you ought to buy the whole thing. Not only will it improve your music collection, but it will encourage Downey to record more music.

Negative Collector is out this week on Big School Records.

Shy Mirrors Website

REVIEW: Fear of Men - Early Fragments

Fear of Men is no stranger to regular readers of these pages, as we have highlighted their singles and demos on a number of occasions.  The Brighton, UK quartet is preparing their debut album of new material, and will play at SXSW in March.  However, before those events they are releasing an eight-track retrospective entitled Early Fragments.  The album presents, in reverse chronological order, the material the band has released to date.  I expect that Early Fragments will be of particular interest to old and new US fans because the songs collected here were primarily European releases.  So this is a rare chance to reach back and (quite efficiently) possess the historical record of an exciting young band before their debut album (coming later this year) launches the next stage of their career.

The songs on Early Fragments reveal the band's focus on melody, often infused with a sense of urgency or anxiety, and lyrics inspired by art and literature.  Jess Weiss' understated vocals are pitch perfect, with a quality that may remind some of Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays.  I expect everyone will have their own favorites, but for me "Green Sea" (video provided below), "Doldrums" and "Ritual Confession" are quintessential Fear of Men songs.

Here is the video for "Green Sea" --

fear of men - green sea from samuel craven on Vimeo.

Fear of Men are Jessica Weiss (vocals/guitar), Daniel Falvey (guitar), Michael Miles (drums) and Robyn Edwards (bass).

Early Fragments is available on February 12 on Kanine Records in vinyl and digital formats.

Twitter ( @fearofmen )

Friday Nuggets- The Troggs "I Can't Control Myself" (plus bonus)

As we wrote about here earlier this week, Reg Presley, lead singer for the Troggs died. Had they did nothing else, The Troggs would have still been Hall of Fame level artists just for "Wild Thing", certainly one of the greatest rock'n'roll songs of all time.

But they did many more songs that made them one of the foundational architects of the garage and later punk rock movements.

Here's "I Can't Control Myself," all full of sex and teenage desire, and great guitar sounds and those terrific Reg Presley vocals:

Plus a bonus, from 1967, "With a Girl Like You", certainly one that the Ramones and Buzzcocks listened to quite a bit:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Blooper covers Beat Happening

Blooper, the promising garage pop band from Seattle only stayed out of our sight for a few weeks (review of their January EP Long Distance here).  Why are they back?  Because they cleverly covered "Teenage Caveman" by one of my favorite Pacific Northwest bands -- The Beat Happening.  And they have made it available as a free download.  They do know the way to a music fan's heart.

Bandcamp link for the Long Distance EP

New (Free) Garage Rock Discovery: Bill Times A Billion - Say It Nicer

Bill Times A Billion is a Buffalo, NY-based duo playing garage rock with endearing simplicity and female vocals that kind of remind me of His Name Is Alive. Their EP Say It Nicer is out now (released Jan. 7) and currently they are giving it away at Bandcamp, so it's not like you need me to spend a lot of time describing it - you can check it out for yourself at your leisure.

Perhaps the most endearing part is their taste in covers: Tommy James & The Shondells is a good one, as is "Bring It On Home" (the Sam Cooke one, not the Led Zeppelin), but better yet is "Motor Away". The name of our blog made them reach out to us, and good thing:

So, the lesson here, garage bands, is that Guided by Voices is a sure way to a bright future.

Bill Times A Billion Website

Introducing: Just Handshakes and single "London Bound"

The members of Just Handshakes met at school in Leeds, UK.  In April 2012, they released a cassette EP with eight tracks, and they have toured in support of several major acts.  Later this year they will release their debut LP, Say It, on California label Bleeding Gold.  The first single release from the album is the excellent "London Bound".  Featuring clear female vocals, jangly guitars, sparkling keys and driving percussion, it has the unassuming freshness of those C86 tracks that many of us fell in love with, or to, years ago.

"London Bound" is available on February 18.  It will be available as a free download.  The B-side is a remix of the title track.

Twitter ( @justhandshakes )
Bandcamp for April 2012 album

REVIEW: Unknown Mortal Orchestra -- II

The first time I ever even heard of Unknown Mortal Orchestra was when they took the stage at King's Barcade in Raleigh a couple of years ago, right before the release of their debut album. They were opening for another, quite unremarkable, band who, in keeping with the Ethos of John, shall remain unnamed. The thing I remember most is wondering how in the world UMO was able to lace these psychedelic pop songs with some of the most incendiary guitar playing I'd ever seen live. This was about a week before they released their debut album. That turned out to be a really nice record. With the exception of a few songs (the wonderful "Nerve Damage" comes to mind), the production was a good deal more restrained than their live presence. Again, it was really good -- the songs stand on their own -- but a little more investment by the listener eventually would yield a trove of subtly beautiful and really difficult guitar playing pushing everything along.

Of course, that's far from the first time I've had that feeling. The early Meat Puppets shows back in the 80s were sonic immolations, whereas their albums (I'm thinking circa II through about Huevos), were exercises in restraint (jazzy, groovy restraint, to be sure, but restraint nonetheless). Still, I loved those albums just the way they were.

The new UMO album, II, released this week on the estimable Jagjaguwar label, follows the Meat Puppets template in more than just the numeric titling thing and the guitar/bass/drums trio thing. UMO's guitarist/vocalist, Ruban Nielsen, like his MP counterpart Curt Kirkwood, writes songs with super-indulgent guitar parts, but then use the production process so as to avoid smacking you in the face with them.  And that doesn't mean the songs don't rock out, for example:

As good as the first album was, I see this one as quite an improvement. The rhythm section still occupies a back corner of the production, but the effect is warm and inviting. Check out the bass work by Jacob Portrait on the brilliant "Faded in the Morning".

At times on this album, you'll feel like you're listening to a 70s soul band, and then at other times it evokes the old music of Prince. At all times though, you know you're listening to surpassingly talented musicians. You need to own this strangely wonderful record, and it goes without saying that you shouldn't miss them when they play your town.

UMO Home

UMO Facebook

Jagjaguwar Records

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When You Motor Away - January

The ears worked over time in January.  88 discrete  posts in 31 days.  Here is a veritable sonic sampler for your listening pleasure:  a full day of music - 452 tracks.

New Folk-Rock Discovery: Torres - Torres

Torres is the name under which Nashville artist MacKenzie Scott records her evocative, country-tinged folk rock.

Scott has a killer voice and a pretty good way with an electric guitar - and after finding a sound that works for her, she's definitely raised her profile recently. In her words: "My family pitched in to get me a Gibson 335 last year for Christmas... I didn't quite find the sound I was looking for until I started playing electric."

I'm reminded a bit of Richard Buckner (the spare instrumentation, jagged electric guitar and wrenching vocal performance, for starters). Like Buckner, the songs vary from spare, guitar/voice only, to songs with strings, to fuller rockers with strong electric guitar leads... and the voice is always the focal point.

The album was recorded at Tony Joe White's house in Nashville. Here's an album promo video:

Here's "Jealousy and I":

And here's a free download of "Mother Earth, Father God" - a good showcase for her voice.

The album was released last week. She'll be playing in Nashville later this week, then taking a short trip to spread the word about the record:

02.08.13 - Nashville, TN @ The Basement (Record release show)
02.12.13 - Nashville, TN @ Grimey's In-Store (6 PM)
02.20.13 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
02.22.13 - New York, NY @ Cake Shop
02.24.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ The Paperbox

Learn more at Torres Website.

REVIEW: Eels - Wonderful, Glorious

Eels (Mark Oliver Everett, aka E) has always been capable of both angry, fuzzy rock and heartbreakingly beautiful ballads, often side-by-side on the same album... and Wonderful, Glorious is no exception. 

The opener, "Bombs Away", and several other songs here stick to a successful Eels formula - big drum beat, extra-fuzzy guitars and shouted vocals. Here's "New Alphabet" - a blues-based rocker with a wicked snake of a guitar line, that explodes about a minute in:

But to me, the ballads on Wonderful, Glorious really stand out. The prettiest song on the record is "True Original", with "I'm Building a Shrine" close behind. A word about Eels and rockers vs. ballads - I have almost always preferred guitar rock to ballads on rock albums, and with most artists I find that the ballads are often throwaways - as if they are de rigueur, or just there to give the label something to put on the radio or a soundtrack. But I get a sense that Everett actually puts more into the ballads... thinking back a couple of records to Blinking Lights, where the ballads were so beautifully played and evocative. Then again, what do I know about what Everett thinks or why he does what he does? My opinions are, of course, my own... but listen for yourself:

It's a very good record - one of the better Eels records. It builds wonderfully to the terrific title song that closes the record with all kinds of pop touches - engaging drum rolls, quiet keyboards, E's best vocals on the record. As an album, it's very well-made. For me, I don't know what he could do to top Blinking Lights - that was a monumental achievement. But a new Eels record is cause for celebration and taken on its own, Wonderful, Glorious is an engaging record, and an enjoyable listen.  It's out this week - on Vagrant Records.

New song from Mikal Cronin; album to follow

Mikal Cronin, long-time Ty Segall collaborator and and exciting artist in his own right, has an album coming out on Merge Records in early May.  While waiting for May, we can enjoy track "Shout It Out", which has just been made available.  "Shout it Out" displays Cronin's knowing feel for pop music and serious songwriting chops.



It's Wednesday and time for another curated playlist from Reverberation Radio.  Chase away (or welcome) the winter blues.

1. The Soul Four - Misery
2. Jimmy McCracklin - The Drag
3. Freddie King - The Bossa Nova Watusi Twist
4. The Fabulous Denos - Once I Had A Love
5. Gary U.S. Bonds - I Want to Hollar
6. The Beatles - I’m Happy Just To Dance With You
7. The Spinners - Sweet Thing
8. Otis Leavill - When The Music Grooves
9. Georgie Fame - Yeh Yeh
10. The Stratfords - Never Leave Me
11. Marie Kaigler - I Am The Oppressed (read by Jim Reese - Detroit, MI)

REVIEW: Fawn Spots and Cum Stain - Wedding Dress

Yes, it is a solemn moment, the joining together of Fawn Spots, from the UK, and California's Cum Stain for a split LP of raucous rock, with rites performed by UK label Bad Paintings and US label Burger Records.  Noise rock trio Fawn Spots have been on these pages before, having impressed us with their energy and ability to pump out noisy, fast-paced pop-rock that doesn't skimp on the hooks and melody.  Cum Stain is new to us, but their tracks here reveal a scuzzy but endearing brand of slacker-thrasher punk/pop.

Wedding Dress contains four tracks by Fawn Spots followed by six tracks by Cum Stain, although the division of labor is about equal in terms of minutes.  The album is indescribably infectious, and I highly recommend it.  I don't have many tracks to share with you, but you can stream "Watered Down" here for a taste of Fawn Spots.

If you prefer video for the track, view here --

By the way, Fawn Spots are Jonathan Meager, Oliver Grabowski and Sean Joseph Hughes.

And for a sample of Cum Stain we have "Bloody Fingertips" and the ear worm "Rollin Wrong" for you.

The Bad Paintings edition of Wedding Dress is on vinyl and digital download.  The Burger Records edition is available on cassette.

Bandcamp for the album
Bad Paintings
Bandcamp for digital download
Burger Records
Fawn Spots on Facebook
Fawn Spots on Tumblr
Fawn Spots on Twitter ( @fwnspts )
Cum Stain website (warning, not all aspects are safe for work)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cave Singers - new song - "The Easy Way", tour dates

We wrote about the Cave Singers last spring as they embarked on a tour supporting No Witch, and this time they're releasing another album, Naomi on Jagjaguwar, and going on tour in support of that one.

They're also making a song available to check out:

And here's another cut, "Have To Pretend", premiered in December:

The album is available to pre-order (and get it early) here.

And they've got a busy spring planned:

03/27/13 Salt Lake City, UT- Urban Lounge
03/28/13 Telluride, CO- Fly Me to the Moon Saloon
03/29/13 Denver, CO- Gothic Theatre
03/31/13 Chicago, IL- Empty Bottle
04/01/13 St. Louis, MO- Old Rock House
04/02/13 Louisville, KY- Zanzabar
04/03/13 Nashville, TN- The Basement
04/04/13 Philadelphia, PA- Johnny Brenda's
04/06/13 Brooklyn, NY- Music Hall of Williamsburg
04/07/13 Allston, MA- Brighton Music Hall
04/09/13 Washington DC- Rock and Roll Hotel
04/10/13 Chapel Hill, NC- Local 506
04/11/13 Asheville, NC- Emerald Lounge
04/12/13 Atlanta, GA- The Earl
04/13/13 St. Augustine, FL- The Original Cafe Eleven
04/14/13 Tampa, FL- Crowbar
04/15/13 Orlando, FL- Will's Pub
04/17/13 Baton Rouge, LA- Spanish Moon
04/18/13 Dallas, TX- Club Dada
04/19/13 Houston, TX- Fitzgerald's Upstairs
04/20/13 Austin, TX- Red 7
04/22/13 Phoenix, AZ- Rhythm Room
04/23/13 Tucson, AZ- Solar Culture
04/24/13 San Diego, CA- Casbah
04/26/13 Los Angeles, CA- Bootleg Theater
04/27/13 Santa Cruz, CA- The Crepe Place
04/28/13 San Francisco, CA- Great American Music Hall
04/29/13 Eugene, OR- Cozmic Pizza
05/02/13 Vancouver, BC- The Commodore Ballroom
05/03/13 Portland, OR- Wonder Ballroom
05/04/13 Seattle, WA- The Showbox

REVIEW: Bleeding Rainbow - Yeah Right

On their third full length album, and first under their new name, Philadelphia's Bleeding Rainbow has drawn elements from their prior LPs.  Thus, Yeah Right has shoegaze tracks and more straightforward rock-pop tracks.  But there is nothing wrong with having your artistic feet in more than one camp, so long as the songs are good.  And given the expansion of the group from a duo to a quartet, it isn't surprising that they still are working on styles.  Accordingly, if you are a shoegaze pop fan, Yeah Right delivers enough tracks in that vein to fill your needs.  If your preferred musical dose is a more rock oriented pop, tracks such as "Pink Ruff", "Drift Away" and "Waking Dream" should strike your fancy.  And as I feel those are among the better tracks on the album, I've included them below.

My impression is that Bleeding Rainbow isn't the finished article.  But on evidence here, there is enough ability to get to where they want to go.  In the meantime, there is plenty on Yeah Right to like where they are right now.

"Pink Ruff" --

Bleeding Rainbow is Rob Garcia on guitar, Sarah Everton on vocals, Greg Frantz on drums and Al Creedon on guitar.  Yeah Right is out now on Kanine Records.

Twitter ( @RainbowBleeding )

RIP - Reg Presley (The Troggs)

Reg Presley of the The Troggs died Monday at the age of 71 following a battle with lung cancer.
Presley was the lead singer for the Troggs, the seminal 1960's garage-punk British band whose signature song "Wild Thing" remains one of rock'n'roll's finest moments.

The Troggs had a swagger and primitive guitar sound that made them the prototype for punk rock. Iggy Pop, The Ramones and many others cited Presley as a major influence. Jimi Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire before smashing it to smithereens when he covered "Wild Thing" at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, that perhaps being the only way to top the Troggs' version.

But The Troggs had more than one gear, and Reg Presley's composition "Love Is All Around" was a beautiful pop masterpiece that was later covered by R.E.M.

R.E.M. were such big fans that Buck, Mills and Berry brought Presley to Athens Georgia to back him on a record released in 1992 entitled Athens Andover for their respective hometowns, with Presley taking all the lead vocals.  The R.E.M. contingent and Peter Holsapple (The dBs) penned "Nowhere Road" for Presley on Athens Andover:

Presley and The Troggs continued to perform until 2011.

Presley also wrote a book about crop circles and similar phenomenon, Wild Things They Don't Tell Us (2004).

Return to WYMA this Friday as this week's Nuggets feature will also honor The Troggs.

REVIEW: Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

There are at least two times when a band's career arc gets a bit more scrutiny than other times.  One is the delicate sophomore album.  The other is the first album after a jump to a major label.  Scotland's Frightened Rabbit more than passed the first of those examinations with the highly praised 2008 The Midnight Organ Fight.  The time for the second examination is nigh, as February 4 brought the major label release of  Pedestrian Verse, the band's fourth LP and first for Atlantic Records.  And this latter test is the bigger one, in part because the band wasn't well known before 2008.  But even more because those that felt that The Winter of Mixed Drinks, their third album, was a bit overproduced and sterile compared to The Midnight Organ Fight might wonder whether a larger production budget and major label pressures would further remove the band from the emotional intensity and immediacy and corresponding raw presentation that originally drew them to the band.

To my ears, Frightened Rabbit has easily passed the second test.  Pedestrian Verse includes the slow-fast, loud-soft dynamics, anthemic choruses and aching vocals that their long time fans demand of them (and that the band does so well).  And digging a bit deeper, the lyrical content moves somewhat away from the more general focus of  The Winter of Mixed Drinks and towards the more brutal and confessional approach of The Midnight Organ Fight.  This can only be regarded as a positive, as this is the space in which chief songwriter Scott Hutchison excels, combining his talent with turning a phrase with his penchant for meshing his emotions and observations into musical paintings for all to share.  Raw nerves, tears, and redemption shared with all.  While the production is full, it isn't distracting.  Whether that means there is less production, or more focused production I don't know, but the result is welcome.  It is my sense that overall this album is a disciplined affair from the conception to the finish, only using what serves and supports the song.

As is the case with any album, some songs speak more to the listener than others.  In my case, I'm especially fond of "Housing (in)" and "Housing (out)", the songs about returning from and leaving to go on tour, "State Hospital", "Holy", "December's Traditions" and, most especially, the glorious "Woodpile".  Two of them are available to stream below --

While Pedestrian Verse reveals a band that is playing to its strengths, it shouldn't be regarded as a retrenchment.  The focus has gone into the songwriting and performances.  The outcome includes the flesh and blood intimacy, and innate sincerity, of their past work and simply makes it more accessible, and less idiosyncratic.   And all of that results in what I believe to be their best, and by a great length their most consistent, album to date.  It is the statement of a band that has grown, and expects to continue growing.

Frightened Rabbit are Scott Hutchison, Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan, and Gordon Skene.

My final comment addresses an ethical dilemma   If reports are accurate, Scott's best lyrical output has occurred during and/or just after a romantic break up.  As Frightened Rabbit fans, that puts us in an uncomfortable position.  We don't want to wish misfortune to anyone, but we do want our music.

Twitter ( @ FRabbits )

Monday, February 4, 2013

REVIEW: The Spinto Band - Cool Cocoon

Nine months after the release of Shy Pursuit, The Spinto Band returns with a new full-length record, Cool Cocoon, recorded at their Delaware studio and released on Spintonic Recordings.

For music like this, I tend to favor the poppy, upbeat stuff like "Amy + Jen", with an almost impossibly high vocal and catchy combinations like drums and acoustic guitar on the same beat - it's little touches like that throughout this record are a large part of its charm. Another of my favorites is album opener "Shake It Off" - as upbeat and catchy a bit of power pop as I've heard in years... but it's a sad song, isn't it? "Shake it off, I'm leaving/I've had enough, I'm unhappy with dreamin'..."

The guitars and Monkee/Beatle vocal harmonies abound throughout Cool Cocoon, as do some really good acoustic/electric guitar combinations. And, again, it's little touches, like the way they swing into the chorus in "What I Love" and the way "Memo" builds slowly to a very full pop sound, that make you want to take the trip throughout this record with them. "Memo" is a beautiful song, full of a lot of different sounds and tempo changes that all work seamlessly together. Immediately following it is the downtempo number "Look Away", which is possibly even prettier.

Back into the upbeat stuff, "Enemy" and "Na Na Na" build on a well-played backbeats, and are full of guitar and vocal hooks... until the album closes on "Breath Goes In", a number that builds from a bare vocal/acoustic intro to a full, lush chorus (backed by more irresistible hooks) and back again - and the tight vocal harmonies appropriately close out the album. This is a very good pop record, and the fact that it's their second in nine months is evidence of some very special talent. It's well worth your while to check it out.

Spinto Band Website (pre-order to receive bonus tracks)

Wet Nuns - new single "Broken Teeth" from upcoming EP

Sheffield, UK's Wet Nuns are as down and dirty as blues-based glam punk rock gets. We've featured them before, and they've been very active in 2012 - with an EP due out near the end of February. For now, you can check out the EP's title track here:

Wet Nuns Website

Bixby Knolls - Free download of "Runnin' and Runnin'" from Near And Undear

We've raved about the punk/garage/glam sounds of LA-based Bixby Knolls before, and are happy to let you know that they have made a track available for download - if you missed our review, click here to read why we think you ought to check it out... and download "Runnin' and Runnin'" (which I think is their best song)  to listen for yourself:

The record is out now and you can learn more at their website, including tour dates.

Bixby Knolls Website

REVIEW: When Nalda Became Punk - A Farewell to Youth

It may be useful to mention at the beginning of this review that the Spanish duo known as When Nalda Became Punk is not in any way, shape, form or sound a punk band.  However, what they manifestly are is an exciting indie pop band that deserves a wide audience.  If there is justice in the pop world, their debut on Shelflife Records, A Farewell to Youth, will push them to the top.  Originally, the band was Elena Sestelo, who recorded a few singles between 2006 and 2011, when Roberto Cibeira was added.  Their first single was "When Nalda Became Punk", and Elena and Roberto had a song and a name.  Elena provides vocals and guitar, and Roberto supplies guitars, keyboards and backing vocals.

A Farewell to Youth was recorded in the band's home town of Vigo, Spain in 2012.  Following the path trod by fellow indie popsters Heavenly, Helen Love, and Spanish bands such as Moving Pictures and Vacaciones, When Nalda Became Punk gifts your ears with a treasure trove of jangly guitars, beautiful lyrics and absolutely top class melodies.  This album has quickly become one of my favorite finds of the year.

You can test the great sound on "When It'll Come", which is available as a free download --

A Farewell to Youth is released on February 5 on Shelflife Records.

Shelflife Records

REVIEW: Chris Stamey - Lovesick Blues

Chris Stamey has long been one of my favorites -- a gifted songwriter, performer, producer and tastemaker -- in my view every bit as significant a musical beacon as T-Bone Burnett or Don Was. But Stamey opted for a lower profile decades ago when he left the bright lights / big city of New York City for Chapel Hill NC. Since then, Stamey has made his own records, while on the production side worked mainly with local artists, playing a large role in the artistic and commercial development of fellow Tar Heels Ryan Adams and Tift Merritt. Of course Stamey is best known as a founding member of The dBs, whose reunion record Falling Off the Sky topped my best of 2012 list.  

Lovesick Blues is not a sort of dBs solo record, as few of these songs would have fit in with the power pop, bar band vibe there.  This is a sophisticated art-pop affair, with help from the North Carolina Symphony and many others. It's a modern day Phil Spector or Brian Wilson record - carefully crafted, richly textured, whip-smart and gorgeous sounding.

Let's listen to the opening track "Skin":

XTC's like-minded pop avatar Andy Partridge consulted with Stamey on the record, and served as an inspiration for one of my favorite songs here "You n Me n XTC" about a long road trip where XTC held forth on the car stereo.

Honoring Picasso, Dean Smith or both? 
Another standout is "Anyway", which channels a latter day R.E.M. song like "At My Most Beautiful" channeling Big Star channeling Brian Wilson. The search for the perfect pop sound goes on....

Stamey's bio says: “I wanted to make a record that could make you feel less alone, like someone else has been there before you. I was thinking about records like The Ballad of Todd Rundgren and Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter and Robert Wyatt’s “At Last I Am Free” and Richard Thompson’s Small Town Romance. Those are all records that were a source of comfort to me at various points in my life. They were records that seemed to speak one-on-one, records that weren’t trying to sell you anything."

And Stamey achieved that intimacy and emotional connection throughout, but particularly on the title track "Lovesick Blues", equally beautiful and bittersweet. This title track is a very moving song that Stamey says is dedicated to his friend, the late Sam Moss, a North Carolina guitarist:

Every song on this record will reveal itself more to you with repeated listenings. Stamey put a tremendous amount of careful thought and high craft into Lovesick Blues, and any work that the listener puts into this record will be rewarded.  

Artist web page:  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dark Horses - new double A-side single

The UK's Dark Horses released their Richard Fearless produced LP Black Music on Last Gang Records in the fall of 2012.  Rhythmic indie noir featuring the arresting vocals of Lisa Elle, their Swedish siren, and icy guitars and synths, it has provided a platform for some enviable gigs.  They are releasing two of the tracks, "Traps" and "Boxing Day", as a double A-side single on February 11.

Dark Horses are Lisa Elle (vocals/harmonica), Bobby Waterson (organ/guitar), Andy Bang (guitar), Steve Ingham (drums), Harry Bohay-Nowell (bass/synths), and Tommy Chain (percussion).

Here is the video for "Traps" --

Twitter ( @darkhorsesmusic )
Last Gang Records

New Irish Hard Rock Discovery: And So I Watch You From Afar - "Like a Mouse"

And So I Watch You From Afar is a heavy guitar rock band from Ireland - members are Rory Friers and Niall Kennedy on guitars, Johnny Adger on bass and Chris Wee on drums ... It's super-heavy, and mostly instrumental. Think The Fucking Champs or Trail of Dead - or Mogwai, but with super-fast guitars.

Their upcoming album is called All Hail Bright Futures, and they've made a preview track available for purchase:

And here's a free track from their 2012 album, Gangs:

And here's a video for the aptly-named "Set Guitars To Kill":

It's on Sargent House Records.