Saturday, March 9, 2013

REVIEW: The Lions - This Generation


The Lions are an LA-based reggae outfit featuring 18 members and five vocalists, among them Robbie Shakespeare's cousin Black Shakespeare. It's an assembly of great musicians who share, in addition to their obvious talent, a deep reverence for roots and dub reggae - the kind of stuff that keeps you searching through the used record bins in the hope of finding one more Scratch Perry or King Tubby record that's new to you, that you've never heard before - because they just don't make that stuff anymore, right?

Well, good news. Somebody makes that stuff now. And we have the fine people at Stones Throw to thank for the Lions' latest album, This Generation. It's got all the ingredients: deep rhythms, scratch guitar, horns and extremely soulful vocals. On the song "Revelations", Black Shakespeare takes the lead, and the harmony vocals are stellar. And the extended horn section on "New Girl" (featuring James King) is delightful... but keeping in mind that all good reggae starts with a solid drum and bass underpinning, that's the element that makes this such a good record.

To get you started, here's a soundcheck video:




Being an American band, the Lions aren't simply replicating the dub sounds of the 70's - such a thing might be impossible outside of Jamaica anyway - and it's on songs like "Pieces of a Man" where the influences of American soul music show through - and highlight the specific talent of this band. In lesser hands, an attempted melding of Philly falsetto soul and reggae might just fall flat - here, it shows the best of both worlds. And have you ever wondered what a reggae version of "Jamie's Cryin'" might sound like? Well, for starters, it's heavy on the vocal harmonies.


Here's the video for the title track - a timeless reggae song:



Here's a deep dub cut, "Padre Ichiro":



And here's the dub of the title cut:



It was released Feb. 18, and you can listen and buy at Stones Throw.


New song from Cheatahs - "Fall"


Recently, Scott brought British band Cheatahs and their EP Extended Plays to our attention (WYMA post here). Their sound is enchanting and sort of enveloping - Scott name-checked Dinosaur Jr., Sugar, Ride and Teenage Fanclub... and names like those are not thrown around lightly. That means "pay attention".

Since then, they've made a new song available from their upcoming album on Wichita Records:



This is a tasty track - with more layered guitars and vocals and some almost-whimsical synthesizer treats in the outro. Along with the recently-released EP, it certainly whets the appetite for the album, due out in the summer. And they're on tour - starting with several shows at SXSW, then around the US in March and April. I was going to post the tour dates, but they're all sold out. So if you want to see the Cheatahs, Wavves and Fidlar in March and April, you might have to get creative.

Cheatahs website


REVIEW: Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt


Waxahatchee is Katie Crutchfield, with backing from Keith Spencer, Kyle Gilbride, and her twin sister, Allison Crutchfield. But it's Katie Crutchfield first and foremost. Her voice (both her songwriting voice and her terrific singing voice) is the anchor. Thought this album is arranged with a really good rhythm section and post-punk guitars, nothing drowns her out... and that is as it should be.

Crutchfield is a rare talent, and knowledge of that seems to be gaining rapidly. Though I haven't seen it, I expect some will make a comparison between Crutchfield and Liz Phair. I'd endorse that - both are marked by a frankness that is sometimes overwhelming for a casual music listener, but both also make fantastic rock music that - whether you go looking for soul-baring poetry or not - just absolutely compels you to listen.

It's hard to pick a favorite song - there isn't a bad one on the record - but some lyrics bubble up out of the mix and some of the guitar lines are irresistible.

Regarding the lyrics, specifically, check out "Brother Bryan": "We're only 30% dead" (and here we were thinking about how young you are, Katie!) and "We destroy all of our esteem". Enjoying this music, I find myself hoping she's only singing about self-destruction - because we need her to keep making records.

Regarding the guitars, "Coast to Coast" is a gem, start to finish,



Another highlight: the spare strumming behind the stark vocal of the intro to "Peace and Quiet", feeding into a full-on band attack with what sounds like Crutchfield's voice double-tracked in the chorus:



And the swinging acoustic/electric interplay of "Lips and Limbs" is notable - but, again, everything on Cerulean Salt is notable in one way or another. Especially that voice. Looking forward to hearing lots more from her.

It's available from Don Giovanni Records, having been released Tuesday Mar. 5.



SXSW Preview: The Midgetmen's Texas Jumpstart #6



Though they will tell you otherwise, the Midgetmen (once referred to as Austin's "slop punk mavens") care about you and about the sounds that go into your ear holes.  Sure, they formed with the intent of playing a single noisy show and then breaking up.  It is also true that they changed that plan when they realized that being in a band can get you free beer.  Since that awakening, the Midgetmen have chugged along, literally and figuratively, for nearly 11 years, gradually becoming the "old men" of Austin's DIY guitar rock scene.  Along the way, they've released several records (one of which, Loud Enough, was reviewed on this blog right here), played tons of shows, toured various regions of the US, handed out free beer and odd freebies to their friends and fans (fried chicken, champagne, and iPods come immediately to mind), briefly morphed into a Weird Al Tribute Band at Fun, Fun, Fun Fest, and had the good fortune to play shows with the likes of Titus Andronicus, The Wrens, the Henry Clay People, and many others.

About 7 years ago, after unsuccessfully trying to bribe their way into SXSW with a Midgetmen labeled bottle of MD 20/20 ("MM 20/20")(a/k/a Mad Dog), they decided to start their own show, the Texas Jumpstart, which, over its five year life, has become the best and most consistent single show during SXSW.  Thanks to the Midgetmen's commitment to find great bands to play the Jumpstart (particularly that of their bassist and promotional guru Marc Perlman, who spends days, if not weeks, listening to hundreds of bands to "curate" this show), the Jumpstart has featured bands like the Henry Clay People, Grant Hart, Ezra Furman (both solo and with the Harpoons), Country Mice, Golden Dogs, the Breakup Society, Hounds Below, Plants & Animals, the Gay Blades, Palomar, Spinto Band, AA Bondy, Franz Nicolay, Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, and Hollerado.

Despite the absence of some of last year's standouts from SXSW this year (and therefore from the Jumpstart as well), this year's Jumpstart promises to be the best ever.  If I told you that there was going to be a free show that included PAWS, Diarrhea Planet, Spider Bags, Hounds Below, Warm Soda, the 4onthefloor, BRONCHO, Team Spirit, Automagik, the Sights, a band called the Beards that only plays songs about Beards, exciting young newcomers Audacity and  Big Ups, as well as the show patrons, The Midgetmen...

Would that be something you might be interested in?



Of course you would!

Lucky for you, I am telling you that this free show is taking place on Thursday, March 14 at Side Bar beginning at Noon.  If past experience is any indication, this will be the best show, from beginning to end, at SXSW 2013.  For your rock and roll previewing experience, the Midgetmen have created a YouTube Playlist so that you can get up to speed on what you are going to see (or what you are missing):



In the event that you prefer streaming audio, here are some songs you might/should hear at the show:




By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, my brother is in the Midgetmen.  However, don't let that "bias" dissuade you from attending this show.  The Midgetmen don't make a dime off of this event.  In fact, they lose money on it.  And they do it all for us.

Now, if only I could talk them into doing a remake of the Captain and Tennile's "Love Will Keep Us Together" as "Beer Will Keep Us Together."


SXSW Preview: FIDLAR

Photograph copyright © Richard Victoria

The first "official" show that I saw at SXSW 2011 was a completely unknown (to me, at least) band called FIDLAR, which, the band advised, stood for "Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk."  Admittedly, we went to see them because we didn't really have a better choice in that early Wednesday slot.  Their SXSW site demo sounded like young, energetic California stoner, skater punks.  How could that not be, at least, interesting?  A song or two into FIDLAR's set made it clear that they were a lot more than just interesting and they had the small crowd fist pumping and chanting along with the chorus of "Cheap Beer" ("I drink cheap beer, so what, fuck you.") They have since made a great video for that one:



There could not have been a better way to kick off the official SXSW shows.

By the time FIDLAR had told the crowd where, along the highway, they had buried their drugs and finished ripping through their set, it was clear that FIDLAR was on the verge of something special. Maybe they weren't the next Nirvana, but maybe they were. Like Nirvana, it was clear that these guys had an uncanny ability to combine memorable pop hooks with punk rock, lyrics with attitude, and angry guitars in a blistering live show that inspired kids to immediately want to pummel each other. Clearly, something special was brewing.

Then came the videos, discovered after SXSW, which are some of the best DIY rock videos ever created. These wonderful and bizarre collections of pictures, found footage, and home video capture the F.I.D. attitude that the closer-to-mainstream rock scene was (and still is) largely missing. For example:



I tracked FIDLAR down again at SXSW 2012.  Thankfully, it wasn't hard as they seemed to have the Filter machine behind them and were playing a lot of shows.  They were even better the second time around in shows that whipped the crowd into an old school frenzy, like this:


This year, as a later addition to the SXSW schedule, they are a must see act as they are supporting their first full length release and one of my favorite records so far this year.  You can read Rocksteady's great review here.  Please, go see FIDLAR.

(This is the fifth in a series of SXSW Previews.  Please check out PAWSSpider BagsRah Rah, and Diarrhea Planet at SXSW as well.)

Rock.

Friday, March 8, 2013

New video from METZ -- "Wasted"




METZ is three guys from Toronto who are gnawing out their own space in punk rock. Their debut album is a visceral, dissonant tour de force, and was at the top of my list of great 2012 albums. Sub Pop has posted a new video for one of the best songs on it. If you were to strip away some of the industrial goth grime from an early Killing Joke song like "Madness", it might sound a lot like this. They're on a long tour right now in support of the album, including 6 sets planned for SXSW. I've got my ticket to see them at the great Local 506 in Chapel Hill on 4/20. Check the links below for a show near you.

I can only understand one word of the lyrics, but I think this song is about when your mind wanders on a Friday afternoon. Check out "Wasted".




METZ band page
METZ Sub Pop page
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"Flexin", new single from Masters in France


Globalization! You can't fight it, so you just have to go along with it.  For example, the Masters in France may or may not be masters, but they aren't French.  I'm advised that they are Welsh, but they aren't in Wales either.  They are in London.  Pay attention, I may have a quiz at the end of the post.

So why are we focusing on this apparently cosmopolitan assemblage?  Because they have just dropped "Flexin", and "Flexin" is likely to get you in your groove for the weekend. Or the week. Or the month. It is a pop dance groove with enough of a dirty riff to make you feel the sweat is worth it.



If you prefer the video --



To reward you for reading, we'll skip the quiz.  Just dance to "Flexin".  And don't step on my feet.

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REVIEW: Woolen Men - Woolen Men

We in the Pacific Northwest have been a bit selfish.  We have the Woolen Men, and the rest of you don't.  And this Portland band's output, while by no means meager,  has been limited to singles, EPs and cassettes, making a national audience less likely.  However, they now have a real LP out on Woodsist (on vinyl and in digital), and the secret is out.  The rest of you can now enjoy the charms of Woolen Men.  The songs on the self-titled release range from garage/punk to angular post-punk to jangly lo-fi, with the band shout-singing in chorus and a gloriously heavy dose of bass.  Fans will be reminded of Mission of Burma, perhaps early R.E.M., and New Zealand acts like The Clean and Toy Love.  And Pacific Northwest fans probably have already enthusiastically embraced the resemblance to a previous Portland band, The Wipers.

The album begins in garage rock mode with "Mayonnaise".  The song is not really about mayonnaise, but rather a vision of bland suburban hell.  So I guess the title fits.  The second track, "Hold It Up" has a snaky groove and swampy atmosphere, while "Submission" has a prog rock feel to it.  Having displayed impressive range, the trio buckles down and delivers seven more tracks of energetic rock that instills in me an overwhelming desire to drive to wherever these guys are playing.  And in that seven tracks are my favorite, "Head on the Ground" and "Magic Tricks".  In my view Woolen Men is one of those sneaky albums.  If you ignore it now, you'll be reminded at the end of the year when knowing music fans list it as one of the overlooked gems of 2013.  So I guess you could wait, but then you'd miss eight months of listening.





Woolen Men are Raf Spielman, Lawton Browning, and Alex Geddes.  They will be on tour this spring to support the album.  Here is a list of dates and venues:


03/21  Eugene, OR – The Wandering Goat
03/22  Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
03/25  San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
03/26  Santa Ana, CA – Unit B
03/27  San Jose, CA – The Usuals
03/28  San Francisco, CA – The Knockout
05/19  Brooklyn, NY – Shea Stadium
05/20  New Brunswick, NJ – Cooler Ranch
05/21  Boston, MA – O’Brien’s
05/23  Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
05/24  Chicago, IL – The Burlington
05/25  Bloomington IN – The Realm
05/28  Little Rock, AK – The White Water Tavern
05/29  Austin, TX – Beerland
06/01  Athens, GA – Farm 255
06/02  Charlotte, NC – Yauhaus
06/05  Baltimore, MD – Golden West
06/06  New York, NY – Cake Shop
06/07  Brooklyn, NY – Silent Barn


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Woodsist


Friday Nuggets - "Pushing Too Hard" The Seeds

We aren't messing around today and are going with one of the most important, most seminal, most completely awesome garage rock classics - "Pushing Too Hard":


The Seeds were from Los Angeles, and led by garage rock legend Sky Saxon who passed away in 2009. "Pushing Too Hard" was released in 1965, and became a worldwide hit in 1966. It turns up on any credible list of the best rock and roll singles of all time.

The song has been covered by many, including Pere Ubu, The Makers, The Bangles, and The Embarrassment.  "Pushing Too Hard" proves that two chords is plenty enough if handled the right way.

Bonus version - this crazy period piece footage from the 60's TV show Mothers In Law. There's not much I can say about this except to accept your gratitude for finding it:


Thursday, March 7, 2013

REVIEW: Ohvaur - A Memories Chase


Ohvaur is a Chicago/Miami band featuring frontman Timothy Den, who formerly fronted Boston band Kimone. Ohvaur is playing expansive, synth-based electronic rock and exploring themes of travel, home and longing - this helps account for the very heavy emotional lean to the vocals. To call him peripatetic would be a bit of an understatement. Part of Den's story is the very emotional experience of living as an undocumented immigrant for a large part of his life, and while such an existence made his adolescent and young adult search for identity more difficult, in the end, it actually helped Den find out that he's more than where he's been or what he's done. 

A Memories Chase uses these experiences (both Den's and those of Ohvaur's other members, several of whom have also been part of an immigrant experience - either their own or, as children, their parents') to help inform an outlook (and a sound) that is restless and deeply emotional. The other members of Ohvaur are: Daniel Escauriza, Joel Hernandez, Mike Horick, and Christian Loaiza.

Here's the title track:


The second cut, "You Chose to Bury Love," is a little bit more straight-ahead pop in its structure: 


while others, like album closer "Whole," are fuller-sounding. As the album works its way through these themes, you hear Den singing about parts and places, but the conclusion is that no one part or place is sufficient to make the whole - the person or the world.



It's out this week (3/5) - self-released by the band, and you can learn more at their Facebook page.

Ohvaur Facebook


New Song from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights!

Sometimes all you have to do is express a wish...

Last week, I shared a new video from David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights, of the song "Diamond Mine" from their 2011 album Left By Soft, and expressed in that post the hope that something new is in the works.

Well, fate smiled. Our friends at Fishrider Records took a minute to send us a note about the existence of this new song, "Christopher Columbus". Fishrider has several really good jangly NZ bands, including The Shifting Sands, who share members with Kilgour's Heavy Eights. We've featured several of them on this blog. Here's the new Kilgour song:




And it's available for free download. It's a good day.



Introducing: The Prophet Hens


If you are a fan of the jangly New Zealand guitar bands we like here, you need to make a note of Dunedin's The Prophet Hens.  Don't bother scouring the internet for output, as it is a bit early for that, but they are completing an album named Popular People Do Popular People for Fishrider Records that will be available soon.  We just wanted to give you a taste of their fine sound so you could save your pennies.



The Prophet Hens are Penelope Esplin (keys/vocals), Robin Cederman (bass/vocals), Darren Stedman (drums), and Karl Bray (guitar/vocals).


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Alvin Lee is going home at age 68

Alvin Lee, lead guitarist and vocalist of Ten Years After, died after routine minor surgery. One of the archetypal power rock quartets of the late 60's and early 70's, Ten Years After never failed to excite at live concerts. I saw them at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago in June of 1970. The lineup included B.B King, Brownsville Station and Mott the Hoople. It was a great night of guitar rock.

Alvin was generally viewed as a journeyman axe player not worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence as Clapton and Beck. If you wanted a great night of RnR Alvin Lee was your man. Some cuts to remember him by -

 







Return of the Dogg


It's official - 60's and 70's outsider soul icon Swamp Dogg is back.  Far more than a novelty act, his combination of soul, funk and rock wears very well over  40 years later  His return was first reviewed here:  Swamp Dogg is off the leash.   This week Alive Natural Sound Records release Swamp Dogg's first two recordings - "Total Destruction To Your Mind" (1970) and "Rat On" (1971.)


Both are available on vinyl or CD.  Get your Dogg on and check it out.  Find out what George Clinton
meant when he said "Must be the Dogg in me." Take him for a walk and find your inner Dogg.








Destroy This Place - advance single "Defeated" from upcoming S/T album (due 5/14)


Destroy This Place is aptly named. Their guitar attack is ferocious.The band consists of vocalists/guitarists Ryan Allen and John Nelson, bassist Monday Busque and drummer Sean Sommer. They're based in Detroit, but they don't hew to the hard blues/rock sound that is prevalent among some of the artists we encounter from the area. They do rock hard, but they do a lot more with the wah pedal and other guitar effects. The music is more melodic than I am probably making it sound -- you should listen for yourself.

Here's "Defeated":



And here's another song, "Graves":



The album is due out in May, and we'll have more to say before then... for now, enjoy these two songs.

Destroy This Place Website



REVIEW: Caitlin Rose - The Stand-In


There are two aspects of The Stand-In that affirm that Caitlin Rose is a star.  The most obvious is the vocal performance.  She has a gorgeous voice, possessed of range, flexibility and nuance.  Whether belting a country rock-style anthem (as in "No One to Call", below), or squeezing tears in a more traditional song such as "I Was Cruel" (also below), the listener is assured that Rose has full command of the material.  And her instincts for when to be shy, flirtatious or aggressive are as good as her ability to sell the emotion to the listener.

The less obvious aspect is the quality of her songwriting.  For a woman in her mid-twenties composing for her sophomore album, this is an impressive set of tunes.  The compositional mid-point seems to be mainstream country with a pop lean, but Rose's talent with a melody, willingness to play at the edges of the genre, and wit and incision in framing a story result in a satisfying listen from start to finish.





In my mind there is little doubt that this Nashville kid can rise to the top of the country music scene.  And whether she also becomes a crossover star is down more to her own desires, because the talent is evident.  Treat yourself to country guilty pleasure with The Stand-In.

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New Turkish Shoegaze Discovery: The Away Days - "Dressing Room"


Yes, I said "Turkish Shoegaze Discovery". This is The Away Days, who have a new EP How Did It All Start out now. The group consists of four members: Oguzcan Ozen, Sezer Kic, Berk Tekelioglu and Burak Serter, who met in college, and in less than a year after forming, have found themselves in a bit of an international whirlwind, including a couple of dates at SXSW.

Here's a video they made for "Galaxies" - a haunting, reverb-laced song with some terrific guitar sounds - one that sort of reverses back on itself throughout, and some nice solos:





The song "Dressing Room" is available as a free download currently:



This is really good - it doesn't sound exactly like The Jesus and Mary Chain or New Order, but those are pretty clearly influences. However, The Away Days are taking this in their own direction and we're looking forward to following them as they move ahead.



Run Lucky Free: The final EP


In October 2011 we profiled Edinburgh band Run Lucky Free and noted that they were a band to watch.  A year and a half later they are dissolving the band.  But not wanting to leave us more unhappy than necessary, they have released the four-track Let Me Go EP.  The record ably demonstrates why the band was tipped for good things, and is available for free download.  You can stream the lead track here.  If you like it you can stream the entire EP and download it if you wish.



Run Lucky Free is, or was, Rachael Cormack, Daniel Crichton, Sam Dick, and Fergus Costello.


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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Introducing: Holy Balm


Spring is coming, and Sydney's Holy Balm is bringing their sunny dance beats to the US!  The trio of Anna John, Emma Ramsay and Jonathan Hochman brew new wave pop and techno ingredients with some tropical spices to make you think of the dance floor on a warm weather vacation.  Their latest release was last year's It's You, which was released on the Not Not Fun label in the US and R.I.P. Society Records in Australia.  The tour takes in both coasts, the midwest and SXSW.





Here are the remaining dates:

7/3/13 - Holocene, Portland -WITH Golden Retriever, Swahili, CLOAKS, DJ Charles Berlitz
8/3/13 - The Co Op / Lewis & Clark College Portland, OR -WITH Monopoly Child Star Searchers
9/3/13 - Rendevous, Seattle with Grave Babies, Telemesser and FF
15/3/13 - SXSW The Hideout NNF SHOWCASEw/ Samantha Glass, White Poppy, Xander Harris, Rites Wild, Weyes Blood and Maria Minerva
16/3/13 - SXSW Maggie Maes Rooftop Bar AUSSIE BBQ w/tba
19/3/13 - The Frequency, Madison WITH Golden Donna 
20/3/13 - Cactus Club, Milwaukee - WITH Stacian, Dirty Dancing
21/3/13 - The Burlington, Chicago - WITH Stacian, Gel Set
22/3/13 - Space 2435, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor - WITH Lanterns
23/3/13 - Lager House, Detroit - WITH Aphasiacs, Coyote Clean Up
28/3/13 - Shea Stadium, Brooklyn NYC - With Alice Cohen and Jonas Reinhardt 
30/3/13 - Body Actualized, Brooklyn NYC - With Father Finger and DJ Maria Minerva more tba
1/4/13 - Cake Shop, Manhattan, NYC
6//4/13 - Museum of Modern Art, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic



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New track from Telekinesis: "Ghosts and Creatures", from Dormarion (out Apr. 2)


Dormarion is the name of the street on which Spoon drummer Jim Emo's studio is located. It's also the name of the new album from Telekinesis.

Here's an advance track from Dormarion (due out April 2 on Merge) - "Ghosts and Creatures":



This is a pretty song - nice, insistent beat, understated keyboards, a little bit of jangle on the guitars, and a chorus that's kind of majestic. We'll have a review of the album later this month, but if you don't feel you need a recommendation from us, you can just go pre-order it now.

Telekinesis at Merge Records


REVIEW: The Mariner's Children - Sycamore EP


The Sycamore EP presents some challenges to the blogger's tendency to categorize music.  I suppose alternative folk or folk rock come close, but neither truly captures the scope or spirit of the UK's The Mariner's Children.  The record's centerpiece, "In My Bed" features a blusey lead vocals with Arcade Fire-like choruses, making good use of the talents of a large compliment of players.



And if you prefer, here is the video for "In My Bed" --




And while "In My Bed" is likely to attract the most attention, the other three tracks offer rich musical textures and sophisticated vocals.  Together, they convey tension and intensity.  Here is a live version of the second track, "Wolves Within the Wood" --



Sycamore EP is released by Broken Sound Music.  Even if you usually don't venture to the folk side of the pop scale, this one is worth a chance.

The Mariner's Children are Ben Rubinstein (vocals/guitar/banjo), Daniel Matthews (guitar/banjo/mandolin/accordion), Becca Mears (cello), Emma Kraemer (violin), Marcus Hamblett (bass), Emma Gatrill (vocals/glockenspiel), and Felix Weldon (drums).  A full length album is planned for later this year.

The band's current tour dates are as follows:

03.03.2013 - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (supporting Willy Mason)
04.03.2013 - Phoenix, Exeter (supporting Willy Mason)
05.03.2013 - Glee Club, Cardiff (supporting Willy Mason)
07.03.2013 - Koko, London (supporting Willy Mason)
08.03.2013 - The Wardrobe, Leeds (supporting Willy Mason)
09.03.2013 - Gateshead Old Town Hall, Newcastle (supporting Willy Mason)
10.03.2013 - Oran Mor, Glasgow (supporting Willy Mason)
12.03.2013 - The Kazimier, Liverpool (supporting Willy Mason)
13.03.2013 - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (supporting Willy Mason)
14.03.2013 - Whelans, Dublin (supporting Willy Mason)
15.03.2013 - Limelight, Belfast (supporting Willy Mason)
18.03.2013 - The Lexington, London (Sycamore EP launch with special guests)


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Broken Sound Music

Introducing: Rocketswan


We have another gem from Singapore today - the five piece of Rocketswan (pictured above with the fine people from Lost Weekend, who were profiled here a few weeks ago).  I love the retro sound of this group, and I wish there was more of their music to share with you.  Try it out with "Montecristo", a tune that will conjure summer days floating on a boat with nothing pressing on your schedule.



Rocketswan is Rachael Goh, Victor Tong, Seah Wei Ping, Brian Wong and Jordan Skadiang.  You can stream/buy their EP, My Name is Abel, How Do You Do, below --


And a tip of the old When You Motor Away motoring cap to Keith Tan for alerting us to the existence of Rocketswan.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

REVIEW: Hollis Brown - Ride On The Train


Hollis Brown is a group of native New Yorkers on the venerable blues/rock label Alive/Naturalsound, but their musical influences come from considerably south and east of there. On their debut album, Ride On The Train, they are playing a bracing mixture of something akin to blues-based Southern rock and pure British Invasion-influenced pop. Principal songwriters Mike Montali (vocals) and Jon Bonilla (lead guitar) grew up listening to blues-based classic rock, and claim that the combination of an urban upbringing and throwback musical influences of traditional blues contributed heavily to their sound.

So, the Stones, Springsteen... those are useful touchpoints. Philly soul, Southern rock... useful, too. But go ahead and listen. Here's the video for the title track:



See? like good classic rock fans, they feature the lead guitar often and prominently.

Here's the closing song, "Nightfall" - a great showcase of their sound. It features Montali's soulful vocals, really good piano and acoustic and electric guitar. In a way, I'm reminded of a Lynyrd Skynyrd ballad:



And here's the upbeat, rocking "Down On Your Luck" - tell me if you don't hear a little Latin twinge, reminiscent of some classic East Coast big city guitar rocker like "Rosalita", in some of the solos:



Among the stellar Alive/Naturalsound roster of bands, I'd probably place Hollis Brown somewhere between Lee Bains III and The Buffalo Killers, but lighter on the thrash, heavier on the melody. There really isn't much psychedelic component to their music, the vocals and guitars are prominent, and it is certainly blues-based (most of the tracks feature call/response type structure). While the music is heartfelt and explores many of the traditional pop themes -- unrequited love, jealousy, loneliness -- this is a good-time band for sure. The record is out today.

Hollis Brown at Alive/Naturalsound

New Electronic Discovery: UNA - The Laughing Man

UNA is an electronica/jazz/art-rock trio - Jennifer Cook on vocals, Richard Larsen on keys and production and Eddie Barajas on turntables. She's a terrific singer, and they do a great job putting together a soundscape to support her. Whether on piano, electronic keys or synths, Larsen keeps this grounded near the jazz genre. The addition of Barajas' turntables carry this into the realm of what's commonly known as "trip hop" - and there you go.

Me? I like the vocals best of all.
Here's a teaser video with some music and some talk about the record and their sound:



Here's lead track "The Astronomer":


I'm told an album of remixes will be out in May, featuring Nightmares on Wax and The Herbaliser, to name a few. This album is out now.

UNA Website

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REVIEW: Nuclear Santa Claust -- Order of the New Age






There's a point late in the 1971 crime film Dirty Harry -- let's say around Act 4 -- where Scorpio goes out to some abandoned industrial site on the outskirts of San Francisco and pays some guy two hundred bucks to beat the everliving crap out of him. The guy takes the money -- and counts it! As if Scorpio being ten or twenty short wouldn't buy quite the deluxe junkyard package that had been bargained for. And they weren't even mad at one another. Toward the end of the appointment, Scorpio (apparently out of money) deals out a fairly pedestrian pigment oriented imprecation that earns him a backward impression of the words "Red Wing Boot Company" in his sternum, but really, that was done almost out of pity.


I think from our vantage point here in 2013 we can conclude with some degree of confidence that Scorpio had some (how might one say it?) "issues" with his (for lack of a better word) "personality." Director Don Siegel laced the film with subtle suggestions of this, for example, where Scorpio hijacked a school bus and told the children he would kill them if they stopped singing, but the most obvious sign is, again, paying two hundred 1971 US dollars to get his own ass beat. Frankly, the notion of this interferes with my ability to suspend disbelief.

What the hell is the point of all this? The point is, do you have eight bucks? Because if you do, then I invite you to go to the Don Giovanni Records online store and download Order of the New Age, the new album from Brooklyn (via Cleveland) punk trio Nuclear Santa Claust. That's right. For eight measly 2013 simoleons, this album will deliver every bit the asswhipping Scorpio got, and leave enough change for some rudimentary dental repair. The opening bass line of the first song sounds like Mike Tyson on a speedbag, and over the course of 12 songs, the abuse doesn't let up. Consider the sixth track, "Government Issued Acid Trip":



This is very old school sound to me. The staccato vocal style reminds me of some of the foundational NYC punk bands of the late 70s. The aggressively heavy instrumentation takes me back to that early-to-mid 80s Chicago sound associated with Naked Raygun (think early songs like "Potential Rapist" and "Rat Patrol"). And it's hard for me to think of higher praise for a punk band than to compare it to Raygun.



This record was released last month, and marks another excellent effort brought to us by the good folks at Don Giovanni (California X, Laura Stevenson, Screaming Females). Check out the last song, "Since I Woke Up (Berlin Wall)", with a ripping lead at the end of each verse. It's a firstrate sonic beatdown done efficiently and brutally.




Nuclear Santa Claust at Bandcamp / Soundcloud / Facebook.
Don Giovanni Records

REVIEW: Golden Grrrls - Golden Grrrls


I was first introduced to Golden Grrrls, a Glasgow/London collaboration, on one of the several Scottish music sites I stalk read regularly.  I was completely enthralled by the gift for melody, hints of punk toughness offset by three-part harmonies, and the way that some ragged edges were left hanging when the song was stitched together.  I was reminded of The Feelies, the classic Dunedin bands such as The Clean, and some of my favorites from Olympia's K Records.  Or perhaps it was the tempo and impish attitude of the Vaselines merged with the fuzz and harmony of the Pastels.  Whatever, it made an impression and I happily collected some early releases.  I also wondered what the backing of a label and the ability to record a full album might mean for their sound.  I need wonder no more, because Golden Grrrls is being released by Slumberland Records (in the US and Canada) and Night School (Europe).   And the verdict is -- Golden Grrrls remain golden.  Only more so.

From the opening notes of "New Pop" to the final strains of the fantastic album closer "We've Got ..." the listener's ears are treated to delightful girl/boy vocal interplay and enough hooks to sate your ears for the week.   Here is the second track, "Past Tense" --



The DNA of this band seems to be to be a healthy mix of Glasgow, Dunedin,  Australia and the Pacific Northwest.  And they understand the essential nature of what they do -- a rushing burst of gorgeous sound, ending a few minutes in (only one song breaks three minutes) and leaving you gasping for more.



There have been a number of very good albums this year, and there will be many more.  But this album is near the top for me, and is likely to hang in near the top.  And that is especially impressive for a debut.

Golden Grrrls are Ruari MacLean (guitar/vocals), Eilidh Rodgers (drums/vocals), and Rachel Aggs (guitar/vocals).  Kate Manning (keys) and Lorna Gilfedder (guitar/bass/keys/vocals) are former members.  They begin a US tour on March 20.

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Free 7" from Big Wave


The UK's Big Wave earns a spot on these pages again by offering a fine sounding 7" at the always popular "name your price".  The two-track record was released by the UK label Beautiful Strange, and will fill your aching void for shoegaze-tinged indie pop.  Both tracks are good, and we recommend them.



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Beautiful Strange



Monday, March 4, 2013

REVIEW: Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse


Youth Lagoon is Trevor Powers, a Boise-based one-man band with his second full-length album, Wondrous Bughouse, out Tuesday (Mar. 5) on Fat Possum. Youth Lagoon is playing psychedelic synth- and guitar-based pop music that is both languid and memorable. I reviewed his last album, The Year of Hibernation, and put it on my Best of 2011 list. I've got a real soft spot for this music, maybe because of its resemblance to other favorites of mine like Sparklehorse and Built to Spill, or maybe just because, like those artists, he's executing on a really well-conceived vision in which you can sort of lose yourself. Wondrous Bughouse is a much bigger-sounding record than The Year of Hibernation - the live drumming, in particular, gives a lot of substance to the music.

Here's the second track "Mute" - after an instrumental intro, this song fairly explodes with drums, synthesizers and, eventually, guitars.Then you hear the first lyrics on the album: "Living in a 3D world" - and later in the song, there are interludes that include found sounds you might expect from a science fiction movie soundtrack. It's not like he's showing off - the guy really just has a great imagination and a knack for being able to share it:



Here's "Dropla" - soft, sweet, sad, wistful - like much of Powers' work, it rewards repeated listening as well as listening on different levels. The music is pretty engaging on its own, and has a certain childlike quality. But the content of the song seems to be about the question of comforting oneself on the loss of a loved one - especially how a young person without much experience with such a thing might do so. "You'll never die, you'll never die, you'll never die" he repeats multiple times. The first time, it might be the kind of denial you could expect from a younger person with that particular kind of "immortality complex" that is found in the young. But later in the song, it becomes almost a self-comforting mantra, a recognition that there is a place for the soul to go:



These are two of the better songs on the record, but the quality is uniform. Even if the sound is pretty widely varied, it is wonderful throughout. Some of it is whimsical - "Attic Doctor" and "Raspberry Cane" fairly bring a carnival to life - and some of it is profound, often in the same song, and often in very close proximity. And there are songs that deliver great dream pop, songs like "Attic Doctor" that can stand on their own, but fit perfectly into the sonic landscape of Wondrous Bughouse.

Powers is an impressive talent with a delightful way with a song, and a seemingly limitless imagination. Given the level of success of these first two records and the fact that he's still only 22 years old, there would seem to be plenty of reason to hope for more music this good, or maybe better. But for now, and for some time to come, this album will keep me plenty busy. You can order or buy it at Fat Possum's website:

Youth Lagoon at Fat Possum


REVIEW: Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective


Skydog was Duane Allman's nickname, and it's the name of this expansive, extravagant seven-disc retrospective of his career. Over the course of these seven discs, you can trace his development along a series of recordings: his and Gregg's early Florida- and Nashville-based garage bands, The Escorts and The Allman Joys, the L.A.-based ABB precursor The Hourglass, his session work in Alabama with such greats as Eddie Hinton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Arthur Conley (to name a few), as well as a gracious sampling of the Allman Brothers and Derek & The Dominos work.

Unfortunately, Duane Allman died young. Fortunately, his impulsive and obsessive nature left us a tremendous body of music to remember him by... and fortunately as well, his daughter Galadrielle engaged a great archivist, Bill Levenson, and the great Americana music label, Rounder, to pull music from all these sources.

Listening to the early work, the British Invasion influence is hard to miss, and it helps inform a lot of the work he did at Muscle Shoals - check out the "Born to Be Wild" cover on which he plays behind Wilson Pickett, and Laura Lee's "It Ain't What You Do (But How You Do It)" - he plays some audacious electric lead guitar, in some cases in addition to the stinging slide that became his calling card throughout his Allmans career.

In addition to Pickett and Lee, Jerry Wexler hired him to perform on Atlantic sessions by King Curtis, Otis Rush, Arthur Conley, the Soul Survivors and Sweet Inspirations. Speaking of slide guitar, one of the pearls you will find here is a cut from the Barry Goldberg Blues Band (a/k/a Goldberg-Miller Blues Band, at one time featuring Steve Miller) with Duane playing some delightful slide blues guitar on "Twice a Man". Also, in addition to "Loan Me A Dime", which was previously available on the Anthology, there are three more Boz Scaggs cuts featuring Duane's slide work. He adds a swampy touch to the five Ronnie Hawkins rockabilly-meets-blues cuts here, including "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and "Who Do You Love", and also included are all four songs on which Allman played from Lulu's 1970 Atco release New Routes. As I said, expansive.


Duane briefly had a solo Atlantic deal, resulting in a session that contained the always-amusing “Happily Married Man” (you can listen here at Relix), the Chuck Berry cover "No Money Down" and the old blues standard "Going Down Slow". That session was abandoned mid-stream as Duane, Gregg, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson finally began what, in retrospect, seems inevitable: the birth of the Allman Brothers Band.

If you enjoyed the two previous Duane Allman anthologies, you'll find some duplication of those collections on this package. But if you're like me, it's time for a newer, remastered version of a lot of that stuff, and you will marvel at the breadth of the previously unreleased material (including, among other delicacies, a live jam with the Grateful Dead on "Sugar Magnolia"), as well as the expanded exploration of Duane's soul session work. Disc 2 alone contains 26 soul tracks by 11 different artists, including Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis and Arthur Conley, to name a few. In addition to being fairly comprehensive, this collection puts his great music in a compelling context, and is nicely put together:


You can read more, or buy at Rounder Records website.

Introducing: Casual Sex, and upcoming single "Stroh 80"


We here at When You Motor Away are endorsing Casual Sex.  I understand that such a position (you had to figure we'd work positions, and figures, into the discussion) may seem irresponsible to you.  But we like the sounds of Casual Sex, the rhythms of Casual Sex.  Frankly, the entire attitude surrounding Casual Sex has us, well, a bit excited.

But enough about us - Casual Sex is a Glasgow four-piece consisting of Sam, Ed, Pete, and Chris.  They deliver high-quality post-punk pop that may remind you of Edwyn Collins.  They are releasing a 7" single (vinyl and digital download) titled "Stroh 80" on the Moshi Moshi Singles Club on April 1.  I've seen "angular sleaze" used as a description.  I understand where the tag is coming from, but I think it may fail to capture how irresistible these guys sound.


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REVIEW: Water Liars - Wyoming


Water Valley, MS folk rock band Water Liars is singer-guitarist Justin Kinkel-Schuster and drummer-vocalist Andrew Bryant. Having had fairly limited exposure to them prior to this, their new album Wyoming came as a bit of a surprise to me. We shared the early release songs "Linens" and "Fake Heat", and I pegged them as closer on the spectrum toward country-tinged quiet folk-rock. Here's "Fake Heat", a sad ballad full of wasted, somewhat depressing images of something like a love affair gone bad, or perhaps never really started:


And here's "Linens" - another sad tale of a love gone bad, which contains some really pretty guitar tones accompanying sad, sad lyrics:



Here's the thing, though: when you put the record on, the first song, "Sucker", features some blazing guitar - not only that, it's got some feedback. Really, this record veers along the spectrum from acoustic country, dominated by close vocal harmonies, with electric guitars sprinkled in, to some rock sounds featuring some very strong guitar with feedback. Given the emotions expressed in many of the songs - sadness and anger - the increased volume and cacophony embodied by the raging guitar ought not be a surprise.

These two can really write a sad song, and they can really play some country rock. If I just came across this record, I would never guess it was their second full album, and that they had just started making music less than two years ago - apparently they just jammed together and started writing songs in the summer of 2011. Their first album Phantom Limb was released in early 2012, and they've been touring and recording this record since then. If you're looking for the next big thing in Americana or alt/country, they are definitely two guys to keep an eye on. The record is out this week (Mar. 5) on Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records.

Water Liars at Fat Possum

As I mentioned, they're a hard touring duo... and here are some tour dates:


Mar. 7              Little Rock, AR                        White Water Tavern
Mar. 8              Fayetteville, AR                     Nightbird Books
Mar. 9              Oklahoma City, OK                  Kamp's Lounge
Mar. 11            Denton, TX                                 Dan's Silverleaf
Mar. 12            Fort Worth, TX                        The Where House
Mar. 13            Austin, TX                                  SXSW
Mar. 16            Hot Springs, AR                       Low Key Arts
Mar. 17            Memphis, TN                              1372 Overton Park
Apr. 6              Omaha, NE                                  O'Leaver's
Apr. 8              Des Moines, IA                          Gas Lamp
Apr. 10            Rock Island, IL                         Rozz-Tox
Apr. 12            Indianapolis, IN                        DO317 Lounge
Apr. 13            Fort Wayne, IN                         Brass Rail
Apr. 15            Philadelphia, PA                      Johnny Brenda's
Apr. 16            New York, NY                            Cake Shop
Apr. 17            Brooklyn, NY                           Shea Stadium
Apr. 18            Baltimore, MD                          Windup Space
Apr. 20            Boone, NC                                  Espresso News
Apr. 21            Columbia, SC                             New Brookland Tavern
Apr. 22            Charleston, SC                        Royal American
Apr. 23            Athens, GA                                 Caledonia Lounge
Apr. 25            Chattanooga, TN                     JJ's Bohemia
Apr. 26            Opelika, AL                               The Overall Company
* with Angel Olsen

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Guided by Voices Singles, take 2: "Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)"


The latest Guided by Voices advance single 7" is "Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)", b/w "She Wore Blue and Green" and "Full Framed Luberon". An interesting feature of this three-track single is that two of the three are Tobin Sprout songs - the title song is an example of why Sprout is one of the finest pop songwriters on the planet - it's got guitars galore and is plenty creamy. "She Wore Blue and Green" is a lo-fi acoustic Sprout number, and it's a keeper as well. And "Full Framed Luberon"? It's an almost-industrial Pollard lo-fi number, heavy on the punk and psych.

Unfortunately for those of you just discovering this series of singles, the limited edition vinyl at Rockathon. for all four in the series appears to be sold out. That'll teach you not to hang fire, won't it?

However, great news: the digital version will also be available on iTunes and GBVDigital. There will be a new single each week until English Little League is ready for release.

February Playlist - When You Motor Away

Enjoy the songs we listened to and wrote about in February.  514 tracks.  Click on the window and listen or
select the link and subscribe to this playlist and our individual "Best of" for 2012. 



CISAR - new track "High Horses"


Brothers Keith and Chad Thompson came across our radar last year as Johnny Headband, playing some pretty good psychedelic dance-rock. They are multi-instrumentalists and do their own production work, too.

This time they are back, as CISAR and they've released a new track, "High Horses":



It's electronic rock with soulful vocals and some good guitar work from John Nash. Looking forward to hearing more from them.

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