Saturday, March 16, 2013

REVIEW: Young Dreams - Between Places

Young Dreams is a Norwegian band, labelmates (on Modular Recordings) of Tame Impala. Unlike the guitar-based psychedelia of Tame Impala, Young Dreams are playing a baroque, very Beach Boys-inspired style of pop rock - but they're not completely leaving out dance, psychedelic or world music touches.

It's a record that, to me, reveals its charms on repeated listens. The first time through, the production values and big synthesizer sounds tend to overwhelm the melody - but listen again, and the utter charm of Young Dreams' approach becomes apparent. This is super-sunny pop music. Just in case the album cover, or the photo accompanying the single "First Days of Something" don't make it apparent, the music will: Norway's Young Dreams are making a summer soundtrack.

Here's the advance single "First Days Of Something":

The delicate guitars play just behind the beat, then about a minute in there's an afro-pop riff that jumps up, then fades back into the mix, where the vocals (lead and the angelic harmonies) take over. The beat fades into and out of the foreground. There's a lot going on, and it's all calculated for maximum enjoyment - I might even say, happiness... and the last minute or so of the song is pure bliss.

Here's "Fog of War":

And it is another pretty song, full of pop features that blend together into what would most certainly have been a massive radio hit when the radio was full of baroque stuff like this from the likes of Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren.

And speaking of the continuing pop music influence of Brian Wilson - holy cow, check out the vocal harmonies in this cover of Tame Impala's "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards":

(this cut is not on the album, it's being released as part of another Modular release - a bundle of covers and remixes)

The album continues to reveal itself - just the 10:00-plus "The Girl That Taught Me to Drink and Fight" has plenty to keep you going - with pristine vocal harmonies, an insistent beat and a musical vocabulary that moves seamlessly from rock guitars to orchestral strings, and in places combines them. This is a record you will want to keep in the rotation for a while, and probably take back out when summer comes along. It was released Mar 2 in Australia, Mar 4 in Europe and Mar 5 (USA).

Young Dreams Website

New video from Horsehands: "Righty" from Sirs

Horsehands are a prog-rock band from Boston, playing invigorating stuff that approaches metal in its ferocity. We've written about them before (WYMA post also contains a free download link). It's pretty fresh, creative stuff with good influences. Among other artists, they remind me fondly of Mcclusky... and even more so in this frenetic, aggressive song and video.

That said, check it out for yourself:

Horsehands - Righty from ManosDeCaballos on Vimeo.

New Video for GravelRoad

Jon “Kirby” Newman, Martin Reinsel, and Stefan Zillioux are GravelRoad, a Seattle band that loves rock and roll and Delta blues.  I think they have a great feel for both, and combine them sublimely.  A full length will be out this summer on Knick Knack Records and we will cover it when it is closer to the release date.  For now, enjoy the new video for their song "Monkey with a Wig" --

Knick Knack Records

Friday, March 15, 2013

REVIEW: El Cantador - Translation Wave EP

Are you looking for something a bit different?  We present the Translation Wave EP from El Cantador.  The record is the sound of the band experimenting with their sound and pushing the limits of their songwriting.  The result is highly dynamic, progressive post punk music with a uniquely southern shading.  Sometimes intimate and small, and others cinematic in scope, it shows that exciting things can happen when pop musicians think outside the lines.

"My Way" and "Particle and Wave" demonstrates the band's adventurous spirit --

"Pilgrims is, quite simply, a great pop song --

El Cantador are Sean Murphy (Drums/Percussion), Alex Scharr (Bass/Piano/Synths/Vocals), and Heath Underwood (Guitar/Vocals/Electric Piano).

The Translation Wave EP is out now on two labels, This Is American Music and Mod Mobilian.  You can source the record at either label, or at the Bandcamp link below.

Twitter ( @elcatador )
This Is American Music
Mod Mobilian

New video from Norwegian punk band Honningbarna, album out soon

We featured Honningbarna (WYMA post here) back in the fall, and really admired their unadorned punk sound, the buzzsaw guitars, even their refusal to sing in English - as punk moves go, that one seems pretty bona fide to me.

They're working on a European release of their second album with Swedish producer Pelle Gunnerfeldt, who's previously worked with The Hives and Refused. They've released a new video for the song "Fuck Kunst (Danz, Danz)" - loosely translated as "Fuck Art (Dance, Dance)":

Will there be a US release, you ask? I don't know the answer. Either they're ignoring the US (another man-sized punk move) or have decided to conquer the world one island at a time. But, you know, it's a good thing that the internet makes us all neighbors.

REVIEW: Dick Diver - Calendar Days

The music of Melbourne's Dick Diver is so damn charming that I'd like to invite the band to the prom.  There are some tricky bits to the plan.  First, there is only one of me and four of them.  Second, only one of them is female.  Third, since I haven't been in school for decades, I'm probably not eligible for any prom except as a chaperone anyway.  Fourth, I haven't asked my wife if she minds if I take four strangers to a prom (and what does it mean if she shrugs and says "whatever").  Oh, and John probably won't let me use the WYMA corporate jet to pick up my dates anyway just because of the so-called "issues" raised by the auditors after my Glasgow/Helsinki trip (Cannes isn't really so far away--it is a very small continent, as continents go) .  So perhaps I should just tell you about Calendar Days and stay home.

To my ears, Dick Diver's music is organically Australian, a country-inflected guitar pop spiritually indebted to Paul Kelly, The Drones, The Triffids, and the Go-Betweens.  Musically, the pace is relaxed and there is plenty of jangle with layered guitars. Piano, keys and pedal steel flesh out the sound.  Dramatic scope, and tension where it exists, results from a finally-tuned lyric more than from the intensity of the arrangements.  But the melodies are top drawer and the performances contain myriad rewarding subtleties.  Lyrically, Dick Diver finds poetry -- and a nonthreatening melancholy -- in ordinary daily existence.  If you are looking for loud, hard-rocking jams, this isn't the album.    However, despite the laconic delivery, the songcraft is brilliant in its deceptive simplicity.  One doesn't know whether Calendar Days sounds so cohesive yet relaxed because the band is great and naturally relaxed, or because it is both great and well-rehearsed.  And of course, the answer doesn't matter.

The album commences with drummer Steph Hughes singing the restrained "Blue & That"-- three minute of melancholy pop bliss.  The opener is followed by three pop songs that have made my favorites playlist already -- "Alice", "Calendar Days" and "Water Damage", the first with Rupert Edwards and Al McKay trading vocals, the second with Hughes taking the lead, and the third with trading male/female vocals.  Here are "Alice" and "Water Damage" --

The fifth and sixth tracks, "Boys" and "Two Year Lease" provide a dialed-down, storytelling.  The former is about a soured friendship, the second a metaphor for transitions.

Rocker "Lime Green Shirt" brings back a bit more guitar muscle, and a delicious seasoning of pedal steel.  It is followed by the achingly beautiful "Gap Life": Steph's vocals, the guitars, pedal steel, and harmonica combine to provide what is perhaps the most memorable track as Steph muses about an uneventful gap year ("not much going on between channel two and channel nine").  The next track is the triumphant country-tinged rock of "Bondi 98", the hardest rocking track of the set.  Quite frankly, I could have heard it on an R.E.M. album and not been surprised, and certainly not disappointed.

The album closes with the gentle "Amber", the longest track of the album, and the witty "Languages of Love".

The members of the band are Rupert Edwards (vocals and guitar), Alastair McKay (vocals and guitar), Al Montfort (bass), and Steph Hughes (drums and vocals).  Edwards and McKay founded the group, and are the primary songwriters.  Montfort also plays with UV Race, Total Control and Lower Plenty.  Hughes is co-lead vocalist and guitarist for Boomgates, whose 2012 album was a top five pick for me, and has been a co-presenter for an Australian music show on Triple J in Melbourne.

Calendar Days is their second full length, following 2011's New Start Again.  It was produced by Mikey Young of, among other projects, Eddy Current Suppression Ring.  It is out now on the Chapter Music label.

I'm not in the prognostication business, and I don't know whether Calendar Days will make Dick Diver a buzz band outside of Australia.  However, I suspect that the band really isn't concerned about that.  They seem like the type who make music they want to make for the people who want to hear that music.  But the album has made me a fan.  And this disc isn't leaving my player any time soon.

Twitter ( @dick_diver )
Chapter Music

Friday Nuggets - "Wooly Bully" Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

File:Sam the sham 1965.jpg

The year was 1965 and everyone was in love with the Beatles and the British Invasion. In Dallas, a band merged that sound with traditional Mexican conjunto and created one of the great garage rock classics, "Wooly Bully". It had a great many magical moments in its 2:21, starting with its legendary count off: "Uno, dos / one, two, tres, quatro." Of course there's the great sax solo at about the 1:30, and those lyrics and....

Ladies and gentlemen: Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs:

Let's not be L-7s.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Spanish Art-Rock Discovery: Violeta Vil - Lapidas y Cocoteros

Spanish trio Violeta Vil is playing dense, majestic rock music. On their new album Lapidas y Cocoteros, the guitars and keyboards are layered, the vocal harmonies are soaring and they display a familiarity with a number of musical styles. The ladies in the band are originally from Venezuela, Chile and the Canary Islands - which explains the strong affinity this music has to Tropicalia and specifically to South American artists like Los Aterciopelados' Andrea Echeverri.

In the words of the band, the songs on this album "explore the dark underside of paradise, where old time superstition clash and mingle with the 21st century." That gives a very good underpinning to the marriage of 21st century shoegaze guitars/synths with traditional Spanish rhythms, and the somewhat inspired use of folk art in close proximity with 20th century surrealist (absurdist?) images. Here's the video for the title track (translation, "Headstones and Coconuts"):

Here's a video for "La Pericona" - the guitars are a little more unhinged in this one, something I enjoy:

Violeta Vil - La Pericona from Violeta Vil on Vimeo.

Their musical journey has taken them from South America to Spain, and with the help of Austin-based label Young Cubs, they would like to begin to conquer the US. They're off to a good start.

REVIEW: Wildmen - Wildmen

After a lot of buildup - Italy's Wildmen have just this week unleashed their self-titled debut on an unsuspecting world. It's down, dirty, fuzzy and completely worthy of your attention. We've previously featured advance singles and a joint 7" they did with Caputtini 'I Lignu, so this album has been eagerly anticipated.

Here's the first single, "Haters Gonna Hate" - first, a video of a live radio performance in Poland, then the track from the album:

As previously noted, it's a terrific song. Tribal drumbeat, guitars played with wild abandon, shouted vocals... and yet, it's not my favorite on the album. That honor goes to "Zero Generation" - a slightly off-kilter reference to a number of punk concepts dating back to Richard Hell's "Blank Generation", with a musical style that's dating back before that, to the musical style that's become 2013's unofficial theme here on When You Motor Away: the psychedelic garage-based proto-punk around which the Nuggets compilations were built. Psychedelic artyfacts, indeed:

Truly, these characters seem to have imbibed lo-fi 60's rock from birth. I like the way "Migrant Love" sort of echoes "Outlaw Blues", and the surf drumroll that leads into "Crazy":

Here's a video for "20,000 $" - love the drumming on this one, as well as full stops and the extreme hillbilly "hoo-hoo!" about halfway through. You can't fake enthusiasm - and it's clear these guys love what they are doing:

It's from the delightful Italian/Portuguese label Shit Music For Shit People - who have quickly become a favorite at WYMA. You can buy it digitally here, and order an LP here. And you probably already know you should, because your friends are going to hear it and ask "What the hell is this?" and "Where did you get it?"

REVIEW: Mark Martyre - Down, Record

Toronto singer-songwriter Mark Martyre is a storyteller and a published poet.  It just happens that sometimes his stories are set to music.  The result is the rewarding set of songs comprising Down, Record, which was released last September.  The instrumentation is simple, the arrangements are classic singer-songwriter/folk structures.  But the stories and phrasing make it remarkable.  And then there is that velvet gravel of Mark's vocals, which help sell the listener on the truth in the music.  I'm pretty fussy about this genre, but Down, Record is an album that has earned repeated plays in my house.  In fact it is one of the few true contenders for the late night "final music of the day" slot.  As you can imagine, that is nearly as coveted as a Grammy.

Let's give Mr. Martyre an opportunity to convince you --

You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below and, if so inclined, you can purchase through that site as well.

Twitter ( @markmartyre )

New single from The Lawlands - "Elsewhere"

Recently we featured "Youth" from San Francisco's The Lawlands, admiring the poetry of the lyrics and the slow building, melancholy atmosphere of that cut.

They've released a new one, "Elsewhere" that is more upbeat - comparisons to The Smiths and The National would not be out of place, I think.

REVIEW: Kid Canaveral - Now That You Are A Dancer

It seems to me that Edinburgh's Kid Canaveral is both smart and prudent.  They know when their material is ready, and they know that releasing material before it is ready, even if loudly requested to do it by their most avid fans, isn't a good career path.  Their early years were punctuated by the release of four well received 7" records and a number of gigs.  Fans wanted to know why an album wasn't quickly on offer, but the band took their time before self-releasing the excellent Shouting At Wildlife in 2010 on their own label, Straight to Video Records.  If I recall correctly, front-dude David MacGregor explained the long lead time to their fans as a simple matter of the band not having been good enough previously. Since then, the band has signed to Scotland's respected Fence Records, played at SXSW, collected a number five ranking in my 2010 album list, and .... well .... a long wait for Now That You Are A Dancer.  But the thing about this band is that you can trust that the wait isn't due to sloth or lack of inspiration.  It is because no album is released until it is ready to be released.  And these aren't the kind of people to betray your trust.

What Now That You Are A Dancer delivers is infectious indie pop, with bouncy melodies, wit ("Breaking Up is the New Getting Married", "Who Would Want to Be Loved"), and introspection.  It usually comes in an under three minute burst with a fast tempo, but the band slows down the proceedings on a few occasions, such as the memorable "Skeletons" on which Kate takes the lead vocals.  While the band is careful about not releasing songs before they are ready, there is nothing restrained about the music they do release; one word that comes to mind is triumphant.  They have the entire package of songwriting, vocals and musicianship, and we are the beneficiaries.

Here is a taste of their live performance --

Many of us who pay attention to indie pop feel that this band has arrived.  And listening to the album, even the band might actually agree.  Carefully, of course.

Kid Canaveral is David MacGregor (guitar/vocals), Kate Lazda (guitar/vocals), Rose McConnachie (bass/vocals), and Scott McMaster (percussion).

Fence Records

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

REVIEW: Chelsea Light Moving - Chelsea Light Moving

Back about 8 months ago, we received a note about Thurston Moore's new project Chelsea Light Moving. In addition to Moore, the group features Keith Wood, John Maloney, and Samara Lubelski. At the time we noted the poignant story behind the song "Groovy and Linda" as well as the guitar shredding on "Burroughs" - WYMA post here.

The self-titled album is finally out- released March 5 - and it is, in a word, fantastic. Turns out the aforementioned advance songs represent a very high level of songcraft and guitar work that is sustained throughout the record. The spoken word piece "Mohawk" is about as subdued as it gets, which means this is a very wild affair. And, to me, that is a very welcome development.

Sonic Youth fans will certainly recognize the guitar freakouts, the VU-influenced late-night rambling beat poetry lyrics, and I would think most will welcome them. I know I do. The longer songs tend to feature rambling solos, the shorter numbers (opening cut "Heavenmetal" for example) are catchier and a bit more melodic. Here's a link to "Empires of Time" - a 5:00 song that starts slowly but features the fast/slow dynamic and builds to a crescendo.

And here's a video of "Allighted" from a recent live performance - making good on Moore's promise, apparently articulated in the comments section of the music blog Brooklyn Vegan, to "detonate" a birthday party or wedding reception:

And here's a video for "Burroughs":

Psychedelic, sprawling and savage, Moore's guitar playing is completely undiminished, and this is a really good collection of rock songs - there is not a weak cut on the record.

Chelsea Light Moving at Matador Records

REVIEW: Mogwai - Les Revenants Soundtrack

Mogwai are one of my favorite artists, and any Mogwai album is cause for celebration. This soundtrack cd, from a French television drama entitled Les Revenants ("The Ghosts") is no exception. In a sense, it's really a full album disguised as a soundtrack - if you are a fan of Mogwai and their "post rock" genre, you will find much to enjoy in these 14 tracks.

There is plenty of atmospheric, foreboding Mogwai music - a bit more muted, perhaps, than their usual, but no less majestic. The song "Special N" is particularly beautiful. Mogwai say the more subdued sound of this record is due to the fact that they are supplying only part of the art, whereas on their albums they supply it all. This makes sense and is borne out in the music - but one thing that is in common with previous Mogwai records is their uncanny ability to do "more with less" - to take a piano tone, bass drum or guitar tone, and build them into something that conveys a sense of unease or foreboding, but something that is at the same time breathtakingly beautiful.

There are also songs that would fit on almost any other Mogwai record. We featured one of them, "Wizard Motor" in a previous post. It's good enough to post again:

And there's a bit of a curveball - a spare, slow acoustic ballad. But in keeping with the rest of the record, it's a particularly pretty take on an old spiritual "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?":

And finally, another twist to the project is that Mogwai were asked for the music in advance of the television series being filmed - though they did have a feature film to view in order to gauge the mood. So it's not your typical soundtrack, but unlike their previous soundtracks Zidane and The Fountain, it's fully a Mogwai album, and I'm perfectly happy to celebrate it as such.

Mogwai Les Revenants at Sub Pop

REVIEW: The New Lows - I Couldn't Sleep

In listing things for which I can be thankful, I have added the decision to contact me about the album I Couldn't Sleep from Mike Levin's band The New Lows.  Levin is an experienced punk/indie rocker who has been involved in several bands.  He has been working under the name The New Lows since 2000, although the current lineup of Levin, Bobby Pino, Gregg Lightfoot and Wes Snowden firmed up after Levin moved to the Orlando area in 2008.

What we get from The New Lows is no frills chunky guitar riffs, soulful southern rock singing and punk energy, all fleshing out the bones of very good songwriting.  In my view, sincere stories told by a musician who really wants to share them is a large part of what makes indie rock worthwhile, and these guys are a prime exhibit.  This is one of those off-the-radar albums that you'll be very glad you investigated.

Try out The New Lows with a great slice of southern tinged indie rock --

"Arbor" shows the band's more reflective side --

The band displays their punkier side on "Bite Me" --

I Couldn't Sleep is available at the Bandcamp link below, as well as from Amazon and iTunes.


REVIEW: Black Roots - On the Ground Dub

If one truly loves reggae, and I do, one cannot ignore the genre's development outside Jamaica.  In particular, the Caribbean diaspora to the UK resulted in a thriving reggae scene, spawning lovers rock stars, influencing rock bands (e.g. The Clash), providing a touring outlet for traveling Jamaican artists, influencing the two-tone ska movement, and nurturing a number of very good UK-grown roots bands.  Among the latter is Bristol's Black Roots.  Formed in the early '80s, it was a true band (multiple vocalists, keys, guitars, bass, dual percussionists) rather than a vocal group backed by hired instrumentalists.  While the band enjoyed a fair amount of success in the UK, until recently they had gone two decades without releasing new music.  In September 2012, Black Roots released a very good roots album of new material, On the Ground, on Mike Darby's Sugar Shack Records and Nubian Records.  Now, Sugar Shack and Nubian have released a dub version of 15 of the 17 tracks from the September album -- On the Ground In Dub.

The best dub is more than an engineer's art.  If the original material lacks the melody, rhythm, and vocal hooks, even the best dub master will risk turning out something that resembles a science project gone wrong -- all bells and whistles and no soul.  But there is no such danger here, as On the Ground not only is a fine album, but it contains the elements needed to create a dub version.  Stage two, the work of the engineer, is top notch in this case.  At the hands of Louis Becket working at J & J Studio in Bristol, the bass pulses, the horns punctuate the rhythm, and the vocals ghost in and out.  Moreover, Becket is to be lauded for his restraint. In stripping down the original material and building the dub, he was sufficiently confident in his choices that he didn't drown the final tracks in excessive effects (and leaves me with the intent to check out other work by Louis).  The result is vibrant, breathing dub, and deserves the attention of anyone who enjoys reggae.  And to pick out a song for which I don't have a stream to share with you, "Oh Mama Africa Dub" is pure joy.

Black Roots is Jabulani Ngozi (guitar), Kondwani Ngozi (congas/vocals), Carlton Smith (vocals), Errol Brown (vocals), Cordell Francis (guitar) and Charles Bryan aka Delroy Ogilvie (vocals).

Black Roots website
Black Roots on Facebook
Bandcamp for album
Sugar Shack Records

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And a Ski Lodge video

For those of you who liked the feature of the new single from Ski Lodge earlier today, we have a video the NYC band released earlier this year.  It may give us all some new thoughts about sleeping in.

Introducing: Ski Lodge

Bright, jangly guitar pop always gets my attention, and I love to share.  So today we are introducing our readers to Brooklyn's Ski Lodge.  The four-piece was formed in 2011, and released an EP in the fall of that year.  They are finishing an album to be released later this year, but currently are baking in the Texas heat of SXSW.

In mid-April Ski Lodge will release the single "Just To Be Like You" on Dovecote Records.  You can stream it below.  I hear a bit of Glasgow's iconic Orange Juice. and the Smiths in their upbeat moments, in this tune, and that is a resemblance that will keep me interested in the album.

Ski Lodge are Andrew Marr, Jared O'Connell, John Barinaga, and Tim McCoy.  Their remaining tour dates are as follows:
3/13 - Austin, TX - SXSW Banners Day Party @ Side Bar (602 E 7th St) - 12:30pm

3/16 - Austin, TX - SXSW Official @ Hype Hotel (301 Brazos St) - 8pm
4/26 - Seattle, WA - Barboza *
4/17 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge *
4/28 - San Francisco, CA - Bottom Of The Hill *
4/30 - Los Angeles, CA - The Echo *
5/01 - San Diego, CA - Soda Bar *
5/02 - Phoenix, AZ - Rhythm Room *
5/04 - El Paso, TX - Lowbrow Palace *
5/06 - Dallas. TX - Three Links *
5/07 - Austin, TX - Holy Mountain *
5/08 - Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds *
5/30 - 6/2 - NYC Popfest
* w/ Chad Valley

Twitter ( @skiiilodge )
Dovecote Records

REVIEW: Girls Names - The New Life

The New Life by Belfast's Girls Names presents brooding, cathartic rock exactly the way I want it hear it -- ten post-punk songs, exhilarating in their scope, sound and tempo.  Ten anthems to emotional dissonance and sonic depth.  The guitars' jangle is an icy slash, the percussion a thundering echo, the bass is relentless foreboding, and the vocals a minimally inflected baritone.  But most importantly, The New Life is a collection of great songs.  And while it may be a bit early in the year for this prediction to have much weight, it is for me the best album of the year so far.  There are musical touchstones for the listener -- a bit of New Order in the guitar, at bit of Joy Division in atmosphere, a bit of Crystal Stilts vocally.  But the manner in which is all comes together belongs only to Girls Names.

"Pittura Infamante", named after Renaissance defamatory painting, begins with a bass line, and then expands onto an icy sonic landscape.  Redemption, isolation or both? I can't really tell (although my vote would be the latter), but it is my favorite song on the album.

I suspect that frontman Cathal Cully is fully aware that if he had continued Girls Names in the vein of their debut album fans and critics would have had no complaint.  So there is a certain boldness in deciding that the first alum closed a chapter and that, in terms of expression, a new band would be born.  Fortunately for us, and the band, the risk was worth taking.

"Hypnotic Regression" is the second single from the album.  Marked by guitar reverberation and unsettled vocals, it is another highlight track.

Girls Names are Cathal Cully (guitars/vocals), Neil Brogan (drums), Claire Miskimmin (bass) and Philip Quinn (guitars/keyboards).  Brogan also has a fine project named Sea Pinks and Quinn also is a member of band Charles Hurts.

The New Life was available digitally on February 26.  It will be available in vinyl and CD on March 12 from Slumberland Records in the US and Tough Love Records in Europe.

Here is the latest SXSW schedule for the band:

03/11 - Northern Irish Music Showcase - Latitude 30 - 8:45pm
03/13 - Slumberland Records Showcase - The Iron Bear - 12:00am
03/14 - Under The Radar, Flamingo Cantina - 4:05pm
03/14 - KRTU - Flat Top Burger Shop - 6:00pm
03/15 - Waterloo Cycles - 5:15pm 

Slumberland Records
Slumberland on Facebook
Tough Love Records

Monday, March 11, 2013

New Finnish Pop/Rock Discovery: Matti Jasu - "Piano Ambush"

Here's an absolutely joyful piece of piano-based rock music from Matti Jasu, our latest correspondent from Finland. His band is called Matti Jasu and the Loose Train. And there's a charming looseness to this song, which he says was recorded without overdubs:

Here's one with vocals - "Fingers Crossed". They've got a nice power pop sound:

Finally, a free download of the first advance single - "The New Year":

I'm impressed and looking forward to hearing the album, Pin On The Map, due out soon.

Matti Jasu website

Introducing: Misty Miller

Misty Miller began writing songs at age eight, and recorded her first album at age 15.  Now, at the advanced age of 18 she has recorded the five-track Girlfriend EP, which will be released by the Sony imprint, Relentless.  The young south Londoner claims Patti Smith, Iggy and the Stooges and The Velvet Underground as influences, so you can expect some lo-fi grit, and some righteous rocking.  And you'll get it.  Ms Miller demonstrates that age and gender are irrelevant -- it is about the spirit and performance.

I think you owe it to yourself to give Misty a chance.  Test it out with a stream of "Little Drummer" and the video for the title track - I love those guitars, by the way.  If you like it "Little Drummer", download it; it is free.  and then stream the entire record below.

Stream of the entire EP --

Missy just finished several live shows in support of Tom Odell.  But if you are in the UK and want to catch her act she will be supporting Jake Bugg on the following dates:

24 – Portsmouth (Guildhall)
25 – Bristol (O2 Academy)
26 – Southend (Cliffs Pavillion)
28 – Leicester (O2 Academy)
29 – York (Barbican)
30 – Carlisle (Sands Centre)

Twitter ( @Misty_Miller )
Relentless Records

REVIEW: The Mary Onettes - Hit The Waves

Sweden's The Mary Onettes create wonderful pop songs with uplifting, sometimes epic, melodies and dark, ernest lyrics.  They manage to be clean-sounding - even polished - but never slick or insincere.  And the latest edition of their craft is on display this week with the release of their second full-length, Hit The Waves (Labrador).  Augmenting their organic sound with layered vocals and keyboards, this album makes a believable claim to have the band ranked among Scandinavia's finest current pop bands.  

Here is the first single from the album, the grand melancholy of "Evil Coast" --

There is more than a bit of an '80s synth pop feel to this album.  Part of that may be production choices specific to this album, and part of it likely is the nature of Scandinavian pop.  But for me the quality of the songwriting and the Ekstrom's vocal delivery bring the work up to date, and eliminates the challenge that Hit The Waves is an retro exercise.  This is a collection of very good songs; and that should be more than enough to score the album well.

The title track.  Philip has said that this song was written after an extended period of listening to Peter Gabriel's work --

My favorite is the final song written for the album.  For me, it sums up what is so great about this band.  It has an '80s synth pop feel and almost cinematic grandeur.  What's not to love?

The Mary Onettes are Philip Ekstrom (vocals/guitar), Henrik Ekstrom (bass), Simon Fransson (drums) and Petter Aguren (guitar).  Hit The Waves is released by Labrador Records.

Twitter ( @themaryonettes )

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Prog Rock Discovery: The Monks of Mellonwah - The Sky And The Dark Night

Monks of Mellonwah are an Australian prog rock outfit - the group consists of Vikram Kaushik (vocals), Joe de la Hoyde (backing vocals/guitar), John de la Hoyde (bass), and Josh Baissari (drums). They are obviously influenced by Led Zeppelin - the guitars, the overall scope of the music, including soaring string sections make this evident. But they are playing in a few different styles - the predominant style is rock, but they venture into orchestral territory on their new EP Sky And The Dark Night. The first song is a prelude - featuring mostly strings - and it establishes the musical theme. The second track, "Sky And The Dark Night Part 2 - Control" adds in rock instrumentation and vocals:

There's some very strong guitar work on that one. Then the third song takes the theme, and builds it up with synths and a repeated chorus. It's exhilarating music, and augurs well for the anticipated full-length debut.

This is their third EP - their immediately previous one was Neurogenesis in May 2012. Here's a video for a track from that one:

Sky And The Dark Night is my first exposure to the Monks, and I think it's a significant step forward for them - hearing their earlier stuff, I think they are wise to turn up the guitars. The EP will be released April 1.

Monks of Mellonwah website

REVIEW: The Replacements "Songs For Slim"

It being the first Replacements record in 23 years, we certainly aren't going to complain that Songs for Slim is just a 5 song EP. But nor are we immediately jumping through the rafters since the impetus of this record is to raise money for 'Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap who suffered a major stroke and has significant unfunded long term disability needs.  These all too frequent stories of musicians without adequate health insurance always bum me out, but this a bit more so because people I know well are friends with Slim and tell me he is a great guy.

But even if I didn't have friends telling me that, Slim Dunlap would still be the Replacements guitar player from the 2nd half of their career after Bob Stinson left the band, and that alone would be plenty reason enough for me to want to support this.


Picture above - The 'Mats from back then: from left, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars,  Paul Westerberg, Slim Dunlap

To say that I love the Replacements would be an understatement, so this release is a big deal in my book. And it is completely successful, actually managing to stand up to the 'Mats revered catalogue.

All 5 songs are very good. We'll take them one at a time:
"Busted Up" was written by Slim Dunlap, and has a great, almost Little Feat boogie feel. Paul Westerberg sounds terrific.
"Radio Hook Word Hit", another song from Slim, was recorded, performed and sung solo by Chris Mars and it is a tremendous rock'n'roll song. Mars was always the unsung hero of the 'Mats, not just a great drummer, but a guy with a terrific ear and good taste who balanced the gifted Paul Westerberg's mood swings and inconsistencies.

Next up are three covers -
"I'm Not Sayin'", a Gordon Lightfoot song, fantastically covered with the 'Mats signature pop-rock/ bar band style (listen here);
"Lost Highway", penend by Leon Payne and made famous by Hank Williams (long a Westerberg hero); and
"Everything's Coming Up Roses" (which of course it never did in the Replacements world and certainly isn't with Slim's illness now), by Stephen Sondheim from the musical Gypsy.

Covering Gordon Lightfoot, Hank Sr. and a Broadway musical might seem a stretch for normal rock bands, but was the kind of thing the Replacements routinely carried off. And more to the point, these aren't goofs, they are the kind of well written, if eclectic songs that influenced Westerberg's exceptional songwriting and made the 'Mats brand of rock'n'roll so unique and magnificent.

Of course we here at WYMA get flooded with so much modern payola - private jets, opulent Las Vegas listening parties, cold hard cash, women, caviar, you name it - and we certainly never have to buy (ha!) CD's. But we did buy Songs for Slim and you should too. Get to your local independent record store today and tell 'em When You Motor Away blog sent you. It'll be the best $5 you'll spend this month, and a good guy named Slim Dunlap needs the dough.

And hey, it is great to hear The Replacements making music again, even if at this point, what we knew as The Replacements is down to just Westerberg and Tommy Stinson.

Web page:

A fine article from Billboard.

Also available at Amazon.