Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Phoenix Punk Discovery: Moovalya "To The Throne"

Moovalya is a Phoenix, AZ-based punk band with a great drummer, strong bass and guitars and shouted vocals with really good harmonies - a full but unflinching sound. They released an EP and full album in 2012

Here's a video they've recently released for "To The Throne":

And here's "Stay True" which puts the guitars out front:

It's on Dagger Sight Records. You can listen to more of their acts and buy Moovalya (download or one of the few remaining copies of the limited edition physical cd) at that site.

Moovalya Website

Friday, March 29, 2013

New Punk Discovery: Doctrines - "Daydreams"

Doctrines is a new 4-man punk band from Manchester, UK with a terrific sound - it's melodic punk with rough-edged vocals and it is really catchy. They're making the single "Daydreams" available for free download in advance of an upcoming album:

They released an EP entitled ZE EP in 2012, and both that EP and this single is on Alcopop! Records. They've got a full album due out in May. We'll have more to say about them...

Doctrines at Alcopop Records website

REVIEW: Brown Bird - Fits Of Reason

Providence, RI's Brown Bird is playing a variety of folk rock that has a foot in the present and one in the past. There is plenty of acoustic playing and vocal harmonizing - in places, they could be a 30's string band that travelled forward in time. But there's also some very good rock instrumentation - the guitar riffing on "Barren Lakes" is reminiscent of Sonic Youth, to me.

It's a duo: guitarist/percussionist/singer/songwriter David Lamb and MorganEve Swain on violin, cello, upright bass, electric bass, vocals. Obviously, they each wear a lot of hats. Listening to the record and keeping in mind there are only two of them, you'll be impressed at the variety of sounds and the electric/acoustic interplay, and at the same time unsurprised at the tightness of the harmonies. Lamb does most of the singing, but Swain's voice is light and clear, and whether she's supplying a counterpoint to his ragged vocal style or taking the lead here and there, she's a terrific vocalist.

Here's lead track "Seven Hells", a perfect example of the way Lamb's baritone vocal and heavy guitar combine with Swain's bass and harmony vocals to create something exhilarating. I have seen Brown Bird compared to Tom Waits in a few places - this, to me, is the closest their music comes to resembling his:

And here's "Nine Eyes", which showcases the Eastern influences (while retaining the rock elements that, to me, help make Brown Bird so listenable):

The record is out next Tuesday (Apr. 2), and to support, they're going out on tour:

April 3     Northampton, MA     Parlor Room (2 shows)
April 4     Burlington, VT     Higher Ground
April 5     Providence, RI     The Met
April 6     Portsmouth, NH     The Press Room
April 9     New Haven, CT     Lily Pad's
April 10     Harrisburg, PA     Fed Live
April 11     Pittsburgh, PA     Club Cafe
April 12     Ann Arbor, MI     The Ark
April 13     Bloomington, IN     The Bishop
April 16     Charlottesville, VA     The Southern
April 17     Richmond, VA     Strange Matter
April 18      Asbury Park, NJ     The Saint
April 19     Boston, MA     Brighton Music Hall
April 20     Portland, ME     One Longfellow Square (2 shows)
April 28     Indio, CA     Stagecoach Festival
May 24     Yosemite, CA     Strawberry Festival
May 27     George, WA     Sasquatch Festival
June 2     Nelsonville, OH     Nelsonville Festival

It's good music and I think seeing them live would be fun, if for nothing else, to see the two of them produce all this sound while creating the basic rhythm with their feet!

Brown Bird Website

Brown Bird Facebook

Introducing: Salad Boys

Christchurch's Salad Boys are members of a music collective called Melted Ice Cream.  The collective includes a number of bands and all of the members of Salad Boys appear to play in some of the other projects in various combinations.  However, the reason that this band attracted my attention first should be clear to any regular reader here after the first few bars of "Dream Date" -- these guys have the south island New Zealand sound down.  Sure, their version has some personal quirks, and I think I hear some similarities to NZ band Surf City as well, but it all sounds fresh and great.  And for a young three-piece, the performances are assured and the sound is full.  Try a couple of tracks from the Salad Boys album here.  If you ... I mean when you decide you like it, go to the Bandcamp link.  You can stream the entire album and possess it for "name your price".

Salad Boys are Joseph Sampson (guitar/vocals), Ben Odering (bass), and James Sullivan (drums

Here is a video of part of their performance at the Camp a Low Hum festival in Wainuiomata, New Zealand (near Wellington) in February.


RIP - Paul Williams, music writer (Crawdaddy!)

Paul Williams died Wednesday at age 64. This blog and any media outlet that writes about rock music with any degree of seriousness owes a huge debt to Paul Williams, one of the very best music writers who ever lived.

Williams founded Crawdaddy!, the first magazine devoted to covering rock music, in 1966. It was a highly influential journal, pre-dating and serving as the thinking man's Rolling Stone. John Lennon, Joseph Heller, Cameron Crowe and countless other influential writers and artists published pieces in Crawdaddy!. Crawdaddy! was the first place where feature stories appeared about Bruce Springsteen, Gram Parsons and countless others.

Williams sang on "Give Peace a Chance" recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a Montreal hotel room in 1968.

Crawdaaddy! later came back under Williams' control as a subscription newsletter from 1993-2003. It eventually gave way to the digital age where Williams lengthy and authoritative pieces didn't fit as well.

Williams wrote with insight, authority and passion. He took music writing to a height that often soared far above the music he wrote about. He was a true artist, a music fan of epic proportions, and a kind soul.

Williams wrote 25 books, including the amazing, very highly recommended 3 part series Bob Dylan: Performing Artist. Williams was a leading authority on Dylan, Brian Wilson, Neil Young and science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

I had the great privilege of meeting Williams in person once in 1993 here in Portland where I attended a Bob Dylan concert with him, which was rather like going to Mass at the Vatican with a Roman Cardinal. After that meeting, I became a contributor for the Crawdaddy! newsletter, which I always found a bit intimidating, though an honor, and Williams served as an insightful and supportive editor.

Williams suffered a serious brain injury in a bicycle accident and had a tough road in recent years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Cindy Lee Berryhill, a very talented singer-songwriter, and another kind soul and beautiful person.

Here's a lovely piece about Paul written by his friend and mine Denise Sullivan: Paul Williams 

Read some great archival Crawdaddy! pieces here.

Friday Nuggets - "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)"

Everything about this song is over the top starting with the band name, The Electric Prunes.  "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" is what you might expect to find in a ham-fisted movie scene about the psychedelic '60's.

And it's all here in this performance from the Merv Griffin TV show, which now looks like a time capsule:

But I love it, starting with the guitar vibrato intro! Even the ridiculous joke at the heart of the lyric - I'm not hungover, I just had "too much to dream last night" - somehow doesn't bother me.  

The Electric Prunes were from Los Angeles and recorded their biggest hit "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" in 1966.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Welsh Glam/Punk Discovery: Beard of Wolves - new EP, video, free download

Beard Of Wolves are a North Wales duo playing heavy glam/punk/metal. If you like to consider what old T Rex, filtered through industrial stuff like Depeche Mode, might sound like, give this a listen. The single ‘Wet Mouth’ is out now on limited edition 7" white vinyl through the Too Pure singles club. The new track ‘My Father Drives The Death Star’ is also available to download for free:

Beard Of Wolves self-titled EP was released March 18, and the band also released a video for another track. Here's "Wet Mouth":

More music and more tour dates to come soon. The band claims that playing live is their real love: "We wanted BOW to be fun to play live before anything else. If people can see you're into it, they're more inclined to take notice of you. And that's what we want. We want people to take notice, we want people to watch us play live, lots of them"

Beard Of Wolves Facebook

Casual Sex, endorsed once again ...

We're doubling down on Casual Sex.  Our position a few weeks ago was strongly in favor based on track "Stroh 80" (link here).  The band has released the other two tracks from their debut single, "National Unity" and "Soft School".  The single is available on Moshi Moshi Singles Club on April 1.  Let's be honest, it is too late to be coy about this.  Casual Sex is your future.

Soundcloud for other tracks
Moshi Moshi Records

REVIEW: Pigbag - Year of Pigbag

Sometimes you need variety.  Sometimes you need spice.  Frankly, sometimes you need some Pigbag.  Bristol's Sugar Shack Records understands your needs, and has conspired to deliver Pigbag's first album of new material in about three decades.  What is Pigbag?  It is a funk oriented Afro-Jazz combo that had a hit in the early '80s (the wonderfully named "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag").  The band was inactive from 1983 to 2011, then reunited with Chris Lee (trumpet), Kolfi Adu (percussion) and Ollie Moore (saxophones), all of whom are original members, and additional members John Sam (drums), Sven Atterton (bass), Karme Caruso (keyboards), Max O'Donnell (guitar) and Matt Dowse (trombone).  The new release, Year of the Pigbag, is an energetic, funky album that will surprise and delight any dance party or any gathering that would benefit from a groove.  Here is an album where the brass and rhythms are the stars.  Move your feet!

Sugar Shack Records released Year of the Pigbag on March 25.  It is available on CD on via digital download.

Sugar Shack Records
Bandcamp for Year of Pigbag
Band Website

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Not Enough", a new song from Franco and the Dreadnought

Franco and the Dreadnought is the solo project of John Blaylock (and his Martin acoustic) of the Manchester band International One.  I think you are going to be hearing more from John in the upcoming years, and if you are a regular visitor to these pages you will be reading more about him.  For purposes of today's introduction, here is his new song  "Not Enough".  It was written by Franco and Kathryn Williams, a Mercury Prize winner.  Please give it a listen.  It has a great melody, and John's vocals display his feel for the material.

Twitter ( @FrancoDnought )

Quick Update - Michael Rank and Stag

No sooner do we put up a review of Michael Rank and Stag's new CD In the Weeds, do they post a new official video of "The Surrender", a song from that fine record:

"The Surrender" closes the record and is a great example of how Rank just throws himself into the vocals, lays it on the line. The song may be slow, it may be relatively quiet, but it burns with intensity.

REVIEW: Semi-Twang - The Why And The What For

Semi-Twang is a veteran country-rock outfit from Milwaukee by way of Nashville (although their music will remind you more of other Southern rock meccas like Memphis, New Orleans and Muscle Shoals). This week, they've released their third album: The Why And The What For.

Think Delbert McClinton, think of Levon Helms' Arkansas roots, think of whatever blues-tinged Southern country rockers you like, and you will find these guys fit right into that stable. The band released its first album in 1988, and after sales trailed their critical acclaim, lead vocalist and songwriter John Sieger lit out for Nashville, TN. Guitarists Mike Hoffmann and Jason Klagstad, bassist Mike Sieger, and multi-instrumentalist Bob Jennings and drummer Bob Schneider. While Sieger was plying his trade in Nashville, the other band members stayed busy with various projects and session work until the band reformed in 2009 - and they've been working together on their 2011 release Wages Of Sin, and then on this record.

It's got lots of blazing guitar, Sieger's soulful vocals and the spirit of every Southern rock city from Memphis to New Orleans, not to mention the spirits of folks like Chuck Berry and Ronnie Hawkins.

Here's "The Wrong Side of the Tracks", a very apt example of what they're up to, Chuck Berry/Keith Richard guitar licks and all:

To celebrate the release this week, they're offering a free download of album track "Making Everybody Cry" - click here to get it.

REVIEW: Wax Idols - Discipline & Desire

The sophomore album, Discipline & Desire, from Oakland's Wax Idols should have at least two results.  One is that those who pigeonholed the band's music as "garage" based on 2011's No Future will have to expand their horizons.  The other, and more important, result is that Wax Idols should be put on the roster of bands to expected to make a significant mark.

The album starts out with an aggressive blast of post punk in "Stare Back" furious guitar backing off to an insistent rhythm and chanting vocals, and then back to the furious guitars.  Just as Dorthy knew she wasn't in Kansas (duh, Munchkins!), we know that we aren't in a Bay Area garage.  "Sound of a Void" begins with a vocal challenge, but we don't have to wait long for the guitars and rhythm section.  It is clear at this point that Discipline & Desire is going to deliver an intense ride.  Track 3, "When it Happens" has a more pop/new wave feel, but yields nothing in terms of pace and bite.

After "Formulae", which is one of my favorites on the album, the tempo slows a bit for "Scent of Love" -- a track which reminds me a bit of Siouxsie and the Banshees and boasts intriguing percussion.  Following are the new wave anthem "Dethrone" and the feedback drenched masterpiece that is "AD RE: IAN" --

"Cartoonist", Elegua" and "Stay In" provide a strong close to the album.  "Elegua", in particular, is a hauntingly memorable mid-tempo song which backs off the decibels, but not the intensity.

I liked Wax Idol's debut quite a bit (I recall that it was a top 20 album for the year on my 2011 list), but Discipline & Desire is better -- more consistent, more melodic and has higher production values.  The instruments present cleanly and the echoing vocals are high enough in the mix to give appropriate import to the statements and questions posed by the band.  Some may find it less accessible (and my appreciation grew with repeated listens), I'm very impressed with the band's ability to craft such a strong a set of deliciously dark songs.  The album also is notably visceral; they aren't just expressing their pain and frustration, they are inviting you to share it.

Wax Idols are Heather Fortune (vocals and guitar), Jen Mundy (rhythm guitar and vocals), Rachel (drums), and Amy Rosenoff (bass).  Discipline & Desire is out now on Slumberland Records.

Slumberland Records

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REVIEW: William Tyler - Impossible Truth

We wrote about William Tyler's Impossible Truth on Feb. 2 (WYMA post here). The album is out this week on Merge. It's an expansive, beautiful, somewhat psychedelic and decidedly American album. No words, just guitars - but it's no less evocative for that. In fact, I think that eschewing vocals allows Tyler to use the dizzying variety of guitar styles and rhythms to bring up his emotional reaction to America at present, and to bring up memories and ghosts of America past. It really is amazing how one man with one guitar (accompanied strategically by another guitar here and there) can cover so much ground.

Check out "Cadillac Desert":

He's channelling John Fahey, Skip James and, certainly, contemporaries like David Pajo, Silver Jews and Will Oldham (the latter two with whom he's played on previous projects), but he's taking the tradition and going in his own direction. This is very thoughtful music - well-played, with exquisite use of both sound and silence.

Here's a video of Tyler playing "We Can't Go Home Again" from Shaker Steps:

The album was recorded and mixed at Beech House in Nashville and co-produced by Tyler and Mark Nevers and features guest appearances from Chris Scruggs, Luke Schneider, Roy Agee, and Scott Martin. It's highly recommended - both the album, and any opportunity you have to see him live. He's on tour:

Apr 04 Winston-Salem, NC – Phuzz Phest
Apr 09 Athens, GA – Green Room
Apr 10 Asheville, NC – Double Crown
Apr 11 Durham, NC – The Pinhook
Apr 12 Washington, DC – 9th and the Beats
Apr 13 Kingston, NY – BSP (w/ Richard Buckner)
Apr 14 Philadelphia, PA – Ortlieb’s
Apr 16 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge (early show)
Apr 17 Portland, ME – Space Gallery
Apr 18 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Upstairs
Apr 19 Montreal, QC – O Patro Vys
Apr 20 Toronto, ON – Silver Dollar
Apr 21 Cleveland, OH – Happy Dog
Apr 22 Detroit, MI – Lager House
Apr 23 Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
Apr 24 Iowa City, IA – Trumpet Blossom Cafe
Apr 25 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue and 7th St Entry
Apr 26 Chicago, IL – Hideout
Apr 27 Indianapolis, IN – Do317 Lounge

And, for now, you can stream it at Merge's website, so you can listen before you buy.

William Tyler at Merge Records

REVIEW: The Cyclist - Bones in Motion

I fully expect that those who apply labels to music will tend to call Bones in Motion by The Cyclist electronic dance music.  In fact, I've applied similar labels in preparing the post.  But I assure you that such tags are inadequate to capture the artful experimentation, subtlety and range that Northern Ireland producer Andrew Morrison, aka The Cyclist, infuses in his music.

Building off a throbbing house beat, Morrison blows up the genre with dazzling combinations of analog haze, warmth, soul, and tastefully chosen samples.  The beats break off, the sound dissolves and hisses, then extends into an extended trance.  House can be played straight, or played ironically, but it takes admirable vision to find new corners of the genre and turn out a sincere and exciting interpretation for current audiences.

The title track, "Bones in Motion" and "CAN" are firmly in the dance groove --

And here is the gloriously quirky "Mangel" --

Bones in Motion is available today, March 26, on Leaving Records.

Soundcloud ( @The_Cyclist_UK )
Leaving Records

REVIEW: The Growlers - Hung at Heart

Plying a rootsy, surfy psychedelic folk-rock that is sometimes mellow and sometimes a bit dark, Orange County's The Growlers are back with their third album, Hung at Heart.  One thing any prospective listener needs to understand is that The Growlers do things their own trippy, free-wheeling way.  They are wacky, lo-fi and decidedly not too serious.  But that doesn't mean that the music is anything other than sublime.  I'm enjoying this album immensely; it has a great party vibe and is on my list of potential top 50 albums for the year.  And it doesn't mean that the band isn't devoted to achieving the sound that they want.  At one point Hung at Heart was produced by Dan Auerbach, but The Growlers felt results were overcooked.  So The Growlers, wanting to sound like The Growlers, re-recorded it themselves.

The tone is set from the opening track, "Someday" -


Immerse yourself in Hung at Heart and you'll find yourself surrounded by engaging, crunchy and slightly scruffy pop songs and nodding along to homespun -- and often slightly off-kilter -- philosophy.  Nielson's low-register grumble fits the proceedings like your favorite wetsuit and the arrangements are excellent and varied.  Trust me, you'll want this album for your summer evening beach parties.  Or your pretend summer evening beach parties.

The Growlers are Brooks Nielsen (vocals), Matt Taylor (guitar), Kyle Straka (guitar) Scott Montoya (drums), and Anthony Perry (bass).  Hung at Heart is released on Everloving Records in North America and FatCat Records in UK/Europe.  The band is commencing on a European tour this week.


Everloving Records
FatCat Records

Monday, March 25, 2013

New video from La Luz

One of the most pleasant surprises on the Seattle indie scene in 2012 was the emergence of the all-female surf/doo-wop/noise pop band La Luz.  The band just released a video the opening track from their EP, Damp Face, and we think it is an excellent excuse to feature the band again.

If you want to check out the entire EP, click the Bandcamp link below.


REVIEW: The Fireworks - The Fireworks EP

Pop melodies, boy-girl vocals, guitar fuzz and feedback, The Fireworks EP will remind you of the days of C86 bands like The Razorcuts and The Flatmates, and the more pop shaded work of The Jesus and Mary Chain.  The EP is comprised of four tracks, the first three of which are classic, fast tempo C86 guitar pop.  The fourth is gentle, melancholy "unplugged" song and provides a fitting close to the album.  All of the songs display a great pop sensibility, great vocals, and a promise of good things to come.

Here is the opening track --

The Fireworks are Matthew (of Big Pink Cake) on guitar and vocals, Emma (from Pocketbooks) on tambourine and vocals, Isabel (of Things in Herds) on bass, and Shaun (of the Wedding Present) on drums.  The band was founded after friends reacted favorably to songs Matthew wrote and sang to friends over the telephone.

The Fireworks EP is available from Shelflife Records as a physical 7" or digital download.  You may stream it at the Bandcamp link below.

Shelflife Records

REVIEW - Michael Rank and Stag, "In the Weeds"

Michael Rank 2nd from left, with Stag

The photo above is instructive as it captures the essence of In the Weeds, a tremendous piece of ensemble playing that builds upon Michael Rank's 2012 release Kin. Rank has assembled some of the best musicians in North Carolina and they play these 10 songs about heartbreak with passion and energy, diving deep into acoustic country music without leaving behind the rock'n'roll go-for-the-throat attitude of the bands they came from (which include two of the best in NC history – Snatches of Pink and the Backsliders).

While this is an all star cast, they play as a single unit where the fiddle, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel, bass, guitar, drum sounds and vocals fit together organically and sound like a real band not a bunch of great players adding their piece to somebody's record. 

Here's the opening track 'Round My Head:

And an excellent  live version of 'Round My Head:

One of my favorites here is "Confederates", a duet between Rank and Emily Frantz who I had not heard before (from the band Mandolin Orange). She has a lovely warm voice that serves as the perfect contrast to Rank's raspy rock'n'roll tone. Listen to "Confederates" here:

This CD should come with a warning though - if you are reeling from the love of your life walking out on you, these songs will either be the purest recognition of what you are going through (and thereby therapeutic), or they may send you straight over the edge. There are lines like this throughout:

You're the only girl I'll ever want
You're in every song I wrote
It's Christmas time, but that don't matter to you
I still hear your footsteps each time you walk away
If only you would kiss me again
If only would let me be your man

And the clincher: 

And I thank god for our son

Rank puts it all out there in a way that might surprise those of us who first came to his music in the late 1980's when Snatches of Pink ruled the roost in Chapel Hill.  Petulant, snarling young Michael Rank didn't reveal much about himself and might not recognize this songwriter now baring his soul about raising his young son. This batch of songs, as well as those on last year's release Kin (reviewed here), are courageous and powerful.  But still, Rank maintains what I've always loved about him - his swagger and great feel for the power of rock'n'roll, in this case with a big dose of rootsy twang, something his hero Keith Richards knows a thing or two about as well.   In the words of another great Southern rock song from the 1980's, Rank is scarred but smarter.  

In The Weeds comes from the heart in all regards - lyrics, spirit, performances - and that makes it a powerful work, one that will stick with you. 

I would recommend following Michael Rank on Facebook, where you get information about his music, but also thoughts on the NCAA basketball tourney, updates on the house he is building, and other good stuff.  

Michael Rank web page.

REVIEW: Homework - 13 Towers

I've been out of school for a good while, but lately Homework has been on my schedule.  Moreover, I confess that I quite like Homework!  No, I haven't gone bonkers -- I'm not talking about term papers or science projects.  I'm talking about an electro-rock band from Edinburgh.  And as long as were cautioning against jumping to conclusions, don't assume that a band relying on synths, bass, percussion and laptops (as well as some guitar) doesn't have a rock attitude.  On their new album, 13 Towers, these young Scots pump out dirty dance grooves, dark soundscapes and an extra-credit dose of hooks.

There are touches of Kraftwork and Bauhaus here, but what most characterizes, and personalizes, the 12 tracks on 13 Towers is the propulsive beat and jittery atmosphere of the music.  This is electronic rock that commands your attention from start to finish.

"It's All Over", made for the dance floor with a menacing tone and a decided Scottish accent --

Homework is Oi Kass (vocals, guitar, synths, programming), Ross Baird (guitar, synths, backing vocals), Richard Kass (drums, laptop), and Ally Dennis (bass, backing vocals).  13 Towers is out today on Home From Home Records.  The album is available on CD and as a digital download.