Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Art-Rock Discovery: Marie Avery - The Fire EP

Marie Avery's a very talented singer with a strong, clear voice playing an artful take on folk-rock. She's recently made available a 5-song EP called The Fire. Here's lead track "Heavy" - it starts slow, languid and fairly quiet, but then the sound swells in the chorus as she sort of stretches out the line "You weigh too heavy on my soul," while piano, strings and a haunting electric guitar play in the background. It's a beautiful piece of music:

And here's "Sailing" - which she's made available to download for free. Good piano on this one, and it's Avery playing it:

I think she's got a lot of musical talent, and this EP is a good showcase. The cover art, by the way, was done by Amber Edgar, who also plays guitar on part of this EP. And Avery supplies backing vocals on Edgar's record, too.

KPM Music Library - Music For Dancefloors

Music For Dancefloors is a collection of tracks from the KPM Music Library, a source of background music that, due to the high quality of the composers and compositions, became sought-after for its own sake. I don't know that you really care to read a review from me, and everything I learned about it came from the Strut Records presser anyway. It's a fascinating concept - music sort of specific to genre on order:

The phenomenon of the music library is unique, involving brilliant but anonymous composers and musicians creating short pieces of music to be made available for background use in film, television, and radio. Originally recorded as a source of go-to material for use in film, television and radio, library music wasn’t intended to be enjoyed in a home listening context, and often wasn’t available for commercial release at all. However, due to the quality of the musicianship and the stripped-down arrangements, music from the best libraries has become extremely sought-after by DJs and producers.

The UK's KPM library (especially its green "1000 series" of the 60s and 70s) is easily one of the most legendary sources of library funk. KPM music has been sampled by the likes of Jay-Z, DOOM, Madlib and Guilty Simpson, Dangermouse, Action Bronson, and even turns up in the opening of Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill (via the Grindhouse promo spot which uses Kieth Mansfield’s “Funky Fanfare”).

This new edition features an exclusive bonus disc, which makes available for the first time the debut gig by the KPM All-Stars, bringing together many of KPM’s greatest composers for a unique night at London’s Jazz Cafe on 27th April 2000.

As a sampler, here's "Swamp Fever" by John Cameron:

This album was released last week (Apr. 2) on Strut Records.

Video for "Creep the Creeps" by Kids on a Crime Spree

Covering Kinds On A Crime Spree" twice in one week could seem like more of a crime wave than a crime spree (prior post here).  However, this just released video for the title track to their new single is worthy of coverage by itself, so here it is --

Kids On A Crime Spree - Creep The Creeps from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.

New Pop-Rock Discovery: Jay Arner - "Don't Remind Me" - free download now, S/T album in June

Jay Arner, a singer/songwriter from Vancouver, is working on his own album, having spent years playing in other peoples' bands and working as a producer and remix artist. How he's ready to release a full album of his songs - played completely by him.

Here's lead track "Don't Remind Me" - you can download it for free:

Judging by this track, he's got terrific pop sensibility and clearly knows his way around the studio. I love the drumming and the sort of power pop-meets-wall of sound approach - there's a lot of good sounds stuffed into about 2:30. The eponymous album is due out in June on Mint Records... you can pre-order it right now.

Jay Arner Website

Friday, April 12, 2013

New Shoegaze/Indie Discovery - Cassettes On Tape - Cathedrals EP

Cassettes On Tape is a Chicago-based band playing post-punk with 80's/90's indie rock influences and shoegaze leanings. They have released an EP titled Cathedrals, and it's available on Bandcamp for "name your price". 

Here's "Adored" - I'm hearing touches of The Smiths, The Cure and Peter Murphy in this one:

Actually, I'm hearing touches of those three throughout this generous, 7-song EP. This stuff is well-played, and the guitar on the last two songs is absolutely scorching.

Cassettes On Tape Facebook

"Brown Balloon", a new single from The Mantles

The melodic garage pop of The Mantles is a favorite in the Executive Suite of WYMA's Pacific Northwest (almost) International Headquarters.  The Bay Area band's new album, Long Enough to Leave, will be out on Slumberland Records in mid-June.  But you can try a slice of it right now.  If you like jangly west coast guitar pop, you'll find "Brown Balloon" to be an immediate ear worm.

Slumberland Records

She & Him - "I Could've Been Your Girl" from Volume 3 (out May 7)

She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M Ward) have found they really enjoy their music career - Volume 3, simply and aptly named, is their third full-length and features her enchanting vocals with his wonderful guitar. It's pure, timeless pop music - completely song-based and unashamedly catchy. Her voice and his guitar are both featured to great effect on this song, recently released as a preview:

Like the backbeat, the reverb on her vocals and the restraint Ward shows on the guitar, which is for the most part gently played in the background until he throws in a scorching, but understated little solo about 1:55 in.

And here's the previously released "Never Wanted Your Love", which features a nice little soul-inspired chorus and is a little more upbeat:

The album's due out May 7 on Merge Records.

Friday Nuggets - The Woggles

I am traveling to the great city of Atlanta this week for a conference. So, let's honor a Georgia band today, and also show that this Nuggets feature isn't a time capsule. Garage rock lives on and few bands working today do it better than the Woggles.

"It's Not About What I Want":

"Ramadan Romance":

And they have a great artist web page with many downloads available.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Garage Punk Discovery: Red Hex - Shoulda Known EP

Red Hex is a Tacoma, WA-based punk band playing with energy... and feedback. Love the feedback. Check out the title track:

Here's "Down in the Dirt", which has early Nirvana written all over it:

Nothing fancy, just terrific punk rock, including a bonus track called "Rat Boy". I see a lot of promise in this band. It's on Negative Fun Records.

LOVE COP - Eat Yr Heart Out and Love/Cop

Sweet, jangly and super, super lo-fi, Portland's LOVE COP is Duffy Rongiiland & Phil Salina. Phil's affiliated with the label Gnar Tapes (Scott and I have both featured Gnar artists previously, happily so). Their latest release (March 2) is Eat Yr Heart Out., pretty quickly following on the heels of their January release Love/Cop.

Check out the "Spector Wall of Sound" - meets - "Dracula Lo-Fi Vocals" sound of "Kill Yr Boyfriend":

When it comes to the four P's, LOVE COP is hitting on at least 3 of them. Well, only three of them. In no universe that I'm aware of could this be considered prog. But pop, punk and psych, hell yes. And if you want, feel free to substitute a fourth "P" - with song titles "Gettin' High In the Graveyard" and "I Wanna Get Baked (With a Baker)" I'll let you come up with the three-letter word.

As a bonus, check out the Bauhaus-influenced "He Said" (video) and a free download of their drone-y cover of Jeff The Brotherhood's "Bummer" from their January release Love/Cop:

Buy at Gnar Tapes. Cassettes and downloads available.

REVIEW: The Besnard Lakes - Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO

Besnard Lakes plays a haunting style of rock, and have for a while - on their latest, Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO, they aren't varying far from their established style. Good thing, because we need more of this stuff. They move back and forth between angelic female vocal choruses and male vocal harmonies that approach Beach Boys-level. Behind, around and under it all, they're featuring guitars, thundering bass rhythms and some beautiful, expansive keyboards and synths. From the band's own description of the record: "The story of the album unfolds its introspection on the endurance of the human spirit during prophetic times as told by a spy or two, maybe more."

I first heard them in 2010, and theirs was one of the earliest posts on this blog. That album was The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night. They are a wonderful example of a band that is a studio creation and uses the studio to keep experimenting and improving their sound. It's a husband and wife team, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, along with Kevin Laing and Richard White. This album also features contributions by Moonface's Spencer Krug and Mike Bigelow, Sarah Page (harpist with The Barr Brothers), Monica Guenter (viola) and the Fifth String Liberation Singers' Choir. Lasek's guitar work is particularly wonderful - in places it's positively reminiscent of David Gilmour.

Check out "Colour Yr Lights In" - for examples of the vocal harmonies, the guitar work (including a little bit of surf reverb) and the way they weave it all together:

I doubt you want to read any more of my thoughts on this record (which saves me a trip to the thesaurus to find synonyms for "ethereal") - suffice to say I'm crazy about it, and hear new things to like on each subsequent listen. I especially like the way they are able to merge sounds (vocals, synths, bass and guitar lines) together for periods of time, then subtly raise one or another of them above the mix, only to pull it back in.

Video for "People of the Sticks":

The record was released last week (Apr. 2) on Jagjaguwar Records.

They've got a lot of traveling planned - see below for your opportunity to hear them live:

04/11/13 Quebec City, QC - Le Cercle
04/13/13 Montreal , QC - Cabaret du Mile End
04/18/13 Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop w/ SUUNS
04/19/13 Grand Rapids, MI - The Pyramid Scheme w/ SUUNS
04/20/13 Chicago, IL - Schubas Tavern w/ SUUNS
04/21/13 DeKalb, IL - Otto's Nightclub w/ SUUNS
04/22/13 Bloomington, IN - The Bishop w/ SUUNS
04/23/13 St. Louis, MO - Firebird w/ SUUNS
04/24/13 Fayetteville, AR - J.R.'s Lightbulb Co w/ Suuns
04/25/13 Dallas, TX - Club DaDa w/ SUUNS & Black Mountain
04/26/13 Austin, TX - Austin Psych Fest
04/27/13 Houston, TX - Rudyard's BUY TICKETS
04/29/13 Atlanta, GA - The Earl
04/30/13 Charleston, SC - The Pourhouse BUY TICKETS
05/01/13 Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
05/02/13 Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
05/03/13 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
05/04/13 Cambridge, MA - Middle East Downstairs
05/14/13 Lund, SE - Mejeriet
05/15/13 Stockholm, SE - Debaser Slussen
05/16/13 Gothenburg, SE - Pusterviksbaren
05/17/13 Copenhagen, DK - Stengade
05/19/13 Groningen, NL - Vera
05/21/13 Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso
05/22/13 Bristol, UK - Fleece n Firkin
05/23/13 Manchester, UK - Ruby Lounge
05/24/13 Glasgow, UK - Stereo
05/25/13 Leeds, UK - Brudenell Social Club
05/26/13 Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds
05/27/13 Brighton, UK - Komedia
05/28/13 London, UK - The Garage
05/29/13 Paris, FR - La Fleche d'Or
05/30/13 Nantes, FR - Stereolux
06/01/13 Marseille, FR - Le Poste a Galene
06/02/13 Toulouse, FR - Le Dynamo
06/04/13 Lyon, FR - Le Sonic
06/05/13 Strasbourg, FR - La Laiterie
06/07/13 Zurich, CH - Rote Fabrik
06/08/13 Koln, DE - Blue Shell
06/09/13 Berlin, DE - Monarch
06/10/13 Munich, DE - Atomic Cafe

Dick Diver's new video for "Calendar Days"

I reviewed Calendar Days, the wonderful new album from Melbourne's Dick Diver a bit less than a month ago (link).  The band just released a video for the title track, and if you have read the review, you would know that there is zero chance that I wouldn't feature another song from the album here.  This gang writes really great songs, and this is one of my favorites from the album.

You can watch and listen below.

Twitter ( @dick_diver )
Chapter Music

New track from Kid Icarus

Kid Icarus is from Scranton, PA - and we've been happy to feature their muscular, guitar-based indie rock a few times before (WYMA post about their previous album, American Ghosts here). They've got a new song out, "Women In Films II":

It's got punk energy, growling guitars and a fast pace - very enjoyable. Looking forward to more from them this year...

Hey Kids! Don't Miss the Mountain Goats All-Ages Summer Tour!

Yesterday the Mountain Goats announced that they'd be touring as a duo for a 20 date all-ages tour during June. It's the first time they've toured without their drummer of choice, Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Bob Mould Band), since 2007. If you've never seen the Mountain Goats live, you really need to make it a priority. Singer-guitarist-songwriter John Darnielle is one of the most engaging rock and roll frontmen you'll ever come across. He acts like he's actually having a great time up there. He'll tell some stories, make up jokes on the spot that are funny, and along with longtime bassist Peter Hughes, play the hell out of their generous setlist. They've got a boatload of great material to play, including last year's excellent album Transcendental Youth and 2011's All Eternals Deck, both from Merge Records, and both of which were on my year-end best of lists. Here's the video for "Cry for Judas", from Transcendental Youth.

I was especially happy to see that Denton, Texas's Baptist Generals will be opening for all of the June shows.  A buddy and I saw the stripped down version of the Baptist Generals (in this case, a solo acoustic set by guitarist/singer Chris Flemmons) when they opened for Centro-matic at Local 506 in Chapel Hill many years ago. When Flemmons took the stage, there were only about 10 or 12 other people in the place, including one John Darnielle (of course I didn't talk to him, what the hell kind of weirdo stalker do you think I am?). Anyway, Chris Flemmons was breathtakingly good, and to this day I can't shake the thought that he's like an equally talented, perhaps slightly less hinged Jeff Mangum (the latter impression formed from listening to the shenanigans at the end of the first song on their excellent combination debut/last record, 2003's No Silver/No Gold). Well, in doing a little backgrounding for this post, I discovered that after 10 years, they've finally finished their followup album. Jackleg Devotional to the Heart will be released on 21 May by Sub Pop. Having heard nary a note, I can guarantee that you'll not want to miss it. Here's a really cool video of them playing in front of a crowd of 11, followed by the tour schedule.

The Mountain Goats on tour:
* = w/ The Baptist Generals
May 1 Boone, NC Appalachian State University
June 3 Washington, DC 9:30 Club*
June 4 York, PA Strand- Capitol Performing Arts*
June 5 Hoboken, NJ Maxwell's*
June 7 New Haven, CT Center Church on the Green*
June 8 Portland, ME Port City Music Hall*
June 9 South Burlington, VT Higher Ground Ballroom*
June 11 Munhall, PA Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead*
June 12 Detroit, MI Majestic Theatre*
June 14 Cincinnati, OH Taft Ballroom*
June 15 Bloomington, IN Buskirk-Chumley Theatre*
June 16 Evanston, IL Space*
June 17 Chicago, IL Lincoln Hall*
June 19 Kansas City, MO The Record Bar*
June 20 St. Louis, MO Old Rock House*
June 22 Birmingham, AL The Bottletree*
June 23 Gainesville, FL High Dive*
June 24 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Culture Room*
June 26 Charleston, SC The Charleston Pourhouse *
June 27 West Columbia, SC New Brookland Tavern*
June 28 Wilmington, NC The Soapbox *
July 26-28 Newport, RI Newport Folk Festival
September 13-16 Miami, FL Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival

Mountain Goats website (always a great read, including John's commentary on the upcoming tour)
Baptist Generals at Sub Pop

CISAR release new track - "Figure It Out"

A while back, we featured Johnny Headband - an electronic rock duo (brothers Chad and Keith Thompson) with soulful vocals. Chad and Keith later reincarnated as CISAR, and we've featured their track "High Horses" (WYMA post here).

They've sent along a new track and we're happy to feature it - it's a nice slice of McCartney/Jeff Lynne-influenced pop:

Chad Thompson sings, produces and plays keyboards. He's getting help from Gregory McIntosh on guitar and Zach Shipps on bass.

CISAR on Facebook

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reverberation Radio #57

The folks at Reverberation Radio provide a weekly dose of tasty curated music every Wednesday.  Enjoy.

Reverberation 57

Take the wayback machine to the Reverberation Radio Archives.

New single from The Pastels

Yes, The Pastels, a Glasgow group that with Olympia's Beat Happening was largely responsible for the  DIY/anyone-can-play-and-sing movement, is back this spring with a new LP, Slow Summits.  And first single available from the record is "Check My Heart".  In my opinion, the song reminds us of why the band is beloved by many indie pop fans, and why we eagerly await the release of the album.

The current line-up for The Pastels is Stephen McRobbie (founding member), Katrina Mitchell (long time member), Gerald Love (also of Teenage Fanclub and Lightships), Tom Crossley, Alison Mitchell and John Hogarty (also of BMX Bandits and Belle & Sebastian).  Slow Summits will be released by Domino Recording Company.

Twitter ( @pastels_the )

New Hungarian Art/Punk Rock Discovery: derTANZ - Kaktusz

Do you eschew the conventional approach to rock music in favor of experimentation and wild exploration? Do you look back fondly on the heyday of the Captain Beefheart and/or The Minutemen - but wondered what would've happened if perhaps they had taken a little more minimalist approach? Did you ever ask yourself "What if Can or Neu! had been a lo-fi free punk trio?" Hell, do you like feedback?

If your answer to any of these questions is "yes" or "possibly, I've never really thought about it but it sounds interesting", then give a listen to Budapest's derTANZ. The band consists of Árpád Gulyás on bass, Ákos Tornyos on drums, and Gábor Kovács on vocals, and their album is called Kaktusz (Cactus).

Here's "A Statue" - which STARTS OUT with a drum solo:

Here's "The Trap", which gets into a bit of a motorik rhythm, surrounded by wild punk abandon:

I couldn't subsist on a steady diet of this - generally, I need a bit more rhythm - but it's compelling and very enjoyable in spots. Follow either of the tracks above to their Bandcamp site to download it for "name your price".

New Indie Rock Discovery - Amber Edgar - "Honey & Sorrow"

Amber Edgar is a young artist - she describes herself as a "photographer, graphic artist and musician". Maybe the first two pay the bills, but I'll gladly endorse the musician part. Her music's terrific, featuring strong, emotion-drenched vocals and reverb-laden guitars that lead into a raucous chorus on lead track "Honey & Sorrow":

Here's the b-side, "Troubles" - this one features more of the guitars, but also some nice piano sounds - and, again, her vocals are really good:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New NYC Psychedelic Rock Discovery: Alphabet Mannerisms - "Sicko" from s/t EP

If you look fondly back on the Pink Floyd with Syd in it (yes, I'm kind of talking to you Scott), you owe it to yourself to check out Alphabet Mannerisms., a project of NYC-based singer/songwriter Michael Lubars.  This is some pretty amazing psychedelic rock, and for now they're giving away a 3-song (self-titled) EP. First track is "Indigo":

Love the piano on the beat, the acoustic/electric guitars and the treated vocals. I like everything about this song. And here's "Sicko" - they made a video for it:

There's only one more song - oh, what the heck, check it out too (but definitely head over to the Bandcamp page and download it - maybe give 'em a little something for the effort):

When a band releases a 3-song EP and each song becomes your favorite, depending on which one you happen to be listening to at the moment, that's a really good sign. Go get this and hopefully they'll make more.

New Spanish Indie Rock Discovery: Cuello - Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre

Cuello is yet another project of José Guerrero, who is already one of my heroes for his work with Betunizer (heavy rock, boogie) and Jupiter Lion (krautrock, psychedelia). Like some of my other favorites, he's got so many musical ideas he can't contain them in one entity - but don't be fooled, none of these bands (nor, I would assume, his other acts) are shortchanged in any way.

Cuello may end up being my favorite of the three, and another reason that BCore Disc is a label with which you ought to become familiar, no matter where in the world you reside. Their album is Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre, and it's full of great hard rock containing traces of indie rock heroes like Guided by Voices and The Pixies. But it's definitely its own thing - rocking, rocking and more rocking, but still plenty melodic.

Here's "Trazo Fino" - like taking a trip back to GbV, Propeller-era:

A special shout-out to the drummer Oscar Mezquita (who should never put his shirt back on) and bass player Nick Perry - just mainly because of the relentless, breakneck pace they keep up on songs like "Trazo Fino". Also, in addition to Guerrero's vocals and guitar, check out guitarist Ubaldo Fambuena. All these guys are apparently veterans of the Valencia music scene.

Here's "Visado de Reina", which veers further along into stoner rock territory:

It's hard - really, impossible - to pick a favorite. They sing in Spanish, but think about it, if a band rocks this hard, do you really mind learning enough Spanish to sing along? 

Introducing: Bypassers

Bypassers are a four-piece based in Helsinki, Finland.  Their interest is in creating uplifting Britpop songs in the style of Oasis and Richard Ashcroft.  They have two previous EPs to their credit, and recently released a two-track single consisting of "Some Nothing Song" and "Tonight's Tonight".

Bypassers are Nillo Klemetti (vocals, guitar), Pontus Ranta (guitar, backing vocals), Markus Muinonen (bass), and Juho Orjala (drums).

"Bye Bye" is another Bypassers track.  It is not on the new single.


Kids on a Crime Spree: New single "Creep the Creeps"

The quality of Mario Hernandez's pop sensibilities are, in my opinion, without question.  He laid a claim with previous projects Ciao Bell and From Bubblegum To Sky).  In the early '00s he was inspired to combine the melodic, lushly arranged approach of Phil Spector pop hits with the fuzz, noise and distortion that has been part of proto-punk and garage for the past 50 years..  The result is Kids on a Crime Spree -- an update of the '60s sound, recorded in analog.  The results were on display on the well-received 2011 LP We Love You So Bad.

The Kids are back with today's release of the two-track single "Creep the Creeps" on Slumberland Records.  The record consists of the title track and "New Ex-Boyfriend".  "Creep the Creeps" features handclaps and Spectorish riffs and vocals.  The B-side has a racing tempo and surf guitar accents.  These two tracks make an excellent case for collecting music in the form of singles.

Kids on a Crime Spree are Mario Hernandez, Bill Evans (guitar) and Becky Barron (drums).  They are based in San Francisco.

Slumberland Records

Margaret Thatcher - Maggie, Maggie, Maggie

Margaret Thatcher may seem an odd topic for a music blog, but she she provided creative fodder for a wide range of the popular arts - episodic television (Dr. Who), illustrated stories, novels (Margaret Torture in Rushdie's Satanic Verses), comedy, and music.  Thatcher was a strong and vocal presence in British culture and politics as Minister of Education (1970-1974), head of the opposition  Conservative Party (1975 -1979) and Prime Minister (1979 -1990.)   Government support for the arts was squarely within Dame Thatcher's target.  BBC, radio and TV, fought back by providing outlets for a wide range of musical and theatrical protest.   Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - thank you for reinvigorating punk and stirring the creative juices of the following artists.

Linton Kwesi Johnson - It Dread Inna Innlan

The Beat - Stand Down Margaret

REVIEW: White Fence - Cyclops Reap

There are prolific artists, there are talented artists, and there are artists who write and perform the music I like to hear.  And when you draw a Venn diagram (I know you were promised their would be no math, but this will be brief) for those three groups, the small group in the middle includes Tim Presley, aka White Fence.  Tim's sprawling 2012 release, Family Perfume, as well as Hair, his collaboration with Ty Segall, both were on my list of top albums for the year (list here).  Apparently the obsession that doubles as his creative impulse gives him no rest, as today Castle Face Records releases his eleven-track Cyclops Reap.

Presley's base template is psychedelic music.  But like the other greats of the genre, his palette is sufficiently broad to provide garage, surf and other elements.  Listening to Cyclops Reap reminds me of the adventurous scope of George Harrison, Syd Barrett and Robyn Hitchcock.  Although Presley recorded in his home studio without a sound engineer, the album's raw, immediate feel only adds to the appeal.  I've listened to this album way too loud, way too often.  And I'm not going to stop.

Enjoy the reverb, distortion and surfy tones of "Pink Gorilla" --

Here is the psychedelic adventure of "To The Boy I Jumped In The Hemlock" --

Oh, by the way, Tim has said that he already is preparing the next album.  I'm happy.

Castle Face Records

Monday, April 8, 2013

REVIEW: Bethesda - The Reunion

Bethesda, an Akron, OH based group, is playing folk-rock - some leaning more acoustic, some featuring jangly electric guitar - but all of it featuring the soaring voice of lead singer Shanna Delaney. Their new album is The Reunion - and it's out tomorrow (April 9). I was not familiar with them before hearing this record, so perhaps the effect on me of their full-formed take on Americana was even stronger. That said, I must say that Delaney's voice stands out, even among some of the talented chanteuses in the genre.

Here's a video for "Go", one of the more country-leaning cuts on the album:

 And a free download of single "Rotted Pines" is available at this link. or you can stream it (and the rest of the album) at their Soundcloud page - at this link. They're strong on the acoustic stuff - this is strongly recommended for fans of WYMA favorites like First Aid Kit and Sharon Van Etten (with both of whom they've shared a stage). I'd also draw a parallel to another of our blog's 2012 featured artists, The Decemberists.

  Bethesda Website

  Bethesda on Facebook

New Electronic Discovery: Belgian Fog - "Wait For Help"

Belgian Fog is the solo project of Seattle/LA artist Robert Dale. He sings in a soulful falsetto and puts together slick electronic rock. Comparison points? Perhaps Foster The People (or the Detroit dudes we just posted yesterday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.)

For now, all we have to share with you is this cut, "Wait For Help":

I really like his voice, and we're looking forward to hearing more...

REVIEW: Kurt Vile, Wakin On a Pretty Daze

Okay kids, stoner rock is back. And I mean that in a good way. I'm not usually a guy for 9 minute songs, but as they said in the Ghostbusters movie, that's more a guideline than a rule. The Allman Brothers did it well in 1972 and Kurt Vile in 2013.

But these 6, 7, 8, 9 and even 10 minute songs aren't "jams". They don't feature long solos or meander around outside of the song structure. There is nothing indulgent about this. It is simply that the songs unfold, explore, and take their sweet time to dig deep.

Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a hypnotic and beautiful record. I am itching to take a road trip just to get to hear it on the open highway - this is driving music of the highest order (look out Feelies and Luna, you'll finally have stiff competition on my next trip).

We loved the Philadelphia native's 2011 CD Smoke Ring for My Halo and included it on two of our best of 2011 year end lists.  And Wakin On a Pretty Daze, Vile's fifth LP, picks up where Smoke Ring  left off but pushes the envelope even further.

Here's Kurt Vile introducing "Never Run Away" with a cameo appearance by a special young person:

A couple things to note: Vile has a gentle and tonally pleasing voice that suits this music perfectly.  He takes it up and then takes it down at times to a near whisper, even mumbles, much like people do when they are having an intimate conversation, which is exactly how these 11 songs feel. And Vile has band members (The Violators, get it?) who are more than up for the challenge posed by songwriting and record-making this ambitious:

Jesse Trbovich - guitars, saxophone
Rob Laaskso - bass
Stella Mozgawa - drums

Trbovich has been playing with Vile for 10 years and it shows. Their interplay on guitar is the center of the record and they play off each other extraordinarily well. Producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., The Hold Steady, Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt, etc.) captures it all exactly right, not losing the spontaneity of this sort of extended playing but managing to keep the songs focused even at their length, no small feat indeed.

The opening but not quite title track "Wakin on a Pretty Day":

Overall, what hits me most about this CD is its completely original sound. So much of what we hear, even when truly great stuff, fits neatly into some category or set of influences that are readily apparent. From start to finish, Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a signal not an echo. This is bold, original work with a great deal of musical depth that will reward the repeat listener. Make no mistake, Kurt Vile is an important artist and Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a major statement from him.

You can, at least for awhile, listen to a stream of the entire record here at NPR's web page.

Kurt Vile Facebook page.

Kurt Vile official web page (free download of "Never Run Away", the first video in this piece, available there - or click here).  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

REVIEW: Kopecky Family Band - Kids Raising Kids

The Kopecky Family Band is a Nashville group formed on the campus of Belmont University. Not a biological family, but a family inasmuch as a group of musicians sharing a purpose and a plan must certainly have that feel... On Kids Raising Kids, they're playing soaring and very catchy pop/rock. The band's namesake is lead female vocalist Kelsey Kopecky, but the vocals are also carried by Gabe Simon, who takes the lead on the absolutely charming "ELLA" - I'd say they split them fairly evenly, and when they share them, the harmonies are wonderful. The origin of the band was Kopecky and Simon's meeting in college, but they've grown to six members, including Steven Holmes on lead guitar, David Krohn on drums, Markus Midkiff on cello, and Corey Oxendine on bass.

We featured Kopecky Family Band's video for "Heartbeat" recently (WYMA post here)... but it's a really good song and here's a live performance on Music City Roots, a live show that airs every Wednesday out west of Nashville:

In addition to the vocal harmonies, I like the rhythm section - staccato here, right on the beat there - and the guitars, which have kind of a surfy touch.

Here's the video for "Hope":

This is another one with a sort of skittering rhythm and some terrific guitars - and again, the vocal harmonies are the stars of the show. Throughout the album, they vary the tempos and instrumentation - to the point that it's not an easy album to "pin down". There are places in which it absolutely rocks and places where it's slow and achingly pretty - sometimes in the same track (check out "Angry Eyes").

The album was actually released in the fall of 2012, but has been given a wider airing as of last Tuesday (Apr. 2) by ATO Records, and I'd say they are onto something... and that the band's future is definitely something to be excited about. See them live:

MAY 15         NEW HAVEN, CT – BAR

Kopecky Family Band at ATO Records

Kopecky Family Band Website

New Single from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On The Dancefloor)" out now, EP due out for RSD

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (Detroit duo Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott) is playing fairly muscular dance music with some very melodic touches - weaving together all kinds of synths and vocal harmonies to keep it moving. None of that would matter much to me if they weren't really good singers, and they are. You can check out the new single - a declaration of purpose, for sure, here:

To tide you over until the upcoming release of the rest of the EP and an album later this summer, here's a really great video they released about a year ago, a super soulful cut that our man JD ought to enjoy:

You can get the EP, titled Patterns, April 16 online, or look for a limited edition physical in your favorite record store April 20.

Some upcoming tour dates:

4/20 - DETROIT - MAJESTIC THEATER (Record Store Day Show)