Saturday, May 25, 2013

Update: Free Lisa Hannigan download, "Flowers"

There is no better way to start a 3 day weekend than listening to the wonderful voice of our Irish favorite Lisa Hannigan. We've written plenty about her here in the past, as the use of our handy search feature at the WYMA blog will quickly reveal.

And now we get a free download of "Flowers", a bonus track from her truly exquisite 2011 release Passenger, this song like the CD produced by WYMA favorite Joe Henry. There is a subtle burn to this song that I greatly like, the delayed introduction of drums, and the fine use of banjo. As with any Lisa Hannigan song, the writing is outstanding and the singing too good for words.

Soundcloud: Flowers (see free download option) 

Friday, May 24, 2013

REVIEW: Muuy Biien - This Is What Your Mind Imagines

HHBTM Records in Athens, GA has been cranking out some really good music over the last year or so - but nothing quite like this. Muuy Biien hearkens back to the glory days of the punk movement, when bands like Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys and Fear were blowing peoples' minds and speakers. This Is What Your Mind Imagines is the debut album from Muuy Biien. It features plenty of this ferocious punk, but also three ambient interludes that, oddly, don't sound out of place at all. To me, that's the mark of a really good album.

It's a short album - an intro that is instrumental and consists of about 45 seconds of feedback and spaceship sounds made with an electric guitar, melding into another 45 of great heavy lead guitar over a sludgy rhythm section. Then, of course, it jumps right into the first song, "Another Degradation" - an expression of outrage you can feel. Then "Uncle Tony" - which sounds pretty much like the fight that's pictured on the album cover. Or this bunch of guys making an unholy racket in the basement.

Here's "Something Rotten" - all wall of guitars, drums and vocals that are pretty much spit out:

Here's "Sister" - kind of a d boon bass line, and super-quick (less than a minute):

The longest tracks are "Fallin' Out" - which features a heavy metal guitar - and the third of the ambient instrumental interludes, "Emesis III". They're all called "Emesis". They're good pieces, and do a decent job of breaking up the hard stuff. If you like classic punk, this is definitely for you. The album came out last week (May 14) in the US and next week (May 28) in the UK. They apparently already have another album in the works, scheduled later this year, and I'm looking forward to it.

Muuy Biien at HHBTM Records
Muuy Biien Facebook

REDISCOVERED: Rodion G.A. - The Lost Tapes

Rodion Roșca is a Romanian composer/performer who led an outfit, Rodion G.A., which created in the '70's and early 80's' a style of music that is hard to describe, and simply unlike anything else. I struggle for comparisons, and to some extent the European prog of artists like Kraftwerk and Can might serve as a starting point, especially for the loops and feedback of opening track "Alpha Centauri". Roșca was also a fan of progressive Western music like Zappa, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes, etc. - and fans of that music will immediately connect with his heavy prog rock approach on tracks like "Imagini Din Vis". Then, there's the beautiful piano ballad "Zephyr" which incorporates synths and just a hint of Morricone-style guitar - the quality and variety of this music is stunning.

Here's "Cantec Fulger" - simply freaking amazing:

Roșca's music was made using recording techniques he was constantly experimenting with, and a custom set-up of tape machines, synthesizers, various instruments and effects units. The Lost Tapes is an amazing artifact - ahead of its own time, and made in a place that discouraged artistic expression, for a future that has created music of its own. In a way it reminds me of the approach of another visionary - and if you have spent time in Walt Disney's Tomorrowland, my association may make sense to you. Like that place, this music creates its own world, not specifically anchored in either the time it was created or the time it pointed forward to. And that is part of the wonder... in fact, back in the mid-80's, Roșca's music apparently was too "out there" for an outer space-themed animated feature.

This music has never been released officially, until now. Strut Records, in association with Future Nuggets and Ambassador's Reception, is releasing the first full LP of original material by Rodion G.A. - simply entitled The Lost Tapes. It's a title that serves as a short description of a long and fascinating story.

Here is an interview of Roșca by Ion Dumitrescu of Bucharest's Future Nuggets crew, interspersed with some of the music:

And here, from Strut, is the full description of the project and some of the history behind it. This, and the interview, are truly fascinating.

34 years ago in Romania, Rodion Ladislau Roșca founded a group that came to deliver an alternative sound that was completely unique in the claustrophobic cultural landscape of those times. With only two tracks ever having received an official release (via a compilation LP on the State-owned Electrecord label), the music of Rodion Roșca’s band - composed and recorded almost entirely by its leader - has been secretly kept on dusty tapes ever since.

Rodion’s music dug a subterranean niche completely opposed to the polished surface of the mainstream sound during the last prolific period for Romanian rock bands between 1978 and 1984. The music functioned as an impossible, dark and romantic counterpoint to the stifling atmosphere of the country under the Ceausescu regime.

Rodion himself was an enigmatic figure. Half-Hungarian and half-Romanian, he grew up during the brief “open” period of 1965 to 1972 when American and English rock bands, jazz legends and international pop stars were regularly played on the radio. He lived near the border with Hungary, in Cluj, a city with a healthy music culture that spawned important prog rock groups including Cromatic and Experimental Quintet. Here, Rodion managed to find vinyl and, during the ‘70s he became known amongst friends as “King Of Records”. As such, he became steeped in the major Western artists of the era – Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who, Zeppelin – and discovered many of the more progressive and electronic bands from both East and West like East Germany’s Karat, Yes, Jethro Tull, Syrius and Skorpio from Hungary, Kraftwerk, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Matador out of Czechoslovakia and many more.

From the start, Rodion was concerned with his own style of composition and set himself apart from the rock template that dominated Romanian music during the late ‘60s. Technically and in his compositions, he was obsessed with every detail of his sound. His first sessions, as a teenager, were recorded on tape during 1969-1972 - simple, sparse and haunting pieces using reel-to-reel recorders and based around vocals, guitars and improvised drums.

In 1975-6, Roșca formed Rodion G.A., the ‘G.A.’ comprising band members Gicu Fărcaș and Adrian Căpraru. Roșca had amassed equipment and became a DIY tech wizard, improvising his own techniques of composing using reel-to-reels. Surrounded by three or four Tesla tape machines, he would record beats and guitar on one channel of the tape, then stop and add other instruments on the other – a raw means of multi-tracking. He would use the other machines (transforming a Tesla into an echo machine) to add effects and delays on both instruments and vocals. Other tools in his armoury included an East German Vermona drum machine, a toy Casio VL Tone and a little Soviet-made Faemi organ to which he added phaser, flanger and fuzz pedals.

During Rodion G.A.s active period, there was only one label operating in Romania, the State-owned Electrecord, and the band recorded two tracks at the station’s studio, which surfaced on the compilation Formații Rock Vol. 5, in 1981. The band recorded five further songs at another Electrecord session which remained unreleased apart from radio airings. During the recording session at Radio Cluj, Rodion asked the sound engineer to allow him to record all of the instrumentals onto his own Tesla machine, directly from the main mixer. Within his later productions, he would sample drum parts from this session to build new tracks. Other pieces (including some made by Rodion at home on tape machines) were picked up by national radio and Rodion G.A. even hit the top of the Romanian charts for several weeks. Beyond this brief but intense exposure, no other recordings surfaced. Undeterred, the band toured extensively during the early ‘80s.

For the band’s gigs, Rodion made his own rig by hand, complete with ‘Rodion G.A.’-branded speaker boxes and amps. From the start, the band’s sound was incomparable to other contemporaries. Other Romanian musicians like Mircea Florian had moved from a folk-rock background to experiment with more electronic productions but Rodion was different, concocting dense, visceral synth sounds set against raw programmed rhythms, intricate, unusual arrangements, with prog and classical touches.

Despite the much harsher political conditions post-'72 (the "July Thesis" of Ceaușescu), with the grip on culture and society becoming increasingly strict, a live rock scene continued to exist in Romania during the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Gigs mainly happened within a network of festivals around the country and, during the summer, in seaside towns at restaurants and clubs. Bands would push the rules, often playing Western covers and venue owners had to be careful, getting to know when inspectors might drop by. Rodion was no exception and would need to dodge the censorship absurdly often. He remembers one occasion when an inspector came to listen to a band sound check. Despite singing in Romanian, the official pulled them up for singing “yeah yeah yeah” during a chorus.

Other plans nearly materialised – Rodion scored the soundtrack to an animated movie, ‘Delta Space Mission’ in the mid-‘80s but the tracks were refused by the film company who then employed prolific Romanian electronic / pop producer Adrian Enescu for the job. Rodion also composed soundtracks for a theatre play and a ballet, both performed at Romanian National Opera in Cluj, and wrote some scores for gymnastic routines (including ‘Diagonala’). But all of these projects, despite positive feedback, proved to be ephemeral and soon Rodion disappeared from public view.

The band’s only remaining documented performance during their career was a show on Romanian television celebrating New Year’s Eve in 1980. Rodion G.A. eventually split in 1987 after a gig at the Mangalia Festival and Rodion then walked away from music completely following the death of his mother.

Fast forward to 2012. Blogger and film-maker Luca Sorin is intrigued by the mythology around Rodion G.A. and, after months of hunting, tracks down Rodion Rosca, and posts a handful of tracks and video footage of the band’s 1980 New Year’s Eve concert online. The links come to the attention of young Romanian crew, Future Nuggets, a collective of producers and musicians as dedicated to unearthing Romania’s musical past as they are to forging new sounds and fusions for future traditions and the global community of beat diggers. Then, further conversations, a live comeback gig in Bucharest, the first in over 25 years. A partnership with Steve Kotey of Ambassador’s Reception leads to a compilation of Future Nuggets’ own studio work, Sounds Of The Unheard From Romania in 2012 and a release from their acclaimed psych-jazz project, Steaua de Mare, in April 2013.

A strange and very precious artefact, the powerful music of Rodion has a special place in the unofficial museum of sonic oddities made behind the iron curtain. Strut, in association with Future Nuggets and Ambassador's Reception, are honoured to release his first full LP, delivering the tracks - made in the past but undoubtedly for the future - that will earn him a deserved place in the international electronica pantheon. Rodion G.A. The Lost Tapes is released on May 28th 2013, remastered from the original tape reels. Rodion G.A. backed by Steaua de Mare will be touring fully across Europe from Summer 2013.

So, get this: the story is amazing and we are indeed fortunate to have this artifact, but it is of much more than merely historical significance. It is wonderful music, made by a supremely talented artist, technician and visionary. You need this.

Rodion G.A. at Strut Records

REVIEW: King Tuff - Was Dead

The heart of garage rock beats strongly in King Tuff, and the proof is spread out over the glorious 35 minutes of Was Dead, his highness' new LP on Burger Records.  That means the songs are loose, lo-fi, and rocking, with plenty of sunshine and an emphasis on melody.  It means that this album isn't intended to attract hipsters, musicologists, or writers who deconstruct lyrics and plot career arcs.  This album is for rock and roll heads from all fringes of the scene.  We can dance to it, howl to it, and share it with fellow travelers.

For those that are confused, King Tuff (Kyle Thomas) released an album on Sub Pop last year, but Was Dead isn't a follow up album.  The the songs here originally were released in 2008 on an album that suffered from a very limited pressing.  With the help of Burger Records, the songs became "reanimated" and released as Was Dead.  And we are very fortunate that they have done so.  The songs on this album stand shoulder to shoulder with last year's release, and in some instances surpass it.  It would have been a real loss if the songs had remained in the grave.

With melodic sensibilities, personality, swagger and serious songwriting chops, King Tuff is a guy to watch, and Was Dead is an album to own.

Twitter ( @KINGTUFFY )
Burger Records

Friday Nuggets - "Liar, Liar" , The Castaways

"Liar, Liar" is another of those highly memorable '60's garage rock songs. Released in 1965, "Liar, Liar" was the only hit from The Castaways, from Minnesota.

While it's falsetto chorus is unforgettable, I love the organ sound here and the overall pace and feel of the song - the drum breaks, the freak out vocal bridge in the middle, the guitar sounds. And this video!:

"Liar, Liar" was covered by both Blondie and The Pretenders.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

REVIEW: Destroy This Place - Destroy This Place

Destroy This Place is a Detroit-based hard rock band playing hot guitar riffs over a breakneck rhythm section. If that sounds to you like the Foo Fighters, I'd say you are onto something. And if you like the Foo Fighters, I wager that you will enjoy Destroy This Place, and their new self-titled album, too. We wrote about them, and shared two songs, back in April (WYMA post here).

To get you started on your speed trip, here's "Graves":

Love the wall of guitars on this one, truly, but as on the rest of this album, I want to call attention to the drummer and bassist - they knock it out of the park, especially on this song. The vocals, and the way they interact with the guitars, remind me a bit of Overwhelming Colorfast. Check out this one, opening track "Lethal Sky":

And one of the tracks we shared previously, "Defeated":

But again, this music ain't happening without the killer drum and bass - try not to throw your head around while you're listening to this. They play hard, fast and loud - but the band is tight. One of the most melodic tracks is the closer, "Ghost Ride The Lightning" - but don't worry, there's plenty of thrash on this one too:

If you need any more hard rock bona fides, the album was recorded by Mike Bridavsky (BLK JKS, Rogue Wave, Good Luck, Murder By Death, Magnolia Electric Co., etc) at Russian Recordings in Bloomington, IN, and mastered in Chicago by Bob Weston (member of Shellac and Mission of Burma, engineer for too many hard rock albums to name). It's a hard-rocking record, and a lot of fun to listen to. Just make sure you're where you can turn it way up.

REVIEW: The Blank Tapes - Vacation

The Blank Tapes display impressive pop instincts and terrific chops on Vacation, their first release on Oakland's Antenna Farm Records. The Blank Tapes is LA resident Matt Adams, with D.A. Humphrey on bass and Pearl Charles on drums, with some sweet three-part harmonies. In the past, Adams has recorded at home or in a garage, and with a rotating cast of supporters. I look forward to hearing more of his music, because the fleshed-out songs on Vacation are just wonderful.

Here's "Coast to Coast", a great reminder of what I loved about the classic Kinks sound:

The album is chock full of wonderful, catchy guitar pop gems like opening track "Uh Oh", where the title becomes a chorus that is repeated, and repeated, over a soulful guitar line that keeps recycling until it fades out. It's an interesting way to build and to finish the song, and you will find several more examples of that type of thing here. There is psychedelic-leaning pop and indie guitar-leaning pop ("Tamarind Seeds"), often within the same track. It's completely enjoyable and never boring. Here's "Holy Roller", which has a bit of a country lean:

Adams shows a facility that is truly impressive. "Pearl" was something he apparently threw together the night he met Pearl Charles (the drummer, and his girlfriend). "Brasilia", a delightful bit of tropical psychedelia, was written while he was on tour down there - having discovered that his music was a big hit in that country.

On first listen, you may, like me, find the music quite pleasant... on repeated listens, it absolutely works its way into your heart. It's delightful. His vocals are, to me, a bit reminiscent of Ray Davies - but the three-part harmonies sound like pure California. Then again, there's a bit of blue-eyed soul in "Uh Oh", and that little Brazilian number... and it all works.

And don't miss a chance to see them recreate this sound live. With hundreds of home-recorded songs under his belt, I imagine Adams has quite a repertoire to draw from, and he might just write another song on the spot.

05.23.13 - Oakland, CA @ The New Parish
05.24.13 - San Jose, CA @ Cafe Stritch
05.25.13 - Leggett, CA @ Hickey Fest
05.27.13 - Pacifica, CA @ Winter's Tavern
05.29.13 - Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room 
05.30.13 - San Diego, CA @ The Void
05.31.13 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite (Album Release Party!)
06.04.13 - Phoenix. AZ @ the Trunk Space
06.06.13 - Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald's
06.07.13 - Tulsa, OK @ The Vanguard
06.08.13 - Dallas, TX @ Bryan Street Tavern
06.09.13 - Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
06.11.13 - Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
06.12.13 - Chicago, IL @ Schuba's
06.13.13 - Detroit, MI @ Garden Bowl
06.14.13 - Toronto, ON @ NXNE
06.15.13 - Toronto, ON @ NXNE
06.17.13 - Asbury Park, NJ @ The Wonder Bar
06.18.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool
06.19.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
06.20.13 - Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar
06.21.13 - Arlington, VA @ IOTA
06.22.13 - Raleigh, NC @ The Pour House
06.23.13 - Asheville, NC @ The Double Crown
06.25.13 - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
06.26.13 - Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
06.27.13 - Chicago, IL @ Ace Bar
06.28.13 - Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
06.29.13 - Omaha, NE @ Slowdown
06.30.13 - Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
07.01.13 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
07.02.13 - Reno, NV @ Chapel Tavern

The Blank Tapes
Antenna Farm Records

NEW SONG: Boardwalk - "I'm To Blame" from forthcoming S/T debut

LA-based label Stones Throw keeps mixing it up - long known for their hip-hop (Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib), soul (Aloe Blacc, Mayer Hawthorne and the recently-covered Myron & E) and other assorted mixmaster stuff (James Pants, Vex Ruffin), they've been supplying some pretty sweet sounds lately. In addition to the wonderful reggae and dub items we've heard from them recently (The Lions, Dub Club), they have recently signed an LA-based guitar dream pop duo called Broadway. There's only one song to listen to, but it sure is a good one - sweet as can be, languid and easygoing, with a meandering guitar line. Check it out, and then, like us, stay tuned for more:

Boardwalk on Stones Throw
Boardwalk Facebook

Teardrop Factory - Topshop EP

Teardrop Factory is a promising young trio from Brighton, who express themselves via reverbed, fuzzy and distorted guitar and a driving rhythm section wrapped around some catchy melodies.  You'll hear touches of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth here, but there is a psychedelic sheen as well.  On May 27 they are releasing the four-track Topshop EP via Faux Discx.  Two of the tracks are can be streamed below, and "Vanity Unfair" is available to download.  Good stuff, people.

I understand that the vinyl 7" is limited to 300 copies, but the EP is available for digital download as well.

Faux Discx

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

REVIEW: Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood - Black Pudding

Mark Lanegan has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood to release Black Pudding via Ipecac Recordings on May 14. Lanegan has long been one of my favorite vocalists - his distinctive voice reached me (via a Screaming Trees video on Beavis + Butt-head back in the day) - and has kept me listening throughout his impressive solo career. I enjoyed last year's Blues Funeral, but I think this album is on another level. As strong a rock frontman as Lanegan is, stripping away the accompaniment highlights his vocal instrument even more.

Like Lanegan's voice, Garwood's guitar playing is unique, distinctive and more than a little haunting. There is other instrumentation on the album - drum machines set the pace on some cuts ("Cold Molly", "Mescalito") and there is some well-placed piano, sitar and horns on a few of the songs - but the guitars are a perfect accompaniment for an album full of dark, understated country blues.

Here's "War Memorial" - behind Lanegan's voice and Garwood's guitars on this one is a single mournful horn - perfect for a song that consists of a soldier asking for his medals and describing the horrors he has seen, concluding: "Don't tell me the ending of the play, don't make me look in the mirror":

This is an amazing record. It's sort of a folk album, but folk blues in the tradition of artists like Skip James and John Fahey. But it's also a jazz record - a very spare, evocative kind of jazz, along the lines of McCoy Tyner or some of Coltrane's work. It gives me chills, every time I listen to it. Lanegan says his favorite two songs are the instrumentals that bookend the album. Given that this is probably just modesty, still, he fails to give himself the proper amount of credit - both his voice and Garwood's guitar are indispensable instruments here. The album would be less than it is without either part.

There are places where Garwood is apparently meandering, only to snap right into something that will take your breath away - but the meandering has its own appeal, honestly. I'm reminded of Tom Waits' observation that his favorite part of the symphony is when all the musicians are warming up, before any order is imposed from outside.

Here's "Pentecostal" - just love the way it seamlessly morphs into a spiritual a la Fahey even before Lanegan's voice comes in, and then it's pure blues:

down so long now jesus
you know i been down so long
far turned out and freezing
won’t you carry my body home

this is why i came
to live a life in a day
with a fire in my head

who’s got the keys to the workhouse?
satan has locked the door
got no wings to take us
up off of that killing floor

Most of the album is obsessed with death, and of course that's heavy theme that, in the wrong hands, can become pretty hackneyed. Sure, there are a lot of timeworn lyrical snippets from the blues canon, history and literature (including the Bible: "If death rides a white horse/Then I ain't seen him yet" from "Death Ride"). But putting those musical ideas together, like arranging notes and instruments into an inspired form, is a real skill. Otherwise, all bluesmen would be Howlin' Wolf. The skillful interplay and, most of all, the execution make this a very special record.

Here's a great interview with the two of them from Uprooted Music Revue - it gives you some insight into the  mutual respect and dedication to craft that allowed these two to reach across the Atlantic to make such an intimate, nearly perfect album.

Mark Lanegan Website

Duke Garwood Facebook

Ipecac Records

NEW SONG: Golden Suits - 'Didn't I Warn You" from upcoming album Golden Suits, due in August

Golden Suits, which is the new solo project of Department Of Eagles' Fred Nicolaus, will release its debut self-titled album on August 20th, 2013 via Yep Roc. 
For now, they've made one song available to stream (and download via their website - link below), the majestic pop number "Didn't I Warn You":

On this album, Nicolaus played most of the instruments, but had help from Chris Bear and Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear; Fraser McCulloch from Milagres; Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass from Ava Luna; Kris Nolte and Ian Davis from Mason Jar Music; and Daniel Rossen.

Golden Suits Website (free download available)

Golden Suits Facebook

Yep Roc Records

REVIEW: Club 8 - Above the City

Sweden's Club 8 is Johan Angergard and Karolina Komstedt.  They've been making music together for nearly two decades, and they owe that longevity to remaining consistent in quality while exploring ways to vary their sound to delight their audience.  Their latest effort is Above the City, a fourteen track album presented in three stylistically distinct acts.  The first act consists of four tracks of the clean electro-pop often associated with Swedish pop music.  The first and fourth tracks are more dream pop, while tracks two and three,  "Stop Taking My Time" and "You Could Be Anybody", respectively, are made for the late night dance floor.

The second set is playful and summery, even tropical in feel.

The third act shifts a bit into pop and rock anthems.  It may be the least consistent stylistically of the three sections, but it has undeniable charm.  Here is the album closer --

Above the City is out now on Labrador Records.

Labrador Records

Reverberation Radio #63

If it's Wednesday then it's time for another edition of Reverberation Radio.  This week's curated list includes classic 60's cuts from the International Submarine Band, The Ventures, Glen Campbell, The West Coast Consortium, The Pretty Things, Wimple Winch, Afro-Soultet, and The Soft Machine.  Let these tunes open the door to more music the folks at Reverberation Radio.  Click on the artist's name and find out more from

1.  The International Submarine Band - Luxury Liner
2.  The Ventures - California Dreamin'
3.  Glen Campbell - Guess I'm Dumb
4.  West Coast Consortium - Come on into the Warm
5. The Pretty Things - You're Running You and Me.
6. Wimple Winch - Colored Glass
7.  Tame Impala - Mind Mischief
8. Afro-Soultet - Mozamba
9.  The Soft Machine - Love Makes Sweet Music
10,  Marine Girls - A Place in the Sun

REVIEW: Just Handshakes - Say It

My first introduction to Leeds' Just Handshakes was their engaging jangle pop song "London Bound". The sound was wonderful and with the excellent vocals from Clara Patrick I was reminded of one of my favorite C86 bands, The Popguns.  I'm pleased to report that the band's new full length, Say It, does nothing to diminish my early enthusiasm.  The twelve tracks are uniformly high quality, with an up-front sweetness and hints of melancholy.  While there is plenty of C86 jangle, the contributions of the synths and the delicate vocals keep a foot planted in the dream pop world as well.  And the collection ranges between gentle tunes and tracks that show a more than a bit of muscle and fuzz.  The band appears to have a sense of humor as well -- their original name was Just Handshakes (We're British), playing on the reputation of British reserve.

Say It deserves attention for its own qualities, to be sure.  But when one considers some of the qualities that make it so appealing -- he tight interplay of the musicians, the vocals, the carefully structured songwriting -- it looks likely to be a launching pad for exciting future efforts from Just Handshakes.

And here is the video for "London Bound" --

Say It was released on May 20 by California label Bleeding Gold Records.

Bleeding Gold Records

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

REVIEW: French Films - White Orchid

Finland's French Films have the big college rock sound - up-tempo, big hooks, guitars set on reverb and high in the mix, a carpet of synths and choruses that soar to the rafters.  There are a lot of similarities with Paisley Scotland's Close Lobsters, and any band that favorably compares to Close Lobsters is A-OK with me.  It is a sound I love, and I usually have a band that delivers it in my music rotation.  Right now, I'm getting my dose from White Orchid.  I think you'll understand my affection for the music when you listen to "Latter Days".  Turn up the sound, that's what anthems like this are for.

White Orchid seems made for wide open spaces, outdoors in the back yard, road trips with the wind down, sitting under the stars at night.  If you demand an album with multiple styles and changes of pace, this is not the one for you.  I recall only one slow number and overall the song structures and sound are similar.  But if, like me, you love this sound, there may be no better representation of it this year.

French Films are Johannes Leppänen (guitar/vocals), Joni Kähkönen (guitar/vocals), Santtu Vainio (keyboards), Antti Inkiläinen (drums), and Tuomas Asanti (bass).  The album is out now on GAEA Booking & Records.

GAEA Booking & Records
GAEA Booking & Records on Facebook

REVIEW: Purson - The Circle And The Blue Door

Purson are Rosalie Cunningham - Vocals, Lead Guitar, George Hudson - Guitars, Samuel Shove - Organ, Mellotron, Wurlitzer, Barnaby Maddick - Bass, BVs, BJs, and Jack Hobbs - Drums. Cunningham is a former member of Ipso Facto, a band of British teenagers that she formed at 16, then broke up when she decided that the acclaim they received for their appearance was actually getting in the way of the music she wanted to make. And she is an excellent vocalist and guitarist with very clear ideas about how she wants her music to sound. Citing influences as varied as Bowie, The Beatles, Slade, The Faces and Led Zeppelin, she nonetheless adds her own style, and with that, this album rises far above the level of pastiche or imitation.

The Circle And The Blue Door is a terrific record. Much like the Wolf People record reviewed here recently, it does a wonderful job of molding together some very original (though sort of timeless) lyrical ideas - from literature, music and the supernatural - with some well-executed musical ideas, from the folk music of "The Sailor's Wife's Lament" to the all-out heavy rock of "Leaning On A Bear", my favorite song on the record:  

And here's a live video "The Contract":

Other highlights include the melodic "Spiderwood Farm", which has an almost lullaby feel, albeit with a heavy prog rock base: "Spiderwood Farm is about ghosts," says Rosie. "I was looking through a copy of Sounds from 1972 when I saw a band mentioned called Spiderwood Farm. From there I thought of a song about ex-dwellers, who are, of course, dead. The council are trying to evict them, but they're not doing anything wrong. They're just hanging about."

"Tragic Catastrophe" describes her dreams of being a rock star and feeling like a girl out of time. "It starts with me as a kid, going through my dad's 70s music magazines in the attic and being fascinated with these people, and wondering how on earth I could ever do guitar music today." At its best, rock music transports you. That is the goal of The Circle And The Blue Door, and Cunningham has succeeded.

The Circle And The Blue Door was released Apr. 30 on Metal Blade/Rise Above Records.

Shannon & the Clams - Dreams of the Rat House

Taking doo wop and late '50s - early '60s rock and roll through a garage/surf/punk filter, Oakland's Shannon & the Clams have crafted one of my go-to party soundtracks for the summer.  Perfect for the beach, driving in the sun,  playing loud enough to annoy the neighbors when the keg is tapped in the back yard, Dreams in the Rat House should be on your list, too.

Shannon & the Clams are Shannon Shaw (vocals/bass), Cody Blanchard (guitar/vocals), and Ian Amberson (drums/vocals).  The contributions of Blanchard and Amberson are significant as they add the musical flourishes that ground the music in the retro garage/doo-wop groove (and the male vocals star on some of my favorite songs on the album).  But the flexible and powerful instrument that it Shannon's voice likely will command the most attention.  It ranges from innocent girl-group croon to garage growl with conviction.

You can take the album for a test spin with three tracks below.  I wish I could share the vampy rhythms and surf guitar accents of "The Rabbit's Nose" with you on this page, but you'll have to stream it here.

Dreams in the Rat House is out today, May 21, on Seattle's Hardly Art label.

Hardly Art

Monday, May 20, 2013

REISSUES: Townes Van Zandt - High, Low And In Between and The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt

Great news for fans of country rock and great songwriting, Omnivore is releasing impeccably remastered versions of Townes Van Zandt's early 70's masterpieces. These albums are full of songs that are shining examples of Van Zandt's mastery of phrasing and timing, including "Pancho and Lefty" - surely one of the most-covered songs in history:

Here, from the Omnivore press release:

"High, Low and In Between, Townes Van Zandt’s fifth album, originally released by Poppy Records in the fall of 1971, was an album that saw Townes becoming the songwriter revered today. Full of original material, including “You Are Not Needed Now,” “Blue Ridge Mountains,” and “To Live Is To Fly,” it opened eyes and ears to his abilities. His backing band included folks like Larry Carlton, who would play on Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark, who accompanied Steely Dan on The Royal Scam... [it] is, in the end, a classic Townes Van Zandt album...
The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, his sixth effort, hit the shelves in 1972. The album built on High, Low and In Between, adding texture in both song and production. It’s probably best known for “Pancho & Lefty” — the song Emmylou Harris covered for 1977’s Luxury Liner and which Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings would take to the top of the charts in 1983. Full of originals, as well as covers like Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonkin’,” the release was Van Zandt’s perfect storm, with every element in place."

I don't have much to add, except my agreement. These records are absolutely breathtaking and, although a lot of their beauty is in the space between words and notes, they are rich and full, and absolutely reward repeated listening... even after all these years.These remasters will be available on CD, in a digipak with liner notes from award-winning scribe Colin Escott, as well as on 180-gram vinyl, with the first 1000 pressed on orange and clear colored vinyl respectively. (Future pressings will be on standard weight, black vinyl.)

High, Low and In Between
1. Two Hands
2. You Are Not Needed Now
3. Greensboro Woman
4. Highway Kind
5. Standin’
6. No Deal
7. To Live Is To Fly
8. When He Offers His Hand
9. Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold
10. Blue Ridge Mountains
11. High, Low and In Between

The Late Great Townes Van Zandt
1. No Lonesome Tune
2. Sad Cinderella
3. German Mustard (A Clapalong)
4. Don’t Let The Sunshine Fool You
5. Honky Tonkin’
6. Snow Don’t Fall
7. Fraulein
8. Pancho & Lefty
9. If I Needed You
10. Silver Ships of Andilar
11. Heavenly Houseboat Blues

Omnivore Records Website

Cherri Fosphate - Burning Youth EP

On their new Burning Youth EP, Glasgow's Cherri Fosphate demonstrates that they are worth marking down as a band to which attention should be paid.  Not that I'm first to this party, as a little investigation shows that they have already attracted the attention of influential DJs in their home country.  Why the buzz?  Dual guitars, up-tempo songs and a willingness to let a crack rhythm section standout make these four tracks a winning package.  Below we have the video for the lead track, a stream and free download for "Wool", and a stream of the final track, "Kerry Rogers".

Cherrie Fosphate is Jonathan Sharpe, Alan Robinson, Jordan Lannigan and Sonny Kainth.
Burning Youth EP is out now on CTN Records.


REVIEW: Del-Lords, Elvis Club

I am a sucker for the great American bar band. Guitars turned up loud, rock solid drummer, hints of R&B and '60's garage bands, maybe a country or folk-rock song or two, no frills, a little swagger but not taking themselves too seriously. By definition these bands are generally unheralded, unless they happen to be Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty's band.

And one of the all-time great bar bands, the Del-Lords, from New York City, has released its first new LP since 1990. Elvis Club does the Del-Lords legacy proud and comes out just in time for your backyard summer BBQ parties. Just add beer.

You wait 23 years to release a record, stands to reason you won't want to fool around ouf of the box, and the first track here "When the Drugs Kicked In" is a sure fire winner, with its big pop hooks and good time feel.

Other standout tracks here are tough Americana of "Flying", the jangly "Everyday" (co-written with the legendary Dion, yes that Dion!), the blistering record closing cover of (speaking of great bar bands) Neil Young and Crazy Horse's "Southern Pacific", a beautiful ballad "Letter" (with this great line: "The devil says true love's a lie, but the devil's a liar"), and the rolling down the highway blues-rocking "Chicks, Man":

Appreciate the fiery and tasty guitar playing on "Chicks, Man"? Well, you'll find plenty to like here as Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who started his career as a member of Joan Jett's Blackhearts, has spent the last 20 years honing his considerable guitar skills as a hired gun for the likes of Steve Earle. Ambel is also a top producer and gets just the right sound for his own outfit here on Elvis Club.

The original lineup of the Del-Lords is nearly intact. Scott Kempner is the lead singer and main songwriter and is in fine form throughout. Drummer Frank Funero you may know from Cracker and Camper van Beethoven, and is so solid, a great rock drummer. The band's original bassist is now a practicing attorney (hey it happens, even to bar bands) but is capably replaced by Michael DuClos ("the only man to have played with both Pete Townshend and Buddy Hackett" dryly notes the band's bio).  

If you like real rock'n'roll, and value the heart and craft of it, Elvis Club is the record for you.
Del-Lords Group at Facebook

Sunday, May 19, 2013

REVIEW: Bleached - Ride Your Heart

Had enough of the lo-fi punk-influenced sunny California reverb-drenched guitar pop? No, me neither. The latest entrants are Jennifer and Jessie Clavin -- a sister pair known as Bleached, and their album is Ride Your Heart.

Growing up they taught themselves to play -  "Me and Jen were punk kids who weren't taught how to play instruments," says Jessie. We taught ourselves how to play, out in the garage." And after a period of time sneaking into LA punk clubs, they formed an all-girl band, Mika Miko, which eventually broke up. Jen and Jessie went their separate ways for a while, but eventually were drawn back together. The rapport they have, and the joy they feel in playing together, are evident in the music - twelve tracks of some of the best pop/punk you will hear all year.

Here's "Next Stop" - don't stop, don't think, just bop along:

I really like the vocal harmonies - they have a way of rushing into and out of them that keeps the momentum of the song going, but still adds some depth to it.

I also like the guitars and the punk drumming - sometimes you want to listen to Blondie, sometimes The Ramones - but sometimes you think it would be nice to listen to both at the same time, right?

Ride Your Heart is out on Dead Oceans, released earlier in April.

And they're touring in Europe - dates below:

05/20/13 - Leeds , UK - Brudenell Social Club
05/21/13 - Glasgow, UK - Art School
05/22/13 - London, UK - Corsica Studios
05/23/13 -  Paris, FR - La Fleche d'Or
05/25/13 - Brussels, BE - Magasin 4
05/26/13 - Hamburg, DE - Molotow
05/28/13 - Stockholm, SE - Debaser Slussen

New French Punk Discovery - Owen Temple Quartet - Rot In The Sun

Owen Temple Quartet is a sort of mysterious entity - a French punk/rockabilly band ostensibly named after a Texas singer/songwriter (although maybe that's just a coincidence), they come across like Nick Cave imitating Jello Biafra, fronting The Blasters and The Gun Club. Or something like that. They have recently released Rot in the Sun, and you are encouraged to pay attention, because this urgent, insistent music will make it worth your while. 

Great stinging guitar work behind the wild vocal abandon on this one, "My Wild Spanish Love":

And here, on "The Remains" they pick up the pace to all-out punk:

It's out on Casbah Records, released earlier this spring and available in electronic and vinyl format. They make 'em in France, but they'll convert it to US$ and ship 'em to the US if you want. Your friends certainly won't have this sucker, but they will want to listen to yours.