Saturday, June 1, 2013

Introducing: Charles Latham

Country tinged folk and pop songs are the stock in trade for Charles Latham.  And be prepared for lyrics with a bite and unsparing social commentary.  The first song of Charlie's I heard was "The Living Wage".  The tale of a man realizing the treadmill of modern life and what it means for dreams of success had me hooked.  Give it a try and decide for yourself.  I think you may find yourself a fan.


The Recordettes - The Recordettes EP

Summer means fun.  Well, we always say that, and hope that it happens.  But summer doesn't always deliver.  So one strategy for improving the odds for fun is to get some tunes that invoke summer.  For some, that might mean death metal.  If that is you, please move to the end of the row, away from the other people.  Now, for the rest of us, here is some punky power pop that seems born of an early rock and and roll era garage, courtesy of NYC's The Recordettes.  The EP is a concise three-track affair, beginning with the catchy "Candy Store".  The second track is a garage-surf instrumental.  The third track is a sing-along that may find itself played at your next party.

If you like "Candy Store", feel free to stream the entire EP here --

The Recordettes EP is available on 7" vinyl and via digital download.  Bandcamp is the best venue in the US.  If in Europe, you can hit the No Front Teeth link below.

No Front Teeth

REVIEW: The Parson Red Heads "6" (EP)

We've been all in for the Parson Red Heads for quite some time, and did a feature piece on their outstanding 2011 LP Yearling.

Following a bit of a break after the birth of a baby to Brette Marie Way (far left above; drums) and Evan Way (principal songwriter, guitars, lead vocals; far right above), The Parson Red Heads are back with a new EP and a tour.

6 is a step forward for the band, though still rooted in their well crafted West coast pop sensibility.  Though 6 was recorded quickly in Portland with Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, The Baseball Project) producing most of the tracks, it has a careful and at the same time looser and more rockin' feel than Yearling. The Parsons' extensive touring in 2011-12 has helped them play with a great deal more confidence.

Evan Way continues to develop as both a songwriter and lyricist. And the song contributed by guitarist Sam Fowles (3rd from left above), "Wedding in the Round" is terrific as well, beautiful melody, with some especially fine guitar lines.

This video shows the band in the studio recording "Times":

Fans of the Scottish pop we cover so extensively here should be sure to check this band out, especially "Christine" and "Crying Days Are Over" from this EP, either one of which would do both the Teenage Fanclub and the current Glasgow scene proud. These are the sort of sunny, perfect pop songs that made us fall in love with the Parson Red Heads to begin with.

"The Moon Is In Your Eyes" is a change of pace for the band, a more smoky sound, closer to VU than any of the Parsons previous work.

6 features six terrific new pop songs, plus a short instrumental interlude. It's a limited pressing so be sure to pick one up when you see it or purchase in MP3 format here.

Here is the band's note about their upcoming West coast tour dates:
Hi, y'all! We are hitting the road in June, along with our pals Desert Noises, and Vancouver's wonderful Said The Whale! See below for dates, and pick up a ticket when you can! We can't wait to see you, hang out, play whiffle ball, drink some brews, give some hugs ... oh and play some songs for you, too.

6/2 - Tractor Tavern - Seattle, WA *#
6/4 - Doug Fir - Portland, OR *+
6/6 - Sam Bonds Garage - Eugene, OR *+
6/7 - Sophia's - Davis, CA *+
6/8 - Partisan - Merced, CA *+
6/9 - Brick & Mortar - San Francisco, CA *+^
6/11 - Detroit Bar - Costa Mesa, CA *
6/12 - Casbah - San Diego, Ca *+
6/13 - Bootleg - LA, CA *+
6/14 - Beauty Bar - Las Vegas, NV *+
6/15 - Pub Rocks Live - Phoenix, AZ *+
6/16 - Zoey's - Ventura, CA w/ The Spires & Tall Tales
6/17 - Don Quixote's - Felton, CA
6/18 - Cafe Coda - Chico, CA

* w/ Desert Noises
+ w/ Said The Whale
# w/ The Wayfinders
^ w/ Big Tree

Facebook page - Parson Red Heads

Friday, May 31, 2013

More From Dub Club - Vol. 2, Bubble Dub

Our friends at Stones Throw and the Dub Club have done it again. We recently featured the excellent Vol. 1, Signs And Wonders in Dub from LA's Dub Club (WYMA post here). It was the first of three planned summer 2013 releases featuring Tom Chasteen, Tippa Lee and a host of Jamaica's finest singers, musicians and toasters. This week, the followup dub album Bubble Dub was released - a limited edition on vinyl and downloads.

These are dub versions of the tracks from the forthcoming Foundation Come Again (due out in July on Stones Throw), and they are plenty hot and heavy on their own. Really, this is an unbelievable treasure. It's true dub - Chasteen and Lee really know what they're doing and show a real love for this type of music. Opening track "Gimmie Dub" is a traditional-sounding dub version, and features the super-heavy bass with reverb-laden keyboards and DJ toasting. Several other cuts, including "Bring the Dub Again", "Hard Time Dub" and "Ain't Too Proud To Dub" (yes, it's a version of a cover of that one), feature some really tasty guitar licks.

Here's "Bring The Dub Again":

Read more, see the cover and buy at Stones Throw Records.

Stones Throw Website

NEW SONG: Mount Fabric - "Salamander"

Mount Fabric is a post-rock band from Manchester, UK with soaring synths and falsetto vocals, a really pretty sound. The band consists of Alex Marczak - Vocals / Guitars / Keys / Violin / Clarinet, Joel Godfrey - Guitars / Keys / Backing Vocals, Duncan Robjohns - Bass and Ryan Cowburn - Drums / Percussion.

Here's their new single, "Salamander":

Mount Fabric - Salamander - Official Music Video from Mount Fabric on Vimeo.

Here's previous single "Heuristic Fits":

Maybe a little more New Order lean on that one... well, it's not that dark, but I think the vocals have a similar affect.

Mount Fabric will be launching the new single live at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge on June 5th, supporting Canadian-Korean-Singaporean three-piece (and WYMA favorite) Bored Spies. And they're offering a free download of the song at their website:

Mount Fabric Website

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants - "Guitar Pickin' Man" from All Hat And No Cattle

Chris Shiflett plays guitar in the Foo Fighters, but he's got a country musician just below the surface, waiting to get out. Chris put together a band to help him release that country guy's spirit - in addition to Shiflett on vocals and guitar, The Dead Peasants are Jeff Gross (bass) and Luke Tierney (guitar) – three friends who grew up playing in bands together – as well as Mitch Marine (drums), Marty Rifkin (pedal steel), and Derek Silverman (keyboards). Their second album All Hat And No Cattle will be out July 30 on SideOne Dummy Records. For now, check out a couple of advance tracks.

Here's "Guitar Pickin' Man", a cover of the Don Rich and the Buckaroos classic:

And here's the Merle Haggard track "Skid Row":

This project is reminiscent of Cracker's Countrysides - a collection of country classics played straight by rockers who wanted to show their reverence in addition to their chops. Like that one, this sounds like a lot of fun - looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

The Dead Peasants will give you these two songs at their website, where you can also read about some upcoming West Coast tour dates.

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants Website

Yellowbirds - Songs from the Vanished Frontier

The musical adventure that is  Songs from the Vanished Frontier is a bit difficult to categorize.  That isn't a bad thing, as one of the album's charms is its deft embrace of styles and themes.  But it does present a bit of a challenge to this intrepid reviewer.  Complaining doesn't suit me, however, because you can't claim music journalism's big dollars writing for When You Motor Away if you can't take a challenge.

This album, the second from New York's Yellowbirds, sounds to me like an album of pop created by a '60s/'70s pop crooner, say Roy Orbison, supported by like minded musicians and produced by a modern savant comfortable with letting the retro sound take center stage while adding modern flourishes (including thick basslines).  The overall effect arguably is dream pop for old souls, but as I hinted at the beginning of this review, a single description is sure to be inadequate.  I will emphasize that the music is gorgeous.  And this may sound odd for an album of this style, but I suggest listening with the volume turned up, because these songs hold a lot of textures and details that are too easy to miss otherwise.  However, the sound is just part of the story.  The songs are lyrically compelling as well, and each seems to have its own personality.  I suggest that this level of songcraft is not often attained.

Here are standout tracks "Young Men of Promise" and "The Ceiling".  I'll also add that while I don't have a stream for you, "Julian" has made it on to my list of favorite songs so far this year.

Yellowbirds are Sam Cohen, with Josh Kaufman, Brian Kantor, and Annie Nero.  Cohen previously poured his creative energies into Apollo Sunshine.  Songs from the Vanished Frontier is out now on The Royal Potato Family label, and I endorse it as one of the better pure pop albums so far in 2013.

The Royal Potato Family (label)

Matt LeMay - "Right Jacket Pocket" b/w "If And Or When" - cassette singles out now

Matt LeMay is playing catchy guitar pop that sounds great now, but will also take you back to some of your favorite college rock sounds... and he's been pretty productive - fortunately for us.

In addition to the track above, his 7-song cassette includes two other A/B singles as well as a cover. Here's "A Portrait of the Man":

And here's the b-side of that one, "What Would Change?":

It's just a wonderful, jangly lo-fi bit of guitar pop - reminiscent to me of some of those R.E.M. contemporaries like Let's Active and The Connells, maybe Game Theory - and will sound great with everything else in your record collection.

Okay, look. The reason this is so short is, what business do I have writing a review of music made by a guy who's better at writing about music than I am, too? Check out his website: A Question of Frequency.

Order tapes at Mirror Universe Tapes. It was released earlier this month, so if the cassettes are gone, just buy the downloads at the Bandcamp site.

Friday Nuggets - "Laugh Laugh" The Beau Brummels

We have a couple great videos for this week. The year is 1964, the British Invasion is sweeping the nation and all over America, garage bands are trying their best to mine that Beatles sound. And in San Francisco, a band called the Beau Brummels hits it big with "Laugh, Laugh".  Their lead singer's name, we'll assume it's real, was Sal Valentino, and how can you possibly top that for a lead singer name? 
There are many great videos of this one out there, but of course because we love and respect our loyal followers here at WYMA so much, we are going with the one where Sammy Davis Jr does the introduction. Yes, you read that right, Sammy frickin' Davis Jr.:    

However the audio on that clip leaves a bit to be desired so we'll give you one more amazing video, a true period piece, featuring two women who set a standard for female personality types to this day. From the Abbadabba Broadcasting Company:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New video from The Shifting Sands

Dunedin, New Zealand's The Shifting Sands released their debut album, Feel, on Fishrider Records in 2012.  The only reason that it didn't make my top 50 list for the year was that I found out about the album too late, although I reviewed it early in 2013 (link).  There is no doubt in my mind that the main man here, Michael McLeod, is a talent to watch.  Having collaborators such as Robert Scott (The Bats; The Clean) and David Kilgour (The Clean) doesn't hurt a bit, either.  The band will release their second album on Fishrider later this year, and we suggest that you watch for it.  Or watch here, because we will be covering the album.  Meanwhile, enjoy this new video for one of the fine tracks from Feel, "Let's Go Down" --

Bandcamp for album
Fishrider Records

Sparrow and the Workshop - Murderopolis

It seems to me that Murderopolis, the third album from Glasgow's Sparrow and the Workship, is the sound of a band transitioning from a folk band to a rock band.  That isn't to say that the country folk noir foundations have been abandoned - the trio still is interested in telling you a story, usually with a dark theme.  But but this album is a noisier, more aggressive set of songs.  The eleven tracks are divided into the five-track A side and the six-track B side, and while I think the entire album is strong, I think I preferred the B side.  "Avalanche of Lust" matches a great title with a great song, and as for "The Glue That Binds Us", I'm drawn to a pop song the major passage in which is 'I don't like you anyway, I don't need you in my life'.

"Shock Shock" was the first single from the album.  The chunky, almost Gothic, riffs play off with Jill O'Sullivan's high register vocals.  Take it as a sign, Sparrow and the Workshop march to their own beat.

The band are Jill O'Sullivan (vocals, guitar, violin), Gregor Donaldson (drums, vocals), and Nick Packer (bass, slide guitar, basstard).

Here is the feral second single, "The Faster You Spin".  And yes, the chorus seems to be shouting "fame whore" --

Murderopolis was released on May 27 on Edinburgh's Song by Toad Records.

Song by Toad Records

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New NYC Punk Discovery: EndAnd - Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running

EndAnd is a Brooklyn-based band playing exhilarating, emotional heavy punk/noise rock. Starting in early 2011, Daniel Fern and Mike Morales played for a while as a rock duo, until they shared a bill with former Capita Clip bassist Bill Fitzgerald, and invited him to join them, becoming a power trio, with the emphasis on power. Their sound has coalesced around these three and reflects their experiences. Their new full-length Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running is raw, visceral rock music - it's heavy, but at the same time it moves hard and fast.

Here's opener "At Fault's End" - bass-heavy (as is a lot of the album), with slashing guitars and anguished vocals, it sets the tone of perpetual unease:

Vocalist/Guitarist Daniel Fern says "This album is immensely personal and angry. Maybe even schizophrenic, I don't know. It's 11 songs and only 21:30 minutes. It's themes are focused mainly around immigration and being trapped mentally and physically in a situation one does not have control over (I was an illegal immigrant for nearly half my stay in America since I arrived at the age of 12. I'm now 27). Diseases such as chronic muscle tensions, stomach disorders. and cancer. Relationships, loss and mistrust. The loss of my father and grandfather. These are the themes I'd rather not put one under a microscope."

Here's "The Hypocrite Mourns", which displays their way of building from a brooding, almost sludgy starting point through some metal guitar, pounding harder and faster as they go:

And album closer "Strong" displays jazz-influenced rhythms, but again, superfast guitar and hard punk vocals:

They've got a lot to say, and not a lot of time to waste getting it out there - as I said, exhilarating. You can download it at their Bandcamp page now for "name your price". If you like heavy rock with punk leanings, there's every reason to check it out, and if you like it, come back and buy a download for a friend.

Reverberation Radio #64

It's Wednesday and time for some curated psychedelia and low-fi from the kids at Reverberation Radio.  Let these tunes feed your head.  Click on the artist's name and find out more from

1. Durutti Column - Party
2. The Clean - Anything Could Happen
4.  Tronics - T.V. On In Bed
5.  The Velvet Underground - Ride into the Sun
6. Belle & Sebastian - You're Just a Baby
7.  Primal Scream - Velocity Girl
8. Felt - Penelope Tree
9. Fabio - Ciao
10.  Sunset Love - Winter's Day

Alex Bleeker & The Freaks - How Far Away

How Far Away isn't an album I expected this year, but it is one that I'm very happy to have experienced.   Brought to us by Alex Bleeker & The Freaks (i.e. the bassist for Real Estate and some highly competent collaborators), the album is sunny, freak-and-twang accented guitar pop that is hitting all the right notes for the beginning of the summer season.  Bleeker's rootsy voice - cracks, rasps and all - suits his material, and he and the band take the listener on a sunny, shambling, eleven-track journey.  One of the many charms of the album is that its lo-fi approach and imperfections lend an intimate feel to the music and let the songs take center stage.  I felt as if I was at a summer evening picnic and Alex and friends had been persuaded to pull out their instruments and entertain us for a while.  Lyrically there is some loss, sadness and ended relationships on offer, but none of the events seems fatal; after all, it is summer.

How Far Away is out now on Woodsist.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

REVIEW: Free Time - Free Time

What do you think about when the topic of free time comes up?  For most of us, it probably is that we just don't get enough free time.  The topic comes to mind as I contemplate the new self-titled album from Free Time.  For me, how band founder Dion Nania spends his free time has prompted me to spend my precious free time listening to Free Time.  Are we all on the same page here? Good!

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Nania, a Melbourne native, founded Free Time last summer while living in New York.  Although helping out his home town compatriots Twerps and Scott and Charlene's Wedding with their US endeavors, he found the time to write some cracking tunes and recruit Adrienne Humblet (bass), Jonah Maurer (guitar) and Michael Mimoun (drums) to the project.  The resulting album is out today on New Jersey label Underwater Peoples.

Nania's breezy, jangly style is well suited to both happy and melancholy songs, and both are on offer on Free Time.  And the songwriting is impressive.  The melodies are uncluttered and engaging, and the emotions expressed efficiently and without undue sweetness or bitterness. These are songs that become part of your day and you are happy to have them around.

For me, and I expect for most listeners, the showcase song is the opening track "I Lost Again".  The accompanying video is a great representation of what a music fan experiences when the earphones go over the ears.  But I've included the Soundcloud clip below as the band has made the song available for download from that service.

Free Time - I Lost Again from Chocolate Bobka on Vimeo.

"Nothing But Nice" is the breezy first single from Free Time.  I think it well demonstrates the fresh sound of the band.

Underwater Peoples

New video from Heliocentrics - "Collateral Damage" from 13 Degrees of Reality

We recently reviewed the Heliocentrics' excellent jazz/funk/rock album 13 Degrees of Reality (WYMA review here). They've put together a video for album track "Collateral Damage" - it's a slinky number where soul, funk and Eastern influences all get down in a groove together, and this psychedelic art video is just right for it:

The album is out now on Now-Again Records. Learn more, or buy at their site:

Heliocentrics at Now-Again

Monday, May 27, 2013

REVIEW: ASG - Blood Drive

ASG is a North Carolina metal/heavy rock band, and has just released its fourth album and Relapse debut Blood Drive. On first listen, I'm knocked out by the heavy groove they ride in... but what makes me keep coming back is singer/guitarist Jason Shi’s voice. Unlike so many metal bands whose riffs and groove make me want to like them, but whose Cookie Monster vocals just don't appeal to me, ASG has risen to the all-around excellence of Relapse label-mates like Baroness and Mastodon, or other WYMA favorites Torche.

Here's "Avalanche" - the opening riff, the building guitar sounds, it's all in service of great songcraft. Shi's voice is terrific - reminiscent of Layne Staley - and he has a tremendous presence:

It gets heavier - some of these songs are amazing riff-fests, where the guitars and the vocal lines resemble a harder-edged, heavier Judas Priest, and Shi shows he's got the chops to scream along with (or on top of) even the heaviest material. Here's "Castlestorm":

And those guitars, and the rhythm section, would be enough to make ASG worth a second, and third listen. Heavy, but very melodic, some of the guitar work is so well-realized I would almost call it delicate, if it wasn't absolutely skull-pounding. But it's certainly beautiful - and some of the songs, bluesy ballads like "Blues For Bama", are enchanting. It's out tomorrow (May 28) on Relapse - you can learn more at the website, and order a vinyl edition which will contain a bonus track "Mourning of the Earth".

ASG at Relapse Records
ASG Facebook

REVIEW: The Pastels - Slow Summits

With three decades of composing and recording in their rear view mirror, you can count on The Pastels to have a firm vision for their music.  But what makes their new LP, Slow Summits, special is the exceptional execution of that vision.  The Pastels of 2013 exude confidence and depth.  Their touch with melody, which always has been a strong point, is even more assured.  What may be most remarkable, however, is the degree to which the Glasgow group has mastered the ability to take a loose, even gentle song and infuse it with just the right level of detail;  the melodies envelope the listener, the embellishments delight, but nothing seems hurried or overstuffed.

With core members Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell trading lead vocal duties, variations in tempo and a few lovely instrumental songs, the nine-track Slow Summits has a satisfying level of variety, but fans may feel that it is almost too short (that's what happens when you take so long, Stephen and Katrina).  While "Secret Music", "Summer Rain" and (one my my favorites) "Come to the Dance" lead the charge of the gentle songs, and show a true mastery of the subtle expression of emotions, the album also contains one of the best pop songs of the year -- the first single, "Check My Heart".

For Slow Summits the band was Stephen, Katrina, Tom Crossley, John Hogarty, Gerald Love (Teenage Fanclub), Alison Mitchell (Katrina's sister).  Additional contributions were made by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Annabel Wright (long a member of the band), Stefan Schneider and Ronald Lippok and Craig Armstrong.

Here is the album closer, "Come to the Dance", which invariably draws a "replay" reflex from me --

Slow Summits is out now on Domino Records.  If you love pop music, this is an album you should check out.

Domino Records

REVIEW: The Melvins - Everybody Loves Sausages

30-year punk/metal/sludge rock veterans The Melvins return with a 13-track covers album titled Everybody Loves Sausages. Having been cited as influences themselves (by many members of Seattle's grunge scene and artists like Tool and Boris), they want to take this opportunity to share some of theirs. They cover a diverse selection of songs - art rock like Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home A Heartache" and pop like Queen's "Best Friend," claiming (and, really, exhibiting) a genuine love for the originals. But of course one way to show your reverence, especially if you're a nonconformist yourself, is to change it up a little bit, and they certainly do. They also enlisted several friends: including Mudhoney's Mark Arm joining them for The Scientists' "Set It On Fire", Jello Biafra contributing the creepiest Bryan Ferry impersonation ever on "Dream Home", and Neurosis' Scott Kelly pitching in on a cover of Venom's "Warhead."

The opener, "Warhead" has a real Sabbath-meets-Black Flag vibe that is something you expect from these guys, and their reworking of the Kinks' "Attitude" (with Clem Burke of Blondie somewhere in there) is hot, fast and loud. Probably my favorite track is their off-kilter cover of Bowie's slightly off-kilter 10-plus minute white soul epic "Station to Station".  As with any covers record, some tracks work better than others, but with a group as iconoclastic as the Melvins, the song choices are almost as much fun as the music itself.

"This record will give people a peek into the kind of things that influence us musically," explains Buzz Osborne. "We REALLY like all of these songs along with the bands who actually wrote this stuff because first and foremost we are HUGE music fans." For your amusement, listed below is the complete track listing with original artist and guest player notation, as well as Osborne's notes on each track - you know, showing you how the sausage was made:

1. Warhead (Venom; Guest: Scott Kelly of Neurosis)
2. Best Friend (Queen; Guest: Caleb Benjamin of Tweak Bird)
3. Black Betty (Original artist unknown)
4.  Set It On Fire (The Scientists; Guest: Mark Arm)
5.  Station To Station (David Bowie; Guest: JG Thirlwell)
6.  Attitude (The Kinks: Guest: Clem Burke of Blondie)
7.  Female Trouble (Divine, written by John Waters)
8.  Carpe Diem (The Fugs)
9.  Timothy Leary Lives (Pop-O-Pies)
10.  In Every Dream Home A Heartache (Roxy Music; Guests: Jello Biafra and Kevin Rutmanis)
11. Romance (Tales of Terror)
12. Art School (The Jam; Guest: Tom Hazelmeyer)
13.  Heathen Earth (Throbbing Gristle)

Warhead by Venom - We all love Venom.  Rumor has it that these guys are all Yoga instructors now.

Best Friend by Queen - This song was a pain in the ass to record but it came out great!  We knew it would be a head scratcher for our fans but that's kind of the deal with us.

Black Betty by Unknown - We recorded this as part of a Super Bowl contest.  We didn't win.

Set It On Fire by The Scientists - Early 80's punk rock from Perth Australia, No Shit.

Station To Station by Bowie - Bowie says he was so wacked out on coke during these recording sessions that he doesn't even remember any of this.

Attitude by The Kinks - The Kinks recorded this around the time they were raking in royalties from Van Halen's cover of "You Really Got Me."  Unfortunately, they won't be making anywhere near as much from this.

Female Trouble by Divine - Title song from my favorite John Waters movie.  We've wanted to record this for years.  Isn't that a pretty sight.

Carpe Diem by The Fugs - The Fugs were the kind of hippies I liked: mean spirited with a wicked sense of humor.  Actually I could have said the same thing about John Waters.

Timothy Leary Lives by Pop-O-Pies - I saw these guys in Seattle a few times in the early '80s.  The last time I saw them the singer begged the audience to just give him money so he wouldn't have to tour.

In Every Dream Home A Heartache by Roxy Music - Biafra sounds even weirder than Brian Ferry... that is incredible.  It was great to play with Kevin again!

Romance by Tales of Terror -  Their 1984 album is one of the best record to come out of California... anywhere actually.

Art School by The Jam - This was one of the first punk bands I ever heard.  I still like this stuff.  It's nice when that happens.

Heathen Earth by Throbbing Gristle - One of the best bands ever.

The Melvins Website
Ipecac Recordings Website

REVIEW: Saturday Looks Good to Me - One Kiss Ends It All

After working on several noisier projects, Fred Thomas has resurrected Saturday Looks Good to Me for another foray into updated '60s pop.  One Kiss Ends It All is SLGTM's fifth album since the band was formed in 2000.  Fans of the band will find scant surprises, and will be pleased by that.  Pop fans newly exposed to the band likely will be entertained by the combination of '60s twee and modern production techniques such as the occasional warped vocals.  SLGTM has had a changing cast of players over the years, but the constant is guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Fred Thomas.  Other vocalists for this album include Carol Catherine, Autumn Wetli and Amber Fellows, but two tracks feature former lead vocalist Betty Barnes.  Bassist Scott DeRoche and drummer Ryan Howard also signed on again for this album.

What Thomas and company do so well is a mix of indie twee (think Camera Obscura and Belle & Sebastian) with a pop sophistication.  It may cause the listener to feel nostalgic, but nostalgia can be a delightful emotion.  And One Kiss Ends It All is a delightful album, and well designed for those summer days ahead.

One Kiss Ends It All was released on May 21 by Polyvinyl Records.

Polyvinyl Records

REVIEW: Kylesa -- Ultraviolet

New releases by established bands are always tricky for long-time fans, and for me, that's especially so with loud bands. There's all that stuff we fans have to allow for like "artistic growth" or whatever crap phrase the singer comes up with that's supposed to mean artistic growth, whatever that means anyway. Or maybe someone's had a baby, or someone's graduated from rehab or got a job or killed a fan in Europe or gone to Iceland to survive the apocalypse. All kinds of crazy stuff happens, and with loud bands, everything is generally cranked up a few extra levels of crazy. The passage of time works its change on everything, and often not for the better.

The thing is, though, I don't have time to pay attention to all that. So when a band I love, like Savannah's Kylesa, announced a couple of months ago that they're releasing their sixth album, Ultraviolet, this coming Tuesday (5/28) on Season of Mist, I confess to have had a pang of worry. Other than seeing them on tour a couple of times in the interim, I haven't really heard or seen anything about them. Their last album, 2010's Spiral Shadow, was great -- really great -- and the one from a year earlier, Static Tensions, was maybe even better. So in my ignorance I just hope. I hope not too much crazy stuff has happened to them, and I hope, against hope, that whatever may have befallen them has not caused them to turn down the volume.

Well, here's the thing about the mellowing out concern -- remember how the last album opener, "Tired Climb," started with a a psychedelic guitar, moved into a tribal two drum build, and finally, after fifty seconds, exploded into purest aggro-metal? The Ultraviolet opener, "Exhale," takes exactly the same approach, except that it explodes on the fifth beat, that is, two seconds in. It's as if this is a conscious reassurance to us from the band that they're still committed to the amplitude. We get four taps to the high-hat, two in the right channel, two in the left (letting us know their two-drummer approach is intact), and then pow! Philip Cope shouts over industrial sounding guitars and a pulsing rhythmic floor, and then trades vocals with Laura Pleasants until power chords open up the chorus. Like the ten tracks that will follow, it's ferociously refreshing.

Laura Pleasants, in fact, sings more on this album than on any of the band's earlier ones, and her voice sounds phenomenal. She's never had trouble meeting the visceral demands the music has made on her in the past, but on Ultraviolet she adds new dimensions one never might have expected. The airy femininity of her voice bouncing over the boiling punk-metal of "Vulture's Landing" is one of the many high points on the album. Check it out:

She's also the featured vocalist on the album's second song, "Unspoken," which is a further refinement of Kylesa's nearly unmatched ability to develop economical but fully realized metal songs around an unforgettable riff. Here, they build tension with a minute and a half of psych haze, and then move in a completely different direction with the southern-tinged riff underneath the dreamy vocal.

So nothing's happened to Kylesa to cause them to turn down the sound, but that's not to say that nothing's happened to them. The lyrics on Ultraviolet are dark and at times downright seething. Consider, for example, the brutal "We're Taking This," another dual-vocal thrasher that clocks in at the very punkrock 2:41. The song appears to center on some heated, to say the least, artistic differences, and the sheer force of Pleasants's culminating, paint-peeling scream "What goes around comes back around," will cause night terrors for all but the sternest of constitutions. It is not for the timid:

This one will be high on my year end best-of list. I think it's the band's finest album yet. Buy it, and make sure to go see them when they come to your town. They've spent a lot of hard years on the road becoming one of the best live acts anywhere.

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