Saturday, June 15, 2013

NEW SONG: Jack Cheshire - "GyroScope" from Long Mind Hotel, due in July

Jack Cheshire, a rising British singer/songwriter, has a third album due out in September, with a few advance singles due out this summer. Here's the first one - which will be available in July - "GyroScope":

The music is a heady jazz/psych/surf mixture - actually harder to categorize than that makes it sound. And he's a very good vocalist - with an assured, sort of hushed singing style that, once you hear it, makes perfect sense with the backing track.

Here's a track from his second album, Copenhagen - it's also got a little jangle, a jazzy feel in both the rhythm and the poetic vocal approach:

Definitely looking forward to hearing more from him.

Jack Cheshire Website
Jack Cheshire Facebook

REVIEW: Strangers Family Band - Strangers Family Band

Strangers Family Band is a LA-based four-man band playing heavy psychedelic rock. Brothers Ric (vocals, guitar) and Scott Seltzer (bass), and Juan Londono (drums) and John Randono (keyboards) have delivered a debut that is remarkably psychedelic and heavy, with Londono's drums and Scott Seltzer's bass setting a strong underpinning for Ric's guitars and Randono's keyboards, a combination that sort of swings back and forth between Crazy Horse and Pink Floyd at times. 

The first track is "Year Time", and it starts out at a measured, easygoing pace, and pretty much stays in that groove while the guitars slowly ascend to a full roar. The second song, "Starship to the Sun", is another slow one with a few chord changes that remind me of Neil Young's "Winterlong". 

A repeating theme in their songs is trips, which can take the form of substance trips (“Mary Jane”) or astral travelling (“Starship To The Sun”). Here's the third track, "Elle S. Dee":

Speaking on this, Ric Seltzer says “a lot of the lyrics start as improvisations while we are jamming on the songs.  Among them are references to extraterrestrial theory and research, which is a passion of mine as well as drug imagery.  After the album was written I began to realize that I was subconsciously writing about the journey Scott and I took in moving from our suburban home in Florida to the big town of Los Angeles and finding our way in the world.”

"Mary Jane" picks up the pace, and "Cosmic Wine" is an over 8:00 full-on psychedelic jam. Here's "Cosmic Wine":

Thought it's all psychedelic, there's some variety of approach here - "Moonberry Jelly Jam", for example, has a sprightly pace and some affected vocals that show a spirit of playfulness. And the closer, "Jenny 3003" is the heaviest track on the record, with the type of guitar flights you'd expect in a number that runs 12:36.

This album is their first for Xemu Records and was produced by Dead Meadow bassist (and Xemu Records co-owner) Steven Kille and Dave Schiffman (Mars Volta, Airbourne). They're also quite proud of, and Randono shows a real masterful touch with, an extensive collection of recording and production equipment -- analog synths, Korg MS-10 and Echoplex tape delay unit. It's all used to great effect on an album that is, after all, a fun, coast to coast psychedelic romp. Strangers Family Band is out this week (June 11).

Strangers Family Band
Xemu Records

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Nuggets: "Open My Eyes", Nazz

Todd Rundgren was just 20 in 1968 when his band Nazz released its first single "Open My Eyes". It was a minor local hit in Boston and a few other markets. But then one day a Boston DJ flipped the record over to play the B Side "Hello It's Me", which to this day remains the most recognizable song in Rundgren's long and distinguished career.

But let's not overlook "Open My Eyes", which is a perfect example of the '60's garage rock  / psychedelic sound.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

REVIEW: Janet Lee Davis - Missing You

After a long period in which it was out of print, Janet Lee Davis' Missing You is again becoming available courtesy of Reggae Archive Records (CD and digital download) and Fashion Records (digital download).  Janet was a highly lauded reggae artist in the UK in the '80s and '90s, and her 1994 release for Fashion Records, Missing You, was widely considered one of the best "lover's rock" albums of the decade.  This reissue is a deluxe edition, containing 20 tracks in all: The original album, plus five bonus tracks.

The material on Missing You hits on all cylinders.  The rhythms and arrangements are first class, the production quality and supporting players are worthy of a classic album, and most of all, Davis' voice. Possessed of power and control, when Janet sings that she's missing you, you feel her pain and a twinge of guilt.  And when she complains about the girl you have on the side, you consider apologizing even though you've never met the lady.

For a fan of the lovers rock style of reggae, this album ranks as a "must have", and even a casual fan of reggae is likely to find Missing You one of the most played reggae albums in his or her collection.  But I'll take a further step and suggest that this album so accessible and and of high quality that any fan of pop music should consider it.

And this track, "Do You Remember", on 'too late to turn back now' rhythm, is one of my favorites --

Janet Lee Davis deserves the re-issue treatment, and she is getting it in fine style.  The album is available from the links below from June 17.

Reggae Archive Records
Fashion Records

REVIEW: Matthew J. Tow - The Way of Things

Matthew J. Tow is an Australian singer/songwriter with vast experience in the psychedelic rock arena - in addition to having led The Lovetones and Drop City, he has logged time in The Brian Jonestown Massacre and released instrumental music as Coloursound. Listening to his new album, The Way of Things, I am struck by a worldly wisdom in the lyrics, and a real talent in putting hooks to service of long, satisfying songs. In places, I'm reminded of old psych/pop like The Kinks, Syd Barrett and John Lennon as well as British psych pop like Robyn Hitchcock, Oasis and Blur, and the sweet guitar rock of The Byrds and Tom Petty.

To start out the record, Tow features the 11:00 super psych jam, “Night And Day.” As Tow explains, “I didn’t want to do another album that started with a standard track, where the listener can easily forget the singer’s name after only five minutes. I wanted to immediately put the listener in a place they weren’t expecting.” There are several songs of fairly conventional length and construction, but nothing is exactly right down the middle... yet everything on here works perfectly, including little touches like the whistling on "Seven Days".

Drawing on his time in The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Tow worked with Collin Hegna of BJM to produce, and the recording was split between Hegna’s Revolver Studios in Portland, Oregon and Tow recording material in Australia. In places the album is plenty heavy and psychedelic, but it also features some sweet, melodic country rock including some wonderful pedal steel on "Crazy Ramblin' Broken Heart" and reverb-drenched piano on "When I Get to Sydney" - a really well-done sad song.

Here's "It's Gonna Be Alright" - an easy, loping jam encompassing acoustic and electric guitars and Tow's warm vocals with well-conceived harmonies:

The Way of Things is an album that will fit comfortably next to just about anything in your collection, but it features songwriting and music that is strong enough to stand out, too. If you like West coast psychedelia, or if you like melodic guitar rock, there is plenty here to make you happy, including a slow-burning guitar jam on the 6:00-plus "I Love My Brother" to close out the album.

The album is out this week (June 11) on Xemu Records.

Matthew J. Tow Website
Xemu Records

Flowers - When You Lie EP

In trawling for talent among the bands that played the recent New York Popfest (Is it lazy or smart to use the Popfest talent scouts to do my work? Both, I'm quite sure) I stumbled on London's Flowers.  I then did a touch of my own research and discovered a few others, including the Finest Kiss blog here in Seattle were already fans.  So we may not be the absolute front runners here, but we're happy to step in and give the band a boost.  Flowers' sound is a fuzz, noise pop that will bring to mind Black Tambourine and possibly The Jesus and Mary Chain.  And their female vocalist has a great voice -- crystal clear and slightly fragile; note in particular the track "Watch and Wonder" below.

The band's currently available output includes a four-track single "When You Lie" which was released by Cloudberry last February.  Apparently the physical version is sold out, but the digital is available at the Bandcamp link below for "name your price".  A debut LP is planned and will be released by New York label Kanine Records.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

REVIEW: Bonnie Whitmore - There I Go Again

Bonnie Whitmore's new album, There I Go Again, is a country-rock keeper. Whitmore is a terrific songwriter with a clear, strong voice and a way with a pop hook. She's also got echoes of country and folk rock legends all over her work, in the best way possible. Emmylou is an obvious comparison for her light, pretty vocals on upbeat songs like "You're Going To Love Me", but there is also heavier stuff like "The Gavel" - a bluesy song with a definite resemblance to another famous Bonnie.

And there are other touchpoints as well, some openly acknowledged by Whitmore as she discusses Tom Petty's ability to balance roots music and catchy pop-rock. "He makes these amazingly awesome pop songs, but is also able to keep them within the lines. You could hear how beautiful the melodies are beyond the grit of rock and roll," she says. "I struggle with the question - 'who inspired you?' - but Petty’s music has, and always will inspire me." This inspiration is clear on a lot of the tracks here, but to me the clearest indication is the way the guitars and keyboards ring out on the opening, title track.

This album is highly recommended if you enjoy the music of singers like Neko Case, the aforementioned Emmylou and Bonnie, and WYMA favorite Tift Merritt.

Here's "Too Much Too Soon", which she's made available for free download:

That pedal steel is just wonderful, but as with everything else on the album, her voice is the featured instrument, and rightly so. We're looking forward to hearing more from this talented Texas native. There I Go Again is out this week (June 11) on This Is American Music.

Bonnie Whitmore website
This Is American Music

New Psych/Fuzz Discovery: Purple Heart Parade - "The Room" - free download

Manchester band Purple Heart Parade is playing some engaging, heavy psychedelic rock - recommended if you like Oasis and Tame Impala, especially if you like the idea of Tame Impala-style psych with plenty of guitar fuzz laid in. Lead singer is Peter Cowap, with Ryan Arnfield and Sam “Budgie” Bugajski on guitars, drummer Tom Mallas and Bass-player Ste Woods. They have built an enjoyable wall of sound with a pounding rhythm section supported by a devastating guitar attack - with plenty of guitar effects in the bargain.

They'll be appearing at the Glasgow Psych Fest. I have to say, it makes me happy that there is such a thing as a Glasgow Psych Fest.

Here's "The Room", first a live video, then an online track which they've kindly made available for free download:

Learn more, and keep up with them, at their website:

Purple Heart Parade Website

REVIEW: Shooting Stansfield - We Know Not What We Do EP

The sweet spot for Edinburgh's Shooting Stansfield is jangly, warm and dramatic folk rock.  That, plus the inevitable Scottish accent, will bring comparisons to fellow Scots Frightened Rabbit.  And while such comparisons are fair, I think it must be noted that the band need not stand in anyone's shadow.  If life is fair (I know, hardly a sure thing) their new We Know Not What We Do EP will serve as their coming out party and bring them a wider base of fans.

At six songs and just over twenty minutes running time, We Know Not What We Do EP is a concise presentation of the band's skills.  The four-piece creates melodically dense, layered tracks featuring arrangements that build from simple beginnings to a grand wall of sound.  Here are two of the tracks.  If you visit the band's website (link below) you can get a free download of  "Greater or Lesser".

Shooting Stansfield are Stewart Douglas (vocals/guitar), Stephen Whipp (lead guitar/backing vocals), Craig Robertson (bass/backing vocals), and David Steel (drums/percussion).  We Know Not What We Do EP is out now.  A full length album is planned.

Twitter ( @shootstansfield )

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

REVIEW: Sonny and the Sunsets - Antenna to the Afterworld

When you sign up for a ride with Sonny Smith, whether as a reader of his literary efforts or as a listener to his music, you aren't signing up for a conventional commuter run.  But you know that going in, so you settle in and enjoy the experience.  And then there is the title to the new album from Sonny and the Sunsets -- Antenna to the Afterworld.  No, not likely to be a normal journey.

And Sonny doesn't dash expectations.  Reportedly inspired by the murder of a friend and a contact with another deceased individual through a psychic, the album doesn't tread the indie path of love/lost love/looking for love/isolation.  But in addition to providing a glimpse into Sonny's inward journey on the topics at hand, it presents a very compelling collection of songs: Thematically intriguing and musically entertaining.  And not to sound shallow, the latter half draws me in the most.  I love the melodies, the varied vocal presentations and, most of all, the sound of the guitars.  This album works for me in the morning, late at night and all times in between.  We have already presented tracks "Dark Corners" and "Palmreader" (link here), so the clips streams here will be for less heralded tracks that I find equally as delightful.  For me the songs have a '60s garage rock feel, but with some twists and turns that serve to update them and make them uniquely a Sonny and the Sunsets album.  There will be some surf riffs ("Void"), an affair with an alien ("Green Blood"), doo wop vocals ("Path of Orbit"), stranded alien dogs ("Dark Corners"), a scary woman ("Mutilator") and homeless girls ("Girl on the Street").  This is the kind of album that becomes an old friend in a short time.

In addition to Sonny Smith, Sonny and the Sunsets is Tahlia Harbour, Kelly Stoltz, and Ryan Browne.  Antenna to the Afterworld is out today on Polyvinyl Records.

Polyvinyl Records

Here are the current tour dates:
06/11 San Francisco, CA – The Eagle
06/13 Hamden, CT – The Outer Space *
06/14 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory / Northside Fest
06/15 New York, NY – Cake Shop #
06/16 Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose *
06/17 Lakewood, OH – Mahalls 20 Lanes *
06/19 Indianapolis, IN – Radio Radio *
06/20 Detroit, MI – The Lager House *
06/21 Chicago, IL –  Beat Kitchen *
06/22 Iowa City, IA – The Englert Theater
07/12 Oaktown, CA – New Parish
07/13 Sacramento, CA – 2nd Saturday Art Walk
07/24 Visalia, CA – Howie & Sons Pizza
07/25 San Diego, CA – Casbah
07/26 Costa Mesa, CA – Detroit Bar

"Sweden", new song from The Machine Room

The Machine Room, Edinburgh five-piece, is back on our pages with a new single, "Sweden".  A synth-based shoegaze anthem, it is hitting the right notes for my Tuesday.  My understanding is that the single is only available in digital form.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Sic Alps - She's On Top EP

To kick off their summer invasion of Europe, San Francisco's Sic Alps have released the She's On Top EP.  Consisting of three tracks, the record builds on the psychedelic pop of their self-titled LP by infusing their sound with a harder edge.  Here is the title track.  It is a little psychedelic and a little classic rock, and I must say that I'm quite fond of it --

The other two tracks are "Carrie Jean" and "Biz Bag".  Carrie Jean rocks even harder than "She's On Top", while "Biz Bag" dials it down slightly but brings a few interesting productions touches to the mix.  She's On Top EP is an exciting and progressive addition to Sic Alps' discography.  Count yourself lucky if you will get to see them perform it live this summer.  The tour dates and locations are below.

Sic Alps are Matt Hartman and Mike Donovan.  The EP is released via Drag City Records.

Drag City Records

06.25.13 Bolonga, Italy @ Freakout
06.26.13 Ancona, Italy @ Lazzaretto
06.27.13 Milano, Italy @ Li-Fi
06.28.13 Brussels, Belgium @ Mme Moustache
06.29.13 Tournai, Belgium @ Walter Moulin
06.30.13 Colonge, Germany @ King Georg
07.02.13 Newcastle, UK @ The Cluny
07.03.13 Liverpool, UK @ Blade Factory / Camp and Furnace
07.04.13 London, UK @ The Lexington
07.05.13 Helsinki, Finland @ Kuudas Aaisti Festival
07.06.13 Tallinn, Estonia @ Von Krahl
07.09.13 Stockholm, Sweden @ What We Do Is Secret Festival
07.10.13 Gothenburg, Sweden @ What We Do Is Secret Festival 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New Punk Discovery: Dead Waves - Kill The Youth EP

Dead Waves are a Brooklyn, NY-based punk (bordering on metal) band consisting of brothers Ted and Nick Panopoulos, who play bass and guitar and share vocals, and drummer Franz Streit. Their new EP, Kill The Youth, sounds great loud - it's aggressive yet melodic and in places, it reminds me fondly of the bombastic early stuff from Pixies... toward that end, check out "Happy":

or perhaps GbV, circa Propeller, except maybe Pollard is sharing vocals with Lemmy... Toward that end, check out "Sky":

Oh, did that get your attention? It should - this thing's terrific. Dead Waves self-released this 5-song EP last week (June 7). You can click through the tracks above to listen to the whole EP, or read more about them including upcoming appearances on their Facebook. 

New Tablets video from BreakThru Radio

We heard from BreakThru Radio in NYC - they sent us a great video by The Tablets, who we've covered before (WYMA post here). This one embodies their sound well.

The video and the sound are well-produced, and the song is followed by a short interview with the band, with a little insight into their creative process (plus her bemusement at the fact that different listeners seem to hear the music in different ways), and another song:

Since this is episode 227 of a weekly video production from BTR, we may have some catching up to do.

Here's a download of the song "Tablets" that the band has made available:

BreakThru Radio website
The Tablets website

REVIEW: The Woodentops - Before During After

We all know that there are certain levels of prayer.  Among the categories would be "please cure my sick relative", "save me from the rushing mountain lion", and "don't let the IRS audit my business deductions from last year (and I promise never to do that again)".  Admittedly, the first and second could switch positions depending on your generosity of spirit, the closeness of the relative and your ability to distinguish among breeds of cat.  In any case, when confronted with such worthy candidates, a prayer along the lines of "could we please get a compilation for The Woodentops" seems to lack gravitas.  But living in the moment, I don't have a sick relative or a current mountain lion issue, and the deduction claim wasn't all that bad in hindsight, so I have been hopeful that the business about The Woodentops could get on the schedule.  Fortunately for me, the spirit has worked through the good folks at the One Little Indian label, and they have recently released Before During After - Remixes Remasters & Rarities 1982-1992.  And at 52 tracks on three CDs, it is a treasure trove for fans.  The set includes their two studio albums, Giant and Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway, fully re-masterd, plus remixes, live versions, and alternative versions.

The Woodentops were founded in London in the early '80s by Rolo McGinty.  Unusual for that time, their music was based on rhythms, often Latin and African, with an emphasis on percussion.  They also were early adopters of electronic frills, and the result was a musical platform that spanned from punk folk to pop to dance music.  There is a reason why industry fans included indie popsters such as Morrissey and John Peel, reggae/dub master Lee Perry, and electronic wiz Adrian Sherwood (who remixed several of the 'Tops' songs).  In addition to percussion (toms, kicks, snares, wooden blocks, cowbells) and vigorously strummed acoustic guitars, accordions, trumpets, marimbas and electronic samples found their way into arrangements.  The Woodentops deserved a bigger audience then, and they deserve a bigger audience now.

"Good Thing" --

"Give It Time" --

"Love Affair With Everyday Living" showcases the importance of rhythms to The Woodentops' music.  Here is a live performance --

Before During After - Remixes Remasters & Rarities 1982-1992 was released on May 27.

One Little Indian