Friday, July 26, 2013

New Video from Boardwalk - "I'm To Blame"

We recently featured a track from new L.A. dream pop duo Boardwalk, who have been signed to Stones Throw and will be releasing an album in the fall. The song is "I'm To Blame", a hypnotic bit of reverb-drenched near-shoegaze with swirling guitars and otherworldly vocals, and this is the video they've released to go along with it. Fittingly, the video is gauzy, multicolored, oblique and pretty:

Broadway is Mike Edge and Amber Quintero, who met and formed the band last summer - we're really looking forward to the album.

Boardwalk on Stones Throw

REVIEW: Doc Feldman and the LD50 - Sundowning at the Station

I think this is a good time for all of you to meet Doc Feldman.  You see, Doc and some of his musically inclined friends, calling themselves Doc Feldman and the LD50, have released a southern gothic/Americana/alt country masterpiece titled Sundowning at the Station.  It is gritty and dark with restrained and experimental instrumentation, including field recordings, and observations that cut like a knife or hit like a hammer.  In addition to Doc, the LD50 are James Jackson Toth, David Chapman and Jeremiah Floyd.  But after living with this album, it occurs to me that a contingent of ghosts and memories deserves to be credited as well, and they all should be proud to do so.

I'm sure you are familiar with albums that hook you in with a bouncy, happy first track?  Well, this isn't one of them.  Sundowning at the Station begins with "Ready" -- the musings of a murderer waiting on death row for a lethal injection.

The following "Texas Moan" dwells on a lost love, with the refrain "Shame on you Texas for pushing her away".

The vocalized pain becomes generalized to life itself on "Alive for Now".  The passionate "Let It Go" addresses coming to grips with transitions, and the regrets of the past.  "Can't Quit You" is a minimally adorned blues dirge.  After an instrumental interlude with gentle banjo picking and samples (the wonderfully named "Pinecone Drone"), Doc and company amp up the Southern Gothic with "Cold Tile Floor", referencing LD50 -- the toxicology term for a median lethal drug dose.  Then the electric guitars buzz in fine southern rock fashion on the cover of "Battle Hymn", which is the most up-tempo song on the album.

Restraint takes over again for "Only Light".  The band goes electric again for the country ballad, and one of my favorites of the album, "Bless This Mess".  The narrator begins with "damn this harsh reality" and then confesses to having expected too much from his dreams.  But I think that all that I need to write about this song is that the refrain prays  "Bless this mess of a heart, its come apart at the seams, the hollowed out dreams ...."  Indeed.

The album closes with "Weighted", featuring gentle picking and washed out vocals before swelling into feedback.  A more perfect ending to this album could not be devised.

The album was recorded in Lexington, Kentucky.  It is out now on This Is American Music.

This Is American Music

June 2013 - When You Motor Away Spotify Playlists

The music is always playing in the back ground at my house.  I assume it is the same for my fellow bloggers and many of you.   The playlist for June 2013 is only 454 songs down by nearly 200 songs from last month's list.  The year-to date playlist is 3,254 songs.  Both could be viewed as overwhelming numbers.  Some of our fans have asked the the playlist  to be pared down. We - as a group - have listened to everyone of these songs - and many more which did not make the cut.   If one of us isn't hooked, we don't review the group or the album.

Music is an individual relationship with the muses.  I don't know your muse.  I would not order for you in a restaurant, pick out the clothes you should be wearing, or tell you what books you should read.  Look at our list as a first pass on music we heard and liked this month.  Delete what doesn't hook you  and personalize the list.

Hit play and put  the list on shuffle.  The second Spotify playlist is for the first 6 months of 2013.  Our ears have collectively listened to over 3,200 tracks. A solid summer playlist by anyone's standards. You will automatically receive updates to the list  if you follow the year-to-date list on Spotify.  Enjoy the fruits of our passion.

               June 2013 - When You Motor Away

               2013 - When You Motor Away

JAZZ REISSUES: Concord Original Jazz Classics Remasters from Monk, Evans, Adderly, Montgomery, Baker, Mulligan...

This is an amazing and truly beautiful collection of musical treasures from the folks at Concord Records. They're celebrating the 60th anniversary of Riverside Records by releasing newly mastered editions of five great jazz records: Thelonious Monk & Gerry Mulligan: Mulligan Meets Monk, Bill Evans Trio: How My Heart Sings!, Wes Montgomery: So Much Guitar!, Cannonball Adderley & Milt Jackson: Things Are Getting Better, and Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe

Uniformly wonderful, yet varied in approach, these discs cover the span of time from 1957 to 1962. Since we make it clear that, at WYMA, we are not critics but "appreciators" of music, I will dispense with any effort to evaluate these records individually, except to say that they are all terrific and the one I thought I would like the best (Evans) is in fact wonderful, but the one I wasn't so sure I would like (Baker) might be the best of the bunch. But that's the problem with these Riverside records, as anyone who collects jazz will know. With no bad records, ranking them becomes a bit futile. To put it simply: if you like 50's and 60's jazz, you will want all of these.

Here is more information on each record, directly from Concord:

Riverside was launched in 1953 in New York on a shoestring budget by traditional-jazz enthusiasts Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews as a platform to reissue jazz and blues recordings from the 1920s by King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and others. Over the next decade, the label evolved into one of the premier purveyors of modern jazz. With Keepnews producing the sessions (and often writing the liner notes), Riverside brought jazz giants like Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, and Wes Montgomery to the forefront of American music. Riverside folded in 1964, a year after Grauer’s death. The catalog was acquired by Fantasy in 1972, and Fantasy was in turn acquired by Concord Music Group in late 2004.

All five Riverside titles in the current round of reissues were originally produced by Keepnews and include his original liner notes. All reflect the ambitious depth and scope of influential jazz captured in the Riverside catalog over the relatively short span of 11 years.

Thelonious Monk & Gerry Mulligan: Mulligan Meets Monk
Recorded in mid August 1957, Mulligan Meets Monk is a summit of two artists from two very different and distinct worlds — Monk representing what was then known as East Coast jazz, and Mulligan deeply rooted in a West Coast sound. Rounding out the quartet are bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Shadow Wilson. Even with the two frontmen’s disparate styles, the unlikely pairing resulted in an engaging and enduring recording, according to Neil Tesser’s new liner notes.

“Despite their radically different personalities, and their almost antipodal approach to improvising, Monk and Mulligan found common ground in composition,” says Tesser. “Not in the songs themselves — no one would ever mistake one of Monk’s for one of Mulligan’s — but in their devotion to the craft, and their admiration for the balanced, well-turned tune. That devotion manifested itself quite differently in their individual musics, but it provided the foundation for their unimagined friendship . . . and allowed them to join in this unexpectedly successful venture.”

Bonus tracks on the Mulligan Meets Monk reissue are alternate takes of the Mulligan composition “Decidedly” and Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” along with two alternate takes of the Monk/Coleman Hawkins piece “I Mean You.”

Bill Evans Trio: How My Heart Sings!
Recorded in New York on three separate days in May and June 1962, How My Heart Sings! features Bill Evans accompanied by bassist Chuck Israels (replacing Scott Lofaro, who had died in an automobile accident less than a year earlier) and drummer Paul Motian. The album is actually the second of two to emerge from the 1962 sessions; the first was Moonbeams, a collection of ballads. How My Heart Sings! is, by design, a bit more lively and energetic.

“The selections represented here are primarily of a more ‘moving’ kind,” says Doug Ramsey in his new liner notes to the reissue, “though there is in the trio’s approach to all material a desire to present a singing sound. Hence, the title of the album, despite its intended program of faster swinging vehicles.”

How My Heart Sings! includes three bonus tracks: an alternate take of “In Your Own Sweet Way,” and previously unreleased renditions of “34 Skidoo” and “Ev’rything I Love.”

Wes Montgomery: So Much Guitar!
So Much Guitar! was recorded in August 1961, with Wes Montgomery fronting a stellar lineup that includes Hank Jones on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Lex Humphries on drums and Ray Baretto on congas. The album was a turning point, not only for Wes but for bassist Ron Carter as well, says Marc Myers, author of the reissue’s new liner notes.

“While Montgomery’s previous release on Riverside in 1960, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, put the guitarist in play with critics, So Much Guitar! caught the ear of poll-voting jazz fans and established him as a soulful force,” says Myers. “The album also marked Carter’s first opportunity to show his stuff on the fly — transforming the formally trained 24-year-old into a first-call session player. Today he is one of the most prolific recording artists in jazz history.”

The bonus tracks here essentially make up an entire second album, capturing eight songs recorded earlier in 1961 at the Cellar, a club in Vancouver, British Columbia. This Canadian set — originally issued on Fantasy as The Montgomery Brothers in Canada, includes Buddy Montgomery on vibes, Monk Montgomery on bass, and Paul Humphrey on drums

Cannonball Adderley & Milt Jackson: Things Are Getting Better
Recorded in a single day in October 1958, Things Are Getting Better showcases the brilliant impromptu interplay of Cannonball Adderley and Milt Jackson, with assistance from Wynton Kelly on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Art Blakey on drums.

While Keepnews’s original liner notes referred to the recording as “fundamentally a blowing date in the best sense of that much abused term,” the set is clearly much more than that, according to Willard Jenkins’s new notes. “The album’s groove stems primarily from the successful partnership formed by the blues firm of Adderley and Jackson,” says Jenkins, “each of whom were hall of fame representatives of the essence of the groove factor during their time as the respective histories of each have borne out.”

The reissue of Things Are Getting Better includes two bonus tracks not found on the original LP: alternate takes of Buddy Johnson’s “Serves Me Right” and Lawlor and Blake’s “Sidewalks of New York” (the latter arranged by Adderley).

Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe
Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe is exactly what the title suggests — a set of eight innovative renditions of compositions by one of the most prolific and recognizable theatrical teams of the mid-20th century. Baker’s supporting cast on this July 1959 date includes Herbie Mann on flute, piccolo, alto flute, and tenor sax; Zoot Sims on alto and tenor saxophones; Pepper Adams on bari sax; Bill Evans and Bob Corwin trading off piano duties on various tracks; Earl May on bass; and Clifford Jarvis on drums.

The album “is easily heard as a sequel to the popular Chet (also on Riverside) album of standards released earlier that same great-jazz year of 1959,” says James Rozzi in his liner notes to the reissue. “The mix of personnel throughout the set provides the recording “with a similar timbre while adding uptempo fare to the previously released, slow and relaxed ballad set of Chet.”

The music, the packaging and the liner notes (both the originals by Keepnews and the new notes by a variety of writers) are all very good. The amalgamation of talent is nearly unbelievable - Thelonious Monk with Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderly with Milt Jackson, Wynton Kelly, Percy Heath and Art Blakey - really, dream combinations. Herbie Mann's flute work on the Baker disc is just tremendous. But these are just highlights, as there is not a weak moment on any of these. The links in the record titles above will take you to the Concord site where you can learn more, follow their links to Amazon or iTunes to listen to samples or order the records.

REVIEW: Standish/Carlyon - Deleted Scenes

Standish/Carlyon are Conrad Standish (bass/vocals) and Tom Carlyon (guitar), formerly in Australian noir rock group Devastations.  But on Deleted Scenes they take a different tack into the night.  The rhythms and beats often are sparse, yet the arrangements have a glossy, urban noir feel.  The listener senses depths of emotion swirling under the surface.  This is some of the best headphones music I've heard this year, and is highly recommended for those late nights.

Several notable collaborations are part of this project.  Album closer "2 5 1 1" includes Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons, and "Feb Love" -- a slowly building slice of electro/dub soul -- includes vocals by Standish's spouse, Johnnine, who is a member of HTRK --

I love the heavy dub sound in this track --

"Moves, Moves" is a delightful rhythmic exercise underpinning Standish's falsetto --

The relaxed vibe for "Aqua Valerie" is a late-night favorite of mine --

Deleted Scenes was recorded in London.  It is our now on Felte (US/EU/UK) and Chapter Music (Aus)

Chapter Music

Friday Nuggets - "Louie Louie"

We probably should have done this week 1 of this series, but it's time to honor the song that more than any other started the garage rock movement - "Louie Louie".

Recorded by more than 1000 different bands, the subject of an FBI investigation over its lyrical content, lawsuits over royalties, rival versions by bands from the same town on the charts on the same time, controversies galore - "Louie Louie" is full of legend and lore.  It's more like a force of nature than merely a song.

But we honor songs here at WYMA not long stories, so forget the Rice University Marching Band version and Black Flag's cover, and even the Wailers 1961 version that formed the template for the garage rock arrangement of what started in 1955 as a Jamaican folk song about a sailor coming home to see his girl. (Those Wailers being the seminal garage rock band from Seattle, a/k/a The Fabulous Wailers, not to be confused with the Wailers from Jamaica fronted by Bob Marley; phew).

The Kingsmen, an unknown garage band from Portland Oregon, released this single in 1963 and rock'n'roll was never the same:

One interesting tidbit: The best moment of the song, the shout of "Okay, let's give it to 'em right now!" as intro to the crazy guitar solo, was lifted by The Kingsmen from the Wailers version, so it wasn't quite as spontaneous as it sounds.

Curious about how all this "Louie Louie" madness  came to be? The Wikipedia write up is a fun read.

As a special bonus, here's a video with the three earlier versions - the Richard Perry original, the Wailers garage rock redo, and one from Little Bill and the Blue Notes:

Friday morning update: 

I posted this last night, only to wake up today, go outside to get the local paper from my mailbox and be greeted with this headline article: "Louie, Louie, We Gotta Be Art Now", about how the artwork in the new federal building here in Portland will be based on the chords and sound of "Louie Louie". Awesome and too funny. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The New Mendicants - Australia 2013 EP

The New Mendicants are Joe Pernice (Scud Mountain Boys/Pernice Brothers) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub/BMX Bandits), so one thing of which every listener can be assured is that the pop craftsmanship will be top shelf.  The fruits of their recent collaboration is the Australia 2013 EP, a largely acoustic affair that showcases the ability of Pernice and Blake as interpreters, as well as the quality of the underlying material.

The EP begins with a cover of the Andrew Farriss-penned INXS' song "This Time".  It starts out the proceedings in a glorious power pop groove.

"Follow You Down" and "High On The Skyline", the second and third tracks, are a gentle acoustic tunes written by Pernice and Blake.  Track 4 is a memorable cover of the Blake-penned "I Don't Want Control Of You", which was a hit for Teenage Fanclub (the bongos are a nice touch).  Track five is Pernice's "Amazing Glow".  The album closes with the jointly written  gem "Sarasota".

A pop fan will not regret the 16 minutes spent with this album, although I suspect you will fall in love with many, or all, the tunes and spend a lot more time with the EP.  And for additional good news, I note that The New Mendicants are preparing a full length album for release in 2014.

Australia 2013 EP is out now on One Little Indian.  Blake and Pernice were joined by Mike Belisky of The Sadies on drums.

New Sebadoh Track "I Will" - album Defend Yourself due in fall

Have you missed Sebadoh? Sure, we've had some Lou Barlow solo stuff, he's contributed some great tracks to the Dinosaur Jr. albums, and various other projects, but no Sebadoh since 1999. Well, great news - they've got an album, Defend Yourself, due out in September. Self-recorded and produced, because in Barlow's words: “We did ‘Defend Yourself’ the only way it could have been done: on the cheap and all by ourselves."

Here's a video with them discussing the album:

And here's the advance track "I Will":

And some tour dates in the Western US:

07/30/2013    Bootleg Theater - Los Angeles, CA
07/31/2013    Cafe Du Nord - San Francisco, CA
08/02/2013    Bunk Bar - Portland, OR
08/03/2013    Barboza - Seattle, WA
08/05/2013    Urban Lounge - Salt Lake City, UT
08/06/2013    Larimer Lounge - Denver, CO
08/09/2013    The Crescent Lounge - Phoenix, AZ
08/10/2013    The Casbah - San Diego, CA
08/11/2013    Constellation Room - Santa Ana, CA

This is definitely something to look forward to. The record is due out Sept. 17 on Joyful Noise.

Sebadoh website
Joyful Noise Recordings website

REVIEW: Dub Club - Foundation Come Again

We started seeing tracks from Tom Chasteen and Tippa Lee (operating as Dub Club) several months ago, as we shared the two dub version albums, Signs And Wonders in Dub (WYMA post here) and Bubble Dub (WYMA post here) with you. Well, the mother lode is finally here: Foundation Come Again is a wonderful collection of new tracks from some of the best Jamaican sound system vocalists that Chasteen and Lee have worked with. Chasteen started bringing these artists to LA to perform at his club, and the idea of creating an album featuring their still-strong vocals over the super-bottom-heavy tracks of the Dub Club All-Stars was born. Since not all were available to travel to LA, Lee went to Jamaica and captured vocals from many of them at Mixing Lab in Jamaica. There are 20 tracks on the album, each with a different vocalist or combination of them - including such giants of reggae as Prince Jazzbo, who contributes the foreboding "Black Shadow", and Big Youth, who sounds nearly as strong as ever on "Healing of the Nation" - just to name two.

Here's sound system legend Josey Wales with "Hard Time":

Artists like Wales, who has a direct line back to U Roy's sound system, bring a level of credibility to this record that is almost unbelievable. However, while authenticity and gravitas are good, the sound is the thing. And this all sounds tremendous.

Here's Tippa Lee's own "Mr. Big Man":

Sadly, three of the vocalists on here: Ranking Trevor, King Stitt, and Errol Scorcher all passed on after recording their tracks for this album. But they are captured in fine style. Perhaps the best track on the album is Trevor's opener, "Paper and Pen". Note the dedication on the back cover:

If you're a fan of 70's-80's Jamaican dancehall and dub music, you will be amazed at the quality and quantity of music on Foundation Come Again. This album works as a time capsule or historical document - truly, just to have one track by each of these Jamaican legends, it would be worth much more than the cost of the album. But it's also (and perhaps more importantly) a great reggae album - a test for your sound system's bottom end and an invitation to the neighbors to come over for a good time, if you live too far from Los Angeles to catch one of the weekly shows at the Dub Club.

1.    Ranking Trevor – Paper & Pen
2.    Josey Wales – Hard Time
3.    Little Harry – Revolution
4.    Ranking Joe & Tristan – Bring The Sensi Come
5.    Lone Ranger ­– Wicked Dem Come
6.    Danny Dread – Every Herbsman Is A Star
7.    Dillinger – Around The World
8.    Tippa Lee ­– Hey Mr. Big Man
9.    Trinity ­– Rolling Stone
10.  Tullo T – Can’t Stop The Ras
11.  Natty King & King Stitt – Gimmie Gimmie
12.  Jim Brown – Sensimilla
13.  Welton Irie – Chant Down Babylon
14.  Errol Schorcher ­– Ride Riddim
15.  Kojak – Hear Me Now Star
16.  Brigadier Jerry & Ranking Joe – Meditation Chant
17.  Prince Jazzbo ­– Black Shadow
18.  Pompidoo – Selassie I Rule
19.  Big Youth ­– Healing Of The Nation
20.  Robert Mystic ­– Satta

Foundation Come Again was released last week (July 16) on Stones Throw. Buy the album, individual tracks, or learn more at Stones Throw. Learn about the shows on Dub Club's Facebook page - both below.

Dub Club website on Stones Throw
Dub Club Facebook

REVIEW: Dub Noir - Pick Your Century

Although Pick Your Century is their debut album, Dub Noir was formed a decade ago by guitarists Joe Howell and Casey Immel-Brown.  Perhaps surprising for a band based in Columbus, Ohio, their sound seems to be a close kin of the New Zealand guitar pop, the UK C86 bands or Australia's The Go-Betweens.  Due to several members moving from Columbus, the band is on hiatus.  However, Portland's Shelflife Records has a fine ear for underexposed pop bands, and has assembled 11 tracks recorded between 2003 and 2006.  Take the album for a test drive with jangling "The Careerist".  It is a wonderful song, and reminds me of New Zealand's The Chills and the excellent album released by Phil Wilson of  C86 band The June Brides a few years ago.

Dub Noir slows down the pace on a few tracks (for example, "Beneath the Wheel"), but most of the tracks utilize a quicker beat, which I think is the best approach for this kind of pop music.  Overall, this album rates well with me for the following reasons.  First, I love jangle pop, and these boys do it well.  Second, the melodies reflect excellent songwriting; the melancholy tones and Brydsian jangle of "Grim Expectations", the stormy chords of "Disco Lights" and every single second of the title track never fail to bring a smile to my face.  Third, a band this good deserves to be collected by guitar pop fans, and given the current status of Dub Noir, it isn't certain that there will ever be anything else to collect.

The band credits, in addition to Howell and Immel-Brown, are Marcus Matthews, Cameron Sharp and Michael O'Shaugnnessy.  Chris Bailey and Eric Thompson as played in the band for a period of time.

Pick Your Century is out now on Shelflife.  It is available as a CD plus digital download (limited to 100 numbered copies) or digital download alone.

Shelflife Records page for album

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

REVIEW: Weekend - Jinx

One way to tackle the fabled sophomore album jinx is to stare it in the face, name your album after it and then create a noteworthy lo-fi post-punk and shoegaze record that laughs in the face of such superstitions.  So my congratulations to San Francisco/Brooklyn band Weekend, whose Jinx masterfully combines noise, rhythms, and pop melodies.  Admittedly, there is a lot of gloom in the lyrics, but the album has so much energy and life that it never oppresses the listener.  The production is clean and loud, and the pop currents manage to surface often enough, particularly in the second half of the album.  While I have enjoyed the trend in fuzzy, garage-oriented bands over the last few year, I'm also happy to see bands exploring the industrial iciness of post-punk.  And Weekend does it better than most.

Weekend are Shaun Durkan, Kevin Johnson, Abe Pedroza.  Jinx is out now on Slumberland Records.

Slumberland Records page for album

"I Had A Dream" by Sagamore

I'm willing to admit that I know almost very little about Sagamore.  I have learned that they are from the south coast of Australia and will be releasing an EP later this year on the Flightless label.  Why do I think we should care? The answer is "I Had A Dream", the debut single from the EP.  If that song is representative of what we should expect from the group, then I care quite a bit.

Sagamore are Sam Cooper, Monty Hartnett, Chris Jennings, Sopnia Lubczenco, and Casey Hartnett.

Flightless Records

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Dojo Rising" by Cloud Control

Here is "Dojo Rising", the first single from Dream Cave, the sophomore LP from Cloud Control.  The band consists of Alister Wright, Heidi Lenffer, Ulrich Lenffer and Jeremy Kelshaw.  They are from the Blue Mountains of Australia, but now reside in the UK.  After listening to this song, I suspect that you will be interested in knowing whether the rest of the album is similarly tasty.  I can assure you that it is, and we'll review it next month.

Dream Cave will be released in Australia on August 19 via Ivy League, in the U.K. on September 16 via Infectious, and in the U.S. on September 17 via Votiv.


REVIEW: Arts & Leisure - Choose Your Adventure

Ah, Arts & Leisure -- '60s girl group, power pop, garage pop, or dream pop? Why, yes, yes it is.  This group is about hooks, harmony and a good beat.  If you want to try to define it, be our guest.  But my decision was to just enjoy this Sacramento band's music.  After all, summer is for enjoyment not unduly taxing our remaining brain cells.

Arts & Leisure was formed by the core members of Baby Grand (whose most recent album we liked quite a bit).  The new configuration adds a second female vocalist to the Baby Grand boy-girl vocal package, resulting in a fuller, more versatile sound.  With a classic instrumentation of two guitars, bass, drums and keys the band is well equipped to delivery the goods.  And the goods on Choose You Adventure are sweet, sun-kissed tunes perfect for the middle of the summer, and not a dud in the bunch.  With touchstones such as The Dum Dum Girls, Veronica Falls, The Breeders and Best Coast any indie pop fan could be forgiven for just making this the go-to summer soundtrack.  In fact, the toughest part about compiling this post was deciding which of the eleven tracks to highlight.  Here are four gems, and the full package can be streamed at the Bandcamp link below.

Arts & Leisure are Gerri White (vocals/guitar), Becky Cale (vocals/bass/keys), Cory Vick (guitar/vocals), and Tim White (drums).  Choose Your Adventure is out now on Test Pattern Records.

Test Pattern Records

Monday, July 22, 2013

RIP - Faye Hunter

Readers of this blog who are perhaps too young to know the name Faye Hunter should. Every "jangle band" and the many female musicians we cover here owe a great debt to Hunter. Her work as bass player and harmony singer in Let's Active in the early 1980's was highly influential. Hunter was a pivotal figure in the nascent college radio world or the "alternative scene" as it might be called today.

Let's Active was a trio formed in North Carolina by Mitch Easter, best known for his production of R.E.M.'s debut EP Chronic Town and LP Murmur. Let's Active became the artier, quirkier cousin of R.E.M. and were a big success on college charts and the club circuit. Hunter was a huge part of their sound. Let's Active's inventive rhythms were unique and memorable.

Here's "Room With A View" from their 1983 debut Afoot, featuring Hunter on the opening vocals and playing some terrific bass lines:

I will always remember Hunter as she looked right here in the video to the 1983 single "Every Word Means No":

Hunter left Let's Active in 1986 and went on to play with Marshall Crenshaw, Tim Lee, Chris Stamey and on various power pop projects, but kept a lower and lower profile over the years. Life didn't treat her nearly as well as she deserved.

Her death has hit her friends hard, especially those in the Winston-Salem music community where Hunter grew up and was revered.   The best thing I've read today was by her longtime friend Peter Holsapple (dBs, Continental Drifters, R.E.M., Hootie and The Blowfish) in the Independent Weekly in Durham NC: Faye Hunter Reflections, 1954-2013.  

I was a huge Let's Active fan and saw them every chance I could. I met Hunter a few times, and while I didn't know her well, I had a great impression of her and not just because she was the coolest woman around in 1983 and pretty much every guy I knew had a crush on her. My closest contact with her was in 1983 when Let's Active rolled into Tut's in Chicago after a long drive and facing a grueling schedule the next few days.  So my partner at time and I prepared a cooler full of road food for the band to take with them, including a ham.  When the band came back to their dressing room after their amazing set, the cooler was empty, the ham gone with the opening band who had departed the club and cleaned them out. Hunter was in tears: "But you went to so much trouble for us. It's so unfair to you guys."

And that's a glimpse into Faye Hunter's personality and character, thinking only of others when anyone else might have been thinking of either themselves or retribution.  She had Southern charm to burn and shined both on and off stage.

It's not too late to discover Let's Active. And the place to start is Afoot and Cypress released the following year while Faye Hunter was still with the band.  She will be missed.

"Brainwash" by La Luz

As I've written here before (for example: here), and expect that I will again, one of the brightest new lights in Seattle's indie scene is the all-women La Luz.  There is a bit of '60s retro, a bit of the wall of sound, and some tasty surf guitar accents.  They self-released their Damp Face EP in digital form via Bandcamp (see link below), and then released it as a cassette via Burger Records (newly restocked).  And now their two-track Brainwash single is out on Suicide Squeeze.  Showing the great acceleration possessed by muscle cars of the same vintage as some of their influences, La Luz now have earned some national recognition and currently are thrilling the east coast of the US.  Here is their new video for "Brainwash" --

La Luz are Shana Cleveland (guitar), Marian Li Pino (drums), Abbey Blackwell (bass), and Alice Sandahl (keys).

Suicide Squeeze Records

REVIEW: Scott & Charlene's Wedding - Any Port In A Storm

Any Port in a Storm is the kind of music I want hear in a roadhouse, or a basement bar.  I want to hear it in the same places I wanted to hear The Replacements and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers and The Lemonheads, and still would like to hear Jacob Yates & the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers.  It is scruffy, energetic, swaggering music.  It's performers, Scott & Charlene's Wedding are convinced of the saving power of rock and roll and, after listening, I want to believe too -- give me a couple of shots of what they are having.

Scott & Charlene's Wedding is the musical project of Australian ex-patriot Craig Dermody, who named his band after his mother's favorite TV soap.  Having decamped to New York City, he found inspiration for his second album in his attempt to navigate the his new city far from home country, family and friends.  Dermody's writing eschews poetry and politics for the observational and personal.  But the accomplishment is that the personal stories have enough detail to avoid being a young man's platitudes and enough universal truth that we 'get it' because we all have lived part of those stories ourselves.   We've moved to new cities "Fakin NYC", had difficulties with jobs ("Junk Shop"), been far from family when the shit hits the fan ("Lesbian Wife"), been dumped ("Spring St") and, just maybe, been saved a bit by rock and roll.  Throughout, Demody's passion seems to be for keeping his feet moving forward, however beat up he may be, rather than weeping through the night.  Even on the most touching song on the album, "Spring St" when he watches his former lover heading off with another guy even though Craig moved to New York to keep the sparks of romance hot, his conclusion is that it's a shame that this will be his memory of her rather than plot some glorious revenge.  And the ramshackle garage rock punctuated by scuzzy guitar riffs prove to be the perfect platform for Dermody's tales.

Live version of "Lesbian Wife" --

Scott & Charlene's Wedding - Lesbian Wife (Live @ The Victoria) from fire records on Vimeo.

Any Port In A Storm doesn't have perfect musicianship, perfect poetry, or perfect pitch, and at the end of the day none of that matters.  What it has is charm, sincerity and "guy next door" appeal; and in all that there is a certain genius.  Over the past month, this album has been played more than twice as much as any other album I have been evaluating.  I highly recommended it.

The album is available today from Fire Records.  You can also check iTunes and Amazon.

Fire Records

The remaining European tour dates:

22 July: Schoken, Stuttgart, Germany
25 July: Knust, Hamburg, Germany
27 July: Karrera Klub, Berlin, Germany
1 August: Broadcast, Glasgow, UK
3 August: The Tunnels, Aberdeen, UK
7 August: Shipping Forecast, Liverpool, UK
8 August: Tie Dye Tapes, Sheffield, UK
9 August: Head of Steam, Newcastle, UK
10 August: Sound It Out Records (in store), Stockton on Tees, UK
10 August: Rook & Gaskill, York, UK
11 August: Urban Outfitters (instore), York, UK
13 August: Wharf Chambers, Leeds, UK 
14 August: Arts Centre, Colchester, UK
15 August: The Music Exchange (instore), Nottingham, UK
15 August: The Hairy Dog, Derby, UK 
16 August: Yard Party Festival, London, UK 
16 August: Flashback (instore), London, UK

Sunday, July 21, 2013

REVIEW: Bubblegum Lemonade - Have You Seen Faith 7"

Glasgow's Lawrence "Laz" McCluskey loves pop music and loves Rickenbacker guitars.  In those ways (and some shared Scottish heritage) we are alike.  However, a crucial difference is that our friend Laz is an ace songwriter.  And he has proven it with his Strawberry Whiplash project (whose 2012 album made my year-end list), and every release for his solo work under the name Bubblegum Lemonade.  Via Matinee Recordings, one of the preeminent purveyors of fine guitar pop, Laz is releasing the three-track 7" Have You Seen Faith.

The title track is a jangling discussion of missed opportunities.  Sure, there is regret, but you aren't the narrator so you can just enjoy a wonderful song.  The chorus "Have you seen her" followed by the descending guitar riff is one of those magical moments in pop music.

There are two B-sides.  The first, "Cool Guitar Girl" is an upbeat follow-up to "Cool Guitar Boy" the 1991 song by Heavenly.  The third song is about addiction to the popular angry birds game, presented with jaunty surf-pop accents.

And another great thing about Have You Seen Faith is that it is just the advance for Some Like It Pop, a Bubblegum Lemonade LP to be released this fall.  My fall just got better and it still is summer!  But note that the B-sides are not intended for the album, so this is your chance to grab them.

Have You Seen Faith is available as a limited vinyl release (plus mp3s) or as a digital download as of Tuesday, July 23.

Matinee Recordings link for record