review from me and even made my year-end recommended list. Fast-paced, wryly humorous indie pop is something the world needs, and these guys are happy to supply it. They have released one of the fine tracks from that album, "While I Was Sleeping" as the A-side of a new single. The B-side is new song "When the Morning Comes". Both tunes are excellent and the sort of quality we expect from Cancel the Astronauts.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Friday, August 9, 2013
Band names can be cute, clever, offensive, stupid and many other things. In the case of New Zealand outfit Shapeshifter, the name is a dead-on descriptor of what the listener can expect. With a base of digital percussion, analog synths, horns and guitar, and stylistic contributions from jazz, funk and soul, their fifth album, Delta, finds the group painting large, outside the lines, and without allegiance to any genre. It is a big, outdoors kind of sound -- energetic and positive. Take the album for a test drive with the video for "In Colour" and the streams for "Diamond Trade" and "Endless" --
Delta is out now, and can be downloaded at the Bandcamp link.
True Widow is a Texas band playing a heavy, heavy take on the shoegaze/noise pop genre. On Circumambulation, they feature a thunderous bottom end, alternating male/female vocals, and some guitar tones that are, frankly, reminiscent of Nirvana. It's a very interesting sound, and it certainly provides a workout for the bass portion of your speakers.
The band consists of guitarist/vocalist Dan Phillips, bassist/vocalist Nicole Estill and drummer Slim, TX. Their producer is none other than WYMA hero Matt Pence (Centro-matic's drummer and co-owner of Echo Lab in Argyle, TX) and they credit him with helping them get the thick, heavy sound they are looking for. Phillips' vocals are a bit understated, whereas Estill's seem to be a little bit more out-front. It's a pleasant contrast and provides a sense of balance to an album that consists of eight rather lengthy songs.
For a little more background, go check out this good Dallas Observer interview with the band about their process, their dedication to this signature heavy sound, and even the reason their song titles look like that.
And here's my favorite track - one that features the full array of their formidable sound, including a terrific Estill vocal - "Four Teeth":
This is a tremendous album, one of my favorites of 2013 so far. It's out now on Relapse (released July 23), which is responsible for another of my 2013 favorites, ASG's Blood Drive. You can listen to more at the Bandcamp link - click through the "Four Teeth" stream above. Or you can visit their website or Facebook.
True Widow website
I've championed UK noise rockers Fawn Spots several times over the last couple of years, and I am very happy with the new LP from Aussie/NYC's Scott & Charlene's Wedding (review here). So I was very happy to hear that the two bands were celebrating their pairing for UK shows this August with the release of a split 7", Basin/Lucky Charms. The record is released by London label Critical Heights, who have signed Fawn Spots and formerly included Scott & Charlene's Wedding on their roster. Fawn Spots contribution is a new track that showcases their Husker Du brand of blasting rock. S&CW's offering has that band's classic, relaxed storytelling vibe. There is a bit of Pavement, a bit of Lou Reed and a bit of The Lemonheads. If you can't attend the shows, at least you can get a vinyl or digital artifact.
By the way, for UK fans the remaining shows are:
9 August: Head of Steam, Newcastle
10 August: Rook & Gaskill, York
12 August: The Jackalope, Manchester
15 August: The Hairy Dog, Derby
Scott & Charlene's Wedding's Facebook
Fawn Spots' Facebook
Fawn Spots' Tumblr
I ordinarily would not write about a mid-September release in the first full week of August, but I must for two very good reasons. The first is that these two tracks have me absolutely enthralled. The second is that as often is the case with limited releases from Scotland's Soft Power Records, the copies may be spoken for in the pre-order stage. The record is a double A-side, "Nightschool" and "Hieroglyphic" by Brighton's Ancient Times. If you are looking for influences, I'd offer The Smiths and, to some extent, R.E.M. The band was formed in 2012 when George Smale wrote a few demos. George is Ancient Times, and Ancient Times is George, but George has a few talented pals to help out with live shows.
Ancient Times on Facebook
Ancient Times on Tumblr
Soft Power Records
We are still in Denmark this week. Searching around for a '60's band, I stumbled on a great one, The Beefeaters. They had a heavy blues influence, were fine players and took their psychedelic garage style all over the place.
Here's a trio of songs, "Night Flight", "Let Me Down Easy, and a terrific garage cover of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag".
The Beefeaters were from Copenhagen and performed from 1964-71. They opened for Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd in Denmark.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Ray Davies are a jangling shoegaze/dream pop quartet from Sydney. Their LP, Tussle, is being prepared for October release via hometown label Popfrenzy. Here is the video, and stream, for "I Don't Mind", the first single from the album. The combination of shoegaze and sweet vocals is a winner in my mind.
Here is a track from their 2012 EP, which is available on Bandcamp for "name your price".
Day Ravies are Sam Wilkinson, Matt Nev, Caroline de Dear and Lani Crooks. Their upcoming gig dates are as follows:
Sun, Aug 11 – Midnight Special, Sydney, NSW [6pm, free, single launch]
Thurs, Aug 22 – Grace Darling, Melbourne, VIC [w/Parading, Footy + Melbourne Cans]
Fri, Aug 23 – The Tote, Melbourne, VIC [w/Lowtide, The Stevens + Zone Out]
Fri, Aug 30 – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW [w/Lowtide, East River + Black Springs]
I am fairly certain that Adam Stafford has only one head, which is surprising only because of the number of hats he wears. Outside of recording his own music, he is a filmmaker and heads a label (Wiseblood Industries). As a recording artist, he displays a range of excellence encompassing post-punk, experimental, and soul pop styles. He creates interesting, layered rhythmic and melodic patterns with loop technology, reverb and beatboxing, while adjusting his vocal delivery to match the material. But I think that the key element that makes Stafford's music compelling is his ability to craft and deliver songs of melancholy, sadness and other tricky aspects of life in a thoroughly entertaining fashion. And in what I believe is his finest work to date, it is on display via his new album, Imaginary Walls Collapse. Perhaps the more convincing than my words, would be a listen to the album's second track, "Vanishing Tanks".
Interestingly, Stafford was reputed to be prepared to quit music recently, but was persuaded to continue with this album. I find that background relevant because it makes the bold result even more surprising. This is an artist who seems fully willing to be judged on his art, with nothing held back in the cupboard. I'm thinking he gets an A. Are you still on the fence? Perhaps you'll like the moody southern soul of "Please". To me, this track sounds like what you would have heard in a Memphis club in the '60s after the doors had been locked, most of the lights turned out, and the band wound down the evening with a gentle song. Try it out tonight with a good beverage and the lights out and you'll see what I mean.
In the adept combinations of Americana, folk, electronic pop and post punk, there is an energizing sense of playfulness. You can almost feel the sparkle in the eighth track, "The Sound of Fear Evaporating" and "His Acres".
Imaginary Walls Collapse is out now via Song, by Toad Records and Kingfisher Bluez. It is climbing the charts in my household, I recommend it for yours.
Bandcamp (Kingfisher Bluez Bandcamp site for album)
Song, by Toad Records
The band consists of a terrific hardcore drummer named Steve Cerri, Jim Richardi and Greg Mitchels on guitars, and Reilly brothers Derek (vocals) and Alex (bass). Derek and Richardi founded the band, and it seems that all of them play in other bands - Derek is the drummer in hardcore band Ensign.
Here's my personal favorite track, "Banned From The Fest":
Here's the video for "4202" - it's all good, but seriously, check out the drummer!
Reilly describes the genesis of the song: “It's about waking up one day and not really knowing how you have gotten, where you are and feeling really anxious, about it. 4202 is actually my apartment number. I moved there with my girlfriend and soon after we separated. Since that happened a year and a half ago I have always felt a little strange there.”
This is some seriously strong music - if you like the old stuff like Fear, or some of the new stuff we've featured here recently like Muuy Bien out of Athens GA, this is well worth checking out. The album is out now (released July 16) and you can buy it for $4 at Bandcamp - check out more info, future tour plans, etc. at their website or Facebook.
Jaguar Shark website
Broken English Records
Zebra Hunt is, in my view, one of the three or four best bands in Seattle at this point. Of course, playing a garage pop style with clear influences from the Flying Nun bands, the Go-Betweens and the '60s does give a band a head start in climbing to the forefront of my consciousness. The trio released the excellent Beaches EP earlier this year (review here), and have followed it up with a two-track single "Only Way Out" / "Get Along" on Madrid label Tenorio Cotoblade. Some of you may be wondering why a label in Madrid for a Seattle band, but I wouldn't overthink it. The label did a nice job for the Ginnels release recently, and this record is available in digital form from the Bandcamp link below as well as on 7" vinyl.
Zebra Hunt is Mitch Leffler (drums), Erik Bennett (bass) and Robert Mercer (guitar/vocals).
I find delight in being exposed to music I have forgotten or never heard in the first place. Every Wednesday the kids at Reverberation Radio rescue artists and tunes from obscurity. This week the primary focus is psychedelia and near psychedelia from the 60's. Magna Carta were peers of King Crimson, ELP, Jethro Tull and Yes. I missed them the first time around. Prog-rock fans will enjoy their entire catalog. Peter Fonda was groomed to be an artistic Everyman for America's youth before he focused solely on films. "November Night" was written by an then unknown Gram Parsons. This recording features uncredited contributions by Roger McGuinn and David Crosby,
The playlist is a great starting point for discovering new music. Click on the artist's name and find out more about these artists from Allmusic.com or other web sites. You will be on an another trip to the center of your mind.
1. Magna Carta - Times Of Change
2. The Chocolate Watchband - I Ain’t No Miracle Worker
3. The Animals - Outcast4.
Peter Fonda - November Night
5. Anonymous - Up To You
6. B.F. Trike - Sunshine
7. Pete Dello & Friends - I’m A Gambler
8. The Abigails - For You
9. Human Expression - Who is Burning
10. Lord Cody & The Coralites - China Gate
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Here's "Sugar Pill" - my favorite track on the record - a swirling, hypnotic track featuring Mary's ethereal vocals over shoegaze guitars and heavy rhythms:
Here's "You're Not Really Here". It slows down the pace, until it almost imperceptibly fades out at the end:
You can download "You're Not Really Here" - click here.
And here's a video they made in the woods of Portland - the song's not on this album, but I think it's appropriate for the occasion because you can easily see what a good drummer Sparks is... sometimes when you're listening to stuff like this, the waves of guitars and vocals just sort of wash over you and it's easy to kind of take the drummer for granted. But Sparks sets a very good pace:
The label "psychedelic" is applied somewhat liberally these days, and I must confess that some of the applications can best be characterized as generous, to be, well, generous. However, Nashville's The Sufis are squarely in kaleidoscope-colored fields under paisley clouds. The comparisons to The Beatles, The Soft Boys and Syd Barrett that their new sophomore LP Inventions will invoke are as accurate as they are obvious. And it is very, very good pop music.
The winning combination on offer here is adept songwriting -- concise (under three minutes) psychedelic pop songs that vary between languid. summery, poppy and urgent -- and inch perfect performances. The vocals are good and match the genre well. Admittedly, there is noting new about gently twisted tales accompanied by trippy vocals, 12 string guitars and some less common percussion. But for me, the familiarity of the approach is a large part of the charm when, and this is key, it is done well. Frankly, the only frustration in evaluating this record for the blog is that it is difficult to choose tracks. They are all good, all have their unique touches. I've chosen "Alone" as the representative of the more relaxed songs, and "No Expression" as an example of the energetic, rocking approach. And between them I've include the "Most Peculiar Happening Cat", which may have you wondering if Ray Davies is guesting on the album.
If you like psychedelic music, The Sufis may be your new favorite band.
The core of The Sufis are Calvin Laporte and Evan Smith.
Inventions was released on August 6 by Ample Play Records and Burger Records.
Ample Play Records
Fans of the indie guitar pop of Josh and Joel Meadows received a welcome present last year with the release of the retrospective of The Sugargliders (review here). However, until this week The Steinbecks -- the band that The Sugargliders were disbanded to specifically form -- hadn't issued a recording since 2007. In my view, the Melbourne band's return to the studio displays the same craftsmanship and inspiration that earned them fans in previous decades. Yes, fans will not mind the wait for the three-track At Arkaroo Rock 7" at all.
One of the delightful things about this band is that they have the confidence to eschew the big "we're back" statement. The record begins with the relaxed vibe of the title track, a gently-voiced but melancholy relationship commentary over a sparse guitar and bubbling bass accompaniment. "All Desires Known" changes the atmosphere with a dark-tinged folk arrangement. The record closes with "Cabin Fever", the most upbeat and pop-oriented song of the batch. An insecure band might have started with "Cabin Fever", but it seems that The Steinbecks know their audience.
At Arkaroo Rock 7" is released by Matinee Recordings, and is available as in vinyl plus an mp3 download (limited to 100 copies) or a digital download.
You have two streaming alternatives here. The first is the lead track; the second is a stream of all three tracks on the 7".
And there is a bit more good news for fans. A new LP, Kick to Kick with The Steinbecks, is planned for release later this year.
Matinee Recordings page for record
Here's "Wear Me Out" - with a measured intro that explodes about 45 seconds in, tough guitar lines and lyrically a simple, sort of charming proposal that says a lot in just a few words ("Let's pretend I'm your favorite dress/You wear me everyday and ignore everything else" and "Don't wear me down, wear me out"):
And here's "Take Me Out" - this one starts out with a good, bouncy, sort of punkish bass line, some excellent jagged guitar riffs and then Boudreaux's fetching vocal. It puts me in the mind of The Breeders:
Summer Cannibals produced all the songs on No Makeup on their own, created the album's artwork, and is releasing it on the band's own label New Moss Records. It's out this week (Aug 6). Read more, listen or just go ahead and buy (download, vinyl or cassette) at the links below.
Summer Cannibals website
New Moss Records
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The guitar work on this record is really something, and their vocal harmonies are tremendous. If I did not know who made this record and you played it for me, I'd guess it was Built to Spill - the guitars and vocals are that strong, and like BTS, the music creates a good feeling all by itself.
Here's the first track, "Sunshine State":
And here's "Body Language" - this is the song that inspired the Built to Spill comparison, for me - just soaring guitars, and some wonderful vocals featuring both tight harmonies and alternating leads:
And here's "Anniversary" - a sweet-sounding ballad with full string section, showcasing their vocals:
Apparently this record was already released on Kilk Records in Japan, and they are now self-releasing it in the U.S. The fact that the record was recorded in 2011 gives me hope that they'll soon have another - I'm looking forward to hearing more from these guys. You can listen to more and buy the record on Bandcamp - just click through the songs above - or you can follow the links below to their website and Facebook.
Tie These Hands website
Londoner Samuel Mason has had a more varied geographical existence than most of us. The 21-year-old was born in Wales and raised in Australia. In 2011 he was part of a party of 12 that traveled from London to Sydney on a double-decker bus (I'm guessing a boat was involved at some point, but what do I know - I'm a lawyer). A travel documentary regarding the trip is planned for later this year. During that trip Mason also began working on songs for his project which became Die Mason Die. An EP was released last fall, and the single "You're Lonely" will be released September 9 by London label Young & Lost Club. Mason has a beautiful, distinctive voice and an assured performance style. Combined with good songwriting, this is an artist to watch. And this single may be a good way to begin.
And by way of background, here is a previous song. There are more at the Soundcloud link below.
Die Mason Die are Samuel Mason (guitar, vocals), Stefan Ferguson (guitar, vocals), George Cramer (bass), and Dave Wade Brown (drums).
We're fans of Wild Cub's sound - their hard, clean electronic music and Keegan DeWitt's husky soulful vocals are a good combination. They've really taken off in the last year, from their inception in Nashville, to a well-received performance at Bonnaroo, to being celebrated all over the world and drawing comparisons to electro-rock predecessors like New Order. From a duo, they've grown into a five-piece: Keegan DeWitt (vocals/guitar), Jeremy Bullock (guitar/synths), Dabney Morris (drums), Harry West (bass), and Eric Wilson (keys/synths).
Their latest single is "Blacktide", and they invite you to listen and download it, in anticipation of a followup to last year's Youth (WYMA review here). Here's "Blacktide":
Upcoming tour dates, too:
AUG. 6 -- TORONTO, ON --HORSESHOE TAVERN
AUG. 7 -- MONTREAL, QC-- DIVAN ORANGE
AUG. 9 -- NEW YORK, NY -- BOWERY BALLROOM
AUG. 10 -- ALLSTON, MA -- GREAT SCOTT
AUG. 11 -- PHILADELPHIA, PA -- MILKBOY
AUG. 13 -- WASHINGTON, DC -- DC9
AUG. 14 -- RALEIGH, NC -- KINGS BARCADE
AUG. 15 -- ATLANTA, GA -- THE EARL
AUG. 16 -- KNOXVILLE, TN -- BARLEY'S TAPROOM
AUG. 17 -- NASHVILLE, TN -- THE EAST ROOM (East Nashville Underground Summer Festival)
SEPT. 8 -- ST. LOUIS, MO -- LOUFEST (5:30pm set)
SEPT. 26-28 -- CINCINNATI, OH -- MIDPOINT MUSIC FESTIVAL
OCT. 5 -- AUSTIN, TX -- AUSTIN CITY LIMITS FESTIVAL (4:30pm set)
Wild Cub website
Here is more indie pop goodness from Burger Records. This edition is "Through the Rain" by Bell Gardens. It is reminiscent of the Beach Boys in their more orchestral pop vein. The single is taken from the band's LP, Full Sundown Assembly.
Bell Gardens' Facebook
Here's "There's Always An End", with a guitar line that's sure to appeal to fans of GbV, Pavement and Sebadoh:
Here's "The Surgery Never Left" - a nice crossroads between GbV and Jesus & Mary Chain:
Here's "The Camera Birds", with plenty of reverb and noise, including squalls of feedback on the guitars:
And finally, "An Engine Submerged", a sweet jangle-guitar song reminiscent of early R.E.M. and you-know-who:
This is really good guitar pop/rock, with enough variety between feedback-laden drone stuff and jangly pop stuff to keep you coming back. There's a limited edition cassette available, or you can name your price at Bandcamp - just click through one of the songs above to hear more or download the album.
Twin Library Facebook
Glasgow's Lost Ghosts are making a strong bid to become a regular on these pages. A month ago we featured their track "Tunnels" which was available as a free download. Now the band is making their new track, "Summer Nothing", available for that same low, low price.
Lost Ghosts are Gabriella Biazotti (vocals/synth/violin), Gary Carlton (drums/percussion/backing vocals), Derek Connor (guitar/synth), and Daniel Young (bass/backing vocals).
Monday, August 5, 2013
Here's the title track, a beautiful, multi-hued song that runs a little over six minutes, and contains touches of British folk rock like Donovan and flawless pop a la Brian Wilson.
Check out the way his falsetto vocal and the guitar lines interweave with a simply played piano backing on "Hoy Ayer":
Here's "El Juego Del Olvido" - another pretty vocal with mostly acoustic backing, but some nice reverb on the electric guitars, too:
Every song on here is subtle, evocative and easy to listen to. The perceived resemblance to classic California folk rock might be fitting... Valencia, Spain's on a beautiful coastline, too. Amazingly, this record is available for "name your price" at Bandcamp - just click through the songs above to get to the site.
I suppose it would be understandable if one were to become distracted by the history that suffuses Popular People Do Popular People. After all, the band is The Prophet Hens, a name taken from a 19th century hoax in which a woman claimed that her hens laid eggs bearing written prophecies of the end of the world (albeit in her own handwriting, I believe). Moreover, the album conjures the ghosts of the Dunedin bands that go before them in producing the dark, jangly and wholly compelling guitar pop (too) generally referred to as "the Dunedin sound". But it would be a shame to tarry too long on the background. Because while the sound of The Prophet Hens undeniably brings to mind iconic bands such as The Chills and The Bats, the triumph here -- and make no mistake -- this album is a triumph, is that these songs comprise a vibrant opening statement of a band that deserves attention in their own right.
The combination of upbeat, jangling melodies and melancholy themes is a characteristic of this brand of guitar pop, although chief songwriter Karl Bray varies the atmosphere and doesn't let himself get stuck in the ditch repeating a message. Relaxed grooves such as "Pretty" are offset by the urgent songs such as "Easy as the Sun". We even are treated to a song about the quality of the back yard lawn ("Green Grass"). But for me what moves The Prophet Hens towards the front of the class is uniformly solid songwriting and the combination of the vocalists, Bray and Penelope Esplin.
You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link, but I will highlight a few songs. The album begins with "High Times", combining a jaunty arrangement with the story of a break up.
The third song and first single is "Pretty", which Bray wrote several years ago about his then girlfriend. Fortunately for us, the song turned out much better than the relationship. By the way, the official video for "Pretty" was completed only three days ago, and it is well worth watching. It was filmed on the Otago Peninsula near the band's home of Dunedin, and is the work of some friends of The Prophet Hens.
My current favorite song on the album is "All Over The World", which atypically features Esplin on lead vocals. The song simply is one of those perfect slices of jangle pop that will always be a draw for many of us.
The album was recorded by Karl Bray (guitar and vocals), Penelope Esplin (keys and vocals), John White (bass), and Sefton Holmes (drums). Currently The Prophet Hens are Bray, Esplin, Robin Cederman (bass) and Darren Stedman (drums).
Popular People Do Popular People is released by Dunedin's Fishrider Records. It is available on CD and digital download (vinyl may be available later). While the official release date is the end of the week, it can be purchased now via Bandcamp. And our US readers should note that the exchange rate means that the nine-song LP is yours for around $5.50. That, my friends, is a steal.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
In April we reviewed the self-titled album from Finland's Black Lizard (review here). The echoes of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre provided a dark, springtime delight. The band has released a couple of videos of album cuts that I think are worth sharing. The first is the official video for "Thrill". The second is a live performance of "Love is a Lie". If the Reid brothers aren't going to come back and thrill us, we will happily tune in to Black Lizard.
Black Lizard - Thrill from Jussi Nygren on Vimeo.
Bushwalking is the project of Nisa Venerosa (of Fabulous Diamonds), Ela Stiles (of Songs) and Karl Scullin (of Kes Band). Formed in 2011 and with one album in the rear view mirror, they are releasing their sophomore LP on Chapter Music on September 6. The title track is available to stream below and to purchase at the Bandcamp link.
"No Enter" features the band's atmospheric arrangements and intertwined female vocals. I find it hypnotic and engaging.
Chapter Music Bandcamp link for song