Saturday, September 28, 2013
One can imagine the discussion among Sean, Eddie, Cian and Conor to choose the name for their band. After rejecting every version of "Bear + _____" and "____ + Bear" as already taken, they moved on to names that they hoped signified the quality of their work. Best Band You'll Ever Hear didn't fit on the kick drum, the second vote-getter had been claimed by one of the member's younger sister for her band, and the rights to the third choice were lost in a poker game to an armless man called "Fingers". So the young Dubliners (no, that name had already been used by some Yanks) settled on The #1s. [Editor's Note: Scott's research file shows no sources for any of the statements in this opening paragraph. We suspect he may have been drinking. Again. However, he is very feisty, so we'll just add this disclaimer after he posts and goes to sleep.]
So, how does the name fit? Pretty well, thank you. Their music is energetic power pop and garage pop with punk pace and plenty of hooks. I don't know whether their song "Sharon Shouldn't" will ever be number 1, but it certainly deserves plenty of play. And you have to admire a band whose video budget only covered interior shots of the corner market. I don't know whether any of you need an explanation of the key lyric "Lisa says she can't, but Sharon shouldn't", but I'm not going to do the job.
Interested? You should be. "Sharon Shouldn't" is an adrenaline-soaked power pop blast worthy of The Undertones, but with a lot more pop in the chorus. By the way, it is available from Sorry State Records in the US and Alien Snatch Records in the Old World.
And rest assured that The #1s have more quality songs in their catalog. Click on the Soundcloud link below, and you'll have five more delightful tracks. But let me do some of the work for you and provide two of them --
Sorry State Records
Alien Snatch Records
Friday, September 27, 2013
The old saying is that hindsight is perfect. That may or may not comport with your experience, but I can tell you that "Hindsight", the first track released from A History of Hygiene is a near perfect guitar pop song. So go for the sure thing -- stream the song and then hit the Bandcamp link below.
Bandcamp link for Hindsight
Frankie Rose is a few years removed from her time with the Vivian Girls, but the greater span is the musical distance covered in her path from that first band, through Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts and Frankie Rose & the Outs to her current project. But perhaps Ms. Rose is where she wants to stay for a while, because Herein Wild, her new LP for Fat Possum, follows the same path as 2012's Interstellar. And for her fans, that is a good thing because continuing to work in the realm of glossy, new wave pop allows Rose to fine tune her songcraft, tweak her sound and, it seems to me, produce the best album of her career.
As with its predecessor, Herein Wild is melodic and jangly, with sweet vocals and bass and percussion well up in the mix. Stylistically, it probably fits best straddling the fence between dreampop and new wave. The differences are the addition of strings, a more melancholy cast to the lyrics and a surer touch with production. But with the those engaging lead vocals, soaring choruses and bright arrangements, sad lyrics aren't enough to make it a downer of an album. Unless a listener is obsessed with the words, listening to this album is likely to be among the most uplifting moments of his or her day. This is high-quality pop music for savvy adults; I recommend it.
Dead Meadow has a new album, Warble Womb, coming soon, and that's great news for fans of heavy psych (like yours truly). While their label, Xemu Records, has given us two of my favorite albums of 2013, Matthew J Tow's The Way of Things and the self-titled Strangers Family Band, Dead Meadow themselves haven't released an album in years.
They've given us every reason to be excited about the upcoming release - three songs have surfaced, all with great guitars and heavy rhythms. Here's "Copper is Restless ('Til It Turns to Gold)":
Here's a new live in-studio performance by Dead Meadow of album track "In the Thicket":
And here's a link to listen or download album track "Yesterday's Blowin' Back".
And it's not like they're giving the whole thing away - there's plenty more to look forward to. It's reported to be a 75-minute double album... so plenty of room to stretch out.
Dead Meadow website
Having dipped into the 2nd generation of great garage rock lasts week with Lyres, we started thinking about one of our all time favorites, The Fleshtones. Few bands have ever screamed of New York City like these Queens natives who started in 1976 and are still (!) going today.
And if you want pure 1980's nostalgia, it doesn't get better than this video featuring the Fleshtones doing their minor hit "American Beat '84" from the film Bachelor Party:
The Fleshtones got an extra boost from their tremendously entertaining singer and musical encyclopedia Peter Zaremba hosting a show on MTV. But it was as a live act that they shined brightest. I'm an especially big fan of guitarist Keith Streng who just plain brought it, every song, every night, a garage rock god.
Here they are doing "Hitsburg USA" and "Love's in the Game" in 1999:
The Fleshtones Facebook page
Thursday, September 26, 2013
If I had received an email from someone I didn't trust suggesting I evaluate a pop album from a band headed by a man who, in addition to being described as a songwriter and frontman, is a visual artist, comic book writer, and various other things, I might well have found a way to avoid the task. But in the case of The Loving Gaze, the debut LP from Melbourne's Ben Montero and his eponymous band, the email came from a person whose taste in music had been ably demonstrated to me. So, heedless of personal risk, I bravely waded into the album. My reward? Experiencing one of the more engaging pure pop albums I've heard this year. The lesson learned? Be brave, my children, be brave.
Thematically, The Loving Gaze is filled with whimsy, hope, love and a bit of fantasy. Musically, the tones are bright and the melodies upbeat, with abundant hooks and rainbow colors. With pure vocals and assured piano grounding the songs, and masterfully played guitar, synths and percussion, it uses the timeless pop sensibilities of The Beach Boys, The Association, Eric Carmen, Emitt Rhodes and other '60s-'70s pop and power ballad masters to tell modern stories that trod the ground inside the writer's head, as well as beneath his feet. And it is that particular, highly personalized and impressionistic perspective that makes this album, despite its pop/AM radio influences (from, it should be noted, pop/AM radio's golden years) a thoroughly modern experience.
So, dear readers, my recommendation to you is to give in to your inner pop yearnings. You know you want to, and The Loving Gaze is absolutely the right album for taking the plunge.
MONTERO - ADRIANA from Geoffrey O'Connor on Vimeo.
In addition to Ben, Montero is Gerald Wells (synths), Guy Blackman (piano), Cameron Potts (drums), Robert Bravington (bass) and Geoffrey O'Connor (guitar). The album is out now via Mistletone as a vinyl LP plus digital download. I don't think US fans can purchase from iTunes or Amazon yet, but keep in mind that your dollars go further in Australia.
The Spaceships released Cool Breeze Over the Mountains - we loved their enthusiastic, lo-fi noise rock (WYMA review here). For the song "Little", they filmed the band making a mess with some pizza and vinyl records - it's a little over 2:00 of great fuzzy guitar noise and Jessie Waite's vulnerable, reverb-laden vocal and definitely representative of the album:
In other news, they're traveling from LA to NYC to play at the CMJ Music Marathon with other WYMA favorites (and members of the Riot Act stable): Norwegian Arms, Jay Arner, Shelby Earl and Torres - if you're in NYC or going up for the CMJ event, this would be a good show to check out. It's at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) on Oct. 17 from 5:00-8:00.
Los Angeles' Allah Las released one of my favorite albums last year. Since then, they have been touring hard and pleasing us weekly with their curated Reverberation Radio playlists. However, apparently they haven't completely ignored the studio, and they have released "Had It All"/"Every Girl" 7" via Innovative Leisure. The A-side is a regret-soaked psychedelic track --
"Every Girl", the B-side, is a retro garage song of the type that this band does so well --
You can order the 7" here.
Atomic Bride is a Seattle-based postpunk outfit that comes across like a darker, 21st century version of the B-52's, what with their shouted boy/girl call/response vocals, punk backbeat, kind of retro/future contrast in their sound and even a bit of the "beach blanket bingo" surf guitars. It's got a bit more of a hard edge, but it's still plenty catchy. Here's "We Got Muscle":
I really like the surf guitar in this one - hard, fast, even a little feedback thrown in. Electric Order is a 4-song EP, and you can listen to the rest, and buy it at their Bandcamp via their website - links below.
Atomic Bride website
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
We've been looking forward to Boardwalk's self-titled debut album since they first got in touch with us earlier this summer (WYMA posts here and here), and are happy to have another video to share. This is for the album track "High Water":
It's got the gauzy vocals, the shimmering guitar tones and the languid pace that we liked about "I'm To Blame". The group consists of Mike Edge, Amber Quintero and Mark Noseworthy - we'll have more on this album closer to its release (Oct. 15 on Stones Throw).
Boardwalk at Stones Throw
Mascott is the musical alter ego of Kendall Jane Meade - she's playing a breezy guitar pop which complements her bright, clear voice perfectly. I hear traces of Shawn Colvin in the vocals, and it does lean a bit "Americana". But at heart, this music is pure pop, down to the cover of Kirsty MacColl's beautiful ballad "They Don't Know" (of course many know it more readily as a Tracey Ullman song).
Here's the title track to this four-song EP, Cost/Amount. It starts out with a gently insistent guitar line and at about :40, she starts to show off some great pop hooks (both guitar and vocal):
Here's "Our Life", a slower acoustic-based ballad:
It's out now (released Sept. 17) on Kiam Records.
Mascott at Kiam Records
“`There are going to be times,’ says Kesey, `when we can’t wait for somebody. Now you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place–then it won’t make a damn.’ And nobody had to have it spelled out for them. Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: `You’re either on the bus…or off the bus.” (Wolfe: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, p. 74)
Forced Random is the music of singer/songwriter Oliver Girdler, and it's bedroom pop in a sort of prog style - languid, slow-building guitar music that, with a combination of acoustic and electric guitars and various found sounds, strums its way to a crescendo. Check out "Once Again", a beautiful track reminiscent of American Analog Set:
Here's "No Words" - guitars are turned up just a bit, and there's a little bit of feedback right in the middle. Nice atmosphere:
The 5-track EP is out now, and available via the Bandcamp link below. It's pleasant and very well put-together, it rewards repeated listening - what more could you ask for?
Forced Random Bandcamp
Jyoti is the name under which Georgia Anne Muldrow makes thoughtful, invigorating instrumental music that touches on jazz, soul and funk. She comes by her jazz interests and talent by way of her parents. Her father, Ronald Muldrow, was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Eddie Harris. Her mother, Rickie-Byars Beckwith, singer/songwriter/composer who served as lead singer for Pharoah Sanders Ensemble, Roland Hanna, Howard Johnson & The New York Jazz Quartet. If any of these names, or the names Coltrane, Tyner or Hancock make you sit up and pay attention, then you will be well-served to check this out. It is excellent, top-shelf instrumental jazz, at the level of contemporary artists like Brad Mehldau and Yesterday's New Quintet. And there is a not-insubstantial connection to both the spirit and approach of funk artists like George Clinton.
Here's "Turiya's Smile" - a beautiful piano ballad that really does call to mind McCoy Tyner:
And for a taste of the funkier, electronic side, here's "Optimus Prime" - all Mothership-inspired synths and beats:
I also love the swing of "Siderealin'", which calls to mind great instrumentals like "Elizabeth Reed" or "Peaches En Regalia". (All roads, for me, lead to guitar rock...)
If I am to understand the press release on this record, she wrote, arranged and played everything herself. I am beyond impressed. She is a tremendous talent with a very engaging style. If you like jazz and funk and great keyboard playing, this is recommended to you most highly. You can listen to the rest of it, and buy the download or physical via Bandcamp (click through the songs above), or read more at her links below.
Georgia Anne Muldrow at SomeOthaShip
Apparently singer-songwriter Oliver Newton (who also plays in Yndi Halda, Bermuda Ern and St. Coltrane) conceived of Icecapades as a set of short stories, at least in part inspired by documentaries about weird, unexplained events. The album was recorded in Newton's home in Brighton and, at some point, he chose the name Lunchtime Sardine Club for his project. The songs are lo-fi and softly psychedelic, and I find the album to be both intriguing and relaxing. And there is a lot of variety. Some are folk tunes, some have some clang and harshness to them, some are hazy and fuzzy, and some are playful and light. If I were sitting on the porch of a summer beach house waiting for the rain to stop, this would be the perfect music to play while waiting for the weather to change.
Icecapades is out now on Sonic Anhedonic Recording Company, a collective based in Brighton, UK.
Sonic Anhedonic Recording Company on Facebook
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
New Zealand garage pop band Males is not new to us, as we wrote about them earlier this year (link). So we were happy to learn that they have offered track "So High" as a "name your price" download. These are good kids with a good sound, give them a try.
Yonder is a relatively new outfit. Alex Clark and Chris Reisinger played in a band called Elba. Elba died, and they met Nick and formed a new band. This self-titled EP was recorded at Holy Fool in Seattle. They are offering the EP at "name your price", so listen and download from the Bandcamp link below. You'll be very glad you did.
Competition is good, right? It forces everyone in the arena to up their game. In my opinion, the competition for jangle pop album of the year just got a bit hotter with the release of Everlasting Light by The Proctors. The usual elements are all there: Sunny melodies, trademark guitar sounds and fragile boy/girl vocals. But this album is more than a collection of nice elements. Quite simply, The Proctors know how to craft a perfect pop song. Take, for example "The Trouble With Forever" --
The Proctors were founded in 1993 by Gavin Priest after his former group, The Cudgels, disbanded. Playing variously as a three-piece and a four-piece they released several recordings over the next few years, including singles, and EP and an album. Their work also appeared on some compilations. Gavin was involved with other projects as well, and the band went on hiatus in '97. The band began writing again a few years ago, and have released a 7" and appeared at Indietracks and various Popfest festivals. The current line up includes Gavin, Adrian Jones and Margaret Calleja. Lisa Westerlund plays bass at live events.
Everlasting Light brings together the best of the confident west coast jangle of The Byrds and the melancholy pop songwriting of UK acts such as early Primal Scream, Biff Bang Pow!, and The House of Love, The Razorcuts and many others on the roster of Sarah Records and Creation Records. It is exactly what I needed for my fall soundtrack.
The lovely, wistful "Ember Days", with Terry Bickers of The House of Love helping out on guitar --
Everlasting Light is available from Shelflife Records as an LP (with download code), CD or digital download.
Shelflife Records link for album
Ketchy Shuby is a six-piece soul band from Miami, FL. They're playing a wildly creative mix of soul, pop, psychedelia and even some "musical theatre", Zappa-style freakouts. The band consists of Jason Joshua Rodriguez on lead vocals/guitars alongside his funk-soul brothers, Danny on percussions, Rob on sax/flute, Charles on organs, Matt on bass and Andres on drums. I have always loved soul music with a flute - especially with that Cuban influence, which you'd certainly expect in a Miami-based artist. But they really meld a lot of different styles - Latin, yes, but also reggae and good old soul and funk. Named after a Peter Tosh song, they play it pretty upbeat - here's "Smile", which starts off with a reggae beat:
And here's the goofy, but very musical "Super Mystery Friends" - they really let the horns take over the last half of the song:
I can easily imagine these six putting on a rousing live show - it's a conglomeration of musical styles and a party spirit that represents their hometown well. Here's a live clip from a recent Miami Beach appearance:
The album is out today (Sept. 24) on Pugilista Trading Co.
Ketchy Shuby website
Monday, September 23, 2013
Surf Dad are brothers George and Declan Sands, from Barwon Heads, on the southern coast of Australia. Their downbeat electronica is on display on their four-track Unholy EP, released September 23 via Zero Through Nine. For this record Surf Dad has crafted songs featuring pulsing beats, haunting vocal sample and loads of atmosphere. My current impression is that the first single, "Unholy" (with vocals from Camille Foley), and "No. 5" are the two best tracks, and we've provided them below. But all of the tracks are good, and the final two minutes of "Mind Reader" remind me of the glorious dub of the UK's Groove Corporation. The third embed below will allow to to stream the entire album. Of course, you should test it for yourself, but I like this EP more every time I listen to it.
Unholy EP is available digitally, and later this week will be available on a limited run of CDs.
Bandcamp for Unholy EP
Zero Through Nine on Facebook
Zero Through Nine website
Jack Cheshire is a British singer/songwriter playing a style of jazz-influenced, psychedelic-leaning guitar rock. It's got the unexpectedness and temporal variety of good jazz, but like good pop music, it is in your brain almost before you know it. His new album is Long Mind Hotel, and it consists of ten songs that touch on all points from British folk to experimental jazz rock and psychedelic guitar pop, often in the same track.
Here's "Gyroscope" - it's the quintessential number on this record, showcasing Cheshire's beguiling accent and sinewy guitar playing, as well as the jazz chops of his recording band: Jon Scott on drums, Andrea DiBiase on double bass and David James Pearson on electric guitar. At times the guitar work calls to mind Tom Verlaine, at times Richard Thompson. I realize that may sound fanciful - just check it out:
Out of what must have been a tremendous record collection, Cheshire cites as particularly influential such disparate artists as The Beach Boys, Augustus Pablo, Fairport Convention, Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Laurie Anderson, Echo & the Bunnymen and Can. For myself, I'd assume that Syd Barrett and Ray Davies figure into the mix as well. He's got some of Davies in his vocal style, I think, and Barrett in a sort of restrained psychedelia on songs like "Moving In a Straight Line" or the title track, "Long Mind Hotel", a haunting story of a place where drugs and money are exchanged - where one can "knock on a door... and go to hell." The fingerpicking guitar, backed by swelling strings and accompanied by Cheshire's heavy British accent, make it a harrowing trip.
The album was recorded at Sawmills Studios Cornwall, at a fairly inaccessible location. Jack says that was integral to the process. It may be reflected in the strange combination of insularity and ethereal nature - an example, "Heavenly Bodies" which starts out very much like an Echo & the Bunnymen cut and slowly descends into a beautiful bit of quiet jazz, then leads into "Into the Void"... which is all syncopation, swing and skittering guitar leads. This is a terrific album. I liked some of it on first listen - "Gyroscope" is very accessible, for example. But I liked it more every time I listened and that is a credit to both the songs and the beautiful, intricate playing of Cheshire and his band. Long Mind Hotel is available now (released Sept. 3).
Jack Cheshire website
"Mulberry Love", the debut single from Toronto foursome Running Red Lights, is a well-crafted pop song featuring soulful vocals and bright instrumentation. The subject is the allure of the toxic lover -
She is bare on my red velvet chair flung out like a rugThe band is offering the song for free, and we, and they, would like you to know that an album is planned for early in 2014.
And though I know she is barbed like a wire, I am tempted to touch
She's a lady of shipwrecks, my God, how she hurts
But as a man I am damned with desire for her
Running Red Lights are Scarlett (vocals/guitar/keys), Dave Puzak (guitar), Kein Howley (drums/programming), and Jeff Carter (bass).
For several years I have been impressed with the quality of the pop music produced by bands from Finland. The current population of the country is less than 5.5 million, yet albums by three Finnish bands (Cats on Fire, The New Tigers, Black Twig) made my top 50 albums last year (list). One of those bands, The New Tigers, is back with their sophomore LP, The Badger. And I project that this album will be in my 2013 top album.
Those of us who are fans of The New Tigers can celebrate that the band did not change their approach in crafting The Badger, although it seems to me that there is a bit more discipline in the performances and sophistication to the songwriting. As is the case with many other Scandinavian guitar pop bands, there is plenty of jangle with their harmonized vocals and engaging melodies. But the distinctive features of The New Tigers are the infusion of goodly amounts of fuzz into the mix, as well as the structure of the songs. The band does not subscribe to the under-three-minutes approach to pop songs. Three of the nine tracks on The Badger exceed six minutes, with one running almost eight minutes; three more exceed four minutes and the shortest is 3:12. But this is no jam band. The longer tracks feature interesting instrumental segments and/or changes in tempo and style. And another distinction is that The Badger is not the place to look for weepy ballads; this band thrives on energy.
I was sold on the album based on the first and second tracks, "Where Is It" and "Secondary City". They are the sort of indie pop perfection that always brings joy. Track three, "Antarktis" does not disappoint, and the following "Don't Know Where to Go" is one of the best songs on this album, and was immediately transferred to my top songs of 2013 playlist. "Blue Fell" is a gentle, slow tempo song.
The final four tracks include the two songs we've provided below -- "Remote Control" and "Quicksilver". The former is a surging, fast, rhythmic pop song with a dominant bass line. The sprawling of "Quicksilver" features warm pop vocals and jangling and ringing guitars. Of the two, Quicksilver probably is most like the other tracks on the album. "Mercury" and the closer, "Gentle Rock" are mid-tempo dream pop songs, although they also have the trademark Tigers shifts in tempo and style.
The Badger is the sound of a band growing up in fine style.
The Badger is out now on Helsinki's Soliti label, and is available on CD, vinyl and digital download.
One of our most anticipated releases of the year is All You Pretty Vandals from Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. Neill's superior songwriting and passionate bar band ethos are top shelf. I've been listening to the songs from the upcoming record being worked out over the past year in Neill's frequent shows in Portland and have very high hopes for this CD.
Confirming my optimistic anticipation is this advance preview of one song from the CD, "My Little Dark Rose". Here's the song and a great summary of what is going on here from American Songwriter. Terrific song. This track and the full CD were produced by Chris Funk (Decemberists).
We'll review this CD closer to release date, but I've already reserved a spot for All You Pretty Vandals on my best of 2013 year end list.
Casey Neill artist web page
Casey Neill and the Norway Rats Facebook page
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Melbourne's Michael Skinner records as Mallee Songs. Originally a solo, bedroom project, August releases "Stolen Flowers"and "Egyptian King" use other musicians (including Lucas Skinner and Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard). "Stolen Flowers" is a slow-paced dream pop song but flexes some electrified muscles, especially at the end. "Egyptian King" is a beautiful acoustic song. This is intelligent, atmospheric pop music, and Mallee Songs is a talent to watch. Both tracks are available at the Bandcamp link below.
You can check out more of Michael's songs at the Soundcloud link below.
With a repertoire that includes indie rock anthems, pop punk and jangle pop, Dublin's Squarehead want to be in your music collection. And after listening to their new album, Respect, I think they make a very good case. But this band is making your decision easy -- Respect is available at the Bandcamp link below for the popular "name your price".
Examples of the harder-edged tracks are "Crystal Ocean", "Swing" and the following "Two Miles" --
"John of God" and "Pulse" ably demonstrate the band's more straightforward indie pop chops --
Squarehead has been together for several years. They have released several singles, a split album (with So Cow in November 2012) and a debut album. Activities in 2013 include SXSW in March and a tour in the Northeast US. Respect is their second full length album, and was recorded a few months ago. The members of the band are Roy (guitar), Ian (bass), and Ruan (drums).
Night Bus, the new LP from Melbourne psychedelic rockers The Ancients is still about a month away from release, but the band had provided another track from the album. "Hey Now" is an upbeat pop track straightforward vocals but dense instrumentation. While more traditional than "Molokai" the previous track from the album we shared, it is no less bold. We are expecting a good album from The Ancients.