Friday, November 1, 2013

"Bummer", free track from Blooper

Seattle's Blooper is offering this nice track of instrumental surf pop for free download on their Bandcamp page.  We'd like to thank Adriano, Chris and Darrin on behalf of our readers.


Friday Nuggets: "I'm Waiting For The Man" - The Velvet Underground

Lou Reed's death this week rocked the world. Certainly few if any artists had more influence over the garage rock that we cover weekly here with the Friday Nuggets offering, and throughout the year with most of the bands we feature here at When You Motor Away.

Hard to select only one Lou Reed song, but I'm hugely partial to "I'm Waiting for The Man", released in 1967 on The Velvet Underground and Nico, their landmark debut record.  It embodies the surface simplicity of '60's garage rock, especially with its pounding piano line.  But underneath, there's a tremendous amount going on that makes it one of Reed's most beloved songs and an all-time classic.  

Here it is, film by Andy Warhol shot during the band's earliest rehearsals in 1966:

If you are wondering where the Stooges and then The Ramones got their tough and primitive sound, look no further than this song.

The word most associated with Lou Reed this week in the many fine articles written about him was "influential". But the word I would use is "unflinching". No musical artist of his stature was so fearless. He depicted life as he saw it, in the most stark terms, and musically, he was just as bold, defiant and frequently unsettling.

Reed was a journalism student and that kind of eye for details and the truth defined his writing.  "I'm Waiting for The Man" neither glamorizes drug use nor presents a cautionary tale. Lou Reed simply takes you with him to a drug buy in Harlem - the address, the number of flights of stairs, the exact cost ($26, not a rounded number), the clothes his seller was wearing (PR shoes and a big straw hat).  And most strikingly, he lets you listen to the conversation in the street and a glimpse into the clash of cultures when properly raised Jewish boys head up to Harlem to buy drugs:

Hey white boy, what you doing Uptown?  
Hey white boy, you chasing our women around?
Oh pardon me sir, it's furthest from my mind.     
I'm just looking for a dear dear friend of mine.   

This is one of the greatest rock'n'roll songs that will ever be made.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day Ravies - Tussle

We first wrote about Sydney quartet Day Ravies about three months ago (here).  But they've earned the right to be here again by virtue of an excellent debut album, Tussle.  Displaying the band's proficiency in shoegaze pop, jangle pop, fuzzy psychedelia, '60s girl-group and dream pop, Tussle doesn't make a thematic statement as much as it presents a strong case for accepting this band as adventurous young talents on the rise.  Their sonic interests seem to focus on melody and ambiance, and the album is satisfying because they manage to deliver on those elements over the range of their compositions.

Day Ravies is Sam Wilkinson, Caroline de Dear, Lani Crooks and Matt Neville.  Vocals duties alternate between Sam, the guitarist, and Caroline, who plays bass.  Lani plays keys, and Matt is the drummer.  Three of the members participate in songwriting, which may be a contributing factor in the variety of their songcraft.

"I Don't Mind" is at the intersection of dream pop and shoegaze -

The delightful jangle pop of "Sun Up" -

Day Ravies in a garage pop vein on "Reality School" -

Tussle is out now via Popfrenzy Records.  To stream or buy the entire album, hit the Bandcamp link below.

Popfrenzy Records Website

Remaining 2013 tour dates:
NOV 14 – Melbourne: John Curtain Hotel with PEARLS, PAGEANTS, VELCRO
NOV 30 – Brisbane: Trainspotters: Grand Central Hotel with NAKED MAJA, NITE FIELDS, BARBITUATES­

Jessica Hernandez "Demons" - free download for Halloween

"Demons" by WYMA favorite Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, from the great city of Detroit, is the featured free downlead of the day from Rolling Stone. Get it right here today:

"Demons" is the title song from her soon to be released debut which we'll be reviewing here soon.

This first track sounds great.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

REVIEW: The Chills - Somewhere Beautiful

Is Somewhere Beautiful a compilation of alternative takes, a greatest hits collection or a concert album?  The answer is "yes".  The album is a recording of a private concert performed at a joint birthday/New Years Eve party in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2011.  But who cares about labels?  This is a new record from The Chills, one of the most iconic and mercurial of the New Zealand bands known for the "Dunedin sound".  For the uninitiated souls asking "who are The Chills", the long answer would be to name the many musicians who have been members over the years, list the starts and stops, the tours and the crashes.  The short answer is that The Chills are Martin Phillipps and whomever he has gathered under The Chills banner.

We've been without a new album from The Chills since 1996, but Martin's Far South label now has partnered with Fire Records.  Eventually, there will be new material from the band (and Fire Records already has released the single Molten Gold), but the first fruit of the partnership is Somewhere Beautiful.  And while it may seem like a strange choice to some, I think it is perfect.  Potential new fans are exposed to 20 comprehensive reasons why they should look forward to future material from The Chills. We existing fans are able to collect beloved songs in a slightly different version than our treasured studio recordings.  In particular, this collection presents the songs of one of guitar pop's most talented songwriters in the rawer, harder edged format typical of a live concert.

Here is the opening track -

The Chills played earlier this year at a celebration for the Dunedin Botanic Garden.  Here are some clips over one of their best known songs, "Pink Frost" -

One of my favorite songs on the album is "Rolling Moon".  Here is a live version from '85 -

Pop music at its best is an experience of the moment, a spontaneous eruption of talent and inspiration interacting with the listener.  This is what a live album can deliver better than a professionally massaged studio album, and Somewhere Beautiful is a soaring testament to live albums.  It is available now from Fire Records on CD or vinyl.

In addition to Martin Phillipps, the current version of The Chills is Erica Stichbury, Oli Wilson, James Dickson and Todd Knudson.

Fire Records page for album

REVIEW: Charlie Big Time - Sale or Return EP

There are few better answers to the question "why should I pay attention to releases other than albums?" than the words Charlie Big Time.  The Bolton, UK trio consisting of Chris Tiplady, Beth Arzy and Matthew Pendlebury crafts hyper-melodic guitar pop with vocals shared between Beth and Matthew.  The group's first release was an EP via Cloudberry in 2007.  Since then there have been several CBT tracks on compilations and another EP, Dishevelled Revellers on Matinee Recordings in 2012 after Beth joined the band.  But the only album was in 2008.

This year's pop nugget from CBT is the Sale or Return EP via Seattle's Jigsaw Records..  It features three tracks of expertly crafted guitar pop with soft vocals and engaging hooks.  As was the case with the 2012 EP, the first track is the showcase tune for me.  "A Sunday Afternoon Well Spent" is the kind of track capable of making a pop fan out of anyone.  The descending guitar chords and vocal interplay are earworms of the highest order.  The tempo slows for the gentle, beautiful title track.  The third track, "Pitiful, Delightful and Alarming" is a sunny pop tune.  The EP closes with reflective acoustic song "From the Cradle to the Bar", which I liked well enough to embed below the stream and video for "A Sunday Afternoon Well Spent".

Sale or Return is available at the Jigsaw website as a CD or digital download.  Charlie Big Time is not the most prolific of recording artists, so I recommend getting their take on pop music when it is available.

Bandcamp page for EP
Jigsaw Records

REVIEW: Fanfare by Jonathan Wilson

We praise a lot of rough, raw and lo-fi music at this blog and for good reason. But we appreciate great music of any flavor. Jonathan Wilson's Fanfare is a sweeping CD of major ambition, exquisitely recorded, carefully conceived and meticulously performed, unabashedly hearkening back to the glory days of Laurel Canyon '70's folk rock. Fanfare is as hi-fi as it gets. And I love it!

So how does a young guy making his 2nd record line up Graham Nash, David Crosby and Jackson Browne to help out on vocals, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers on guitar and keyboards, and Pat Sansone from Wilco to arrange and conduct strings? You have great songs, that's how, and something truly magical going on that other musicians of substance want to be a part of. This is all on top of Wilson himself playing a staggering array of instruments, plus having his own very capable band.

Fanfare comes right out of the box with the title track, a sweeping nearly 8 minute, piano-centered beauty. It's cinematic, addictive, incredibly well played. Wilson himself explains on his web page:  “‘Fanfare’ as a word, represents a fanciful showing, a bodacious movement of energy, a celebration of sound. Something to signify an arrival, a special occasion. A fanfare follows no rules. In this case, it’s also the opening song, it’s the gateway for the rest of the record."

Certainly Fanfare follows no rules as it moves along on its 14 song, 78 minute trippy and deeply rewarding journey. Wilson's own web page describes the CD as "grandiose", which, while not a word I've ever read in a band's own marketing materials, is fair in the best sense of the word. Websters dictionary's second definition: "Impressive because of uncommon largeness, scope, effect, or grandeur". That's it, that kind of grandiose is what's going down here.

The second track "Dear Friend" has grown on me a great deal after multiple listens to the CD. As occurs on many songs on the record, what first appears to be a bridge instead turns out to be a gateway to something more like an entire other song, a gigantic left turn where you get to see what's behind door number two, in this case, wah wah pedals and a seriously trippy work out.  The "official" video:

The most immediately accessible song on the CD is the impossibly catchy "Love to Love", a perfect pop gem and an ode to making one's way to, and one's music in, Southern California:

And on and on, the discoveries and delightful journey continue, each song vastly different from the one that precedes it, and full of its own turns, nuances and surprises. When I first heard the CD, I thought well, maybe this song, "Cecil Taylor", sounds a little too much like Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Until I read the credits and realized, man that is David Crosby and Graham Nash, who I guess are allowed to sound like themselves! And it's a very cool song of freedom, the title referencing the pioneering free jazz pianist who once played on the White House lawn during the Jimmy Carter (and C, S & N) years.

In some ways these superstar guys playing on this record is a generational passing of the torch. They know what it's like to write great songs and make dynamic music of the highest quality, so wanting to be part of Fanfare makes complete sense. It's not like one of them or their peers is going to write a batch of songs this original and urgent today.

And while the classic folk rock influences are certainly there, this is highly distinctive and even idiosyncratic work. Wilson has a strong writer's voice and brings an amazingly sophisticated understanding of composition and recording practices here. The use of strings, horns, backing vocals, harmonies, solos, etc. is so remarkably well done here.  It's obvious he's hears all this in his head, plays most of the instruments himself, but then augments that with the very best dream team of people he could possibly assemble.  And Wilson takes all kinds of risks, the sort that will reward you if you dig deep and give this CD repeated listens.

I could single out nearly every song here, but would be remiss if I didn't mention the perfect country rock story song "Moses Pain", "Future Vision" which drops a little John Lennon moment and is a song I suspect Lennon himself would have deeply appreciated, and the grungy "Illumination" where Wilson plays all the instruments and locks on a Crazy Horse-worthy rock groove.

 You can hear the entire CD at SoundCloud right here:

But no one can appreciate Fanfare on a single listen or even 2 or 3. You need to digest this. And thus you need to own it. Fantastic stuff, Fanfare will finish high on my best of 2013 list.

And in closing, my personal thanks to musician and Notre Dame recruiting web site guru Mike Frank and my nephew Tom Desmond who both turned me on to this. I could have missed this one and that would have been a great loss.

Jonathan Wilson web page
Twitter page
Facebook page

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

REVIEW: Love Migrate - Dissolved EP

Two weeks ago we featured "Dissolved", the title track of the new EP from Melbourne's Love Migrate.  I was quite impressed with the song, and eager to hear the remainder of the record.  And now that I've heard it, I'm happy to report that it does not disappoint.  It begins with "Dissolved", which now has taken its place in my top 20 songs of the year so far.  But the remaining three songs keep pace with the high standard set by the opener.  Guitars chime and jangle over the foundation provided by the keys and rhythm section, accenting the earnest and emotive vocals.  The second and third songs are unhurried and reveal themselves gently, almost with a '70s country rock vibe.  The final track, "Falling Through", is more uptempo and builds to a wonderful conclusion.

I suspect that Dissolved EP will appear on some year-end lists and readers will wonder why they hadn't heard of it before.  Well, you've heard of it now, so you have no excuse.  Stream it below, and don't skip the entirety of the final track.

Love Migrate is Eddie Alexander, Casey Harnett, Eric Moore, Pete Sismanes, and Joe Walker.  The Dissolved EP is available via Flightless Records.

Flightless Records
Flightless Records on Facebook

REVIEW: Diane Coffee - My Friend Fish

Diane Coffee is former Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming, and he's made a very good psychedelic soul record. My Friend Fish is the product of a two-week sickness-driven apartment confinement immediately following Fleming's move to NYC from California. Fueled by homesickness, real sickness and nothing but guitar and drums as company -- like a fever dream or any other kind of altered state, the album's songs combine real-life stuff with flights of fantasy, most often not bothering to make clear distinctions. The lyrics make occasional reference to the circumstances:

I think that you’re cool
Yeah I’d catch a cold with you
It just seems like the right thing to do
Lord knows I can’t drink all this soup by myself

Then the soup metaphor is stretched - due in part to its fitness for the task, perhaps as much as the closed universe in which he was operating - in the last track, “Green”:

I think I finally understand
What it takes to be your man
I’ll bring you soup and I’ll hold your hand
I will never leave you baby

Diane Coffee "Green" from Western Vinyl on Vimeo.

Perhaps he's invented a new genre: Love songs by sick guys... There is a lot of sweetness to this album - there's a gentle swing to many of the choruses that wouldn't be out of place in '60's pop soul from Motown... but plenty of strangeness, too. “Tale Of a Dead Dog” brings to the party a bit of Pink Floyd influence, and along with the overwhelming doses of Beatles, Donovan, Beach Boys and Motown influences, it is more than welcome:

The song structures vary, and the recording techniques (drum tracks from iPhones, etc) just about guaranteed that the result would not be ordinary. However, they did not guarantee it would be such a great listening experience. That's where Fleming's talent comes in.

Foxygen's Jonathan Rado guests here, and Fleming claims they're still all on good terms. But really, if the band breaks up and they all go 'round making solo albums this good, I wouldn't miss Foxygen itself. But it'd be cooler if they did both. My Friend Fish is out today (Oct. 29) on Western Vinyl.

Diane Coffee at Western Vinyl

Monday, October 28, 2013

Joey Fourr / H. Grimace - Nothing Beats Reality EP

One of this week's releases that may fly under the radar, but shouldn't, is the  Nothing Beats Reality EP It is a split cassette from the Bad Paintings label featuring three songs by Joey Fourr and three songs by H. Grimace, released by UK label Bad Paintings.  A purchase of the cassette will entail a digital download code.  The artists combined to create the art work for the EP.

Joey Fourr's tracks are an exuberant, electric grunge-folk, or maybe bubblegum grunge, recorded by Joey at home with the assistance of a drum machine. The former Tubelord member infuses the songs with a Bikini Kill vibe, but with some pop vocal hooks peeking out from the chaos.  Here is the second track, "Dirty Hole" --

H. Grimace's tracks take a different tack.  Part post grunge, part '60s Velvet Underground, the songs have an urgent moody feel to them, and I like them quite a bit.  "End of the Road" and "Cemza" are provided below for your evaluation, I'm particularly fond of the former.

H. Grimace 'Cemza' from Maurizio Von Trapp on Vimeo.

A download of the EP also is available at iTunes.

Bad Paintings Website
Joey Fourr Website
Joey Fourr on Facebook
Joey Fourr on Bandcamp
H. Grimace on Facebook
H. Grimace on Bandcamp

REVIEW: Los Campesinos! - No Blues

Los Campesinos!, the Welsh wall-of-sound rockers, have released their fifth album No Blues. It's a wild ride, featuring big, big guitar sounds, lead singer Gareth's strong, nearly shouted vocals and an impressive bag of sonic tricks. It's got a kitchen-sink approach that includes a charming childrens' chorus (a local cheer squad joined them in studio) on "Avocado, Baby". As with so many songs here, the title comes out of a clever turn - "A heart of stone / A rind so tough it's crazy / That's why they call me the avocado, baby":

Gareth writes the lyrics, and claims that his lack of musical training and ability lead him to overcompensate with cleverness. He's right in part, it's definitely clever... but I'm not sure he can properly be accused of overdoing it. Nor can the instrumentalists, even though they create a tremendous ruckus. It's just that these guys (and girl) have so much to say, and seem to feel such a strong desire to share it, that anything goes.

Here's "What Death Leaves Behind" - super-upbeat, and while singing about the nominal topic of death (including Gareth's turn as a sexton), they make quite an agreeable racket and get to an optimistic place:

It would be easy to connect them with predecessors such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and they definitely truck in the anthemic stuff and sing about how a particularly poignant moment (a breakup, an emotional turning point) can seem to be never-ending. But like any successful band, they bring their own slant to the music - earnestness and enthusiasm being the top two. On this album, the enthusiasm takes the front seat and it's our pleasure (as well as those Welsh kids') to get to sing right along.

Los Campesinos! at Wichita Recordings

REVIEW: Upset - She's Gone

Ali Koehler's resume includes stints as the drummer for Best Coast and Vivian Girls.  But for her latest project she is Upset, a three-piece she formed with former Hole drummer Patty Schemel and Le Sera guitarist Jenn Prince.  Their sweet spot is expertly executed melodic punk, with equal doses of attitude and hooks.  As a songwriter, Koehler displays a deft touch with clear structures and a blast of emotion.  And with the 12-track album over in a half an hour, no song overstays its welcome.

The songwriting focuses on the punk standards of angst, boredom and alienation.  But there is a good dose of humor which, when coupled with spot-on pop instincts, results in songs that make an impact but don't leave a scar.  And in my view, that willingness to meet listeners in the space between punk anger and the listener's desire for a good time, makes She's Gone and album that is worth multiple listens.  It just makes me feel good.

She's Gone was recorded in Ali's home by Kyle Gilbride.  It is out this week on Don Giovanni Records.  Upset is touring in November on the west coast.  The dates and locations are below.

Fall 2013 tour (all dates with Screaming Females):
Nov. 15—Black Lodge—Seattle, Washington
Nov. 16—The Know Bar—Portland, Oregon
Nov. 18—The Blank Club—San Jose, California
Nov. 19—1-2-3-4 Go! Records—Oakland, California
Nov. 20—Bottom Of The Hill—San Francisco, California
Nov. 21—Echoplex—Los Angeles, California
Nov. 22—Harold’s Place—San Pedro, California
Nov. 23—Soda Bar—San Diego, California 
Don Giovanni Records

Free Album: Various Artists - Capitalised: Tall Tales & Low Lives of Edinburgh

Our generous friends at Dogs Got A Bone Records have offered as a free download Capitalised: Tall Tales & Low Lives of Edinburgh.  The compilation includes tracks by 10 different Edinburgh area artists and bands.  Some of the tracks are not available anywhere other than this record.  The tracks span psychedelia, shoegaze, folk and rock, but whatever your favorite genre, I think you'll find some songs that strike your fancy here.  You can try it out with the three tracks below.  The entire album can be streamed and downloaded at the Bandcamp link below.

Dogs Got A Bone Records

REVIEW: Elvis Costello and The Roots - Wise Up Ghost

It was inevitable that Elvis Costello and The Roots would collaborate. Costello has long been a great student of American soul music, dating back to Get Happy!, his 1980 amphetamine-paced rock'n'soul classic. American R&B has informed Costello's songwriting throughout his illustrious career. And there is no better contemporary ensemble of R&B players than The Roots.

I love this record far more than I expected to, however. These collaborations often come off forced and mildly uncomfortable. But there's a genuine fusion of styles here - The Roots giving themselves completely to the compositions and serving the songs well. Costello, meanwhile, didn't just give The Roots his latest batch of songs for them to transform, but instead brought compositions particularly well suited to The Roots' style of musicianship and deep chops. And wow, is Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson some kind of drummer!

Here's a taste, the lead track "Walk Us Uptown":

One particularly standout song for me is "Wake Me Up", which has this slinky groove but then throws down this nasty guitar line from Kirk Douglas, an aural bolt of lightning suddenly appearing over the lake on a calm summer night. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee! Done here live and looser than the recorded version:

Along the way on the CD, Costello digs back into his own lyrical history to recast "Pills and Soap" (Punch the Clock, 1983) into "Stick Out Your Tongue", shifting the mood from creepy to downright though appropriately terrifying. And "Refuse To Be Saved" here updates "Invasion Hit Parade" from Mighty Like A Rose.

 While the music on Wise Up Ghost is somewhat controlled on the surface, it crackles underneath, resulting in an underlying mood that is urgent and dark, a world spinning off its axis, a sound and feel that The Roots music and Costello's words and melodies seem custom made to share.

 Another highlight here is yet more stylistic fusion, "Cinco Minutos Con Vos" featuring singer extraordinaire La Marisoul from the Los Angeles Latin-alternative band La Santa Cecilia.

Here's a video with Questlove and Costello discussing the collaboration and Costello's background:

Overall, this is sophisticated and unique music, matching a uniquely gifted and thoughtful writer with amazing players.  Highly recommended - easily one of 2013's best CDs.

Elvis Costello homepage
The Roots homepage

Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP: Lou Reed (1942-2013)

A great deal will be written about Lou Reed in the coming days and you should read some of it. Lou Reed was a unique character who led a fascinating life. There will be many fine stories to tell.

I figured Lou Reed was too tough to die. I figured when death knocked on his door, he'd push death down the stairs, throw him out, and give him a piece of his mind. Death would go away only to return in a half hour, enamored with the charismatic rascal Lou Reed, and the two would then have a glass of wine together, the death merchant agreeing to spot Lou another 20 years.

The Long Island-raised Reed was always my ideal New York City persona - the quintessential street smart, hard yet sympathetic iconoclast who did everything on his own terms. He was the original bad ass rock star.  But also a guy who set out to write the great American novel through a 4 minute rock'n'roll song.  Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Allen Ginsberg and every other cool person flocked to Lou Reed. The word "artist" can sometimes be thrown about a bit too liberally with rock musicians, but Reed was one of the great American artists of the past 50 years. His work already has and will stand the test of time.

His work with his seminal band The Velvet Underground in the late 1960's-early 1970's was commercially ignored at the time but saved rock'n'roll from its bloated self and worst tendencies, influencing generations of bands to follow. It's not an exaggeration to say that without Lou Reed, there would be no Ramones, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Pixies, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M.  and the list goes on.

And Lou Reed understood that in rock'n'roll, simple is good, and the best rock'n'roll also doesn't stray too far from its rhythm and blues roots. Here's one of my favorites:

As great as the VU stuff and his early heralded 1970's solo work, I am particularly partial to 3 records he made in the 1980's - New Sensations, Mistrial and New York. Tough, smart, great players, taut writing, Reed was firing on all cylinders. Here's the Lou Reed of that era performing "Dirty Blvd" from New York on TV in 1989:

Lou Reed gave his life to rock'n'roll. And a countless number of musicians joined bands because Lou Reed inspired them.  We lost an original today, one of the all time greats.  Here's his ode, his anthem to his art, his beloved rock'n'roll, certainly one of the most iconic and very best songs of the rock era: