Saturday, December 7, 2013

REVIEW: The Spook School - Dress Up


Some maintain that The Spook School are a C86 indie band masquerading as a punk band.  Other observers assert that the Edinburgh quartet is a punk band playing C86 guitar pop.  Clearly, a professional opinion is required to resolve the matter.  The answer, dear readers, is "yes".  Twee punk or punky twee?  Does it really matter?

I am too lazy to count how many times this band has appeared on these pages, but suffice it to say that the number is large enough to evidence either a personal fondness for their music or that the pictures from college that I had been assured were destroyed have instead fallen into devious hands in Scotland. I maintain that the simple truth is that these kids pack an incredible amount of energy, humor and melody into fast-paced two and three minute pop songs.  The bass bounces with authority, the guitars buzz, clang and jangle, and Niall spanks the drums like an angry headmaster.   And their ability to address serious social issues without weighting down the tunes suggests a more mature hand at songwriting than one might have expected at this stage of their career.  And speaking of writing, one might peruse the band's website to read the collection of offbeat and occasionally outrageous love letters Niall has written to other bands.

The multifaceted approach encompasses punk, twee, grumbling indie rock and a touch of folk rock.  It is like a semi-unholy merger of The Flatmates, Buzzcocks and Beat Happening.  Picking songs to give you a taste is enjoyable and easy, because I think they are all good.  But here are four that should convince you to go to Bandcamp and stream the album.









The Spook School is Nye Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory, and Niall McCamley.  Dress Up is out now via FortunaPOP on vinyl, compact disc or digital download.  See the Bandcamp link below for details. You probably can find it on iTunes and other digital outlets as well.

And if the pictures I mentioned in the second paragraph, which never existed by the way, are published on the web, I assure you that any resemblance to me is photoshopped.

Website
Facebook
Bandcamp
Twitter

Friday, December 6, 2013

New songs from Augustines, new album in February


First there was Pela.  I liked those guys a lot, but they disbanded.  Then Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson from Pela became We Are Augustines, and released a very nice album in 2011.  Sometime along the path Rob Allen joined with Billy and Eric, and at some point the band became Augustines.  And we care because these guys are talented and passionate.  A new album is planned for 2014, and we have a few tracks as an appetizer.  "Nothing to Lose But Your Head has the classic Pela/Augustines sound -- emotional, heartfelt and dramatic.  "Cruel City" is more rhythm-heavy, and has a bit of a world beat feel.  I think both tracks are very good and we're looking forward to the full meal.





Website
Facebook
Twitter

The Wolfhounds - Divide and Fall


A band often mentioned as a C86 mainstay by reason of their inclusion in the original compilation, but really a noisier, harder edged band, The Wolfhounds are making a welcome return.  Here is a taste of their new work, the two-track Divide and Fall released via Odd Box Records.  We are looking forward to more.





The current members are David Callahan (vocals and guitar), Andy Golding (guitar) and Pete Wilkins (drums and percussion).

Facebook
Bandcamp
Odd Box Records

Friday Nuggets - The Dirtbombs, "Ever Lovin' Man"



Garage rock is neither a lost nor stagnant art. Nor is Detroit a lost or "bankrupt" city.

So our thoughts this week bring us back to our beloved hometown of Detroit. And few bands carry the torch for garage rock better than The Dirtbombs, formed by Detroit garage punk legend Mick Collins (The Gories) in 1996. Following a Noah's Ark philosophy that if you want to survive and thrive, two is the way to go, The Dirtbombs are a rotating ensemble known to feature two drummers and two bass players.

Collins had this to say about the label "garage rock": "A real garage band is like a 1960s punk band heavily influenced by R&B. These bands nowadays calling themselves garage bands are not. They don’t have it. They have vintage gear. They copied a bunch of Humble Pie riffs, and that’s the extent of it. That isn’t garage.” 

This on the other hand, is garage:

 

The Dirtbombs Facebook page
Twitter - @Dirtbombsband

Thursday, December 5, 2013

REVIEW: Bitch Prefect - Bird Nerds


Bird Nerds is the sound of life unfolding.  For most people, sometimes you're happy, sometimes you're sad.  And while I expect that is true of the lads in Bitch Prefect, a number of the songs of Bird Nerds make certain that you hear the negative.  You lose the girl you want as a friend because she wants a boyfriend ("It's A Shame").  You leave your home town, but nostalgia is crowded out by feelings that the departure was in certain respects overdue ("Adelaide").  An asshole know-it-all dominates the discussion in the university classroom ("University Friend").  You want some wine and are desperate enough to ask your grandmother, and star-crossed enough that she refuses.  Plan B is to make money at the horse races, but the nags treat you no better than grandma, although they promise to do better next time ("Better Next Time").  There are some slacker guitar pop furnishings and a few songs pace the sunny side of the street, but the core of this album is damn-it-life-has-been-kicking-me-in-the-teeth-and-dishing-me-lemons.  So, you ask, does it work?  And if so, why?   First things first:  In my opinion it most certainly does work, and it works very well.

As for the "why", it comes down to a few simple points for me.  First, while much of the perspective focuses on specific disappointments, there isn't any plea for sympathy or begging for mercy.  Liam Kenny, Pat Telfer and Scott O'Hara are just telling it as it is.  Second, the songwriting is both mature and clever.  The melodies and musicianship are very good, albeit in a shambling garage rock groove.  The songs relate the stories in an entertaining manner, and the trio has the critical knack for creating an atmosphere with their arrangements that match the emotions in the lyrics (compare "Shipped It" with the other two songs below).  Finally, Bitch Prefect  takes themes of disappointment and disaffection and manages to convey them in their own guitar pop style, without resorting to a traditional disaffected youth punk template.  So its punk themes, but with a an indie guitar pop approach.  Of course, a few other bands have done it before.  But when a band invokes comparisons to the Modern Lovers and Beat Happening, they are doing it right.







Bird Nerds is available in vinyl and CD formats via Bedroom Suck Records.

Facebook
Bedroom Suck Records

Free songs from Driffs


Sydney surf pop band Driffs are Arthur Dazos, James Harvey, Henry Wells, and Tom Birmingham.  Infused with the spirit of the holidays, and perhaps other spirits as well, they have some holiday presents for you.  The first is "Back to Bellevue", which is the debut single from their upcoming record.  I expect you'll agree that these guys have a great sound.



The second is "Mary (Buges)", which was posted earlier this year.

If you like those (of course you do), there are a few more available to stream on their Soundcloud page.  A couple of songs that can be streamed but not downloaded from the Soundcloud page are available to download at the Bandcamp link.  Yes, sometimes you have to work a bit for free stuff.

Facebook
Soundcloud
Bandcamp


New video for "The Lord Is Out Of Control" by Mogwai


"The Lord Is Out Of Control" is an intriguingly named atmospheric song from Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai.  It will be on their upcoming release, Rave Tapes.  Cinematic in tone, the song is a compelling listen.  It is presented here in a video filmed in Hawaii.



Website
Facebook

"Red Eyes", a new song from War On Drugs


War On Drugs is a favorite around WYMA headquarters, so we are very happy read that their next album, Lost In The Dream, will be released via Secretly Canadian in March 2014.  The logical question is "will it be good?"  One reply could be that WOD is always good, so "yes".  But we have more useful evidence - "Red Eyes".  Listen, and you have the answer to the question.  Be happy.


Website
Facebook
Twitter
Artist page at Secretly Canadian website

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

T54 - In Brush Park


In Brush Park is the new LP from Christchurch, New Zealand band T54.  The album is named for a section of Detroit, Michigan with deserted historic mansions, and the band is named for a type of WWII Soviet battle tank.  With that opening, you might expect an all-out hard rock bombast.  If so, you would be wrong.  Don't misunderstand, there is plenty of volume from all three members - and the rhythm section of Matt Scobie and Sam Hood is particularly fierce - but this album is a delightful melange of textures and perspectives.  Some songs are dreamy, some are urgent, some are aggressive, and some are all three.  Joe Sampson's guitar has many voices, from Pavement haze to Seattle grunge, but all of them are assured and delightful (alert readers might recall that he is the guitarist for Salad Boys, who we featured earlier this year).  The vocals are down in the mix, but in the context of the album, it seems to me that the production choice is apt.  The vocals are just another aural texture.

I have provided some streams below, but I urge you to hit the Bandcamp link and stream the entire album.  In addition to the songs below, I particularly recommend "Nails Painted", "Kill Red", and "Biscuit City Sisters".  What stands out for me, in addition to the quality of the songwriting and musicianship, is that these guys manage to convey the feeling that they like their songs and like playing their songs.  The songs seem to unfold organically without feeling rushed.  Quite honestly, I first read about T54 when I was preparing a post about the Salad Boys, and I hadn't heard any of their songs until I digested In Brush Park.  Of the many bands that are new to me this year, I'll say that this one makes the short list of bands from which to expect good things in the future.



"Return of the Worm" - great video, great song (how is that for incisive music writing?):



In Brush Park is out now via Flying Nun.  It is available on CD or as a digital download at the link below.

Facebook
Bandcamp
Band blog
Link for ordering CD or digital

"A Family Sketch" from Call To Mind


Call to Mind are Martin Ross, Jamie Ross, Andrew Masson, Joe Smillie, and Steven Gribbin.  They are from the Scottish Highlands but are now based in Glasgow.  The band recently signed with Olive Grove Records, which will be releasing their debut LP, The Winter Is White, early in 2014.  The music of Call to Mind invokes comparisons to the pristine, atmospheric pop of Scandinavian bands rather than one of the more typical Scottish indie styles.  You can experience a slice of the new album now, as the band has made "A Family Sketch" available for free download at their Bandcamp and Soundcloud sites.  I think the album is going to provide an excellent mid-winter listening experience.



Website
Facebook
Bandcamp
Soundcloud
Twitter
Olive Grove Records

Southern - Southern EP


Siblings Lucy and Thom Southern have recently relocated from Belfast to Liverpool.  With the addition of drummer Jack Prince they record and perform as Southern.  Marathon Artists is releasing their self-titled, four-song EP on December 9.  The record features the urgent, swampy folk of "World Don't Shine", the rocking "Just Think About It" and "Cool Kid", and the more ramshackle  blues of "Shout It".  Their music will bring to mind a bit of Fleetwood Mac or The White Stripes.  And while the kids look sweet, their tunes are crafted smartly and hit pretty hard.  And the bottom line is that these four tracks reveal an unusual talent for both melody and musical storytelling.  That should take them far.






If you are interested in getting on the Southern train as it leaves the station, check out the link for the label below.  Marathon artist also releases Jagwar Ma and Courtney Barnett in the UK, so they seem to have a nose for talent.

Facebook
Soundcloud
Twitter
Marathon Artists

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Big Blood" video from La Luz

Seattle's La Luz has released a darkly comic video for "Big Blood", one of the many great tracks on their debut album It's Alive (our review here).  Featuring the bands muscular rhythms, surf guitar and sweet harmonies, it is one of the breakout debut LPs of a year that has had a lot of good debut LPs.



The level of playful carnage is a bit arresting given the band's recent car accident while returning to Seattle.  The van and equipment were demolished, the band were banged up but survived.

Facebook
Tumblr
Twitter

R.I.P. Junior Murvin

Jamaican reggae vocalist Junior Murvin was not among the more prolific artists of reggae's golden years, but his Curtis Mayfield-like falsetto was a unique and memorable instrument.  And if he is known for no other reason, he will be remembered for the song he wrote and recorded for producer Lee "Scratch" Perry - "Police and Thieves".  You may have heard the original release at some point.  On the radio?  At a party? Perhaps on the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack.  You may also have heard the cover by The Clash. Below is a video Junior performing the song live for the UK show Top of the Pops in 1976.  In any case, the combination of rude boy themes, Murvin's sweet vocals and the tight rhythm laid down by Perry's house band made for a classic reggae anthem.



Here is another Murvin hit, "Cool Out Son" -

Deathcats - The Raddest



James, Harv and Scott are Deathcats.  We featured them (and their free download) a few months ago.  The guys haven't been slacking since, and now are unveiling The Raddest -- a four track EP via Fuzzkill Records.  That's four tracks of punk energy, garage ethos, pop hooks and surf guitar.  Check out two of the great tracks below.  The first is "I Wish It Was Summer", presented in the form of a fun video in which our heroes compensate for the lack of summer and beaches with a party full of props.  The second is the dreamy closing track, "Cowabunga Surf Jam".







The Raddest was recorded by Chris McCrory (of Casual Sex) at Shady Lane Studio and mastered by Sam Smith (of Casual Sex) at the Green Door studio in Glasgow.  It is available from December 9 as a cassette with a digital download.

Deathcats' Facebook
Bandcamp
Fuzzkill Records

Monday, December 2, 2013

Slowcoaches - Thinkers

A year and a half ago we introduced the UK band Slowcoaches (here), who had released a cassette on Tye Die Tapes which sold out in a blink of an eye.  The trio now consists of founding members Heather Perkins and Matty Dixon, plus drummer Neil Robinson (also of Mazes).  Having decamped to London, they are releasing the four-track Thinkers EP on Icecapades.  The tracks are characterized by a rush of energetic, lo-fi pop punk.  There is plenty of fuzz, buzz, melody and hooks, and I like it quite a bit.  Take it for a test drive with title track "Thinkers" and the closer "Nightlife".  You can stream the entire EP at the Bandcamp link below.




Facebook
Bandcamp for Thinkers EP
Tumblr
Icecapades shop via Big Cartel
Bandcamp for 2012 EP

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Introducing: Emily Reo

Emily Reo hasn't formally released "Spell", but her performance of the song has been captured on video by Daniel Dorsa, Nivan Yahaghi and Eric Littmann in a Session for Portals Music.  We watch as Emily records layers of vocals and effects and loops them to create a soaring pop feast.  Stay with it, it builds wonderfully.



You can listen to more of Reo's music at the Soundcloud link below.  Here is "Birds of Paradise".



Website
Facebook
Soundcloud
Twitter