Saturday, January 11, 2014

Preview: Drive-By Truckers "English Oceans" and tour

The mighty Drive-By Truckers will release their 12th LP, English Oceans, on March 4.  This would be cause for celebration at When You Motor Away under any circumstances, but especially so here having heard an advance and able to pronounce English Oceans one of the very finest of the Truckers' career. Patterson Hood calls it "a magical record" and we agree with him. And here we just finished our Best of 2013 articles, and we already have a strong contender for best album of 2014.

We'll write a full review closer to the release date.

Meantime, you don't have to rely on me, instead let your own ears be the judge. Here's one of English Ocean's best songs, "Pauline Hawkins", written by Patterson Hood about a character from an upcoming Willy Vlautin novel. I particularly love the piano and feedback bridge at the 4:30 mark leading to the all out rock and roll finale. I cannot wait to hear this one live where the Truckers have few peers.

We are particularly fortunate here in Portland Oregon where Patterson Hood is performing three solo shows this month at the Doug Fir Lounge. Hood is a gifted songwriter and storyteller and remarkably effective in an intimate solo setting.  Public service announcement: there's still time to catch him on the next 2 Wednesdays, link for ticket purchase here. Road trip anyone? Hood's performance of "The Part of Him" from English Oceans was one of the highlights of his show this past week.

The band's record label ATO issued this press release about English Oceans:

English Oceans (ATO Records)
US Release date: March 4, 2014
European release date: March 3, 2014
English Oceans, the 12th release by Athens, Georgia's Drive-By Truckers, is an elegantly balanced and deeply engaged new effort that finds the group refreshed and firing on all cylinders.
All but one of the collection's 13 new songs, written by singer-guitarists and co-founding members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, were recorded during 13 days of sessions in August 2013 with longtime producer David Barbe.
Six of the songs were the result of a burst of writing activity by Cooley.
"I had time to write," Cooley says. "After we came off the road last time, we decided we were going to let it rest for a while. So I had time to really focus. I kind of had to re-learn how to write, because I didn't write as many songs as I'd wanted on the last couple of records. I was happy with these songs, and thrilled to go in and record so many that I felt real strongly about."
Hood notes, "I don't think we've ever had a record where Cooley was as deeply involved in every aspect of the making of it as he was this time. With Cooley's writing, there's almost no precedent for it in our catalog. He came in with this stunning bunch of songs, full of this beautiful imagery."
Writing independently, Cooley and Hood penned songs that dovetailed brilliantly with each other. Hood says, "Every song on this record connects with another song. I noticed Cooley's got a line in 'Primer Coat' about 'apron strings,' and I have the exact same image in one of my songs, 'Hanging On.' It goes on and on and on like that on this record, and that's a pretty good sign for things, particularly given how different our temperaments are and our styles of writing are."
Cooley and Hood's brace of character-based songs depict a neatly interlocking gallery of relationships, often in dissolution and discord. The last song written and recorded for the album, Hood's rave-up "Pauline Hawkins," was based on a new novel by Willy Vlautin and penned after another of his compositions was scrapped.
Hood says, "There was such a balance between Cooley's songs and my songs that taking a song off the record would upset the balance a little bit. I liked the back-and-forth flow, like our shows tend to do. I got an advance copy of Willy's latest book, The Free. I've been a fan of his writing for a while. I read it in about three days. I finished it on Saturday, I wrote the song on Sunday, and then we cut it on Thursday and mastered the record on the following Monday. It sure makes it a better record."
DBT's ever-keen political edge can be seen in two songs on the release. Cooley's "Made Up English Oceans" derives from his interest in the career of Lee Atwater, the Republican operative who was active in the Reagan and Bush campaigns of the '80s. "He was the guy that Karl Rove and all of the modern dirty tricksters looked to – he was one of the granddaddies of it all. That song is from his point of view, fictionally of course. It's him making his pitch, telling what he understands about young, Southern men."
Hood says "The Part of Him" was inspired by the procession of scandals that plague the political world year after year. "It's about political assholery -- there's someone new playing that role every few months," he says. "As soon as we get rid of one of them, someone comes up and starts playing that part again."
Reflecting the renewed high level of collaboration between the band's two principals, English Oceans marks an unprecedented event: the recording of a Hood song, "Til He's Dead or Rises," with Cooley assuming the lead vocal.
Cooley says, "I remember Patterson was getting frustrated trying to sing it. He was doing fine, but it seemed like there was something he wanted to do that wasn't coming. I was in the control room thinking, 'I could probably sing this' -- though it wasn't like I was saying, 'Oh, I can sing this a lot better than that.' I was thinking, 'This sounds like something I could sing.' Right after that, he walks into the control room and says, 'You want to trying singing this? It sounds more like you than me.' I said, 'Yeah, I was just thinking that.'"
"Grand Canyon," the final song on the album, is an emotionally overwhelming elegy for Craig Lieske, a longtime member of DBT's touring family. The former manager of Athens' 40 Watt Club and a key player in the city's experimental music scene, Lieske died suddenly of a heart attack in January 2013 following the first night of the band's three-night homecoming stand in Athens. English Oceans is dedicated to him.
"I probably wrote it in 15 minutes," Hood says. "It wasn't any kind of a conscious thing. It's the most important song of mine on the record. I wrote new songs to go with it. It recalibrated something. It became a totally different record for me than the record I thought we were going to make."
The album was recorded with a compact, retooled lineup. Jay Gonzalez, who joined the band in 2008 as keyboardist, stepped into an expanded role by adding guitar to his duties, while bassist Matt Patton was drafted from the Tuscaloosa group The Dexateens. The unit was road-tested during dates in 2013.
Cooley says, "This lineup is so direct. It can go from this chainsaw rock 'n' roll to very delicate, pretty-sounding stuff. We wrote a lot of those kinds of songs, and this lineup got all of that well."
Hood agrees: "We recorded with a stripped-down lineup that gave things a more primal and immediate feel. It's a more turn-on-a-dime kind of thing, which suits these songs, and us as a band. It's a very tasteful group, and when it needs to be it can be a very big, powerful, over-the-top band, too, and it can go from one to the other seamlessly."
Looking at the accomplishments of English Oceans from the perspective of DBT's nearly three-decade history, both Cooley and Hood decline to hedge their bets on the quality of their latest work.
"You're always hesitant to say, 'Oh, this is the best record we've ever made,'" Cooley says, "because you always want to. And sometimes you say it, and sometimes you're right, and sometimes you think, 'Well, maybe I jumped the gun on that a little bit, I got excited.' But I think this just might be the best record we've ever made."
Hood concurs enthusiastically: "It's my favorite thing that we've ever done. I'm proud of our catalog – we always try to make as good a record as we can make. Sometimes things just work. This time, we made kind of a magical record. I've always felt that Decoration Day was our best record, and this is the first one that I think is a better record than that was. Every piece of the puzzle fit."

Drive-By Truckers tour dates: 
Fri Jan 31       Asheville        NC         Orange Peel - with T Hardy Morris
Sat Feb 01      Asheville        NC         Orange Peel - with Promise Land Sound
Thu Feb 13    Athens            GA          40 Watt - with New Madrid
Fri Feb 14      Athens            GA          40 Watt - with T. Hardy Morris & Camp Amped Band
Sat Feb 15     Athens             GA         40 Watt - with St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Fri Mar 14      Raleigh           NC          The Ritz - with Blitzen Trapper
Sat Mar 15     Richmond       VA          The National - with Blitzen Trapper
Sun Mar 16   Wilmington      DE          World Cafe Live @ The Queen - with Blitzen Trapper
Tue Mar 18   New Haven      CT           Toads Place - with Blitzen Trapper
Thu Mar 20   New York        NY          Terminal 5 - with Blitzen Trapper
Fri Mar 21     Boston              MA          House Of Blues - with Blitzen Trapper
Sat Mar 22    Washington       DC          9:30 Club - with Blitzen Trapper
Sun Mar 23   Washington       DC          9:30 Club - with Blitzen Trapper
Tue Mar 25   Indianapolis       IN           The Vogue - with Blitzen Trapper
Wed Mar 26  Milwaukee        WI           Turner Hall - with Blitzen Trapper
Thu Mar 27   Minneapolis      MN          First Avenue - with Blitzen Trapper
Fri Mar 28     Madison            WI           Barrymore Theater - with Blitzen Trapper
Sat Mar 29    St. Louis            MO         The Pageant - with Blitzen Trapper
Sat Apr 12     Berkeley            CA      The Greek Theatre - with Willie Nelson & Shovels & Rope
Sat Apr 19     Denver              CO          Fillmore Auditorium
Tue Apr 22    Vancouver        BC          Vogue Theater - with Shovels & Rope
Wed Apr 23   Seattle               WA         Showbox @ Sodo - with Shovels & Rope
Thu Apr 24    Portland             OR         Roseland - with Shovels & Rope
Fri Apr 25      Sacramento        CA         Ace Of Spades - with Shovels & Rope
Sat Apr 26     Los Angeles       CA         The Fonda Theater
Sun Apr 27    Phoenix              AZ         Crescent Ballroom
Wed Apr 30   San Antonio       TX         Aztec Theatre
Thu May 01   Austin                 TX         Stubbs
Fri May 02     New Orleans      LA         Civic Theatre
Sat May 03    New Orleans       LA         Civic Theatre
Sat May 10    Dublin                IRL         Vicar St.
Sun May 11   Glasgow             UK         ABC
Mon May 12  Manchester         UK         Ritz
Tue May 13    London              UK         Shepherds Bush Empire                 
Thu May 15   Amsterdam         NL          Paradiso
Fri May 16     Antwerp              BE         Trix

Drive-By Truckers web page
Twitter @drivebytruckers

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Help Me Forget" from The Solicitors

We featured Melbourne band The Solicitors last June when they released their Made to Measure EP (link).  Well, here they are again with their new single "Help Me Forget", a fine power pop tune with hints of new wave.  To listen to it, is to want it.  And you can have it -- see below.

As of January 10, it is available for free download here.


Rolling Stones Friday: "Time Is On My Side"

The Rolling Stones appreciation for and mastery of American R&B is one of the foundational elements of their greatness. Their first top 10 hit was "Time Is On My Side" released in 1964. The song was written by Jerry Ragovoy and originally recorded in 1963 by New Orleans trombonist Kai Winding and His Orchestra, though the lyrics at that point consisted only of two lines.  Ragovoy also wrote Janis Joplin / Big Brother and The Holding Company's "Piece of My Heart" and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)".  

The Stones picked up the obscure song from Irma Thomas who released it as as a single, complete with full lyrics, just a few weeks before the Stones recorded it. Here are the Rolling Stones on the Ed Sullivan Show in their US television debut in 1964:  

Here's the great Irma Thomas, one of my favorite soul singers, doing her 1964 version:

"Time is on My Side" was a terrific vehicle for Mick Jagger's vocals and the Stones dual guitars sound.  It became a staple in their repertoire. Numerous live versions of it exist, including this very well filmed one from Leeds England in 1982:

But while the guitar playing on the 1982 version is terrific, I prefer the 1964 Ed Sullivan vocal where Mick is channeling his inner Irma Thomas more than his later Mick Jagger superstar persona.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

REVIEW: September Girls - Cursing the Sea

Until now our impression of the music of Irish band September Girls was formed by their intriguing singles.  The default characterization that came to listeners' minds often involved references to other fuzz guitar bands with female vocals, such as Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls or even Veronica Falls.  But with the ability to assess them more completely upon the release of their debut LP, Cursing the Sea, I have had the opportunity to adjust my impressions of the band.  And with the benefit of several days with the album, it seems to me that while the original references are not totally wide of the mark, the dominant influences are broader and even more interesting.  Presented with plenty of reverb, fuzz, distortion, cavernous drums, layered female vocals, a noirish haze and a deliciously dominant bass, September Girls present themselves as a wonderful amalgamation of The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Raveonettes and the Cure, produced by Phil Spector.

It is likely that a good bit of the strength of this group is attributable to the fact that there are four songwriters, allowing for a fair amount of diversity and varied inspiration before the band transforms the ideas into a September Girls song.  But there also is no apparent disagreement about what makes a song theirs, and the albums coherence and consistency is impressive for a band that has been together for just a couple of years.  So while there are several tracks that stand out to me, such as "Green Eyed", "Heartbeats", "Daylight", and "Sister", the entire album should be regarded as an achievement for the band.  And for me, it is a great way to start out the year in music.

September Girls are Sarah (drums), Jessie (guitar, vocals), Caoimhe (guitar, vocals), Lauren (keys, vocals), and Paula (bass, vocals).  Cursing the Sea is out now via Fortuna POP!

Fortuna POP!

John's WYMA Favorites of 2013 - Spotify Playlist

John has published his Favorites of 2013.  The high  quality of 2013's music rendered  the ranking his favorites as a self-described "exercise in futility."   John's "exercise in futility" is a gift to the rest of us.  Enjoy the fruits ofhundreds of hours of curated listening.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WYMA Favorites of 2013 - John's List

As always, ranking these things is an exercise in futility - however, listening and relistening is always fun. I echo Scott and JD's sentiments that on another day, a completely different ranking might appear in my space. But in general, this is what I liked and how much I liked it. Another great year for music that unfortunately saw us lose some tremendous talents, real wellsprings of popular music. RIP Lou Reed, George Jones, Phil Everly, Phil Chevron, Richie Havens, Scott Miller...

1. Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple. Echoes of The Allman Brothers, with Heather McEntire’s lead vocals calling to mind the clarity and emotional weight of the vocals of Dolly Parton, made this my favorite album of 2013 from the moment I heard it. WYMA review here.

2. Perhapst – Revise Your Maps. John Moen, the drummer from The Decemberists, Boston Spaceships and co-conspirator with Elliott Smith and Stephen Malkmus, among others, has made an absolute masterpiece. Who knew he was such a good rock vocalist? WYMA review here. Listen or download "Willamette Valley Ballad" here.

3. Guided by Voices – English Little League. Robert Pollard gave the world six more stacks of tunes, and the best of the lot was this GbV release. It also featured a couple of great Tobin Sprout tunes, with some of his sweetest vocals ever. WYMA review here. Other Pollard entries: Circus Devils - When Machines Attack and My Mind Has Seen the White Trick; Teenage Guitar - Force Fields at Home; Robert Pollard - Blazing Gentlemen; and Robert Pollard - Honey Locust Honky Tonk.

4. Tommy Keene – Excitement at Your Feet. An album of covers, but what a collection of songs! Guided by Voices, The Who, Rolling Stones, Bee Gees… delightfully diverse set of original artists, all of whom share one characteristic with Keene – they could all write a hook. The best song on here is probably Roxy Music’s “Out of the Blue”. Of special note, Rob Brill is spectacular on the drums, which I’m told were recorded at Ardent Studios. All kinds of good omens – this was destined to be a great one from the outset. WYMA review here.

5. Richard Buckner – Surrounded. Buckner took a slightly different approach to this album, but with some of his best results ever. He's a literate guitar rocker with an understated, world-class sense of irony and humor and a voice that just seems to get better, stronger and more haunting with time. WYMA review here.

6. Duane Allman - Skydog. An expansive, comprehensive and entirely delightful retrospective of Duane Allman's work - early attempts to record with Gregg, work as a sideman to some of the best rock and soul musicians of the time, and of course the monumental country rock of the Allman Brothers - all done before the guy turned 27 years old. Gone too soon, but what a legacy he left. WYMA review here.

7. Will Courtney – A Century Behind. Courtney has made a great country record in the traditions of Texas troubadours like Nelson and Van Zandt, and California country rockers like Parsons and McGuinn. WYMA review here.

8. Wolf People – Fain. The juxtaposition of Jack Sharp's mellifluous vocals and the nearly savage guitar work throughout this record make this one of the most interesting rock records I've heard in some time. Wolf People claim inspiration from both British folk and metal traditions, and do both of them great honor. WYMA review here.

9. Future Primitives – Songs We Taught Ourselves. From South Africa by way of the world's garages comes the Future Primitives, playing all your favorite old garage rock anthems. As much history lesson as spectacularly simple rock album, Songs We Taught Ourselves celebrates everything that's good about guitar rock, with a simplicity and attention to detail that are impressive. Ramonesian! WYMA review here.

10. Bleached – Ride Your Heart. Every time I listened to this record, I liked it more. And that's still the case. The surf/punk backbeat, fast guitars and above all, the sisters' vocal harmonies are terrific. WYMA review here.

11. Beachwood Sparks – Desert Skies. Released late in the year (and recorded over 20 years ago), this previously unreleased debut album is the best thing we have ever heard from Beachwood Sparks. And that's saying something. Absolutely wonderful. WYMA post here.

12. Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott – Memories & Moments. One of the best country records of the last several years. O'Brien and Scott are multi-talented instrumentalists and singers who have provided hit songs to some of Nashville's best-known megastars. But I think they do their best work in settings like this - playing and singing their own music and reveling in the joy of helping one another make great music. WYMA review here.

13. Matthew J. Tow – The Way of Things. Former Brian Jonestown Massacre collaborator, Tow is an Australian psychedelic rocker who called to mind Davies, Lennon and Syd in places. WYMA review here. Here's the absolutely endearing, trippy "It's Gonna Be Alright":

14. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister. Quoting MacBeth in the album title, Joanna Gruesome is not avoiding unpopular topics, and seems to revel in an anti-establishment stance of sorts - titles like "Satan" and "Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers" might imply a desire to be left alone, right? Then again, they make irresistible music. Absolutely irresistible layered guitars and female vocals. WYMA review here.

15. Wilder Maker – Year of Endless Light. Gabriel Birnbaum's deep vocals sort of supply their own reverb and he takes the guitar on some wild flights... he's creative, literate and best of all, his music rocks as it rambles. WYMA review here.

16. Rodion G.A. – The Lost Tapes. An amazing kaleidoscope of sound, The Lost Tapes is a long-overdue release collecting the work of Romanian electronic rock pioneer Rodion Roșca. This is where I tell you how truly arbitrary my top 20 or so rankings are, because there are days on which this was my absolute favorite album that came out in 2013. WYMA review here. Rodion's story is inspirational - a case study in the dedication of those who make music for a living. But it's sad too - a creative career that was essentially destroyed by a totalitarian government.

17. Bob Dylan - Another Self Portrait. Even though it's technically not in the "Basement Tapes" series, this latest release of Dylan material from the vaults continues in that vein, letting us know that in any given year, something can probably be found in Dylan's suitcases that will surpass most of what's being released today. WYMA review here.

18. Boardwalk – Boardwalk. Slow, beautiful and striking, this debut from California duo Mike Edge and Amber Quintero is a keeper - best played nonstop on a sunny day. WYMA review here.

19. Diane Coffee – My Friend Fish. From the Foxygen collective comes drummer/vocalist Shaun Fleming, whose creative pastiche of fun rock, pop and soul influences made this one of the most enjoyable records of 2013. WYMA review here.

20. Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – Black Pudding. This is haunting. Sparse instrumentation and Garwood's slightly off-kilter acoustic guitar playing back Lanegan's completely arresting voice. As good as Lanegan is fronting a hard rock band, he may be even better in this format. WYMA review here.

21. William Tyler – Impossible Truth. Great acoustic guitar album in the tradition of John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Skip James... WYMA review here.

22. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. Expanding on the Jagger meets Burdon meets Brian Jonestown Massacre, they worked with the great producer Richard Swift to make an album that reveals a little more with each listen. WYMA review here.

23. The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law. Ritzy Bryan is a big-time rock vocalist, and has a rock band with a sound big enough to fill arenas. Not surprising to me that they were tapped to open for the Foo Fighters... they may be headlining their own arena tours if they keep making albums as good as this one. WYMA review here.

24. Boys Age – Fake Gold. There's nothing else quite like this... Mumbled Japanese vocals (at least I think they're Japanese), muddled rhythms, with the occasional guitar line rising above the jumble - in spite of these (or maybe because of them), this record was the biggest, most charming surprise of the year for me. Thanks to Gnar Tapes and Burger Records for giving Boys Age an outlet in America. WYMA review here.

25. Alberto Montero – Puerto Principe. Spanish singer/songwriter Montero has a great voice - not sure if he's double tracking the vocals on some of these, or found someone to sing with him but either way, the vocals are wonderful and a real highlight. On the title track, there are moments that remind me of The Beach Boys, and there are some more ethereal moments with acoustic and vocal that expose his songwriting ability. WYMA review here.

26. ASG – Blood Drive. Out of North Carolina, ASG's album Blood Drive features a vocal tour de force by Jason Shi and so much heavy guitar you could drown in it. Every time I listened, I liked this more. Shi's voice is a bit reminiscent of Layne Staley, which reminds of the true wisdom inherent in Butt-head's statement "all bands should be Alice In Chains". Hyperbole, sure, but like most wisdom it contains a grain of truth. B&B would love ASG. WYMA review here.

27. Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me Soundtrack. Like Dylan's Another Self Portrait, this album revealed that some of the best music released in any year might well be music that was not released when it was recorded, for whatever reason. These are alternate takes of Big Star songs that, in some cases, exceed the originals. At any rate, they give a fuller picture of Big Star's talent and the overall high quality of their music... and continue to fuel the question: why weren't these guys as big on the charts as they are in music geeks' hearts? WYMA review here.

28. Cuello – Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre. Another entry from Spain's BCore Disc - further evidence of the health and depth of Spain's music scene. Cuello is playing in the style of great indie rock like GbV. WYMA review here.

29. Don Cavalli – Temperamental. There's something special about this French rockabilly/soul artist and the joy with which he delivers his music - and the dizzying array of influences - that made this an album I kept coming back to. WYMA review here.

30. True Widow – Circumambulation. Almost impossibly heavy, this music might be expected to come from the bogs of the old world or the depths of the ocean, but no, it's from Dallas, Texas. Produced by Centro-matic drummer Matt Pence, who helped them get the massive sound they were looking for. WYMA review here.

31. Dub Club – Signs and Wonders in Dub, Bubble Dub and Foundation Come Again. Had you told me that at the end of 2013, I would be finding space in my top records list for not one, but three new reggae/dub platters, I'd have thought you were crazy. But here we are. Tom Chasteen and Tippa Lee, operating both a Los Angeles night club and a recording company, gathered an all star cast of Jamaica's greatest players, singers and DJ's for this massive project that was released in three parts by Stones Throw Records. Spectacular in every way. WYMA review here.

32. Andy Fitts – Smoky Wilds. Fitts' solo debut reflected the influences of musical companion David Bazan, and like Bazan, he writes and sings in a confessional and emotionally arresting style. WYMA review here.

33. Jack Cheshire – Long Mind Hotel. Jazz chops, a British folk sensibility and wonderful guitar work backed Cheshire's world-weary vocals, pulling together influences as disparate as Fairport Convention, Augustus Pablo and Echo and the Bunnymen. WYMA review here. Here is a newly-released video for "Into the Void", a terrific example of Jack's style:

34. James Younger – Feelin’ American. Absolutely irresistible guitar pop in the vein of The Strokes, Tom Petty or George Harrison. WYMA review here.

35. John Paul Keith – Memphis Circa 3AM. Keith, a former member of The V-Roys, has made his way across the state of Tennessee, having arrived at Memphis in the mood to make music that's almost British Invasion-catchy but with plenty of country and soul touches. WYMA post here.

36. Mirror Travel – Mexico. Austin guitar rock trio features a heavy shoegaze approach and wonderful drumming from Tiffanie Lanmon. WYMA review here.

37. Muuy Bien - This Is What Your Mind Imagines. Athens band makes their punk fast, loud and unapologetic. WYMA review here. The album cover shows a dude getting his face punched. Of course it does.

38. Yuck - Glow and Behold. Even though their band almost broke up and their previous lead vocalist left, Yuck managed to make a very listenable follow-up to their wonderful debut. Not so much a sophomore slump as a complete rebuild, yet their obvious talent shines through. WYMA post here. Highlight, to me, was the song "Middle Sea":

39. WL – Hold. Shoegaze, dreampop - from a power trio, featuring the ethereal vocals of Misty Mary. WYMA review here.

40. Lonnie Holley - Keeping a Record Of It. Featuring an outsider artist on lead vocals and members of Black Lips and Deerhunter creating music, this record is far from "easy" but very, very engaging. Holley's vocals are stark and arresting and his story even more so. WYMA review here.

41. The Blank Tapes - Vacation. The guitar chops and pop sense of The Blank Tapes' Matt Adams are impressive. On this album he's channeling Davies, but with generous doses of California sunshine and a bit of Brazilian influence, he's definitely following the sun. WYMA review here.

42. Love Language – Ruby Red. Stuart McLamb took his time with this one, and the attention to craft is apparent in pop/rock masterpieces like "Calm Down". Definitely catchy, but also definitely a grower. That isn't easy to do, and it's worth your time to check out how McLamb does it. WYMA review here.

43. Destroy This Place - Destroy This Place. A hard-rocking Detroit band that calls to mind some of your hardest-rocking SST albums (tapes, whatever you bought back then). WYMA review here.

44. Luxury Mane - Natural Beauty. The Semis' Billy Summer returns with a new identity but the same great guitar pop sense. WYMA review here.

45. Telekinesis – Dormarion. Michael Lerner's voice is perfect for power pop, and with the help of superstar producer Jim Eno, he's put together a terrific album that really highlights it. WYMA review here.

46. Sky Larkin - Motto. Great guitar rock with the strong vocals of Katie Harkin, I'd recommend this to anyone who likes The Breeders or maybe The Joy Formidable. WYMA review here.

47. Tropical Popsicle - Dawn of Delight. California psych from San Diego - strains of Syd, strains of Jesus & Mary Chain. Absolutely delightful. WYMA review here.

48. Belle Adair - The Brave and the Blue. Some very engaging folk rock in the vein of R.E.M., Big Star and early Wilco - this is one of several acts from Alabama that made it onto our radar this year. WYMA review here.

49. Pond - Hobo Rocket. Aussie stoner rock with heavy, yet simultaneously glammy and psychedelic guitars throughout. WYMA review here.

50. The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles, 1967-76. This two-disc set gathered all the great soul music released on Florida's Minaret imprint. Proof, if such were needed, that great soul music was made south of Motown, and even south of Muscle Shoals... WYMA review here.

Honorable Mentions (I liked all of these but either heard them too late to really consider them, or just didn't have room!):

TRAAMS - Grin.
Bombino - Nomad.
The Heliocentrics - Thirteen Degrees of Reality.
Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt.
Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse.

Left Lane Cruiser - Rock Them Back to Hell.
Pony Time - Go Find Your Own.
The Big Sweet - Bicycle Nights
Sebadoh - Defend Yourself.

"Black Tambourine" from Withered Hand, new album coming

A new song from Withered Hand -- Edinburgh's Dan Willson -- invariably is a happy event.  But "Black Tambourine" is extra special as it is the first release from his upcoming album New Gods.  The tune is poppy, jangly and upbeat, and suggests good things for the album.

Dan has earned devoted fans in the UK, where the new album will be released by Fortuna POP!  New Gods will be released in the US and Canada by Slumberland Records, and we hope that will bring his music to many more fans.  The new album was produced by noted Scottish producer Tony Doogan, and features contributions from Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Pam Berry (Black Tambourine) and members of Belle & Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit.  It will be released in late February or March.

Teaser for New Gods -

Slumberland Records
Fortuna POP!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rocksteady's Best of 2013 - Spotify Playlist

Rocksteady/Scott did a yeoman's job of culling throught this year's releases.  His Best of 2013 is magnificent in its breadth.  Follow this list and it will yours for as long as Spotify exits.  Lend me your lobes and put it on shuffle.

JD's 2013 Favorites - Spotify Playlist

JD's Best of 2013 begs for a companion.  Here is the Spotify playlist of JD's favorites for the past year.  Put it on shuffle. Enjoy  a day's worth of  of music by clicking on a link once

WYMA Top Albums of 2013 (Scott's List)

More music is released than any group of writers can assess, and much quality music falls in genres that we tend not to cover.  So this list reflects the best of what I heard, which to a great degree reflects what I was looking for.  For my tastes, 2013 was a good music year, which presented some clear challenges in compiling my list of favorite albums.  And if choosing albums is tough, it is child's play when compared to ranking.  On any given day, many of these albums could have a different ranking.  But bloggers tend to rank, so here it is, a "baker's half hundred".

1.  Dick Diver - Calendar Days - The brilliance of this album includes its balance between the profound and the distillation of the ordinary, its musical accessibility and its refusal to water-down its Australian essence.  Dick Diver is emerging as a worthy successor to The Go-Betweens and Paul Kelly.  Our review here.

2.  The Prophet Hens - Popular People Do Popular People - Carrying the spirit of Dunedin's dark guitar pop forward, this band displays abundant performing and songwriting talent, catching lightning in the bottle on their debut.  Our review here.

3.  Bubblegum Lemonade - Some Like It Pop - Laz McCluskey is a master of jangling guitar pop.  He has the sounds, the hooks and the overall songwriting ability.  Over the years his work has been more cohesive but remarkably varied.  And this album is his most accomplished work yet.  Our review here.

4.  Adam Stafford - Imaginary Walls Collapse - Scottish filmmaker and musician Stafford made one of the most distinctive albums of the year, combining guitars, electronics, drum machines, soul vocals and beatboxing.  Released in the UK by Song by Toad, and in the US by Kingfisher Bluez.  Our review here.

5. Dorado - Anger, Hunger, Love and the Fear of Death - This was one of my early favorites this year (link), and time has done nothing to dull its charm.  Subversive southern rock with a sheen of adventuresome pop so bright it strikes me as the southern Pet Sounds.  Dorado is Jody Nelson and friends, and the album is released via This Is American Music.  Our review here.

6.  Veronica Falls - Waiting for Something to Happen - The sophomore LP from this London band should cement their place as one of the preeminent guitar pop bands on the scene.  Their performances are tight; their songwriting continues to impress.  But most importantly, there is a palpable conviction in their recordings.  Our review here.

7.  Ooga Boogas - Ooga Boogas - The lack of worldwide praise for this record surprises me.  Leon Stackpole is a madman lyricist/frontman in the best sense, and the band lays down varied and wonderful grooves on every track.  Our review here.

8.  Sonny and the Sunsets - Antenna to the Afterworld - I think this is Sonny Smith's best album, and I keep coming back to it.  Heavy themes, delightful guitar tones.  One of San Franciso's best.  Our review here.

9.  Courtney Barnett - The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas - A storyteller armed with a guitar, insight and wit.  She has us at her mercy, and it is a wonderful feeling.  Our review here.

10.  La Luz - Its Alive - Reflect for a moment on the components: All female vocals, compelling stories, authoritative rhythm section,, soaring keys, and a surf guitar that will remind you of Dick Dale in every way that is good.  This group has been on a steady rise for 18 months, and this album demonstrates that they deserve every bit of the attention.  Our review here.

La Luz - Call Me in the Day from Bobby McHugh on Vimeo.

11.  Scott & Charlene's Wedding - Any Port In A Storm - This noisy, rocking ode to NYC from an Aussie expat has taken up permanent residence on my disc player.  It has scruffy charm, blood pumping anthems and "Spring St.", which is one of my favorite songs of the year.

12.  The Mantles - Long Enough to Leave - Just the right mix of jangle, psychedelic and garage rock that quickly established itself as a soundtrack for my life.

13.  Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse - The ability to grow and sound fresh without abandoning the essence that attracted your original fan base is a quality to be celebrated.  Scott writes great songs and the band continues to get tighter and more cohesive in sound.  Normally "big label" releases don't get reviewed here, but I've been following this band for years and they continue to earn the support.  Our review here.

14.  Girls Names - The New Life - This dark swirl of melodies and noise probably was my most-played album in the first five months of the year.  The jangle orientation of their prior album gives way to the post-punk sounds of Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order and the Cure.  Our review here.

15.  The New Tigers - Badger - This is the second year in a row for this Finnish band to finish in my top group of albums.  Perhaps I should consider retiring the trophy -- for me no one does guitar fuzz/shoegaze pop like The New Tigers. Our review here.

16.  The Stevens - A History of Hygiene - Summa Cum Laude graduates of the Guided By Voices school of DIY indie rock, this debut LP is packed over the brim with semi-polished melodic gems that often disintegrate delightfully just as they begin to dazzle.  Our review here.

17.  Mark Mulcahy - Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You - A street poet with a rock and roll venue, one of rock's best songwriters unleashed a stellar album.  Our review here.

18.  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Fill Your Lungs - Psychedelia is coming back, and a number of bands are doing it well.  For my money, no one is doing heavy, psychedelic garage rock as well as this Australian band.  Our review here.

19.  Cool Ghouls - Cool Ghouls - Sir Douglas Quintet plays in a San Francisco garage, learns some surf pop touches, and renames themselves Cool Ghouls.  Absolute, stone truth.  You can believe me, I'm a lawyer.  One of the most thoroughly enjoyable releases of the year.  Our review here.

20.  Astro Children - Proteus - Audacious and unconventional without being too precious, this talented New Zealand duo was willing to push the envelope in a very entertaining manner.  And Millie Lovelock is a force.  Our review here.

21.  A History of Apple Pie - Out of View - I reviewed this collection of candy-coated, shoegazy noise pop early in the year, and had forgotten just how good it was.  Our review here.

22.  Fear of Men - Early Fragments -  This intriguing and talented fourpiece has repeatedly impressed me with their sound.  The expected album of new material did not, well, materialize.  But that makes the release of this collection of songs from their singles and EPs a brilliant decision.  Our review here.

fear of men - green sea from Friday on Vimeo.

23.  Lower Plenty - Hard Rubbish - Sparsely adorned but musically interesting tales of young suburban lives.   Haunting, dark and beautiful -- a top Australian album in 2012 got its deserved world release in Spring 2013.  Our review here.

24.  The Mallard - Finding Meaning in Deference - This one makes me sad, because the throbbing garage rock debut of 2012 was followed in 2013 by this searing post punk treasure, and then the band broke up.  But the music remains, and it is very good.  Our review here.

25.  Ski Lodge - Big Heart - Reminiscent of the Smiths and Orange Juice, but more polished than the latter and poppier than the former.  Andrew Marr is a pop songsmith of great skill, and this album is full of excellent and well-executed tunes.  Our review here.

26.  The Procters - Everlasting Light - Great melodies, jangling guitars and soft boy/girl vocals.  This is the way it is done by the masters, folks.  Our review here.

27.  Saint Max and the Fanatics - Saint Max Is Missing and the Fanatics Are Dead - A noisy declaration of indie rock talent featuring swooping vocals and punctuated by horns.  Young troubadour Saint Max of Galloway has grown into Saint Max and the Fanatics.  I loved this edition and I'm looking forward to more. Our review here.

28.  Dot Dash - Half-Remembered Dream - These guys all are veterans of other much loved bands, but their playing and singing has improved in each of the three albums released in the couple years they have been together as Dot Dash.  Assured power pop with a punk edge; it is as good as it is timeless.  You should own all of their albums, but if you own none, give yourself a present and get this one.  Our review here.

29.  Doc Feldman and the LD50 - Sundowning at the Station -  An Americana/alt country record that should be in everyone's collection for late night whisky-sipping and reflection.  When you need this album, you will want this album and nothing else will do as well.  Our review here.

30.  Math and Physics Club - Our Hearts Beat Out Loud -  This Seattle band's brand of indie pop often has been described as twee, but it always has had musical and thematic depth, and top notch songwriting.  And on this outing, there are flashes of muscle and resolve.  Simply their best work.  Our review here.

31.  Males - Run Run Run/MalesMalesMales -  An adrenaline pop experience by a talented duo from Dunedin, New Zealand.  Hyper melodic with big hooks and big choruses.  Another bit of astute talent scouting by our friends at Fishrider Records.  Our review here.

32.  Bitch Prefect - Bird Nerds -  A matter of fact discussion of the many ways life can kick you where it hurts, told with a good turn of phrase, solid musicianship and all the stronger for the lack of excess drama or complaint.  It includes several of my top songs of the year, including "Adelaide".  Our review here.

33.  Mikal Cronin - MCII  - His collaborations with Ty Segall proved his prowess as a musician, but MCII reveals Cronin to be a first class pop songwriter and performer.  Our review here.

34.  Kid Canaveral - Now that You Are A Dancer - Masterful guitar pop from a Scottish band from which we'd like to hear much more music.  Our review here.

35.  Paperfangs - Past Perfect - Charm is an underrated quality in a pop album, and this Finnish electro-pop gem may be the most charming record of the year.  Our review here.

36.  The Pastels - Slow Summits - Much loved Godparents to the DIY indie pop scene show that they still have their fingers on the pulse of what makes a good pop song, as well as remaining relevant to their fans as the years pass.  By the way, the real name of the song below is "Check My Heart".  Our review here.

37.  Kevin Harper - Kingdom of Wires - Scottish DIY maestro Harper provides a engaging set of indie guitar pop songs influenced of American '90s rock.  And it absolutely works.  Our review here.

38.  The Wharves/The Rosy Crucifixion - Split Vinyl 12" -  Essentially two EPs, one from an all-female English band that plays haunting guitar pop, the other from a Scottish band that plays raucous roots/garage.  You could buy the EPs separately, but the combination is magic.  Our review here.

39.  The Spook School - Dress Up - In the past the talent of this group may have been overshadowed at times by the "cute" and "off-beat" attributes.  But Dress Up should make music fans pay attention for all of the right reasons.  It is noisy, enthusiastic and fun.  It is garage punk with plenty of melody and some thoughtful lyrics.  Our review here.

40.  Star Anna - Go to Hell - Some albums lose their luster when played months after their review.  Some, like Star Anna's American gem shine even brighter.  Plenty of barbed wire, blood, tears and whisky.  And a voice that you have to love when you hurt.  Our review here.

41.  The Band in Heaven - Caught in a Summer Swell - Excellent jangling dream pop on the band's sophomore release.  I liked their debut EP, but I was blown away by this follow-up.  Our review here.

42.  Salad Boys - Salad Boys - This Christchurch, New Zealand trio released an eight track album of fuzzy guitar pop in February via the Melted Ice Cream collective.  There are a few of the limited run cassettes left, and the digital download is available at the generous "name your price".  And despite that modest beginning, it is in my top 50.  No big label, no PR firm.  Just the Salad Boys; it is enough.  Our post here.

43.  Peak Twins - Peak Twins -  Blurring genre lines, this Australian project functions as a showcase for the vocal and guitar prowess of its main members, Joel Carey and Liam Kenny, respectively.  But in doing so, the listeners are favored with a great collection of songs.  Some have swagger, some have regret, and some have tears.  But they all are entertaining.  Our review here.

Peak Twins - Steppin' Off from BSR on Vimeo.

44.  Golden Grrrls - Golden Grrrls - Glasgow/London project that borrows from New Zealand and Australian guitar pop, as well as Glasgow's rich tradition.  A glorious rush of sounds.  Our review here.

45.  Surf Friends - Endorphins -  Surfy and fuzzy, with lots of harmony and party-ready grooves.  Endorphins is an appealing mix of New Zealand guitar pop and California surf party.  Our review here.

46.  Shannon & the Clams - Dreams of the Rat House - As I wrote in my review, this album takes doo wop and late '50s and early '60s rock and roll and runs it through a garage/surf/punk/filter.  The result is a party soundtrack.  Our review here.

47.  Ginnels - Plumes - Collection of material from Dubliner Mark Chester (also of No Monster Club and Grand Pocket Orchestra).  This album collects songs from three prior releases and some material that had been available only online.  Released by the small but tasteful Madrid label Tenorio Cotobade, I can't give you a direct clip because the blogger platform has stopped talking to Bandcamp.  You can sample some tracks at our review: here.  Or you can go directly to the label's Bandcamp page for the album: link.

48.  Young Fathers - Tape One & Tape Two - This is cheating, because Tape One and Tape Two are distinct releases, but I'm going to aggregate them for the purposes of this year end list.  An audacious blend of hip hop, soul and electronica.  Our reviews here (Tape One) and here (Tape Two).

Young Fathers - "Romance" from anticon. on Vimeo.

49.  Bushwalking - No Enter - A dynamic, surprising, absorbing, and throbbing mixture of post punk and drone rock. Our review here.

50.  Josephine Foster - I Am A Dreamer - "An aptly named Americana tapestry" from a distinctive talent.  Our review here.

51.  GRMLN - Empire - Pop songs wrapped in a rock and punk envelope.  This album has a big heart and doesn't mind showing off a bit.  Our review here.

52.  Free Time - Free Time - Aussie expat Dion Nania displays an adept touch with both melancholy and happy songs -- breezy, jangling and efficient.  Our review here.

Free Time - I Lost Again from Charles Poekel on Vimeo.