Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Haters" by Law Holt

Based on the admittedly scant evidence to date, Edinburgh's Law Holt is a talent to watch.  Her latest release is "Haters" -- which is one of the tracks on her Haters and Gangsters EP which will be released on February 3.  The quality of her music that, for me, is most striking is that it is utterly captivating.  When I play a Law Holt track, my attention is totally focused on the music; it never becomes background.  I can't say that about a lot of other music, even music that I like very much.

For those that missed our earlier post about this artist, here is her video of "Hustle".


Update: Joe Henry

We here at WYMA greatly admire American singer-songwriter-producer Joe Henry. Two of his projects made my Best of 2013 list - Billy Bragg's Tooth and Nail and Over the Rhine's Meet Me at the Edge of the World. 

But what we really love are Henry's own records. His most recent record was in 2011 (Reverie) but we don't have too much longer to wait as Invisible Hour is due out in early 2014.

We haven't heard Invisible Hour yet but a solo performance of one song surfaced this week - "Swayed". It reflects the careful craft, nuanced vocals and excellent writing we've come to expect from Mr. Henry. His music has always carried a power of seduction, so it is fitting that his new song touches on the topic of seduction.

"Swayed" live at KEXP

Joe Henry official web page

Friday, January 24, 2014

Primitive Motion - Worlds Floating By

After several smaller releases on cassettes and CDs, Brisbane's Primitive Motion has released their first album, Worlds Floating By.  And suffice it to say that Leighton Craig and Sandra Selig haven't compromised their vision to try and please a hypothetical mass audience.  What we get is the duo's version of electronically oriented dream pop, with synths, machine drums, a seasoning of brass and wind instruments, and echo chamber vocals.  The repetition in the rhythms will invoke a Krautrock reference or two, and not unfairly.  They don't hurry their songs, as the running times tend towards the six minutes plus range, but I'd be very surprised if anyone minded in the least.  The overall effect is psychedelic and otherworldly.

The album begins with the airy dream pop of "Terminal Language", which unspools for nearly seven minutes and vocals aren't introduced until the song is more than half over.  The next track is the surging "Skyline", in which Sandra's voice soars over pulsing rhythms.

"The Hill" begins with stately keys over brittle machine-generated snare snaps.  Then Sandra's wistful vocals twist the atmosphere back into a dreamy soundscape.  Undemanding and appealing, t may be the loveliest song on an album of lovely songs.

Primitive Motion returns to its idiosyncratic melding of noirish Krautrock and atmospheric soundscapes on "Home of the Lone Coast" - six minutes of head music

"Silver Frosted Light Force" and the closer, "Mortal Souls, take the head music a step deeper into the atmosphere, replacing the emphasis on rhythms with swirling electronics and wistful soundscapes.  The penultimate track, "Colours", is a cinematic balance between rhythms and soaring, echoed vocals.

Primitive Motion - Colours from BSR on Vimeo.

Worlds Floating By is blissful, playful and inventive, and I recommend it.  It is out now via Bedroom Suck Records.

Bedroomsuck Records


Rolling Stones Friday: Paint it Black

"Paint It Black" is one of those great singles that hooks you in the first 10 seconds. Brian Jones's opening sitar lines are so distinctive, then the pounding Charlie Watts drum lines come in with Keith Richards' acoustic guitar strum, and then you get the provocative first line from Mick Jagger "I see a red door and it want it painted black." Boom that's a great rock song, both in 1966 and today. 

Reportedly Richards wrote the music and Jagger the lyrics, which were about a girl's funeral.    

The song went to number 1 on the charts and has stood the test of time well in my opinion.

I found a well recorded live version from 1990. Richards does a good job recreating the drama of the opening without the sitar, but overall this version sounds less sinister to me, which I always found a major part of the song's appeal. Still, a good version:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

REVIEW: I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro

Swedish duo Maria Linden and Fredrik Balck impressed many with their 2011 debut Hearts.  Featuring Linden's appealing vocals and a skillful balance of warm textures and super-chilled electronics, it left I Break Horses with a rather high bar to clear with their sophomore release.  And with Chiaroscuro now released, it seems to me that they got it just right.  What they did well on the first album still provides the sturdy platform for their work, but they have become more adventuresome in the use of electronics and the structure of the songs, and at least not singularly focused on dark themes.  Some of the sonic haze has been sharpened, making the melodies and beats more compelling.  And there is confidence on display in how they let the tracks unwind in a more leisurely fashion.

The tracks below, "Faith", "Denial", and "You Burn" probably are the standout songs.  And they leave no doubt that the band can deliver danceable music with a level of depth and texture not often encountered in a club.  However, it is worth noting that the other tracks yield little to these three in quality.  And while the beats are infectious, my preferred use for this album is late at night with the lights low and the sound turned up.  Chiaroscuro ably proves that I Break Horses is a premier electro-pop band.  But unlike the other worthy bands on the top shelf of the genre, I Break Horses has a vocalist capable of adding the correct degree of warmth, and the appropriate level of emotion, needed to give a song the additional dimension required to leave a long-lasting impression.

Chiaroscuro is out now via Bella Union.

I Break Horses will be touring in the US this spring.

Bella Union

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Sålka" from Yumi Zouma

For the second time in a week New Zealand expats Yumi Zouma have caught our attention.  This time it is for "Sålka", another wonderful electro-pop tune that we will expect to find on their forthcoming release on Cascine.


New Jazz Discovery: Jim Clayton - Songs My Daughter Knows

When it comes to jazz, I'm certainly no expert but I know what I like. And it's usually sax (Coltrane, Rollins) and piano (Tyner, Evans, Monk)... so when a new piano jazz record arrives in my inbox, I'm bound to give a listen. When a piano jazz record with a concept as charming as Songs My Daughter Knows, by Canadian pianist Jim Clayton, arrives, it'll get more than a cursory listen. And in this case, that's a good thing. This record is absolutely delightful. Clayton plays with great swing and joy - almost certainly the joy is due to the fun he must have had picking out the songs with his wife and input from their daughter, nascent tastemaker Eileen Agnes (Lenny) Clayton.

And the swing, whether wide like on "Grouch Anthem" and "Tea for Two",

or lighter as on "Rainbow Connection",

is excellent.

Clayton traveled to New Orleans to record the album and assembled a combo featuring drummer Jason Marsalis, percussionist Bill Summers, trumpeter Marlon Jordan and bassist Peter Harris. The rhythm section is uniformly excellent - the drums and piano work especially well together.

Clayton, in the information accompanying the record, describes the significance of several of these songs to him, his wife and 3-year old daughter: "Count Basie’s vibrant “'Flight of the Foo Birds'” (from 1958’s The Atomic Mr. Basie) served as the soundtrack for a montage of home movie footage ... of his daughter in various modes of play. “'Tea for Two'” served as a lullaby for his baby daughter while the jazz standard “'Autumn Leaves”' was a tune played in the recovery room after Lenny'’s birth. The opening drum cadence from the main theme to Aaron Sorkin’'s acclaimed TV series The West Wing was another musical tidbit that caught Lenny'’s ear, as was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band'’s rendition of the Cannonball Adderley tune '“Inside Straight'."

The kid has great taste in music, and her dad sure can play. If you like piano jazz, give this a listen.

Facebook page

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"All the Stars" from The Shifting Sands

Last January I reviewed Feel, the debut album from Dunedin, New Zealand's The Shifting Sands (link).  At the time I wrote that Feel would have been on my list of top albums of 2012 had I heard it during that year.  The trio of Michael McLeod (vocals/guitars/synths), Thomas Bell (bass/synths), and Jake Langley (drums) have been crafting their follow up record, which is scheduled for release in early April via Fishrider Records and we are staying on top of it this time.  We are happy to tell you that track "All the Stars" has been released on Bandcamp and is available as a "name your price" download at this link.  The tune ably showcases the band's melodic brand of psychedelic pop.

Fishrider Records

Monday, January 20, 2014

REVIEW: Painted Palms - Forever

There was a time when Painted Palms members Reese Donahue and Chris Prodhomme were forced to exchange ideas and production online because one of them lived in New Orleans and the other in San Francisco.  However, now that the cousins both live in San Francisco, their work pattern remains the same.  Of course, that is merely background for listeners discovering them via their debut LP, Forever.  And as strange as the approach may appear, it really works for this duo.  The album if full of summery electro-pop tunes, with danceable rhythms and melodies that stick in your head like the best of old AM radio pop.  The mood varies between warmth and a certain icy quality prompted, at least in part, by the precise production.  And tracks such as "Soft Hammer" balance both qualities to good effect.

For me, the reason this album works is that Donahue and Prodhomme are able to meld together Beach Boys style vocals with some psychedelic haziness and bring it forward into a EDM world.  If you find your winter a bit dreary, this album should help focus your dreams of summer.

Forever is out now via Polyvinyl Records.

Polyvinyl Records page for Painted Palms

REVIEW: Mogwai - Rave Tapes

Mogwai's not wandering far from their established style on their latest studio album Rave Tapes - they offered an advance track, "Remurdered", that did change things up a bit... but the majority of this album features their slow building, eventually ferocious guitar work - the overwhelming beauty of a style of guitar rock that they do better than anyone else. There is majestic piano work, an evocative vocal chorus here and there, and a few of their usual tricks, but it's a Mogwai album, and to me, it's to be celebrated as such. Perhaps they will be criticized for not stretching or pushing the limits, but not here. To have 10 new songs of this high quality from them is an occasion to be celebrated.

Last year's soundtrack showed how well Mogwai's atmospheric approach accompanies striking visuals - of course, their videos have always shown that. Previously we shared their video for album track "The Lord is Out of Control":

That's an excellent example of the sounds here, but my favorite track is "Hexon Bogon", mainly because the guitars are strong and the pace upbeat from the beginning of the track. There's a spoken word track that juxtaposes what sounds like a radio preacher's explication of Led Zeppelin's subliminal satanic messages with a particularly beautiful instrumental - reminiscent of Come On Die Young's "Punk Rock", except that the spoken word continues throughout the track.

But it's moments like the dizzying heights reached by the guitars on tracks like "Hexon Bogon" and "Mastercard," and the majestic swell of keyboards, drums and vocal chorus on the consecutive tracks "Deesh" and "Blues Hour" that keep me coming back to Mogwai records. In that respect, this album is a success -- the latest in a long line of successful releases from them.

Fortunately, you don't need to read much from me - you can stream the album at the Guardian website now. It's out tomorrow on Sub Pop in the US, and today on the band's label Rock Action elsewhere.

Mogwai website
Mogwai on Sub Pop