Friday, April 4, 2014

REVIEW: GUMS! - Something Rotten EP

GUMS! proclaim themselves a "fake" band, apparently because all of it members also are in other bands, and GUMS! thus far is mostly a studio-only project.  Some music writers might be loathe to spend time writing about a fake band.  But I figure that this is perfect for me, because I'm sort of a fake music journalist.  After all, I don't get paid for doing this, and I only do it sitting in a room at a computer.  I don't go to the Grammys or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions and interview musicians, and none of the networks or NPR call me to ask my opinion (NPR did call once, but it was a pledge drive.  I offered them some demo CDs, stickers and a poster).

This Glasgow band consists of Martin Smith (vocals), Jack Taylor (guitar, vocals), Nora Moomin (vocals, keys), and Joe Greatorex (bass).  Their music seems to have elements of Britpop, punk, garage,  and some Waits/MacColl musical storytelling, and overall it has an appealingly ramshackle DIY indie vibe.  I sense a lot of energy and fun in the music, and I like them -- that is, I'd like them if they were a real band.  In April 2013 GUMS! released the Antipathy EP, which is a free download (see link at the bottom of the post).   Their latest project is the Something Rotten EP, which will be released on April 7.  For this record, the band is joined by social commentator Callum Baird (who wrote three of the songs), and the stated intent is to chronicle everyday life and love in Glasgow.  Take a taste of the EP via the Baird-penned title track --



And here is Martin Smith's fine "Grangemouth at the Dawn" --


The Something Rotten EP was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Tommy Duffin.  You can stream/buy the entire record at the Bandcamp link below.

Here is a track from the Antipathy EP --


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Rolling Stones Friday - Can't You Hear Me Knocking


"Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is a creative triumph for Stones, one of their most bold and original compositions. It has two distinct parts - the harding rocking soul "song" built around a seriously nasty Keith Richards guitar riff, with standard verses and chorus, and then a 4 and a half minute instrumental jam at the end, which seems to drop in from out of nowhere. The musical extension is made so memorable by Bobby Keys' wailing sax, Rocky Dijon on congas, and most of all, Mick Taylor's blistering over-the-top guitar solo.

It was recorded in London in 1970 and released on Sticky Fingers in 1971.  Keith bristles when people suggest the jam was influenced by Santana who Richards says they most certainly paid no attention to at that time. And it was recorded a year before the Stones would have heard Traffic's "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys".  Nope, this one was all Stones, every one of those great musicians trying to keep up with Mick Taylor who was on an unbelievable roll.

Amazingly, the jam session was impromptu. Taylor continued to play as they finished recording the song, while the others then quickly picked up their instruments and joined in, not realizing that producer Jimmy Miller had kept the tape rolling. The Stones swear the final recording is unedited, intact exactly as it was played.





Here's the best live version I could find, from Japan, year not identified though 1990's would be my guess, with Ron Wood playing his ass off on the Mick Taylor part. 



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mallee Songs - Gum Creek and Other Songs

Last September I covered a bedroom release created by Australian Mike Skinner, who records and performs under the name Mallee Songs (here).  Mike's art reveals a keen sense of atmosphere and space, and is presented with simple but affecting melodies and a relaxed tempo.  This year Mallee Songs quietly released a 13-track LP titled Gum Creek and Other Songs.  There is plenty of variety in the songs, but the general template is lo-fi and hazy.  A number of the tracks are diffused takes on a melody with few or no lyrics, unspooling like a short wave transmission from a far away land.  Others are adorable little pop gems.  There is a lot to like, and a digital download of the entire set of songs is only five Australian dollars.  A few tracks can be streamed below, and you can listen to the entire album at the Bandcamp and Soundcloud links (if you want to buy, use the Bandcamp link).

One of my favorites, "Point Impossible" --


The achingly beautiful "Egyptian King" is the opening track --


The album's closing song --

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REVIEW: Little Racer - Modern Accent EP

"Oh", you say, "a Brooklyn band".  And then you frame what you expect to read through some predetermined lens.  The expectation may be precious weirdness or overwrought hipsterism.  And I may have been tempted to do the same had I not had the pleasure of possessing the single Little Racer released on London's Young and Lost Club last year.  So I knew what to expect when the Modern Accent EP arrived, but even that advance knowledge didn't prepare me for how good, and how satisfying, this record is.  Consisting of six well-crafted indie pop tracks, the layered guitars shimmer and jangle, and the rhythm section drives and throbs.  The vocals have a touch of soul, buoyed by sunny choruses.  There is almost a beach/tropical vibe to this set, without overtly qualifying as surf pop.  In my opinion, these songs are polished perfection, and with the aid of the repeat button you have a full LP of delightful music.

I've provided half the tracks below for your evaluation, and I expect you will like all of them.  "Fire Island" may be my favorite, but I don't have a stream for that one.  Don't complain -- buy the EP.

Little Racer was formed in 2010.  The current line up is Elliot Michaud (vocals, guitar), Ish Nazmi (bass), Wade Michael (guitar) and Dave Tedeschi (drums).  The Modern Accent EP will be released on April 8 via Papercup Music in North America and Young and Lost Club in the UK.







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Introducing: Bebe Black

Bebe Black is a British pop artist and songwriter who proves that big things come in small packages.  Her latest release is "Promises", which will appear on her 2014 album  I'll Wait.  Give her music a chance.  My guess is that you'll agree that she is a pop artist to keep your eye on.



And her is the not-quite-safe-for-work video of the title song of the album.



"Deathwish" is a track Bebe released last year.



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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"All That Gold" by Waterford

Ignorance of great music just because it originates in another country simply isn't excusable or acceptable in the age of instant international electronic connection.   Today, we here at WYMA are doing our part for globalization by promoting Australia's Waterford to our massive world-wide readership.  The Canberra four-piece are purveyors of fine indie guitar pop, and their latest offering is "All That Gold".  For power pop fans in the States and elsewhere, you may detect the same engaging qualities that draw you to Army Navy and Teenage Fanclub.  If you think "All That Gold" is good (and you would be correct), you can download it for "name your price" here.  You also may stream/buy their previous LP here.  A follow up LP is in the works via the band's label Birds Love Fighting.  But for now, think "gold".



Waterford are Pete Huet, Glen Martin, Andy Heaney, and Cam Burns.

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New Menzingers Song: "I Don't Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore"




On April 22, Epitaph is releasing Rented World, the fourth full-length from Scranton's Menzingers. I've made no secret of my abiding love for this band -- their last effort, On the Impossible Past, was my 2012 album of the year. They're a perfect combination of literate world-weariness and unrepentant drunkenness (singer Greg Barnett wistfully mentions "whatever's left" of his "spoiled liver" just before quoting Nabokov's Pale Fire in "The Obituaries" from the last album). I've seen them compared to the Gaslight Anthem, which might have an echo of truth to it, except the Menzingers are a punk band.

I would adopt this as my personal theme song if it were titled "I'm Perfectly Content Being an Asshole for the Foreseeable Future." I've got a feeling this is going to be a great album.

"Carte Blanche Plus One" from Clearance

It seems that Chicago band Clearance is becoming a regular feature here.  What does that mean (other than the fact that we may try to get them to share the rent)?  It means that we like their music.  The band's latest release is a two-track digital release titled "Carte Blanche Plus One", and was prepared for a monthly Chicago series of releases run by Public House Sound Recordings.  To my ears, it is excellent garage/college rock, and it is available  for 'name your price' (try that with your local bartender!).



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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

REVIEW: Bart Davenport - Physical World

Time to go to school! Californian Bart Davenport is your professor for a review course in pop music from the '60s to current times, and the course materials are Physical World.  The melodies are instantly familiar and engaging, the vocals are delivered in a soulful croon.  The touchstones are vintage power pop, soft rock, '60s pop (check out "Pamela" and "Loop in My Head") and glossy soul (think Philadelphia more than Memphis), with some jazz touches.  It is undeniably true that you will hear some Todd Rundgren, Joe Jackson, and even a little Steely Dan (i.e. "Every Little Step"), but Bart and friends clearly aren't content to limit themselves to any handful of influences and the blending is artful.

If you like pop music, audit this course via the tracks below, and you make decide to sign up for full credit.





Physical World is out now.  Digital and vinyl is available via Lovemonk Records, and the cassette version from the inimitable Burger Records.  Bart's participating musicians on the album were Jessica Espeleta, Wayne Faler, Nathan Shafer, Andres Renteria, and Paul Burkhart.

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Review: The Baseball Project "3rd"

L-R: Linda Pitmon, Mike Mills, Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey (missing - Peter Buck)

Baseball and rock'n'roll have quite a bit in common - distinctly American creations exported and beloved throughout the world, seen as being in decline in the US and falling behind rival activities (the NFL / hip hop and new country), full of characters and big personalities, supported by a Hall of Fame the entry into which is a mysterious and often arbitrary process, frequent scandals of drug abuse, both are simple on the surface but extremely difficult to play consistently well, and both have very devoted fans who are reverential about the history of the activity and the players who excelled in prior generations. And perhaps most importantly, when you go to watch either, they serve beer and you can hang out and visit with your pals while you watch the live action on the field or stage!

So The Baseball Project was perhaps inevitable. The title 3rd is in itself the perfect marriage of baseball and rock, referencing both the classic Big Star record that is such a huge musical influence on this band plus various major things in baseball - 3 strikes you're out, 3 bases, Babe Ruth, etc.

3rd picks up where the prior two outstanding Baseball Project records left off. The big change is the addition of Mike Mills who joins his former R.E.M. bandmate Peter Buck. Mills brings his always tuneful and tasteful bass playing and harmony vocals to the festivities. And the catchiest song here is "To The Veterans Committee", Mills' tribute to Dale Murphy, making a compelling case for Murphy's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Live version here:


While the Baseball Project is certainly a supergroup, with two members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, plus the highly respected Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3), steady and versatile Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, and longtime "5th" member of R.E.M.), and a truly outstanding drummer Linda Pitmon (Zuzu's Petals, Miracle 3). But unlike most rock supergroups or baseball teams loaded with big name free agents, the Baseball Project are a tight band, ego free, all of them having played together with some or everyone here at some point in their long and distinguished careers.

Okay kids, enough background, let's hear one from the record - "Monument Park", Wynn praising Bernie Williams' elite play for the Yankees for so many years but destined to be overshadowed by Mantle and DiMaggio as he roamed center field amidst their monuments.


There are a lot of highlights here, but here's a few - "Hola America" (Wynn's tribute to Luis Tiant and the early players to escape Cuba),  "13" a perfect expression of a Yankee fan's 2013 frustration with A-Rod, and "They Are the Oakland A's" McCaughey's tribute to his over-achieving favorite team:

But if you are saying, "Sure JD, baseball is fine and all, but if there's a record with Peter Buck, Steve Wynn and Mike Mills playing on it what I want to hear is the jangle rock," well then you are in luck with "Pascual on the Perimeter", with Pitmon taking the lead vocal to recall the night Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez missed a start when he got lost on the way to Fulton County Stadium, his home park:

The record starts with a short song called "Stats", referencing various numbers of importance in baseball. Yep Roc is giving away a trip to the Triple A All Star game in Durham to one lucky winner who can identify the numbers in the song (link to contest here).  

All in all, 3rd is what we've come to expect from the Baseball Project - great music, spirited performances, clever writing, well conceived rock and roll, super fun, as good as an ideal night at your favorite ballpark. Highly recommended.

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Alan Smithee - "Snooze" // "The Almighty Alan Smithee Blues"

Alan Smithee is a four-piece Scottish garage band playing songs that are, at their core, classic British guitar pop.  But then there is something more.  The something more may be a bit of dreaminess, or a bit of psychedelia and some lo-fi wooziness.  It is dynamic, interesting -- even inspired -- stuff in to my way of thinking.  Glasgow label Flowers in the Dustbin is handling their latest release on April 7.  The record is a digital, two-track, double A-side single consisting of "Snooze" and "The Almighty Alan Smithee Blues", but if you pre-order on Bandcamp you receive and immediate digital download of "Missing Tongue".




"Missing Tongue"

 
Alan Smithee is Andrew Burns (vocals, guitar), Ruaridh Macpherson (guitar, vocals), Ryan Macpherson (bass), and Joe White (drums).

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ginnels - A Country Life

Young Irishman Mark Chester is a member of Grand Pocket Orchestra and No Monster Club.  But two bands just aren't enough, so Mark also records as Ginnels.  For live performances he is joined by Paddy Hanna, Bobby Aherne, Roy Duffy and Ruan Van Vliet.  Ginnels' 2013 album Plumes (review here) made my list of top 50 albums of 2013.  And now that we've had the opportunity to digest Plumes, Ginnels has released A Country Life -- 14 tracks of chiming, ringing, jangling guitar, fuzz, powerpop and other great guitar pop embellishments.  I assure you that you can listen to this album all day (as proof, I've been through it three times this morning) and like it more each time.  Mark has a gift, and he's sharing it with everyone.

A Country Life is available from labels Popical Island (for digital and tape, see the album's Bandcamp link below) and Tenorio Cotobade (for vinyl), and from the Ginnels' Bandcamp site.  See the links below.









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"Swimming Pool Blues" from Miniature Tigers

We have a great new song from Miniature Tigers.  The name is "Swimming Pool Blues", and it is euphoric pop tinged with a bit of nostalgia and painted with sunshine.  Summer is coming, and "Swimming Pool Blues" is the sound of summer.  Enjoy it while watching the official video below.  The song is taken from the forthcoming album, Cruel Runnings, which will be out in June.



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