Saturday, April 12, 2014

"To Be Alone" from Hozier, EP out April 28

Brandishing his own personal take on the blues, with soul and jazz touches, young Irishman Andrew Hozier-Byrne has one of those rare voices that will quiet a room.  Not through sheer volume, but via the power of emotion and the precision of his expression.  His songs are poetic and deep, and with his voice and sincere arrangements, it is blues for modern times.  His first EP was the four-track Take Me To Church.  His second EP From Eden will be released near the end of this month.  Here is a live version of one of the tracks, "To Be Alone", performed in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Here is the lead track to his first EP --


Friday, April 11, 2014

"Dark Sunglasses" by Chrissie Hynde, new album coming in June

Yes, Chrissie Hynde is back with her debut solo album, Stockholm in early June.  The first song to be released from the album is "Dark Sunglasses", which will be available on April 21.  I could take time to write about Chrissie Hynde and my feelings about her importance to preserving no-bullshit, no gimmick guitar pop with punk attitude back in the day.  But a better time for that may be when we review the album.  Suffice it to say that Chrissie still has what it takes, and as long as there is brass in my pocket, Chrissie has a market.


REVIEW: Virgin of the Birds - Winter Seeds

In a few weeks Jon Rooney has gone from "who's Jon Rooney" to a guy a check in with daily.  Well, to be honest, I really don't have any daily contact with Jon, despite both of us living in the Seattle area.  But I have been wearing out the little digital coding of Winter Seeds, Jon's first LP in the guise of Virgin of the Birds.  Winter Seeds consists of nine nuggets of well-crafted guitar pop centered on interesting reflections and observations, and conveyed with shimmering guitar, burly electric bass and Jon's intimate, folky vocal delivery.  It all goes down so well that I had to rewind a bit to think about why this album felt so special.  For me, despite the obviously adept musicianship and professional, sincere delivery, is the songwriting.  With many things in life, there are dozens of ways to phrase it, but a master songwriter knows how to turn the phrase and construct the rhyme for maximum evocative payload.  If you are looking for such a guy, my recommendation is Jon Rooney (he can even put that on his resume).  The first single from the album is track three, "Every Revelry", and I think it is a fitting introduction to the craft of Virgin of the Birds.
Make your enemies, make them fast
Grow your poisonous trees to last
Spread your doom about the room
Give your dirge a place to bloom
All your venomous, vicious prayers
Won’t bring reckoning anywhere
Not at the abbey, not with the wives
Not at the fugue state of our lives
And in time we both will come to feel ashamed
Of every revelry we felt compelled to claim
When we were young, we couldn’t wait
To take our turn and savage our fate
I brace myself whenever we seem
To share our shade and drink the same dream
I am gentle because I’m strong
And you are wicked because you’re wrong
Wrong about beauty, wrong about hell
Wrong about the girls who make me well
And in time we both will come to feel ashamed
Of every revelry we felt compelled to claim

And the video --

Virgin of the Birds began in 2009 with a series of download-only EPs, through which the band drew the attention of Edinburgh, Scotland, label Song by Toad.  Originally a solo effort, Jon's Winter Seeds project expanded to include Colin J. Nelson and Marc Laurick.  The album contains four new tracks and reworked versions of five tracks from previous EPs.  Compared to the EPs, I think the album reveals Jon's growth as a songwriter and confidence as Virgin of the Birds.  The songs range from energetic to low-tempo.  While I think the band shows better on the former, there is joy to be found in the slower numbers.  Only one song, "The Serpent Plume", took some time to grow on me, but it is followed by the absolutely wonderful "Drunk on Grudges".

This is a prior version of the album opener, "They Wake".  I think the album version is a more robust.
You may seek the wind among the reeds
You may give the girls the love they need
The love they need is gold, the love is never doomed
The love they want is gilded with a lavish gloom
They wake, they marry and they cry
They wake to hear stories when they die
Stories told with joy, stories often true
Stories when their cleverness was calling you
Pay no heed to the tenor of the times
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
They say that the lights were left on until dawn
They wake beneath the slanting sun
They wake without telling anyone
About the winter seeds, the songs too hard to sing
The pleasures wide awake in nearly everything
Pay no heed to the tenor of the times
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
They say that the lights were left on until dawn

Winter Seeds is released on Jon's Abandoned Love Records in the US, and Song by Toad in the UK, and is available in vinyl and digital formats.

Abandoned Love Records
Song By Toad Records

Rolling Stones Friday: Rocks Off

Exile on Main Street: The Rolling Stones most debauched, most extreme, and to many, most beloved record. The story is well known but here's the short version: Facing heavy tax debts and trying to avoid the seizure of their assets by the British government, The Stones fled England in 1971. Keith Richards rented a villa known as Villa Nellcotte, in Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice France. There not being a studio nearby, Richards set up mobile recording equipment in the basement.

The recording there took place in all night jam sessions. The overall atmosphere was one dominated by heavy heroin use by Richards, producer Jimmy Miller and various musicians and hangers on (including Gram Parsons, William S. Burroughs and Terry Southern). Bill Wyman and to a certain extent Mick Jagger kept some distance from the whole scene. Also worth noting, the basement was very hot, which made it impossible to keep guitars in tune, also contributing to the ragged sound of the recordings.

Some of what ended up on Exile was the result of later recordings and overdubs in Los Angeles, the Nellcote sessions just too ragged to release. Jagger and Wyman are said to have played a much bigger role in Los Angeles.

But the record certainly reflects the Stones at their most raw and loose, rock and roll bad boy far edge. And maybe no single song captures the vibe better than the opening track "Rocks Off".

Nicky Hopkins piano really makes this song for me, along with the horns from Bobby Keys and Jim Price.    

Here's a live version from 1973, still sounding raw and loose:

The song has certainly inspired many a rock and roll band. And here's a fantastic cover by one of my favorite contemporary bands, Spoon:


Thursday, April 10, 2014

REVIEW: Direct Effect - Sunburn

This album is nothing but a bunch of goddamned noise. It gave me a massive headache. At about the beginning of the third track, it suddenly became apparent to me that they were going to continue their brutal assault for the entirety of the album. This filled me with unspeakable joy, caused my eyes to roll back in my head, whereupon I jumped out of my La-Z-Boy, threw my arms in the air, shouted something nonsensical like "narcoterrorista!" and ran headfirst into the wall. Left a dent.

If you love Metz and Pissed Jeans, and boy howdy don't we all, you'll love Direct Effect. You can stream any or all of the album below, at their Soundcloud page.  You can buy physical copies from their label, Tiny Engines, or download it (13 kickass tracks for six bucks what are you waiting for getoutyercheckbook) from the Tiny Engines page at Bandcamp. Direct Effect are from Florida. You know, Creed and Dashboard Confessional also are from Florida, but don't worry, because Torche and Shai Hulud are also from Florida. I predict that in a few years, we'll be saying, 'don't worry, Direct Effect are from Florida.'

I give it 9.1 prison tattoos on a, say, 9.6 prison tattoo scale.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Face Full of Sand" by Mummy Short Arms

A couple of years ago I was blown away by the debut album from Glasgow's Mummy Short Arms.  I haven't heard much about them since 2012, but since a favorable review and high year-end ranking from me likely put them into a position to travel the world, live in mansions and date supermodels, I can understand a temporarily low profile on the artistic front -- especially as we music writers enjoy a similar lifestyle.  But fortunately for the band's fans, they are releasing a new digital single, "Face Full of Sand" on April 14.  The single consists of the title track and the JMK remix of the song.

To my ears, Mummy Short Arms has lost none of their brilliance in songcraft, and shed none of the distinctive and individual madness that makes them, well, Mummy Short Arms.  The signature MSA package is dynamic and forward-pushing arrangements, excellent musicianship, and vocals on the brink, and it is all here on this single.  And for what its worth, while I'm not a big remix fan and I like this one quite a bit.  It retains enough of the song to be related for purposes of inheritance, but does much more with it than most remixes.

"Face Full of Sand" is available as of April 14 via Glasgow label Flowers in the Dustbin.  It will be available through normal digital outlets.  Everyone needs a bit of Mummy Short Arms in their life.

Pre-Order Page for Record
Flowers in the Dustbin (Facebook)
Flowers in the Dustbin Bandcamp page

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

REVIEW: Full Ugly - Spent the Afternoon

Full Ugly may be a misleading name for a band whose music is anything but ugly.  But the name of their debut album - Spent the Afternoon - is a spot-on evocation of the jangly melodies and relaxed pace of the songs.  With touches of sun and melancholy, Nathan Burgess' songwriting captures everyday life in tasty 2-3 minute capsules.  Nothing on the album is rushed or ironic, and the arrangements are perfect showcases for the scruffy charm at the heart of the album.  Breezy and slightly idiosyncratic, it passes comfortably but leaves a satisfying memory.  And I assure you, it travels well -- at the beach, in the car, in the back yard or in the park under the stars.

In addition to Burgess, Full Ugly are Thomas Mendelovits, Zach Schneider and Nathan McFarlane.  McFarlane is a replacement for original member Michael Caterer, who departed to New York with Australian band Scott & Charlene's Wedding.

Spent the Afternoon is one of the fine indie releases from Brisbane, Australia's Bedroom Suck Records, which has demonstrated over the past few years that it has its finger on the pulse of quality emerging music.  And fans outside of Australia rejoice in knowing that Fire Records has signed on to distribute Bedroom Suck's releases outside of Australia.  Note that while the album is released, Fire Records' US distribution is planned for the third week of May.

My recommended songs are "Drove Down", "Hanging Around", "Spent the Afternoon", "Nervous", and "Oh Daddy", in roughly that order.  Yes, I know that is fully half the songs, but it is that kind of album.  Enjoy "Drove Down" and "Hanging Around" below.

The album was produced and mixed by Jack Farley (Twerps and Panel of Judges) and mastered by Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

Bedroom Suck Records
Fire Records order page

"Cherry Street" from Tijuana Panthers, new album in June

Southern California surf garage rocking trio Tijuana Panthers will grace the world with new LP Wayne Interest in early June.  The first track to be released is "Cherry Street", and I think that it suggests good things for June.

Innovative Leisure Records

Monday, April 7, 2014

Introducing: Radio On

There isn't much we can tell you about Radio On.  But after they reached out to us and shared the link for their track "Don't Wait", I'm betting that becoming much better known is going to happen very soon for this London band.  It features an upbeat rhythm, catchy melody and positive vocals.  Just try and get this one out of your head -- and then surrender and let it stay as long as it wants.