Friday, May 16, 2014

Asian Babes/Future Glue - SexxXx Tape

You know how it is, everyone needs a sex tape these days.  If you don't have one, do you even exist?  This is the dilemma faced by the label bosses at Fuzzkill Records.  How can you compete with Kim K, R Kelly and the others if there isn't at least a rumor of a sex tape?  Well, you won't be surprised to learn that the Fuzzkill boys decided that they needed a sex tape.  But being busy executives and wanting to keep their reputations clear for an eventual run at being Scotland's Prime Minister if independence is gained (and wanting to be able to face their mothers around the holidays), they arrived at the brilliant solution of having someone else make a sex tape and having Fuzzkill sell it.  So here we have a spanking new SexxXx Tape from bands Asian Babes and Future Glue.

SexxXx Tape is a cassette release, but purchase includes digital download and access to Bandcamp mobile app.  The tape includes four concise punk/garage nuggets from Asian Babes, and one delicious nearly 8-minute atmospheric, lo-fi, surfy contribution from Future Glue.  The contributions from Asian Babes have all of the immediacy and excitement of well executed garage punk, with a good dose of fun, while Future Glue is the perfect ending - channeling Link Wray after a handful of uppers and a few shots of stock bourbon.  I've provided several songs below, but you can stream the entire sordid affair at the Bandcamp link below.

I realize that you've come to expect a bit of background about the bands, but you don't really think I'm going to put "asian babes" into a search engine on a work computer, do you?  All I can tell you is that the lead singer of Asian Babes is Kate Thorburn of Glasgow band Charles of the Ritz.  Future Glue is a less scary proposition: They are a five-piece from Glasgow that would appear to have a bright future.

"Rosalee" from Asian Babes --

"John Cooper's Clarks" from Asian Babes --

"Out of Hand" from Future Glue --

Asian Babes on Facebook
Future Glue on Facebook
Fuzzkill Records
Fuzzkill Records on Facebook

Rolling Stones Friday: Dandelion

This week's Rolling Stones song, "Dandelion", has a killer chorus and overall great psychedelic sound. While it was released in 1967 originally as the B side to "We Love You", it became the far more successful single and essentially seized the A side status, landing on various singles compilations such as Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits, Vol. 2).

The song's first appearance was in a 1966 on a demo called "Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Blue", with Keith Richards singing, leading to some belief that "Dandelion"was written by Keith, though that's never been documented. Here's that rough draft early version:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Introducing: Cat Cat

I'm always pleased to introduce you to another band that plays melodic jangle pop.  Today's edition is Australia's Cat Cat.  The band consists of Conor Hutchison (whose From The South project featured here a couple months ago) on vocals and guitar, with Warwick (guitar, vocals), Franky (drums) and Sam (bass).  Originally from Canberra, the band now calls Melbourne home.  The band's latest album is Uralba, which is available on their Bandcamp site for "name your price".  Cat Cat is a talented band and I hope we hear more from them soon.

Here is a video and stream for a couple of more recent songs --


REVIEW: Chain and the Gang - Minimum Rock and Roll

Ian Svenonius' concept for Minimum Rock and Roll, the fourth album from Chain and the Gang, is no-frills, economic rock and roll.  And it seems to me that it is both an interesting concept and very well executed.  The songs are punchy, stripped down rock and roll, a bit punky, decidedly R&B, and, at times, a bit rootsy.  The concept infuses the construction of the music, but it is never distracting.  And perhaps that leads us to the key point that the delights in rock and roll are found in the simple building blocks of a pulsing bass, backing drums, guitar riffs, male/female vocals, and a touch of outlaw attitude.  Of course, it works in part because Svenonius has written some very witty, entertaining songs and his lead vocals are spot-on.  Are we being preached to?  Well, maybe a bit.  But I'll happily take it when it comes with a wink and the tunes are this good.  This lot has something to preach about, so turn the volume up.

In addition to Ian, the players on Minimum Rock and Roll include Chris Sutton on bass, Brett Lyman on guitar, Fiona Campbell on drums and Katie Alice Greer providing vocals.  The album is out now via Fortuna POP! in Europe and via Radical Elite Records in the US and remainder of the world.

Ian's plea for his lover to choose him over a rival, "I"m A Choice (Not A Child)" --

"Got to Have It Every Day" --

Radical Elite Records page for album
Fortuna POP!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Sunday Morning" by Courtney Barnett and Billy Bragg

As fans of Courtney Barnett (here), Billy Bragg (here) and Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, we are pleased to share with you this video of Courtney and Billy joining to play Lou's "Sunday Morning".  The video is from an appearance on Australian show RocKwiz.

Courtney's website
Billy's website

REVIEW: Fireflies - In Dreams

In Dreams, the latest album from Fireflies, is the kind of music that can give twee, indie pop a good reputation if listeners give it a chance.  Hushed, heartfelt vocals, jangling and ringing guitars, lush synths, and breezy melodies.  You've heard music like this before, from The Clientele, Belle & Sebastian, the Field Mice and Galaxie 500, among others.  But if you are an indie pop fan, you've never heard enough.

Fireflies is the project of Lisle Mitnik, born on the east coast, educated on the west coast, and settled in Chicago.  His work has been released on several different labels, but In Dreams is released on Seattle's Jigsaw Records.  His work reveals his interest in re-interpreting classic '60s pop with a lo-fi aesthetic and classical song arrangements.  And it is that approach that renders his music most interesting to me.  He doesn't faithfully replicate the past, but rather re-imagines it.  As a result the music has an immediacy and vibrancy that imitators rarely manage.

Bandcamp for album
Jigsaw Records page for album
Bandcamp for other Fireflies releases

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

REVIEW: Kathleen Grace - No Place To Fall

Kathleen Grace has a clear, bright, beautiful voice, and impeccable taste in material. She swings back and forth from straight-ahead jazz to light alt-country with a sprightliness and ease that are as enjoyable as they are admirable. She's assembled a crack band on this record, including one of my favorite instrumentalists in the world, pedal steel gunslinger Greg Leisz. Leisz has played with a host of greats, including (just to name a very few) Los Lobos, Dwight Yoakam and Beck, bringing a sad, sweet quality to their music that nothing but perfectly-played pedal steel can deliver. And it's similar here. His playing provides a nice accompaniment, and at places, a counterpoint, to her vocals. Both are just wonderful by themselves, and even better combined.

Opening with a Townes Van Zandt composition is a courageous, assured move, and Grace does a terrific job with the track that gives the album its title.

The album features a few more inspired covers. Grace gives her own spin to Tom Waits' "The Briar and the Rose" and The Meat Puppets' "Plateau", as well as a suitably jazzy take on "Mood Indigo". "Plateau", in particular, is so left-field, yet so well done, it's the kind of thing you'll want to play for friends just to see if it dawns on them just what song this is. Grace, like the Puppets, is an Arizona native, which might explain both the song choice and the heart she puts into her cover.

Not only does she do great things with other folks' tunes, her originals here are wonderful. "A Fine Young Woman" is a country song that sounds like it might have been written some time ago. In fact, I started searching for it, to find out who wrote it all that time ago. Funny, Grace just wrote it recently. It is a great story song in the tradition of "Mama Tried" or "Saginaw Michigan" - great music that would almost work just as a short story.

No Place to Fall is out now (May 13) on Monsoon Records.

Kathleen Grace website

REVIEW: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Days of Abandon

The path Kip Berman has chosen for his The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart isn't quite a straight line.  The self-titled debut LP arrived in 2009, bearing a rush of sounds, jangling bedroom pop with shoegaze sensibility and palpable immediacy.  Belong, the 2011 follow-up took a step in the alt rock direction.  While not quite leaving shoegaze in the rear view mirror, there was more of Smashing Pumpkins and less jangling guitar pop.  For this year's Days of Abandon, it seems that the band has tacked in a direction that is neither a continuation of the sound of Belong, nor a complete return to the sound of their debut.  The big, chunky alt rock stylings are pared away, but the fuzzy shoegaze is less dominant as well.  To my ears, the overall sound is jangling guitar pop with a deliberately clean production..  Berman has said that he didn't want to make another Belong, but to his credit he also succeed in not replicating the first album.

What deserves to be celebrated is what remains, and that is Berman's skill in shaping a melody and crafting hooks that transform a high percentage of his songs into instant earworms.  He has a keen ear for that "instant classic" sound that makes a new song both attractive and recognizable.  While a couple of his original collaborators, including Peggy Wang (keys and vocals), were not involved in Days of Abandon, Berman has assembled complementary musicians and producers to capture his sound.  For this album, the female vocals (both background and, less often, lead) are provided by Jenn Goma (People Get Ready; formerly A Sunny Day in Glasgow).  And since Goma's delivery has a more mainstream pop flavor as compared to Wang's, it serves as a more distinct counterpoint to Berman's more idiosyncratic and intimate approach.  Days of Abandon is bursting with energy and sunlight, and those are very good ingredients for a pop album.

Jenn Goma's lead vocals --

A live version of "Kelly" --

Days of Abandon is out now via Yebo Music.  By the way, the album art is by South Korean artist Lee Jinju.

Yebo Music

REVIEW: Guided by Voices: Cool Planet

When you've given up being surprised that the artist formerly and currently (but for a while in the middle there, not) known as Guided by Voices (with the reunited, 2010-to-present "Classic Lineup") has released another stellar album of crackling guitar rock, you, like me, will just sit down, listen and try to evaluate it on its own terms. But, hey, Cool Planet is their second FULL album in the first five months of 2014 and their sixth since the reunited lineup started issuing new material in 2012. So surprise is a proper reaction, to be certain. As is joy, once you get into the album a little bit.

Lead track "Authoritarian Zoo" is a Who-style rocker, drums flailing and guitars blazing, to kick things off with a shot of adrenaline. "Fast Crawl" is a sludgy rocker clocking in at 1:42 that does a nice job of transitioning from the former to Tobin Sprout's fantastic "Psychotic Crush" - with a guitar line straight out of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and a reverb-heavy Sprout vocal, it's as glam a track as GbV have done. So, the perfect antidote is a sweet acoustic Pollard ballad, "Costume Makes the Man", which features a nice lazy guitar line over the outro.

There are little touches throughout Cool Planet, the kinds of things that diehard GbV fans have come to almost take for granted. However, I don't know a GbV fan who dares take this bounty for granted. We are, to a man, properly grateful... which is not to say we don't expect four to six albums a year. We do. It's just that we're grateful for them, too.

Here's "Table at Fool's Tooth" - a 1:21 heavy rocker that changes at least three times:

And here's "Bad Love is Easy To Do" - a repeated, insistent guitar line under an understated vocal that bursts into a full rock track - the drumming is especially tasty on this one:

Cool Planet is out now on GBV, Inc. in the US and Fire Records in the UK. As with the last five albums, it's got a great mix of Pollard and Sprout tunes, high quality playing and plenty of energy. In other words, it meets the high standard set by Classic Lineup GbV and augurs well for the planned live dates for summer 2014. More about the album, upcoming dates and other projects at the band's sites below.

Guided by Voices website
Fire Records

Monday, May 12, 2014

REVIEW: Buffalo Killers - Heavy Reverie

"Reverie" is defined as "a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream". Of course, there's also a musical definition: "an instrumental piece suggesting a dreamy or musing state". The Buffalo Killers have released their fifth album Heavy Reverie on Sun Pedal Records, and it both feeds on and inspires states of reverie. As always, they feature plenty of instrumental interludes, but none of the songs are strictly instrumentals. This is not a meandering jam band - Buffalo Killers are driving hard, straight ahead, and the guitars are raging. So I'd opt for the definition featuring "pleasantly lost."

Here's a recent video of them from SXSW this year, playing "Who You Are?" - the guitar tones are terrific:

And here's "Dig On In" - a real head-banging cut. I've noted before that one of my favorite features of the Buffalo Killers is the Gabbard brothers' vocal approach, a warm, full freight train of a thing that calls to mind Joe Walsh at the height of his powers, but to single that out is to shortchange the ferocious drumming of Joseph Sebaali. I wouldn't want to do that:

Nor would I want to fail to mention the spectacular guitar playing throughout this record. In addition to the Gabbards and Sebaali, the band now features guitarist Sven Kahns on electric and pedal steel guitars. There aren't many bands that combine heavy and melodic like the Buffalo Killers - you really have to spend a little time listening to appreciate it. They point back to James Gang, Crazy Horse and, in spots, classic Stephen Stills. I don't mean to brand them as solely a throwback or nostalgia act - this is all original music and they synthesize their influences through tremendous talent - to me, that's their strongest suit. They're so good, they almost make it sound easy.

Heavy Reverie is out tomorrow (May 13) on Sun Pedal Recordings. They'll be out on tour later in May and throughout the summer - read more and buy the record at their sites below.

Buffalo Killers website
Buffalo Killers at Sun Pedal Records

REVIEW: PAWS - Youth Culture Forever

Youth Culture Forever, the sophomore LP from Scottish power trio PAWS doesn't find them all grown up and matured, and we are thankful for that.  But it does reveal growth, some filling in of gaps, and extensions into previously unexplored (or at least unrecorded) territory.  While the evident influences remain '90s alternative rock, the lyrical expressions are focused on a wider scope of issues and provide sharper observations than on the band's debut LP Cokefloat.  The album is replete with recitations of things that can make us sad -- failed relationships, dead friends, lack of connection -- which makes one wonder whether 'youth culture forever' is being celebrated or mocked.  However dire the sentiment, however, the expressions are bold and convincing.  If the thought is that disappointment is better expressed at the top of your register with crashing instruments and your mates singing oohhs and aahhs in the background, I'd be inclined to agree.  At the very least, it makes this album a keeper.

On Youth Culture Forever the rhythm section rumbles manfully, the guitar is chunky and the production is solid.  But the secret sauce, if you will, is that whether the band is thrashing in garage/grunge territory or embarking on a more restrained explorations of sound, the core of each track is a worthy pop song.  And a band that writes this well can continue to provide good music as they mature.

The album is out now on FatCat Records.

FatCat Records

"Killer Bangs" from Honeyblood

Scottish duo Honeyblood is capitalizing on their snowballing fame with a 12-track LP release in July.  They have toured North America, including SXSW, and may be back again this summer.  But in the meantime fans can feast on the new vinyl 7"/digital download "Killer Bangs".  The track is an excellent representation of the sugar-coated garage pop this band does so well.

Honeyblood are Shona McVicar (drums) and Stina Marie Claire Tweenddale (vocals, guitar).  Both the self-titled album and "Killer Bangs" are on FatCat Records.

FatCat Records