Friday, May 23, 2014

"On the Beach" from Lower Plenty

Hard Rubbish, the second LP from Melbourne's Lower Plenty was critically acclaimed in Australia upon its release by Bedroom Suck in 2012, and I ranked it in my top albums of 2013 (#23) when it received its deserved world-wide release from Fire Records.  Their follow-up album is Life/Thrills, and it will be released on June 20 by Bedroom Suck.  The first available track is "On the Beach".

Lower Plenty is Al Monfort (guitar/vocals), Daniel Twomey (percussion), Sarah Heyward (percussion/vocals), and Jensen Tjhung (guitar/vocals), all of whom play for other bands, including Deaf Wish, UV Race, Dick Diver, Total Control and The Focus.  This project takes a different tack than those other bands, using space and a languid pace to reveal their melancholy, and sometimes bitter, charms.

Bedroom Suck Records

REVIEW: Collin Herring - Some Knives

There are a lot of Texas singer/songwriters, and some of them are pretty good. Then there are some that are sort of transcendent. Guys like Willie Nelson, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely - and currently guys like Will Johnson and Rhett Miller. You get Texas in their sound, sure. Some well-placed pedal steel, a twang or cry in the voice, but there's more - you feel like everybody could get this, no matter where they live. I feel that way about Collin Herring now. His sound is distinctive: in his vocals I'm reminded of favorites like Steve Earle, Joseph Arthur, Ryan Adams, maybe Jeff Tweedy a little bit, and the playing calls to mind the lonesome guitar-centric country rock of Centro-matic and Jason Molina's Magnolia Electric Company.

Here's "Kicked Around":

That's Centro-matic's Matt Pence on drums and producing. That's Collin's dad, Ben Roi Herring on pedal steel. Herring plays the guitars and they brought in Jeremy Hull on bass. Herring, on their approach: "I like that the credits on this album are short. I like small groups. There was no 'that sounded good' and then re-recording it at a later date. We all just played our parts."

Here's "Psychopaths":

Herring has a way with a casual phrase, making his lyrics sound immediate, not labored-over - even though it's widely known what hard work good songwriting is, you get the sense that Herring is just throwing these things out there, because he's just that good. You know who else I used to feel that way about? Jackson Browne. And Herring reminds me of him, too.

Gosh, I hope I haven't oversold it. This album is terrific and it would be a shame if I overburdened the young man with expectations borne of my enthusiastic praise. Go check it out. Some Knives is out now (May 13).

Collin Herring website

REVIEW: Friends from Rio Project 2014

I have several reasons to love the Friends From Rio Project from Far Out Recordings.  First, I've long been fond of music from Brazil.  I love the tropical rhythms, intricate jazz-influenced melodies and tunes that translate well to the beach and the dance floor.  Second, Brazil is hosting the World Cup next month, and as long as our eyes will be turned to Brazil, it seems appropriate to devote our ears as well.  Finally, this collection is superbly curated.  Joe Davis' London label Far Out knows Brazilian music and for two decades has devoted itself to bringing it to the world.  This collection saves you from having to research the quality of numerous releases to get your fix of Brazilian music.  Let the experts serve it up to you.

The collection includes contributions from established artists such as Hyldon, Carlos Dafe, Robertinho Silva, Alex Malheiros and Sabrina Malheiros, but saves room for emerging talents as well.  A wide range of Rio's underground dance styles are represented here, and all are original compositions prepared for this album except for "Mas Que Nada", Jorge Ben's composition which has become universally known via Sergio Mendes & Brazill 66.  Everyone will have their favorites among the other tracks, "Vam' Bora (Suonho Remix)" is one of mine.  If I were DJ for a dance party in the near future, I'd be particularly happy to have  "Porta", "Veneno" and "Fogo No Chao".  For a World Cup game watch I'd reach for "Casino Bangu" and "Leite De Pedra", as well as "Mas Que Nada".

The party has already started in Rio, and this is your chance to catch up.  Friends from Rio is available in CD, vinyl and digital formats.

Far Out Recordings
Far Out Recordings on Facebook

Rolling Stones Friday: Monkey Man

"Monkey Man", from Let It Bleed (1969) is a Keith Richards' triumph -- he played the electric and slide guitars throughout and they snarl, kick and scream with a whole lotta nasty attitude.

Let's just get right to it, shall we:

The song is widely believed to reference either a bad heroin or LSD experience.

Here's a much more recent and still fairly ripping live version recorded in New York City in 2003:

Of course the idea to go with this track came from our Soul Corner entry today... (insert bad monkey pun here).

The Soul Corner - "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" (The Honey Cone)

Every once in awhile, we stumble on a soul song we missed in 2012-13 on the Soul Corner. And listening to the "Little Steven's Garage" Sirius satellite radio station this week, we heard a great one we never presented. And what better time to bring it out than this holiday weekend?

"One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" is a song title that has a couple songs attached to it, starting with one by Stick McGhee in 1950, later redone by Big Maybelle, Joe Tex, The Animals, and others, and more recently completely reinterpreted by Gillian Welch ("One Monkey" on Soul Journey) .

But we're leading with The Honey Cone's 1972 version, recorded for Hot Wax Records, started by Holland-Dozier-Holland in Los Angeles when they left Motown. The Honey Cone were an all girl trio, led by Edna Wright, younger sister of Darlene Love.

Not surprisingly, it has a strong Motown feel, and was popular in the UK during the Northern Soul era. It bears little if any resemblance to earlier versions of "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show".

Great video here:

Here's the Stick McGhee R&B original:

And since so many of our readers are Gillian Welch fans (and really, who isn't?), let's toss that in too for good measure, leaving with you a trifecta this Friday:

WYMA hopes to start a trend of dropping the phrase "one monkey don't stop no show" into conversation whenever possible. So the next time one piece of your presentation at work doesn't come together, or one person can't make your dinner party, or you hear your spouse complain that they they can't find a piece of their intended outfit, you now know exactly what to say. As they might put it here in Portland, "No worries bro. One monkey don't stop no show." 

Plus, don't miss our regularly scheduled Rolling Stones Friday bearing an all too obvious link to today's Soul Corner.    

Thursday, May 22, 2014


PUJOL is a band, and it's Daniel Pujol, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter. On their latest album, KLUDGE, the band is playing a post-90's take on a very 70's sound. It's sort of an amalgam of Bowie, Bolan, Kiss, ELO and Queen (he even says Freddie's name a bunch in "No Words") filtered through our knowledge that, since then, there have been whole waves of punk, post-punk and post-post-punk. So, retro-glam-scuzz? Listen and develop your own moniker for it. Or don't develop one - but definitely listen. Opening track "Judas Booth" is a good example of PUJOL's sound - raw, honest singing over heavily tracked guitar tones that in places remind me of Thin Lizzy's sort of dark-night heroic sound.

Bands these days operate on so many levels it's hard to keep up, hard to tell when they mean what they say or just the opposite. That's not a problem with this band - I find it best to assume it's all sincerity, as in "Post Grad" when Daniel intones: "Tonight we're going to use our rock n roll powers for GOOD, instead of complacent, negligent, self-hating evil!"

As he's done previously on United States of Being (WYMA review here), Pujol carries on an extended monologue addressing all the crazy stuff we're learning to take for granted: alienation bordering on universal solipsism, drones, the absurdity of carrying the world's accumulated knowledge on a device in your pocket, 3-D printing - and wonders if we even have a choice anymore to use them for good or evil? After all, as stated in "Manufactured Crisis Control", the bracing second track, the new him and the old him are in a fist fight - a state that can certainly be writ large to speak about humanity and the issues we're struggling with (when we can be forced to contemplate them).

Here is a video of the band playing "Manufactured Crisis Control" in Nashville:

Here's a link to an interview with Daniel, also featuring a download of the album's single, "Pitch Black" - a real singalong track. As a description of his take on the artistic process and how it informs his music, the interview is really a terrific read.

To his credit, all this social commentary and honest philosophizing is done without ever forgetting to rock out. More to his credit, if all you want to do is rock out, that's easy to do with this album... so he's got you either way. KLUDGE was made by Daniel Pujol with help from producer/drummer Doni Shroader, assistant engineer Travis Atkinson, bassist Clayton Parker and lead guitarist Brett Rosenberg. The record is out now (released May 20) on Saddle Creek.

PUJOL website

REVIEW: La Sera - Hour of the Dawn

Of course I don't know Katy Goodman, so I can only offer my impressions based on her music.  But her new album Hour of the Dawn seems to me to mark the time in her career as La Sera that it is evident that Goodman is having a blast as a rock musician.  That isn't to suggest that Goodman wasn't having fun before, or that her prior work was morose.   It's just that the enthusiasm, energy and unbridled joy jump out of the speakers with this album  The result is the best album of her solo career and I highly recommend it.

As compared to the prior La Sera albums, Hour of the Dawn is born of California power pop sensibilities with a good dose of punk attitude.  The songwriting is bold and packed with ideas.  You'll hear influences from the '60s to current times, but is is all bound together with spirit and clever hooks.  While La Sera's confident vocals sell the songs, Tod Wisenbaker's guitar adds swagger, muscle and a bit of glam to the proceedings.  As compared to prior La Sera work, there is less reliance on reverb and retro garage haze and more willingness, in fact, insistence, on guitar hero flourishes and clarity of sound.  And perhaps that element added to Goodman's more confident songwriting is the most tangible evidence that this record is the birth of the new La Sera. Although the fast-paced tunes carry the album for me, the ballads are well-constructed and affecting.

Hour of the Dawn is out now via Hardly Art.

Hardly Art Records

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Introducing: Owl John

Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit seems to have a restless muse.  In addition to his composing and touring with his main band, he recently drew pictures of bicycles for a charity event.  Now he is launching a side project called Owl John.  In addition to Hutchison, the members are Andy Monaghan (also of Frabbit) and Simon Liddell.   Despite the connections, Owl John does not sound like Frightened Rabbit, but rather something you might hear in an American roadhouse from a bunch of well traveled and well worn musicians working with a bottle of Jack Daniels at their feet.  However, it sounds good and I'm interested in hearing more.


REVIEW: Colin Clary - Twee Blues Vol.1

Burlington, Vermont's talented and prolific Colin Clary has released solo work under his own name and The Part-Time Losers, and has worked with a number of bands, including Madelines and The Smittens.  He also has taken a turn at label boss for his Sudden Shame Records.  However, he is on these pages today because the tasteful indie pop label WeePOP! has released Colin's latest album, Twee Blues Vol.1, and we think you should know about it.

His voice is excellent, but what impresses me the most about Colin is the quality of his songwriting.  It has the sound and pacing of great '60s guitar pop, or more recently, Math and Physics Club.  The songs are breezy, fun and clever.  And in a quiet, completely nonviolent fashion, they take up residence in your head and refuse to leave.  But they pay for their keep by delivering great joy.  You can sample the album with the start to finish greatness of "Half A Cookie" (which is one of my favorite earworms of the year), the delightfully building "Come Back From The Wilderness", and the cute video for "I Didn't Know You Were A Wizard".  There are 15 tracks, and they all are keepers.

This is a vinyl release with a very limited run of 300 copies.  Sadly, WeePOP! is closing up shop, but they are going out in style with three final releases, the first of which is Twee Blues Vol.1.  "Half A Cookie" and "Come Back From The Wilderness" are available to download free from WeePOP!'s website.  But I assure you that your summer will be better with the entire album.

Wee Pop! Records

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Free download: Dolorean "Miami Wine" (their final song)

I hate when my favorite bands break up. Dolorean, one of the finest Americana bands of the past decade, have announced they will play their final show on May 31. Hopefully, singer-songwriter Al James, blessed with such a strong writer's voice, will continue with others though I have a lot of trouble picturing him with musicians who would suit his songs better than the boys in Dolorean.

Dolorean made 5 terrific CDs, played a lot of shows all over the US and Europe, and were critical favorites. What will now be their final full length release, The Unfazed, now 3 years old, is a huge favorite of mine and got a glowing review here at WYMA, and was on our best of the year list  (JD Best of 2011).

But at least they have left us one more song and at a very good price, "Miami Wine" - free download here.

And lest you forget the beautiful and sad music this band gave us, we leave you with a live performance of the title track to The Unfazed:

Long live Dolorean.

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Book of Love" from Fraser A. Gorman

In "Book of Love", Melbourne's Fraser Gorman has written an outstanding song -- melodic, bluesy, and witty.  But the video is pretty damn great, as well.  It may be the only music video you watch this year in which the protagonist's sidekick is a pet chicken named Detective Greggs.  But as the chicken aids Fraser in finding a deeper understanding of love, we also are treated to assists from Fraser's band, the director of the video, and members of other Melbourne bands, including Courtney Barnett and her band.

The song is taken from Fraser's upcoming album, but it also is available as a digital download at the Bandcamp link below.  Yes folks, for one Australian dollar this infectious tune can inhabit your computer and mobile devices.  Can you resist?  Not if you are alive.

Bandcamp for "Book of Love"
Milk Records

"When The Girl Comes To Town" from Chris Devotion & The Expectations

Chris Devotion & The Expectations play muscular, swaggering, soul-influenced rock and roll.  They will be releasing a new album, Break Out, via Armellodie Records next month, but are offering one of the tracks as a free download today.  Stream "When the Girl Comes to Town" below, and download it at the Soundcloud link near the bottom of the post.  This is high energy rock and roll, and a great boost for your Monday.

Armellodie Records link to pre-order album