Friday, June 6, 2014

"First Love Song" from Laura Jean

Laura Jean's August album on Chapter Music will be self-titled, but isn't her first album.  And I don't know whether the first single from that album, which is titled "First Love Song", is really her first love song.  But it may be the most beautiful song I've heard this year.  Sparsely adorned with acoustic instrumentation, the focus is on the Laura's haunting voice, and the back up contribution from Norway's Jenny Hval.  In her past efforts Laura has demonstrated the ability to shine with both quiet and noisy numbers.  I'm not sure what mix of the two to expect on Laura Jean later this summer, but based on "First Love Song" I expect it to be very good.

If you like the single, you can order it from Chapter.




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TV Girl - French Exit

I've been a fan of the electro-pop material from Southern California's TV Girl since Brad Petering and Trung Ngo started depositing the candy-coated  nuggets on the web a few years ago.  The songs were well-crafted, with plenty of nods to the work of past pop tunesmiths but a bumper crop of personalized touches as well.  For those that like the soundtrack of their courtship, rejection, relationship, and break up to come with some winks, shrugs and ironic asides to the camera, TV Girl is in your corner (and if you like your music writing to have both agricultural and boxing references, apparently I'm your guy).

Trung has bowed out of the project, but Brad and various collaborators continue as TV Girl, and have just released an album named French Exit.  Vinyl is available at the Bandcamp link for a price, but the digital download is available for name your price.  If you can't find some songs to treasure on this album, you have no pop music sensibilities.  None.

"Birds Don't Sing" --


The '60s dream pop of "Talk To Strangers" --


"Angela" --


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Rolling Stones Friday: Sister Morphine

Let's get right into it this week -- "Sister Morphine" from Sticky Fingers (1971):


The song was originally recorded by Marianne Faithfull in 1969. Faithful, muse and longtime lover to Mick Jagger, eventually, following a lawsuit, was given a co-credit for writing the song along with Jagger-Richards.  Here's her version with its spellbinding, chilling vocal:


Both versions featured Ry Cooder on slide guitar and Jack Nitzsche on piano.

The song pays obvious homage, both musically and lyrically, to the Velvet Underground. Faithfull explained the background for the lyrics: "The story is about a man in a car accident in hospital, who's very damaged and wants to die. It isn't exactly what happened to me, but my feelings about it are probably the same. I was hospitalized in Sydney after an attempted suicide after Brian Jones died. It was a terrible time."

A big thank you to my man Frank Fahey, one of our contributors here at WYMA, for suggesting this entry today.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

REVIEW: The Leaf Library - The Greater Good


A bit over a month ago we covered a great two-track single from New Zealand's Trick Mammoth released by London's unique singles project WIAIWYA 7777777 Club (post here).  The next edition in the project is "The Greater Good" b/w "Goodbye Four Walls" from The Leaf Library.  The London-based band plays uncluttered dream pop that hits the right balance between drone elements and a bubbling melody.  On this record the title track boasts an engaging lyrical quality, while the B-side is a more rhythmic exercise with a cinematic scope.  This WIAIWYA 7777777 Club continues to impress me, and I'm happy that people are continuing to find vital ways to package good music.

The Leaf Library are Ben Smith (guitar), Gareth Jones (bass), Kate Gibson (vocals/keys), Lewis Young (drums), and Matt Ashton (guitar).



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WIAIWYA Records
WIAIWYA 7777777 Club

REVIEW: Eureka California - Crunch


Crunch marks the 2nd Eureka California album in 18 months. Their previous album was Big Cats Can Swim - WYMA post here. Like that one, this one has plenty of guitar fuzz and in-the-red vocals from Jake Ward and features the excellent drumming of Marie A. Uhler. They sound like kids who got a lot out of the time they spent listening to every punk and lo-fi postpunk record they could get their hands on - Ramones, Stooges, Replacements... with a healthy dose of power-pop (Peter Case, maybe)... but in synthesizing influences, they put together a distinctive sound. The opening track "Edith (One Day You'll Live In a Bunker)", and in fact, several tracks on this record, put me in mind of The Violent Femmes - there's an unapologetic fury, leavened with a sense of humor and self-deprecation, and the ability to generate a ton of noise, sometimes with nothing more than a drum kit, acoustic guitar and vocals.

Listen to "Twin Cities":



But that's an incomplete comparison, because some of the heavier stuff more closely resembles Propeller-era Guided by Voices. Check out "Happy Again":



And as an added bonus - not on this album but recorded as an outtake from Big Cats Can Swim, here is their reverent, ragged cover of GbV's "Game of Pricks":



I've heard a lot to like on their first two albums - not only the irrepressible spirit that Eureka California shares in common with some of those musical precursors, but some real musical talent and the ability to write some catchy guitar hooks. You don't find that combination every day, so celebrate when you do. It's on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records, out of Athens.

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"Lovejunky" and the Return of The Popguns

One of the best bits of music news I've heard recently is that Brighton's The Popguns are back together again.  And not just together, but writing new music!  The results are a three-track single titled Lovejunky, which will be released in July, to be followed by an entire album of new material.  The ace title track of the single can be streamed below.

The Popguns were formed in 1987, at first issuing some impressive singles, eventually compiled in a record called Eugenie, and then the full album Snog in 1991.  They continued to produce quality music for labels such as Medium Cool, Midnight Music and Third Stone, characterized by ringing guitars (lots of them) and Wendy Morgan's wonderful vocals.  Some writers likened them to The Wedding Present with a female vocalist, and the comparison has some weight to it.  Around 1996, the band faded away as its members got on with life.  But they weren't forgotten, and fans such as myself have continued to play their music.  In fact, on the day I learned of their new recordings I had their Another Year Another Address compilation in my car's CD player.  It seems that Simon, Wendy and some others got together for some small gigs in 2012, and that has proceeded to more gigs, festivals and new music.  So, that brings you up to date.  Experience "Lovejunky" and we'll look forward to more of The Popguns.

Both Lovejunky and the new album will be released by Matinee Recordings.



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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

King Tears Mortuary - Asleep At the Wheel of Fortune EP 7"

Why use drugs to give yourself a jolt when you can use nice, legal music?  May I prescribe instead Asleep At the Wheel of Fortune from Sydney's King Tears Mortuary?  For a modest investment you can get six songs spanning a bit over nine minutes.  The tunes are lo-fi, energetic, sometimes almost punkish and sometimes a bit noisily sweet, with male/female vocals and a rhythm section that clearly has been told that their parole will be revoked if they don't give it their all.  Like illegal drugs, you will want to enjoy this music over and over, which with a nine-minute high is perfectly understandable.  However, unlike illegal drugs you only have to pay once  -- and it isn't much -- and know how to work a repeat button.

Interested?  You should be.  Try out a couple of songs below, or go to the linked Bandcamp page and enjoy the entire record.  Bandcamp also is your friend for purchases from Vacant Valley, the Melbourne label that brings you this little beauty.

"Grease Trap"



"Face Blind"



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REVIEW: Gold-Bears - Dalliance

I am particularly drawn to guitar pop songs that hit you like a crashing wave right out of the gate.  You know the type -- the vocals, guitars and drumming all is at a level that some songs only hit when rounding to the chorus.  Well, it seems that Jeremy Underwood, the head bear of Atlanta's Gold-Bears, knows what I like because he has recorded an album of such tunes, named it Dalliance, and released it this week via Slumberland Records.  He even has referred to as "crash pop".  So thanks, Jeremy.  I owe you one!

This record is more about energy than fidelity, but that fits the material well.  There is plenty of feedback and fuzz, and the noise level is more Wedding Present, Joanna Gruesome or Superchunk than it is Seapony or Shimmering Stars.  This group of players is unafraid to show their noise pop and punk influences, and they have the confidence and chops to do so without burying the excellent pop songs within.  Moreover, the album is stark proof that you can sing about regret, loss and other dark subjects while having great fun in doing so.  Two of the best songs are below, but this is an album that doesn't have any duds.  My most frequently played of the set lately is "From Tallahassee to Gainesville".  There is a lot of music I should be listening to lately, but Gold-Bears has been capturing a disproportionate share of available minutes.  And I'm not going to do anything about that.

By the way, the Gold-Bears drummer gets a WYMA gold star -- he must be exhausted!





In addition to Underwood, Gold-Bears includes Clinton Callahan, Sam Jacobsen, Scotty Hoffman and Sean Zearfoss.  In addition, Emma Kupa of the late Standard Fare provided vocals on "Yeah, Tonight".

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Slumberland Records

REVIEW: Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin (w/ a great new video!)


Bob Mould has nothing to prove to anyone at this point. His work with Husker Du and Sugar is some of the most vital rock'n'roll of the past 30 years. And never one to rest on his laurels, many of Mould's solo records over the past 20 years were highly experimental affairs that stretched the limits of rock, certainly challenged and at times even confounded his fans.

But as many of us do in middle age, we eventually come back to what we love and do best, which in Mould's case is remarkably catchy and aggressive power trio rock. With Silver Age from 2012 and now Beauty & Ruin, Mould has found a way to honor and further his rich history, while staying vital and fresh, mainly because the songs and musicianship are so damn strong.

Over the course of Mould's career so much has changed to the point of not being recognizable - record companies, alternative radio, marketing, "albums", video - but Mould seems to be saying, the hell with all that, I'm Bob Mould and this is what I like to do.

Mould plants his tongue in cheek and gives us the Bob Mould State of the Union with the video to one of the most irresistible songs here "I Don't Know You Anymore", opening with a hilarious cameo by Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, filmed here in Portland on Record Store Day at one of the nation's best independent record stores Music Millennium:

  Let's hear one more, "Hey Mr. Gray":
Beauty & Ruin is 11 songs and 36 minutes of pure rock and roll heaven. The bliss of course being in your ear as Mould's music retains its angst-driven edge. But Mould's ability to link pain and beauty has always been at the heart of his art. He especially brings that home here in "Let The Beauty Be", one of many gems here. Mould's band is the perfect power trio, so adept at this music. Bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) shine throughout. The playing is remarkably tight and strong, and Mould's guitar work truly fantastic.

You can buy and stream Beauty & Ruin in its entirely at Merge Records web page here.

See the Bob Mould Band live: Summer / Fall Tour Announced 06/03/14 – Los Angeles, CA – Amoeba Hollywood 06/12/14 – Harrisburg, PA – Stage on Herr (Solo Electric Set) 06/13/14 – Rehoboth Beach, DE – Analog-A-Go-Go 06/14/14 – Rehoboth Beach, DE – Dive (Punk Rock Fancy DJ Set) 06/20/14 – Calgary, AB – Republik (Punk Rock Fancy DJ Set) 06/21/14 – Calgary, AB – Sled Island Music & Arts Festival 06/23/14 – Chicago, IL – Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park 07/26/14 – Carrboro, NC – Merge 25 @ Cat’s Cradle 09/05/14 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre Of Living Arts* 09/06/14 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club* 09/06-7/14 – Toronto, ON – Riot Fest 09/10/14 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom* 09/11/14 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom* 09/12/14 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club* 09/13/14 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg* 09/15/14 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom* 09/16/14 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick* 09/17/14 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Ballroom* 09/19/14 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House* 09/20/14 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk* 09/19-21/14 – Denver, CO – Riot Fest 09/23/14 – Seattle, WA – The Neptune Theater* 09/24/14 – Portland, OR – Wonderland Ballroom* 09/26/14 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore* 09/27/14 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy* 09/28/14 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy* *Just announced

 Details here: Artist web page

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

REVIEW: The Donkeys - Ride The Black Wave


The Donkeys' newest album is Ride the Black Wave, and it is their best yet - not surprising from a band who clearly enjoy playing together and support one another seemingly effortlessly. The album starts out with a sweet, melodic, psychedelic acoustic intro that wouldn't be out of place on a number of Clean records. "Sunny Daze" is a terrific laid-back number. Following immediately is a retro-surf instrumental "The Manx" - well, it's mostly instrumental, but has some la-la's in the chorus, and they usher the song out on a gentle wave... There are some tracks here ("I Heart Alabama", "Brown-Eyed Lady") that lean country - these guys have always been a bit difficult to pin down "genre-wise", which makes their albums more unpredictable and enjoyable. Well, a bit predictable, in the sense that they have a great way with a gentle guitar riff and know how to layer in harmony vocals. Check out "Scissor Me Cigs":



The album was recorded at San Diego’s Singing Serpent and mixed by LA’s Thom Monahan, and they mention their home state prominently in at least two of the tracks here - asking the question "should I stay in California?" but in a way that says the answer is already known. They might go out on tour, but they're always coming back. In fact, it occurs to me that the "black wave" of the title might refer to the road -- the adventure of traveling around the country playing music, knowing that as long as you know how to ride it, the road, like the waves, will always bring you home. Check out their video for the track "Blues in the Afternoon":



The sequencing of this album is masterful - because they vary the instrumentation and tempo (and even the volume level) somewhat, they take advantage of every opportunity to change things up, closing with "Shines", a truly outstanding track not quite like any of the ones that precede it - featuring an easygoing guitar riff, swells of Hammond organ and warm, soulful vocals, it calls to mind influences as disparate as The Grateful Dead, Shuggie Otis and The Byrds. It's the perfect way to end the album, just as "Sunny Daze" was the perfect way to open it.




Ride the Black Wave is out now (June 3) on Easy Sound Recordings.

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REVIEW: Ela Stiles - Ela Stiles

"Bold in concept, and stylish in execution" could be the capsule summary for Ela Stiles' self-titled debut solo album.  Is that just a writer's puffery for an album about which he's chosen to write?  Not in this case.  Ela Stiles is seven tracks of a cappella vocals which to some extent reminds the listener of an droning Asian music and to other extents suggests traditional Celtic music.  Even with a voice as lovely as Ms. Stiles possesses, there is an undeniable bravery in showcasing it in this fashion.  The Sydney songstress' voice becomes the melody and the rhythm, rising and falling, allowing space to surround the notes.  However, the album in notable for more than its singular approach.  The lead track, "Kumbh Mela", which takes its name from a mass Hindu pilgrimage, is a beautifully building track.  "Drone Transitions", the ten plus minute seventh and final track,  comprises one half of the album.  With Ela's multi-tracked vocals and pronounced droning instrumentation, it is perhaps the most striking song on the record.  But I also found it profoundly engaging and relaxing.  Tracks two through six are shorter vocal exercises that have their interesting elements, especially "Untitled Man", but the first and last tracks are, in my opinion, the best.

Unsurprisingly, the path chosen by Ela Stiles for this album differs from the music upon which she built her reputation in the Australian music scene.  Among other projects, she has been a member of Songs, and her Bushwalking project released No Enter last fall (review here)..  While Bushwalking utilized drone elements, it was fully amplified and more tribal in its drone mode, and also produced more standard pop pieces.  And Songs is known for its engaging guitar pop.

The album is out now via Bedroom Suck Records, which also deserves a nod for its vision in choosing to devote its resources to such a unique project.  For your evaluation, we've provided the lead track and a single edit for the closing track.  Give it a chance.





Bedroomsuck Records

"Hitched" from Kent Goolsby

I was impressed by Trophies of Youth, the 2013 debut LP from former Only Sons member Kent Goolsby (review here), so I have occasionally wondered what KEG is up to. I received my answer a few weeks ago when the man wrote me to announce the release of "Hitched", his new single for This Is American Music.  The product of his sessions for his second album, "Hitched" finds Goolsby exploring a finger picking western swing style in the joyful title track.  The bluesy B-side, which you can identify by its name -- "B-Side Blues" -- is a soulful acoustic track that provides a nice contrast to the opening party.

"Hitched" is available today via This Is American Music as a digital download at iTunes and Amazon.




Kent Goolsby & the Gold Standard are Kent Goolsby (guitar/vocals), Steve Daly (guitar/pedal steel/vocals), Joey Kneiser (drums/percussion/vocals), and Bingham Barnes (bass).  Joey Kneiser also handled the recording, mixing and mastering duties.

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REVIEW: Centro-matic - Take Pride In Your Long Odds


A new Centro-matic album is a special event at WYMA, and good news for anybody who likes good, honest guitar rock that gets you right in here. The band has released its 11th album, Take Pride In Your Long Odds, and throughout its 12 tracks, the band address the topic of its title, as singer and songwriter Will Johnson said: "If there are entities telling you that you can't do something, that there's no way something is gonna happen for you—take pride in your work and prove them wrong. If it's worth it to you, you shouldn't give it any less of a chance because of what someone else says." If you're a fan of this band, that attitude makes perfect sense and is something to be truly grateful for, because it's kept these guys making music for 17 years, through everything that life can throw at them. Every record, every opportunity to see them live, is a joyous occasion and absolutely not to be taken for granted.

Previously we shared the track "Salty Disciple", and they've put together a trippy video to accompany the song:



That's a great track, but the treasure here is "Academy of Lunkers" - it's the one with the most distinctive Pence drum intro (a la "The Mighty Midshipman") and it opens up the quickest of any track on here, to feature a great Will Johnson vocal, guitar feedback and the combination of melody and noise that nobody seems to do as well as Centro-matic. It also contains some place references only residents of Denton will likely get (mentioning "you were romancing every sunset alone on Bonnie Brae" - one of the surest ways North out of town, if I recall correctly, and "met you by McKenna Park, you were struggling with all your shivers"). What's it all about? As usual, Johnson never says directly. Your impressions are what's important. Centro-matic are artists, man. Listen, think, and most of all, enjoy:



Well, it's that one or "Relative Unto the Aces" and its perfect lead guitar riding on top of Pence's perfect beat, Hedman's perfect bass line and Danbom's - what are those things?



The next greatest track is "On the Ride Back" - an absolutely beautiful 5:23 of guitar chords, perfect rhythm and vocals (both Johnson's lead and the harmonies that float in and out), and some devastating guitar solos that start about 2:00 in... not to mention some heavy sonic experimentation that reminded me of drummer Matt Pence's production work with True Widow.

There are plenty of terrific moments - the transition from "Calling You Glad" into "Cynthia Glass", the pretty acoustic on "Every Mission", swirling synthesizers on "Anything Torn Out"... "Cross Path" calls to mind "All The Talkers", one of the strongest tracks on Centro-matic's last album Candidate Waltz - they worked with the same producer, Scott Solter, for both records.



The closer, "Through The Fog, Then Down" is a beauty, too - there is not anything close to a weak track on the album - but it's especially gorgeous, and sort of blasted, with its juxtaposition of a piano reminiscent of Lennon's "Imagine" and a fuzzy, distorted guitar.



It's another beautiful collection of songs - I expected nothing less, but that does not diminish the pleasure a bit. It's out today (June 3).

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Monday, June 2, 2014

REVIEW: Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Break Out

Glasgow's Chris Devotion and The Expectations are all about chunky, meaty power pop with soul vocal inflections.  They craft the soundtrack for meeting your mates to head out on a Saturday night, for driving between venues, and for the after-hours party in a mate's apartment or under the summer stars at the lake.  The themes are classic -- finding a girl, choosing a girl, losing a girl, girl losing you -- as are the sounds.  OK, a lot of it is directly or indirectly about sex, is that a surprise?  But don't use familiarity as an excuse to pass over this album.  This stuff is the heart of rock and roll, and it is delivered with the passion, assurance and swagger that the material demands.

Break Out consists of 11 tracks of concise rock explosion.  You'll likely hear descriptions of your past, current or future life in one of these nuggets, and you may well say "I wish I'd said that".  For example, compare how you described the arc of your last relationship to CD&EX's concise description in "Saddest Thing" of a relationship from beginning to dissolution:  "It started when we were ravers, out on a Saturday Night.  It ended in lawyers and papers and a cold goodbye."  See?  One line and we have a mental picture of the whole bloody affair.  But even when the subjects are downbeat, the songs never are anything less than exhilarating.  You aren't even offered a ballad until the final track, where you finally get to catch your breath.  Rarely is an album with this much muscle simultaneously so infectious.  Rare is good -- get the soundtrack for your summer, the script will follow later.

"Saddest Thing" --

"Looking For Another Girl" --

"Don't You Call On Me" --


Chris Devotion and The Expectations are Chris Devotion (vocals/guitar), Colin Reid (guitar/vocals), Michael Wright (bass/vocals) and Graham Christie (drums/vocals).

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Armellodie Records
Armellodie order page for album

Sunday, June 1, 2014

REVIEW: Rich Hands - Out Of My Head


The Rich Hands' Out Of My Head seems destined to become a garage-rock mainstay for this summer. It features blazing guitar runs pushed into the red, a racing bassline, punk backbeats and snotty vocals - in short, it's just about a perfect garage-rock album. These guys are from San Antonio, and maybe it's not a coincidence that they throw in a psychedelic touch in the form of Farfisa-style organ - coincidence or not, it helps make this one of the most fun records you'll hear this summer.

Here's "So Fine" - it's got a real New York Dolls feel:



Here's the video for "Teenager" - superfast drumming with a catchy backbeat kicks it off strong, and like The Ramones, Kiss or Stooges, they seem to take some pride in making loud, catchy hard-rocking music without too much to say:



They're a trio: singer and guitarist Cody Mauser, bassist Matt Gonzalex and drummer Nick Ivarra. They met and bonded in high school over a love of punk, classic guitar rock and, in their words, "that raw, simple feeling of having a good time without the melodrama.” They draw from a variety of influences -- isn't that "Like a Rolling Stone" they've used as a taking-off point on "No Harm Blues"? Probably the best track is the last one - "I Get By", at 3:40 the longest one on the record, they stretch out a little more on the guitars and vary the tempo a couple of times. But nothing too complicated. That's not the point here - fun is: theirs and ours. Turn it up.

As a bonus listen, here's a non-album B-side "Take Me Away":



The album is out now (released May 6) on Fountain Records, cassettes on Burger Records.

Rich Hands
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REVIEW: Tearjerker - Hiding EP


Tearjerker is a Toronto-based 3-man band (Trevor Hawkins, Micah Bonte and Taylor Shute) playing exquisitely crafted music along the lines of Galaxie 500, Slowdive, stuff like that. They've just released a 4-song EP in advance of a full-length due out later in 2014. They specifically mention that all three members share writing duties, but it's Bonte on vocals and guitars plus Shute on guitars, bass and keyboards, and Hawkins on drums and "samples".

The opening track, "Door", calls to mind some of the best things I recall about Sparklehorse - Bonte's vocals and the electric guitars take their time rising above the subtle wall-of-sound mix (which includes beautifully strummed acoustic guitar and banjo), but when they do, the song really soars...



and from that starting point, the balance of the EP carries on in similar fashion - this is music that rewards repeated listening, and it's just as enjoyable if you've got it on in the background or are intently trying to figure out what is making this or that specific part of the mix.

Here's "You Can", the closing track - a great example of how they build these songs... although the songs seem to just grow and fill out effortlessly:



It's absolutely beautiful rock music. Now I'm eagerly anticipating that album, but this generous 4-song EP (over 20 minutes) is plenty to enjoy while waiting. Go to their website and check out some of their earlier music, too.

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SQE Records (vinyl)

"Up and Down Around" from The Muffs; New album in July

The Muffs are rested and ready to invade your ears, bringing back their infectious brand of melodic punk.  In late July the trio will be releasing Whoop Dee Doo, their first album in ten years.  The record will be released in the U.S. by Burger Records, the-label-that-never-sleeps, and in the rest of the world by the UK label Cherry Red Records.  Your personal introduction is "Up And Down Around" --



The Los Angeles-based band is comprised of Kim Shattuck (vocals/guitar), Ronnie Barnett (bass/vocals), and Roy McDonald.

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Burger Records
Cherry Red Records