Friday, June 13, 2014

Courtney Barnett is touring North America

Young Melbourne musical storyteller Courtney Barnett put out one of my favorite albums last year (review here), The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.  Released by Milk Records in Australia, Marathon Artists in the UK and Mom + Pop in the US, I highly recommend it.  Courtney and her band are in the beginning stages of a North American tour.  I've provided the dates and venues below, and here are a couple of live clips recorded recently in New York.  If she's in your neighborhood this summer, drop in and say hello.

06.12.14 - Georgia Theatre - Athens, GA *
06.14.14 - Music Hall Of Williamsburg - Northside Festival - Brooklyn, NY **
06.15.14 - The Surf Lodge - Montauk, NY
06.17.14 - Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY **
06.18.14 - The Sinclair - Cambridge, MA **
06.19.14 - Firefly Festival - Dover, DE
06.20.14 - 06.22.14 - Silver Dollar - NXNE Festival - Toronto, ON
06.24.14 - Varsity Theater - Minneapolis, MN **
07.01.14 - Larimer Lounge - Denver, CO ^^
07.02.14 - Urban Lounge - Salt Lake City, UT ^^
07.04.14 - Fortune Sound Club - Vancouver, BC ^^
07.05.14 - Neptune - Seattle, WA ^
07.07.14 - The Triple Door - Seattle, WA
07.30.14 - Schubas Tavern - Chicago, IL
08.01.14 - Lollapalooza - Chicago, IL
08.02.14 - Osheaga Festival - Montreal, QC
08.03.14 - Pickathon Festival - Happy Valley, OR 
08.07.14 - Casbah - San Diego, CA
08.08.14 - Pappy and Harriets - Pioneertown, CA
08.08.14 - 08.10.14 - Outside Lands Festival - San Francisco, CA 
11.07.14 - Fun Fun Fun Fest - Austin, TX

* w/ Phosphorescent
** w/ Benjamin Booker
^ w/ Sharon Van Etten
^^ w/ Your Friend

Mom + Pop
Marathon Artists

NEW SONG: Princess - "Neverlook"

Princess is a Dublin band playing a style of guitar rock that leans toward shoegaze, with plenty of electronic sounds along with noisy guitars. They recently opened for Cloud Nothings on that band's Irish tour, and have a new track to share, "Neverlook":

Heavy drum and bass lines anchor the tune, and the wall of treated guitar sounds take it to another level. This is a treat for fans of MBV, Deerhunter... guitar rock generally, and I note some similarities to another band we've enjoyed and featured recently - The Cheatahs. The tune ends wonderfully in a squall of guitar feedback that fades into the background... leave 'em wanting more, right? No specific news about an album yet, but surely that is in the works - we'll hopefully have more music from them to share soon. Tour info is available via their Facebook and Twitter, links below.

Facebook page

Rolling Stones Friday: Loving Cup

This every Friday feature started in 2011 with a weekly post called the Soul Corner featuring a classic soul song. This week we'll knit both the Soul Corner and Rolling Stones Friday together.

The Rolling Stones were as good of students of soul music as the rock world ever produced. But they weren't slaves to the genre and reinterpreted it, mixed in blues, rock and country and made it their own. And few songs demonstrated their magic touch better than "Loving Cup" recorded in Los Angeles in 1971-72 for Exile On Main Street.

"Loving Cup" is as good a country soul track as I can think of -- Keith Richards' chiming acoustic guitars and Nicky Hopkins' rocking piano carrying the melody, Charlie Watts turning it loose on the drums, while Mick Jagger's affected Southern drawl channels the influence of Gram Parsons, the band's friend and muse of the time. The track picks up steam and throws it into 5th gear for a rollicking finish accentuated by the horns of Bobby Keys and Jim Price.

Here's a terrific video of some 1972 live footage with the Stones playing over a partially recorded track (hints: Nicky Hopkins isn't there but his piano track is intact, while Mick Taylor who reportedly did not play on the recorded version is there):

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Introducing: Los Tones

Just a warning -- handling this garage rock may result in grease under your fingernails and oil on your jeans.  I expect you'll enjoy every minute of it however.  I certainly did.  It has the '60s retro roll, the vocal sneer and all of the take it or leave it attitude you covet but can't buy.

Los Tones are from Sydney.  Their latest single is "Ordinary Man", and I highly recommend it.  You can check out old releases at the Bandcamp link below.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Hideaway" by Cloud Boat

Cloud Boat, a UK electronic/pop duo, received well-deserved acclaim for their 2013 debut Book Of Hours.  Their follow up -- Model Of You -- will be available on July 8 via Apollo Records  "Carmine" was shared recently (video here on NPR), and now they have release "Hideaway".  It suggests that the sophomore release will be wider in scope and more deeply textured than the debut.  And it suggests that it will be very good.

Cloud Boat are Sam Ricketts and Tom Clarke.

R&S Records

REVIEW: I Saved Latin! (Wes Anderson Tribute album)

American Laundromat Records is known for its inspired collections of theme-related covers - a full album of Cure covers, a collection of women artists covering Neil Young (to name a few). ALR has come up with what I think is the best one yet. The theme is music from Wes Anderson's films - and if you're a fan of those films, you know that part of the fun is hearing tracks like The Creation's "Making Time", placed perfectly in a scene. Those tracks become an inextricable part of the story. The best example I can think of is "They'll never catch me, man - 'cause I'm fuckin' innocent" leading into the sweet Stones anthem "2000 Man". But of course there are dozens more, and the artists on this collection do a great job, some hewing close to the originals, others varying from them, but all drawing some inspiration from Anderson's work (not to mention that of Mark Mothersbaugh). In films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, pivotal scenes are impossible to envision without the music that illuminates them.

Here's what I think is the best track on the album, and one of the best songs in any Wes Anderson movie, The Creation's "Making Time" reimagined by WYMA favorites The Generationals (from Rushmore):

And here is a haunting cover of The Kinks' "Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" by The Solvents (also from Rushmore):

Tele Novella does a fascinating take on the Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says" (from The Royal Tenenbaums)- instead of Lou Reed's world-weary vocal, the beautiful lead vocal of Natalie Gordon (also of Agent Ribbons) makes the effect of the lyrics even more immediate:

Oh, okay, one more - "Ziggy Stardust" by Margot and the Nuclear So-and-So's (from The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou):

The album is out now (released May 13), and it contains 19 more tracks, including instrumental interludes like "Margaret Yang's Theme" by Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, as well as more Stones covers ("I Am Waiting" sung by Jesse Sykes, "Play With Fire" by Elk City, and "Street Fighting Man" by Mike Watt and the Secondmen) and, really, too many to name. Oh - Jackson Browne's "These Days" is beautifully covered by Matt Pond PA with Laura Stevenson.

Disc 1
1. Margaret Yang's Theme - Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin [1:19]
2. A Quick One While He’s Away - Saint Motel [2:57]
3. These Days - Matt Pond (feat. Laura Stevenson & Chris Hansen) [3:47]
4. Let Her Dance - Freelance Whales [2:10]
5. I Am Waiting - Tomo Nakayama (feat. Jesse Sykes) [3:05]
6. The Wind - William Fitzsimmons [1:57]
7. Needle In The Hay - Juliana Hatfield [4:13]
8. Making Time - Generationals [3:34]
9. The Way I Feel Inside - PHOX [1:44]
10. This Time Tomorrow - Telekinesis [3:18]
11. Strangers - Escondido [4:08]

Disc 2
1. Alone Again Or - Sara Lov [3:26]
2. Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrin' Bout That Girl - Solvents [4:00]
3. Here Comes My Baby - Tea Cozies [2:36]
4. Fly - Kristin Hersh [3:16]
5. Ziggy Stardust - Margot & the Nuclear So and So's [3:06]
6. Play with Fire - Elk City [3:29]
7. Stephanie Says - Tele Novella [2:49]
8. Oh Yoko - The Ghost In You [4:56]
9. Fairest Of The Seasons - Trespassers William [4:58]
10. 30 Century Man - Tomten [2:08]
11. Street Fighting Man - Mike Watt & The Secondmen [3:41]
12. Five Years - Santah [4:32]

This is a tremendous accomplishment, and it makes the anticipation for American Laundromat's next compilation even higher. Additionally, at the ALR store where you can buy the album (and get a look at the others), there's enough Wes Anderson-related material to keep you in the money at hipster bingo for months.

American Laundromat Records

REVIEW: Deathcats - All Hail Deathcats

Not that I'd want to do so, but I don't think it would be productive to tell Deathcats to quiet down.  These guys are noisy and that's just the way they are.  So the question is, 'good noise, or bad noise?'  Well, that probably is the easiest question I'll field this week.  All Hail Deathcats is surf-tinged garage rock -- intense, loud, fast and fun.  The trio is from Glasgow, but you can more easily visualize them in a California garage as the sun sets on another day of surfing or skateboarding and the kegs are tapped.  I don't know whether Ty Segall or John Dwyer have weighed in on these guys, but I think they'd be fans.

And while the overall sheen is fun, this is seriously good songwriting.  At the core of each track is a gem of a pop song, then the band dresses it up for performance.  The hardcore rumble and psychedelic flourishes whip in like the white foam on the top of waves, but the chorus of oohhs and aahhs and the concise running time ensures that each song makes its simple statement and avoids the danger of over-exposure.   The tracks I've selected to profile here give you a sense of the range of the band.  "Danny Dyer" could be on the soundtrack of a late '60s movie about the underground drug party scene in the surf community.  Slightly sugar-coated garage pop is on order with "Dreamz".  "Alligator" is a swaggering slice of Detroit garage rock, while the band's early surf/garage roots shine on "Saturday Night Golden Retriever".  And if you want a dose of bluesy psychedelia, go to the Bandcamp page and spin the closing track, "Troll Troll".  The really good thing about this album is that is sounds better every time I listen to it.

All Hail Deathcats is available in digital form and vinyl from Glasgow's Fuzzkill Records.  You can order either at the Bandcamp link below.  The songs were written by Deathcat James McGarragle and performed by the three Deathcats.  The album was recorded at Glasgow's Green Door Studio.

Deathcats on Facebook
Fuzzkill Records

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Doprah - Doprah EP

On their self-title EP, Christchurch, NZ duo Doprah drops five tracks of blissed-out synth pop, relaxing and enchanting in equal measure.  I think the running time reaches about 23 minutes, but I really lose track of time when I play this record.  The charming, breathy vocals, swelling synths and skittering beats float like chimes on a breezy summer day.  It all goes down easy, but the tracks are deceptively complex.  Of particular note are the first two tracks, "Love That I Need" and "San Pedro", both of which can be streamed below.

Doprah are Steven John Marr and Indira Force.  The Doprah EP is out now via New Zealand label Arch Hill Recordings.  US fans can source it digitally at the Bandcamp link below.

Arch Hill Recordings

REVIEW: The Proper Ornaments - Wooden Head

In embarking on an evaluation of Wooden Head, the debut LP from London's The Proper Ornaments, I began with a positive attitude owing to the membership of James Hoare of Veronica Falls, and the label presence of both Fortuna POP! and Slumberland Records.  But the truth is that this project didn't need any special credits due to such associations.  The album stands proudly on its own merits.

Of course,  this isn't the first project to combine a hazy psychedelia with the dark shoegaze of The Jesus and Mary Chain, but rarely has it been done right out of the box with such assurance.  From the more up-tempo songs such as the urgent "Now I Understand" and "Stereolab", to the acoustic-based dream pop of "Ruby", the songs are well crafted, lo-fi and decidedly fuzzy at the edges.  There are delicate Beach Boys harmonies, '60s jangle, a bit of Velvet Underground edge and, in "You Shouldn't Have Gone", an excellent evocation of My Bloody Valentine.  Overall, the emphasis is on guitar tones and atmosphere.  And if you wish to add to the atmosphere with sunglasses, paisley shirts and bell bottoms, you won't be out of place.

The entire album was satisfying to my ears, but inevitably some tracks stand out.  One is the wonderfully gentle "Summer's Gone", which you can stream below.  Another is "Tire Me Out", which has a Guided By Voices vibe and may be my current favorite.  "Stereolab" and "Step Into The Cold" are highlights as well, and you can hear a live version of the latter below.  Album closer "You'll See" pleasantly echos the power pop of Teenage Fanclub.  This band does both gentle and harder rocking songs well, and there is no reason to choose.  But on this album I think the results shine brighter the more they rock.

The Proper Ornaments are James Hoare and Argentinian transplant Max Claps.  Wooden Head is out now.

Here is a live performance of "Step Into The Cold" --

Bandcamp (for previous EPs)
Fortuna POP!
Slumberland Records

NEW SONG: J Mascis - "Every Morning" from Tied To A Star, out in August

Here's a super catchy new track from J Mascis in advance of a full album due out in August. Just out today, "Every Morning" is, fortunately, just what you'd expect from the man - warm, slightly sad vocals, just-right acoustic guitar chords, and a couple of tastefully blazing electric guitar solos. As a sign of things to come, it's perfect:

The album will be on Sub Pop (home of the great Lee Bains III and Mogwai, to name a few WYMA favorites). You can check out tour dates (starting in late July) and pre-order the album at their site.

J Mascis at Sub Pop

NEW SONG: Arkells - "Come to Light" (album due in August)

Here's a new track from Hamilton, Ontario band Arkells - traces of Springsteen and good old soul music infuse their upbeat guitar rock in this night-driving anthem:

And here's "Never Thought That This Would Happen" - another advance track they've shared previously:

The album is due out in August, and you can learn more at their sites below.

Arkells website

Monday, June 9, 2014

"Show It To Me" from King Colour

Ready for another suggestion for your summer soundtrack?  Of course you are.  After all, you don't come here for gardening tips.  My current recommendation is  "Show It To Me" from Sydney band King Colour.  An irrepressibly bouncy combination of funky beats, playfully strutting vocals and slashing guitar accents, this should be in your arsenal.  If the party is starting slowly, it is time to "Show It To Me" with the volume turned up.

"Show It To Me" is out July 7th via Sydney-area label The A&R Department.

The A&R Department

"Skydive" from Astronauts

We are offered music to get us dancing, music to cause us to pump our fists, music to set the scene with a loved one.  But to where do we turn when we come home late at night and need something tangible to fill those moments by yourself?  May I suggest filling that time with "Skydive".  "Skydive" is a three-track single release from former Dark Captain Dan Carney, who now is recording and performing as Astronauts.  The single consists of  the title track and the RocketNumberNine and Cloudy mixes of the title track.  The title track beautifully combines breathy dream-pop vocals with a minimalist beat that infuses a sense of urgency and, at times, anxiousness, as the song builds and additional instruments add their voices.  The song is taken from Astronauts debut LP, Hollow Ponds.  Using the original track as a springboard, the mixes head in different directions.  RocketNumberNine turns "Skydive" into and elector-psychedelic jam, while Cloudy recasts the track as an assembly of beat and rhythm clusters.  The effect of the three tracks is an extended late night mix that I find delightful.  The video and stream of "Skydive" are below.  You can stream the remixes here.  The single is available now via Lo Recordings.  Check their website below or try your favorite digital store.

Lo Recordings

REVIEW: The Delines - Colfax

We've known for a long time that Willy Vlautin is a talented songwriter and novelist with a strong writer's voice. His band Richmond Fontaine has made a series of some of the best Americana records of the past two decades (especially Post To Wire, The Fitzgerald, and The High Country), while his books, including the recently published one, The Free, have garnered rave reviews, awards and attracted a legion of fans. In both mediums, Vlautin likes to examine people struggling on the fringes of American life, usually in desolate Western locations - with debts they can't pay, stuck in bad jobs and destructive relationships, while hanging out at cheap hotels, 3rd tier race tracks and seedy bars. But the hallmark of his work is how it exudes heart and a keen eye for the human spirit.

And for his new band The Delines, Vlautin wrote a batch of songs centered around sympathetic female protagonists, as has been a feature of his novels (one character from The Free, Pauline Hawkins, even took on a life of her own outside the book and became the subject of a song on English Oceans, the outstanding new CD by The Drive-By Truckers reviewed here). To give the women in these songs maximum first person resonance, Vlautin enlisted Amy Boone from Damnations TX. Her voice conveys a mix of beauty and pathos that truly brings these songs and characters to life. Her delivery of these songs, taut short stories really, makes your spirit soar and break at the same time.

One of my favorites here is "I Won't Slip Up", where a troubled young woman pleads with her friend to drive her to a bar: "Hey Ray, could you gimme a ride into town...Hey Ray, I won't tell anyone... I'll be better this time around." Vlautin economical writing style defines the young woman so well -- "45 hours a week my boss double checks me / He counts the till in front of everyone before I leave." And Boone absolutely nails the vocal, hits you smack dab in the heart. The song, especially the chorus, has been lodged in my head for a week, to where I'm pulling for her, hoping she "won't slip up", but knowing deep down that she will, and perhaps as soon as tonight if Ray does in fact drop her off at Little Sam's so she can "just have a couple of drinks".  Give "I Won't Slip Up" a listen:

"I Won't Slip Up" is one of my favorite songs of 2014, but all 10 songs here are equally good, including the one cover, Randy Newman's "Sandman's Coming", perhaps the saddest lullaby ever written ("It's a great big dirty world, if they say it ain't, they're lying"), delivered here very starkly, just Boone's voice and the piano of Jenny Conlee-Drizos (The Decemberists).

The band here is just right for this wonderful blend of Memphis soul and Bakersfield country. In addition to the always tasteful Conlee-Drizos, there's terrific steel guitar throughout by Tucker Jackson (The Minus 5), while the rhythm section of drummer Sean Oldham (a holdover from Richmond Fontaine) and bass player Freddy Trujillo (artist in his own right and member of Fernando) play sparingly but with muscle putting definition on the tough reality of the songs.

"The Oil Rigs at Night" is another standout, so good Jimmy Webb could have written it, writing with great sympathy about a woman preparing to leave her husband:

And the sort of title track "Colfax Avenue" may be the biggest heartbreaker of them all.  The woman is awoken in the middle of the night with a phone call that sends her searching up and down a Denver street for a former solider home from the war and in a real bad place. This version was filmed last week at a live show in Ireland -- listen to Boone's delivery of the line :"My husband's worn out, my kids are scared. But he's my little brother and he's out there somewhere": Boone's beautiful voice and impeccable phrasing just elevates these songs. You believe her. You lean in to hear her. You let her take you away into the story and its people and places. This kind of seemingly effortless singing is so hard to accomplish. She makes it looks easy, but Dusty Springfield and Pasty Cline certainly would have told you it's not. And Vlautin gives Boone such rich characters that she can dive into. The relationships in these songs may be at dead end, but this musical marriage soars. Colfax is easily one of 2014's best CDs. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today. See them live in England during the next 2 weeks, or in Vlautin's hometown of Portland soon, other dates to follow I assume. June 9 ::   Rough Trade East, London June 10 :: The Lexington, London June 11 :: Railway, Winchester June 12 :: St. Bonaventures, Bristol June 13 :: The Maze, Nottingham June 14 :: Art Bar (Bullingdon), Oxford June 15 :: The Greystones, Sheffield June 17 :: Hare and Hounds, Birmingham June 18 :: Night and Day Cafe, Manchester June 19 :: Brudnell Social Club, Leeds June 20 :: Oran Mor, Glasgow June 21 :: Jumpin Hot Jamboree, Easington Colliery, Newcastle June 22 :: Palmeria, Brighton June 25::  Portland, Oregon. Mississippi Studios Release Party Stream the full record and purchase here: The Delines web page Facebook /The Delines

Sunday, June 8, 2014

NEW SONG: "Seasoned Sun" from Gulp

Gulp is vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lindsey Leven, her husband Guto Pryce (a founding member of Super Furry Animals), and Gid Goundrey (guitars) and Gwion Llewelyn (drums/vocals). They are close to releasing an album, Season Sun, and are sharing the advance track "Seasoned Sun":

There are all kinds of psychedelia, aren't there? There's the heavy guitar-based stuff based on Eastern music, but there's the kind that, while very poppy, is sort of untethered and relies on synths more than guitars. I'd say Gulp follows fairly close to the course tracked by SFA - synths and reverb, but adds in Leven's ethereal vocals. It's a delightful, airy sound.

Here's another track they shared previously - "Vast Space":

Looking forward to hearing this album - it could be a significant part of the summer soundtrack, based on these two tracks. The album will be out in July on Everloving Records (same label that released that great Don Cavalli album last year).

Gulp website
Everloving Records