Saturday, September 20, 2014

REVIEW: Literature - Chorus

In their sophomore album Chorus, Literature has delivered a top class indie pop recording.  It is full of hooks, melody, and lively performances.  The sound quality is excellent.  And at its core, this album just has a very sincere charm.  It appeals to you to let it be in your life, and after one listen you will be happy to comply.  Who doesn't want a high energy, well meaning friend with good jokes to hang around with?

You can hear a bit of the Smiths, The Loft, Felt or the Weather Prophets in the jangle and shimmer of the guitar, and a dose of the Feelies in the energy.   There is a bit of punk pop brattyness to some of the vocals, which gives the proceedings a touch of Tullycraft.  But, this album is not the least bit twee.   The sound is full and smooth, and fleshed out with synths.  And in any case the dominant impressions are of the confident and tight performances and assured songwriting rather than any particular influence.  In fact, one of the many impressive aspects of Chorus is the variety.  The vocals are swooning, aching, pleading or defiant as required by the theme of the moment.  The styles on offer include C86, noise pop and even '60s guitar pop.

Any band that can deliver an album of this quality, and with such clear progress from their promising debut, can be expected to deliver excellent music in the future.  But you shouldn't wait -- Chorus is begging to be in your collection, and it deserves to be in your collection.

Literature are Kevin Attics, Nathaniel Cardaci, Chris Schackerman, and Seth Whaland.  Chorus is out now via Slumberland Records.

Slumberland Records

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Happy

"Happy" from Exile on Main Street with Keith Richards on lead vocals is certainly one of his signature songs and an irresistible gem. It was written and recorded very quickly, in an afternoon in 1971 at Villa Nellcote in France. Some overdubs were added later but the base track was just Keith on guitar, bass and vocals, Jimmy Miller on drums and Bobby Keys playing maracas.  

Here's a terrific live version from 1972:

And here's Keith and the X-Pensive Winos live in Los Angeles 1988:

The song has been covered a great deal, become a bar band staple. Best cover I ever heard was by Elvis Costello and the Imposters a few years ago at their Spinning Wheel tour, when the dial landed on the word "Happy" and Elvis tore through a cover of "Happy" and then his own "I Hope You're Happy Now".

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Slipping From Your Heart" from The Deadline Shakes

Since the Scots are voting on independence today, we think it is appropriate to post some Scottish music.  The choice is the upcoming single from Glasgow's The Deadline Shakes.  It meets our criteria because the band plays a style of guitar pop for which Glasgow is well known, and because the song, "Slipping From Your Heart", speaks to the prospect of losing someone close to you.  The tempo of the track is a bit slower than some of their other offerings, but offers some swells that may remind you of Queen (the group, not The Queen, I'm not going to get into politics).  And it is a fine opportunity for this talented young band to demonstrate some new dynamics.

The single will be released on November 10, but is available for pre-order from Glasgow label Flowers In The Dustbin.

Flowers In The Dustbin

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

REVIEW: Allah Las - Worship the Sun

On their 2012 self-titled debut LP, the Allah Las blended garage rock, folk rock, country, surf and a bit of Britpop and Latin rhythms into a magical brew of mid-tempo, minor key nuggets that resonated with me, and it appears with a large number of other musical fans.  Two years down the road brings the band's sophomore release, Worship the Sun.  For this outing there is no shift in templates.  Rather, the band simply has focused on getting better at what they do well.  And even better they are.  Worship the Sun yields no ground to the excellence of their 2012 debut and, in my view, is a better and more varied set of songs.

There is no doubt that Miles Michaud (guitar, lead vocals), Matthew Correia (drums, vocals), Pedrum Siadatian (lead guitar, vocals), and Spencer Dunham (bass, vocals) are apt students of pop music.  One only need listen -- as I do faithfully every Wednesday -- to the weekly mix that they and their friends assemble under the name Reverberation Radio (link) to know that these guys have a depth of influences that no ordinary musician's record collection could hope to replicate.  But having a good ear doesn't necessarily lead to the creation of good music (I type as I nod knowingly to my reflection in the beer glass at my elbow).  What Allah Las do so well includes both more obvious musical touches, and some less tangible qualities.  As for the former, with four voices allowing soaring harmonies supporting the lead vocals, and no weak spots in the instrumental line up, the foundation is rock solid.  Moreover, the songwriting is tight, and has that wonderful quality of appearing effortless, despite the likelihood that it all was hard work following the inspiration.  For the less tangible, one only need to listen to the album to feel the hint of an ocean breeze, the desert sand under your boots, the warmth of the sun on your face, the thrill of hooking up and the joint pain and freedom of breaking up.  And in evoking such feeling, they also evoke a sense of place.  Worship the Sun is not only of Southern California, it represents Southern California.

The songs remain solidly mid-tempo and mostly minor key, but there is ample variety.  Britpop style garage on "Recurring",  a '60s nugget via standout track "I Have It All", hazy mid-century pop on the title track, psychedelia on "Nothing to Hide" and "501-405", a couple of surfy instrumentals, and crunchy country rock on "Buffalo Nickel" and "Better Than Mine".  While most of the recording and production was handled by labelmate Nick Waterhouse, one of the best tracks is the self-recorded and sun kissed "Artifact", which with repeated listens currently heads my list of best tracks.

The vinyl record has twelve tracks, while the digital and CD versions include two bonus tracks, including "Every Girl" --

To sample two more tracks check out the official video for "Follow You Down" and the live version of "Had It All" from Mello Johnny's Bike Shop at SXSW in March 2014.  You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Finally, our European readers should take note that Allah Las are invading next week.  The dates, cities and venues are below.

Bandcamp for Worship the Sun
Innovative Leisure

European Tour Dates
Sep 21 - Brighton, UK - The Haunt
Sep 22 - Nottingham, UK - Bodega
Sep 24 - London, UK - Oval Space
Sep 26 - Liverpool, UK - Psych Fest  @ Camp
Sep 28 - Dublin, IRE - Workmans Club
Sep 29 - Glasgow, UK - Broadcast
Sep 30 - Edinburgh, UK - Electric Circus
Oct 2 - Sheffeild, UK - The Harley
Oct 3 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds
Oct 4 - Bristol, UK - Start The Bus
Oct 7 - Paris, FR - Badaboum
Oct 9 - Amsterdam, NL - Tolhuisuin
Oct 10 - Brussels, BE - Orangerie @ Botanique
Oct 11 - Luxembourg, LX - CarreRotondes
Oct 13 - Cologne, GER - Underground
Oct 14 - Hamburg, GER - Mojo
Oct 15 - Berlin, GER - C-Club
Oct 17 - Munich, GER - Atomic Cafe
Oct 18 - Wiesbaden, GER - Schachthof
Oct 20 - Zurich, CH - Kinski
Oct 21 - Mezzago, ITA - Bloom
Oct 24 - Barcelona, SPA - Sala Apolo
Oct 25 - Madrid, SPA - Sala El Sol
Oct 26 - Bilbao, SPA - 
Oct 31 - Thessaloniki, GR - Principal Club
Nov 1 - Athens, GR - Fuzz Club

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"I Am A Sardine" from Turtle & Fox

Melbourne siblings Dan and Shireen Rawlings record and perform as Turtle & Fox.  They have released a jaunty tune with an environmental message.  We understand that the duo are working on their debut LP, but for now you can take your introduction from the home-recorded and self-produced "I'm A Sardine".


REVIEW: Further - Where Were You Then?

There was plenty of good music in the '90s, but there was a bit too much Britney Spears, Hanson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, boy bands, rappers who can't distinguish themselves from the pack, and U2 still in existence, so it doesn't rate as my favorite decade.  However, thanks to the good taste of the folks at small UK label Bad Paintings we are reminded of the gems we might miss if we dismiss the '90s too quickly.  Exhibit A is Where Were You Then, a compilation of the output of Southern California's Further.  Consisting of 13 tracks representing, in chronological order, the best of their singles, it demonstrates why this band was selected to play with the likes of Sebadoh, Pavement, Beck, and Flaming Lips.

Further was founded by brothers Darren and Brent Rademaker, Kevin Fitzgerald, and Josh Schwartz.  They released records on several labels, but eschewed an opportunity to sign a major label contract.  Listening to the songs on Where Were You Then, I'm struck by the the atmosphere of freedom, of we do what we want to do, that infuses the tracks.  The fidelity is low, the garage rock quotient is high.  This is the joy of shredding -- loud guitars, pounding drums, driving bass, and pop song melody and vocals snugly nestled inside the sonic storm.

The Rademaker brothers went on to form Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde, both of which are probably are better known.  But the Further chapter should be known and celebrated.  These are great songs, and represent the best of harder edged garage rock.  Thank you, Bad Paintings!

Pre-Order link for Physical
Pre-Order link of digital
Soundcloud for the album

Monday, September 15, 2014

Time for some digital Dick diving!

"Say what?" I hear from our loyal readers.  You want us to do what with what?  I can't tell you how disappointed I am that everyone's mind immediately heads for the gutter instead of, for example, to their bookshelves to re-read Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.  But the real reason for my post has nothing to do with your base desires or your reading list.  It is to inform you that one of my favorite bands, in fact the band whose 2013 album was my album of the year (link), have scrimped, saved and stolen the coffee fund at Chapter Music to fund a trip to the United States.  The first date is September 19 in Los Angeles, and a list of shows and venues is provided below with, in some cases, links for ticket purchases.

I've already spilled a month's supply of digital ink extolling this Melbourne-based project, and those who are interested can use the search function on this page to find it.  But I'll point out that in my view Rupert Edwards (guitar, vocals), Alistair McKay (guitar, vocals), Steph Hughes (drums, vocals), and Al Montfort (bass, vocals) may some of the most charming, grounded, evocative and engaging guitar pop available today.  And to entice you to consider attending one of the shows on the tour (and/or buying some of their music, I've provided a little digital Dick Diver concert below.  So relax and listen to some Dicks at work.

First up is the B-side from their recent No Name Blues 7" for North American label Fruits & Flowers.

Next we have three songs from their excellent 2014 LP, Calendar Days -- the title track, "Water Damage", and "Alice.

"Time Life Life" is from a 2012 compilation for the band's Australian label, Chapter Music.

And I'm closing with two wonderful tracks from their first LP, New Start Again.  They are the first two tracks from the band that I heard, and I hope you like them as much as I do.

Chapter Music

Friday 19th September –
at Jewels Catch One
w/ Bouquet and Tortured Genies

Saturday 20th September
at Makeout Room
w/ Greg Ashley

Sunday 21st September
w/ Michael O + Odd Hope

Monday 22nd September
at Third Space
With Michael O and G Green

Tuesday 23rd September
House Show! (address oncoming)
w/ Woolen Men and Shelley Short/Jack Lewis collab

Wednesday 24th September
SEAVIEW (At the beach! Near Portland)
at the Sou Wester
with Michael Hurley and Shelley Short
(and it's the launch of the Sou Wester's new SPA!)

Thursday 25th September
w/ Final Bloom, Sapphire Mansions and The New Lines

Friday 26th September
w/ PC Worship, Free Time and Guerilla Toss

Saturday 27th September
at Boot and Saddle
with Dark Blue

Sunday 28th September
at Gooski's
with The City Buses

Monday 29th September –
at UFO Factory
w/ The Feelings

Tuesday 30th September
at FooBar
w/ R Stevie Moore and The Stevens

Thursday 2nd October
at The Burlington
Noise in My head book launch
w/ xNOBBQx and X Wave

Friday 3rd October
Hexagon Bar w/ The Velveteens + others
(presented by F Scott Fitzgerald Society)

REVIEW: Skinny Dipper - Masks EP

Summer may be nearly over, but it isn't so over that you can't enjoy Skinny Dipper.  And for this skinny dipping experience, you don't have to get wet or take off your clothes, although we have no objection if your preferences take you in that direction.  Skinny Dipper is an nine-piece group consisting of eight women and one man, and boasting some of the best vocals you'll hear on record this year.  Apparently Alex Kenzel (of Blochestra) and Vicki Cole (of Randolf's Leap) began the project as a personal songwriting exercise, but happily decided that the songs deserved a wider audience.  The project swelled with reinforcements from bands such as Randolph's Leap, Quickbeam,  Aerials Up, and Trapped In Kansas, leading to gigs, increased public profile, and now the five-track Masks EP on Olive Grove Records.

The instrumentation on this EP is full and varied, including two violins and a flugelhorn, as well as the usual guitar, drums and keyboard.  The melodies are divine, with cinematic scope, and the lead vocal and supporting harmonies could melt the coldest heart.  This little record will make both your sunny fall days and chilly nights better.  And while it is an auspicious debut, I suspect this assembly can go even higher with more time.

The opening track --

The closing track --

Skinny Dipper are Alex Kenzel (vocals), Vicki Cole (guitar), Heather Thikey (violin), Ali Hendry (flugelhorn), Gillian Higgins (keys and vocals), Cat Calton (violin), Ruth Campbell, Monika Gromek, and Iain Symes-Marshall.  Masks EP is out now in vinyl and digital formats.

Bandcamp for EP
Olive Grove Records