Saturday, December 13, 2014

Introducing: Blonde Tongues


Cal, Aiden, Jack and Dougal are Brisbane's Blonde Tongues.  We like them because they play jangling dream pop, just the way we like it.  We also are particularly fond of them this season, because they offering the great new tune, "Hey Good Lookin'", and two prior singles, for the every popular 'name your price'.  This is a holiday deal you shouldn't miss.









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Sväva - We Have Just the Life We Want


Sväva is a very intriguing dream pop band from The Netherlands.  Bente Hout (vocals/bass), Michelle Hindriks (guitar), Olivier Copini (guitar), and Jelmer Terwal (drums), met at the Academy for Popculture in Leeuwarden, and began to work on fleshing out songs written by Hout and Hindriks while they were traveling through Scotland, England and France.  The band infuses dream pop songs with dark tones and intricate riffs, providing a fitting foundation for Hout's vocals.  With an impressive range -- an upper register that recalls Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays matched with great power -- she may be one of the more compelling vocalists in the genre.

The band has released an impressive four-track EP, We Hve Just the Life We Want, which is available on Bandcamp.  You can watch the video for the second track, "Flown", below, and stream the entire EP.




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Casual Sex - A Perfect Storm / Pissing Neon


Our post punk men about Glasgow, Casual Sex, have brightened our holidays with a new two-track single, A Perfect Storm / Pissing Neon.  The first track is a polished gem, with synths and guitars combining to provide a melodic, but utterly dance-worthy, foundation for the relaxed vocals.  If you traveled in the right circles in the '80s, you might have heard something similar, but probably not as well done.  "Pissing Neon" offers a completely different vibe, with a rhythm dominated arrangement, harsh accents and urgent vocals.

The single is available now from We Can Still Picnic as a digital download and limited edition 7" vinyl.





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Friday, December 12, 2014

Love Sport - Gol!! EP


The tendency of indie rockers to have more than one project going at a time hasn't missed Finland, and we, the listeners, are the winners.  Aki, Mikko, Petri, and Teemu, members of other Finnish bands Hopeajarvi, Lady Escape, Big Wave Riders and Black Twig, have teamed up in Love Sport.  The alert folks with the cultured ears at Helsinki's Soliti Music secured the honor releasing their debut record, the Gol!! EP.  It is an intriguing introduction, with five tracks spanning the spectrum of psychedelic guitar pop.  It begins with the tangled, swaggering blast of "Well..Shit".   Other tracks, such as "Goodbye Brains" and "Pink Rhumba", provide a dreamier track reminiscent of the first album from Avi Buffalo. Good stuff, and we hope that an album is in their future.







The Gol!! EP is available now as a digital download and, for those who collect such artifacts, cassette.

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Rolling Stones Friday: Dance Little Sister


We didn't realize it at the time, but The Stones 1974 album It's Only Rock 'n Roll was in some ways the end of the line. Sure, the tremendous live performances continued for 4 more decades and continue today. But the recorded output never regained the consistently stellar level of the mid '60's-early 70's.

It's Only Rock 'n Roll began a much more predictable and tepid era, far less threatening and innovative, the title track essentially conceding they'd run out of creative gas.

But The Stones are so good that even their tossed off stuff is still quite enjoyable. One such throwaway track from It's Only Rock 'n Roll that I've always enjoyed is "Dance Little Sister":


This was Mick Taylor's final album with the Stones and they were at their best in my opinion with the sort of nasty and aggressive guitar he brought the band, exhibited on "Dance Little Sister".   Though here's an excellent live version (audio only) from a club show in Toronto in 1977 with Ron Wood on guitar:


Thursday, December 11, 2014

REVIEW: Posse - Soft Opening

This is a bit embarrassing.  A friend recently asked my if I'd covered Soft Opening, the debut LP from Seattle's Posse because they are a local band and it is the sort of music I like.  I was fairly sure that I hadn't reviewed the album, but the name of the band was familiar.  So I searched the draft folders for the blog (informally referred to as the 'lazy man's wall of shame'), and discovered that I'd created a stub post for the review last spring.  Apparently, I then got busy doing other things great and small, and wrote no more about the album.  Usually, such a post sits on a wall of shame until the responsible lazy man deletes it or, if really lazy, lets it sit in draft state for years.  But I really can't do that to Posse, because Soft Opening is a fine album and you deserve reading about it and the band deserves you reading about it.

This is guitar-dominated music, which is to be expected from a three-piece consisting of two guitarists and a drummer.  The guitars are ring and jangle, with a clean sound that most recalls Real Estate, or several current Melbourne bands such as Dick Diver and The Ocean Party.  But as the album unspools you'll discover that the arrangements aren't all derived from the same template.  Depending on your preferences and listening history, you may here a bit of Pavement here, a bit of Jonathan Richman, Yo La Tengo or the Pixies there.  The guitars seem to be having a bit of a friendly discussion with each other, which reminds me of Robert Scott and Kaye Woodward of The Bats.  For that matter the vocals are straightforward and conversational as well.  It is music delivered with no drama, and little in the way of hard edges.  But the melodic textures are richly layered with plenty of shimmer and some appealing quirky diversions.

The breathtaking opener, "Interesting Thing No. 2", in which Posse does about every thing they do well in just one song, was an obvious track to pick for your evaluation.  The relaxed, sublime, shimmering slacker pop of "Shut Up" -- yes, all six and a half minutes -- is another.  In determining whether I recommend an album I typically don't pay any attention to what other people say about it.  However, because I wanted to include a third song, I wandered the internet tubes to determine whether there was an additional consensus favorite.  What I discovered is that among people that loved the album and noted a favorite, the choices included nearly every song.  That suggested two things to me.  First, it confirmed that this album is full of good songs that connect with listeners.  Second, I get to choose the song I want.

I have spilled a magnum of digital ink over the past two years championing guitar pop music as played by many bands from Australia and New Zealand, only to find that one of the best albums in that vein this year was recorded by a band in my back yard.  I could feel a bit like Dorthy being told by the good witch in Oz that what I was looking for was in front of me the whole time, but that would require introspection.  So never mind all that, just get yourself a Soft Opening.






Posse is Sacha Maxim (guitar/vocals), Paul Witmann-Todd (guitar/vocals) and Jon Salzman (drums).  The album is released via the band's own Beating A Dead Horse Records, but the easiest way for most people to buy it would be to hit the Bandcamp link below.  There was a vinyl edition, but all copies have been sold.

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eagleowl - Clean the Night


eagleowl is a collective of Scottish indie musicians who are active in other well-regarded bands when not performing as eagleowl.  Bartholomew Owl (guitar/vocals) and Malcolm Benzie (violin/guitar/vocals) formed the band in Edinburgh in '05.  Clarissa Cheong (double bass/vocals) made it a trio for several years.  The current version also includes Rob St. John (organ/harmonium/vocals), Hannah Shepherd (cello) and Owen Williams (drums).  They have just released the two-track "Clean the Night" for the wiaiwya-7777777 singles club.  It is the final single in wiaiwya-7777777's singles series for 2014, and in my opinion they are closing the series with style.  The title track is haunting and atmospheric, with lean instrumentation and female-dominated vocals.  In contrast, the following "Life We Knew is a gentle, up-tempo indie pop tune with a warm vibe that invites -- and rewards -- repeated listens.  This is one of those releases that prove that singles and EPs are wonderful ways to collect music.  You can stream both tracks below, and investigate more at the following links.




By the way, the seven discs in the 2014 singles series have specially drawn art work which, when collected, provide a how-to guide to releasing your own single.  Clever and helpful -- consider it a buyer's rebate of sorts.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Waste the Alphabet" from Dick Diver

As good music news goes, there isn't much better news that a new Dick Diver album, titled Melbourne, Florida, will greet us in March of the new year.  But this news comes with the bonus unveiling of one of the songs, "Waste the Alphabet".  Playful, chugging, jangling and a bit shaggy, the lyrics result from a collaboration between the band's Al McKay and Melbourne poet Michael Farrell.  I'd say I missed these guys, but I regularly play their prior album, so I'll just say I'm excited to get more of them.



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Another taste of Twerps' upcoming Range Anxiety


We are big fans of the Twerps around here, so we are excited about their early 2015 release for Merge Records and Chapter Music, Range Anxiety.  We shared album track "Back to You" in October, and now we have the beautifully downbeat "Shoulders".  And as an added treat, we have the amusing video trailer for the album.  US fans also should note that the band will be touring the States in March and April, including a stop at SxSW.





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Crayon - Brick Factory

Hey pop collectors.  Here is a rare and wonderful album from the first half of the '90s.  The Pacific Northwest, was banging its collective head to grunge and other forms of alternative rock.  The Southeast had R.E.M, The dBs and its own brand of swampy jangle.  But amid it all, there was a spot for a noisy, lo-fi, merger of twee, punk and noise pop.  Born in the college and lumber town of Bellingham, Washington, there was Crayon.  Consisting of Brad Roberts (guitar/vocals), Sean Tollefson (bass/vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums), the band recorded a few singles and one album, Brick Factory, released in 1994 on Harriet Records.  By the middle of the decade, they had disbanded, with Tollefson and Fell leaving to found Tullycraft.  As the release of Brick Factory hits its 20th anniversary, HHBTM Records has issued a limited edition vinyl version of the album, which comes with a digital download with including 20 bonus tracks.  There is a cassette version with some bonus material as well.

The songs on Brick Factory deftly capture the awkwardness of young adulthood, the delight in the commonplace, the trickiness of romance, and wrapping it in distorted guitar, coy lyrics and bratty vocals.  The performances are energetic, and the music begs to be played at a high volume.  The record has been out of print and much sought after for years, so its resurrection is bound to delight old and new fans.  It may never come around again.








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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Turns - Gone EP


Turns are a relatively new band from Los Angeles.  To me their music sounds like Ride covering The Jesus and Mary Chain for a neo psychedelic compilation.  And they absolutely nail it.  In what I believe is the band's first official record, Shelflife Records has released the three track Gone EP as a digital release.  You also can pre-order a 7" vinyl version from Shelflife, or a cassette from Lolipop Records.  The label suggests that the band could easily slot in with the late '80s Creation Records roster, and I'm think it is an astute observation.  But regardless of the label you put on it, it is good stuff.  My favorite is the closer, "You'll See", so don't miss it because it will make me sad.  Turns is comprised of Marco Cortes (bass), Michael Eng (lead vocals/guitar), Johnny Toomey (drums), and Danny Winebarger (vocals/guitar).


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REVIEW: Witching Waves - Fear of Falling Down


London's Witching Waves are a serious lot.  In the last couple of years they have toured the UK three times and released three cassettes.  They've honed their sound, and added a bassist to the founding duo.  Their approach is DIY, but when one of your members is a professional sound engineer, you start out ahead of the class.  And all that culminates with their debut album, Fear of Falling Down, on Soft Power Records, and it is time for evaluation of the band's progress.

From this corner, they get a high grade.  The album consists of taut, angular indie rock with relentless, driving rhythms, and sharp, hard drum hits.  The vocals often sound defiant, although the lyrics tend to fall in the romantic vein.  Seasoning is provided via dashes of aggression and anxiety in some tracks, and jangling noise pop in others.  Although the '60s garage rock ancestry is apparent, I think this is garage rock deliberately re-imagined as post punk, with arrangements crafted to allow for changes in textures and dynamics and urgency blunted by intrusions of space and male/female sing along choruses.  The artful welding of these elements into a sturdy, pop-oriented rock album suggests good things for the future of Witching Waves, but more importantly it makes Fear of Falling Down a debut to which indie rock fans should pay attention.







Fear of Falling Down is out now on limited edition vinyl and via digital download from Soft Power Records.  Hit the Bandcamp link to stream or buy the album.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Nicholas Krgovich - On Sunset


Vancouver-raised, LA-based Nicholas Krgovich is a multi-instrumentalist and pop songwriter with formidable gifts -- gifts that he has provided to various projects with other musicians.  On Sunset is different than those past efforts.  This is his album, albeit his album with the contributions of talented friends, centered around his new city and telling its stories.  And like the city, Krgovich delivers with a wide scope, from the surging "The Backlot", to the slick R&B of "City of Night", to the gentle piano-driven ballad "Let's Take the Car Out", to the dreamy orchestral pop of "Rock's Dream", to the electro-funk of "You're Through".  If I had to use one phrase to describe the music, I'd say "it sparkles".  The hooks, the melodies, and the pictures evoked by the lyrics combine to suggest twinkling lights, compelling characters and a sense of place.  There is experimentation as well, but it never overwhelms the melody.

LA is a place where you can get lost, or find redemption.  But there is no risk to getting lost in this album.  Redemption is up to you. On Sunset is self-released, and is available at the Bandcamp link below.







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Deathcats/New Swears - Deathcats & New Swears split

One of our favorite discoveries of recent years is Glasgow's Deathcats.  That doesn't make their recent announcement of their upcoming hiatus any easier to take, but we can take cheer in their pre-break release for Fuzzkill Records.  And this one is extra special because Deathcats' four lo-fi, fuzzy garage punk songs are combined with four rock nuggets from Canada's exciting New Swears.  The release is available as a digital download or a cassette plus digital download.

The record finds Deathcats in prime Deathcats mode - loud, swaggering, and proudly displaying a few rough edges, but with solid pop smarts under the fuzz and bashing.  For my money, "You" is the best track (narrowly edging out "End Game"), and you can enjoy the band playing the song in the video below.  One listen to "Satan Loves You", the first track from New Swears demonstrates that they are an apt pairing for the noisy Scots.  Upbeat, garage pop with sing-along choruses.  Both these band approach music as a good time, and make music that is perfect soundtrack for good times.  Is there a better reason to grab the record?  I think not -- stream it below and hear for yourself.








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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Alexander Wildwood - South of No North


I think New Zealand's Alexander Wildwood makes an thrilling first impression South of No North consists of five tracks of smartly crafted pop rock songs.  In some respects, it reminds me of the exuberant folk rock of Iceland's Of Monsters and Men, and that is pretty good company for a debut record.  The opening track, "Bad Blood", is the anthemic centerpiece, but the following four tracks ably illustrate the nuances of Wildwood's songcraft. In particularly, he builds tracks with appealing choruses and melodies that swell grandly, recede to simplicity, and then build again.  There is a summery feel to the collection, but maybe that vibe comes naturally to a guy who grew up on a sailboat.

Reportedly, Wildwood selected  the five tracks for South of No North from 30 songs he'd composed over the past couple of years.  The final selections speak to his abilities, but the process suggests a disciplined artist with a critical ear.  My advice is to go to Wildwood's Soundcloud page, download the songs and treasure them.  Then wait for more good material in the future.  I'm quite sure it will be coming.

Wildwood writes, performs, records and produces his own music, and has a studio near the ocean on New Zealand's east coast.







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