Thursday, February 5, 2015

REVIEW: Tigercats - Mysteries

Mysteries is one of those great little musical discoveries.  These songs stick to all parts of your brain like Dr. Seuss' Oobleck, and refuse to leave.  To be fair, you probably won't be trying very hard to get rid of them.  As is the case with the best indie pop, the harmonies are catchy and soothing, and the gentle hooks painlessly invade your psyche.  But Tigercats have accomplished a bit more than that.  The tunes are intelligent and deceptively complex and lush, with shimmering instrumentation, but still bursting with energy and joy.  It is easier to love a pop song if the musicians can convince you that they really love the song too, and Tigercats manage that on all ten tracks here.  For me, the best tracks are "Junior Champion", the shimmering "Laura and Cesar", "Sleeping in the Backseat", the quirky "Too Sad to Tell You", and "Wheezer".  But every track gives you something fun to explore: "King of Vic" and "Call Me If You Need Me" are positively danceable, "Globe Town" has multiple chapters to experience.

If you are somewhere where the sun is shinning, this album will reinforce your mood.  If you are somewhere where it is cold and raining, this is a prescription for a better mood, trimmer figure, better skin, and happier life.  Trust me.

Mysteries is out now via Fortuna POP! on vinyl with a digital download or CD.

Tigercats are from east London.  The members are Duncan Barrett (vocals/guitar/songwriting), Giles Barrett (bass), Laura Kovic (vocals/keys), Jonny Evans (drums) and new guitarist Paul Rains from Allo Darlin'.  Terry Edwards from Gallon Drunk and Tindersticks supplied the horns for several tracks.

Fortuna POP!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unlikely Friends - Solid Gold Cowboys

'Pop ups' are becoming part of our culture.  We have pop up retail stores and pop up restaurants.  Those of us who spend time with rock music know that musicians have been doing this for years.  Musicians don't have to leave their regular band or bands to play with someone else.  They can just pop up another band and write some songs.  This is relevant because today's feature is Solid Gold Cowboys, which was created by the Pacific Northwest pop up band Unlikely Friends.  The project started with Charles Bert and Dave Krain.  Charles is the vocalist and guitarist for indie pop/twee band Math and Physics Club, whose 2013 album received well deserved praise on these pages (here).  Dave is the vocalist and guitarist of fine Seattle indie pop band BOAT.  If I understand the story correctly the two decided to write and record a few songs together.  But pop ups can take a life of their own, and the sessions resulted in 13 songs.  Even a pop up band may need a label for an album - right?  Well, that seems to have sorted itself out because the man they dragooned to play drums, Chris Mac, also happens to be the head of Seattle-based Jigsaw Records.  Songs, singers/guitarists, drummer, label -- Unlikely Friends is in business!

Well, now that we've handled introductions, what do we have in the way of music.  If you are guessing  indie pop with a dash of twee, you'd be wrong.  The appropriate references here are the crunchy lo-fi indie rock of Guided By Voices and the hook-filled power pop of Teenage Fanclub.  It isn't glossy and it isn't twee.  But it is top flight songwriting from musicians that know their craft and are focused on fun (some of the lyrics had me laughing out loud).  At one point I had considered giving you a chart ticking off which songs were more like GBV and which were more like the venerable Scots, but I decided that the readers should have that fun.  So, listen to the songs below and if you like them go to the Bandcamp page liked below and stream the entire thing (noting, of course that a digital download of immediate and ongoing pleasure is only $7).  Admittedly, the third song linked below "Stupid Game", is really more of a '60s folk-rock song with a vocal reminiscent of The Cyrcle or Peter and Gordon, but I found it to be two minutes and sixteen seconds of bliss, so I had to include it.

And if you take my advice to go to the Jigsaw Bandcamp site, and after you buy this album, take some time to explore the other albums from the label.  Chris has great taste and makes a point of not gouging his fellow music lovers.

Jigsaw Records Bandcamp page for Solid Gold Cowboys (CD or Digital)
Jigsaw Records order page for CD
Mirror Universe Tapes

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

REVIEW: Twerps - Range Anxiety

It seems to me that Range Anxiety, the second LP from Melbourne's Twerps is an important opportunity for the band.  Already well known in their home country, where this album is released by home label Chapter Music, this is their first album for "big" indie Merge Records, which will release the Range Anxiety internationally.  And I can report that the band has seized the opportunity in grand fashion, making an excellent album without sacrificing the attributes that have allowed them to stand out from the crowd all along.

Twerps craft jangling guitar pop tunes that are full-sounding without being dense.  The melodies seem effortless and airy, but there is a fair amount of invention and coloring outside the lines in a typical Twerps tune, from the non-indie pop aggressiveness of the basslines to the instrumental breakouts at the end of a tune to the .... well, listen and enjoy the discovery.  Justifiable comparisons have been made to The Go-Betweens, The Pastels, Real Estate and certain Kiwi guitar bands.  And there certainly is truth to the notion of a shared devotion to melody, the DIY feel and a certain overall youthful shagginess.  But talented bands don't tend to stay in one place, and Twerps are neither beginning musicians nor kids.  While focused thematically on the sorts of musings that young people have, their writing is maturing, the performances are tighter, and the sound is cleaned up.  At one point this band could be tagged as lo-fi, but they have moved past that stage.  The tempos are varied, the sounds carefully layered.  Far from being overstuffed, even at 13 tracks, Range Anxiety leaves the listener wishing the band had dropped in a few more lush tunes.

This album explores the band's preoccupation with uncertainties, inadequacies, fears and indecision.  Apparently the album title itself refers to the fear of running out of gas.  But with pop music, it is all about the tunes and these tracks never let the subject matter get stale.  After the beginning 52 second keyboard instrumental of "House Keys", the album launches strongly with standout track "I Don't Mind".  A shaggy slow tempo song with a circular guitar riff and a Go-Betweens vibe, it highlights things the Twerps do well.  Adjust your earphones and listen to the narrator make the case for making no decisions and taking no positions.

The following "Back To You" boasts a jauntier melody, while Frawley complains that someone out there is "doing better than me", and he is happy to blame someone else for his condition.

On "Stranger" and "New Moves" the band hits full jangle pop stride, with an uptempo Kiwi rock meets California style that I expect to play as well everywhere as it does in my head.  "White as Snow" is a chugging little tale of a not-so-nice girl.  The melancholy "Shoulders" is another standout track, dealing with loneliness and resignation.

The album swings back into jangle pop vein with "Simple Feelings", a tale of an on-again, off-again relationship.  "Adrenaline" is a Julia's turn to sing about an obsessive relationship.

Range Anxiety then becomes somewhat less convetional, with the moody and atmospheric "Fern Murders" and the closing dream pop of "Empty Road".  In between are the jangling "Cheap Education" and  "Love at First Sight".  The latter is a gem of a song which sounds like a demo take of a band creating a slow dance number for a '60s high school prom, and I absolutely love it.

Twerps are Martin Frawley (guitar and vocals), Julia MacFarlane (guitar and vocals), Alex Macfarlane (drums and vocals), and Gus Lord (bass) (I don't know whether Gus or former bass player Rick Milovanovic worked on the recording of this album).  Range Anxiety is out now on CD, vinyl and digital via Merge Records internationally and Chapter Music down under.

Merge Records album page
Chapter Music album page (for Australia and New Zealand)

"Tearing the Posters Down" from Dick Diver

We here at WYMA are excited about the March 10 release of Melbourne, Florida, the third album from one of our favorite Australian bands, Dick Diver.  In December we featured the first track from the album to be released (here).  Today the band and their label for this album, Trouble In Mind Records, unveiled "Tearing The Posters Down".  Beginning with a stark drum beat, and then building with guitars and bass, this new track shares the driving rhythm of the previous track, but pulses with purpose.  Fans of the band may notice a new polish to the proceedings, but only in a good way.  This is top class, uptempo guitar pop and should have you marking your calendar for March.

Dick Diver is Rupert Edwards, Alistair McKay, Stephanie Hughes and Al Monfort.  The album was recorded by Australian's Mr Music Everyman, Mikey Young.

Trouble In Mind Records

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Soft City - Four Stories EP

I was impressed enough with Before There Were Pictures, the 2014 LP from Phil Sutton's Pale Lights that I ranked it among my top albums of the year (list here; original review here).  Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have access to Phil's previous project, The Soft City.  The Bandcamp link below takes you to the 2012 four track Four Stories EP, two tracks of which are presented below.  This is great, jangling folk rock/indie rock stuff.  The digital download for this EP and earlier released linked on the Bandcamp page are name your price, so this should fit your budget while making your heart glad.

I think that the band's lineup changed from time to time, but for this EP The Soft City were Phil Sutton (drums and guitar), Dora Lubin (vocals), Jason Corace (guitars), Turner Stough (bass), and Kyle Forester (keys and guitars).  All songs were written by Sutton except for "Plane in the Sky", which is attributed to Corace.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Kelly" American Wrestlers

Some titles can't be taken at face value.  American Wrestlers may only be one one guy.  Whether he wrestles or not is unknown.  And while he resides in the American Midwest, he's from Glasgow.  But the only relevant point is the guy makes music that strikes a chord with us.  We featured one of his songs a few months ago (here), and we're back with "Kelly".  We're also back with the news that American Wrestlers will release its self-titled debut album on Fat Possum on April 27th.  I'm looking forward to this album a lot.

Fat Possum