Friday, March 20, 2015

Black Lizard - Solarize

I have been a fan of Finland's Black Lizard for several years.  Their sound to date has been an updated blend of psychedelic shoegaze that echos The Jesus and Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  Solarize, their second LP, reveals and expanded musical concept, with elements of  '90s alternative rock and a broader array of instruments to the original garage rock/psychedelic palate.  The atmosphere is refined as well.  While still mining the dark side of their sound, this album lets in some sunshine.

The album begins with one "Everything and Nothing", which is one of the tracks that is most representative of the band's expanded range.  Boasting a buoyant and engaging groove, it is a swaggering delight.  The fifth track, "Harmonize", utilizes a post-punk, synth-based approach to expressing tension, with more space and a slower tempo than the other songs.  The other seven tracks reveal Black Lizard's increased confidence in their brand of psychedelic garage.  For my money, "All Her Time", "Prefect Dope" and "Helpless" are most memorable.  But there are no weak spots.  Play it end to end and you are living in a rock and roll fantasy.

Black Lizard are Paltsa-Kai Salama (vocals/guitar), Joni Seppanen (guitar), Luri Lyytinen (bass) and Onni Nieminen (drums/percussion).  Solarize is out today via Helsinki's Soliti Music in vinyl and digital formats.

Soliti Music

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In Tall Buildings - Driver

Have you been good lately?  Enjoyed a triumph that calls for a reward?  Give some thought to presenting yourself with Driver from In Tall Buildings.  Consisting of ten lush, layered tracks of melodic pop, this is music carefully crafted to grace your finest earphones.  In Tall Buildings is the name used by Chicago native Erik Hall (of NOMO and His Name Is Alive) for his solo recordings.  He home-recorded the album in Chicago and a Michigan farmhouse, utilizing multiple instruments to achieve his desired sound.  While the songs are varied in rhythm, energy and emotion, a unifying characteristic is the spacious feel and generally relaxed pace.  The atmosphere is intimate, but rather than create specific themes they convey an overall impression of relaxed and unthreatening melancholy.  I was most taken by the incredible "Flare Gun" and lead off track "Bawl Cry Wail", but the record presents consistent quality throughout.  My first impression on listening to the album is that all of the songs felt like old friends, even though I had never heard them before.  In my view, that is a quality to be cherished.

Driver is out in the US now, out in Europe on April 20.

Western Vinyl page for album

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Emma Kupa - Home Cinema

A few years ago I reviewed an album by the since deceased Sheffield, UK band Standard Fare.  Among the many positives of that group were the vocals and songwriting of the bass player, Emma Kupa.  Happily, Emma has resurfaced with this delightful Home Cinema EP.  Warm vocals and classic rhythms carry six songs of family remembrances.  And because they are about family and are honestly crafted, the stories cover the range of happy and sad, triumphs and hardships.  But the tunes are infections, the vocals endearing, and the sincerity that infuses the project makes this one of those wonderfully intimate musical treasures that come along every so not-often-enough.

According to my ears, the standout track is "Half Sister", but I also find myself pressing replay for the country-folk "Consequences" and the '60s influenced "Punch A Door Through".  The title is apt -- this record is like looking at someone's home movies.  But the delicious bit, in addition to the obvious quality, is that the tales are those that people's home movies never capture.

Home Cinema is out now via wiaiwya Records.

Bandcamp for Home Cinema
Soundcloud for Home Cinema
Home Cinema blog
wiaiwya Records

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

REVIEW: Nic Hessler - Soft Connections

Four years ago I profiled a band that called itself Catwalk (link) which had recently signed to Captured Tracks' roster, and a couple of year later featured another of their songs.  And then I heard nothing of the band.  It seems that there is a good excuse for the silence, as Mr. Catwalk, Californian Nic Hessler, came down with an autoimmune disorder in 2012, at age 21, that knocked him out of musical circulation.  It is 2015 and Nic has recovered and still writes music.  Back with Captured Tracks, his comeback effort is Soft Connections.  Of course, this is great for Nick.  But guitar pop fans should celebrate as well.  This young man started writing music when he was 14, and signed his first label deal at age 18.  He is very good at it, and we here at WYMA are glad he is back.

Soft Connections begins with the upbeat, slightly new wave guitar pop "I Feel Again" (stream below), which could well be the recovery announcement for anyone emerging from a debilitating disease, and ends with the dreamy title track.  In between are ten more tracks of inspired guitar pop, from the tropical romance of "Do You Ever" to the '80s new wave feel of "All In The Night" to the near '60s bubblegum plea "(Please) Don't Break Me".  There is no filler here, and the record plays out more like a mixtape of recent favorite indie pop songs than a typical record.  Still, everyone will have favorites, and mine is the wonderful "Into the Twilight", although "(Please) Don't Break Me" (Catwalk fans will remember it fondly), "Permanent" and "All In The Night" are close behind.  If you are a fan of well-crafted power pop like that of XTC and Alex Chilton, this album is for you.  In the days when radios played hits, you would have heard these songs regularly.  Now, we have to spread the word.  Get busy!

Soft Connections is out today via Captured Tracks.

Captured Tracks

Monday, March 16, 2015

REVIEW: American Culture - Pure American Gum

The music of American Culture wears its American rock credentials proudly.  Think The Replacements, The Henry Clay People, Springsteen, Velvet Underground, Dinosaur Jr and Guided By Voices.  It may not be easy to articulate the American essence, but we grew up on this stuff, bought records and went to shows.  This is our rock music -- the soundtrack of our lives. And while the fusion of punk, power pop, college rock and guitar pop with a love of volume and 'we do what we want' attitude is never going to be destined for the pop charts of 2015, it also is always going to have a place in our hearts.  The band is either shy about, or unconcerned with, telling you anything about themselves, although my crack research assistants generously took time from filling out their March Madness Brackets to advise me that the main man here is Chris Adolf who formerly performed as Bad Weather California.  Due to said interns' indolence, as well as their not quite admirable resilience in the face of negative job reviews, no other details will be forthcoming.

Thanks to the good folks at Jigsaw Records, we all can have a piece of American Culture.  Pure American Gum delivers ten anthems reflecting the freedom and anxiety of American youth.  The album kicks off with the '90s rock of "My Teeth Are Sharp", with woozy vocals and thick guitar lines.  "Actual Alien" brings a touch of shoegaze without yielding any of the fist-pumping drive.  Fans of the late The Henry Clay People, which certainly includes me, should find great joy in "Social Anxiety".   The next song is titled "I Like American Culture".  For my money, it is the best song on the album, and by now I expect any rock fan will agree with the sentiment in the title.  "We Wanna Go To The Movies" sounds like it should be the best Guided by Voices song of the year, and just as you are wrapping your head around that fact the band slides into the Springsteen-like romp of "Just Driving Around".  The following "I Wanna Be Your Animal" switches the vibe to a taut film noir soundtrack.  The upbeat piano-driven "And That's Enough For Me" becomes one of the standout tunes of the album by virtue of making you feel so damn good.  The album ends with the adrenaline rush of "About A Friend" and the delightful "I Wasn't Going To Fuck You Over Like That".

This album wraps up years of American rock music with its own fresh wrapper.  I love this album and can't stop playing it.

Pure American Gum is available as a digital download for the unbelievable price of $7, and on vinyl with a digital download included.  See the Bandcamp link below for either format.  Gum is not included, but at those prices you'll be able to afford the flavor of your choice.

Bandcamp for album

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Colleen Green - I Want to Grow Up

Via the title of her new album for Hardly Art, stoned songstress Colleen Green proclaims I Want To Grow Up.  And we have no reason to not accept the statement at face value.  Certainly her appealingly shaggy arrangements of the past have given way to tighter tunes, and unlike prior recordings she has even used a studio for this effort.  Lyrically, too, she turns her attention to getting her life together.  But she says that she wants to grow up, not that she has reached that goal.  So these songs are more about discovering the path to the goal, traveling that path, and straying off the path.  Besides, growing up means knowing what you do best, so I'm happy to report that Green still delivers crunch, fuzzy, lo-fi power pop with sugary vocals.  As she does that about as well as anyone American indie music, we can celebrate her path to maturity in fine fashion.

The individual songs emphasize the theme announced in the title, unspooling like diary entries recording the progress made and the progress still need to be made.  Life isn't perfect, but decisions need to be made, dammit, so they get made and hope for the best.  And as listeners, all is good anyway, as we get the great tunes along the way.  While we hope Colleen finds what she is looking for -- and likes it when she does -- if she doesn't then she can name her next album "Growing Up Was A Dumb Idea".  And I expect we will love that one as well.

I Want To Grow Up is out now via Hardly Art.

Hardly Art page for Colleen Green releases