Friday, April 17, 2015

REVIEW: Totally Mild - Down Time

Elizabeth Mitchell has a pretty much perfect pop voice.  So with good material and the right supporting players, one would expect good things.  Fortunately, for Down Time, the just released album for her band Totally Mild, she has written very good material and assembled an excellent complement of bandmates in Zach Schneider (of Full Ugly, which we covered last year, and The Great Outdoors, which was on these pages earlier in the week) on guitar, Lehmann Smith (of Kes Band) on bass and Ashley Bundang (whose band Zone Out included Mitchell) on drums.  The songs consist of ten well formed nuggets of autumnal pop melancholy that still manage to be airy and warm.  The rhythm section is sparse, but authoritative and Schneider's guitar perfectly accents Mitchell's vocals.  So, we expected good things, and Totally Mild delivered very, very good things.

Sophisticated and precise without becoming slick or cold, and produced to give the vocals and instruments sufficient space for maximum impact, these are songs that you can live with and play over and over.  And while there is a bit of Beach House in the vibe, it is the organic nature of the sound and the restraint in the production which sets Down Time apart from, and above, most comparisons.  You'll hear about relationships, stagnancy, and the fear of both.

Totally Mild - Christa from BSR on Vimeo.

Down Time is out now via Bedroom Such Records, which is offering it as a CD or vinyl plus digital download.  If you want to check out the album Mitchell released while Totally Mild was still a solo project, it it as the Bandcamp link below.

Bedroom Suck order page for album
Bandcamp for previous album

Dog Legs - Holiday EP

Oh those kids -- they do like to make noise.  But we aren't telling London/Brighton's Dog Legs to turn down the damn stereo because, truth be told, this duo makes really good noise.  Comprising Moema Meade and Liam Bradbury, their talents are well-displayed on their cassette/download mini-album Holiday EP.

Starting with a bang, opening track "Holiday" provides enough volume, noise, melody and fuzz for a whole album.  "Ugly" offers some bratty girl-group touches over a muscular garage arrangement.  "I Trusted You Is 100% punk energy compacted into just under two minutes, followed by a 36-second ode to an ice cream cone.  Apparently our young heroes are dessert-obsessed, because track six is the rootsy "Xmas Cookie".  The throbbing "Messy Cloud" is one of my favorites, but lamentably too brief.  The closing "Things I'll Never Be" is a fitting bookend to the opening track.  This release is out today, just in time to jump start your weekend.

You can stream the Holiday EP at the Bandcamp link below.  It is available only as a limited edition cassette with digital download from the sharp talent scouts at Scotland's Soft Power Records.

Bandcamp for Holiday EP

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roaming Herds of Buffalo - Apocalypse Beach

Increasingly there is discussion about how to return the U. S. of A. to its past glory.  And from time to time there is focus on iconic symbols that may have lost their special place in the hearts of its citizens -- symbols such as the bald eagle, the Washington Monument, and the stars and stripes.  The executive committee of the editorial board of WYMA strives to help, so we have considered what other symbols should to be returned to the consciousness of the Nation.  After careful consideration and a couple of cases of the finest domestic fortified wine, we have decided that we need to bring back roaming herds of buffalo.  In the 19th century they were a sign of the America's bounty, her brawny, outdoorsy lifestyle with the freedom to roam without boundaries.  In devising this recommendation we had to ignore several realities, such as the fact that our lifestyles are much less outdoorsy, that herds of large wild animals aren't compatible with urban life, and that it is our own damn fault that we don't have herds of buffalo because we shot them.  But dreamers don't let things like that stop them, and we are dreamy.  So we found a solution.

Yes, we bring to you Seattle's Roaming Herds of Buffalo.  Playing crunchy indie rock, with a few country and surf accents, the band was formed in 2011.  Their third LP, Apocalypse Beach, was self-released last month, and offers ten tracks mostly recorded in a single take to capture the feel of a live show.  This is an album that quite simply makes you feel good -- like you would feel if you just saw a herd of buffalo run alongside your air conditioned gas-guzzling pick up as you sped down the highway to get to the mall.  The musicianship and vocals are excellent, the performances sincere and the songs varied, from the crunchy "Antelope" to the surfy "Summer" to the acoustic-turns-frenetic beach jam of the title track (Beach Boys on drugs alert!) to the dusty California country rock of the showcase track "Cereal Prize".  Check out some songs below and stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  "Rewind" begins with the line 'I want beer', and became an instant favorite around here.  The digital album is only $7.  I will also note that the great album are is the work of Darin Shuler.

Make this country strong again, support the return of the buffalo, get Apocalypse Beach.

The members of Roaming Herds of Buffalo are Scott Roots, Neal Flaherty, Jared Fiechtner, and William Cremin.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

REVIEW: Sneaky Feelings - Send You

Flying Nun's deluxe reissue of Send You, the 1983 debut album from Dunedin's Sneaky Feelings, is not only a welcome bit of the iconic label's glorious part in indie music history, but a key rebuttal to the argument that the "Dunedin Sound" was confined to scrappy punk-inflected bands such as The Clean or melodic melancholy pop bands like The Bats.   The sound of Sneaky Feelings was a full, even lush, guitar pop, often with jangling psychedelic touches.   The songs bore affecting harmonies and lead vocals more reminiscent of UK's The Verve, The Weather Prophets or Simple Minds, or California guitar pop, than of many of their labelmates.   With all three members -- Matthew Bannister, David Pine and Martin Durrant -- writing songs for the album, the material was strong throughout.  Moreover, for this reissue the label has supplemented the nine remastered original songs with seven more, including all of the tracks from the popular Husband House EP.

This was music with sophistication, breadth, and justifiable ambition, musically and thematically. The dynamic emotional expression truthfully is more akin to The Beatles than what one might have expected from a band sharing space on the seminal Dunedin Double release from Flying Nun.  I would buy this album just to get "Throwing Stones" "Be My Friend" and "Everything I Want" (a song I love to an embarrassing degree), even if the rest of the songs weren't good.  But the happy fact is that this collection is wonderful from start to finish.  It may be the most robust jangle pop album you ever hear.

Send You can be ordered from the Flying Nun affiliate, Flying Out, or in the US from Captured Tracks.  Links for both are below.

Order page for Send You at Flying Out
Order page for Send You at Captured Tracks

Fairlight Myth - Alpha November

Our favorite singles club is wiaiwya-7777777.  For each of seven consecutive years (2015 is the fourth) WIAIWYA is releasing a limited run of 7" vinyl releases.  A subscription will get you the vinyl, free streaming of the releases on Bandcamp and a digital download.  You will not be surprised to learn that each release of the releases is out on the 7th of the month, with each day of the week being represented by the end of the year.

This year WIAIWYA asked artists to collaborate, resulting in rare and interesting songs.  This month's release is Alpha November by Fairlight Myth, which is a collaboration between Peter Astor and Keith Negus.  Astor's impressive career includes The Loft and, one of my all-time favorites, The Weather Prophets, as well as writing about music.  Negus is a veteran of Cane and The Coconut Dogs, and several electronic projects.  He also has written about music and works in academia.

The title track is a features a slinky rhythm underpinning an insistent melody and taut vocals.  Play this one before going out late at night.  The flip side is "Love Repeats" couples warm synths with a buoyant rhythm.  Perhaps it is a perfect lovers' soundtrack for a Sunday afternoon?  Test drive both tracks below.  Note that the single can be purchased as a digital download at the Bandcamp link.

Bandcamp for Alpha November
Subscription information for wiaiwya-7777777

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kane Strang - Blue Cheese

Dunedin, New Zealand's Kane Strang in one of the artists we have been following for a while.  He creates melodic guitar pop with layers of sound that render the compositions full, yet unfussy.  You can detect a strain of historic Dunedin guitar pop, but there are more psychedelic and dream pop touches and nary a hint of punk.  Kane's debut LP, Blue Cheese, is available now as a digital download on Bandcamp,  It consists of nine well conceived and individualistic songs that bear the mark of a true pop craftsman.  By turns dark and mysterious (e.g. the opener "Web Web") and buoyant (e.g. "What's Wrong?") the album lays down a fulsome soundtrack that begs to be played loudly.  And because it is over in 25 minutes, it begs, and deserves, to be replayed.

The young man has talent -- give him some love.


"When The Sun Goes Down" from The Outdoor Type

"When The Sun Goes Down" is the first single from the upcoming debut EP from Melbourne musician The Outdoor Type.  Synths and guitars combine to make a hazy and pulsating soundscape with a bit of an '80s anthem vibe.  I think it is a smashing song, and when you also track back and listen to his earlier free song "Are You Happy" (link) you may agree with me that the debut EP is one to watch for.


Monday, April 13, 2015

"A Bell" from Expert Alterations, EP forthcoming on Slumberland

Meeting halfway in between the dense jangle of Close Lobsters and more stripped down indie rock of, perhaps, The Clean, we have Expert Alterations.  The Baltimore trio released an excellent five-song self-titled cassette-only EP earlier this year, that probably didn't get the attention it deserved because of the format.  Fortunately -- for the band and music fans -- Slumberland Records is re-releasing the EP in a one-sided 12 vinyl edition.  I've listened to the EP (and you can as well below), and I think that Paul, Alan and Patrick have crafted a very appealing take on jangle pop, including a very welcome spotlight on the bass.

Slumberland order page
Bandcamp for cassette

Natalie Pryce - Vol. II: The Ascent from Ego to Ego

To my ears, part of what makes Glasgow collective Natalie Pryce special is their bleak and grimy version of garage rock.  Perhaps the genre could be called rockabilly noir meets post punk desolation, but that lacks a marketing zing.  But I assure you that on their second LP, Vol. II: The Ascent From Ego To Ego, the gloomy and foreboding atmosphere doesn't mean mournful music.  The musicians swagger through rootsy grooves, while Mark Swan sneers, howls, pleads and croons throughout the thirteen tracks, each of which is titled with someone's name.  The other special aspect of the album is the immediacy, vitality and energy of the recordings.  The band insists on recording each song in one take, in analogue.  Certainly, some music benefits from multiple takes and overdubs.  Natalie Pryce's music is not designed to be such music.

The cultural touchstones giving life to the vignettes can be found in art, psychology, philosophy, sexual fetishism, dystopian fantasy  and fairly tales, all with this collective's dark twist and dashed romanticism distilled to cynicism.  If that puts you off, this album might not be for you, but you should at least give it a listen.  For me, it is an enthralling album, with the sort of songs you would expect to find in a Twilight Zone episode in which the protagonist gets lost on backroads in the fog and ends up in a roadhouse full of nightmarish characters.

This band makes music for music's sake, not for money.  The album can be downloaded free at this link (as can their debut LP), and streamed in full and downloaded at this Soundcloud link.

In addition to Mark Swan, the players in the Natalie Pryce collective are Steven Litts (bass), Greg Taylor (guitar) and Stephen Coleman (drums).  Ascent From Ego to Ego was recorded at Glasgow's Green Door Studio by Samuel Smith (frontman of WYMA favorite Casual Sex), and was financed via crowd funding.

Soundcloud stream of Ascent From Ego To Ego