Friday, December 4, 2015

KiDD - Hotchpotch

If you have followed Scottish pop over the years, you have heard Stuart KiDD, even if you haven't heard any of his work under his own name.  He has been a member of several bands, including the venerable BMX Bandits, St Deluxe, Harmony Springs, The Store Keys, and The Wellgreen, and he has played with Jonny, Linden and Pearlfishers, among others.  We are fans of his work, and featured some of it three years ago (link).

KiDD's label, The Barne Society, has released a limited edition cassette of songs Stuart has recorded in recent years.  The songs were picked by Stuart himself, and provide an excellent and varied listening experience.  Among the highlights are the '60s pop of opener "Alfie" (did The Beach Boys mislay this one when mixing Pet Sounds?), the roots/psych of "4 Leaf Clover", the Beatle-esque "Win Or Lose", the shuffling plea to a lover who intends to leave of "Win Or Lose", the pastoral pop of "Turquoise" and "Leave Me Here I'm Sleeping" (which bring to mind Fleet Foxes), the country pop "Ring the Belle", and the dreampop "Rooftop Cityscape".  You can stream, and order, the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Ocean Party - Light Weight

We try to be helpful here at WYMA, so today I'm going to make a gift recommendation for the number one indie pop fan in your life.  The identity of that person probably looks back at you when you stand in front of the mirror, so no postage will be required.  However, if you have friends who like indie pop, you can give this gift as well.  In fact, as psychologists say that the best gifts are those that reflect the tastes of the giver, you probably should give this gift to all of your indie pop-loving friends.  The gift is Light Weight, the new album from Melbourne's The Ocean Party.

This record succeeds on so many fronts.  Because multiple members of the band write, there is incredible freshness to each song.  And perhaps due to an understandable, if unconscious,  competitiveness, each song is a self-contained gem.  One might expect that an album representing this many voices would provide a disconnected listening experience.  But in fact, the album is a coherent aural presentation of introspection set in spacious arrangements.  The songs are gorgeous, bathing your ears in delightful melodies and subtle instrumental details.  It all goes down so easily that your first impression could be that Light Weight is, well, light weight.  But each successive listen will reinforce the perfection of the music, the discipline of the performance and, most of all, the heavy weight lyrical punch.  Of course, that means we hear disappointment, regret, insecurity and revealed flaws.  But the nuanced wording and honesty of expression make the hearing a joy, rather than a bummer.

Three great tracks are below, but try to find and stream the title track and "Real Life" as well.  Hell, stream the whole thing.  Better yet, buy it and listen to all of the songs over and over.  By the way, there are no geographic excuses to not buying Light Weight.  It is released in the United States by Austin Town Hall Records (which is related to the excellent Austin Town Hall music blog), in Australia and New Zealand by Spunk Records, and in the UK and Europe by Caroline Records.

Austin Town Hall Records
Spunk Records

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hooton Tennis Club - Highest Point In Cliff Town

Tennis, anyone?  OK, that isn't the most original lead-in, and Liverpool's Hooton Tennis Club most likely has heard it more than a few times.  But often you get what you pay for, and I write for free.

Hooton Tennis Club, which is named after an actual tennis club is comprised of Ryan Murphy, Jaes Madden, Callum McFadden, and Harry Chalmers, long time friends whose demos attracted the attention of Heavenly Recordings.  Signatures on the dotted line led to recording The Highest Point In Cliff Town -- twelve tracks of swaggering indie rock that sounds like a cross of '90s Britpop and Scott & Charlene's Wedding.  Breezy in attitude, loose at the edges, and muscular when it needs to be, it varies among powerpop anthems, woozy jams and party sing-alongs.  We found it a very satisfying album, and if you like well constructed and good-natured guitar rock as much as we do, you owe it to yourself to check this album out.  I expect it will be on a few year-end lists, and I think it may make mine.

Heavenly Recordings page for Highest Point In Cliff Town

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Underprotected" / "Chocolate and Salt" by Paddy Hanna

We've featured the music of Dublin's Paddy Hanna recorded under his own name, and with other projects.  Today, we are bringing you the two songs on his new "Underprotected" single.  Available as of December 4 (at the Bandcamp link below), it reveals Paddy to be a musician of formidable talents.  The lead track is a perfect mini-epic to our ears, and then the b-side steals the scene.  We are reminded of Edwyn Collins here, and that's no bad thing at all.

For this recording, the players are Paddy Hanna (guitar/vocals/keys), Mark Chester (guitar), Bobby Aherne (bass), and Enda Canavan (drums).

Bandcamp for single

The Hermit Crabs - In My Flat

Every being has its nature.  Hermit crabs stay out of sight much of the time, and then scuttle into view in all of their cute glory.  They thrill for a while -- especially other beings who like to consume them -- and then they are gone until the next fortunate sighting.  Such is the case with Glasgow's land-based version, The Hermit Crabs.  Melanie Whittle formed the band in 2003.  Since then, there have been one LP and several EPs, with various additional temporary crabs supporting Mel.  True, not a massive output, but what do you expect from hermit crabs?

Happily, the band has emerged into the sunlight again with In My Flat, which I think is the band's best work yet.  Recorded in Idaho with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of The Very Most (with whom Mel collaborates as Baffin Island), it comprises eight songs pop songs featuring Whittle's delicate and pristine voice, appealing melodies, and uncomplicated but interesting instrumentation.  And as always is the case with a recording from The Hermit Crabs, Whittle's compositions are a star of the proceedings.  Personal, intimate, revealing, feisty and witty, she paints evocative little portraits of life in a manner reminiscent of Scottish indie pop peers Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura.  This record does what good indie pop should do -- make you sigh, may you smile, and prompt you to tap your foot or even dance around the room.  If mixtapes still are a thing you do, a few of these may end up in the hands of your special friends.  The Hermits Crabs are back in the sunlight, get yourself some.

In My Flat is available in CD or digital formats via Matinee Recordings.

Matinee Recordings page for In My Flat

Monday, November 30, 2015

"When The Poor Can Reach The Moon" by The Chills

Closely following their triumphant release of Silver Bullets (our feature here), their first album of new material in nearly two decades, on December 11 The Chills will release another single from the LP.  Most would consider it among the best songs on the album, and undeniably one of the catchiest, "When The Poor Can Reach The Moon" is suffused with hope for the less fortunate.  Have a listen via the charming video.  The single will be available via Fire Records.

The Deadline Shakes - Zealots

Glasgow's The Deadline Shakes have been burnishing their reputation as one of Scotland's most promising young bands single by single for the past few years.  Content to patiently work on their sound and sharpen their writing, they now have presented Zealots, their debut album, for fans to decide whether they have delivered on the promise.  And as someone who has followed the band from their first releases, my one word summary is "congratulations".

Initially a band whose first impression was hook-filled scrappiness, albeit one with a knack for a well-crafted musical story, The Deadline Shakes as of late 2015 is now a much more complete outfit.  The compositions are more ambitious, the sound fuller, the instrumentation more robust and detailed.  The various faces the band presents include a familiar jangle, a sharp edge, changes of pace, and a romantic or yearning sigh.  Moreover, as these faces often share space in the same tune, the songs unspool as a series of mini epics.Yet the band has retained their ability to present pop tunes that are emotionally accessible and unafraid of vulnerability.  There is a good dose of polish in the production, but it never feels too slick or over stuffed.  Three of my favorites are available to stream below, but you can listen to the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Zealots is out now in digital and CD formats via Flowers In The Dustbin.  The Deadline Shakes are Greg Dingwall (vocals/guitar), Iain McKinstry (vocals/guitar), Martin McLeod (bass), Thomas Booth (drums), Michael Muir (violin/banjo), Kiera Pollock (vocals/guitar), and Sam Clark.

Bandcamp for Zealots
Flowers In The Dustbin

"Pull My Arm" by Flowers

London three-piece Flowers is a favorite around WYMA headquarters, so we were thrilled to learn that their next album, Everyone's Dying To Meet You, will be released via Fortuna POP! on February 12.  Test out the goods with opening track and first single "Pull My Arm".  The purity of Rachel's vocals, teamed with the energetic arrangement and sweet hooks are a winning combination.

Flowers is Sam Ayres, Rachel Kenedy and Jordan Hockley.

Fortuna POP!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stutter Steps - Stutter Steps

Ben Harrison's regular job is as a curator at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh where, among other things, he is responsible for booking musicians to perform at the venue.  To do a job like that well, one needs to have good taste, and a good sense of what fits.  It appears that Mr. Harrison has those traits.  But in addition, Harrison is himself a musician.  He played in a band years ago, and has continued to write songs while working and raising two children with his wife.  And he now has made the commitment to step up a level, and record and release his songs under the name Stutter Steps.

The self-titled album, in my opinion, is one of the better debut releases this year.  Our curator/musician has drawn from his bands like Yo Ya Tengo, Velvet Underground, Luna, The Bats, and Bill Callahan to make an album of evocative melodies and satisfying guitar textures.  But Harrison isn't just making a patchwork quilt of worthy influences.  He is blending them together to make his own statement via a warm and instantly familiar set of songs.  Sometimes sounding recalling New Zealand post-punk, sometimes The Feelies or Galaxie 500, and sometimes a bit of dusty Americana.  And then, there are the vocals.  Ben has a gravelly but melodic baritone that brings to mind DIY godfather Calvin Johnson.  When paired with the female vocals from Cindy Yogmas, the result is magic.  You don't have to have been a fan of Beat Happening to celebrate this pairing, but it will make your appreciation that much greater.

In addition to Yogmas, Harrison fleshed out the songs with Jeff Baron (Essex Green/Ladybug Transistor) on guitar.  Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean and Britta) also contributed guitar for the recording.  The recording band included Sean Finn (drums), David Horn (bass), who with Harrison, Yogmas and Phil Jacoby (guitar), form the band for live shows.

Stutter Steps is released via Pittsburgh label Wild Kindness Records.

Wild Kindness Records