Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Cannanes - A Love Affair With Nature [9/16]

A Love Affair With Nature may or may not speak to my relationship with the great outdoors, but it certainly rekindled by love affair with The Cannanes.  The album is Chapter Music's reissue of the beloved -- and long out of print -- 1989 album for the Australian indie pop band.  The original album consisted of ten songs, but this new, deluxe edition includes 13 bonus tracks, new liner notes, and a booklet, available on picture disc vinyl or digital.

The band was formed in Sydney in the '80s, and  in their three plus decades as a band  they have produced 11 albums  and many singles, as well as earning fans worldwide and having a pair of limited edition Converse sneakers named after them.  The band took the name of a member, Michelle Cannane, who left before this album, only their second, was made.  Steadfastly DIY, but never twee, the band's music featured a robust lower register rhythm (reminding me of The Bats), jangling guitar and affecting male/female vocals.  The songwriting was truly special, with the ability to look at life with a keen eye and discuss it with heartfelt emotion or witty detachment.  Or perhaps witty but heartfelt detached emotions.  Their sound and accents bear testimony to their Antipodean origins, but one could also imagine that this is the record that would be made for K Records by The Vaselines with a bit more maturity (apologies to The Vaselines, who I suspect reject the notion of maturity even now) and more disciplined songwriting and preforming.

The Cannanes have gone through multiple players over the years, and an interesting description of the lineups and history can be found on the band's webpage.  The three members at the time of A Love Affair With Nature were Stephen O'Neil (guitar), Fran Gibson (bass) and David Nichols (drums), each of whom contributed songs to the record.

The album is out now.  You can listen to several of my favorite songs below, or stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  This truly is one of the top reissues of the year.

Bandcamp for A Love Affair With Nature

American Mustard - American Mustard

Just a short post to start our publishing day -- please meet the best classic American rock band in Cardiff, Wales.  Yes, American Mustard resides in Wales. And yes, their recently release LP is packed with the sounds one associates with classic American rock and roll.  It is bold, bluesy and great fun.  We also note that half the proceeds from purchase of the album are donated to a charity that works to prevent male suicide.  An album sampler is provided below, but you can stream and purchase the album at the Bandcamp link.  Good music, and a chance to help preserve us endangered males.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Poppies" by KNGDAVD

KNGDAVD, the New York duo consisting of Tye James and Jon Buscema, impressed us with their previous songs "Blood On Our Hands" (feature here) and "Say My Name" (feature here).  We are happy to report that they took our advice and dedicated themselves to making more music.  The result is the pulsating concoction of funky rock and production wizardry about one of our favorite themes, sex.  Enjoy below!


The Eastern Swell - One Day, A Flood

I've had One Day, A Flood by Edinburgh-based The Eastern Swell on my car's CD changer for the past week.  When I got home yesterday evening I got out of the car to open the garage bay while the stereo was still playing the album.  In the dying sunlight with the beginning of the Fall leaves swirling around my feet, I realized the perfect timing of the release.  One Day, A Flood is an album for Autumn, for increasing darkness, unpredictable weather, inevitable decay, and dark clouds and rain.  I don't mean to suggest that it is depressing -- far from it.  But it is an album of layered moods and uncertainties.  Yeah, it is music for adults, and whether I like it or not, I'm at that stage of life.

The music is a somewhat unusual combination of folk rock, alt country and progressive rock.  Yes, that means that there will be hints of Led Zeppelin (but only hints and absent the warlock posturing).  The haunting vocals are high in the mix, but even when the band isn't reaching for high volume, the arrangements barely contain an omnipresent current of lower-register, bass-heavy power and emotional conviction.  My favorites are the opening "Rattling Bones" and the epic country-tinged prog rock closer "Run Down Country Palace", but aural treats abound and a scan of other reviews reveal that many of the tracks have impressed the music press, which is a sign of consistent quality.

The Eastern Swell are Lainie Urquhart (vocals/tambourine), Chris Reeve (guitar/vocals), Neil Collman (bass/vocals), and Andy Glover (drums/percussion).  One Day, A Flood is out now on digital and CD formats via Stereogram Recordings.

Bandcamp for One Day, A Flood
Stereogram Recordings

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ice Choir - Designs In Rhythm

Designs In Rhythm, the new album from Ice Choir, takes us back to the '80s in such a good way.  Layers of warm synth lines combine with understated guitars and a smooth vocal performance to give us the sort of danceable romanticism that makes the sun a bit brighter and your troubles a bit more manageable.  With soaring choruses and big hooks, the arrangements are designed for maximum emotional response.  A listener could be forgiven wondering whether any of the songs found their way on to a John Hughes movie soundtrack, but we can all be content to allow them to serve as the current soundtrack for our happy times.

Ice Choir is commercial sound designer and composer Kurt Feldman.  The ten songs on the album stand as a tribute to his talent.  The songs are playful, whimsical, and packed with detail, yet shimmer and flow effortlessly.  And despite the unflaggingly grand scope of the music, it remains an accessible album, inviting you to interpret the music as it fits into your life.  We all know that too much sugar isn't good for us, but Ice Choir is here to remind you just how wonderful it is to binge now and again.

 Designs In Rhythm is available everywhere now as a digital release.  Vinyl is available in the US and Japan, and a CD format also is available in Japan.  The release is via Shelflife Records, except in Japan where it is out via Fastcut Records.

Bandcamp for Designs In Rhythm
Shelflife Records page for Designs In Rhythm

Law Holt - City

Does the state of pop music invoke despair?  Do you tire of homogenized songs constructed by crews of beat makers, melody draftsmen, hook specialists and lyric consultants, sung by people who actually seem to be trying to sound like the last person who had a hit?  Yeah, it drives us crazy too.  But there is hope out there, and we find it in the person of Law Holt.  Holt emerged from the Edinburgh underground pop scene that also produced Young Fathers, with whom she has collaborated.  After promising early recordings, Holt took time off to recover from serious injuries suffered in a random attack.  Having sufficiently recovered to write and record, she has unleashed her debut LP, City, via the Soulpunk label.

Holt's take on pop is versatile.  Sunshine pop like "Summer's Coming" and "Love Drive Through" are balanced with intriguing songs featuring more adventuresome arrangements such as static, woozy filters, underwater effects, jittery percussion and other bells and whistles.  It is an album of layers and surprises -- layers of beats, layers of effects, layers of emotions.  But the execution is so disciplined that none of it seems cluttered.  It must be said that one of our favorite things about Ms. Holt is that she is unafraid of packing her music with an unapologetic bite, and those well placed chomps coupled with her perfect pop sensibilities make her one of the more exciting artists making music these days.

City is direct, even blunt, artistic expression that remembers to entertain.  A few streams are below, and you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.

Bandcamp for City

Monday, September 19, 2016

Earth Heart - Homesick

If you are a fan of garage rock and raw indie rock, you owe it to yourself to check out Allston, Massachusettes' Earth Heart.  Originally formed by vocalist/guitarist Katie Coriander and drummer Matt Axten, the band now includes Natan Keyes on bass.  The trio makes a righteous racket, and Coriander, who also writes the song, delivers the vocals with power and conviction.

After several EPs and singles, the band has released Homesick.  The first four songs are crash-bang indie rock, and suggest that this band likely is a killer live act.  The fifth song, "NSA", is a more melodic garage rocker with a pop core.  The tempo doesn't take a break until "Fire Song", in the seventh slot.  But even when the band takes it slower, the muscles are flexing.  This is a band of grit, snarl and power.  Homesick is ten songs bursting with vitality and a decidedly  outsider perspective on society.  Give it a spin at the Bandcamp link below.

 Homesick is out now in digital and CD formats.

Bandcamp for Homesick

Teenage Fanclub - Here

Yes, we will add more words about Here, the new album from Scotland's Teenage Fanclub.  The Fannies are a well known and deservedly loved band, so their releases -- less frequent at this point in their career -- draw a lot of attention.  So while we can't claim to have an exclusive feature or any 'new discovery' credit, or even first-to-publish rights, we are compelled to help celebrate the album.

Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley are the core and enduring members of the band.  But more importantly, they are the powerhouse engine room that makes Teenage Fanclub so special.  All three are expert songwriters and effective vocalists.  As a result, a Teenage Fanclub album typically will have contributions from all three, resulting in a 'no filler' record with trademark harmonies from musicians that have grown increasingly comfortable with melding their vocal talents.  And so it is with Here, the band's tenth studio album and first since 2010's Shadows.

Teenage Fanclub's work in the early '90s bore grunge and alt-rock influences, but soon transitioned to a brand of melodic power pop that still retained a bit of heaviness in the guitars.  Over time, the sound has jettisoned the grunge elements, and travels the power pop road.  But the result is in no respect generic.  Big Star may be the god father of power pop, but Teenage Fanclub has come to define the genre, and is the standard against which we measure other power pop recordings.  Based on the aural evidence on Here, this album finds the members of Teenage Fanclub, each of whom contributed four compositions to the album, relatively content.  The songs have a folky, singer-songwriter feel, and are focused on relationships and living in the moment.  Of course, when one addresses love and relationships, an honest take likely will be bittersweet and acknowledge challenges and limitations, and Teenage Fanclub has always been honest in their songwriting.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere on Here is light, and the tone hopeful.  The production is hushed and flowing, echoing the lyrical content.  If the press of life and the demands of their other projects means that Here will be the last Teenage Fanclub record for a while, we can be content for a long time with the 12 worthy gems comprising Here.

In addition to Love, Blake and McGinley, the band for Here included Francis Macdonald (drums) and Dave McGowan (keys).  The album is self-released in the UK, and is out now via Merge Records in North America.  The band will be playing limited North American dates in October (unfortunately, none out West); see the show list at the bottom of this post.

October North American Dates:
12 – Toronto
14 – Washington, DC
15 – New York, NY
16 – Brooklyn, NY
17 – Boston, MA
18 – Philadelphia, PA
20 – Cleveland, OH
21 – Chicago, IL
22 – Minneapolis, MN
23 – Madison, WI
25 – Detroit, MI

Merge Records page for Here