Friday, December 2, 2016

Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers - Goths!!!

Most of us are adept at processing joy and happiness, contentment and peace.  And if we lose our way a bit in that regard some holiday TV special or the feel-good movie of the season will give us a helping hand.  But the real challenge is how we process the darker elements of life.  I'm not speaking about wide scope tragedies such as terrorist bombings, floods and famine.  My focus is on more personal devastation, such as death, old age helplessness, a crumbling marriage, loss of children and giving up in the face of overwhelming troubles.  Do we ignore it as long as we are able, even while others around us see us crushed?  Do we panic? Or do we crumple in a heap, utterly unable to continue?  OK, good questions, Scott -- what is the answer?

Well, there may be no single answer, but Scotland's Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers have an answer.  According to JY&TPGLP, sometimes you have to dance in the gutter, troll through the graveyard, share copious tears and contemplate degradation and mortality to know that you are alive and feel good about your life.  And their motivation for you to do so is their darkly addictive dark soul, doom wop, and gutter Gospel.  A few years ago we covered Luck, the band's smashing debut LP.  They are back now with Goths!!!, seven songs that overall are a bit slower in tempo and quieter in volume, but packed with dark emotion.  The album opens with "The Tigris", a simple piano-driven arrangement in which the protagonist tells of life and loss, ending with a decision to drown himself in the titular river.  Showcase tune "The Gospel According To The Selfish Gene" follows with a glorious slice of roadhouse R&B.  It is so good I've provided it twice below, one a stream of the test pressing, the other a portion of Jacob's live performance of the song.  One of the best tracks is the following "Grace of God", in which Jacob tells of a man who has lost his job, home, family, and eventually his life.  "Winter In My Heart" is a jazzy, nocturnal meditation that you'd expect to hear as the last patron on the club while the barman cleans up and the roadies pack the amps (Jackson Browne, eat your heart out).  Next is the dub dominated "Care Home", which addresses the grim life in a home for the aged.  Even at seven and a half minutes, it could run longer with no complaint from me.  The album closes with the dark tales "Bits of Glass" and "The Heart".  The later is one of my favorites on the album, and is my preferred tune for a late night whisky before bed.

The arrangements are spare, but spot on throughout. Jacob's bluesy vocals, ably backed by Cassie Exeji of Golden Teacher sell the message, and the package from London's VAVA Records is first class.  Wallow in the darkness with us -- it is surprisingly fun!

For Goths!!!, Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers are main man Jacob Lovatt, with Jamie Bolland, Richard Holmes, Michael Bleazard, Christopher Haddow, Niall Dobbie, Cassie Exeji, Stuart Evans, Emily MacLaren.  The album was recorded at Glasgow's Green Door

VAVA Records page for Goths
VAVA Records

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Cleaners From Venus - Cleaned Up Collectables

Our recent feature (link) for the latest album from Martin Newell's Cleaners From Venus project proved quite popular, so we are pleased to alert you to a new album titled Cleaned Up Collectables.  Consisting of thirteen songs Martin recorded as demos in 1987 for the album Town and Country, which have been digitalized and otherwise cleaned up for your listening pleasure, it is a fine addition to your collection of Martin's brand of jangling, idiosyncratically English songcraft.  Take "Denmark Street" and "Cardboard Town" for a test drive, and if they pleasure your ears, you can stream the entire collection.  It is available as a digital download at the Bandcamp link below.

Martin's Website

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Croque Madame - Croque Madame

Sometimes I just want someone to sing to me in French.  The words could even be rude insults directed towards me -- as I don't speak French I wouln't know the difference.  It just makes me feel good to hear French pop.  And on the last day of November, I need something to help me feel good.  To the rescue, is Flagstaff, Arizona's Emotional Response Records.  They have released a delightful, self-titled album by an international collective named Croque Madame.  Many of you may know a croque madame as a version of the croque monsieur sandwich with a fried egg on top.  That may sound silly.  It may sound delicious.  It may sound silly and delicious.  And that is just right, because Croque Madame is packed with silly and delicious pop.  Go ahead, feel good.  You deserve it.

Croque Madame features vocalist Florence Raynaud, with Rob Storey and Dave Perlis.  The album is available at the links below.

Bandcamp for Croque Madame
Link for vinyl and CD formats

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Already Home" by Alex the Astronaut

A New York City area college recruited Sydney, Australia's Alex Lynn to study and play sports.  Of course that is nice for both Alex and the college.  But the benefit to the rest of us is we get to know Alex the Astronaut, which is the name Alex Lynn uses for her musical endeavors.  Alex's songs have elements of pop, folk and folktronic.  Ernest, wistful and spirited, she is a talent to watch.  Her latest single is "Already Home", and you can enjoy it below.


The Perfect English Weather - Isobar Blues

Pop music is a big tent, with many genres.  We all have music we like, and music of which we are less fond.  Sometimes, the deciding factor is, as least in part, the genre.  But I think the most important factor is connection.  Does the message mean something to me?  Can I relate to the protagonist in the story?  Can I interpret my life through the events in the song?  Does the arrangement send chills down my spine?  One band that has provided me with that connection over the years is Brighton's The Popguns.  And happily I can use the present tense because the band released an album two years ago, and an EP last year, after resting a few decades following their mid-'90s albums.  We don't have another album from The Popguns yet (apparently, there will be one soon), but we do have something similar.  Well, similar and different.  We have the Pickles.

Specifically, we have The Popguns' mainstays, and husband and wife, Simon and Wendy Pickles recording as The Perfect English Weather.  Their opening statement is Isobar Blues, which has just been released by Matinee Recordings.  The album contains all of the melody and hooks one expects from Simon and Wendy, with what seems to my ears a bit more intimacy, with the dreamy elements more subtly expressed and the arrangements slightly dialed back and streamlined.  The songs are mostly uptempo guitar pop, but a few ballads nestle in the mix like those wonderful little packages one always enjoys finding under the Christmas Tree in late December.  And over the years, Wendy's voice remains one of the treasures of pop music.

Every pop fan who hears this album will choose favorites -- mine include "The Sweetest Feeling", "Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)", "Spirited Away", "Christmas Single (Call Me)", and "You Wrote".  But circling back to our opening theme, the magic here is in the connection.  The Pickles' songs of scenes from their lives, in cafes, record stores, connecting with old friends, a missed concert in Athens, and so on, connect with me to a rare degree.  It isn't that they are stories of my life, but listening to them I feel included in their lives, and it is a comfortable and special feeling.

Make room for Isobar Blues, it is one of the year's indie pop gems.

Matinee Recordings page for album

Monday, November 28, 2016

Scooterbabe - The Sorrow You've Been Toting Around

Scrappy, jangling guitar pop just the way we like it.  We're talking about Athens, Georgia's Scooterbabe, whose debut LP The Sorrow You've Been Toting Around is out now via Jigsaw Records and Perfect Attendance Records.  There is a bit of early Shins and Death Cab for Cutie here -- you know, a bit of emo, a bit of jangle and fuzz, and a few more muscular performances that suggest that this band can rock like the '90s when they want,  There is a good amount of variety in the melody and vocal approaches, and all eleven songs are very solid.

Try out a few of my favorite tracks below, or visit the Bandcamp link for a full stream.  Like all Jigsaw releases, the price is attractive.

Bandcamp for The Sorrow You've Been Toting Around
Jigsaw Records page for The Sorrow You've Been Toting Around
Bandcamp for other Scooterbabe recordings

The Salient Braves - Guilty Until Proven Innocent

This is the third EP from The Salient Braves to grace our pages, and like its predecessors, it makes a grand entrance with the opening track -- "Guilty Until Proven Innocent".  The guitars jangle over a meandering bass line while the head brave, Matt Bailey delivers a matter of fact complaint about his treatment by the authorities.  The chorus gives the proceeding an old English music hall flavor and adds to the working man bona fides.  The following "My Alter Ego" is a sweet-sounding, folk/twee give and take with a female vocalist.  "Boys Night Out" is a shimmering, sparkling story of, well, a boys night out (and while things might not always work out as our protagonist would like, it made me strangely thirsty).  The EP closes with a moody change of tone with "Cynical Old Bastard" -- a fine tune that hints at even greater depths for Bailey's songwriting.

Matt Bailey is a fine storyteller and crafts songs that are warm and hit the head and the heart with just the right touch, so we encourage everyone to give him a chance.  Guilty Until Proven Innocent is available now as a limited edition CD or digital download.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"AWCWD" by The Verlaines

One of our favorite locations to find music is New Zealand, and one of our favorite New Zealand bands is The Verlaines.  Of course, that hasn't added much to our music collection lately as Graeme Downes and company have only recorded sporadically.  However, with Dunedin's Spleen set for release in 2017, you can sample the goods via album track "AWCWD".  The album will be released by Flying Nun, but we have no pre-order information at this time.

Flying Nun Records