Thursday, February 9, 2017

Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Alexander Devotion EP

Formed in LA and residing in Austin, Texas, Mike Lee's Letting Up Despite Great Faults never fails to deliver hoods and melody.  There is a touch of the New Order vibe, but not so much that the material appears dated.  Other touchstones would be Scandinavian indie poppers The Radio Dept. and the Mary Onettes, which is a tribute to LUDGF's ability to creates pristine music. Their latest work is the four-song Alexander Devotion EP, which arrives in advance of their Japan tour and March dates at SxSW.  The defining brilliance of this band is their ability to weave various textures into a song that feels substantial and important while listening, but leaves a pleasant aftertaste.  That sounds simple, but we assure you that it is not, and it is the definition of a good musical guest in our home.

Alexander Devotion EP is out February 10 via Shelflife Records.

Shelflife Records page for EP

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Ghosts of Johnson City - The Devil's Gold

Make some room in your life for The Devil's Gold.  This isn't the kind of gold that will pay for the new Bentley, the kitchen remodel, or even the bottle of Jim Beam you covet to make it less painful when you realize that you won't have the Bentley or the remodeled kitchen.  So just what is The Devil's Gold?  It is the second album from The Ghosts of Johnson City.  The band is based in Portland, Maine, but spiritually live in Appalachia and the deep South of long past decades.

The Ghosts of Johnson City are songwriter Amos Libby (vocals/guitar/banjo), Douglas Porter (banjo/guitar/vocals), Erik Neilson (baritone Ukulele/vocals), Erik Winter (pump organ), Ian Riley (upright bass), Sarah Mueller (violin), and Bethany Winter (vocals).  Am I Born To Die?, their first album, consisted of fresh interpretations of dark Americana songs from the past.  For The Devil's Gold the band composed new songs in a similar style.  And it is a credit to their talent that to my ears the new songs are better than those on the debut album.  We still hear about murder, mine disasters, terminal illness, drowning, suicide, love and loss, but it all sounds so damn good that you enjoy the stories and congratulate yourself that none of them bear your name.  The quality is so uniform that I struggled mightily to choose some representative tracks for this feature, only consoling myself that I couldn't fail to represent the record well with any selection.  Four gems are below, but you can stream them all at the Soundcloud link.  You can find purchase details at the band's website.

This is unlike most any other album you will hear, and your life will have a void if you take a pass.  And besides, the kitchen is fine and the Bentley is a pain in the ass to maintain.  Get the album, put on your headphones, stay home and order a pizza.  Oh, and you can still drink the Jim Beam -- in fact you probably should.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Ocean Party - B-Grade Material

Almost every band will tell you that their latest album is top quality stuff, and their best work ever.  Almost every band.  And then there is Melbourne's The Ocean Party, who tells us that the material on their latest offering consists of leftovers from the recording sessions from the previous album, as well as the album yet to be released, and that it varies in style and recording quality.  And in case those comments failed to register, they titled the album B-Grade Material.  So there is the unvarnished truth, right?  Well, not really.

Since "alternative facts" are all the rage in a certain part of the world, we'll give you some alternative facts which, in our professional view, actually are true.  One fact is that The Ocean Party is a really, really good band, and their "B-grade" material is better than many band's A-grade material.  Second, in an fit of professional responsibility, we have listened to this album several times, and think it is a delight.  Indulge us and devote 11 minutes to run through the first four tracks below, and I expect you will agree.  I'm especially fond of "Love", with the talented Ashley Bundang (Ciggie Witch, Totally Mild, Zone Out) guesting, and "Goldman Sachs".  Third, the variety of styles reflects one of the band's strong points -- with multiple talented songwriters and singers, the musical scenery always stays interesting over the course of an album.  Finally, consider the potential psychology at play here, The Ocean Party calls the album B-Grade Material, but they thought it good enough to see the light of day, and it is their reputation on the line.  My guess is they think there is some good stuff here, and we agree.

B-Grade Material is available digitally and on a limited number of cassettes via the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for B-Grade Material

Monday, February 6, 2017

Camera Obsurca - Teenager & Keep It Clean

Very few indie pop band can come close to Glasgow's Camera Obscura when it comes to achingly bittersweet pop.  It has been a couple of years since their most recent album, and more recently the band suffered the loss of member Carey Lander to cancer.  But while we don't have any new music from the band to announce, we can share the happy news that UK label Elefant Records is issuing a special re-release of two early Camera Obscura singles.  The date of the release is March 3, and typically we wouldn't be writing about it a month in advance.  However, the vinyl versions have a limited run, and I expect that they will be spoken for in the pre-order period.  And since that period begins right about now, we suggest you consider planning for the future, if you know what I mean.  But if you miss out on the vinyl, you can buy both singles digitally at Elefant Records' Bandcamp page and other usual digital outlets.

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't have a few words about the two singles, Teenager and Keep It Clean.  Each of them originally was released as a CD single, and includes four songs.  The tracklist for Teenager is "Teenager", "I Don't Want To See You", "A Sister's Social Agony", and "Footloose And Fancy Free".  Keep It Clean includes the title track, as well as "Amigo Mio, "Suspended From Class", and "San Francisco Song.  We have included the album are and two songs from each single for you to sample below.  You can stream each single in its entirety at the Bandcamp link at the bottom of the page.


Elefant Records
Pre-order link for Teenager
Pre-order link for Keep It Clean
Elefant Records' Bandcamp