Friday, May 19, 2017

Zebra Hunt - In Phrases

Opening track "I Won't Blame You" commences with  two notes followed by the rhythm section rolling in like thunder on a summer day in the mountains, and then joined by guitar chords jangling like Bobby "Fuller's I Fought the Law".  Welcome to In Phrases. Welcome to the world of Zebra Hunt, a world where energy, melody, deft writing, exquisite timing and a bit of grit, and a bit plus more of jangle, transport you to places that only good music can take you.  You feel the thump of the drums and bass in your chest, the jangling and ringing guitars in your brain and you get blissfully lost in the moment.  The Feelies did this for us, The Clean did this for us, The Bats and The Chills still do it.  The promise was evident in Zebra Hunt's previous work, but In Phrases puts them on the list.

The songs on this album are focused, the stories specific, personal and relateable.  We feel the yearning, the lust, the loss, and the regret.  The performances are confident -- the sound of a band that believes in what they are doing and believes that we will like it as well.  And the execution is as impeccable with mid-tempo songs as it is with the blistering jangle rockers.  The bottom line is that in our opinion In Phrases is the best example of New Zealand-style guitar pop not on Flying Nun, Fishrider, Merge or Trouble In Mind (your move labels, your move).  If we had the budget, they would be our choice for a house band.  As it is, they are a prime example of why we take the time to tell people about indie music.

Zebra Hunt, in alphabetical order, are Aaron (guitar), Erik (bass), Mitch (drums), and Robert (guitar/lead vocals).  In Phrases is available digitally on Bandcamp, and physically via Jigsaw Records in the US and Madrid's Tenorio Cotobade Records for the rest of the world.

Zebra Hunt's Bandcamp for In Phrases
Jigsaw Records page for In Phrases
Tenorio Cotobade's Bandcamp for In Phrases
Tenorio Cotobade Records

Those Unfortunates - Nothing Isn't Beautiful

Two of my favorite albums of the year so far are released today, and we'll deal with them one at a time, starting with Nothing Isn't Beautiful by London quartet Those Unfortunates.  I'll begin by noting that I am a mature, stable man with no hipster pretensions, thus it should be understood that few albums even tempt me to use emoticons.  But if I were a weaker man, Nothing Isn't Beautiful might be the one to do so.  And happy emoticons they would be.

Those Unfortunates crafted the album as 13 stories of the highs and lows of a year living in the Big City.  We are treated to reactions to boredom, the living death of endless middle management, a failed theatrical performance and a few happy stories as well.  And it all is done in a literate, wry manner and in styles ranging from jaunty jangle pop to pastoral folk pop.  Only the band can advise you of their influences, but at various times I hear bits of Orange Juice, Cats on Fire, Syd  Barrett, The Kinks, a less punky Ballboy, and, on the quieter moments, John Blain Hunt's Butcher Boy project and Firestations.  The album radiates intelligence and a flair for storytelling, with the melancholy offset by endearing melodies and able grooves.  And without exception, I find it completely captivating.  In fact, if anyone wonders why there haven't been more posts lately, blame Those Unfortunates, as I keep reaching for their album.

The first half of the album contains the more immediately upfront crowd pleasers, in particular "A Question For Mr Richardson", "Repertory Man", "A Song For Brampton Court", "The Consolations Of A Life I Know" and ... come to think of it, the entire A-side is really top drawer stuff.   The latter half of the album is lovely stuff as well, it simply is -- with the exception of "In Lavender" -- a more laid back set of songs that choose to reveal their charms more gently.

Nothing Isn't Beautiful is available in digital and CD formats via Midnight Bell records.  See the Bandcamp link for details.  And I'll note that although I wrote this feature without the use of any digital emoticons, the look on my face in the mirror after listening to Nothing Isn't Beautiful may constitute an organic emoticon.  I'll have to live with that.

Bandcamp for Nothing Isn't Beautiful
Midnight Bell Records

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hush Machine - Hush Machine

Fortunately for Western Civilization, anything arguably artistic that I endeavored to do in high school hasn't been memorialized for the ages.  And I expect that is true for most of us.  But 21 year-old Sam Boatright of Lawrence, Kansas isn't most of us.  A few years ago when Sam was a junior and senior in high school he wrote and recorded some songs, eight of which are now available on the self-titled album available under his moniker Hush Machine.  If you are expecting Hush Machine to contain quiet, dreamy and yearning music appropriate for a artistically inclined teenager, you are in for a surprise.  A very pleasant surprise, we expect.  Because what Hush Machine dishes out is robust, new wave glazed garage with a vibe (and vocal quality) not unlike the Strokes.  Exciting, a bit raw, and played with energy and confidence.  This debut is just too good to ignore.

A couple of songs are below, and the entire album can be streamed at the Bandcamp link.  Hush Machine is a digital and CD release via Jigsaw Records.

Bandcamp for Hush Machine
Jigsaw Records

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Arid Sea - New Roman Twilight

We promised 'free music Wednesday' and that is what you are going to get.  Our second (and likely final) free album of the day is New Roman Twilight by Seattle band The Arid Sea.  The album was released as a limited edition CD in 2005, and received positive and well-justified reviews from those privileged to have heard it.  Weaving elements of dark folk, Gothic post punk, psychedelic and melodic indie rock, it presents a swirling array of broad strokes, dynamic structures and a myriad shades of grey and black.  Yes, the atmosphere is undeniably moody and infused with sorrow.  But a beating heart and rays of tentative hope peak through.  It is a masterful, heartbreakingly lovely work, and we are pleased that the band has again made it available.

The Arid Sea was Joseph Mass (drums), Michael Guillory (bass) and Isaac Aubrey (guitar/vocals).  Several of their other releases are to be found at the Bandcamp link, and we understand that more may be available in time.  There has been some chatter about a reunion as well, and we will let you know if we hear more about that.

Bandcamp for New Roman Twilight

Greatest Hits Summer 2017 - A free album from Labrador Records

We declare today 'free music Wednesday', and our first offering is from Sweden's Labrador Records. A number of that label's releases have featured on these pages over the years, most recently fine albums by The Legends and Djustin.  Now Labrador has generously decided to provide a summer soundtrack including songs from the two aforementioned albums, as well as songs by The Radio Dept., Club 8, and Red Sleeping Beauty, among others.  Stream it below, then hit the links and 'pay what you want' for an excellent set of songs.

Bandcamp for Greatest Hits Summer 2017
Labrador Records

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wilding - Secular Music

Secular Music just may be a scuzzy, fuzz pop masterpiece.  The creation of California trio Wilding, it consists of five tracks of urgently performed but melodic guitar pop that, like the apple fritter I had this morning, is filling, highly satisfying and very addictive.  It is an EP of contrasts, with dreamy textures coexisting with fiery guitar bursts and an insistent rhythm section, and moody darkness stabbed with rays of hopeful light.  We have provided a couple of streams below.  If you like them, we urge you to stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  If you are like us, one listen will convince you that you need Secular Music in your life.

Wilding is Dave Woody (vocals/guitar), formerly of Fiver, with Andrew Platts (drums) and Bowman (bass).  The EP is released via Friendship Fever.  It is available in digital and cassette formats, with the latter including a bonus track not available on the digital version.

Bandcamp for Secular Music
Friendship Fever's page for Secular Music
Friendship Fever (label)

Febueder - From An Album EP

A couple of weeks ago we featured (link) two singles from Ascot's Febueder.  We now have a new EP from the band, titled From An Album, and it certainly has done nothing to change or view that this is a band from which we can expect exciting music.  Each song on the EP mines a distinct vibe, showcasing Febueder's versatility, imagination and originality, while maintaining their consistent use of dynamic rhythms and soulful vocals.  Check your favorite digital retailer.

Febueder are Kieran Godfrey (vocals/guitar/bass/keys/ukulele/cornet/percussion), Samuel Keysell (percussion) and Toby Ingram (bass).


Monday, May 15, 2017

Frantic Chant - The Glass Factory

Mondays!  Yeah, they can be a little version of hell (So I'm told. I've never actually been to hell, but I still have nightmares about last November's election).  It seems to me that the only viable strategy is some music to wipe away Monday.  The possible tactics are something impossibly sweet and endearing, so we think everything will be OK, or something that heavy and encompassing.  We're going with the latter.  Specifically, it is time for the recent album from our Edinburgh friends Frantic Chant.  Purveyors of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, they may perfect music to get lost in.   For me, it is a trip back to the great psychedelic rock vinyl albums created in the late 60s and first half of the '70s.  Musicians lost in the moment, shredding and brooding to please themselves and anyone else bold enough to dive in.  Stream it below and check out the Bandcamp link.

Frantic Chant are Nick (guitars), Stazy (vocals/guitar), O'Hara (bass), and Col (drums).  Trumpet was played by Colin McCafferty (e.g. track 4), and mandolin, moothy and backing vocals by Elle Durnan.

Bandcamp for The Glass Factory
Dogs Got A Bone Records