Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Build A Building" by Firestations

As we resign ourselves to the onset of winter, we could use some upbeat tunes, couldn't we?  Today's single suggestion is "Build A Building" by London's Firestations.  This track sparkles like sunshine and rippling waves of a summer lake (and that is an image I need as I huddle in my sweater and look at the sun trying to decide whether it is even going to bother today).  You can stream it or watch the fun video for the song created by Emily Scaife.  Or you can do both, like we did.

The single is out now as a digital release from Lost Map.  The release includes The Firestations' original version plus remixes by Bit Cloudy and Ed Dowie.

Firestations are Mike Cranny, Laura Copsey, Martin Thompson, Giles Littleford, and Tom Hargreaves.  The band's next album, The Year Dot, will be out February 1 via Lost Map.

Lost Map page for single
Lost Map

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Jet Age - At The End Of The World

Medical professionals tell us that holding our emotions in check, silently fuming about the sad events and looming tragedies in the world can be bad for our health.  We know this.  And Eric Tischler and his bandmates in The Jet Age, Greg Bennett and Pete Nuwayser, know this as well.  So their response to the world they endured in 2016 was to record their emotions in the 11 tracks that became At The End Of The World.  Of course that means there are political observations, in particular in the tracks that bookend the record, but the album isn't all about that.  But among the political angst and the other things it is about, it is a really good indie rock album.  While the drums are pummeled and the bass reverberates like a foot thick rubber band, the guitar dishes out beefy riffs and sharp hooks.  As is the case in their prior half dozen or so albums, Eric sings with absolute conviction.  At The End Of The World is part lament, part complaint, and part defiant call to carry on.  And all of it is worth your ears.

Eric sings and plays guitar, Greg plays bass, and Pete drums.  At The End Of The World is out now as a digital release.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for At The End Of The World

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile - Lotta Sea Lice

Certainly, Lotta Sea Lice is a cute idea.  Australian Courtney Barnett and American Kurt Vile are justifiably celebrated for the quality of the guitar pop each has created in this decade, so putting them together could be expected to attract the interest of fans of both artists.  Happily, this combination is more than just a cute idea.  It also is a warm, tuneful collection of songs by two artists at the top of their game.  With Courtney and Kurt you expect ace songwriting, and they deliver.  What was less certain was whether the chemistry would be there.  However, these musicians sound completely comfortable with each other, and if you didn't know differently and judged solely on the performances, you would guess that they had spent years playing together.  The delivery is laconic, but that is no act for these two artists.  And while there aren't many pyrotechnics, there is plenty of guitar and an appealing back-porch summer evening vibe to the proceedings.  In fact, it all sounds so easy that it might take you a moment to realize just how good it is.  Take the moment, and then play it again.  You'll probably want to take it home with you.

For Lotta Sea Lice, Courtney and Kurt received assistance from Mick Turner, Jim White, Stella Mozgawa, Rob Laakso, Mick Harvey, Jess Riberio, Jade Imagine, Bones Sloane, Dave Mudie, and Alex Landragin.

Lotta Sea Lice is out now via Milk! Records and Matador Records.

Website for duo
Bandcamp for Lotta Sea Lice (Milk! Records)
Matador Records page for Lotta Sea Lice
Facebook for Courtney Barnett
Facebook Kurt Vile


Kicking Giant - This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 - 1993

As John Lennon wrote, "So this is Christmas ... ."  But unlike John, we aren't here to discuss the state of the world, but help you with your shopping.  While we believe that buying music is a year-round task that is essential for your mental health and well-being, we also think that this season is particularly appropriate for special acquisitions.  And with that perspective firmly locked into our tunnel vision, we suggest you evaluate This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 - 1993Kicking Giant was a duo formed in New York by Coopers Union students Tae Won Yu, a local lad, and Rachel Carns from Wisconsin.  With Yu on guitar, Carns on drums, and both sharing vocal duties, they forged a partnership grounded in minimalist punk but venturing into twee, art-noise, riot grrl and some very affecting pop. After releasing several cassettes in NYC, Yu and Carns relocated to Olympia, Washington, released the Halo EP and signed with Calvin Johnson's K Records.

 Kicking Giant only lasted a few more years before Carns moved on to other musical projects and Yu focused on the visual arts, but the music they left seems to us as a prime example of the art that can be created by fearless, DIY spirit and inspiration, rivaling Johnson's own Beat Happening.  It was music of hard surfaces and vigorous, even aggressive performances, with not much vulnerability (but see "Cry Baby Cry" below for a stunning exception).   But it also was vital, inspiring and often quite danceable.  As a small town Wisconsin boy who earned a degree and eventually took up residence in the Puget Sound area, I also have a soft spot for Carns' journey, but our choice of this album is about the music.  And this is music that we keep playing daily around the office despite having lots of other music to cover.

This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 - 1993 is out now in vinyl and digital formats via Brooklyn-based label Drawing Room Records.

Bandcamp for album
Drawing Room Records page for album

Monday, December 18, 2017

Arts & Leisure - Rescued Objects

Last night's guitar pop treat was from the East coast of the United States.  Today, we showcase a fine West coast band - Sacramento's Arts & Leisure.  The four piece has a firm grasp of the intersection of power pop and retro guitar pop.  The chiming and jangling guitars evoke the 60s and C86.  The scrappy energy and robust rhythm section could slot in with worthies from Glasgow, Dunedin or Seattle.  And the sunshine of their California home is never far away.  The band includes members of the late English Singles and Baby Grand, and impressed us four years ago with Choose Your Adventure, but had been quiet on the recording front since then.  So the arrival of Rescued Objects was a surprise as well as a thrill.

Actually, this album is packed with thrills.  Arts & Leisure is a band that buys their hooks in bulk, and they deploys them generously.  The songs are well written, with plenty of depth if you want to dig in, but more than enough surface joy if you don't have the inclination.  And the performances are exceptionally tight, allowing vocalist/songwriter Gerri White to effectively work as a one-woman girl group.  The quality and consistency of the record could lead listeners new to this band to wonder whether they have stumbled on a hits compilation.  Not so, they just have stumbled onto Arts & Leisure.

Arts & Leisure are Gerri White (vocals/guitar), Tim White (bass), Cory Vick (guitar), and Ed Carroll (drums). They also received contributions from Allen Clapp, who recorded the album and runs Mystery Lawn, the label that released it.  Rescued Objects is out now as a digital release via Mystery Lawn.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Rescued Objects
Mystery Lawn page for Rescued Objects

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pale Lights - The Stars Seemed Brighter

Are you in a dark, semi-hopeless mood due to end of the year deadlines, the pressures and conflicts of the holiday season and the decidedly return-of-the-robber-barons state of politics?  Oh, we're sorry - are we making it worse?  Allow us to suggest there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It is, in fact, a Pale Lights.  And what are Pale Lights? Well, as longtime readers of this blog know they are one of the best and criminally under-exposed guitar pop bands in the United States.  Purveyors of melodies and lyrics masterfully crafted to last the test of time, the Brooklyn-based band has just released new LP The Stars Seemed Brighter with ten tracks that will make you smile and put a bounce in your step.  Worries? What worries?  With tunes like this you'll think you won the 'good mood lottery'.  Frontman and songwriter Phil Sutton sings with a casual, good-humored sincerity, underscored by female backing vocals, jangling and ringing guitars and an excellent rhythm section.  The recordings have a live-to-tape feel we find produces warmth and immediacy.  And the hint of country rock in the songs' DNA adds an interesting element as well.

Pale Lights are Phil Sutton (vocals/guitar), Andy Adler (lead guitar), Lisa Goldstein (drums), Maria Pace (bass guitar), and Suzanne Nienaber (vocals), the various resumes of whom include Comet Gain, Crystal Stilts, Knight School, Cinema Red and Blue, and Great Lakes.  There also were guest appearances by Hamish Kilgour (The Clean) and Kyle Forester (Crystal Stilts/The Ladybug Tansistor).  The Stars Seemed Brighter was released December 15 by German label Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten.

Bandcamp for The Stars Seem Brighter