Friday, May 31, 2019

Sacred Paws - Run Around The Sun

We aren't habitually demanding.  But we believe that we, and our readers, deserve at least one new album for each weekend that will make them happy.  Is that too much to ask for?  We don't think so.  And fortunately for us (not to mention salvaging the theme of this feature), Glasgow-based Sacred Paws agrees with us.  Run Around The Sun, their second LP, arrived today, and it is an adorable package of intertwined vocals, clever melodies, solid rhythms by Eilidh Rodgers, and really, really superb highlife-influenced guitar by Rachel Aggs.  Relentlessly upbeat, fast-paced, and even employing horns and keys on several tracks, these songs banish every negative thought that has invaded our consciousness.  This is music in bright colors and bold textures, but delivered with a light, nuanced touch.  Rachel and Eilidh both are or have been members of other bands that we have covered (e.g. Shopping and Golden Girrrls), but in our view this collaboration clicks like few bands we have covered.  The songwriting is top shelf, the performance chemistry is polished, and the energy and conviction in the songs is palpable.  The result is in the music, and this will be one of our favorite albums of this year.

Run Around The Sun is out now via Merge Records in North America and Rock Action Records in the UK/Europe.

Merge Records page for album
Rock Action Records page for album
Various links to stream/purchase Run Around The Sun

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Verlaines - Dunedin Spleen

As you would expect, the guy who writes a music blog frequently adds and deletes albums from the playlists on his computer and phone.  But there are several albums that are always available to me at home and elsewhere  Two of them are Hallelujah All the Way Home and Juvenillia, two mid-'80s records by New Zealand band The Verlaines, and a third is the Dunedin Double compilation which included a few songs by that band.  It was vital music for me then, and it still speaks to me.  But I also am aware that The Verlaines frontman Graeme Downes, who is a professor in the School of Performing Arts at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, has kept the project alive all the intervening years, and recently released the band's tenth LP, Dunedin Spleen.  And in case anyone was wondering, the album proves that the band is no nostalgia act. The Verlaines of 2019 remain as vital and focused as ever.  As a songwriter and performer Dowes has a broad range, encompassing acerbic social/political commentary as well as softer musings, expressed in poetic lyrics.  The arrangements are varied and textured with melody always a primary consideration.  And with 19 tracks of well-crafted songs, it is a generous record as well.  The Verlaines aren't definably punk rock, indie rock or art rock, but Dunedin Spleen embodies the spirit of all three in the best way possible.

For Dunedin Spleen The Verlaines are Graeme Downes, Stephen Small, Darren Stedman, Rob Burns,and Tom Healy. Libby Hamilton and Shayne Carter provided some background vocals.  The album is out now as a digital release -- see the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Dunedin Spleen

L'Eclair - Sauropoda

Sauropoda boast deep grooves, multi-layered atmospherics, and an appealing playfulness.  It most likely sounds like nothing else you are listening to, but we strongly urge you to regard its distinctive nature as a feature, not a bug.  The music audaciously melds funk, dance grooves and chillwave electronica into a late-night summer soundtrack. Cue it up, wiggle your hips, move your feet, and let that smile show itself to your world.  This little delight -- five tracks in under 38 minutes -- is the creation of Geneva, Switzerland's L'Eclair.  Frankly, we knew nothing about this band until a few days ago, but they now are on the list elegantly titled "listen to anything they send us from these guys".  And since the Sauropoda was largely recorded live with few overdubs, you can treat it as your own private concert from the band.

L'Eclair are Sebastien Bui, Elie Ghersinu, Stefan Lilov, Yavor Lilov, Quentin Pilet, Alain Sandri, and DJ Laxxiste.  Sauropoda is out now via Bongo Joe Records.

Bandcamp for album
Bongo Joe Records

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Drop" by Locked Hands

One of those labels that we think everyone should pay attention to even though many don't is Errant Media.  The Edinburgh label's roster includes Errant Boy, Shards, and Stephen McLaren.  And now one of the founders is recording and performing as Locked Hands.   Here is his fine new song, "Drop", which is available as a free download.


Death & Vanilla - Are You A Dreamer?

Sweden's Death and Vanilla are masters of lush, baroque, psychedelic electro pop.  They artfully craft music that manages to simultaneously be peaceful and melancholy while still sparkling.  And then there is that other quality from time to time -- the sense that you are listening to the music on a film soundtrack that lulls the viewer into a sense that all is well just before something frightening and dreadful happens.  Of course, the frightening and dreadful never comes on a Death and Vanilla album, but the sense that it could just adds depth to the listening experience.

The trio's new album, and their third overall, is Are You A Dreamer?, the star of the recording is the atmosphere.  Constructed of synths, guitar, bass and soft vocals, all meshed together seamlessly, this is music that envelopes the listener. The pace is unhurried, and the songs build and develop, at times in unexpected ways.  This is an album full of delights that will reward any listener.

Death and Vanilla are Marleen Nilsson, Magnus Bodin and Andres Hansson, with Mans Wikenmo on drums.  Are You a Dreamer? is out now in all formats via Fire Records.

Bandcamp for Are You A Dreamer?
Fire Records page for Death and Vanilla


Monday, May 27, 2019

The Pinheads - Is This Real

No gimmicks, no gloss, just pure, direct rock and roll.  That is Is This Real, and it is wonderful.  We just finished a fine three-day holiday weekend with good weather, outdoor entertaining, floating on the lake in the WYMA yacht (all 21 feet of it), and our soundtrack was this album.  The creation of Wollongong, Australian five-piece The Pinheads, it is the sort of album that would have made reputations and filled stadiums in the '70s.  The music consumption world has changed, so that likely won't happen for these lads, but the quality and energy should earn them your ears nonetheless.

This music has grunge, grit and riffage, to be sure, and the pace is fast nearly throughout.  But the band has something to say and varies the dynamics as needed to deliver a lyrical or melodic point.  Listeners will take from the music what they will, but this album that reminds us of our youth, and these days that is a valued result indeed.

Is This Real is out now via Farmer & Owl.

Bandcamp for Is This Real
Farmer and Owl (label)