Sunday, June 13, 2021

“Chimes” by The Joy Formidable

Out now, a strong guitar-driven track from The Joy Formidable, “Chimes”. 


This is the second track off the upcoming album, Into the Blue, which will be out in August. If you've come to expect buzzing guitars with strong clear vocals on top, you won't be disappointed here. Songwriter and singer Ritzy Bryan describes the song as part of her healing process after a breakup, referring to a set of actual chimes made by her grandfather that she brought from her European home to her home in Utah, and how they help keep her grounded. 

You can listen via the video above, or a number of streaming sites, and learn more (including tour dates for later this year) via the band's website.  



"Be My Maybe" / "David Bowie" by The Bordellos


Song obsession alert: "Be My Maybe" is on infinite replay in my house today. I might need an intervention, but I'm not inclined to call for help yet. The heart-damaged beauty is by UK trio The Bordellos. Based in St Helens, which is a few miles east of Liverpool for those keeping track, The Bordellos have an extensive catalog that I now intend to dive into with relish. But first I need to get my fill of "Be My Baby". And just for the record, the breezy flip side "David Bowie" is the perfect complement to "Be My Baby -- sparse, simple, concise, and really different in most every way except that it is birthed by the same musical talents. And that is more than sufficient. 

The double A-side is out now via Sydney's Metal Postcard Records.


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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Quivers - Golden Doubt

Golden Doubt is a jangle pop treasure from the southern hemisphere. Specifically, it is the work of Melbourne (formerly Tasmania) quartet Quivers. Initially, the disparate elements of the title of the album confused us. After a few listens, it seemed perfect to us as a collection of songs that represent a golden genre of pop expression combined with melancholy themes of uncertainties, complexities, and the risk of relationships. We are optimistic people, but life is complex -- we may start each morning hereafter by naming the day 'golden doubt'. But enough about us ...

In this ten-song album Quivers passes every test essential to a guitar pop band, and every nonessential test one can think of as well. The guitars are gorgeous, the harmonies sweet, and the rhythm section robust and driving. The lyrics are exceptionally well written with pointed observations, warmth, humor, and economy of expression. The first two songs (both of which are streamed below) are jangle pop gems, with "Gutters of Love" being one of our favorite songs of the year. The third track, "Hold You Back" couples clever wordplay with a a soulful swing replete with string accompaniment. After dialing back the intensity for the fourth track, the band displays its rock chops with "Chinese Medicine". Deft wordplay features again on  the fast-paced love song "You're Not Always On My Mind". The powerful songwriting is no better evidenced than by the reflective "Videostores", in which the serious themes are balanced by a fulsome arrangement and soaring choruses. The country washed "Laughing Waters" is not streamed below only because we try to limit ourselves to three per album; it is a treasure.

Golden Doubt is the work of a band that knows who they are, knows (or should know) that what they are is very good. Get this album and you will love it for a long, long time.

Quivers are Sam Nicholson, Bella Quinlan, Michael Panton, and Holly Thomas. Golden Doubt is out now via Spunk Records (Australia/NZ), Bobo Integral (Europe), and Ba Da Bing (North America/UK).



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Friday, June 11, 2021

Dive Index - Refolded: Waving at Airplanes

Dive Index is a collaborative project of California producer Will Thomas, with vocals from Natalie Walker and Merz. Last year he released the album Waving at Airplanes, and over the time between then and now, he took the songs apart, sort of dub style, and with the help of several fellow producers and remixers, came up with new identities for each of the songs. It's exhilarating music - while it does settle into a groove from time to time, it doesn't settle in for long and the hallmark of this record is its changes in direction, which keep the sound fresh and your mind engaged. Here’s “Wish I Had a Pulse”, a hypnotic track with a languid vocal by Natalie Walker:

 
 My favorite track on the album is this Mike Lindsay (Tuung) remix of "She's Exploding". It’s got a noirish quality - sort of murky, muffled in places and dark, dark lyrics. “Bloodstained fingers” and what is it she keeps apologizing for? 
   


That's also Walker on vocals, but the mix distorts the vocals along with most of the instruments, to great effect, creating an overwhelming atmosphere that has you gently swaying until the synthesizers do a sort of stepdown and reset everything. This song has some great singing on it - really, the whole record does. Along with Walker, vocals are contributed by Merz, as on this emotive song "Say Yes to Tenderness":

 
Beautiful, sort of cinematic in spots, this album rewards repeated listening because there is so much going on in each track, and there is so much variety in beats and melodies from song to song. It's out now on Neutral Music. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

“95 Percent” by Split Single

(Photo by Joe Losurdo)

Jason Narducy’s supergroup power trio Split Single is back with another advance single from upcoming album Amplificado - here is “95 Percent”:



As with the previous song we shared, “Nothing You Can Do to End This Love”, they are playing at a breakneck pace, with drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Mike Mills laying down a rapid field of fire, on top of which Narducy’s pyrotechnics on guitar and vocals give a strong sense of his passion. Narducy shared some thoughts: “As a liberal person, I can get tripped up by my tendency towards empathy,” says Narducy. “Part of me wants to believe that politicians are earnest in their efforts to help all Americans even when I know they are not. So it can backfire when I get hesitant and confused but overall I think it's positive because I never fully trust ANY of them. I'm 95 percent committed and 95 percent suspicious. I'm also not good at math.” 

Amplificado on Vinyl/CD 

"She's Gone" by GA-20

 

Theodore Roosevelt is not often mentioned on indie music blogs, and with good reason. However, Theodore Roosevelt Taylor is more than worthy of a few words. Known to his friends and fans as Hound Dog Taylor, he was a renowned blues performer. He made no claim to being a master technician on the guitar, but he justifiable took pride in creating a guitar sound that conveyed energy and thrilled the audience. One of my most prized vinyl albums is Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers self-titled 1971 release for Alligator Records.

Most of you will never have that piece of vinyl unless it is re-issued. But I have good news for you: Boston blues trio GA-20 has recorded Try It ... You Might Like It. Consisting of ten songs written and/or recorded by Hound Dog Taylor, it will be released on August 20 via Colemine Records in partnership with Alligator Records. In our opinion, Hound Dog's memory deserves it, and we all deserve more Hound Dog, so this is a win-win. And just so you know that you are getting authentic-sounding interpretations of the master's tunes, lead track "She's Gone" is not out as a single. Boogie onward, my children.

GA-20 is Matt Stubbbs (guitar), Pat Faherty (guitar/vocals), and Tim Carman.



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"Back Of The Train" by Velvet Starlings

 

Los Angeles' Velvet Starlings have amplified the announcement of their August LP, Technicolour Shakedown, with the release of single "Back Of The Train". A rocking riff and fuzz stomper with '60s blues rock influences, it gets my blood racing. These guys must be awesome live.

Velvet Starlings was founded by 18-year old Christian Gisborne. He has released two EPs (the first when he was just 15), and wrote and played all of the instruments on the upcoming album. The project has become a full band with the addition of Foster and Hudson Poling. Technicolour Shakedown will be out August 27 via Sound x 3 Records/AWAL/The Orchard.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pastel Coast - Sun



Sun, the new album by French band Pastel Coast is aural sunshine. 'Well', you might say, 'with that name, it should be'. OK, point granted. But we want to emphasize the we aren't talking any old sunny sounding music. We are talking about a set of songs that transports you to a beach on the French coast, with the impression of warm breezes and visions of lithe bathers and sailboats on the horizon. We are talking about shimmering guitars and lush, glossy synths that deliver a dose of vitamin D far in excess of the recommended daily dose. In our view, main man Quentin Isidore and his colleagues have crafted a perfect sub-genre of French beach pop.

Quite frankly, if you leave this album off of your summer playlist, you might as well admit that you are just waiting for next winter.

Sun is out in vinyl, digital and CD formats via Shelflife and Groover Obsessions.



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"My Father Took Me Everywhere" by Chris Connelly and Monica Queen

"My Father Took Me Everywhere" is the second single from The Birthday Poems. The album consists of 18 tracks presenting a fictionalized romance between Scottish personalities Stella Cartwright and George MacKay Brown. The artists are Chicago-based Scot Chris Connelly and fellow Scot Monica Queen. As we explained in our post for the first single, the title of the album refers to the poems that George would write for each of Stella's birthdays.

The first single was a swaggering sing-along titled "Tae the Poets" with Chis voicing George MacKay Brown. "My Father Took Me Everywhere" features Monica as Stella, recounting her young years when her father would take her to cultural events, parties and bars.

“Dark in Here” by The Mountain Goats

(Photo: Jade Wilson)

The Mountain Goats have shared the title track of their upcoming album, Dark in Here, and it's a big-sounding Western-themed guitar song that seems to be carrying the simple message (or threat), "be careful for what you ask for". Themes of gun battle, out of control explosions and dire warnings proceed in John Darnielle's deadpan delivery, over a Ennio Morricone-meets-country rock backdrop. There is a lot of power in this track, but paradoxically, I think, a lot of control too. The way Darnielle carefully enunciates the last word “some” in this phrase is really something:

Stack my ammunition, be ready when you come
You who thirst for action, I will give you some

 

They’ve shared three songs now. Each one rewards repeated plays; something is revealed each time. Recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, this album is going to be something special. Out June 25 on Merge Records.




“Superglue” by 2nd Grade

 


2nd Grade is the project of Pete Gill, a talented, prolific and sort of obsessive musician based in Philly. He’s producing an incredibly catchy brand of guitar-based power pop music that is a lot of fun to listen to and puts a spring in your step if you’ve got it on in your ears while you’re out walking. The new album is Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited, a sprawling 23-song project consisting of some songs remastered, some re-recorded and one outtake from his 2018 Wish You Were Here Tour, and it will be out June 25 on Double Double Whammy Records. 

For now, we have the single “Superglue”. Gill described in detail his process of creating this song, and it’s an entertaining sort of narrative: "The process of composing this record was essentially my own personal boot camp for guitar pop songwriting, so naturally the songs are full of nods to the greats. Here we have references to Bob Dylan’s 'All I Really Want to Do', Brian Wilson’s double-dutch melodies of 'Don’t Worry Baby', Stephin Merritt’s multisyllabic rhyming tricks, and the Roy Acuff quote about Hank Williams having a 'ten-cent brain'. I don’t play guitar in this band anymore, so you’re hearing unadulterated Catherine Dwyer in the right ear and uncorrupted Jon Samuels in the left and in the solo; to me they’re the Keith Richards and Mick Taylor of 2nd Grade, respectively."


After you check out this tune, come back and read that - what we have here is a sort of 21st century pop punk itinerant (Hank Williams) incorporating Bob Dylan (and Phil Spector by way of Brian Wilson), and unabashedly calling out one of the greatest guitar rock duos in history, with the high level of specificity connoted by use of the word “respectively”. 

(Photo: Abi Reimold)

Having high standards is a good thing, and I can see all of Gill's comparisons except that I might throw in a little bit of Lloyd and Verlaine on the intertwined guitar lines of the last half minute or so. And all that in only about a minute and a half - fun! 




Monday, June 7, 2021

Negative Nancies - HEATWAVE


I have always felt that referring to a band's music as 'defying description' was a lazy approach to music writing, because everything can be described, right? Well, yeah. But then there are Negative Nancies. It isn't that one can't come up with descriptors for the Dunedin trio's music, it's just that one needs many descriptors and none of them apply to every song on their recent album HEATWAVE. It is music that is organic in creation, punk in spirit and style. But it also is adventuresome and intriguing. So the offered description 'art punk' is probably more accurate than anything else. It is varied and manic, although purposeful in the execution. It is the sound of a band that only creates to please themselves, and in doing so manages to please the listener. And this might seem entirely out of left field, but if I were to choose a musical ancestor for Negative Nancies, it would be The Monks (with better haircuts and equipment). And yes, that is intended as a high compliment.

Negative Nancies are Tess Mackay (keys/vocals), Emilie Smith (drums/vocals), and Mick Elborado (guitar/vocals). HEATWAVE is out now via Dunedin's Fishrider Records (and Occultation Records in the UK).




Bandcamp for HEATWAVE (Fishrider Records)

Bandcamp for HEATWAVE (Occultation Records)

Fishrider Records

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Orange Paw - Orange Paw

Mara Williams of Melbourne bands The Pink Tiles and Pleather Purrs certainly has utilized her pandemic downtime more productively than many, commencing a solo project called Orange Paw and writing songs. The fruits of her efforts are nine charming lo-fi nuggets packaged into a self-titled debut album. And what a set of songs! You can hear the garage pop undercurrents of her other bands, but the additional elements make the tunes special. There is a '60s guitar pop vibe owing to the innocent and sincere vocals and the sound of the guitars. And while Mara's vocals are impressive on the uptempo tracks and sweet lullabies, one of our favorite songs us the romping retro instrumental "Runaway".

Orange Paw is an excellent debut album. In fact, it is an excellent album under any circumstances. And we hope that even when her other bands are recording and playing gigs, Mara keeps writing for her own project. If she does, we will be there to listen.

The album is out now digitally, and will be available in cassette format next month via Psychic Hysteria.



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Bachelor - Doomin’ Sun

Bachelor consists of Melina Duterte (Jay Som) and Ellen Kempner (Palehound), two talented LA-based singer-songwriters. They share writing credits in Bachelor, both sing and play, and apparently, upon meeting a few years ago, became inseparable friends. This is a terrific record; their talent at rock guitar, harmony vocals and songwriting is surpassed only by their superb instincts. The way they wring melody out of one electric guitar while making the other one squall; the way they have perfected the quiet/loud/quiet/loud dynamic; and mostly the way they perform their vocals until you are wondering if they are double-tracked, triple-tracked, or they just have that kind of amazing ability to sync up together - all these things tell you they must have spent months squeezing sounds out of a studio full of equipment, right? Well, apparently, they recorded the album in about a two week period at a house they rented, in bursts of what must have been hysterical joy. Some of this stuff is funny, some of it is poignant, but all of it sounds amazing. I hear echoes of many of my favorite 90's "indie rock" favorites - Guided by Voices, The Breeders, The Pixies (check out that roaring chorus in "Stay in the Car") - and Bachelor does not pale by comparison to those bands. Here's "Stay in the Car":
   

 
They show a real talent and dexterity at using a variety of production and musical effects throughout the record. "Spin Out" and "Moon", particularly, are well-layered and feature contrasts between the harmonic vocal sounds and a variety of stretched-out and treated guitar and synth sounds for a dreamlike quality that breaks up the intensity of the guitar tracks. Later on, the 4:06 “Aurora” takes the time to stretch out, and build some drum and synth tracks on top of a simple piano backing of the quiet, husky vocals which move up and back in the mix and closes out with an ethereal guitar solo. It’s a pretty song, and a nice use of these effects:

There is really not a weak track on this record. It’s an interesting dynamic, having two established young solo artists/bandleaders come together to form another band, just because they thought it would be fun to record together. Often it occurs in reverse - Uncle Tupelo or Drive-by Truckers break up and we get two great bands. But here, we get what sounds like a great new band from the opposite impulse. Duterte and Kempner were each making music on their own, but thought there was something else, something more, they could do together. And it’s lucky for us that they did. The record is out now (5/28) on Polyvinyl Records. 


Saturday, June 5, 2021

"She Buys Herself Flowers" by The Umbrellas


 We residents of rainy Seattle don't tend to use umbrellas, preferring a good had or just letting ourselves get a little damp. But we must admit that umbrellas can be very, very satisfying. A case in point is "She Buys Herself Flowers" by The Umbrellas. The band is a jangle pop four-piece that confirms our suspicion that San Francisco's stature as a lo-fi, indie pop bastion is well-earned.  With acts like The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Flowertown, Tony Jay, The Mantles, how could it be otherwise?

"She Buys Herself Flowers" is a classic rush of indie pop that might bring to mind The Pastels or a Sarah Records comp -- hooks and melody with catchy choruses and just limber enough to justify a DIY tag. It is the first single from the band's upcoming self-titled debut, which will be released via Slumberland Records on August 6.

The Umbrellas are Matt Ferrara (vocals/guitar/keys), Keith Frerichs (guitar/drums/vocals), Morgan Stanley (vocals/guitar), and Nick Oka (bass).


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“Rise and Shine” by Jubba White, Frassman Brilliant and Arturas


Very happy to be able to share with you a good reggae track from the trio of Jubba White, Frassman Brilliant and Arturas. Their new single and accompanying video, “Rise and Shine”, is a taste from an upcoming album, Solar Riddim, from SimmerDown Sounds and White Stone Productions, and Tuff Gong, which includes a number of artists in addition to these three. Hopefully it’s all of this quality, because this stuff is well-played - it really swings - and the three vocalists play off one another well. Jubba White takes the lead and he's got a great flow to his vocals, setting a good musical groove for Brilliant and Arturas to play off of.

The single is out now, the album will be out June 18. Stream or download this track at the site below, or just hit repeat on this video.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Jonny Kosmo - Pastry

Jonny Kosmo is an LA-based singer leading an ensemble playing some completely delightful and soulful pop music. It's full of beat machines, waves of synthesizers and Kosmo's high vocals (often ranging into falsetto) that make it clear this guy just wants us to be happy. Really, it's a delightful record that mixes well with whatever else you're listening to these days. Check out "Fool" - the wacky, woozy synthesizers, the crazy visuals in the video - these things provide a light touch, but don't obscure the fact that this is really good soul music:

 

 

 And another delightful feature of this record is that Kosmo's singing about positivity and encouragement throughout - the way we treat each other and the way we treat ourselves, as in "Panopticon". Kosmo says this one is about the way we tend to police ourselves, and almost help the machine police us rather than express some freedom:

 
There are some nice short tracks, sort of liminal breaks that keep the good feelings going, like "Tru" which features Gracie Jackson accompanying Kosmo on vocals:

 

 It is a complete album - 14 tracks, well sequenced, featuring a theme-setting intro that is reprised in the last track, and in between enough variations in tempo and enough supporting musicians and backup singers to keep the party going. It is out now (June 4) on Feeding Tube (US) and Dinosaur City (Australia). 



Thursday, June 3, 2021

Kevin Robertson - Sundown's End

 

As regular readers of this blog know, if an album is billed as jangle pop, power pop, psychedelic, and '60s guitar pop, we are going to pay attention. And in the case of Sundown's End, by Aberdeen, Scotland's Kevin Robertson, the album is what it is advertised to be. It also is packed with sweet melodies, sharp hooks and several months' worth of good vibes (that would be the summer months, of course). Kev was already in our books because of our past coverage of The Vapour Trails, a fine Aberdeen band of which he is a founding member (link to our feature). But we were unaware of his side project under his own name.

We are unaware no more, and we are very impressed. Yes, there is plenty of delicious jangle pop. There is dusty, country rock such as "Settle Down", and gentle ballads such as "See How We Love". "Telepathic Minds" could be found on a collection of  '60s garage/psych nuggets, and closing track "Yesterday's Rain" could have a Byrds byline. The harmonies lift the spirits and the melodies make us smile. This is a treasure of good vibes.

Sundown's End is out now as a digital release via Subjangle Records (there were limited edition CDs, as well, but they have been snapped up).





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Subjange Records

The Palace Guard - All Night Long: An Anthology, 1965-1966

The team at Omnivore Records has struck again, with a delightful collection of 60’s California-meets-British Invasion guitar pop by The Palace Guard, Emitt Rhodes’ first band. The excellent liner notes detail some details of the fascinating milieu they played in - among other things, they were the house band at famed Sunset Strip rock club The Hullabaloo Club. You can see them prominently featured in this video about the club’s opening:

They were one of an army of Southern California bands formed in the wake of the Beatles’ popularity, and they do a good job of aping the Beatles in places. The core of the band was three brothers, so you would expect tight vocal harmonies. You would be right. The Palace Guard were “locally famous”, but never broke through on the national charts. In 1965-1966, the national charts were a crowded place.

There are plenty of studio touches to punch up the music - psychedelic, jangly guitars, an actual calliope in the song “Calliope”, and of course, the virtual wall of vocal harmonies that make the choruses stand out. 


In their short career, they released six singles, 12 songs, and it's all on here. It's a fun time capsule, and is out now (May 21) on Omnivore Recordings.

The Palace Guard at Omnivore Recordings