Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get to Know: Jacuzzi Boys

Miami's Jacuzzi Boys are a punk/grunge band with an emerging pop sheen. The band consists of Gabriela Alcala (vocals/guitar), Diego Monasterios (drums) and Danny Gonzalez (bass). The guys released No Seasons in 2009, and just followed up with the very good Glazin' on Seattle's Hardly Art label. The buzz for Jacuzzi Boys is building, and they have toured with King Khan and the Shrines and more recently attracted the notice of Jack White, performing a show at his Third Man Records in Nashville.

Here is the title track to the new album:

Jacuzzi Boys - Glazin from komAwald on Vimeo.

The poppier "Koo Koo with you":

My take on Jacuzzi Boys is that the first album was interesting, and this one is quite good. They guys are tightening up in the right places and spreading their wings in the right places. I look forward to more sounds from this band.

Something with a weightier sound -- "Cool Vapors" (about the joys of an air conditioned ride):

And just for fun, "Smells Dead", one of my favorites from their first album:

Jacuzzi Boys - Smells Dead from John McSwain on Vimeo.

Hardly Art

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lo-Fi Goodness: Fear of Men

A few months ago we introduced our readers to the delightful lo-fi, fuzz pop band Fear of Men. Happy for us fans, the band just released the two-track single Ritual Confession/Spirit House on Italian Beach Babes Records. Both tracks are worth your time and consideration. We've provided a video for the first, and an Bandcamp link for both. By way of background, the band is Jess, Dan, Lin, and Antony -- two men and two women -- and they are based in Brighton and London.

"Ritual Confession"

And apparently Fear of Men is having a productive month, as they also recorded this cover of The Chills' iconic "Pink Frost".


Monday, August 29, 2011

REVIEW: Male Bonding -- Endless Now

Tomorrow SubPop is releasing Endless Now, the second album by London three-piece punk outfit Male Bonding. It’s been available via stream for the past few weeks, and has drawn some mixed responses from the reviewerati. Some are breathlessly heralding it as a towering punk-pop triumph, using words like Husker and Dinosaur. Others are calling it predictable and samey. One went so far as to use the word “inarticulacy”. Yes, apparently such a word exists, and there is at least one writer who thinks that it can be employed to describe another’s being inarticulate without any irony at all.

Well, I am here, in a cloak of humility, to resolve this question once and for all. Endless Now is an extremely good, and maybe a great album – one of my favorites I’ve heard this year. Its songs crackle with that perfect blend of pop goodness and punk crash. And although I make no secret of loving a bunch of yelling and screaming, the vocals and harmonies of songwriter/guitarist John Arthur Webb and bassist Kevin Hendrick are the antithesis of that. They float blithely above the noisy fray, as if Brian Wilson were subbing for Lee Ving (okay, maybe a bit of a stretch). Still, listen to the bass intro of the first track, “Tame the Sun”, and then when the rest of the band explodes into the song, see if you can resist headbutting your dog.

I listed Male Bonding’s first album, Nothing Hurts, among my favorites of 2010. In an earlier post I rhapsodized, being the wordsmith that I am, about the band’s “freaking great drummer”, Robin Silas Christian. As on the earlier album Christian’s manic banging is given its proper, prominent place in the recording mix, and, it would appear from this video of “Before It’s Gone”, one of my favorite of the new songs, in the live mix as well.

You can stream the entire album at, but you’d be better off if you just went ahead and bought it.

Male Bonding on Facebook

New stuff - The War on Drugs- "Slave Ambient"

I was in Montreal for a work conference last week and had dinner at this terrific little boulangerie/bistro. They were playing some great music, so I asked the bartender for a good place to hear live music. He sent me just down the block.

I walked in this great little club, paid my $7 and asked who was playing. They answered "The War on Drugs". Local band? "No," they said, "from the States." Philadelphia, as it turns out.

They killed me! I thought I had stumbled on 1965 Bob Dylan in England going electric for the first time, but fronting Echo & the Bunnymen.

How did I not know this band? Blocked them from view because of their name? (I fell in love with the band, but can't imagine myself ever liking that name).

Very sadly, I was running out of Canadian $, and the ATM there wouldn't accept my card, so I couldn't buy Slave Ambient, their brand new CD. But they introduced many songs as being from Slave Ambient and they all sounded good, so I'm vouching for it and will be buying it as soon as I get back home.

I raved about another Philly boy, Kurt Vile, earlier this year, with a bit of a similar psychedelic sound (though The War on Drugs rock more), and now I'm thinking maybe there's something going on in Philadelphia that I'd better start paying attention to.

I'm not sure exactly what WYMA's beat is, but The War on Drugs is right there. Certainly all the many Centro-matic fans here at WYMA should like this band.

Read more about the band and see tour dates at their web page:

New Discovery: Matt Bauer - Jessamine County Book of the Living

Matt and I are neighbors (he's from Kentucky - although he apparently is currently a resident of Brooklyn), but I've only recently discovered his music. It's absolutely stunning orchestral folk music and his voice is reminiscent, to me, of Richard Buckner's.

Here's a video for "TICS 1979":

TICS 1979 by Matt Bauer from matt bauer on Vimeo.

And you can download the song "Black Horses" here.

And here's a link to hear and download some live stuff from appearances on WFMU in NYC.

Highly recommended for fans of Buckner, Tom Waits, Gillian Welch, Papa M... the kind of artists with the talent get a rock feel out of acoustic instrumentation and a measured pace.

Matt Bauer Website

Sunday, August 28, 2011

David Lowery Extravaganza and free MP3 of Unreleased Track!

If you like David Lowery and his CVB and Cracker CV, and you happen to live out West, well, I've got great news for you.

Lowery and his bandmates from both groups will be rolling into the Joshua Tree region of California next month to co-host their 7th annual Campout music festival.

Campout will take place September 15th, 16th and 17th at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace in the High Desert of Southern California. The locale of this fest ties in perfectly with Cracker’s own history as their signature album Kerosene Hat was recorded here back in 1993 in the now-closed movie soundstage next to the Palace.

And not to overwhelm you with good news, but here's a free MP3 from David: "Cages", an outtake from his solo release The Palace Guards, released in February of this year.

It's great to see one of my all-time favorite artists engaging in all this activity. Key Lime Pie in its entirety! There are other tour dates leading up to the Campout, check out the Cracker Website for dates and locations.

Cracker Website

Camper Van Beethoven Website

And I can't resist sharing this snippet from Cracker's website, under Latest News:

"Cracker in Vail Colorado. Trophy Wife Contest!

Cracker Full Band with special guest Michael Urbano on drums. The "official" story is Frank Funaro is playing a festival with his old band The Del Lords in Spain that week. But unofficially it's because Frank hates Gerald Ford. Sad but true. See we are playing in the Gerald Ford ampitheatre. Frank refuses to set foot in the place. Most people remember Gerald Ford as our 38th president but few people remember that Gerald Ford had a really great garage rock band back in the early 80's. Gerald Ford opened for The Del Lords once at CBGBs in New York and totally upstaged them. Ford closed his CBGBs set by attacking the Cambodian island of Koh Tang and repeatedly banged his head on the door of Marine 2. The Del Lords had to follow that. Tough crowd!"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-29: The Weeknd; Lenticular Clouds; Octanone

This weekend's ramble takes us from Toronto to Barcelona to Switzerland.

Fewer than six months after the release of the deservedly well-received House of Balloons (which we covered here), The Weeknd has issued Thursday. The sound continues to be a hazy, sleazy late night version of slow contemporary R&B, but on this version their is a bit more in terms of guitar riffs and industrial sounds, and a generally more claustrophobic feel. However, while it doesn't have the same feel as House of Balloons, it doesn't feel completely different. Perhaps it is best described as another chapter in the same story.

"Life of the Party", in which the protagonist persuades a female to participate in group sex.

Details regarding the Toronto project are still sparse, and I imagine that the lack of information is deliberate. The vocalist is Abel Tesfaye, and the producers responsible for the tracks are Doc McKinney and Illangelo. The rapper Drake is involved to some extent, and is featured on one of the tracks. I understand that The Weeknd project anticipates creating a trilogy, and we should expect the third installment this fall. Thursday is available for a free download at the website linked below.


"Rolling Stone"


Lenticular Clouds is a Spanish electronic chillwave/dreampop group that produces some very engaging and interesting music. The album Ciencia​/​Conciencia was released in July, and you can stream it below. It also can be purchase for one Euro. I'm not familiar with the exchange rate, but you may be able to purchase one of our fifty states for a Euro right now, so it seems like a good deal.


The members are Albert Zaragoza Gas and Guillem Ber tar, and they are based in Barcelona. Their music is released on LEDlight and Neonized Rec.


Octanone is Swiss Lucien Montandon, formerly drummer for the group Alt F4 and known for his mastery of drums and all sorts of beat making implements. He is beginning to create an artistic persona as Octanone. in the video below for the song "None" he plays with a drum pad, Loop Station and Kaoss effects. His debut EP is expected in September.

octanone live at spalenring from octanone on Vimeo.


Friday, August 26, 2011

The Soul Corner - "People Get Ready"

I got married 16 years ago today. It's not always easy being married, especially if you are married to me, so this one goes out to Elisabeth.

Our wedding was a lovely affair, held outdoors at a rural inn south of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Elisabeth is not at all religious and wanted music that sounded warm, humanistic and spiritual, but not theologically dogmatic or love song sappy.

Our dear friend Joe Henry and his pal Mike Russell played an acoustic instrumental version of this song right after we took our vows and and it sounded perfect:

REVIEW: Forty Winks - Bow Wow

With a cover that calls to mind the raging debate Spinal Tap had with its publicist (the one that led to Nigel's all-time great observation "Wot's wrong with bein' sexy"), this thing comes roaring, really snarling out of the gate with the punky, bouncy opening track "Beneath Her Feet". It's a twelve-song tour of pop/punk styles that features keyboards and horns in spots but really, throughout it's guitar-based New Wave-inspired good time rock music.

Here's "Beneath Your Feet":

In places it reminds me of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, which I suppose is a way to say it sounds a bit like the Smithereens with a bit more of an edge. Honestly, they sound like they could go either way: they're a real good punk band - the evidence isn't hard to find on YouTube - but they could definitely garner a large mainstream audience if they wanted to play it that way. Me, I like the punk...

Here they are playing "Way Out" at a club in Bologna:

Going back a little ways, here's a video that somebody posted on YouTube five years ago, and it's real punk:

Kind of like "garage rock from Japan", there's something about "punk rock from Italy" that makes you look twice, and this record grabbed my attention with really well-executed and hard-rocking songs from front to back.

... if it just wasn't for that cover art... What's Italian for "Wot's wrong with bein' sexy?"

Forty Winks Website

Forty Winks on Pure Volume

Emerging Seattle Bands: Witch Gardens

Despite living in Seattle, local band Witch Gardens wasn't on my radar until Seapony sent out a message recommending them. So thanks to Danny and the rest of the Seapony gang, because Witch Gardens definitely is worth knowing about. Listen to a live performance of "So Many Parties" while we continue the discussion:

The group consists of guitarist Casey Catherwood ("Christ"), who is a long-term member of the DIY scene in the Puget Sound area, bass player Beth Corry ("Branch"), drummer Sara Beabout ("Alice", and autoharpist Karolyn Kukoski ("Agatha"). The band recently released Alice, Agatha, Branch & Christ, which is a very well executed, melodic lo-fi delight. While the album clearly has a homemade feel, the songs are well conceived and upbeat. We've provided the Bandcamp link below so you can stream the entire album. You'll be happy you took the time to listen.

The eight-track album Alice, Agatha, Branch, & Christ:

"Lifeguard" is an non-album track with a fun video:


Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Discovery: The Routes

We like garages, and we really like rock. And we really, really like garage rock, wherever it originates. I feel confident in saying that right now The Routes are our favorite Japanese garage rock band. The Routes aren't trying to invent something new, and they aren't following the fuzzy take on the garage sound played by many current bands. Instead, they produce a clean and faithful version of the 1960s UK and US garage band sound. Their most recent album is Alligator, which is released on Dirty Water Records:

A glimpse of the band live--"Willie the Wild One" from 2008:

Dirty Water Records

New Discovery: Tomorrow's Tulips, Eternally Teenage

Released in July, this record combines several endearing subsets of indie rock in one package... I'll label it "Lo-fi Beach Punk Goth Wall of Sound" and maybe some of that will grab you, make you curious enough to give a listen. RIYL Ty Segall, Black Lips, Crocodiles, Vivian Girls, stuff like that.

Here's a video for the title track, apparently the song's been finished for a while and they built the album around it:

And here's a video for song 11, "Wednesday":

There's a pretty casual attitude and pace to the whole thing, but sometimes Alex Knost lets the guitar wail, and Christina Kee's a pretty good surf punk drummer and can sing a little bit... maybe she'll get more lead vocals as they go on.

Heard on Indiefeed, a song-a-day podcast I recommend.

Tomorrow's Tulips on Facebook

Tomorrow's Tulips at Galaxia Records

Cool Video Thursday: TV Girl, Snow Patrol, The Head and the Heart, Chromeo

I love this video: "Baby You Were There" from TV Girl.

"Called Out in the Dark" by Snow Patrol. We haven't heard much from Lightbody and company for a while, but this is a trademark Snow Patrol song and a nice video concept.

Seattle's The Head and the Heart with "Cats and Dogs"

Chromeo with "When Night Falls"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midweek Roundup: Pictures of Then, Heidi Klum's Bangs, Breton

We get these things, we find these things, we thought we'd share them with you...

Pictures of Then is a Minneapolis rock band with a nice guitar/piano sound. You can download two tracks from ...And the Wicked Sea if you sign up for their mailing list. Who knows, maybe if enough folks east of the Mississippi sign up, they'll drive their van across the Mighty Miss, the old Miss, the Old Man... Deep River!

Heidi Klum's Bangs is a new group of young practitioners of the "Elephant 6" sound: acoustic guitars, horns, chimes, all in service of a bit of a concept album: Palace Pier. Check it out at their Bandcamp site... they've got a "name your price" special going right now:

And here's a pretty amazing video (and very intense song) by UK group Breton. It's a single called "The Commission" which is to be included on Other People's Problems, the album they plan to release in February 2012.

You can also listen on Soundcloud:

Breton - the Commission by bretonlabs

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

REVIEW: The Semis - Decapitator Blues

On their latest release, the Semis have thrown me a bit of a curveball. Having been introduced via the single "Popov" earlier this year, I was expecting Teenage Fanclub-style power pop to dominate Decapitator Blues. Of course, the title might have been a clue for me... but opening track, "Fun In the Sun", does carry on in a similar fashion - play it right after some classic Teenage Fanclub and tell me what you'd expect from this band. It's perfect: harmonies, jangly guitars, breakneck pace - everything a power-pop fan looks for.

Here's "Fun In The Sun"

And here comes the curveball: song two "Snuffed," is a really great bit of raunch reminiscent to me of the Stooges and the Stones, and that's the style that carries on pretty much throughout the balance of this record. Two songs later, "Ciggy Fun Boy" sounds for all the world like a Keith Richards vocal outtake. Here's the song "Faux Fur", with a hard, ragged guitar riff over breakneck drums and bass:

Here's a video of them performing the song "Echo" earlier this summer:

The 6:10 "Echo" is pretty psychedelic and kind of British Invasion-sounding, and is followed by a 2:17 sludge guitar workout called "Echo Part II" which is a little more psychedelic, and "Screwtop Wine" with some growling guitars, staccato drums and slurry vocals, before closing on a short but very effective guitar solo. The closing track, "The Ballad of Andy Howard", finishes with some even crazier guitar playing which echoes out on a delicate pedal steel outro. All in all, these guys cover a lot of rock and roll turf and while I know this isn't easy to do, they make it all sound very natural. Great guitar riffs are all over the place.

The band consists of Billy Summer, Matt Simmons, Kyle Lovell and Jay Schultz, and they seem to be fairly well-known in the Tampa area... I'm of the opinion that more folks should know about these guys. I don't know if any of you are familiar with a band from Athens, Georgia (sadly, defunct for several years now) called the Glands, but the Semis really remind me of them and that is a compliment of the highest order. Check them out on Reverb Nation. I think this is a terrific record.

Crooked Fingers - New Song "Typhoon"

Around the When You Motor Away offices it is a time for celebration whenever Eric Bachmann gets his Crooked Fingers mojo in gear. And he has. The new album, Breaks in the Armor, is set for release on October 11. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the opening track, "Typhoon", which is available to download.

Crooked Fingers - Typhoon by MergeRecords

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 25: Adam Stafford; The Deportees; Happy Vandals

Adam Stafford is a Glasgow-based musician and film maker. His album, Build A Better Harbour Immediately, was released yesterday on the new Wise Blood Industries label. A previous project of Stafford's was called Ya'll Is Fantasy Island. His film making credits include a short documentary, The Shutdown, made in collaboration with Alan Bissett and a music video for The Twilight Sad’s single "Seven Years of Letters" (which was nominated for Best Video in the New Scottish Music Awards 2011).

Build A Better Harbour Immediately is an indie rock album which finds Stafford deftly employing several different styles, echoing dream pop, doo wop, gospel and others. Because he is a mature songwriter and confident performer, he manages to deliver at each stage. The entire album can be streamed below, but if you only have the time or inclination for one track, I recommend "Shot-down You Summer Wannabes", which is Scottish Doo Wop. Honest.
Shot-down You Summer Wannabes by Adam Stafford

Build a Harbour Immediately

Stafford's Page at Wise Blood Industries
Wise Blood link for album

The Deportees are from Aberdeen, Scotland. Their music touches on rock, pop, country and folk, with a lot of vocal harmony, giving it a Celtic folk/rock sound. The members are Adam Keenan, Christy Keenan, Adam Morrice, Diarmaid O'Gallagher, and Ricky Osborne
The just released two-track EP I Lost Her to the Sea


Happy Vandals are Marc, Lam & Lew, from Perth, Scotland. They play indie surf pop with a touch of Calypso rhythm. Their music is on PoltergeistRecords, but the tracks below are available free at Bandcamp or from their website.

The delightful "In the Sun"

"Samba 62"


Monday, August 22, 2011

REVIEW: Will Hanson - Moving a Body

We gave Will Hanson some virtual ink recently to profile a double A-side. We have reason to do so again, as his label, 12/26 Music, releases Hanson's Moving A Body today, August 22. Moving A Body is a full length produced by Jamie Savage and Oli Bayston in Glasgow with funding from Creative Scotland. The album is the delightful product of Hanson's resolution of several artistic tensions. One is his indie pop songwriter muse. Another is his penchant for sweeping cinematic tracks. And woven through the album is his maturity to let the instruments speak without his voice. Accordingly, the influences listed with respect to this album include songmen such as Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave and Anthony and the Johnson, indie rock icons such as The Delgados, and experimental types such as Mogwai, Sigur Ros and Portishead. (One reviewer suggested that this album might be what one could expect if Leonard Cohen was forced through a synthesizer, which is an interesting illustration.) I'll also add that Will's love of an off kilter lyric reminds me of Robyn Hitchcock.

Two of the best examples of Hanson's skill in crafting engaging songs are tracks two and six, "The View From Ebury Bridge" and "The Bats", respectively. Perhaps fittingly given the Chemikal Underground connection with his production team, both tracks start out on an intimate basis with Hanson's voice drawing the listener forward to hear his voice, and then build like a track from The Delgados. Here is "The View From Ebury Bridge":

And here is "The Bats", which is emerging as one of my favorite tracks on the album:

Hanson's music has taken him from his hometown in London, to New York (with his former band, Proxy), to Glasgow. The band for the album is a six piece, and between Hanson's melodic talent and the skill of such a large compliment of musicians, Moving A Body succeeds in being expansive, warm and versatile. I think it is the mark of an artist hitting his stride.

For a change of pace, here is the dark and atmospheric "Deathbed Conversion", a track which has drawn a lot of attention from reviewers:

Album closer, "And So..."


Sunday, August 21, 2011

REVIEW: The Big Sweet - Ultraviolet Rain

The Big Sweet is a power-pop quartet from Cleveland, Ohio who bring to my mind an imagined collaboration of XTC with Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, with more than trace elements of Big Star... what I'm trying to say is that these guys have a way with a hook, a backbeat and a guitar line and really can put it all together. The music is catchy, and very well-crafted.

The band consists of Sam Regas (Vocals, Guitar), Brad Berbari (Guitar, Keyboards), Matt McDonald (Bass), and Drew Watson (Drums, Percussion, Effects), and this is their second record. From the opening of "Laces" with its ultra-jangly guitars and infectious backbeat, the pop/rock ambitions of The Big Sweet are on full display, and the promise is kept on song after song.

"In And Out of Style" is a power-pop ballad with lots of tempo changes and jangle, "Softened Gold" is fairly similar, but shorter, then "N-C" stretches out with some guitar solos... all of it with some terrific vocals reminiscent, to me, of Lloyd Cole and Alex Chilton. The centerpiece, the 7:01 "Wet On Canvas", is full of synths, layered vocals and all kinds of guitars, and it swirls and swirls...

Listening to Ultraviolet Rain with no knowledge of the band's background, I'd expect this is the work of a group of power-pop veterans who had been gigging in other bands for years, collecting their own songs and finally taking the big step of booking a studio and a producer and laying it all down. And I'd be wrong. These are kids who went from borrowing their parents' R.E.M., GbV, Mats and Big Star records to covering that stuff, to recording and coming out with this very accomplished record before they're old enough to vote. Highly recommended for folks who dig power pop.

You can check out the music and stream a few tracks at their MySpace and Facebook sites:

Big Sweet MySpace

Big Sweet Facebook

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-28: Active Child; The Baggios; Jamaican Singles

This weekend's edition brings wide-scope indie/electronica from L.A., rock and roll from Brazil, and dancehall from Jamaica. Please enjoy!

Active Child is Los Angeles-based Patrick James Grossi. The simple description of his music is electronic indie pop, although his artistic range and interests are broad enough to stretch that description in interesting ways. His debut album, You Are All I See, is released on August 23 on Vagrant Records.

"Playing House (featuring How to Dress Well)"

Active Child - Playing House Ft. How To Dress Well [Audio Stream] from Active Child on Vimeo.

Trailer for the new album:

You Are All I See - Album Trailer from Active Child on Vimeo.

"I'm In Your Church At Night" from the Curtis Lane EP

Active Child - I'm In Your Church At Night from Active Child on Vimeo.


The Baggios are a promising Brazilian rock duo. Júlio Andrade plays guitar and sings; Gabriel Carvalho plays the drums. The band was formed in 2004. And they are giving their album away free on their website, which is linked below. If you prefer, lots of good stuff is available at the Soundcloud link as well. Wait, rock and roll from Brazil, you ask? Yes--listen to "Can't Find My Mind":



And now, for some tunes high up in the charts in Jamaica.

Naptali, "Deceitful"

"Delilah" by Movado

"Keep Me Original" by Shabu and Rebellion

Toya feat. Beenie Man with "One Man Woman"

Shabba Ranks -- "None A Dem"

REVIEW: The Pack a.d. - Unpersons

The Pack a.d. is a rock/blues/punk duo (sound familiar? Well, it gets a little moreso) from Vancouver: Becky Black (guitar/vocasls) and Maya Miller (drums). They produce a strong, strong sound and have three albums out, including 2010's we kill computers. Now they're about to release Unpersons, a disc they've recorded with Detroit mastermind Jim Diamond (yes, that Jim Diamond: he puts his pants on one leg at a time, but when his pants are on, he makes DIRTBOMBS, WHITE STRIPES and OTHER great records). You can make the obvious comparisons, White Stripes being maybe the most obvious, and those comparisons will serve you well if they lead you to give this thing a listen.

Here's the Soundcloud page where you can listen to and download "Sirens", the first song. It's a great little piece of noisy drumming, distorted guitars and melodious vocals:

Sirens by Riot Act

For a band with just two people, there's a decent variety in tempos, guitar sounds and even vocals - some of it with a real snarl - with the common denominator being that it's all rocking. Where "Sirens" has a real nice vocal and garage-rock base, song four, "8" is pure punk... with a tribal drumbeat, snarled vocals and a shouted call-and-response on the chorus. Then a little further along, "Positronic" gets kind of psychedelic.

Here's a recent live video which shows you that, yes, it's two humans making all that rock:

And here's a video from a previous album, notable for being hilarious and rocking:

They're embarking on a tour soon, and the album is due for release September 13.

The Pack a.d. Website

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Soul Corner - The Four Tops - "7 Rooms of Gloom"

Back to Motown, a battered but still determined city, and by the way, today the home of the great Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball.

No voice ever captured the soul and grit of Detroit better than that of the late Levi Stubbs. A voice as strong, defiant and fierce as the streets of Detroit.

I could play you the Four Tops catalogue but the one song that does it for me every single time is "7 Rooms of Gloom".

Motown was beginning to rock things up a bit, borrowing from the garage rock sound of the times. The harder style fit Levi Stubbs's voice perfectly. The Funk Brothers really kick out the jams here, led by the amazing James Jamerson's bass lines.

And Stubbs got one of the finest musical tributes ever when Billy Bragg honored him with his classic "Levi Stubbbs' Tears":

REVIEW: Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers - Luck

There are bands that play at rock and roll, and there are bands that play rock and roll. And there are bands whose art is so convincing that you can say that they have a rock and roll heart. The rock and roll heart beats strongly in Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers. On their debut release, Luck, they don't give you slick music with soaring harmonies. But they do make you want to move and sing along, and they validate that life can be hard and cruel but if you're still breathing, still sipping your drink, you're winning. Most importantly, they make you feel. And if you don't feel what Jacob's feeling, the music just might remind you to think about something else you should be thinking about. (Of course, if you don't want to think about it, you can drink to forget.)

In general, the sound is a mix of blues, punk, swampy southern roadhouse Americana, rockabilly, Tom Waits storytelling, bar band and Glasgow urban rock. And the songs are fleshed out by Jacob's direct, observational and somewhat outrageous lyrical expression. The instrumentation is guitar, bass, drums and piano/organ. Listen to them and you can hear the authenticity of the descriptions of Jacob's music as "Doom Wop" and "Horror R&B". Think Tom Waits and Nick Cave channeling Junior Kimbrough. But why just think about it? You can hear it in one of my favorite tracks -- "Can't Stop":

There are eight tracks on Luck. Some of them are stompers, and some of them are mid-tempo musical stories. The opening track, "Mark", is one of the doom wop stompers, and kicks off proceedings with a fittingly dark tone. The following surrealistic psychobilly of "Black Dog" leads us to another of my favorites, "Mary Hell". "Mary Hell" is a horror R&B impression of the Maryhill area of Glasgow, complete with descriptions of Jacob's legless father and a barbecued cat. "Dundee" is a musically softer, but continues the dark tone. The fifth track is the above "Can't Stop". The sixth through eighth tracks encapsulate the band's range. "Vessels" is a serious and stately piano-driven piece with bitter lyrics. "Lemonade", which I've provided below, is a rousing slide guitar bit gem of bluesy pop/rock. "Luck" closes with "When You Left Me". And this final track underscores why the music of Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers is so much more than a weekend night's good times soundtrack. The somber subject of the death of Jacob's dad is told in a way that conveys love, loss, anger, and abandonment, but is infused with sufficient deftly phrased levity to provide genuine depth to the story. I suggest you treat yourself to a session with that song at the Bandcamp link below.

Popular track "Lemonade" (as a backdrop to a biking video):

Escaping the city from Stefan Morrocco on Vimeo.

Overall, the album is both boisterous and dark. To understand the darkness, you need to realize that since the music is based on Jacob's observations, it reflects a certain Glasgow experience. Experience with a city in which a sizable segment of the population is being treated for drug dependency, and many dwellers deal with drugs, gangs, joblessness and sectarian strife. It is just a different facet of the modern human condition illustrated by Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor and other greats in America.

Thanks to Re:Peater Records, you can stream the entire album below:

Jacob's actual surname is Lovatt; Yates is his mother's maiden name. The band is listed as "Jacob Yates, Jamie Yates, Rick Yates and Michael Yates", but the other three actually are Richard Holmes (guitar), Michael Bleazard (traps), Jamie Bolland (keys and guitar). Luck was recorded at the Green Door studio and is released on Re:Peater Records. As is the case with the band's labelmates, She's Hit, the attractive album art is by Hrafnhildur Halldorsdottir.

I love this album. For me, it is one of those essential branches of rock music that some of us who grew up in America, decades ago, find to be hard wired into our brains. Even if this edition, and the stories it tells, come from Glasgow. Should you be interested in agreeing with me, I've provided the Bandcamp link to Re:Peater records below.

Bandcamp link for album
Facebook for Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers
Hrafnhildur Halldorsdottir's website

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Best Video of the Year?

Mere words won't do this justice:

REVIEW: Touche Amore - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

This is just a short note to join the chorus of positive reactions to the new album by LA hardcore/screamo band Touche Amore, called Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me. Released in June by Deathwish, the label started and run by Jacob Bannon of Converge, it's an old-style 13 song, sub-30 minute slab of loud.

After just a couple of times through, though, the loud starts to reveal its contours and colors as being more than just three bar chords and a couple of cusswords. Listen to the terrific guitar sound achieved by Clayton Stevens and Nick Steinhardt on 'Home Away From Here' in this nicely produced video.

The rest of the band includes drummer Elliot Babin, bassist Tyler Kirby, and vocalist/songwriter Jeremy Bolm. Here's a video of 'Amends', from the new album, performed at a festival in the Czech Republic on 31 July. The sound quality's pretty rough, but it's always fun to watch a quality band get after it like this. In fact, this vid's worth a look for the stage diving alone. Stage diving is the very definition of lameness to begin with, and this crowd takes it to new heights of ridiculousness. Thankfully, the band is unfazed. Enjoy:

As I often point out, I'm not a big lyric guy, but Bolm's got a really nice ear and has loaded his songs with interesting lines and images that defy you to ignore them. Exhibit A is the album opener, denoted by a tilde mark that I can't do in html. Check it out.

In a feature on Alternative Press, Bolm says he wrote the song below during a time when he had the National in heavy rotation. See if you don't hear strains of 'Murder Me Rachael' when you click play. All right, me neither, but that doesn't mean this isn't a kickass song. Heck, they all are.

Touche Amore website

Deathwish Records website

Get to Know: The Postelles

The Postelles are a young New York City band with a pop/rock sound that reminds this listener of The Strokes, The View and The Kooks. The comparisons to The Strokes seem inevitable, as Albert Hammond Jr. of that group produced this groups recently released album, unsurprisingly titled The Postelles.

"White Night"

The band consists of Daniel Balk (Vocals, Guitar), Billy Cadden (Drums), David Dargahi (Lead Guitar), and John Speyer (Bass). They will be touring this fall in support of the album.

"Sleep on the Dance Floor"

"123 Stop"

These sorts of things are tough to predict for bands that are just starting to get national buzz, but I think they have the talent to stay a while. And meanwhile, we are happy to give them some press.


Parson Red Heads - Free Download of "Burning Up the Sky" available!

Following up on JD's excellent interview/feature on this group, here's an opportunity to get a free download of their song "Burning Up the Sky" from Yearling.

Cool Video Thursday

Hiatus and Shura with "Fortune's Fool"

Here is something interesting and quite different:

Quad Time from The Joy of Box on Vimeo.

"Too Much to Lose" by Sun Glitters

Sun Glitters - too much to lose from Victor Ferreira / Sun Glitters on Vimeo.

"Winter Beats" from a band previously featured on Midnight World Pop Scout, I Break Horses

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lo-Fi Freebie: Sneakpeek

I promise that I won't drone on and on about Sneakpeek, although my economic approach has more to do with having very little real information to share than any affection for economy of expression. What I do know is that the band is a Los Angeles garage/psych/lo-fi outfit influenced by the likes of Galaxie 500, My Bloody Valentine and Singapore Sling. Sneakpeek are Dora Hiller (bass/vocals), Aric Bohn (guitar), Aaron Haack (drums), and Mike Motz (guitar). and they have provided one free song and two songs available for one dollar. The band has said that the intend to release an EP soon.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Punk Discovery: Fay Wrays - "Comrade Weather" from Strange Confessor

Here's a punk group from Fresno. Well, it's not all punk... for example, on the 5:21 "Painting Dollar Bills" they really stretch out and play some guitars. And for that, I like them even more. Strong guitars and a heavy bottom, that's a nice combination for a band that just wants to rock.

And they've got some stuff that reminds me of Swervedriver, at least in spots... check out "San Francisco (in) General". Well worth a listen, and at $5, I don't know why you wouldn't just buy the darn thing on Bandcamp.

Fay Wrays page at Riot Act Media

Download "Painting Dollar Bills"

Feature Story: The Parson Red Heads - Yearling

WYMA has been such a booster of The Parson Red Heads that their new record label, Arena Rock Recording Company, asked us to write a feature story about the band to include in their press kit as a way to introduce people to the band and their great new CD Yearling.
Finally, the record release date is here. Fans of skilled pop music must get this record, one of the year's very best.

The Parson Red Heads will soon embark on a US tour with fellow Portlandians. Viva Voce. Tour dates are listed here

Here is our feature story --

The Band members:
Evan Way - songwriter, vocals, guitars
Brette Marie Way - drums, vocals
Sam Fowles - guitars, vocals, songwriter (“Happy We Agree”, “I Was Only”)
Charlie Hester - bass, vocals

Produced by Raymond Richards, Chris Stamey and The Parson Red Heads
Mixed by Chris Stamey

Additional Engineering by Mitch Easter

By any definition, The Parson Red Heads are in harmony:
har·mo·ny noun \ˈhär-mə-nē\
1 tuneful sound
2 the combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord
3 pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts
4 internal calm: tranquility
5 an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative

It is impossible to discuss The Parson Red Heads without acknowledging the remarkable chemistry among the four members, their fans and friends. The band’s generous spirit is inseparable from their masterful songwriting, gracefully finessed guitar lines, precise arrangements and gorgeous three and four part harmonies.

With their new and second full release, Yearling (Arena Rock Recording Company), The Parson Red Heads deliver on the great promise that has been steadily building during their eight years as a band. Yearling was carefully recorded over a series of many months first in a familiar setting, Red Rockets Glare Studio in their former home of Los Angeles, with close friend and sometimes member Raymond Richards producing. Several of the songs on the record were done later on unfamiliar terrain, at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium in North Carolina with alternative pop legends Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter producing and engineering, respectively. Stamey mixed the record.

Stamey pushed the band in a manner they had never experienced. Lead singer-songwriter Evan Way explains: “Chris was a different type of producer for us, especially vocally. We’ve always pretty easily done a take and it is in tune and sounds good and it’s fine. But Chris would have us sing ten or twenty more takes and he was consistently pushing. He’d say ‘That sounds great but I don’t feel like you are really singing the song.’ Chris wanted to hear every word, and make us convey what the lyrics really mean. He didn’t care as much about perfect pitch compared to if we were conveying the true emotion of the song.”

"When I first worked on some string and brass arrangements for them,” Stamey says, “the gentleness and warmth of the songs and the approach came across in spades. It wasn't until I saw them live that I realized what a powerhouse they can be, as well. They played spur-of-the-moment shows here while we were recording and--how else to say it? -- kicked ass."

Stamey came away a big fan: "There's something about this band that lifts your spirits. It's not facepaint, it's all the way down to the grain. In the sixties, we would have said that they are totally 'together,' and they do have an all-for-one and one-for-all ethos, you can hear the musicians' genuine affection for each other in every skywriting chorus and every sweeping improvisation.”

Yearling celebrates appreciating your friends, living thoughtfully and creating an intentional meaningful life, reflecting the heady maturity of a band whose members are in their mid to late 20’s. Evan Way says: “I don’t know if the theme was totally intentional. But all the songs came out about learning the best way to live. There are love songs in there, but it’s more about growing up, your memories and taking everything you’ve learned to make your life better.”

“We came up with the name Yearling as the title,” Evan continues, “which is a horse between one and two years old. That word captured the idea of something growing up. And the record took us a long time to make and we learned so much making it.”

You can listen to a bit of each song here.

This focus on growing and getting better finds its way into many lyrical lines here, such as “Think of the man you used to be, he is less than the man you’ve become” (“Time is Running Out”), or “Every day I wake up saying, I look the same but my soul is different” (“Unemotional”), hardly the typical voice of a band in their 20s.

And the Parson Red Heads have literally grown up together, forming while still their teens. Evan and Brette went to high school together, then became bandmates, then married in 2006.

Part of the band’s development is the musical maturity to slow down the tempos a bit to allow the songs to breathe and the vocal harmonies to best serve the lyrics. Two of the standout tracks here, “When You Love Somebody” and "Seven Years Ago", are especially effective in how they rein the speed in a bit like a great Beatles pop song. These recordings are far more skilled and deliberate than the Parsons’ prior CDs.

Yearling has a timeless quality that continues and expands the classic pop-country-rock lineage stretching from The Byrds and Fleetwood Mac to the Jayhawks and Wilco. Evan hears those reference points, but says the band feels a stronger musical kinship with contemporaries such as Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, Dawes and The Fruit Bats.

"It's easy to hear a connection to the Byrds in some of the material,” Stamey opines, “in the vocal harmonies and guitar stylings, but maybe the real connection is in the sense of balance and poise both bands share. It's a confidence in what they are doing that makes a listener want to lean in to it, to soak it up, instead of having to fend off a sonic assault."

Other musicians immediately appreciate the Parson Red Heads. Various LA musicians sat in with the band over the years, with their live lineup swelling to more than a dozen members on many nights. Members of Blitzen Trapper and Wilco attend their shows, as do Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey from R.E.M., who have joined the Parsons on stage to rip through a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wrecked Me”.

Peter Jesperson, the longtime manager of the Replacements and now handling A&R and Production at New West Records in LA, says this about what turned him into a major booster of the Parson Red Heads: “First and foremost - the singing. Evan as a lead singer with Sam and Brette doing harmonies is one of the best things going on in rock today if you ask me. First live show of theirs I saw, the vocals quite literally took my breath away.”

While many of the songs on Yearling start in a mid-tempo, they tend to go off into a looser and rocking instrumental direction near the end of the song (check out “When You Love Somebody”, “Hazy Dream” and “Time is Running Out”). When I asked the band about it, I hesitated to use the term “jam”. Evan laughed, “It’s okay, you can use the word. My alternative to a bridge is usually some sort of guitar solo and my tendency is to put it at the end. I like to put it at the end because then we have the freedom to do what we want without having to worry about going back to the song.” Brette adds, “We can’t help it now. We just keep playing and something cool usually happens.”

The band also rocks out, particularly on “Kids Hanging Out”, a power pop gem that is a highlight of their live shows. The record opens with “Burning Up the Sky”, which is a perfect introduction to the band’s warm vibe, with their defining big vocal harmonies front and center.

“Hazy Dream” reflects the band’s characteristic psychedelic folk sound and strong melodic sense. “Unemotional” is a particularly affecting and sophisticated highlight of the record, made all the richer by Stamey’s additional piano work and Mitch Easter’s bottle-neck slide accents.

A major role in their growth as a band came from their five years in Los Angeles, where they moved in 2005 from Eugene Oregon where the band formed in 2003. Brette tells the story: “When we played our first show there, we said ‘Oh that was really bad. This is embarrassing.’ We made a decision and said we are not going to be that. So we practiced three hours a night, three days a week. We were all working 40 hrs a week day jobs with a commute. We call it the dark times. We were exhausted and probably malnourished.” Evan adds, “Meanwhile we were playing shows the other four days of the week, any place that would have us, the weirdest gigs.” Brette says, “It was crazy, but all the playing and practicing really helped us.”

The band moved back to Oregon in 2010, settling in Portland where they have quickly become beloved favorites on that thriving local scene.

So where did The Parson Red Heads get their name? Evan explains, “Brette and I both have red hair. My dad was minister, a parson, and people say we remind them of the Byrds [Gene and Gram Parsons], but it doesn’t have anything to do with any of that.” “At first we were called Vulture Town,” Brette recalls, “because I had a dream that we were called Vulture Town. Of course that didn’t sound anything like us, so after awhile we started searching for a better name.” Evan continues, “Our friend and former band member Anastasia opened up this big jazz dictionary, found a reference to the Pearson Red Heads, and she totally misread it and suggested ‘Hey how about The Parson Red Heads?’ And we said that sounds pretty good. The entry said they only played 2 times in the 1950s with Benny Goodman and they never recorded. And so we were like ‘Oh yeah, we could totally steal that. That’s the one, we’ll steal that name.”

Brette finishes the story: “Then a couple years later when we were getting ready to put out our first record, I tried to look them up and I couldn’t find anything about them. So I called up Anastasia and asked her if she still had that book, and she looked at it and said ‘Oh my gosh, I totally misread it. It’s the Pearson Red Heads.’ And I said ‘Then I guess we didn’t steal the name!’ But of course then our name means nothing.” [Evan and Sam crack up laughing].

The years of hard work, a careful recording process this time around and the band’s well-earned good karma have paid off with Yearling, a majestic pop record and a huge step up for The Parson Red Heads. The band members feel good about where they are and emphasize how much fun they are having. “Music is the main thing I care about,” Evan says. “I discovered something that I not only love doing, but I feel like I have something to contribute. And I want to make sure we do it right and work hard at it. But I also make sure everyone’s contributions are important, because if they don’t feel a part of all of it, they won’t have fun. For a band to work, everyone needs to have fun and then they’ll contribute their best.”

Brett’s final thoughts: “I am in the perfect band, because everyone is easy going, but these guys have a great work ethic. They work really really hard. I don’t know a lot of people like Evan and Sam, who just generally have good attitudes and are nice all the time, but are not bums. They are not bums at all!”

Band web page:

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 24: Spaghetti Anywhere; Shambles Miller; Letters

Spaghetti Anywhere edges into qualification for our New Sounds of Scotland series by reason of the origins of one of its members, and it lists London, Glasgow and Rome as its home. The band's sound is a wistful brand of twee indie pop most similar to Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura. The members are Francis, Valerio, Nathan and Dave.

I've included their new EP, Doolally, below. I think the whole thing is very nice, but if you only have time to give Spaghetti Anywhere a one song trial, check out "Super Special", a tragi-comedy about an alcoholic. Oh, hell, listen to "Hulk" as well. It will remind you of those times you have a bit much to drink and feel more powerful and bullet-proof than you have any right to feel. That only leaves out the song "Drugs", about a guy who likes to drop acid and walk around naked, and it is between the other tracks, so you might as well listen to that as well. That's that, then. Can't be helped. By the way, the three track EP is free at the Bandcamp link.


Shambles Miller is a folk punk artist from Glasgow. While I'm not active in seeking out folk artists, there is a good dose of the punk here, and Shambles has a way with words that captures my imagination.

The delightful "Things that Make Me Angry"

Here is his description of the song "Rapture":
Y'know how when it's the end of the world, so you use it as an excuse to tell a girl you like how you feel? Then you write a song about it? Well, thats what this is

Rapture by ShamblesMiller

Strike! by ShamblesMiller


Letters are an Edinburgh band consisting of Kerr Donaldson (drums), Dougie Fuller (bass), Georgie Williamson (cello/vocals), Ed Ellis (guitar/vocals) and Mikey Ferguson (guitar/vocals). The band's own description is that they are "5 piece Dark Cello pop noiseniks". Letters released a double A-side in February consisting of the following two tracks.

"Pipe Dreams"
LETTERS- PIPE DREAMS by Soundandvisionpr

"The Grand National"
LETTERS- GRAND NATIONAL by Soundandvisionpr

New single "Flash! Lights!
LETTERS - Flash! Lights by Soundandvisionpr

The above tracks all are available for free download on the Music page of their website.