Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pack a.d. - new video for "Haunt You" from Unpersons

I dig their album (review here), so I'm happy to share this new video from The Pack a.d., released in conjunction with Halloween:

Really good stuff, and keep an eye out for some more Halloween-inspired madness from the twisted mind and control panel of the great Jim Diamond.

Robin Bacior - "Ohio" from Rest Our Wings, out Nov. 1

Here's a new video from a very talented young artist, Robin Bacior:

ROBIN BACIOR | Ohio from Earth vs Space on Vimeo.

Pretty cool video, and I really like the way this song boogies. The rest of it is a little more acoustic in approach. She's got a bright, clear voice and a strong presence.

And you can download "Ohio" here, and listen to several other songs at her website.

Robin Bacior Website

REVIEW: Wake the President - Zumutung!

Exciting artists acknowledge their genre but don't allow themselves to be constrained by the work of others. This attribute is embodied in the music of Wake the President. They clearly embrace the musical template of the '80s Postcard records guitar pop, particularly Orange Juice, The Fire Engines and Josef K. But rather than look backward to make sure they paint within the lines, they stride forward on their own path. The result is Zumutung!, an exuberant, often cynical, and varied collage of emotional snapshots of the subject young men write about--girls. And it is one of my favorite albums of the year.

The core of Wake the President is Bjorn and Erik Sandberg. Twin brothers from Glasgow who have been building a reputation as musicians and promoters for at least the last four years. Erik is the lyricist and main vocalist; Bjorn is the guitarist and focuses on things musical. As with their first album, the Sandbergs have enlisted Paul Savage, producer extraordinaire (and former drummer of The Delgados) to produce Zumutung! at Chem19 Studios. The ten tracks the brothers have crafted for this album are sonically and emotionally diverse. "Elaine" (which is provided below) is the most straightforward indie pop song, and may bring to mind Belle & Sebastian. The albums first four tracks, "She Fell Into My Arms", "Your Expressions", "In Youth There Is Pleasure" and "This Is New" are at the more raucous edge of post punk guitar pop. "Sort of Blonde" is an acoustic music hall sing-along, and "Stockholm's Archipelago", the album's bittersweet closer, shows that Wake the President can nail the grand-scale post rock pop song. However, the sound of the album is nearly universally lively and engaging.

The counterpoint to the exuberant music is in the lyrics. Based on snippets of conversations with various women and laced with literary references, the lyrics present the pitfalls and turmoils inherent in looking for love, or an acceptable facsimile for love. For example, while "She Fell Into My Arms" will entice you to move your feet, the words suggest a cynical take on love:
The voice of the cock, or its flight overhead, it easily managed to shake off a dozen or so lovers that remained bereft, so here’s how I got into this mess: I saw the inscription in your blushing and when you fell into my arms, so willingly, that I wondered why I’d bothered at all.

You buy love, but you can’t afford the hurt that’s printed on the receipt and if affection is a one pound coin then why do you expect a hundred pence in return? She said, “We’re like a couple of ghosts that wander above”. And when you fell into my arms, so willingly, I wondered why I bothered at all.

"She Fell Into My Arms"

An even darker take on relationships is the "In Youth There Is Pleasure":
We don’t just need to be apart, we need a lifetime of it, I’ll admit.
As I unlocked the forbidden room, I was struck by how many corpses there were.
Boy meets girl, girl loses boy: boy opens fire on a choc-a-bloc street.

And the narrator in the delightful sounding "Elaine" explains that he is initiating the end of the relationship, although suggesting that his inadequacies are at fault. But the outlook isn't all gloom and doom. In "E.T." Erik expresses the hope that an ended relationship can be rekindled, and "Sort of Blonde" suggests at least the possibilities for love developing.

In my view, the approach to music and lyrics works perfectly on two levels. First, the album works as an engaging manifesto of guitar pop regardless of the lyrical content. But on another level, the music and lyrics work together to point out that the trips and falls of relationships are just part of the rhythm of life; you soldier on and a new adventure is around the corner. Of course, it is easier to accept all that if you are comfortable with cynicism and, maybe, a dose of paranoia.


Wake the President's first LP, You Can't Change That Boy, was a mostly lively, but sometimes gentle, textbook of indie pop. Both the music and the stories told were bold and well defined. For Zumutung!, there is a matured palette of expression. While still painted on the Glasgow indie pop canvass, the music is more varied and subtle; there are keyboards and choirs and even strings. And the lyrics match the music with more shaded tones; more areas where the import of direct statements is left unexplained. In my opinion, the additional nuance results in Zumutung! being more evocative and exciting than the excellent debut album because it implicitly invites you to flesh out the story in your own. A note about sourcing the album--Zumutung! may not be available in the States in physical form at this time, but I'm advised that it is available from Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. If you want the physical artifact, which is understandable, try contacting We Can Still Picnic, at the Facebook link or email me through this site and I'll put you in touch.

In their young lives, Bjorn and Erik Sandberg who form the foundation of the band have founded two record labels, Say Dirty and We Can Still Picnic, the second of which is releasing Zumutung!, collaborate with others to keep music and arts vibrant in their community, and have released two LPs and a few singles. I expect them to continue to contribute to music and the other arts, and I encourage everyone to support them.

Twitter ( @WakethPresident )
We Can Still Picnic (label's Facebook page

Sunday, October 30, 2011

REVIEW: Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Time to make room on Mt. Rushmore for one more American hero.

Bad As Me, and of course no one is as gloriously badass as Tom Waits, is the 61 year old artist's first release of new material in 7 years. It was well worth the wait.

Here's Waits' reaction, you judge how tongue-in-cheek, to the album being leaked over the internet prior to release date:

Bad as Me is completely in keeping with the chaos of the day - it clanks, wails, weeps and rages. If I had to describe it with a simple term, it's a rock'n'roll record. There is a groove, energy and major force to this effort. And even classic rockabilly, on the delicious "Get Lost".

It's restless, its characters cooped up and maybe moving across the country, or thinking their relationships are falling apart, searching, longing, in pain, and sometimes even at war.

If you are a musician, and your phone rings and its Tom Waits asking you to play on his record, you of course answer yes. So on guitars here we have Marc Ribot, David Hidalgo and Keith Richards. And wow do they bring it, amplify the deparate mood and get a great sound.

One highlight of Bad As Me is a raging rocker, "Satisfied". Waits, as usual speaking in first person, turns the typical young man voice of rock'n'roll on its ear, tipping his hat to the Rolling Stones classic "Satisfaction", but contemplating later age and impending death, and vowing to go out with a bang, while a now much older Keith Richards is a laying down the big rock riffs over a mile wide groove:

Before I'm gone
I will have satisfaction
I will be satisfied
Now Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards
I will scratch where I've been itching.

Instead of "I hope I die before I get old", Waits' brand of rock'n'roll here is more like "I am going to kick life's ass and yours too before I get old and die."

Here's the wild and wooly title track:

But just as effective and moving is this gorgeous ballad "Back in the Crowd" that merges mariachi and country music:

As sentimental as Waits can be, and I've always loved that side of his writing, he also presents here one of the harshest and most unflinching songs about war I've ever heard, "Hell Broke Luce", so brutal and real that it's as hard to look away from as it is to absorb.

Here's a terrific feature story on Waits and the making of Bad as Me from the New York Times: Tom Waits: Bad As Me - 10/23 NY Times Feature

And while we are at it, here's an interview Waits did with himself a few years back, one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing, hilarious and brilliant, and a must read:

Waits on Waits - 2008 interview from NPR's All Songs Considered Blog

Artist web page:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-33: Recent Reggae Releases: Gregory Isaacs; Sugar Minott; Bristol Reggae Anthologies

Because it's always midnight somewhere....

While vinyl has probably always will be the preferred medium for collectors of reggae (and most other types of popular music), the compact disc has been a boon to us reggae lovers. Because of the digitization of music, and the consolidation of labels and their valuable back catalogs, it is possible to produce compilations sliced and diced in any manner desired by the consumer: By artist, by style, by producer, by unique rhythm, and so on. This flexibility is particularly useful in reggae, where producers had distinctive styles, artists switched labels and producers, and singles rather than albums rule the market. In the wake of the recent deaths of Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaacs, one of the giant surviving labels, VP Records in Queens, New York, has released fine compilations of each man's career. We've highlighted those releases below, and also are bringing to your attention recent releases regarding a lesser known part of the reggae world--the Bristol, UK reggae scene of the late 70s and 80s. We hope you enjoy them.

Gregory Isaacs (b. 7/15/51; d. 10/25/2010) was known as "The Cool Ruler" of reggae. As a reggae artist, Gregory was about as close as one could be to the complete package. He could deliver lover's rock that strummed the heartstings (see "Number One", below), challenge the government on ganja policy (see "Rumors" below), and highlight the plight of the black man in the white man's world (see "Slave Driver", below). And he had the charisma needed to rock the house live.

"Number One"


"Slave Driver"

VP Records' imprint, 17 North Parade, has just released Reggae Anthology: The Ruler 1972-1990, comprised of 40 tracks from the most productive years of Isaacs' long career, and a DVD of the 1984 Brixton Academy concert. Given the length of Isaacs' career, this collection doesn't include the artist's entire body of work. But as a fan, I think it reflects very good choices. If you want your reggae collection to include Gregory Isaacs and you currently have none, this set would be an excellent choice for the foundation. As an aside, 17 North Parade releases typically are attractively packaged and contain interesting liner notes.

"Night Nurse", from the Brixton Academy concert:

VP Records
VP Records on Facebook

Reggae great Lincoln "Sugar" Minott (b. 5/25/56; d. 7/10/2010) owes his nickname to a voice that sounded as sweet as sugar. His career spanned most of modern reggae, from the days of Studio One lovers rock through to digital the rhythms of dancehall. His contributions included performing, songwriting, promoting and producing. He also devoted time and money to helping young musicians find their way off the streets and into the studios. As was the case with The Cool Ruler, Minott could add a sweetly sung twist to a nursery rhyme (see "Old King Cole", below), inspire lovers (see "Good Thing Going", below), sing eloquently about the plight of the underclass (see "No Vacancy"), and ride Sly and Robbie's rhythm for the dancehall (see "Devil's Pickney", below).

"Old King Cole"

"Good Thing Going"

"No Vacancy"

"Devil Pickney"

Again through its 17 North Parade imprint, VP Records has just released a Sugar Minott collection Reggae Anthology: Hard Time Pressure. The collection includes 36 of Minott's hits spread over two CDs, and a DVD of a 1986 live performance. If you like reggae and you don't have any of this key reggae artist, this set is a very good way to build a collection. If you want more, you can add his Rare Jems and The Roots Lover: 1978-1983 collections later if you decide that you want more. To be honest, I have trouble evaluating the choices VP made because I have the two other albums as well. Sugar, as is the case with Gregory, is a collector's essential.

VP Records
VP Records on Facebook

It isn't well known at this point, particularly in North America, but there was a lively reggae scene in Bristol, UK in the late 70s and 80s. Bristol Archive Records has released two anthologies of the scene. What I think is particularly wonderful about these anthologies is that the music is absolutely wonderful reggae, and I've never heard of most of the artists. I can listen to them (as you can below) without and expectations or preconceptions. Moreover, the recordings were pressed in small numbers and sold at gigs, so they have been very rare.

Bristol Archive Records
Bandcamp for the 1978-1983 Anthology
Bandcamp for the '80s Anthology

And a tip of the Rocksteady hat to Ed at the 17 Seconds blog from whom I learned of the Bristol releases.

Friday, October 28, 2011

REVIEW: Joe Henry - Reverie

Joe Henry's a blues singer. He's a real good blues singer with an old soul, a great rhythmic sense and a terrific group of co-conspirators on each and every album. Joe is so consistent, folks may be forgiven for taking him for granted from time to time... but don't make that mistake here. Give a listen to Reverie and marvel at the breadth and strength of one of America's very best songwriters, producers and, oh yes, blues singers.

It starts off slow and sad, with a beautiful piano line on "Heaven's Escape". Henry's voice comes in slowly, and starts to take over as Keefus Ciancia's piano majestically, slowly, ushers the song along. Joe talks like a would-be big shot: "I deserve a much better hotel room than this" - and the irony is, based on his body of work and the quality of his records, he is a big deal but ought to be bigger.

"Odetta", song two, is a big acoustic song reminiscent, to me, of something from Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue period... of course, Henry's worked with T-Bone Burnett and they are in a very real sense, kindred spirits, so that shouldn't be a surprise. About :30 from the end of the song comes Ciancia's piano again, rolling so it would do McCoy Tyner proud, and moving us out of this song and into a wistful "After the War". Delicate piano and plucked acoustic guitar and bass give this one the kind of sadness that makes us revel in our reminiscences.

Here's a trailer to give you the sense of the album... The song here is "Odetta":

There's jazz here: check out "Grand Street", plenty of syncopation and improvisation and that nearly-out-of-control sense you'll recognize from the great American jazz canon. And there's blues here: "Dark Tears" is directly linked to Skip James, Son House, and any of the great acoustic blues players both in spirit and approach. But more than that there's the kind of ragged acoustic rock music that informs 21st century masterpieces like Gillian Welch's Time the Revelator, Tom Waits' Blood Money and Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind. I understand what type of company that puts Henry's work in... it is my intention to do so.

Reverie was released October 11, and you ought to be able to find it at your local record store. Or check it out at Anti- Records Website

And just because Henry speaks and writes so well, I'll close this with some of his thoughts on the record. It's rare indeed that a rock musician is both willing and able to give you some coherent thoughts that illuminate the work he has committed to record... but if anyone could, it'd be Joe Henry:

This album speaks about time, the great river that reminds us we are buoyant after all, as its moving current lifts us by the chin and just off of the balls of our feet, while we strain to dig our toes into the sandy ground. I am not convinced that any song exists without some knowing nod in its direction. And so with Reverie I am nodding, then –to time, but also to all the love, hope, despair, and revelation that stands naked inside its weather.

Just beautiful... both the thoughts and the record. If you'd like to read more of his writing (which I recommend), go to his website and click on the "Journal" tab at the top:

Introducing: Koko and the Sweetmeats

It is Friday, the sky is grey, and I've decided I need a bit of psychedelic blues rock. And since I'm living in Seattle, I've decided that I need psychedelic blues rock from a Seattle band. Fortunately for you, I've decided to share my choice with you; fortunately for all of us, the selected band, Koko and the Sweetmeats, has decided to make their album Sacrifice available for free download. It reminds me of the good parts of late 60s and early 70s music. At least the parts I remember.

The band members are listed as Garett and Laura van der Crimp (some writers have indicated the name is van der Spek) with part time Sweetmeats Kieran Smith and Andrew Houle. If you like The Kinks, Howling Wolf, Screaming Jay Hawkins and the early White Stripes, give these kids a listen.


By the way, credit to Noah on the Sound on the Sound blog for highlighting this band.

The Soul Corner - The Flirtations: "Nothing But a Heartache"

I've long been a fan of this song, but not until today did I find this video, which is awesome beyond words, perfect and then some.

The Flirtations were a trio from South Carolina - Viola Billups and sisters Ernestine and Shirley Pearce - who signed with Deram Records in England. "Nothing But a Heartache" became a prime example of the "Northern Soul" of England that united mods and R&B fans and became the rage of cool teenagers across the UK in the late '60s-early'70s.

I showed this vid to my 12 year old daughter and she flipped over the fashion. Good taste, that kid.

The over-the-top production here is so great - the piano intro, the big build ups and work out, and the ever increasing drama and high pitch of the vocals: Nothing but a heartache everyday!"

The singer may be miserable but this song can make us in the Soul Corner feel so good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cool Video Thursday

It seems that The Black Tambourines, a favorite of ours from the summer has made an official video for their song "Tommy". Any excuse to highlight that group again is OK with me, and this actually is a good excuse.

"From the Morning Heat" by Craft Spells was recorded for the Incase Room 205 sessions. The production values for the Room 205 sessions are uniformly high.

"Pirate's Life" from We Cut Corners. Interesting approach.

We Cut Corners "Pirate's Life" from Kijek / Adamski on Vimeo.

Stephen Marley & The Fugees with Stephen's Dad's "No Woman No Cry". Footage of Bob is laced into the current footage.

"Human Error" from We Were Promised Jetpacks

We Were Promised Jetpacks - "Human Error" from stereogum on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Midweek Roundup: Three Metre Day, Tunabunny, Pepe Deluxe

Three Metre Day is an ethereal folk group with a very pretty sound - violin (Hugh marsh), slide guitar (Don Rooke), and keyboards and vocals from Michele Willis, who's got a clear, sweet voice. Here's a free download of the track "Stay That Way" from their new disc Coasting Notes.

Tunabunny, what kind of name is that? Great indie guitar and terrific female lead vocals - some with sweet harmonies and some kind of "out there". Check out "Song For My Solar Sister" and fondly remember old friends like The Breeders and Throwing Muses. They're from Athens, GA and they really rock. Of course...

And here's a free download of Tunabunny's "Only At Night"

Pepe Deluxe, like its name, doesn't really fit any sort of preconceptions. Crazy surf guitar, some wild drumming and punk vocals all kind of whipped into a frenzy with a theatrical flourish. Check it out for yourself - here's "The Storm", the lead track from an album due to be released in early 2012:

The Storm (Radio Edit) by Pepe Deluxé Official

Update: The Hardy Boys -- British Melancholy

We profiled The Hardy Boys last week, and alerted you to their new album, British Melancholy, which was released earlier this week. However, we did not have a track listing for the album and couldn't provide any songs that we knew were included. Fortunately, Bubblegum has made a stream of the album available on Soundcloud, and we've embedded it for you below. If you like uplifting jangle pop, I think you'll like it.

The Hardy Boys - British Melancholy by bubblegumrecords

Artist page at Bubblegum Records website

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

REVIEW: Wax Idols - No Future

This is beginning to look like Garageapoloza around here. Of course, I think that is just fine, except that I think my speakers are burning oil. Today we're reviewing the No Future, the impressive debut album from San Francisco's Wax Idols. Headed by Heather Fedewa (AKA Heather Fortune), who also is a member of Blasted Canyons and formerly played with Hunx and His Punx and Bare Wires, the current band lineup also includes Amy Rosenoff on bass, Keven Tecon on drums, and Jennifer Mundy on guitar.

Wax Idols seem to hit the intersection of indie rock, garage and punk, all with a pop sensibility. There is a punk snarl, but boy/girl vocals, harmonies and hooks. And regardless of whether you are interested in genre tags, all you really need to know that Wax Idols blasts your brain and gut with excellent surly but sexy music.

Album opener, "Dead Like You"
Wax Idols - Dead Like You by HOZAC RECORDS

To be honest, eight weeks ago I'm not certain I'd heard of this band. After hearing a few tracks I became a believer in their potential. After seeking out and listening to No Future, I'm of the opinion that we don't need to wait for potential to be realized--this band is very, very good right now. The last four tracks on the album alone, "Bad Future", "Uneasy", "Sand In My Joints" (Wire cover) and "Grey Area" will have you moving your feet and pumping your fist. They have me reevaluating my draft year end list. Is there a weakness? Well, I'm not sure these guys know how to name an album.

"Gold Sneakers"

This isn't an album track, but rather a track released on a 7" earlier in the year. I include it in the review because I think it helps point out the irresistibly anthemic music this band puts out. "All Too Human":

All Too Human from Gretchen Natvig on Vimeo.

By the way, the band currently is on tour with Terry Malts. Check the tour schedule to determine whether you are lucky enough to live in their path. I'd love to see either band; both is a deluxe burrito!

Artist page at Hozac Records

Monday, October 24, 2011

REVIEW: The Beets - Let the Poison Out

If I were writing a rock music menu, Let the Poison Out from The Beets would have a fairly long list of ingredients. There is garage, punk, and folk, most certainly. But there is a good dose of 90s slacker, Americana, and from the back of the spice cabinet, a bit of 70s California country rock. Of course, ingredients are only part of the story -- the magic is in how they are blended together -- and The Beets have cooked us a fun, varied and tasty album.

"Doing As I Do", the fifth track and first single from the album is a folk rock anthem that readily attaches to the pleasure center of your brain:

"Preso Voy" is a snake-rhythm Spanish language vamp that will bring to mind The Strange Boys or The Black Lips. "Let Clock Work" slows things down and comes close to the indie guitar pop of Wonderwall-era Oasis. The album closer, "Walking to My House", has a dreamy, hazy psych feel. I think that overall these songs are the strongest and most varied of The Beets' career.

The Beets are Juan Wauters (guitar and vocals), Jose Garcia (bass and vocals), Matthew Volz (official artist, including album covers and flyers, and occasional recorder playing), and Chie Mori (drums). Mori is a recent addition to the band, and her addition brings additional depth to the songs by adding female vocals to the punk/garage delivery of Mr. Wauters. Wauters, originally from Uruguay, met Garcia in community college and formed the band. Volz has been with them nearly from the start, but Mori is the most recent, but, according to the band, last of the musicians to play drums for the group. The Beets are based in Queens, New York, but this album is released on the tastefully ambitious Hardly Art label in Seattle.

"I Think I Might Have Built A Horse"

The band's ancestors, and heroes, are fellow New Yorkers, The Ramones. But Let the Poison Out isn't an imitation of the punk/garage godfathers. These songs have varied pace and thematic cohesiveness while retaining genre appropriate structures and an appealing sing-along quality. I suggest that you give this album a try--it is one of the fun releases of the year.

Artist page at Hardly Art

Get to Know: French Kissing

Some readers might wonder whether I've got more garage rock to share with you. While contemplating the possible answers, listen to French Kissing performing "Let Yourself Go":
Let Yourself Go by frenchkissing

The London trio comprising French Kissing are Jonny Stafford, Dominic Haley, and Chris Fenner, and they've been together for a couple of years, or less. The music is a surfy garage vibe, as evidenced by "Oh Suzanne":
Oh Suzanne by frenchkissing

If you want to determine whether French Kissing are a good match for your music collection, consider their other interests: Beer; riding bikes; and making songs about girls and feelings.

We'll close this little introduction to the band with their song "Beach Ball", as I don't know anything more about them at this point. However, I do know that I'd like to hear more music from them.
Beach Ball by frenchkissing


Friday, October 21, 2011

The Soul Corner - "Hound Dog" - Big Mama Thornton

It is impossible to say what was the first "soul" song. Some cite Ray Charles' 1954 hit "I Got a Woman" though the term "soul music" didn't come into play until 1961.
But for my money, this 1952 recording is as good a place as any to start: Big Mama Thornton singing the original version of the Leiber-Stoller penned, 12 bar blues classic "Hound Dog". It was released as a 10" 78 RPM single and reached #1 on the R&B charts.
I love the vocal phrasing here, the emphasis on different words each time through.
"Big Mama" was born in Alabama, but got her start in Houston. She was an accomplished drummer and harmonica player. She died in 1984.
Did you know that the song was later covered by some white guy from Memphis? But these lyrics pack a whole lot more power when sung by a woman to a man. I mean, c'mon seriously, who acts like a "hound dog," the fellas or the ladies?

Get to Know: Teenagers

Travis Keymer of Harrison, Arkansas, fronts the band Holy Mountain and played guitar for Burn Baby Burn. But when he takes a break from his Holy Mountain duties, he occupies his time with his solo project Teenagers. Travis plays all of the instruments for these tracks, and seems to have no lack of musical inspiration. He also makes the albums available free, so dive in.

His latest effort is the bluesy rock & roll album Big City

Earlier this year he released the somewhat surfy garage rock Besides

His late 2010 releases are Winter Storm and Vacation

In the past few months I've profiled Teens, from Boise, PreTeens from San Francisco and now Teenagers from Arkansas. I think I have a maturity problem.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Minnesota Rock Goodness: The Cloak Ox - "Prisen"

The Cloak Ox has rapidly become a favorite of mine, after hearing the lead track on a Current Song of the Day podcast... This band, featuring Andrew Broder, Martin Dosh, Mark Erickson and Jeremy Ylvisaker, has a very strong presence - a combination of breakneck rhythm section, buzzsaw guitars, some soaring solos and alternating between punk (Lee Ving/Jello Biafra, maybe?) and falsetto vocals. Intrigued? Well, good, you should be.

Here's the video for "Prisen":

Here's another video, shot live at a radio performance, "Live on Radio K":

And here's the EP on Bandcamp:

If you like guitars, don't delay... they're unsigned, but you can buy it here.

Get to Know: The Mallard

I can't seem to find my way out of the garage lately. Truth is, I'm comfortable here and everything sounds so good. Today the sounds in Rocksteady's garage are courtesy of The Mallard -- a female-fronted San Francisco Garage/psych/surf band with a delicious swampy vibe. Get a taste with "Faults":
04 Fault by The Mallard

The Mallard was founded by Greer McGettrick (guitar/vocals), and the trio is completed by Dylan Tidyman-Jones (drums/vocals) and Dylan Edrich (bass). I read somewhere that an album is either recently out, or soon will be out. I haven't got a title or confirmation, but I'll be looking for it.

Slowing it down with "Song About the Devil":
Song About The Devil by The Mallard

The twangy ramble of "Floating"
01 Floating by The Mallard


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stream New Surfer Blood EP -- Tarot Classics

Florida rockers Surfer Blood are releasing a new four-track EP, Tarot Classics on Kanine Records next week, but you can stream the entire album now at the Spin website: Spin stream of Tarot Classics . Just click on the link, then click on the album cover. I've just listened to it once, but my initial opinion is that it is similar to their 2010 LP in sound, but not the same. Specifically, it seems to rely somewhat less on reverb and anthemic sounds, and somewhat more on rhythm. And while I am a big fan of the debut album, I think the vocals sound a bit better than on this EP. Overall, I'd rate it as a very good indie rock/pop EP. But you can explore for yourself. Enjoy!


Midweek Roundup: Free MP3s from Radio Moscow, Henry's Funeral Shoe, John Heart Jackie, video from Pancho-san

If you like rock, this is a good week for you...

Radio Moscow's new disc The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz came out last week, reviewed here, and they've made another song available for free download here: "Speedfreak".

Henry's Funeral Shoe, a Welsh duo playing blues-based punk-infused rock, whose new record Donkey Jacket was also reviewed recently here, is making another MP3 available: "Anvil and Chains".

John Heart Jackie, revisited from a recent folk-focused Midweek Roundup - here's a free download of their cover of "When You Were Mine".

When You Were Mine by RiotActMedia

And from Pancho-san, a SF-area band consisting of Patrick Abernethy (formerly of Beulah and Rogue Wave), Eli Crews (Beulah) and Pat Spurgeon (Rogue Wave) which self-released its 2010 debut album, Oh, Mellow Melody, here's their first video, "Kick The Fences Down". Jangly and ethereal at the same time, with a bit of a Syd Barrett feel. If, like me, you were unaware, give a listen and go check them out.

Pancho-san "Kick The Fences Down" from Jim Granato on Vimeo.

Link to their Tumblr page:

New Sounds of Scotland-Part 29: The Hardy Boys; Beerjacket; Run Lucky Free

The Hardy Boys are a Scottish band enjoying a rebirth. Originally formed in the mid-80s and considered part of the jangly C86 scene. The band disbanded in 1990, but interest in the band remained strong. Newly reformed, the current lineup consists of Johnny White, Paul McArthur, Derek Mullen, David McArthur and Kat King. Their music is a brand of literate pop shared by their fellow Scots Wake the President and Camera Obscura. They have released an EP named Under the Piccadilly Clock, on October 24 the LP British Melancholy will be released by Bubblegum Records.

I wish I could tell you more about the songs that will be on the album, and perhaps embed of few so you could evaluate it. But the websites for both the band and the label are devoid of track listings, and there doesn't appear to be any videos that are attributed to album tracks yet. However, I won't let a little thing like the absence of concrete "facts" deter me. First, we'll examine the first incarnation of the band by listening to "Send Me A Sign":

You also could check out the '80s version of the band by listening to "Wake Up Sleepyhead" on Spotify. Next, we'll listen to "Seascape", which also is an older song but this performance is quite recent. I think it shows that the band can still deliver the goods:

"Fifteen" and "Wonderful Lie" are old songs as well. Several of their old songs, including "Fifteen", are available for an inexpensive download on the band's Bandcamp site, which is linked below.

Artist page at Bubblegum Records website

Beerjacket is Glasgow musician Peter Kelly. He is an English teacher whose brand of alt/folk/pop has been compared to Elliott Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Iver and Elvis Perkins, and has drawn praise from Kristen Hersh. When you are looking for something a bit less raucous, but genuine and thoughtful, our friend Beerjacket is your man. Earlier this month he released his fine debut studio album, White Feather Trail,

This is a live performance of "Blood Roses", the opening track of White Feather Trail, filmed for Lloyd Meredith's Peenko Sessions:

My favorite song on the album is "Fresh Legs". We have a live version filmed for the Rokbun Sessions in the overpass for the The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre

If you like that taste of Beerjacket, you can stream, and buy, the album at the Bandcamp site here:


Run Lucky Free was formed in 2008 by musicians from four different areas of Scotland who met while attending college, the band now is based in Edinburgh. Consisting of Rachael Cormack on vocals, Daniel Crichton on guitar, Sam Dick on bass and Fergus Costello on drums, the band has a great rock-edged indie pop sound with great female vocals. They rightfully have been tipped as a band to watch.

The "Factory" single was released this month:

Denim Skyes" was released earlier this fall:

Here is a live performance from about a year ago of their song "Colours":

A set of their music from Soundcloud:
Denim Skyes - Electric & Acoustic EP's by Run Lucky Free


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alabama Shakes - s/t EP out now

Discovered via Patterson Hood's Drive-by Truckers update - this band will be playing day two of the DBT's three-day New Year's Eve extravaganza in at the 930 Club in Washington, DC.

It's a nice slice of Southern soul. Check them out at Bandcamp:

Get to Know: Being There

There are a few ways to increase the chance of getting noticed by the omnivorous (some would say "desperate, ravenous and undiscriminating", but they are just referring to our eating habits) WYMA blog scouts. But a high percentage tactic is to create very good jangly, indie guitar rock that sounds like a blend of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yuck, and recent Times New Viking, and to list Guided By Voices as an influence. So you won't be surprised that we glommed like moths to the porch light of jangle at the first strains of London's Being There. Other than being four musicians based in London, I don't know much about these guys, and their Website and Facebook page are stingy with details. So, we'll go straight to the music. Here is a three track self titled album of very nice songs, and one of them, "Tomorrow", is available for free download.

These guys are worth putting on the "watch for" list.


Monday, October 17, 2011

New Discovery: Chambermaids, "China Blue"

Single was released this summer, and according to their website, they're working on an album. Very well-done noise rock music, reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, maybe My Bloody Valentine... definitely in the wheelhouse of folks who have been enjoying Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, WYMA favorites. I discovered it via the Current Song of the Day Podcast.

Check it out and download here:

Chambermaids Website

Get to Know: Simon Bish

As the millions who regularly read this blog are aware, I'm happy to learn of any artist that can deliver jangly guitar pop. So I'm here to tell you of the happy discovery of Simon Bish. Simon Bish (who, to be fair, may not have realized that he needed to be discovered) delivers wonderful guitar pop that favorably brings to mind Teenage Fanclub. According to his Facebook page, he also delivers mail in Devon, UK. And this month, Bish's delivery is via his LP, All Aboard With ... Simon Bish, which is released on Simon's own Pop Noise Records. All Aboard is 11 tracks of jangly indie that will make on onset of fall a bit easier to take.

Here is album track "You Ran Away"

I've provided two more of the album tracks below, but you can stream the entire album on Simon's website, which is linked below. You also can purchase through the website rather than have to go through a third-party vendor. The website also shows a 12-track LP released in 2010 and an EP.

"Meet Me There"

"Owl Eyes"


Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Stuff - The Mekons "Ancient and Modern 1911-2011"

It's a little odd to refer to a Mekons CD as new stuff, as they've been doing their thing remarkably well with the same lineup, if criminally under the radar, for 25+ years.

SoundSpike's free MP3 download for Monday (9/12) is 'Geeshie' by U.K. alternative rock band The Mekons. The featured cut, inspired by a Geeshie Wiley song called 'Last Kind Words', is from their forthcoming 26th album, 'Ancient & Modern,' and will be available Sept. 27 on their own Sin Records. // Tour dates at SoundSpike
Photo: Francesca Allen
Ancient and Modern is yet another fine record from the UK/Chicago legends. It explores the Edwardian age - inequalities of wealth, uncertain economic times, international instability - stop me when this sounds familiar, with the Mekons characteristic blend of rock, punk, pub, country, soul, rock, literary storytelling, guts and blood.
If you are a fan, but haven't checked in with the Mekons in awhile, you'll love this record. And if you are not familiar with them, this is a perfectly fine place to dive in. They outlasted what few peers they had like The Pogues, The Clash and The Gang of Four, and still sound inspired and important.
"Space in Your Face" with Jon Langford on vocals from Ancient and Modern:
"Geeshie" featuring Sally Timms and her lovely old time voice:
And a some very recent live footage of "Geeshie" and 2 more songs from Ancient and Modern 1911-2011:

New Discovery: Obits - Moody, Standard and Poor

Sub Pop band, recording in Brooklyn but playing all over the place. Their latest record is Moody, Standard and Poor, released back in March... sorry I'm just now getting around to writing about it, because I really like it.

Here's a video of "No Fly List" - sort of a manic punk song:

Obits - No Fly List from Nick Sewell on Vimeo.

And here's "You Gotta Lose" - like the tension/release guitar and the pace of this one:

Obits - You Gotta Lose from Obits on Vimeo.

Download a couple of free MP3s from their Sub Pop page: "You Gotta Lose" and "Shift Operator":

Obits Website

Obits at Sub Pop

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Soul Corner - The Meters

The Soul Corner has spent a lot of time in Detroit, Memphis, Chicago, but not nearly enough in the great musical city of New Orleans. This must be remedied.
So let's go straight to the top of the fabled Crescent City food chain -- The Meters --the first family of New Orleans soul and funk brothers.

Formed in 1965, and splitting up in 1979, the band still occasionally plays a one off show. The lineup: Art Neville (keyboards, vocals), Cyril Neville (keyboards), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), George Porter Jr. (bass), and the incomparable Joe "Zigaboo" Modeliste on drums.
They have served as the band for numerous New Orleans legends including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and Lee Dorsey, as well as Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Robert Palmer and many others.
It's good for the body and good for the soul.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Get to Know: Terry Malts

Terry Malts is a San Francisco punk/garage pop act (the band refers to their music as "chainsaw pop") formed by musicians from the group Magic Bullets. There have been valid comparisons to the Ramones, the Buzzcocks and The Undertones, and at times I hear a bit of The Replacements. Slumberland records is releasing the band's three track EP on October 25. The EP includes "Something About You", which you can hear below, "No Sir, I'm Not A Christian" and "Fun Night". With drums, bass and guitar these guys absolutely nail a great rock sound--hooks, fuzz, feedback, pace, and a sense of humor. I highly recommend you give them a try.

"Something About You"
Terry Malts - Something About You by Slumberland Records

Terry Malts - Distracted by Slumberland Records

This is a live version of their song "In the Waiting Room"

Slumberland Records

Cool Video Thursday

Stay with "Bandages" by Hey Rosetta!, it builds very nicely:

Hey Rosetta! - Bandages from Sonic Entertainment Group on Vimeo.


"Do I Have Power?" by Timber Timbre

Do I Have Power - Timber timbre (2011) from Carlos De Carvalho on Vimeo.

"Frog Rose High" by Craft Spells

This clip from a couple of days ago is interesting because if features Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls performing "I Wanna Kill" with her husband's band, Crocodiles

Crocodiles with Dee Dee // I Wanna Kill from Mana Morimoto on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Get to Know: Colleen Green

I'm on a bit of a lo-fi, garage rock binge lately. I make no apologies--I love the stuff. A recent discovery is Colleen Green, who opened for the Dum Dum Girls here in Seattle last weekend. She writes and performs fuzzy, lo-fi, psychedelic garage rock with the obvious added treat of female vocals. Green, who refers to her music as "stoner pop", has recorded and released a tape called Milo Goes to Compton and a CD-R EP entitled 4 Loko 2 Kayla (neither of which are in my possession, sadly). On stage, it's just her, her guitar, and a drum machine. Here is a clip of her live performance at Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon a few days ago.

Colleen Green at Doug Fir from Mana Morimoto on Vimeo.

Seattle's Hardly Art label has released Green's four-track 7", "Green One", including "Green One" and "Y Do U Call Me?". Hardly Art advises that Green will be recording an LP as well.
"Green One"

Colleen Green-Green One from Wendy Wright on Vimeo.

"Y Do U Call Me?"

Colleen Green - Y Do U Call Me? from pat fairbairn on Vimeo.

Green grew up in Massachusetts, but now makes her home in California. She also writes a comic strip entitled "Real Shit Daily!".

Here is a collection of songs Green made available on Bandcamp in 2010:

Green's page at Hardly Art
Hardly Art website
Colleen's blog
Real Shit Daily! (comic strip)

Rocksteady's Single Pick of the Week: The History of Apple Pie - "Mallory"

We profiled London-based indie pop band The History of Apple Pie earlier this year. Their new single, "Mallory", isn't actually released until November 14, but it is available for streaming on Soundcloud and can be pre-ordered from Rough Trade.

Mallory by The History Of Apple Pie


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

REVIEW: Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor

The decision to release Breaks in the Armor, the latest album from Eric Bachman in his guise as Crooked Fingers may have been as simple as looking at a calendar and announcing "I think we'll be ready on October 11". But I'll at least indulge myself by considering the notion that October is the month of release because Breaks in the Armor is, at its heart, an autumn album. Like the season, there are storms and sun, winds and calm, gradual decay, and things of uncertain import hidden in shadows and beneath leaves. However, this album isn't comprised solely of nuance and sighs; it boasts palpable force, even muscularity, as evidenced by album opening track, "Typhoon":

Bachman always has had a gift for conveying complex emotions in economic phrases, and the songs on Breaks in the Armor are no exception. But it is the vigor of the underlying music that makes this album so welcome. The result is more exceptional because of its origins. Bachman told Spin Magazine that, burned out, he travelled to Taiwan in 2009 to take a break from music. At first he stayed with a friend, but then he secured a teaching job on a small island. About two weeks into the teaching gig, he bought a guitar and started working on the songs that became Breaks in the Armor.

The emotional depth of the album is revealed through the first four songs. After the dusty Americana grandeur of "Typhoon", we are treated to a rocking country-infused stomper in "Bad Blood". The third track, "The Hatchet", slows proceedings down for a somber tale of a failed relationship. Rather than leave us wallowing if the regret and recrimination, we slide into the fast-paced "The Counterfeiter", which many regard as the album's centerpiece. For my money, "Your Apocalypse" shouldn't be missed. While I don't have a studio version for you here, I provided a clip of a live version below (I apologize for the audio quality).

This is an album that emphasizes what should be important: Evocative half-stories that invite the listener to read between the lines; varied melodies and the quality performances. There is no room for superficial style or gimmicks.

"Your Apocalypse" (live)

Eric Bachman was joined by the talented Liz Durrett in recording Breaks In The Armor. The album is released today on Merge Records.

Album trailer:

Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor (Album Trailer) from Merge Records on Vimeo.


Monday, October 10, 2011

REVIEW: The Moth & The Mirror - Honestly, This World

Although Honestly, This World is the debut release from The Moth & The Mirror, it has the feel of an accomplished band in the full stride of their career. I suspect that one reason is that the band has been playing together for several years, but the answer also must be found in the fact that The Moth & The Mirror is a project comprised of individually accomplished musicians who also are (or were) members of other bands, including Frightened Rabbit, Admiral Fallow, The Reindeer Section, Smoke Jaguar and Arab Strap. Listen to the first track, "Everyone I Know".

The Moth and the Mirror blend the loud and soft, acoustic and electric, in a manner reminiscent of The Delgados. Many of the tracks tease with subtle touches punctuated by echoing instrumentation, and then build to a climactic wall of sound. The tone tends toward brooding, but there is redemption to be found and the listening is a treat in either case.

The primary vocal duties fall to Stacey Sievwright (other projects: The Reindeer Section, Arab Strap), but at times multiple voices ride the melody. The other members are Gordon Skene (Frightened Rabbit) on guitar and vocals; Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow, Song of Return) on guitar and vocals; Kevin McCarvel on bass; Iain Sandilands on percussion; and Peter Murch on drums.

One of my favorite tracks, is the rousing "Germany":

The grand scale title track (live)

You can stream the entire album here. If you only have time for one or two tracks in addition to the foregoing offerings, I highly recommend "Fire" and the gentle "Closing Doors".

Honestly, This World was recorded at Chem19 Studios and is released today, October 10, on Glasgow's Olive Grove Records.

Olive Grove Records