Saturday, December 31, 2011

REVIEW: WATERS - Out In The Light

Released in September, Out In The Light is a hard-rocking album with plaintive vocals and some terrific guitars. Here's the video for "For the One", the lead track and my first exposure to the record via KEXP's song of the day podcast:

This album has a big, bracing rock sound. Singer/songwriter is Van Pierszalowski, who was frontman in Port O'Brien until they broke up in 2010. This band is a group of musicians he met in Oslo during his hiatus between Port O'Brien and this project. Sounds like they were meant to find one another... this record has the feel of a band that's been together for years. Especially enjoyable are the guitars throughout, and the vocal choruses on "Take Me Out To The Coast" and "Out In The Light" - but the whole album is terrific.

Here's a video for "Back to You" - love the feedback:

If you like well-played guitar rock with anthemic choruses, I highly recommend giving this a listen. (artist website)

WATERS on TBD Records

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Soul Corner - Marvin Gaye duets

It's the last Soul Corner for the year. This has been a ton of fun. For next year, I'm debating whether to stick with the Soul Corner or switch to a new feature we'll call "Bob Dylan Friday". Please give me any feedback you have on that in our comment section below.
Reviewing what I've covered this year, I realize I've been light on my very favorite soul singer, Marvin Gaye.
So let's see a couple of his great duets:
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with Tammi Terrell:

And "It Takes Two" with the criminally underrated Kim Weston:

One more with Tammi Terrell, "Ain't Nothing like the Real Thing":
Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Country Rock Discovery: Martha Berner And The Significant Others - Fool's Fantasy

This is a real good country rock band, a little bit reminiscent of the bands Steve Earle put together on all those Twangtrust records, and she's got a strong, clear voice. In a sea of "half decent" female singer/songwriters, I think she really stands out.

Here's a video for the song "Cry", which was released significantly in advance of the record:

And you can listen, preview and buy it right at her Bandcamp site:

This record came out December 13, and she's headed out on tour soon.

Martha Berner website

Martha Berner Facebook

Alex Chilton was born today; RIP Alex and Big Star

Two of the greatest pop songs ever written, and they had plenty more.

September Gurls:

This one is also my favorite Christmas song:

Fine and pure of voice.
And we're gonna get born now.

Rehab? Not The Jolly Boys

While some of you are nursing Christmas hangovers, or contemplating a New Year's hangover, I thought I'd share the wonder version of Amy's "Rehab" from The Jolly Boys. And by the way, their 2011 LP Great Expectation was one of the best world music releases of the year. This is early Reggae, emerging from Mento and other styles and without the Rasta trappings.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lo Fi Garage Surf Punk Discovery: Low Times - split EP w Eets Feats

Here's a San Antonio band with a great retro garage sound... they've released a split single with two of their songs on it:

A Texas band that openly cites the 13th Floor Elevators as an influence - that's just about guaranteed to endear them to me. Give a listen.

Get to Know: Allah-Las

Skanky, surfy, electrified Southern California surf rock? Yes, please. We'll take a double. Introducing the Allah-Las: Miles, Pendrum, Spencer and Matt. The sound is a Nuggets-era analog throwback to .45s made by guys practicing in their garages. And I really, really hope we get more of it from these guys.

"Catmaran", from their recent single for Pres Record Co and produced by Nick Waterhouse. The physical copy is sold out, but the track may be available in digital form.

The other track on the single is "Long Journey" --

Here is a 2010 song, "Don't Wanna Hear No More" --

Pres Records

Monday, December 26, 2011

Punk discovery: Porcupine/Metal Ghost split single, out now on Big Action Records

Porcupine is a punk-inflected indie rock band from Wisconsin recording on a Minneapolis label - and they have released a split single with Metal Ghost, a German indie rock band. Yes, the world is getting smaller. It's all good stuff - Porcupine's guitars remind me of "old school" indie rock, with a jazz influence (are they old enough to be influenced by the Minutemen?) and both rhythm sections are solid. We'll keep an ear out for more from these two...

Listen and download here:

Porcupine Website

Get to Know: Jack James

Jack James is a Glasgow musician who makes an intriging brand of alternative folk/lo-fi rock. In addition to Jack's voice, the primary instruments are banjo, acoustic guitar, bass, piano, harmonica, and slide guitar. His most recent album, Leaving Town, was released this month. He previously home-recorded and released Quarter-life Crisis in 2010), and Lights Off, Headphones On in 2009.

Jack's focus on the type of music he is recording sprang from an interest in the works of Dylan, Neil Young, Elliott Smith and Damien Jurado. His goal is to create simple, honest stories. I only recently became exposed to Jack's music, but one listen to Leaving Town and I was hooked. Here is the album opener, "We Best Be Off" --

And the closing track, "Driving to the Coast" --

Jack James appears to take great care in the way he uses language to tell his stories. Here is an example of his craft from the title track, "Leaving Town" --
Wait until she's asleep
Find no evidence of me leaving
Pack my things into the car
Say my goodbye, that wasn't hard
Everything fits in the backseat
Your heavy coat trapped underneath
Although you left some behind
You're lighter now, pay it no mind

Travelling light, packed a full car, it's midnight
Not far to go, welcome to your new home
Can you tell what the difference is?
No matching sets of hers and his
But you've got two of a kind
And you're lighter now, pay it no mind

You can watch me talk and learn how to walk the walk
Steal my turns of phrase, my hair, the clothes that I wear
Become another version of me, the best version I can be

Your mood is heavy and your face relaxes
You can't raise a smile when the waitress asks you
If there'll be anything else
Your order lets her down, you never meet expectations
So you buy something else
But now you've got too much and something you don't want
Your problems coming to life in a roadside shop

You can watch me talk and learn how to walk the walk
Steal my turns of phrase, my hair, the clothes that I wear
Become another version of me, the best version I can be

You can watch me walk

You can stream "Leaving Town" in its entirety here --

Twitter ( @jackjamesmusic )

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Thanks for stopping by.

Introducing: Happy Particles - Under Sleeping Waves

Giving birth to an album on Christmas Day is, to say the least, a bold move from a marketing standpoint. But props to Glasgow's Happy Particles audacity for releasing Under Sleeping Waves today. (For those prompted to wonder about my audacity, or lack of a life, I will note that this post was filed a couple of days ago, and I'll be sleeping when it appears on the internet and then skiing while you wonder why Aunt Martha is still presents polka dot ties to all the males every year.)

Happy Particles' component particles are Gordon Farquhar (drums, percussion), Al Doherty (guitar, bass), Steven Kane (guitar, vocals, laptop, piano, glockenspiel), Graeme Ronald (bass), Ricky Egan (guitar), and James Swinburne (rhodes piano, saxophone). Their music is a surprisingly pleasing combination of indie pop and Sigur Rós-style experimental pop. If I was required to pick only one genre tag, it probably would be shoegaze, but after listening to the album, that description seems inadequate.

Certain tracks of Under Sleeping Wave are available to stream here:

Twitter ( @HappyParticles )

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shelby Earl - new Christmas song: "This Christmas Is For Us"

One of our favorites from 2011, Shelby Earl, has released an original Christmas song. She's a terrific singer and it's a pretty song:

This Christmas Is For Us by shelbyearl1

If you missed it, check out Scott's review of Burn the Boats here.

Midnight World Pop Scout: The Weeknd -- Echoes Of Silence released, trilogy complete

Because it is always midnight somewhere...
This week's edition is single offering from Canada, but is part of a three piece project that has earned a lot of attention this year.

The final installment of the Weeknd trilogy, Echoes Of Silence has been released. The first installment was House of Balloons, which was released in the spring. The second installment was Thursday, and was released at the end of the summer.

This project of Abel Tesfaye, supported by Drake and others, is perhaps the most interesting R&B experimentation of the year. And this installment is better than the second installment. The first track is "D.D." --

Here is the entire mixtape, which can be downloaded at the artist website or Soundcloud links:
The Weeknd - Echoes Of Silence by The_Weeknd


Friday, December 23, 2011

Robert Pollard - video for "Love Your Spaceman", link to stream Let's Go Eat The Factory and fantastic old GbV track "Pantherz"

From 2008's Superman Was a Rocker, which by the way is not one of the six (or seven) great discs Pollard helmed this fine year. I say (or seven) because it appears you can now obtain Let's Go Eat the Factory, the new studio record from the GbV classic lineup. You can certainly go stream it at NPR.

Why post this now? Just because you deserve another chance to be exposed to the genius of Robert Pollard...

Updated to add link to great old GbV song "Pantherz" from the ACTUAL classic era, posted by Jim Greer via his great blog "North of Onhava":

Latest tracks by North of Onhava

Bookmark Jim's blog or follow him on Twitter, he will occasionally post great nuggets like this for limited times... and he's an excellent writer.

The Soul Corner - Christmas Edition

We'll start the Yuletide party off with one of my very favorites, the mighty Blind Boys of Alabama answering a very important question.

Then, the great Otis Redding with one of the most beloved Christmas soul songs.
My main man Marvin Gaye, making it mellow:

And finally, but certainly not least, Phil Spector's girls Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love kicking it up soul style for Christmas:
The Soul Corner wishes you and yours all the best this holiday season.

New Lo-Fi Discovery: Pear Traps - EP and single

Sorry it's taken me a while to get this posted, because I really like this band a lot. Lo-fi like old R.E.M., nicely buzzing and strumming along like the Feelies, the Bats or the Clean, it's catchy and the guitars are absolutely delightful.

Here's a video I found of "Come Home":

And here's a video of lead man Bryant Howe talking about his guitar rig:

Here's hoping they'll record an album or two in 2012, but until then this EP will do very nicely:

It's been out since the summer, but I just discovered it. "Discovered", that's funny. The Pear Traps sent it to me and Scott. Must have known what big fans of Human Television we are...

They're also offering a free download of their 2010 EP Basement Fidelity.

Get to Know: The Silver Factory

Combining the jangle pop of the C86 era with the more expansive scope of the Stone Roses, The Silver Factory is a welcome discovery for me. The band, consisting of Marc Johnston, Matt Vinall, Fran Feely, Luke Headland and Paul Hobbs, is from Leicester, UK, and is signed to Elefant Records.

Fran Feely founded the band in 2008 with an interest in the sounds of the aforementioned influences, as well as a few styles from the '60s (e.g., the Byrds and the Shangri-La's) and the Velvet Underground. In fact, the name of the band is a reference to VU 'godfather' Andy Warhol's studio. In October 2011 they have a released a four-track EP titled The Sun Shines Over You. Here is the title track --

"I'm Not Young Enough To Know Everything"

I think they have a very good sound, and I'm looking forward to more from them.

Twitter ( @SilverFactory1 )

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cool Video Thursday

We were happy to feature Bleeding Knees Club a few weeks ago. We now share their video for "Bad Guys" --

A favorite discovery in 2011 was TV Girl. Here is a live performance of the title track from their upcoming LP --

Olympic Swimmers with "Where It Snows" --

OLYMPIC SWIMMERS - Where it Snows from hollywood academical on Vimeo.

Allo Darlin' made this video of their recent tours to accompany their song "Tallulah" --

Allo Darlin' - Tallulah from Will Botting on Vimeo.

"Run Out of Morning" from The Loose Salute --

Scottish pop band Café Disco presents the video for their song "Terra Nova" --

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Get to Know: Dignan Porch

London's Dignan Porch consists of Joe Walsh on guitar and vocals, Sam Walsh on lead guitar, Hayley Akins on keyboard and vocals, Ben Goodwin on bass and Stephen Keane on drums. They play glorious lo-fi noise/dream pop and shoegaze. And they have a great ear for both atmosphere and melody.

Originally, the band was the recording project of Joe Walsh. They have released a single, an LP previously recorded by Joe (which can be streamed at the Bandcamp site linked below), and the EP Deluded, which is embedded in this post. Currently, the band is putting finishing touches on an LP to be released in 2012 by Captured Tracks.

"Like It Was"

"On A Ride"

Eight track EP Deluded was released in March 2011.

Twitter ( @DignanPorch )
Captured Tracks

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

REVIEW: The Little Kicks - The Little Kicks

Aberdeen, Scotland's The Little Kicks released their fine debut album Boxing Clever in 2009. Thus it has been a longish wait for the sophomore effort, the self-titled The Little Kicks, which was record in Edinburgh last summer and released in late November.

The Little Kicks play smart indie guitar & electro pop with an ear cocked to the dance floor. Check out "Anti Work Song" in the Bandcamp link below for a taste of the band's bouncier side (it is track two, following a brief intro piece). It may be the happiest groove you hear in a I-hate-my-job song.
The Little Kicks

The third song, "Before Today", is a catchy and tight indie pop song featuring guitars and synths.

"Making Big Decisions" -- track four -- is one of my favorites, and it is one of the two tracks most like the band's debut LP. I think that one of the reasons it grabs my attention is that the songcraft, vocals and jangly guitars all bring to mind a Texas band I loved in the oughties called Voxtrot. Interestingly, the writer and frontman for Voxtrot had spend time in Scotland studying.

"Loosen Up" is a synth-heavy track that builds gloriously from a spare beginning to club-anthem level. You can imagine the mirror ball spinning...

On the next track, "First Place", the band dials down the tempo and lets the intensity burn through the excellent vocal performance. The bit of brass in the background adds a delightful and unexpected bit of depth.

"Call of Youth" is the other song that is reminiscent of the band's debut album. Fittingly, it was released first as the album teaser. With its 60s up-tempo soul vibe, it is likely to be a favorite of many. And the band is offering it as a free download.

"Do Something New" seems to be pure, Postcard Records era indie pop. It is the lightest feeling track on the album, and likely to leave you with a smile.

"Far Too Honest", as was the case with "Loosen Up", begins with a slower tempo and the atmosphere created by the baritone vocals and synths, but then it ramps up with a Latin-style beat driving the song as the vocals increase in intensity. I think this track well-illustrates the talent of the band, because a track that could have seemed too heavy to end the album instead leaves the listen with a meaty final chapter.

By way of introduction, The Little Kicks are Steven Milne (lead vocals, guitar and keys), Scott Kelman (drums, backing vocals), Lewis Porter (bass), and Toby Brunning (lead guitar). The album can be sourced at Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon.

I think this is a very good album. My only complaint is that, absent the intro, it is only eight tracks long. But in the holiday spirit, I forgive them.

Twitter ( @TheLittleKicks )

Sunday, December 18, 2011

REVIEW: 40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room

I’m sort of going back over the year and picking up things here and there that I missed along the way. I’m the least productive hamster on this particular wheel, so when John told us we need to get ‘best of’ lists up over the next couple of weeks, I sort of panicked. Heavens to Murgatroyd, last year my top 20 only had 17 entries. Even as I write this post, I don’t know how many albums will be on this year’s list, but I’m here to tell you that The Inside Room, by the London-based power trio 40 Watt Sun, is going to be way on up there.

The album was released in the US in July by Metal Blade. You know, you think Metal Blade, you think Slayer or Cannibal Corpse, which might lead to some assumptions about 40 Watt Sun that just don’t match reality. The five songs on the album, together amounting to around 48 minutes, are melodic and slow and drowning in distortion. They are expansive and beautifully arranged. There is no violence – not even any screaming. Singer-guitarist Patrick Walker’s baritone has a solid, unaffected timbre that gives the whole production a mature feel. Listen to the third track, “Between Times”, and I know you’ll agree with me that this is a good thing.

The band seems to have been classified, for lack of a better option, as doom metal, but this music is not apocalyptic. Certainly it is world-weary and forlorn, but every track on The Inside Room is an actual non-cheesy love song written in the first person. I’m usually a terrible cynic when I hear this level of emotion in any music, much less heavy music, and yet here it strikes me as fully authentic and a hundred miles away from ‘emo’. Here’s a nice (if you’ll pardon the missing first 30 seconds or so) live clip of the band playing the album’s opener, “Restless”, at a festival this past summer:

So maybe these guys are creating their own subgenre, something along the lines of ‘shoegaze metal’, because they’re much closer to a wall-of-sound band like Twilight Sad than the more traditionally ‘doom’ bands like Sleep or Candlemass. Whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty damn close to brilliant.

40 Watt Sun band home

40 Watt Sun facebook

Metal Blade Records

New Stuff - Black Box Revelation

Driving around trying to get some shopping done yesterday, a song I had never heard jumped out of my radio from local commercial station KINK here in Portland. "High on a Wire" by the Black Box Revelation:
As a teenager in Detroit and then as a young adult in Chicago, most of my music discoveries came via WABX or WXRT. But in the last 10 years as playlists have shrunk, formats narrowed and radio programming usurped by very conservative national conglomerates, commercial radio became predictable, boring and anything but a launching pad for new sounds.
Kudos to KINK for bucking that trend. They are actually playing a great deal more new music now than they ever did, not just hits, with some cool stuff that is somewhat edgier than their adult alternative history. I think they are owned by Clear Channel but they seem to have a lot of local autonomy.
Which brings me to today's discovery - Black Box Revelation from Belgium. I thought this blog had already pumped up every dirty rockin' guitar-drums duo there is, but no. Black Box Revelation has all the WYMA Blog ingredients - garage rock simplicity, great guitar riffs, and chock full of attitude and sexy swagger. Party in a box. Really, what's not to like about that approach?
Next up, the title track from their brand new CD My Perception:
A one minute teaser of the dangerously catchy single "Rattle My Heart" from the new record (full video not available in US per my Mr. You Tube police):

We'll leave you with an older track "I Think I Like You" that was licensed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, which means they have a much cooler music programmer than a certain football team that the WYMA staff follows:

Belgium, it's not just for great beer anymore.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Get to Know: Schonwald

Schonwald is an Italian duo consisting of Luca Bandini and Alessandra Gismondi. They play an icy brand of shoegaze that is both interesting and distinctive. My research indicates that they release an album named Amplified Nature in 2009, but I've not been able to find much about the album or the group. However, they recently signed with Chicago label HoZac Records, so we're likely to get more music from Schonwald in the future. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful "Mercurial".
mercurial by schonwald


Friday, December 16, 2011

REVIEW: The Honey Pies - Carpe Carp

The Honey Pies are a group that believes popular music should be fun. And they deliver. The Adelaide, Australia foursome were featured in one of my Midnight World Pop Scout features earlier in the year. They attracted my attention with energetic, well-crafted britpop and their humorous riff on the actor Gary Busey. Today, December 16, The Honey Pies released their second LP of 2011, Carpe Carp. As indicated by the album title and the cover photograph in which the band is decked out in power ranger costumes, their sense of humor hasn't vanished. As for the music, the album is an exuberant collection of Britpop, bar room romps and other slightly twisted versions of recognizable styles, all with harmonies and fun lyrics. Listen to the first four tracks, "Vespa", "Romeo", "Girl", and "My O My O Me O My" at the Bandcamp link below and I think you'll understand why I'm encouraging you to give The Honey Pies a try.

But before streaming the album on Bandcamp, here is the video for track three, "Girl" --

The remainder of the album delivers additional songs in the vein of the first four (e.g. "Guy Fawkes Day", another favorite), alt rock ("Henny Penny"), a touch of vamping glam ("I Heart NY" )even a bit of country (e.g. "Houndstooth"). And try "Rubix Cube" for a slice of the lads' semi-sensitive side.

The Honey Pies are comprised of Jon Marco (rhythm guitar), Tony Marshall (lead guitar), Tom McCarthy-Jones (bass guitar), and Marcus Warnecke (drums). They enlisted the help of additional players, including horns and a choir, to flesh out their inspirations for the Carpe Carp. By the way, the album is dedicated in loving memory of Australian comedian Shaun Patrick Micallef. My brief research shows that Mr. Micallef is not deceased, so we're not clear on how he feels about this honor.


The Soul Corner - James Carr - "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man"

I can't decide what is better on this 1966 gem, the lyrics or the vocal. Ladies and gentlemen, this week's Soul Corner presents the late great James Carr:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Stuff: The James Low Western Front "Whiskey Farmer"

James Low grew up in the remote small town of John Day, Oregon, but for many years has lived in Portland where he is one of the stalwarts on the thriving local singer-songwriter circuit. His brand new 8 song CD presents some of the best work of his career.

Whiskey Farmer follows the sad trajectory of a character who, as Low explains on his web page: "Has always done things kind of right- did OK in school, went to a generic college, racked up a shitload of debt, and got a job to pay off the debt. He drinks to forget. He alienates the ones who love him best, and just cannot believe that this is all there is to life."

Low intends to make a film for all 8 songs on the CD, and here's the first, "Thinking California":

Much of Low's previous work is in a roots rock vein, while this is more of a singer-songwriter effort with a whole lot of old school country flavor. Low's highly capable band of 3 years, The Western Front serve the songs well. What I like best about this CD, on top of the outstanding songwriting, is the singing. Low is an experienced vocalist who has gotten far more intentional in his craft over the years. A young guy will throw down some drinks backstage and then just get up there and let it go. But Low is one of those singers who, like Elvis Costello and Joe Henry, as his career progresses, takes every note and tone seriously and brings some real craft to his vocals in tremendous service to the lyrics and emotional weight of the song.

And while the songs on Whiskey Farmer are sad and heavy, the melodies and warm musicianship make Whiskey Farmer a highly listenable and enjoyable CD. Producer Mike Coykendall (M Ward, Richmond Fontaine, Blitzen Trapper) gets a terrific sound here.
I find myself drawn to this "whiskey farmer" character, concerned about what will happen to him, intently turning the next page as it were to follow his story.

These songs will stick with you.

Listen here:

Get to Know: Pink Films; San Francisco Water Cooler

I haven't found out much about San Francisco's Pink Films. Admittedly, I haven't gone into stalk mode, but I have some pride. Really, I do. I was able to learn that one of the members of the band is Andy Pastalaniec, who also is a member of a band called San Francisco Water Cooler. The sound is a garagey psychedelia, but has a poppy strain as well. It all sounds promising to me.



San Francisco Water Cooler blasts us with chainsaw noise pop with hints of psychedelia. The band rose from the ashes of Santa Cruz's Residual Echoes, and has released three albums of varying length on Sun Sneeze Records. If you like their music, check out the Sun Sneeze Records link below. If you want to check out a few more songs, hit the Soundcloud link.

"Kool Shoes"
San Francisco Water Cooler- Kool Shoes by SunSneezeRecords

"Summer Sun"
San Francisco Water Cooler - Summer Sun by SunSneezeRecords

"Vacancy Sender"
San Francisco Water Cooler - Vacancy Sender by SunSneezeRecords

Sun Sneeze Records

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Get to Know: Neverever

Mash together power pop, indie pop and the Shangri Las, and you may get LA band Neverever. Jihae Meek, Wallace Meek, Shaun Puklavetz, Eric Fisher, and Sharif Dumani will have you moving your feet and wanting more. It is a bold and sunny California sound with lots of hooks and lyrics about teenagers growing up. The group is signed to Slumberland Records. (Note: Neverever should be distinguished from Australia's The Never Ever.)

In 2010 they released an LP named Angelic Swells. On January 17, the band is releasing a five-track EP called Shake-A-Baby. And if album track "Wedding Day" is any indication, it is a release to anticipate.
Neverever - Wedding Day by Slumberland Records

Neverever " Coconut Shampoo" from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.


Monday, December 12, 2011

New EP from Fiction Faction

We profiled Glasgow band Fiction Faction earlier in the year. We liked their chiming guitars, and their fresh fusion of indie rock and electronic sounds. Some have likened their sound to a somewhat more pop version of The Cure. The gang is back in view with the October release of the Malenky Lizards EP on Glasgow's Saraseto Records. The stable four members of the group (they seem to be looking to add a keyboard player from time to time) are David (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Paul (Lead guitar, Vocals), John Paul (Bass, Backing Vocals), and Ellis (Drums, Backing Vocals).

The title track is the worthy centerpiece of the EP. Its fusion of pop and indie rock with a hint of blue-eyed soul evokes for me some of the finest moments of Joe Jackson. I've been playing it a couple of times a day for weeks.

The second track, "A Lot Can Happen On A Summers Day" has the tone and shading of a Cure song, but with a tempo built for the dance floor. The third track is a Miamoux Miamoux remix of a previously released track, "Apparations". I think it is well done, although I don't consider myself a connoisseur of remixes. The fourth and final track is "Harmonizing the Grateful", which favorably reminds this listener of David Bowie singing vocals for the Soft Boys.

You can stream the entire album here:

Malenky Lizards EP is worth your attention not only because it contains four good songs, but because it promises an exciting things for the future. The band is polished, the vocals are excellent, and the scope of the songs suggest a group willing to reach a bit to create music that means something to them.

Twitter ( @fictionfaction1 )

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Get to Know: Dunes

Dunes are fond of dark pop songs, and are creating a full LP of them for our listening pleasure, to be released in 2012 on PPM. The members of this Los Angeles-based band are listed as Stephanie (aka Stoof), Mark, and Katelyn (aka Beato). They have released an EP on Mexican Summer and a 7" on Art Fag Recordings.

"Tied Together", a video made with help from the bands No Age, Vivian Girls, Abe Vigoda, High Places, Telepathe, Cold Showers, Nodzzz, Bleached, Pangea, Shannon and the Clams, and Devon Williams Band--

Dunes - "Tied Together" from stereogum on Vimeo.

"Handle", from their 2010 self-titled EP --

"Dream House" from the 2011 7" --
Dream House by dunesband

Twitter ( @DunesLA )

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Discovery: Eww Yaboo - Yeah, What?

Get past the band name, and the title... get into this music, because it's a pretty arresting combination of punk and glam with some real sheen on some of the guitar sounds. First couple songs, "Make It Fast" and "I'm Not Afraid" are pretty aggressive and I will say that the guitar sounds remind me of Nirvana. The third cut "Don't Change Yr Mind" builds a little more slowly, and "So Many of the Kids" is, quite frankly, a masterpiece, showing that, while they're good at the sub-3:00 punk raver, they have the ability to sustain the energy over 4:15 if they want to.

Here's a video of that song in live performance - not the highest quality video, but I like the energy and you can hear a good recording of the song at the bandcamp link below.

If these guys have some more of this in them, I hope they'll put out a whole album soon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Videos: Wake the President; Tennis: Withered Hand

Wake the President offers this new video for "In Youth There Is Pleasure", one of the fine songs on their October 31 release, Zumutung!. The song will be available as a single the first week of January 2012.

Of course, if you'd read my review, you know that I think you all should have the album already.

Tennis has published a video for Deep in the Woods, which is the B-side to their new single Origins.

This is the video for "Real Snow", the new holiday song by Withered Hand, who is the Edinburgh-based Dan Willson.

The tune is released by Fence Records, which is a music collective in Scotland. They are offering a deal on their website by which a subscription for limited editions 7" releases by Fence artists with earn a Christmas card with a CD of "Real Snow". Check out the Fence Records link below to see if you like the artists in the collective.

Withered Hand
Fence Records

The Soul Corner - Fontella Bass - "Rescue Me"

Fontella Bass, from St. Louis, had a few R&B hits, but certainly none as memorable as her 1965 smash "Rescue Me".

Here's the recorded version featuring session drummer Maurice White (who later went on to form Earth, Wind and Fire) and a then unknown young singer, Minnie Ripperton, on backing vocals:

We like this song so much we'll also give you a live TV version where Ms. Bass looks a bit nervous yet fabulously stylish - especially that fine hat that you Soul Corner ladies out there should emulate and start wearing today.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

REVIEW: The Bats - Free All the Monsters

Bear with me here. In MASH, Robert Altman's wonderful 1970 anti-Vietnam War movie told as a Korean War movie, our protagonists are ordered to fly from the front to Japan to perform an operation on the son of a congressman. In memorable cinematic fashion, Hawkeye and Trapper John roll into town in golf clothes, carrying clubs and announce that they are the 'pros from Dover'. In a few scenes, they turn the the established order upside down, save lives (including a son of a Japanese prostitute whom they treat in the US military hospital), defeat "the Man", and drop memorable one-liners. And we cheer them on the entire way, because they are highly skilled, smart, and honest at their core. So, here we are at the end of a year of good music and our hero, Rocksteady74, is ordering the albums for his year end list. Unexpectedly, the musical equivalent of the 'pros from Dover' roll into town in the form of The Bats' Free All the Monsters. And because the album is highly skilled, smart, and honest at its core, Rocksteady74 reorders his list.

It is only fair at this point to admit that I do have a soft spot for The Bats. Whenever I've played the musical geek "desert island albums" game, the New Zealand foursome's debut full-length album, Daddy's Highway, is on my list. But such high esteem carries a danger as well, because it isn't easy for a band to live up to a masterpiece created a quarter of a century closer to the apex of youthful confidence and creative energy. Fortunately, The Bats seem unburdened by the expectations of fans and the weight of their own history, and continue to earn their high esteem by turning out the highest quality music. Consider what is perhaps my favorite track from this album, the driving "In the Subway" --

The sound of The Bats is distinctive and engaging, if not overly complicated. The guitars provide a delightful jangle over warm lower-register chords, and the rhythm section is first class. The band is so tight that it all sounds effortless. The melodies are memorable. The tone of the songs are immediate and, while not usually dark, they can be plaintive, winsome or hinting at discontent. But the group does well with optimistic sentiments as well. The title track pointedly addresses letting go of fears: "Free All the Monsters" --

As a bit of background for those who aren't familiar with The Bats, the group was formed in 1982 in Christchurch, NZ. The members then, as now, are: Former bassist for the Clean, Robert Scott, who is a guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter; Former Toy Love bassist Paul Kean; Singer, guitarist and sometimes songwriter Kaye Woodward; and Drummer Malcolm Grant. In 29 years, the group has released eight albums, but the members also have taken time to pursue other projects (e.g. reunions of the Clean, Minisap (who released a very good album a couple of years ago), solo work). Their original label was New Zealand's Flying Nun Records, and after releasing albums on a few other labels, The Bats and Flying Nun Records are reunited.

For me, the remarkable thing about The Bats is that at a time when other groups of their vintage are selling compilations and staring at the walls for inspiration, The Bats are on a six-year creative spurt that has produced 2005's At the National Grid, 2009's The Guilty Office, the new Free All the Monsters. I think that this album is the best of the three. And thus, the question arises, is it as good as Daddy's Highway? The answer is, perhaps not, but I'm not sure. I haven't had enough time with this album to be certain, and that uncertainty alone is a major endorsement in my mind. The first nine songs of the album comprise a definitive musical essay in indie pop, and "In the Subway", "Free All the Monsters", "Spacejunk" and "Long Halls" are good enough to improve any album in any band's discography. This is an album I can confidently recommend not just because it is a great album now, but because it is an album you will enjoy in a decade--probably along with the just-then released 11th album from The Bats.


"Long Halls"

Flying Nun Records

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RIP - Hubert Sumlin, guitar great

We must recognize the death earlier this week of the great blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Best known for his groundbreaking work as lead guitar player in Howlin' Wolf's band, Sumlin had a huge influence on nearly every great guitar player of the generation that followed him - Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Steve Kropper, Robbie Robertson, Jimmy Page, etc.
Sumlin was truly one of the principal architects of the guitar sound of not only modern electric Chicago blues, but R&B, funk and the best soul music.
Here's Hubert Sumlin playing on the 1956 Howlin' Wolf classic "Smokestack Lightnin":

Sumlin also did significant work with Willie Dixon including the lead guitar work on the classic "Spoonful":

Sumlin may be the greatest guitar player you'd never heard of until he died this week at the age of 80.

REVIEW: Dot Dash - Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash

Washington, DC's Dot Dash was only formed in 2010, but it has excellent bloodlines, as discussed below. More importantly, the foursome of Terry Banks, Hunter Bennett, Jim Crandall and Danny Ingram has a great sound--evoking Creation Records/Postcard Records/C86 jangle as well as the southern alternative guitar rock of the dB's and early REM. Evoking, but not imitating, as Dot Dash puts their own robust delivery on the post-punk genre, making songs that are fresh and immediate, grabbing the listener from the opening chords. And the proof is in Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, their fine debut album which was released in November on Ottawa, Canada's The Beautiful Music label.

If you require a modern touchstone for Dot Dash it probably would be Army Navy. But rather than blather on trying to describe their sound, I'll let your listen to one of the album tracks here: "Tragedy Destiny" --
Tragedy Destiny - Dot Dash by thebeautifulmusic

Here is a live version of that song:

Terry Banks (guitar and vocals) and Hunter Bennett (bass) were in the beloved guitar pop group Julie Ocean (taking its name from and Undertones song). Terry also was in Tree Fort Angst and Saturday People, while Hunter also was with Weatherhead. Bill Crandall (guitar) was formerly in Modest Proposal (among others), and Danny Ingram (drums) formerly was in Swervedriver, Strange Boutique, Youth Brigade (among others). Given that background, it is no surprise that Dot Dash understands what they do well, and knows how to deliver it. There aren't any slow ballads or long jams. But while the band eschews diversity, they fully deliver on energy and swagger, with a live feel that suggests a real time, one or two take recording process. The album delivers fourteen songs in a bit over a half hour, and I think the songs are just the right length for this brand of guitar pop. My favorites are "That was Now, This is Then", "There and Back Again Lane", "No Reverie", "Alright, Alright" and the shadowy chugger "Dissolve". But the album is full of delightful songs and has no tracks that I would consider filler. Planning for skiing this weekend, I loaded the entire album into my skiing playlist on my iPod.

And here is the aforementioned "There and Back Again Lane" --
There And Back Again Lane - Dot Dash by thebeautifulmusic

The Beautiful Music (label)

Monday, December 5, 2011

REVIEW: Weekend - Red EP

Been on a bit of a noise pop binge lately, and along with the Chambermaids, part of the blame goes to Weekend, whose song "Hazel" (download available below) really caught my ear recently:

Giving the whole thing a listen, it's clear that "Hazel" is the most accessible song - opening track "Sweet Sixteen" is a bit more brooding, menacing and very slow building, with a lot of echos and guitar effects... a bit of a trip back to Bauhaus, maybe. But things pick up with "Hazel", and the rhythm section on "The One You Want" is downright peppy. The six-plus minute closer "Golfers" is hypnotic yet rocking, reminiscent of what I've always liked about Swervedriver.

For a brief, five-song EP there is a decent amount of sonic variety... but for the most part, it revolves around super-catchy fuzzy guitars. Weekend are well worth checking out, and I'm looking forward to a full-length sometime soon.

They're on Slumberland Records, a label you'll be familiar with via Rocksteady's earlier explorations of Terry Malts and Veronica Falls.

Weekend at Slumberland Records

Get to Know: Catwalk

Catwalk is a project started by Nick Hessler in Oxnard, California in 2005, when he was in junior high school. His demos led to the release of two singles on local label YAY! Records. The band has endured some line up changes, but not consists of Nick Hessler and Arin Fazio, and they are signed to Captured Tracks. The band is working on a debut LP, which they hope to release in Spring 2012.

The music is a brand of indie pop that manages to be very engaging, while maintaining a bit of mystery. Based on what I've heard, I think these guys are very good at what they do, and I'm very interested in hearing the album. Try a few tracks below--

"Please Don't Break Me"

"One By Words"


Twitter ( @catwalkgoespop )

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Single from The Chambermaids - "Whirlpool"

Happy to hear from this Minneapolis noise pop foursome, with news of a new single on Guilt Ridden Pop, recorded at The Old Blackberry Way:

They continue to mine that terrific sound commonly described as "shoegaze", and bring back fond memories of Wire and Jesus & Mary Chain (to me, at least). Here's hoping they are making some progress toward a full album.

The Chambermaids Website

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-33: The Mokkers; Tom Fool

The Mokkers are an all female garage band from Berlin. They have a five-track EP, The Mokkers out on Holy's Hit Records. Catch the infectious sound on this instrumental--

Actually, all the clips I have are of live performances. But I think that's a good thing when were talking about garage bands.

Here's one in English--

"Dead Pigeons", live--


Tom Fool is the solo project of Rick Webster, the vocalist for the recently disbanded Unkle Bob. The songs were written by Webster and Andy Gill of Gang of Four.
The Photograph EP

Twitter ( @TomFoolesq )

REVIEW: Gauntlet Hair – Gauntlet Hair

I know a thing or two about bad band names. In college I played in a band called In My Shrubbery. In high school I played in a ‘metal’ band with such an unintentionally bad name that, even though I had nothing to do with thinking it up, I’m still too embarrassed to divulge it here. Sometimes a band name becomes bad passively, simply through the incessant unfolding of human events. It was thus that my current band’s name, Jerry Sandusky’s Army, suddenly went from totally great to decidedly not great. We are trying to rename the band right now, and I have thrown out the idea of calling it Grim Carnes, as a nod to our death metal cover of “Bette Davis Eyes”, which is a crowd fave. You have to admit that’s a pretty great band name. Yeah, I think so too.

And then there are bands with names that are so randomly, yet cleverly, bad that they are actually awesome. At the top of this list is Gauntlet Hair, from Denver by way of Chicago. In October, this band with the awesomely bad name released an awesomely good self-titled debut. The band records as a twosome – Andy R. on vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards, and Craig Nice on drums and drum effects – and tours as a foursome. Forced to hybridize, I’d call them a cross of Wu Lyf and Abe Vigoda (both cool band names). That comparison might stem mainly from all three bands’ heavy use of delay pedals, creating that beautiful spacey, chiming guitar sound. Check it out on the brand new video for the second track, “Top Bunk”, featuring ze govanatah:

Gauntlet Hair - Top Bunk. from Neighborhood Watch on Vimeo.

The CD’s liner notes say the album was recorded in Andy’s grandmother’s basement. The acoustics of the production suggest Andy’s grandma lives above an airplane hangar. I mean that in the best way possible. Anyway, there’s really not anything close to a throwaway track on this album. Here’s the official video of the album opener, “Keep Time.” The last break in the song (at around the 3.00 mark of this video – where it looks like the bearded mime or goth hippie is about to get killed) is pretty close to musical brilliance.

As if they needed more of a seal of approval than plaudits from this blog, it’s worth noting that they’re signed to Dead Oceans, which is without question one of the best indie labels out there (Destroyer, Citay, Tallest Man on Earth, many more). And it’s worth noting that Dead Oceans is based in Bloomington, Indiana, the same town that gave us one of the best band names ever, John Wilkes Booze. Is this mere coincidence? If you said yes, consider that the mayor of Bloomington’s last name is “Kruzan”, which has exactly the same number of letters as the name “Oswald”. And Arnold Schwartzenegger, star of the video "Top Bunk", was married to a Kennedy. If that makes you nervous, and it should, you can just chill out and listen to this:

Gauntlet Hair's Dead Oceans page

Gauntlet Hair's very own band site which is not all that current (the sign of an in-demand touring band).

Gauntlet Hair on Facebook

Check out all the great bands at Dead Oceans

Get to Know: Radar Eyes

Many years ago I lived in Chicago, but I've spend much of the intervening years ignoring its music scene. I'm being roused from my neglect of late, because it seems that the city of big shoulders has a good indie label or two, and a number of interesting bands. One of those bands is psychedelic/garage outfit Radar Eyes. Radar Eyes consists of Anthony on guitar and vocals, Shelly on drums, Lucas on bass, Nathan on guitar and Russ on guitar and organ. They are releasing an LP on Chicago's HoZac Records early in 2012, but you can get a taste of their sound on this previously released single below. I think you'll understand why I'm expecting the LP to be a Rocksteady74 favorite next year.


Radar Eyes also released a two track 7", Miracle on HoZac Records last month. A site at which you can stream both tracks is here. You won't regret listening.


Friday, December 2, 2011

New Video from Wax Idols

As regular readers of this blog know, No Future from Wax Idols was one of my favorite albums this year. I you want to catch up on the review, it is here. But the reason for posting is to share this new video for album track "Gold Sneakers"--

WAX IDOLS - GOLD SNEAKERS from Hayden Shiebler on Vimeo.

HoZac Records