Tuesday, January 31, 2012

REVIEW: Bare Mutants - HoZac 7"

One of my New Years resolutions is to review and profile more singles, 7", short EPs or whatever the artists and labels are terming them these days. I've come to believe that these recordings are a great way to hear what is new, what artists are trying. It also can be an economical way to try a lot of artists. Of course, not all artists release music that way, and certainly not all labels support such releases. But as an example of the delights of paying attention to shorter releases, I present Chicago's Bare Mutants, and their HoZak 7", which is out in February on HoZac Records.

This 7" is comprised of two tracks, "Inside My Head" and "Without You". The first track is an absolutely delicious slice of reverb-drenched rock. For a fan of The Jesus and Mary Chain/Crystal Stilts/Echo and the Bunnymen, such as myself, listening to it the first time was like Christmas day again. And I'll confess to playing it several times in succession before I even tried track two. Listen to the "Inside My Head" while I provide a bit more background on the band:

The Bare Mutants are a Chicago indie supergroup, or an indie super side-project (I don't really know which). The lineup includes Jered Gummere (The Ponys) on guitar and vocals, Seth Bohn (Mannequin Men), on bass, Pete Falknor (Derek Nelson & The Musicians, Planetsexploder) on drums, Leslie Deckard on organ, and Jeanine O'Toole (The 1900s) on vocals and percussion. I became captivated by this release before I knew Jered was involved, but I must confess that the Ponys' 2004 album, Laced With Romance, is a staple in my collection. But perhaps more germane to the general audience is his influence on the dominant sound of many recent Brooklyn bands, and on the late Jay Reatard.

Below is a video of a session the band did for Coach House Sounds five months ago. It contains both tracks off the 7", in reverse order, and three other songs.

Bare Mutants - 6.18.11 from Coach House Sounds on Vimeo.

I think this Bare Mutants HoZac 7" is proof that good things can come in small packages. Of course, now we want an LP. We are insatiable.

HoZac Records

Monday, January 30, 2012

REVIEW: Black Bananas - Rad Times Xpress IV

Hey, it is party time! And the soundtrack is Rad Times Xpress IV by Black Bananas. Oh, so you want proof? Try this slice of chunky funk-metal called "Rad Times" --

Black Banana is Jennifer Herrema, Brian Mckinley, Kurt Midness, Jaimo Welch, and Nadav Eisenman. They've been together since 2002, and formerly recorded and performed as RTX. In Rad Times Xpress IV, the band has given us thick, up-front bass lines, chunky riffs, metallic runs, whoozy effects, and distorted vocals. This album quickly goes from zero to redline, and if you're left behind, it reaches out, grabs you by the throat and drags you into the party. This band doesn't reinvent rock and roll, but it does twist and distort it in a fashion that I quite enjoyed.

Here is the promotional video for the album:

The album is released this week on the Drag City label.

Drag City

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Psych/Punk Discovery from Barcelona: Dulce Pájara de Juventud

Dulce Pájara de Juventud (Sweet Bird of Youth) is a four-man band from Barcelona. I'm not surprised to discover that the band's members have been friends since kindergarten, after listening all the way through several times. The record has the kind of sprawl, freedom and emotional content that can't be faked or thrown together. The rhythm section is very strong and supports some amazing guitar work - in fact, as I listened, the words "Dinosaur Jr. en Espanol" kept coming to mind. But that's just part of the joy of this record. Like J Mascis' work, the understated vocals and easygoing but spectacular guitar work...

Here's a video I found on Youtube from one of their gigs. Tell me this doesn't look like a fun live act to see:

And as proficient and rocking as this band is, they're clearly having a great time... there's a lot of really fun music on this record. "Nacer 3" is a raging instrumental reminiscent of the Pixies with "vocals" just a spoken word recording of, in the band's words "A Mad South American Preacher". "Junior vs Death" is a pop/punk masterpiece with a shouted chorus, a bouncing bassline and a punk backbeat... try to sit still while you're listening. You won't be able to.

Here's a video for "It's Like Disappear", one of their earlier, acoustic songs.

English, Spanish, in any language... I can't stop listening to this record and expect it to be in the rotation for quite a while.

Listen or buy at Soundcloud:

And here's the website for their label, Dulce Pájara de Juventud at BCore Disc.

New Stuff: Laura Gibson "La Grande"

Laura Gibson is yet another talented artist from Portland OR. Her new CD La Grande is a sneaky affair, seems hushed and low key at first, until you absorb the spooky, spaghetti western, high desert undertones.

NPR has a an interesting background article here about this terrific video:

The record veers way out of the usual singer-songwriter guitar-strumming norm with interesting rhythms (sometimes with 2 drummers), and highly effective horns and piano/keyboards. Gibson gets some first rate backing from Joey Burns of Calexico and members of the Decemberists.
La Grande will appeal to fans of some WYMA favorites like Jesse Sykes and Lisa Hannigan. You can stream the entire record here:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Short Shorts: Exlovers

We like short shorts, we like short shorts....

Oh, I'm live? Excuse me. I have one more short to post that didn't hit my in-box until I'd turned in for the night. It is the new video for "Starlight, Starlight" by Exlovers.

"Starlight, Starlight" is from the group's debut album, Moth, which is to be released in May on the Young and Lost Club label.

And for a bit to context, we've been following Exlovers since we discovered this song over a year ago --


Chimes of Freedom - The Songs of Bob Dylan

70 Bob Dylan songs by 70 artists, 4 CDs, though also available in a 31-song 2 CD set, commemorating Amnesty International's 50th anniversary. That's a whole lot of Bob Dylan covers.
I'm still plowing though the set, but have found some seriously good keepers so far - Patti Smith's "Drifter's Escape", "Most of the Time" by WYMA Soul Corner favorite Bettye Lavette, and Raphael Saadiq's "Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat".
Here's the Avett Brothers discussing how they came to work on a recording of "One Too Many Mornings" with the late Johnny Cash:

Set list and a way to stream via Spotify is here:

Though, this is a benefit record, every artist donated its work without compensation, and there are a whole lot of people in the world unjustly in prison and worse for the peaceful expression of their beliefs, so be like me and go buy a copy.

Saturday Shorts: Wild Nothing; Neverever; Parakeet; Hhappiness

Jack Tatum's Wild Nothing project will be releasing a 7" on February 21 on Captured Tracks. Rather than a bedroom recording, this is a studio project with backing vocals from Andrea Estella of Twin Sister. Here is the lovely "Nowhere" --


We profiled Neverever a couple of months ago to highlight the release of their Shake-A-Baby EP on Slumberland Records. The group has just released the track "Mexicoco" from the EP. I've listened to it a couple of times, and it seems to me to be a the happy result of a '60s girl group "going native" on a Latin American vacation. Stream it here:


Mariko Doi, bassist and sometimes vocalist for Yuck, and James Llewellyn Thomas, the drummer for The History of Apple Pie, have formed a side project called Parakeet. "Tomorrow" has been released as a free download.


We recently featured Swedish band Hhappiness in our Midnight World Pop Scout series. The boys have released a video for their song "Bananas".

Hhappiness - ¨Bananas¨ from Control Freak Kitten Records on Vimeo.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Soul Corner - "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Not one, not two but three hit versions by different major artists. That's a song. One of the best by the legendary Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong Motown songwriting team.

First up, Gladys Knight and the Pips 1967 release. Motown is known for its polished pop-flavored singers like Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. But it's the rough hewn ones like Levi Stubbs, David Ruffin and Gladys Knight that I love most. And this recording, which reached #1 on the R&B charts and #2 on the top 40 charts, is one of Gladys Knight's very best. This arrangement is said to have been inspired by Aretha Franklin's version of "Respect". The lip synching here is well worth putting up with to get that great dancing by the studio guests:

My man Marvin Gaye's 1968 version was actually recorded before Gladys Knight's rendition but released a year later. A much silkier approach, with the Funk Brothers house band being backed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was a huge #1 smash hit.

Then the rock'n'roll swampy cover by the great Creedence Clearwater Revival from 1970. This release of such a well known black music hit by a white artist actually caused CCR to be banned from some radio stations in Alabama and have bookings there cancelled. I can't find a good You Tube of the full on 11 minute version but here's the 4 minute radio single version:

But the first version of the song was by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, not available in a format I can link here.

REVIEW: Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Amalgamation & Capital

How do you like your pop served? For my part, I have a broad (and to my mind, cultured) palate that accommodates fine pop music in multiple modes. But if you were to offer me an album of concise indie pop and punk pop songs, delivered with a swagger and superb musicianship and sung with the quality and verve a Stax Records soul singer, I'd say you were offering me a heaping plate of Amalgamation & Capital by Glasgow's Chris Devotion and the Expectations.

Opening track is the rousing "A Modest Refusal", the name of which is a twist on Swift's Modest Proposal --

CD&EX features Chris Devotion (vocals/guitar),
Colin 'Rock-A-Bye' Reid (guitar/vocals), Michael Wright (bass/vocals), and Graham Christie (drums/vocals). On this album, they race through a generous helping of sixteen songs ranging from punk, to pop, to garage, and even a Celtic-punk stomper ("I Ain't Got No Home"). But it all hangs together because of the devotion (sorry, Chris) to melody and riffs. The point isn't that CD&EX is inventing a new style of music, it is that they are cooking up a heady stew of existing styles that is exciting and entertaining. Try the indie rock of "Blister" --

Amalgamation & Capital is released on January 30 on Armellodie Records. This album is going to be in my player for a long, long time.

Twitter ( @CDandtheEX )
Armellodie Records

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Shins single! New album Port of Morrow due out in March, listen to "Simple Song" now

You can pre-order the album via their website or on iTunes, and get the single now. Check it out... a nice sound, a song built around reminiscing a la "Pink Bullets":

REVIEW: Conduits - Conduits

Omaha band Conduits describes itself as "Moody Atmospheric Shoegazey Drone". I can see that, but I'm going to add "Prog" (always looking to include at least one of the four P's) and especially I'm going to emphasize that these labels are perhaps descriptive, but in no way define the limits, of their music. The first song, "Top Of The Hill", starts out like Swervedriver, but just a little more wavery and with a fantastic female lead vocal. At 3:59, it's about the shortest song on the record.

Download "Top Of The Hill".

It gives way to some more expansive songs with art-rock tendencies, like "Misery Train", and some songs that stretch out and even boogie. Seriously, there doesn't seem to be anything this group isn't capable of. "Fish Mountain" is an 8-plus minute epic of postpunk guitar rock and an excellent example of the variety of sounds - crescendos of bass, drums and keyboards backing raging guitars, plus Robert Plant-worthy wails - found on this record. The 5:58 "Last Dirge"? Moody and atmospheric, for sure.

Video for "Limbs and Leaves":

Video for "Misery Train":

This album is due out March 20 on Team Love Records. The band consists of J.J. Idt - Guitar, Nate Mickish - Guitar, Mike Overfield - Bass, Keys, Roger L. Lewis - Drums, Jenna Morrison - Vocals, and Patrick Newbery - Synth, Keys. This is a terrific record, very well put together and sequenced. I'm impressed with the talent, chops and especially the power of this band.

They're going on tour with Cursive and Cymbals Eat Guitars starting in March. Check their website or Facebook for more information.

You can preorder the record at Team Love Shop.

Get to Know: You Won't

You Won't are Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri from Cambridge, Massachusetts. They play clean, simple and charming music. There is a folk music base, but a bit too much pop is going on to be classified as folk. Given its lo-fi approach, I guess it most reminds me of some of the great 60s folk-rock from my past. And I'm happy about that.

The four-track debut, Skeptic Goodbye, will be released on February 14 on Old Flame Records. But you can stream it now here (and on their Bandcamp page):

Twitter ( @YouWontMusic )

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

REVIEW: The Jet Age - Domestic Disturbances

We recently had a big (for Seattle) winter storm, and a number of homes in the region lost power. I was not so unfortunate. But I think that if I had lost electrical service, I could have run most of my appliances off of Domestic Disturbances, the new LP from Washington, DC's The Jet Age. These guys put the power in power trio in all twelve tracks. Sure, you will find melody, hooks, a bit of jangle, and a few gentler lyrics. But the core of this album is big, chunky riffs, booming bass, vocals stretched to almost breaking and a drummer that tempts the listener to think this is a quartet with two guys working the percussion end.

The Jet Age is Eric Tischler (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Pete Nuwayser (drums), and Greg Bennett (bass). Eric wrote Domestic Disturbances as a rock opera around the (imagined) consequences of relationships and conflicts with his spouse and two other women. The result on the thematic level are songs packed with emotional imagery. However, the performances are upbeat and entertaining. Most striking to me is the fluidity of this band. The songs leave plenty of room for each of the instruments, and the vocals, to stand out with complementary, but never competing, contributions from the other components. The result is a sound that is clean honest, with hints of structure from '60s and '70s arena rock without losing intimacy. It is a tough balance, but The Jet Age pulls is off with a swagger.

Domestic Disturbances was released earlier this month on Sonic Boomerang Records. You can buy the album from the Bandcamp link as well.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Psych/Country Rock Discovery: Western Haunts - Utøya EP

Utøya is the EP released by Seattle-based psychedelic country blues rockers Western Haunts in October 2011. I've recently discovered it, like so many good things, via KEXP and if you're not already familiar with these guys, please give this a listen.

I could see them happily sharing a double bill with one of my favorite bands, My Morning Jacket, just based on the sound and pace of this excellent 3-song EP:

Band consists of:

Jake Witt- Guitar, Vocals
Nathan Witt- Drums, Vocals
Michel DeBauge- Keys, Vocals
Nathan Hamlet- Guitar, Vocals
Derrick Wright- Bass

Just a tremendous sound. If you like Neil Young, and you also like Pink Floyd, and music with some soul to it, this will bring to mind some welcome reverberations (yes, I used that word on purpose)...

Here's a video based on one of their earlier songs somebody recently posted on Youtube:

Western Haunts Facebook

REVIEW: Standard Fare - Out of Sight, Out of Town

Packed with hooks and melody, and featuring changes of pace and diversity of emotion, Out of Sight, Out of Town by Sheffield, UK, trio Standard Fare presents a strong case for the band's emergence as an indie pop trio to pay attention to. The girl-boy vocals are stellar, and deservedly command attention throughout. But the musicianship and songwriting stand out as well. Here is one of my favorite tracks, "05 11 07" --

Standard Fare is Emma Kupa (bass and vocals), Danny How (guitars and vocals), and Andy Beswick (drums). Emma and Danny met as teenagers and formed the current band in 2005 after stints in other bands. Andy was recruited from a sibling's band. Their debut album was 2010's Noyelle Beat. A listener completely unfamiliar with the group likely will find some similarities with the energetic, danceable indie pop of Los Campesinos!, but I detect some of the jagged garage northern soul of Orange Juice and the jangle of C86, as well. And while the themes reveal increasing maturity of the band, the music carries the day. It really is a good indie pop album to begin the year.

The delightful opening track, "Look for Lust" --

Out of Sight, Out of Town is out today on the Melodic label.

"Call me up" --

Twitter ( @noyellebeat )
Standard Fare on last.fm

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Few Notes on Torche

The last time Miami's anthem-doom heavyweights Torche gave us a full album was 2008's groundbreaking Meanderthal, but word is they're about to hit us with another, from Volcom Entertainment, sometime around April. That's not to suggest they're a bunch of layabouts. The band -- Steve Brooks (guitar/vocals), Jonathan Nunez (bass) and Rick Smith (drums) -- created quite a stir with their 2010 EP Songs for Singles, ingratiating themselves with crowds and critics alike by imparting genuine metal-neck headaches whilst remaining thoroughly regular guys.

And then there's the matter of their musical influences, as observed by Pitchfork's Tom Breihan in his review of Songs for Singles: "The band take as many cues from ragged 1990s indie as they do from bongwater-dripping 70s crunch-rock, and you can hear echoes of Guided By Voices and Superchunk reverberating around in there."

Surely, you are thinking, this must be the typical Pitchfork practice of projecting their view of the music world onto some unsuspecting band -- and in the process totally snuffing their metal cred. And you would be absolutely right were it not for the fact less than a year later, Torche's three songs on their 2011 split 12" with English grinders Part Chimp were all Guided By Voices covers! Well done, Tom Breihan, well done.

Oh, and we're not talking about covering "Teenage FBI" here -- these are, as they say on the satellite radio, deep tracks. A few months ago I posted a live video of Torche playing "Exit Flagger" from the EP, and here are the studio versions of the other two, "Postal Blowfish" and "Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy."

Word also has emerged that the indispensible heavy music mag Decibel will feature a couple of unreleased Torche songs in its March issue as part of its Flexi Series. The songs are great, but even better is the fact that these little pull-out records are going to be worth meeeeellllions on Ebay in 50 or 60 years, mark my words.

You can check out the songs on Soundcloud below, and order the issue of Decibel here.

I saw them on tour with High on Fire and Kylesa a couple of years ago, and they're a ferocious live act. Be sure to catch them when they hit the road in March with two of Raleigh's legends, Corrosion of Conformity and Valient Thorr. Check here to see if they're coming to your town.

Get to Know: Obedient Wives Club

I left off my indie pop posting last week with the great noise pop of Strawberry Whiplash. And I begin this week with another exciting noise pop band that I discovered through Strawberry Whiplash. Please get to know Singapore's Obedient Wives Club. The idea here simply is to take the Phil Spector girl-group sound and present it through a modern noise pop filter. It isn't a unique idea, as we have many favorite bands playing their version of the sound, including Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, Frankie Rose and the Outs. But the point is the quality of the product. In this case, we have excellent, and sufficiently muscular guitar from Keith Tan, and a highly competent rhythm section in Mak and Supian. And front and center, we have vocalist YinQi Lee who possesses a voice that, in the words of the band, you want to make love to.

But I suspect you will agree that I've written enough of an introduction. Help yourself to the aural pleasure of the self-titled 5-track EP from Obedient Wives Club. Here is the first track, "That Boy".

You can stream the entire EP here:

Twitter ( @obedientwives )

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pop/Punk Update: New Cassettes - Winterhead, out March 6

New Cassettes are a Northhampton rock band that, to my ears, are working in the place where The Foo Fighters might meet up with Franz Ferdinand. It's heavy on two of the P's - pop and punk. I've always felt that to do this kind of music well, a good drummer is essential and they've got a good one. Band consists of Dan Battison (bass), Nik Gray (guitar/vocals), Tom Stubbs (vocals), Tommy Francis (drums/vocals) and Owen Reed (guitar/vocals).

We featured their EP, Silent Guns, here back in the fall. Here's a video for the song "Bite Your Lip":

Winterhead will be out March 6, but you can check out some of the music now and learn more at these sites:

New Cassettes on Facebook

New Cassettes Website

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Video from The Honey Pies

My current favorite Australian band is the talented and fun-loving The Honey Pies. We profiled them earlier in 2011, and showed our love for their late 2011 LP, Carpe Carp, here. The gang has just released a video for the track "Henny Penny" from that album. It finds them goofing on Adelaide's mall street preachers (which apparently are famous in that corner of the world). It is a fine song, so enjoy.

The Honey Pies, HENNY PENNY from Laneway Pictures on Vimeo.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Soul Corner - Etta James 1938 - 2012

It is odd that I mentioned Etta James in the Soul Corner piece I wrote last night and posted this morning about Johnny Otis, then learn that she passed away today.

While her death was expected, it's a big loss. She is truly an American legend. It's hard to imagine that kind of presence, that true R&B queen, coming along again given the changes in culture and the music industry. It's a sad day for soul music.

Here are a few examples of her strong and true vocal style and monster talent.

It doesn't get more soulful than "I'd Rather Go Blind":

"I Just Want To Make Love to You", what a vocal!:

And we'll finish with a terrific 1989 live version of her 1968 signature song "Tell Mama":

Rest in peace, Etta James and thank you for being a guiding light for American music.

The Soul Corner - Johnny Otis, 1921-2012

Johnny Otis died this week. Otis was the son of Greek immigrants but self-identified as an African American, and became a major R&B pioneer as a performer, songwriter, producer, record label owner and talent scout (he discovered Etta James among many others). He worked in politics, hosted a music TV show in LA, had a longtime R&B radio program in LA, wrote books and was the father of R&B guitarist Shuggie Otis. And he did quite a bit more.
It's a fascinating story and you should read about Johnny Otis here:

Let's celebrate his remarkable life with his signature song "Willie and the Hand Jive" and this vintage TV performance:

Johnny Otis' official web page is well worth a visit: http://www.johnnyotisworld.com/

Get to Know: Strawberry Whiplash

As regular readers know, I'm very much drawn to jangly guitar pop. In one of my early 2011 posts, I profiled Bubblegum Lemonade, the project of Glasgow musician Laz (Lawrence) McCluskey. Last summer I learned that Laz also belongs to a duo called Strawberry Whiplash with a vocalist named Sandra. Laz and Sandra have released a few fine noise pop recordings over the past several year. However, they are on our radar today because they are about to release a new three-track single on California label Matinee Recordings. Here is title track "Stop, Look and Listen" --
Stop, Look And Listen by Strawberry Whiplash

I should point out for those unfamiliar with Laz's Bubblegum Lemonade output, that there is nothing wrong with Laz's vocals. However, I think that joining with Sandra allows Laz to focus on on the fuzz, reverb and jangle that he does so well, and takes the music up a level.

Also on the recent recording, "Luck Is The Residue Of Design" and "In the Blink of an Eye" --
Luck Is The Residue Of Design by Strawberry Whiplash

In The Blink Of An Eye by Strawberry Whiplash

Twitter ( @StrawberryView )
Matinee Recordings

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So what's going on in Richmond?

Well, a hell of a lot, that's what. Richmond is a great music town, and if you're a punk rock fan, well, like I said, it's a great music town. Here are a couple of bands that prove the point.

Iron Reagan is a supergroup of sorts, featuring members of the excellent Richmond hardcore crossover band Municipal Waste and DC's Darkest Hour. Earlier this week they put up a 4 song, 5 minute long EP on Bandcamp. True to their name, these songs will take you back to some of the best 80s hardcore, including the best iteration of Suicidal Tendencies and the Cro-mags. It's available for download at the super-low price of whatever you want to pay -- but you ought to throw 'em a few simoleons. This is very tight musically -- just top-shelf stuff.

I came across The Haverchucks months ago, and am remiss in not mentioning them until now. They've got more of a pop vibe to their sound, but they're still loud as hell. They released a terrific 5 song EP at the end of last May with buzzsaw guitars and excellent vocals. It's on their Bandcamp site for that magical price of something/anything/ornothing. I'm partial to the more abrasive tunes, but the third track, "I Won't Try", might be the greatest song the Ramones never wrote.

Update: new video/single from Lisa Hannigan

It's cold, dark, dreary and very wet here in Portland Oregon. But we are lifted up this morning, grinning from ear to ear, with the release of this wonderful new video from our beloved Irish lass, Lisa Hannigan. One of our favorite songs from her stunning CD Passenger.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour

The Birthday Suit is a self-described side project of Rod Jones of Idlewild, and he's brought along a lot of what's great about Idlewild... and added a female vocalist, Jacqueline Irvine, to help with some harmonies. Big rock guitar riffs and overwhelming harmonies abound.

Here's "Do You Ever":

The Birthday Suit - Do You Ever? by abadgeoffriendship

Check out the guitar intro and the lush choruses throughout the second track, "Hope Me Home":

This song goes big, not only in the guitars but the bass, pounding drumbeats and the harmony vocals as they repeat the chorus over and over. It's a pretty familiar formula, but makes for good listening when done right. "They Say I Love You" is a ballad which starts out with pretty sparse instrumentation but builds throughout with strings, guitar and again, those strong harmony vocals. "On My Own" is pretty much what you'd expect from an Idlewild side project - fast, big guitar sounds, propulsive drumming and plaintive vocals.

I love the guitar tone on this record, and there's also a bit of country rock sound here and there... check out track 6, "Are You Ok?", for one example. The record ends on a very pretty note, a country rock ballad with nicely played piano and male/female vocals. Jones leads the first half, and Irvine leads the second half, and she's got a really nice voice. Pretty unexpected, and nicely-played.

They're going on tour in the UK soon:

February Tour 2012

Friday 10th - Legends Rock Club, Newcastle
Friday 17th - Coast, Arbroath
Saturday 18th - Tunnels, Aberdeen
Sunday 19th - King Tut's, Glasgow
Friday 24th - The Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
Sunday 26th - The End, Birmingham
Monday 27th - The Garage, London
Tuesday 28th - Fibbers, York
Wednesday 29th - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

We never get tired of excellent Scottish rock. You ought to know that about us by now.

The Birthday Suit Website

The Birthday Suit at A Badge of Friendship

New Single from Cursive: "The Sun And The Moon", off I Am Gemini, out Feb. 7 and 21

Omaha indie rockers Cursive will have a new record, I Am Gemini, out February 7. Here's the first single, "The Sun And The Moon", a hard-driving rock song. Cursive is singer/songwriter Tim Kasher (vocals, guitar), Matt Maginn (bass), Ted Stevens (guitar, vocals), Patrick Newbery (keys) and Cully Symington (drums). When I have a chance to listen, you may be able to read more about it here. In the meantime, enjoy this as a preview of the upcoming record, and tour.

Read more, find tour dates, or pre-order at Cursive's website or the Saddle Creek Records online store.

On tour with Cursive will be another Omaha band, the more "shoegaze" inclined Conduits. More on them later (hint, they're excellent).

REVIEW: Former Bullies - Golden Chains

I'm being completely honest when I tell you that if I'd heard the 15 tracks of crunchy, jangly, 60s-style garage, psyche rock that comprise Golden Chains, it would have been in my top 20 albums of the year. I didn't, so it wasn't. But that doesn't mean that I can't set the record right by highlighting the album now. Here are the video version and the Soundcloud version of the title track --

Former Bullies - Golden Chains by CF Records

Former Bullies are a Manchester group that has been in existence since 2003. Apparently, there have been a lot of line-up changes, but the constants are Nick Ainsworth (guitar and vocals) and Tom Settle (drums). The current bassist is Matthew Taylor. The music has a relaxed, lo-fi vibe. But listening to the tracks, you get the sense that these guys know exactly what they want to deliver, and how to deliver it. This is the complete package of garage psych, bursting with melody and fuzz. I couldn't find a track on the album that I didn't like and didn't want to repeat.

"Black Cloud"

Former Bullies - Black Cloud by CF Records

"Waiting for You"

Now, here is the bad, or good (if you are a vinyl collector), news about sourcing Golden Chains. It is available in vinyl (if you like, MP3s can be purchased) and is super limited to 250 records. Apparently it isn't available in CD or from on-line services. The label is CF Records, and the link for purchase is here. The label seems like nice people. Maybe if everyone demands that they make and ship a load of CDs, they'll do it.

Twitter ( @formerbullies )

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

REVIEW: The Babies - Cry Along With the Babies EP

As I've written before, I have a fondness for indie music with a genuine DIY feel to it. Probably prime examples are local icons Beat Happening and the beloved Glasgow bands, The Vaselines and The Pastels. So I was quite happy to explore the new EP of demos, Cry Along With the Babies, by Brooklyn band The Babies. The six tracks, amounting to twenty minutes of music, reveal a band working on ideas, taking risks, and learning what they can do well. While a few of the tracks were re-recorded and re-worked to appear on other recordings, the versions on this EP remain in their raw and vulnerable form.

The first song is "Big Mercedes", a charming acoustic song that would fit proudly in a K Records compilation. "Trouble" features probably my favorite guitar accompaniment of the album, and may be my favorite song of the set at this point.

The Babies - Trouble by New Images

"My Tears" takes the set back to the acoustic side, and serves as a sweet 1:37 bridge to the aching Americana of "More Stage". "Hey Mama" features an catchy blues riff over a shimmering pseudo bass rhythm, and is "number 2 with a bullet" for me on this album. "That Boy" closes the album out on an appealing electro-folk note.

This album is what I call a grower. At first listen, the reaction is "nice". Second time through it is "I really enjoyed that". Third time through you start noticing delightful little details you missed in earlier sessions. It is a heady mix of Americana and dusty, trip-worn DIY, and we all want more if it.

The Babies are Kevin Morby (also in Woods), Cassie Ramone (also in Vivian Girls), Justin Sullivan, and Brian Schleyer. Their prior releases include the 7" Meet Me in the City on Make a Mess Records, All Things Come to Pass on Wild World, a self-titled album on Shrimper, the 7" Here Comes Trouble on Teenage Teardrops, and a cassette entitled Live at the Smell on Kill/Hurt. Cry Along With the Babies is released on New York label New Images, which is run by Matt Mondanile of Real Estate and Ducktails. The connection goes a bit deeper as The Babies are touring this month with Real Estate.

New Images

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Video from The Bats for "Spacejunk"

"Spacejunk" is one of the many wonderful songs on the 2011 LP from The Bats, Free All the Monsters (WYMA review for the album here). Since I liked the album well enough to rate in my # 1 for the year (see list), I'm always happy to have another opportunity to plug it. Yesterday, when I checked my messages after my birthday party (yes, dear readers, I am very old), John had sent me a message alerting me to the new video for "Spacejunk". The song is great, and the video is the interesting result of filming a live performance with five simultaneous cameras. Enjoy.


Twitter ( @theBatsNZ )
Flying Nun Records

Free EP from King Post Kitsch

King Post Kitsch, the recording name for Charlie Ward, released an album last year (review here) that I rated # 11 on my year end list. His majesty has just released the three song EP which he is offering for the introductory low, low price of 0 (in dollars, Euros, pounds, yen, marks or whatever). If you somehow missed The Party's Over, or one of the other EPs from KPK that I promoted here last year, this is a good way to start your collection.

The three tracks well illustrate why it is difficult to categorize Charlie's music. The title track, "Nocturnal Wandering", is an appealing instrumental. Track #2, "They Make the Same Faces Whether Fuck or Fight" is a rousing punk stomper. The final song, "Movies and Magazines" closes the proceedings in graceful folk fashion.

And there you are, six minutes of quality pop music at a price even you (yes, you) can afford. And if you don't like it, Charlie will refund your purchase price.

Charlie is a Glasgow native, but he works in London as a sound engineer.

Twitter ( @KingPostKitsch )

Honoring MLK Jr. Day with his favorite song

Music played a key role in the freedom movement. And the great Mavis Staples and her family were right in the thick of it.

Linked here is a clip of Mavis talking about the first time she saw Dr. King in person (the second clip in the box below "Meeting MLK"):

Here's a tremendous live recording of "Why Am I Treated So Bad", the song that Mavis says was Dr. King's favorite. In addition to everything else the great man accomplished, looks like he had good taste in music as well:

Mavis Staples web page: http://www.mavisstaples.com/

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Update - new video from And The Giraffe

Discovered these guys last year - a Tennessee/Florida duo (Nick Roberts and Josh Morris) making languid pop music with some nice guitar lines and hushed vocals. Here's a video they made for "Underground Love" which was my favorite track:

You can still download this record "name your price" at their Bandcamp site:

Update: Blitzen Trapper - new video and tour

I'm still not sure how Blitzen Trapper's fine 2011 CD American Goldwing did not make my top 20 list. I should have been like Rocksteady and just picked more CDs! It's a terrific record from a band on the way up, working very hard and getting even better every time I see them.

Here's their latest video, "Takin' It Easy Too Long", one of my favorite songs on American Goldwing, more gentle than most of their stuff, very pretty.

Blitzen Trapper has also announced a March tour across the Western US with WYMA favorites the Parson Red Heads. Both bands are excellent live performers, and this is not to be missed. Make your plans now.
March 4 – Arcata, Calif. @ Humboldt Brews
March 5 – Sacramento, Calif. @ Harlow’s
March 6 – Visalia, Calif. @ The Cellar Door
March 7 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Troubadour
March 9 – Santa Barbara, Calif. @ SOhO Restaurant and Music Club
March 10 – Long Beach, Calif. @ Alex’s Bar
March 11 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ The Crescent Ballroom
March 12 – Tucson, Ariz. @ Club Congress
March 14-17 - Austin, Texas @ SXSW
March 19 - Albuquerque, N.M. @ Launchpad
March 20 - Telluride, Co. @ Sheridan Opera House
March 22 - Salt Lake City, Utah @ The State Room
March 23 - Boise, Idaho @ Neurolux (Treefort Music Festival)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Midnight World Pop Scout: First Aid Kit; Hhappiness

Because it's always midnight somewhere....

Tonight we have two groups from Sweden who have a discernible American feel to their music

Johanna and Klara Söderberg, sisters from Stockholm, comprise First Aid Kit. However, if you didn't know they were from Sweden, you'd guess--just based on the sound--that they were from the southern United States. And to my ears, the sound isn't a glossy Scandinavian cover of the Americana/country genre, but an authentic and warm presentation of our roots music. And I'll admit to a fondness for bands that list snowball fights as a band interest.

Johanna and Klara released The Big Black & the Blue in 2010, and now they are releasing The Lion's Roar. Here is the title track --

The same track on Soundcloud, if you prefer--
First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar by Wichita Recordings

Even if I weren't convinced to like this group before, finding a song about Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons sells the deal quite nicely.

Blogfather John Hyland advised me that First Aid Kit released a this single on Jack White's Third Man Records.

My understanding is that the albums and one or more singles are available on Amazon and iTunes.

"Ghost Town" is a single from First Aid Kit's debut LP--

Twitter ( @FirstAidKitBand )

Hhappiness is an lo-fi, experimental pop rock group from Stockholm--so experimental that they even have an extra "h" in their name. The group was formed three years ago but they are just now releasing their debut recording, the three-track bananas EP, on the French label, Almost Musique. The track here, "All Kinds of Trouble" seems to me to be a Swedish-Americana stomp. I know that may sound weird, but it actually is a nice track.
hhappiness - all kinds of trouble by AlmostMusique

"Bananas" --

Almost Musique

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Sounds of Scotland: Laurence and the Slab Boys

Alright, I'll admit that a key factor in my decision to check out the music of Laurence and the Slab Boys was the name. Another factor was commentary by persons whose musical opinion I value. But neither of those factors would have been enough to result in a profile here. As always, it comes down to the music. Try "Space Dream #2" --
Space Dream #2 by Laurence and the SlabBoys

Laurence and the Slab Boys consists of Larry Reid, Josh Brady, Matt Smithson and Lee Walsh. They are based in Glasgow, although Reid spends his time shuttling between Glasgow and Berlin, where he DJs. They describe their music as a noisy form of dream-pop and "post-apocalyptic folk". I don't have any problem with those descriptions, but I will point out that there is a very dance-oriented aspect to the demos to which I've listened. I'll also note that the band seems to eschew loops, laptops and other technical wizardry, and just relies on its core instruments and Larry's voice to paint the picture. What a concept!

"Ballroom Killer"
Ballroom Killer by Laurence and the SlabBoys

Larry has advised me that the group is assembling an album, so I'll leave more detailed discussion of the music to a proper review of the album. However, I wanted our readers to get a chance to listen to a few tracks and, I hope, look forward to the album.

"Chinese Burns"
Chinese Burns by Laurence and the SlabBoys

Twitter ( @TheSlabBoys )

The Soul Corner - "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down"

There are two triggers for this as today's choice.
I took a clumsy spill and hurt my head the other day. Feeling good now though. So the joke's on me here. From the great Sam and Dave:

And I learned about the original version by Sam and Dave from the supercharged cover by Elvis Costello on his 1980 rock'n'soul masterpiece Get Happy!. This video is a fantastic period piece. Whether this video was tongue in cheek as I assume, or not, I love everything about it:

Which brings me to my second trigger -- Important note to our Portland readers:
Tickets to the Elvis Costello singing songbook show at the Schnitzer Theater go on sale today. If you have seen him before, I know you'll be there. If you haven't, now's your chance. Not many better performers out there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

REVIEW: Various Artists - Where Is Parker Griggs?, Compilation from Alive/Naturalsound Records,out this week...

Radio Moscow's The Great Escape Of Leslie Magnafuzz was one of the coolest things I heard in 2011 - Parker Griggs' crazy hard rock guitar is terrific.

Apparently the 2011 incarnation of Radio Moscow disintegrated onstage just the other night, with Parker Griggs being taken to the hospital to sew up his head after he and his drummer threw an electric guitar back and forth in anger. With a new rhythm section, Griggs is continuing the tour. Your guess as to how long this incarnation will last - judging by the comments on the YouTube video of the incident, Griggs ain't the easiest guy to work with.

Radio Moscow is on the label Alive/Naturalsound Records, from which came some of our favorite discoveries of 2011... and they just keep coming. Here's a previously unreleased Radio Moscow track "The Stranger":

RADIO MOSCOW "The Stranger" by Pavement PR

Here's a previously unreleased track from labelmates Lee Bains III And The Glory Fires - which is available on the Alive/Naturalsound label compilation Where Is Parker Griggs? A full length from Bains is due out in April - more on that when we get to hear it, but hopes are high.

LEE BAINS III & The Glory Fires - Everything That You Took by Pavement PR

Pretty good soul music-- and on this label (and compilation) are acts ranging from heavy rockers Radio Moscow, Welsh blues punk duo Henry's Funeral Shoe, Detroit punk rockers Gardens, and California punk screamers The Bloody Hollies (all reviewed on WYMA in 2011), not to mention Bains, the retro- Crazy Horse-meets-Jack Bruce stylings of The Buffalo Killers, Texas garage/beach/soul from Hacienda, and the Howling Wolf-inspired stomp and growl of The Black Diamond Heavies. Enough variety and quality to keep you tapping your feet, shaking your butt and/or banging your head for days... really. Most of the tracks on this compilation are exclusive to this record, but give a good sense of the various artists' body of work.

This is a terrific compilation. I am mighty impressed with the quality of every band I've heard on here, and everything we've gotten from Patrick Boissel's label. Going back a ways, it was the original label for the Black Keys (The Big Come-Up) and the first time I heard of it was fellow WYMABlogger Hardy's ardent recommendation for the Bloody Hollies.

Alive/Naturalsound Homepage

REVIEW: Raw Feels - Raw Feels

Some towns are known for music (such as Memphis, Detroit, Austin, Seattle). And often towns that are recognized on a music map are known for a specific style of music. Lately, Fredericksburg, Virginia is becoming known for its emerging shoegaze scene. A few years ago my attention was drawn to Skywave, which produced a dense, heavy, but melodic sound. That band transitioned into Ceremony, which we profiled in 2011. The new kids on the Fredericksburg block are the trio Raw Feels, who have just released their seven-track debut, Raw Feels on Bad Friend Records.

Raw Feels' sound boasts a guitar-focused sound that may remind the listener of My Bloody Valentine, or of Skywave or Ceremony, and probably is best described as post-punk, shoegaze or space rock. Here is standout album track "Isolation" --
Raw Feels - Isolation by BadFriendRecords

If you prefer, here is the track on Bandcamp:

While there is variety among the tracks on Raw Feels, the constants are the deadpan vocal delivery and commitment to a dense soundscape of distorted guitar. While the band is not equal to Ceremony at this point in time, it is a welcome and promising addition to the scene for those of us who appreciate this genre.

"Much More" is one of the more accessible tracks on the album:

The songs on the album were written by frontman Ben Wood, or by Ben and guitarist Chris Carr, and recorded by Ben Wood, Chris Carr, and John Fedowitz of Ceremony and Skywave (in John's basement). John also produced the album. Making it a musical family affair, Ben also plays drums for Ceremony, and Chris plays bass for Ceremony. And mentioned only because it is a cool name, one of Ben's former bands was called Carlos, I'm Pregnant

And here is a live performance of the track "Raw Feels" captured at The Dunes in Washington, D.C. --

Twitter ( @RawFeels )

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Pop/Punk Discovery: The Pharmacy: "Dig Your Grave" EP due out Feb 3

The Pharmacy are a New Orleans-by way of Seattle pop/punk band with a keyboard out front (Farfisa, almost) and a singer who sounds like a pretty upbeat Richard Hell.

Intrigued? Check out:

And here's a recent video "What Are You Doing With Your Life" or "WAYDWYL" (your choice):

They're headed out on a long tour soon, with a full length album to be released later this year.

The Pharmacy on Facebook

EP will be out Feb 3, full album expected sometime after that.

Get to Know: Mondrian

Intelligent pop, with hooks, melody and careful craftsmanship characterize the music of France's Mondrian. The group was formed in 2007, and released an EPs in 2010 and 2011. To begin 2012, they have released a new album entitled The Flood of Kool. And the first single, "Paris", is available for free download:

If that little taste is interesting, and I certainly think it is, you can stream the entire album here:

The two constant members of Mondrian are Roman Oswald and Morning Crash, and they are listed as the songwriters for the band. It appears that other performers contribute from time to time.

While the principal reason for writing about the band today is to alert our readers to The Flood of Kool, we would be doing a disservice if we were not to include a couple of the videos inspired by songs on the band's first release.

Here is the funny, and a bit shocking, "Last Breakfast on Planet Surf"--

Mondrian - Last Breakfast On Planet Surf from NYSUfilms on Vimeo.

In "Beware! The Killer!", we are reminded of the dangers of love and lies--

Mondrian - Beware! The Killer! from NYSUfilms on Vimeo.

Twitter ( @popmondrian )