Wednesday, February 29, 2012
My favorite song of 2012:
"Temple Beautiful" is the title track to Chuck Prophet's personal history in San Francisco. Songs include "Castro Halloween" and "Willie Mays is Up To Bat" and a host of other San Francisco memories. But most importantly, this CD rocks from start to finish, with equal parts glam and garage, pure unabashed rock'n'roll swagger that recalls Lou Reed's homages to NYC.
Dig the jangle'n'roll of "Castro Halloween":
Here's a video for "White Night, Big City" some twang'n'roll about the 1978 murders of Commissioner Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone:
Temple Beautiful, Prophet's 12th release, gets back to guitar basics and foregoes the tape loops and sampling that found their way into some of Prophet's previous, more experimental CDs. And make no mistake about it, Prophet's Fender Telecaster delivers.
Prophet gets bonus points for as a young gun being a member of the criminally underrated Green on Red, one of my favorite live bands ever.
Let's keep it simple here: Temple Beautiful is a great rock'n'roll record and you should go get it.
Artist web page: http://chuckprophet.com/
No, I hadn't forgotten my pledge to cover 7" and EP recordings this year, but I was a little light in that area for a few weeks while I covered recent albums that I liked. Today, we're back in the realm of 7" releases. Specifically, the HoZac Records release of Double Vision by Teledrom. This 7" is five tracks of Joy Division like rhythms and baritone vocals embellished with icy, chillwave synths. Its not quite goth, not quite buzzsaw pop, but it creates a great groove right down the middle. Teledrome is the project of Calgary, Canada's Ryan Sadler, although I expect additional hands join in for live performances.
The songs on this album are well-crafted, with plenty of hooks to embellish the atmosphere. And Sadler understands that a good pop song gets your attention, makes its statement and finishes--the five tracks have a total run time of fewer than nine minutes. Here is track four, "Replacements" --
You can listen to additional tracks from Double Vision at the Bandcamp link below.
Teledrome page at HoZac Records
Monday, February 27, 2012
Sad Face is a Seattle band playing real good rock music that alternates between the moody sounds of, say, Low and the more rocking, rollicking pace of, say, The Pixies. It's all pretty heavy and very well-played. Those are good influences to be sure, and I'm not just throwing them out there. These guys are talented - they're getting some notice on KEXP (which is where I first heard them) and their notoriety is growing beyond their homebase in the Pacific Northwest. Back in November I got to hear and really enjoy their 2011 album Gosh Darn! - review here.
They've got a release show scheduled for March 3 at The High Dive in Seattle.
Free download of "Red Chair" from the EP here:
And here's a relatively recent video of a live performance of "Sapphire Noise" from Gosh Darn!
It is useful from time to time to reflect on why we do this. As a music fans, why do we write about music? Sure, there are the obvious financial and ancillary rewards incident to contributing award winning content  to a blog read by thousands each day [statistics withheld on trade secrets grounds]. But the reasons go deeper than that. Quite simply, I continually find groups whose voices, in my opinion, deserve greater exposure. Since there is more music than any of us can find on our own, I want to give people a chance to hear what I hear. Today's ground zero for my mission is San Francisco's The Mallard. This trio plays their own brand of surfy, rootsy, tribal garage rock, and I get the feeling that they wouldn't change their approach to please anyone else (and three cheers for that!).
The Mallard has, at times, been Greer McGettrick's solo project, but it currently features Greer, Dylan Tidyman-Jones (drums) and Dylan Edrich (bass/guitar). They've featured on these pages last October and again this January. They are here again because they released their debut LP, Yes On Blood, last Tuesday on John Dwyer's (Thee Oh Sees) Castle Face Records. These former Fresno residents provide lots of guitar -- with plenty of feedback and delicious surf and 60s riffs -- a rubbery bass that isn't shy about leading the melody from time to time, and tribal drumming driving the train down the tracks. The female vocals sing verse and chorus, but sometimes just provide another percussive instrument. It is music that is fresh, unpredictable and utterly without artifice. Here is the delightfully (and in my case, accurately named) "I listen to Lyrics Last". If you were filming a '60s surf noir movie, this would be a must for your soundtrack.
My current favorite song on Yes On Blood is "Fog". It has an irresistible bass groove and showcases all that makes this band exciting. Greer has posted it so we can share it with you, and she generously made it available for download.
Take album track "Vines" for a spin. The beginning sounds like a Beat Happening song, but then transforms into a feedback drenched garage piece.
And for fun, here is a live version of another favorite of mine, "Mansion". It was filmed at the Columbia Theatre in Seattle in 2011.
From the '60s-spy-thriller "Intro" to the final note of the 11th track, Yes On Blood delivers one of the most captivating, expectation-warping musical rides you are going to find in this genre. I think that if 60s proto-punks (and Rocksteady74 favorites) The Monks, had envisioned having musical children, those children would be The Mallard. So, if you like surfy garage rock, this album should be the new number 1 on your shopping list. Number 2 on your list should be "don't forget to get number 1".
Castle Face Records
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Sourpatch is a California band, playing catchy punk rock... their new album Stagger and Fade (their second in two years) is due out this week. It's just terrific, very reminiscent of vintage Sonic Youth but with a little more guitar feedback... I like the vocals, the guitars and especially the rhythm section. I like the way the drums and bass set the frenetic punk pace for this music.
Here's a new video - "Things You Say" from Stagger and Fade:
Tell me that doesn't kick some pop/punk ass. Here is a free download of first single "Cynthia Ann" - it's a good representation of their sound.
Check out more at their website.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
New video for the title cut, "Coyote And Mule":
Richard's description of the video:
The idea was lifted from a sequence in the movie version of The Wall by Pink Floyd. My favorite part of that movie has always been the part when "pink" trashes his hotel room then organizes all the trash. We took that idea aesthetically and added a kind of perpetual build and destroy theme to the concept that relates to the subject of the song. All relationships are a series of building and destroying and rebuilding.
Twitter ( @TERRYMALTSHUH )
Friday, February 24, 2012
Sometimes talent takes a while to find its way and be recognized. Seattle singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Dobson had a major label contract when she was 18. But her two records with Atlantic didn't get traction, and she was on her own again. Given her talents, she has kept more than busy--she toured with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs playing keyboard and bass, and she plays guitar in Beck's touring band. She also is a guitarist for the Shins. However, she again is the front woman, this time for Deep Sea Diver. Begun in 2007 as a solo project, it now is a three-piece consisting of Dobson, her husband, Peter Mansen (drums), and John Raines (bass). Until now, the only recorded output of which I'm aware was a 2009 EP. Today Deep Sea Diver self-releases their debut LP, History Speaks, and if there is justice in the music world, the buzz will begin.
The nine tracks on History Speaks showcase the band' ability to produce both dense, melodic, up-tempo post-punk pop, and ballads with teeth. In terms of vocal delivery and instrumentation, the listener will note favorable similarities with PJ Harvey. The album showcases Dobson's excellent voice, as well as her work on the keys and guitar. But the rhythm section is a tight supporting unit, providing meaty grooves or gentle foundations as the song requires.
Here is the standout single, "You Go Running", which I believe is available for downloading. Dobson displays her guitar chops on this one.
Fine local blog, Sound on Sound, recorded the band playing two album track, "NWO" and "You Go Running", and posted the video on Vimeo. We thank our blogging brothers for their work. Enjoy a mini concert courtesy of Sound on Sound:
In my view, History Speaks is an impressive debut from a promising band. Download "You Go Running" and consider giving them some support. If you like "You Go Running", visit their Bandcamp site below for digital downloads. And in any case, make a note of them. I'm confident they'll be on our radar again.
Twitter ( @deepseadiverbnd )
Liminal Phase is a Minneapolis band that plays with song structure and plays muscular rock, space jams, afrobeat rhythms and psychedelic, Zappa-style freakouts over the course of this album - sometimes in the same song. This strikes me as the type of record that musicians will really like, but if you are just a fan of well-played music with a variety of sounds and influences, you'll do yourself a favor to check out Adam Levy's band. Adam's better known as the leader of the Honeydogs, and this is clearly an outlet for his freakier impulses.
The record starts out with "Fanfare", which leads into an extended jam "Quantum Entanglement", then "And The Robots Made Love" (there will be a later song snippet called "And the Robots Made God" - yes, Electric Ladyland would certainly appear to be an artistic touchpoint). Then comes what, to me, is the album's highlight - a Fela-inspired "Mugabe's Blues".
Here they are performing "Quantum Entanglement" live in studio at The Current, on Minnesota Public Radio:
The Current is where I first heard Liminal Phase - on their song of the day podcast. Listen here:
Here's a video from 2009 - they're performing "Where's The Celery? (A Problem of Pattern Recognition":
You can stream the record at Spotify or Rhapsody, or read more about Liminal Phase at their website or their Facebook Page.
The record came out in November on Simon Recordings, but I just discovered it in January... better late than never.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
If you asked many of the current noise pop bands to name significant influences, you would expect to see the Black Tambourine at or near the top of the list. Fortunately for fans of the genre, the band has emerged from their retirement to perform again. They also have recorded a double 7", and downloadable EP, of Ramones covers entitled OneTwoThreeFour. While we have to wait until May for Slumberland Records to release the album, we don't have to wait to enjoy the track "What's Your Game". In this slowed-down, feedback-heavy version of the Ramones' song, Pam Berry's lead vocals are supplemented by an all star backing band of The 'Rinettes -- Linda Smith, Rose Melberg (Tiger Trap and others), Dee Dee (Dum Dum Girls) and Jenny Robbins (Honeymoon Diary). Having Black Tambourine back is enough, but the 'Rinettes give it an extra-special sheen.
So, for now, enjoy this song. We promise to be back with more when the album is released.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I must confess that it is a bit of a stretch to label this a "Get to Know" post, because I really don't know much about Holy Esque. They are a four-piece based in Glasgow, and are unsigned. Their style is a wall of post-punk sound with a core of engaging melody. The distinctive vocals remind me of The Undertones. Here are two of their tracks. A third track can be heard at their Soundcloud page, and is worth checking out.
Their demo for "Prophet of Privilege"
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I trust my own instincts on music, and I would have paid attention to a new album from Frankie Rose even had there been no buzz about it. But I couldn't avoid noticing that many and varied good music heads were tipping Interstellar as one of the releases of the young year. And after thoroughly exploring the album, I'd have to align myself with the mainstream thought this time. Interstellar is a gorgeous album -- vocally, lyrically and musically. It is a new wave-influenced indie pop album that ably manages to be diverse and exciting, while pleasing your ear.
"Know Me", the first single from the album, showcases a big new wave sound --
Frankie Rose - Know Me by Slumberland Records
Brooklyn-based Rose's musical journey to this point is worth noting. She was the drummer for noise pop/shoegazers Vivian Girls, and then spent time with Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls. After a solo single, she formed Frankie Rose and the Outs, which featured Spectoresque wall of sound and girl group vocals (and attracted John's attention for this WYMA post. However, Rose's restless muse has led her in a new direction for this release.
The change in sound from Frankie's other projects is marked. The fuzz and reverb of the past is pushed aside for a sound that is big, and remarkably crisp and clean. There is more space to emphasize the highs and lows. I think the result is a sound that seems more accessible and sensual.
Interstellar is out today on Slumberland Records (an outfit that never seems to put a wrong foot forward). I've learned not to predict in February where an album will rank at the end of the year. But I'd be surprised if I heard many pure pop albums to challenge this one in my mind.
Twitter ( @MissFrankieRose )
Monday, February 20, 2012
OK, listen up -- the answer is Killing Time. The answer to what question, you ask? Well, actually, it is the answer to a number of questions. For the last six weeks or so, what have I been doing in my study for hours? Killing Time. What have I done on weekends instead of yard work? Killing Time. What have I turned to when I just wanted to listen to an album? Killing Time.
Killing Time is the enthralling 34 minutes of chainsaw pop from Terry Malts, released tomorrow by Slumberland Records. What is chainsaw pop? With Terry Malts punk pace, "chainsaw" guitar, aggressive drumming and a bass that is so upfront that you'll look over your shoulder to see if the dude is standing behind you. Why not judge for yourself with opening track, "Something About You" --
Terry Malts is Phil Benson (bass and lead vocals), Corey Cunningham (guitar and vocals), and Nathan Sweatt (drums and vocals). Resident of the Bay Area, they previously released a cassette and two 7" singles. Killing Time, which is out tomorrow on Slumberland Records, is their debut full length. My current favorite track is "No Sir, I'm Not A Christian" --
No Sir, I'm Not A Christian by corey_lee. Uploaded with BandPage by RootMusic
This album has the pace and attitude we crave from a punk pop album, but it is special because of it brings much more to the table. The baritone vocals are superbly delivered, the lyrics manage to be insightful and humorous ("your love make me nauseous") and it overflowing with melody and hooks. It is one of my top three albums of the year so far.
I've enjoyed our time together here, but I've got to go -- it's Killing Time.
Twitter ( @TERRYMALTSHUH )
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Okay, being from Detroit I may be biased, but I firmly believe the MC5 to be the greatest American rock'n'roll band of all time. And very sadly, their extraordinary bass player Michael Davis died today at age 68.
Davis and drummer Dennis Thompson gave the MC5 their skin tight, soul-based Detroit bottom that solidified the crazed dual guitar attack of the great Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith.
The MC5 were avant, aggressive, tuneful, soulful, creative and totally original. They sound as fresh and revolutionary today as they did 40+ years ago.
Davis did some important work in later years, creating Music is Revolution Foundation in 2006, which supports music education in public schools, with the goals of raising public awareness about the ability of music education to increase cognitive ability and test scores, reducing drop-out rates, and inspiring a new generation to develop greater understanding of the world around them and express themselves through music.
Here's The MC5 "Looking at You" live in Detroit in 1970. The section between 1:39-1:49 is as good as it gets.
Here's a well done obituary for Michael Davis:
Michael Davis Obit at Huffington Post
MC5 Band web page - fittingly, "mc5.org"
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Out next week, Kiss Full of Teeth is a terrific, somewhat uncategorizable record by an artist with a lot to say, and no shortage of musically interesting ways to say it. Gabriel And The Hounds is Gabe Levine, the lead singer of Takka Takka (have to admit I was previously unfamiliar with them or him until hearing this record). On this record he's pulled together a pretty large group of musicians, including members of The National (at whose studio he also recorded some of this record). Sure, he's a singer/songwriter and this is a solo record, but there's a lot of rock in here, and layer upon layer of sound.
The first song, "The World Unfolds" is available for free download at Soundcloud - I love the strummed electric guitar and the guileless vocals, but am also entranced by the well-placed strings. I will be accused of hearing Pollard everywhere, but this reminds me of nothing so much as the more "orchestral" GbV - maybe some of the bigger-sounding cuts on Isolation Drills and Earthquake Glue. And if you know me, you know that's a big-time compliment. Another touchpoint? The "Sweet Jane" guitar riff is always a welcome addition.
Here's a short video, for "An Ending (Between Friends)":
It's a little bit brooding, pretty artistic, and yet very grounded in singer/songwriter rock tradition - think Springsteen, Lou Reed, Richard Buckner... Highly recommended for folks who are looking for some new singer/songwriter rock with orchestral touches and an indie rock edge.
Gabriel and the Hounds at Ernest Jenning Record Co.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Back in December, we gave you an early preview of Whiskey Farmer, a gem of a record from a terrific Americana band from Portland, The James Low Western Front. That record will be released on February 21. To get ready for the launch, Low's publicity firm has made this single "I Would Have You" available for listen.
And here's a video for "Thinking California":
Here's our prior review if you missed it.
There is a great deal of positive buzz on Whiskey Farmer as it garners airplay in both the US and Europe. I highly recommend this CD, a great combination of strong songwriting, excellent performances and highly effective vocals.
Upcoming tour dates in Western US:
02.23.12 - Portland, OR @ Al's Den w/Lewi Longmire
02.25.12 - Portland, OR @ Laurelthirst: CD RELEASE w/C. Beck
03.31.12 - Eugene, OR @ Sam Bond's Garage
04.13.12 - Hood River, OR @ Cebu Lounge
04.14.12 - Pendleton, OR @ Great Pacific
James Low web page
Citing the Beat Happening as an influence is a pretty good way to get my attention. But the Detective Agency hits more buttons than the BH influence. They also are a local Seattle Band and have musical similarities with my beloved Shop Assistants. Dear readers, this band is pre-ordained to appear on this page.
The music of Detective Agency is a raucous brew of noise/jangle pop. The band has posted its Daggers EP on Bandcamp, and you can stream the entire EP right here:
Detective Agency is Ulrika Larsson (drums), Amy Tisdale (vocals, guitar, tambourine), Nate Kruz (guitar, vocals), and Gwen Stubbs (bass). At this point, they are unburdened with the obligations of a label contract. As of yesterday, the EP was free on their Bandcamp site, and if it still is, I'd consider that the deal of the week. We're hoping that a full length recording is in the works.
This video is of a live performance in Seattle last November:
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
This year is proving to be a good one for musical surprises. Minneapolis' Poliça wasn't on my list of bands to cover a week ago. But when the album Give You the Ghost hit my inbox, I listened. Then I listened again. And again. The next day KEXP's influential DJ (and former Minneapolis resident) Kevin Cole played a track. While I feel confident about my taste, it is nice to have confirmation.
What is the music of Poliça? It is grounded in post-punk, blues and jazz, but infused with synthesizers and layers of vocal effects. And it features prominent bass and percussion. Try album opener, "Amongster" --
Poliça is a quartet consisting of singer/songwriter Channy Leaneagh (formerly Casselle), Chris Bierden on bass, Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu both on drums. Ryan Olson of Gayngs co-produced Give You the Ghost with Jim Eno of Spoon. Apparently Olson is a behind the scenes composer for the group as well.
"Lay Your Cards Out"
The songs on the album cover a bit of landscape. You may hear a bit of Portishead, Bjork or Flaming Lips. But it all ties together with the emphasis on rhythm and sonic texture, and Casselle's voice. As noted by other writers, she uses Auto-Tune. However, the use of Auto-Tune on this album demonstrates that the device can be used in to enhance, rather than distract from, the listener's enjoyment of the music.
Give You the Ghost is out this week on Totally Gross National Product. It is a promising debut, and we'll look forward to more from Poliça.
Twitter ( @thisispolica )
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
You used to play piano for a living
You stand 6 foot 3 in your heels
And now you're table dancing for a living
And your world has gone to hell
You flew straight into london out of moscow
And now some stupid fuckwit in a puffa jacket
Is throwing money at your feet
You do it for the money, you do it for your family
You do it for the best
You think about the money, you think about your family
And don't think about the rest
Now it's just what you do, another day comes
And you just close your eyes and dance
Everyday's the same now, another day comes
Another day another dance
So let's fall in love and run away from here
So let's fall in love and run away from here
So let's fall in love and we can run away from here
So let's fall in love and run away from here
"Your Valentine Takes Me Back In Time"
Maceo was to headline a tribute to Clarence Clemons on Sunday's Grammy Awards. The tribute was pushed aside to to “honor” Whitney Houston. This birthday provides the opportunity to honor one of the pillars of funk. Here is just a taste of what Maceo did.
A number of classic James Brown concerts are available on the web. At the 2:30 mark, Maceo rips loose on “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag'” from a '67 concert at the Olympia in Paris.
In 1968 at the Boston Garden, Maceo heats up “Cold Sweat” at 3:00.
Prince and Maceo "Make it Funky."
For those that have followed the careers of Sunderland, UK brothers Peter and David Brewis, either in their guise as Field Music or in one of their solo or other collaborative projects, adventuresome, ambitious, well crafted and quirky pop music is expected. And the brothers meet or exceed all those expectations on Plumb, their fourth Field Music album which is released on February 13 in the UK, and February 14 in the US.
This is pop music made with keyboards, guitars, bass, percussion, voice, but that only begins the story. The songs feature several signature changes, music hall flourishes and multiple styles in single tracks. I think that overall the album has an English feel to it. After listening to it a few times I wondered whether this might be how Ray Davies and Robyn Hitchcock might sound if they employed synthesizers rather than guitars.
The fifth track, "A New Town", serves as an introduction to the style of the 15 songs on the album --
"A New Town"
"(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing" is an uptempo song featuring guitars. I sense a bit of glam in this one.
This track is available to download at Field Music's website, which is linked below.
Plumb is released on the Memphis Industries label. This album celebrates creativity, and it feels like it is meant to entertain you. If you like you pop on the adventuresome side, this might be your February choice to explore.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Rickolus is Richard Colado, and if you're not familiar with him and his work, I'm happy to introduce you. Homemade, self-produced (he played everything) and full of sonic variety, Coyote And Mule fits right into the tradition of one-man-band visionaries like Sparklehorse and Badly Drawn Boy. Like those two, Colado's got a genuine pop sensibility and real talent to go along with the wild creativity on display throughout his music. There's a sense in which this reminds me of music from Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and Syd Barrett, and on repeated listens, it's every bit as charming as my favorite music from the latter two.
My favorite song is "Candy Blood", mostly because of the kind of raggedly psychedelic electric guitar work, but everything on this record is well worth checking out. If you're into cassettes, you're in luck here because apparently he's releasing two different cassette versions with different sets of songs. With the variety and talent he's displaying on the songs I've had a chance to listen to, you would be well-served to get both.
Here's a free download of "Candy Blood".
Here's a video of him performing the title cut at a record store appearance:
One more thing - in searching for more of his music, I discovered some performances with a Radical Face. It rang a bell, so I searched our site and found this post from Hardy, posted in April 2011, about Radical Face (Ben Cooper)... two buddies from Jacksonville, Florida, both made it onto our little blog, about 10 months apart. What are the odds? Well, pretty good. Just like their music. Here they are, telling a story and singing a song.
You can listen, pre-order and starting on Tuesday February 14, purchase and download at the Circle Into Square Website.
Melt, the full length debut from Young Magic, probably sounds like nothing else you've heard lately. And I think that's a good thing. Every listener discerns different influences, but to me it sounds like a wonderful mash up of African rhythms, synthesizer dream pop, and trip hop, with a rubbery, elongated bass running through it. Here it standout track "Sparkly", which will serve to lure in all but the most resistant potential listener --
The band is based in Brooklyn, but quite appropriately for a band with such global influences, that is simply the current resting place Isaac Emmanuel and Michael both are from Australia, who traveled around the world separately before ending up in New York. Melati Malay, the other member, is from Indonesia. And the wanderlust not only informs the band's background, but the album itself. There are recordings from ten different countries, and contains samples of music from the band's travels mixed with the programmed percussion and synths; male and female vocals float over the mix.
Track three, "You With Air" --
The production on Melt is lush, and nearly all tracks bring little details to the party that flesh out the sound and distinguish Young Magic from their peers. The album is about textures and related nuances. Even the vocals seem part of the fabric of sound, rather than a separate statement, and are mostly chorus and often have a chant-like quality. But that is and observation, not a criticism; the approach fits the concept well.
"Night In The Ocean" --
If the question is whether there is a current album that is both relaxing and exciting, accessible and somewhat exotic, the answer it Melt. The album is released this week on Carpark Records. The band is touring this spring and will be at SXSW next month.
"Drawing Down the Moon"
Twitter ( @ItsYoungMagic )
Sunday, February 12, 2012
This one has more guitars than the first song "The Sun And The Moon", which we featured earlier. I like it:
Read more, look up tour dates (including dates with Conduits) and pre-order the album here.
Friday, February 10, 2012
And here are a couple of really good live acoustic versions of album cuts "Mickey Mantle":
And "Take Me Out to the Coast", which I think is my favorite track on the record:
WATERS is Van Pierzalowski, and he's currently touring Europe, sharing a bill with Nada Surf. Then he'll be on tour in the US with Delta Spirit later this spring, including an appearance at SXSW. More info available at ThisIsWaters.com.
Brooklyn's Royal Baths emerged from the San Francisco noise/garage scene that has given us Thee Oh Sees, White Fence and other great bands, but they are following a very different muse than their California peers on their second full length, Better Luck Next Life. The more prominent influences for Royal Baths appear to be the Velvet Underground (both musically and lyrically), and maybe Link Wray.
Here is the video for "Faster, Harder", the album's third track --
Royal Baths are focused on the seamy side of life, where drugs, degradation, death and lots of sex are day to day concerns. There is humor, too, but even then the lean is to the darker side. The music matches the lyrics with an enveloping, almost suffocating presence. The guitars are up front in the mix, alternating between a roots twang, old delta blues and almost discordant psychedelic intensity. The drums pound menacingly in the background. The vocal duties are handled the band's founding members, Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer. The track names reveal their themes: 1. Darling Divine 2. Burned 3. Faster, Harder 4. Be Afraid of Me 5. Nightmare Voodoo 6. Contempt 7. Black Sheep 8. Map of Heaven 9. Someone New.
The opening track, "Darling Devine" --
Better Luck Next Life was released this week by Kanine Records. In addition to Cox and Baer, the band includes John Rau and Turner Halsey.
The band will be at SXSW next month.
Take a walk on the dark side of the street with Royal Baths; it is a rewarding trip.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
One of my favorite places in the world is Southport, NC, a small fishing village at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. It’s still a working seaport, but during my lifetime it has become known more for catering to tourists. In fact, Southport became so successful that the rest of Brunswick County got jealous, and fifteen or so years ago they stripped it of its county seat status. Now the county seat is a town of about 150 people called Bolivia, which I think was named by Mike Tyson.
Southport has a lot to brag about, including a great 4th of July festival, shrimp burgers and coldbeers on the dock at the Provision Company, and, pertinent to this post, being home to a very fine rock and roll band called Museum Mouth. Drummer-vocalist Karl Kuehn and bandmates Kory Urban and Graham High will make you think of No Age with a little more pop and a little less dissonance (which, by the way, does not mean less loud). Their new album, Sexy But Not Happy, is one of my early favorites of 2012. Check out the title track below and see if you don’t want to play it about 15 times in a row:
Pretty cool, and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing the rest of this thing...
Pre-order, or check out tour dates for March and April at Margot's Website.
Today's exploration of a recent 7" recording focuses on an enthralling twist on the shoegaze and dreampop genres, so it probably is fitting that it comes from a place where you wouldn't expect to look for this kind of music. On Sleazy Dreams, West Palm Beach's The Band In Heaven delivers a sludgy, droning, psychedelic soundtrack topped by deadpan vocals. Here is the title track, "Sleazy Dreams" --
The Band In Heaven is Ates Isildak, Lauren Dwyer, Jay Tillman, and Ryan Burk. Musically, the band may remind the listener of Austin psychedelic outfit Black Angels, but lyrically they are in their own place of dark dreams infused with some less than complimentary views on organized religion. The 7" consists of four songs. "Sleazy Dreams", with its big, relentless beat, and "Summer Bummer are the most uptempo. "Sludgy Dreams", a video for which is below, is a hazy take on Aleister Crowley's Book of Lies.
Sleazy Dreams is released on Chicago's HoZac Records. The above track and the album closer, below, give you a good feel for the album, so if you decide to take the plunge, you can be comfortable about what you're getting. However, you can stream all four tracks at the end of this post. In case you didn't focus on it when you waded into this review, the cover art features dogs costumed for Halloween, and is one of my favorite album covers in a long time.
The Band In Heaven will be playing at SXSW next month.
You can stream the entire 7" here:
Twitter ( @thebandinHeaven )
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Scott recently featured this Swedish duo on his Midnight World Pop Scout, and since their new album is creating quite a buzz, we thought perhaps a full review/feature might be in order.
A bit of backstory, or perhaps you already know the backstory. No? Well, apparently these two sisters filmed a video of themselves performing blues standards in the forest, and thousands of YouTube hits later, they were international sensations. The legend grew - when they were playing a show at a small club in Nashville, word was sent to them that Jack White wanted to meet them and would like to record a song or two at his Third Man Studios. If you haven't heard it, here is the song "It Hurts Me, Too" - an old favorite and a nice recording:
What people are responding to in First Aid Kit, aside of course from their strong, clear voices, are reverence for and love of traditional folk music that seem to be universal. In the US, of course, we call it "country music" and we've done it every which way: down home with an acoustic guitar and a stark song of murder and betrayal, and uptown with horns and lush string sections backing crying songs of heartbreak and unrequited love - and everything in between.
So, these girls have apparently listened to all that, and along with producer Mike Mogis, who has produced some delightfully "throwback" records with M Ward, decided to throw a bit of all of it into their second album.
Here's the title track:
The thing I find most interesting about their journey to where they currently reside is that they came to Nashville and put together a truly rocking version of an old blues standard, then went to Omaha to make a record that, in a lot of ways, pays homage to the old Nashville "countrypolitan" sound.
But, in the end, it's the voices. They know that, as did White and as does Mogis. Listen to the yodel, the cry and the harmonies in "Emmylou". This is the single:
If you're looking for good country music and you don't mind it coming from another country, you'll find it here.
First Aid Kit Website
Garage pop mixed with psychedelia and a bit of shoegaze is a cocktail of choice around the Rocksteady74 household (those readers who keep track of misspellings might argue that there is more than one cocktail of choice, but I digress). And there is no group on the scene that delivers that cocktail right now like Chicago's Radar Eyes. Their self-titled LP, out today on HoZac Records, delivers the buzz, power, feedback, jangle, hooks, harmonies and pace that we crave. Test their psychedelic side with "Summer Chills" --
Formed in 2007, the band has been gigging and releasing 7", while honing their sound and going through a few roster changes. The roster currently is listed as Anthony (guitar/vocals), Shelley (drums), Lucas (bass), and Russ (guitar). Although founding member Nathan is not listed as a current member, I believe he wrote, sang and played on this record.
For a taste of the band's delightful pop sensibility on album track "Miracle", which also was released in 2011 on a 7". It was the first Radar Eyes song I heard, and started me on my path of learning more about the band.
The songwriting on this album is excellent. While the tracks all have similarities, they display an impressive command of several styles. As noted above, "Summer Chills" and "Miracle" display a mastery of psychedelic and garage pop modes, respectively. As noted by a few other writers, "Accident" sounds like a drugged out brother-from-another-mother version of the Yardbirds' "For Your Love". "Disconnection" is a the shoegaze cousin with more aggressive rhythm section. "In Love" is furious post-punk, and "Prairie Puppies 2" is strikes me as a bit Britpop. But it all has a gritty garage feel to it. Another thing I'll note about the songs is that the instruments seem to rumble louder, and the rock gets a bit harder, as the album unspools--just as you'd expect and want it in a live performance.
For my money, Radar Eyes is going to be one of the sleeper surprises of the year, an album that in December will be on a lot of lists with the comment "...I don't know how I missed this one when it came out..." Don't be that guy. You can get it on limited edition vinyl or CD now, and enjoy it all year.
For fun, here is a short session the band filmed for Coach House Sounds in 2010:
Twitter ( @RadarEyesChicag )
HoZac Records -- Page for Radar Eyes
Monday, February 6, 2012
The Twilight Sad have earned a devoted following predicated on their big guitar sound, solid rhythm foundation, James Graham's expressive, commanding vocals, and titles and lyrics that suggested dark secrets and horrible circumstances. So the band didn't need to make a shift in their sound for commercial reasons. But rather than deliver another well-conceived effort in the same vein, the band took the risk of altering the template. Happily, the result on No One Can Ever Know is The Twilight Sad's most consistent, and most consistently excellent, album to date.
What is the shift? While the sound remains large, the band pared down the contribution of the guitars and added analog synths. The synths provide a chillier, often moody sound which perfectly compliments the ominous lyrics and darkly expressive vocals. And those vocals--for me, Graham is one of the more captivating vocalists in rock. It is a richly accented moan that ably thrusts home the intensity of the music. Multi-instrumentalist Andy MacFarlane again provides the music for the stories, adjusting his palate to add knobs and keys to strings and pics. While the result is spare compared to the last two albums, it nevertheless provides a full and lively texture. Mark Devine is the member of the band responsible for drums and programming, providing a somewhat militant backdrop to the tracks. (The band's long-time bassist, Craig Orzel, left before this album war recorded, and the band will flesh out its live sound with to additional musicians.)
Here is the first official single, "Sick". It is a powerful song, despite the band dialing the usual thunder down a notch.
The Twilight Sad is not about hooks and melody, or in many cases even about verse/chorus structures. Their songs rely on the increasing tension jointly built on the driving music and emotional vocals. It seems to me that I feel The Twilight Sad as much as I hear them. All nine tracks on this album are strong. The three tracks released so far ("Sick" and "Another Bed" officially and "Kill it in the Morning" "leaked") certainly are among the best. But personally I rank "Nil" the second best track on the album, just behind "Sick" and just ahead of the scorching "Kill it in the Morning". Surprisingly, while this album sounds great from the first listen, it actually grows on you; on each successive play you discover nuances and layers you missed earlier. A standing ovation for the The Twilight Sad.
"Another Bed", with a somewhat disturbing video:
And the album closer is "Kill it in the Morning", which builds to a white hot finish over its nearly six minute run time.
The album is released today, February 6, on FatCat Records.
Lyrics - James Alexander Graham
Music - Andy MacFarlane
Drums/Programming - Mark Devine
Produced by Andrew Weatherall
Engineering, Mix & Additional Production: Jim Anderson
Twitter ( @thetwilightsad )
UK tour dates (all in February):
9 Thu GLASGOW Grand Ole Opry
10 Fri MANCHESTER Ruby Lounge
11 Sat SHEFFIELD Queens Social Club
12 Sun BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds
13 Mon BRISTOL Fleece
14 Tue LONDON Cargo
15 Wed NOTTINGHAM Stealth
16 Thu LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
US tour dates, starting in late February and ending at SXSW in Austin. I have the Seattle date circled on my calendar.
Feb 23 Washington DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
Feb 24 Philadelphia PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Feb 25 Brooklyn NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
Feb 26 Allston MA – Brighton Music Hall
Feb 28 Montreal QC – Il Motore
Feb 29 Toronto ON – Lee’s Palace
Mar 01 Grand Rapids MI – Pyramid Scheme
Mar 02 Chicago IL – Empty Bottle
Mar 03 Minneapolis MN - 7th Street Entry
Mar 05 San Diego CA – Casbah
Mar 06 Los Angeles CA – The Echo
Mar 07 San Jose CA – The Blank Club
Mar 08 San Francisco CA – The Independent
Mar 10 Seattle WA – Tractor Tavern
Mar 11 Portland OR – Doug Fir Lounge
Mar 14-18 Austin - SXSW
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I feel somewhat embarrassed suggesting that you get to know Plateaus, as I don't know much either. I have discovered that they are from San Diego, and the group's members are listed as Kevin Gist, Chris Rosi, Jon Greene, Elliot Moeller. Their music is a bit garage, a bit surf, and a bit punk. HoZac Records will release their song "Do It For You", soon. Have a listen:
"Beach Coma" was a release on the Art Fag label in 2011:
As was "Suzy":
Saturday, February 4, 2012
I'm generally not the world's biggest fan of live records. But this recently uncovered live recording of The Plimsouls from 1983, being released Tuesday, Feb 7, documents a great band at the top of its game. In fact, it now stands for me as their definitive work, an amazingly perfect recording.
Here is some footage from a live performance in Pasadena also in 1983, of the Plimsouls performing "Inch by Inch" and their big hit "A Million Miles Away":
Many of you may only know the Plimsouls from "A Million Miles Away", a perfect power pop song, but they had plenty of arguably equally great songs, many captured on Beach Town Confidential - "Magic Touch", "Zero Hour", "Oldest Story in the World", "Shaky City", "In This Town", and my personal favorite "How Long Will It Take?".
This release is so fresh and alive, hard to imagine it was nearly 30 years ago. It fits in remarkably well with a lot of the new stuff by very young bands that we write about here. If you don't know the Plimsouls but love power pop, you must check this out. And this is an absolute must have for even the casual Plimsouls fan.
More about the record, and other Plimsouls reissues on Alive/Naturalsound Records here
Friday, February 3, 2012
But today let's celebrate the immeasurable contributions that Mr. Cornelius made to black music and American culture. Every Saturday morning from 1971-2006, Soul Train presented not only the best in soul music, but great interviews, with candid insights into black culture at a time of rapid social change in the US, plus awesome fashion and dancing. It allowed a white kid like me in the 1970's to sneak behind the racial curtain, into the black club, the black church, the classroom at the black college. It was as educational as it was wildly entertaining.
There are so many great Soul Train clips on You Tube, I urge you to dive in there, you'll be amazed what you will find.
But here's a few to get you started. First, a terrific interview with Curtis Mayfield when Superfly was released:
One of the remarkable elements of the show was how the superstar artists were right in the thick of the studio audience, literally up close and physical with them, as here when Marvin Gaye lip synchs "Let's Get It On":
Here's The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, doing a live vocal over the recorded track; this song goes out to one of our great WYMA writers:
And finally, the famous Soul Train dance line, this time featuring Don Cornelius himself in one of only two times he joined the line in the history of the show, with Mary Wilson of the Supremes, to the sounds of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown: