Saturday, March 31, 2012

Down Under and Underground: The Puddle

The Puddle generally are known as the most steadfastly underground act of the many great bands that emerged from Dunedin, New Zealand in the '80s (others include The Bats, The Clean and The Chills). Known for their own, distinctive brand of intimate, slightly shambling psychedelic pop, they have been making music continually in one line up or another since 1984. From '86-93 they recorded for the venerable Flying Nun label, but that output has long been out of print. Beginning in the mid-2000s, they began releasing albums, most recently for Fishrider Records. The band's latest album, Secret Holiday/Victory Blues, was released on March 5 --

I think this music is perfect for a Saturday night. It is intimate, sometimes moody and sometimes sunny. You will note that several of the tracks are available for free download, although we always encourage you to buy the physical product to support artists you like.

The Puddle is George D. Henderson (Guitars, keyboards & Vocals), Gavin Shaw (Bass), Al Starrett (Keyboards, viola), and Ian Henderson (Drums). They currently are based in Dunedin and Auckland.

One of my favorites is "No Sequels" --

I suggest that you spend some time with their Bandcamp page linked below. You'll find all of their recent albums. It is great moody Saturday night music. Oh, and When You Motor Away gives a tip of its driving cap to former June Brides frontman Phil Wilson for the suggestion to check out The Puddle.

Fishrider Records

Friday, March 30, 2012

REVIEW: Cats On Fire - All Blackshirts To Me

Scandinavia boasts a plethora of quality indie bands, but in my opinion Finland's Cats On Fire are second only to The Raveonettes. The band crafts hook-filled, almost ornate, guitar pop with literate lyrics. The band's 2009 LP (Our Temperance Movement) was among my favorites that year, primarily on the strength of the six best tracks, so I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to listen to their new album, All Blackshirts To Me. After a number of spins this week, I have concluded that the new album, overall, is stronger than 2009 effort.

Cats on Fire knows how to make an impression from the opening note. Track 1, "Our Old Centre Back", is a gorgeous track that talks about soccer/football and life, ending with the bittersweet decision of the girl to be with the centre back rather than our narrator. Musically, the song builds from a gentle acoustic guitar to full instrumentation, pauses an 1:48, and builds again. The second track, "My Sense of Pride", provides the album's first single. A song of regret by a somewhat beaten-down narrator reminiscent of the biblical prodigal son, the track delights with an upbeat melody.

The remainder of All Blackshirts to Me continues with track after track of well-crafted songs. Most of the them are mid or uptempo, but "After the Fact" and "1914 and Beyond" offer joy at a more contemplative pace. The latter track is particularly interesting, as it provides observations on European politics and economics in a lovely, piano-based wrapper. "It's Clear Your Former Lover" may be the prettiest song I've heard so far this year. Another standout track, "A Few Empty Waves" is a maritime story about the narrator and his companion, A Portuguese water dog --

The music is urbane, varied and sophisticated. The songs display graceful changes of pace and texture. The lyrics are interesting and Mattias' vocals are top quality. And as impressed as I was with this album at first listen, I am even fonder of it after multiple listens.

Cats on Fire are Mattias Björkas (acoustic guitar, vocals), Ville Hopponen (electric guitar, backing vocals), Kenneth Höglund (bass guitar), Iiris Viljanen (keyboards, backing vocals), and Yrjö Ylijoki (drums). As with their peers Belle & Sebastian and Wake the President, this band has mastered the ability to craft and perform a song that pulls you in and surrounds you until the final note. You shouldn't deny yourself that joy.

All Blackshirts To Me was released this week on Matinée Recordings in the US and Soliti in the Nordic countries.

Twitter ( @catsonfire )
Matinée Recordings (US label)

The Soul Corner - "Sunny" by Bobby Hebb

Perhaps the highest compliment a song can receive is being recorded by others. So what does it say if a song has been covered by more than 100 artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Nick Cave, and um, Leonard Nimoy?
In case, you need to be introduced to this all-time classic, here's Bobby Hebb singing "Sunny":

Hebb wrote the song shortly after November 22, 1963 in response to his older brother being murdered in Nashville on the same day JFK was assassinated. Hebb was looking to ease his own pain, trying to somehow create a brighter day.

The song was not recorded by Hebb and released until 1966, at which time it garnered so much respect that the Beatles tabbed Hebb to be the opening act on their 1966 American tour.

As many times as I've heard it, I never cease to be amazed at the clarity of this vocal and composition. Like "My Girl", it sounds so simple and yet has so much going for it, you can't tire of it. Truly perfect. And even with this all star roster of artists who recorded their own versions, some among the best singers of all time, no one ever took this song away from Bobby Hebb, his version remaining by far the best known.

I do like this slowed down version from 1967, however, by a guy who was a pretty good singer in his own right, backed here by no less than the Duke Ellington band:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

REVIEW: Pallbearer -- Sorrow and Extinction

With guitars tuned so low it sounds like they're strumming bridge cables -- gloriously distorted bridge cables -- set against soaring, perfectly keyed vocals, there are moments on this beautiful and intense record that almost sound like Mass. Indeed, the Little Rock quartet's highly anticipated debut, following on the buzz of their 2010 three song demo, feels gothic -- not in the sensitive, eyemakeup sense, but in the traditional, anti-classicist sense. Simon Schama captures it when he quotes Bishop Warburton: " 'Our Gothic ancestors had juster and manlier notions than modern mimicks of Greek and Roman magnificence,' for they were more concerned with spiritual exaltation than civic pomp." Pallbearer's brand of doom metal is gothic in that it's earthy and slow, but that's merely redolent of the genre conventions. On Sorrow and Extinction, though, there's always something else pushing it further, whether it be singer guitarist Brett Campbell's Osbourne-meets-Halford wail or the beautiful, linear leads strewn throughout these five epic-length songs.

Come on, have a listen. Here's the centerpiece of the record, "The Legend", which, satisfyingly, begins (after the distorted intro) on the same two half-notes that formed the basis of the dominant theme of the preceding song. It makes it sound like they're about to head back into that song, and then erupts into something entirely different. I promise it's really cool even if you haven't heard the earlier song

Again, you'll get that gothic, arboreal sensation taking in the last track, "Given to the Grave", where waves of bar chords support a slow lead, then retreat to a quiet guitar and drum interlude before exploding into the most chaotic and unhinged segment of the record. The double solo of the last three minutes could pass for a couple of Steve Howes ripping leads across the end of "Siberian Khatru." Brilliant.

Pallbearer are brought to us courtesy of Ontario's Profound Lore Records, which consistently produces some of the most interesting, challenging, yet listenable extreme music being recorded today (think Yob, Agalloch, Krallice).

Go see Pallbearer live. Not a lot of dates right now, but you can check them at the Pallbearer website. Here's a very decent live video of the band playing the album opener, "Foreigner".

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Japandroids release "The House That Heaven Built" from upcoming album.

My favorite album of 2009 was the debut LP from Vancouver, BC's Japandroids,
Post-Nothing, and there really wasn't anything much competing for that oh-so-coveted distinction. It has stayed in heavy rotation, joined by the series of very fine singles released since. A couple of weeks ago we got the happy report that the new Japandroids album, Celebration Rock, is finished and set for release on 5 June on Champaign's Polyvinyl Records. I was too busy at the time at my ostensibly profit-oriented daytime occupation to sound the clarion here, but now I will. Hell yeah.

Today the web is percolating with a new song from the album that Brian and Dave are letting us hear early. It's called "The House that Heaven Built", and it's perfect. To quote Keats, 'that is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know."

Of course, you can stream it directly from Pitchfork because they're the ESPN of hipster couture. Over here, at the ghetto of, err, hipster couture, you have to click on the band's Soundcloud page.

For years the band has played a cover of the classic Gun Club tune "For the Love of Ivy" in their live shows. The song, from one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time, Fire of Love, contains an offensive racial epithet near the end, and I had always wondered how they dealt with it live. Well, we're all going to find out, because it's on the album tracklist. I can't express how happy it made me to know this. My college band played the album opener, "Sex Beat", at my wedding for chrissakes. By the way, they deal with the bad lyric just fine -- they don't sing it. Here's proof:

They're hitting the road in May. Get out of the house and see them.

05/17 – Cardiff, Wales @ Club Ifor Bach
05/18 – Brighton, England @ Green Door Store
05/19 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso (London Calling Festival)
05/21 – Bristol, England @ Cooler
05/22 – London, England @ CAMP (Basement)
05/23 – Manchester, England @ Soup Kitchen
05/24 – Glasgow, Scotland @ King Tut’s
05/25 – Leeds, England @ Cockpit 2
05/26 – Nottingham, England @ Bodega
05/31 – Barcelona, Spain @ Parc del Fòrum (Primavera Sound Festival)
06/11 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
06/12 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
06/14 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
06/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
06/16 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
06/19 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
06/21 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
06/22 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
06/23 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
06/25 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
06/26 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
06/27 – New York City, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
06/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
06/30 – Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
07/03 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
07/07 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret

REVIEW: Lantern - Burned Youth

(Photo by Alyssa Robb)

For me, Burned Youth -- a wonderful nugget of raw, '60s influenced rock -- came out of nowhere. Well, that's not completely correct as it came from the label. But Lantern is a relatively recently formed project based in Philadelphia and it wasn't on my radar. Lantern is Zachary Devereux Fairbroter (with help from Emily Robb and Daniel Miller). Apparently Burned Youth consists of unreleased recordings Fairbroter made when touring with his former band, Omon Ra. I think that it previously was available only as a tour tape. However, the Night People label released it earlier this month.

This is rock and roll with energy and passion, but without distracting flourishes or unnecessary bombast. Regular readers of this blog know that I love to find new garage rock sounds, and believe me when I say that this one scratches the itch perfectly. Try "I Don't Know", the fourth track on the album --

If you find that interesting, you can stream the album here:

If you enjoy this material, I recommend that you listen to this stream of a live performance in January. It is available for free download as well:


Update: The War on Drugs

WYMA is in the tank for The War on Drugs whose latest CD Slave Ambient dominated our best of 2011 lists here.

The Philadelphia-based band stopped by KINK radio in Portland Oregon last week and was interviewed and played some songs, all available for your viewing and listening here:

While all of the KINK footage is well worth watching, nicely filmed and recorded, be sure in particular not to miss the cover of the Waterboys' "A Pagan Place".

The War on Drugs are currently touring with Sharon Van Etten, whose terrific new CD Tramp we reviewed yesterday.
If you missed our previous raves about the War on Drugs, see our Top 10 lists for 2011 (linked down the left side of our home page) and this album review here:

Tour dates and band info here:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Cassettes on tour with We Were Promised Jetpacks

New Cassettes, a pop/punk outfit from Northampton, has a new album, Winterhead, coming out next week (we expressed our admiration in January - link here) and they're on tour in the eastern half of the USA with fellow WYMA favorites We Were Promised Jetpacks (check out Rocksteady's review here).

Check them out in your town, if they're coming... tour dates:

March 27 – Bloomington, IN – Bluebird
March 28 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
March 29 – Nashville, TN – Exit / In
March 30 – Birmingham, AL – Bottletree
March 31 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade – Hell
April 2 – Tampa, FL – Crowbar
April 3 – Miami, FL – Bardot
April 4 – Orlando, FL – The Social
April 5 – West Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern
April 6 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre
April 7 – Durham, NC – Motorco
April 9 – Richmond, VA – The Camel
April 10 – Baltimore, MD – Sonar
April 11 – Pawtucket, RI – The Met Café
April 12 – Hamden, CT – The Space

REVIEW: Young Prisms - In Between

My earliest introductions to San Francisco's Young Prisms suggested that their music would be categorized as Bloody Valentine shoegaze, or perhaps the garage pop shoegaze of The Jesus and Mary Chain. But on their sophomore album, In Between, the five-piece has hit a productive and delightful dream pop groove, albeit a dream pop groove with some satisfying displays of muscle. All it took for me to be charmed by the approach was one listen to the seductive "Four Hours (Away)" --

This is more Cocteau Twins or Slowdive than Dinosaur Jr. or Ride, and the influences reach further into post punk than shoegaze. As we head into spring, it is a great soundtrack. The dreamy shoegaze of "Floating In Blue" reminds me a bit of Lush in at the height of their career --

Young Prisms - "Floating In Blue" Video from stereogum on Vimeo.

Young Prisims is Gio Betteo, Matthew Allen, Stefanie Hodapp, Jordan Silbert, and Ashley Thomas. This album is releases on Kanine Records today (March 27).

We'll leave you with one more track to enjoy: "Runner" --

Twitter ( @youngprisms )

REVIEW: Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

There is so much hype on Sharon Van Etten and her new CD Tramp, that I almost hesitate to weigh in since this blog usually highlights artists who have a much lower profile.

But as our masthead declares, at this blog we write about music we like. And I like Tramp a lot, although I didn't realize it at first. What is going on here is subtle magic and it took me awhile to get it.

These songs are confessional, articulate, and smartly produced by Aaron Dessner (a member of WYMA favorite The National). What stands out most are Van Etten's multi-tracked vocals, which create striking harmonies that draw you in for a spellbinding effect. Van Etten's beautiful voice and this recording technique greatly add to the power of the songs, and manage to dial things up dramatically without adding unnecessary noise or layers of instruments that would threaten the immediacy of the vocals and the compositions themselves.

Here's a very cool video for the song "Leonard", a beautiful post break-up lament:

While much of the record is relatively quiet, it does have its noisier moments. The songs are served well by Matt Barrick of the Walkmen whose drumming sounds remarkably good, like here on "Serpents:":

But quiet does not equate here with any lack of intensity. Tramp does a slow burn and will grab you by the throat. As with peers such as PJ Harvey or Cat Power, there's real power in this kind of fearless singing, candor, and tuneful elegance.

Van Etten began her music career while a student at Middle Tennessee State University, not far from Nashville. She now lives in Brooklyn where Tramp was recorded. Hard to find many better locales than Nashville and NYC to find your songwriting voice. Van Etten seems fully formed as an artist on Tramp, taking a big step up from her previous work which oozed with the potential fully realized here.

When she sings on "Serpents": "I had a thought you would take me seriously and listen, but..." she is speaking to an old boyfriend, certainly not the big audience she is finding with this record. (Here is a download of "Serpents" made available by her label, Jagjaguwar Records)

The level of confidence shown by Ms. Van Etten in both the writing and performances throughout Tramp is a rare thing. Tramp is a complete record, best enjoyed in its entirety, the whole in many ways grander even than the sum of its parts. This record is going to populate a great many 'Best of 2012' year end lists. Very highly recommended.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Intervention", single by Cancel the Astronauts

One of the more promising young bands in Scotland is Edinburgh's Cancel the Astronauts the members of which are Matt Riley, Kieran McCaffrey, Michael Craig, Neil Davidson, and Chris Kay. They recently self-released Intervention, a three track single. It is smart, energetic guitar and synth pop. Sample the title track here:

The Bandcamp stream of all three tracks of the single is here:

If you like it, visit the Bandcamp site linked below and engage in international commerce.

Twitter ( @canceltheastros )

REVIEW: La Sera - Sees the Light

Never has the sound of breakup, disappointment and regret sounded so damn good. Instead of mopery and tears, La Sera's Sees the Light given us melody, wry lyrics, girl-group vocals and good musicianship. Since I don't tend to lyrics first, I didn't even think of it as a break up album when I was listening for the first time--until I glanced at the song titles. "Love That's Gone", "Break My Heart", "It's Over Now", and "I'm Alone" can make even a dense guy like me get the point.

La Sera is Katy Goodman. Katy's other band is Vivian Girls, which I mention here only because of the contrast it's sound provides to Sees the Light. While Vivian Girls have been at the forefront of the Brooklyn garage pop/shoegaze tidal wave, this album stakes out its pop claims from the start via the slow burning "Love That's Gone". A song of lost love that lures you in, and then delights you with great vocals and delightful guitar work.

The second track, and first single, "Please Be My Third Eye" ramps up the energy without leaving the pop template --


Sees the Light succeeds admirably on at least two fronts. First, it delivers a great set of songs. Second, the album reveals Katy to be an excellent pop artist. And this excellence goes beyond writing the melodies and delivering the vocals. The lyrics, pace, and instrumental textures are all top notch. There is plenty of variety, too. For example, "Please Be My Third Eye" has a chunky guitar riff, "I Can't Keep You On My Mind" has a fuzzed noise pop sound, and "Real Boy" has a galloping rhythm and a surfy guitar. This isn't a girl group update; this has the breadth and weight of a mature guitar pop album.

Amended: A video for "Real Boy" and "Drive On" has popped up on You Tube, so I've added it here:

I'll leave you with this fine rocker, "Break My Heart" --

Sees the Light is out tomorrow (March 27) on Hardly Art. I highly recommend it.

Label page for Katy Goodman
Twitter ( @iamkatygoodma )
Hardly Art (general)

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Soul Corner - "Sweet Inspiration"

The Sweet Inspirations were backup singers to a long list of major acts, most famously Elvis Presley, and including Wilson Pickett, Jimi Hendrix, Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin. They can be heard on the Dusty Springfield classic album Dusty in Memphis, as well Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl".
The Sweet Inspirations also had a few hits of their own in the late-60's. My favorite is "Sweet Inspiration" from 1968, written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham:

At this point the group consisted of Cissy (Drinkard) Houston, Estelle Brown, Myrna Smith and Sylvia Shernwell. Various other members came and went though the Sweet Inspirations long career, which started in the late 1950's. They continued recording through 2005, and have performed even more recently.

But the composition, musicianship and and most of all vocals on "Sweet Inspiration" are just perfect, a powerful love song.

Prospecting for Gold at Pastime Records

We like Exter, UK, musician Andy Botterill not only because he writes and records music we like, but because he is one of a number of UK musician who are keeping the jangle pop/C86 banner waving. Andy releases his music through Exter-based label Pastime Records, which he also runs. And today we are prospecting for gold in Pastime Records' recent catalog by highlighting some excellent 2011 releases from the label that should be of interest to readers who, like me, never tire of the C86/jangle sound. (Facebook link for Pastime Records)

Andy B

We'll begin with Andy B, which is the recording name for Andy Botterill. Andy released two solo LPs in 2011, Buttons and Badges and Letters Home. For these projects Andy played guitars, keys, piano, bass and sang lead and backing vocals (and drums on the first LP). However, various musicians, including Elisabeth Bennett, Andy Fonda, Andy Ward, and Ant Smith helped out with instruments and vocals on some of the tracks. Andy Fonda (who also plays with Phil Wilson) provided the excellent production.

Andy's recordings feature the classic C86 sound, a "storytelling" feel and Andy's winsome, heartfelt vocals. Here is "Daisy Smiles" from the uniformly delightful Buttons and Badges --

Letters Home begins with one of my favorite Andy B songs, "Television Girl". It is a taut post punk track and showcases Andy's talent for songwriting. It is followed by the more relaxed jangle pop of "At the End of the Day" --

The third track presented here from Letters Home is "Nice to See You Again" --

Andy is a dedicated and industrious guy. In addition to running the label and recording his own music, he plays in Falling Trees and National Pastime (which is discussed below). And he is an articulate and passionate advocate for the music he loves. It is easy for us to urge to to support him.

In additional good news for fans, Andy has recorded new music that we can expect to hear later this year.
Facebook for Andy B

National Pastime

In 2011 Pastime also released the Coma EP by National Pastime, which is the band's second EP for the label. This band consists of Andy Botterill, Andy Padfield, Ant Smith and Chris Head. This four track recording is a really fine C86 nugget. The band has its roots in lo-fi guitar pop, but my current favorite track, “Goldsworthy Gurney”, suggests that the band is fully capable of greater breadth. Here is title track "Coma" (which also appears on Andy B's Letters Home) --


Bright Lights, Big Zombie

The noisiest of the 2011 Pastime releases we are covering today is the delightfully named Bright Lights, Big Zombie. Also based in Exter, the band is comprised of Leo Collett (guitar and vocals), Tom Davies (drums), Sam Hemmings (bass), and Dan Wright (guitar, piano and vocals). Bright Lights, Big Zombie count Ride, Syd Barrett, The Velvet Underground among their influences, but I hear a bit of Weather Prophets and BMX Bandits in there as well. I recommend that you stream the entire album here, but if you don't have time for the whole thing right now, listen to the first track and the jangle delights of "Figure" and "Voices in the Dark" --


As you see above, The Morrisons wear there style on the sleeve--their album sleeve for their Rainy Day EP displays a Rickenbacker. And the jangly C86 indie pop inside matches the cover. This band's style is a bit different than the bands discussed above. The vocals are very much to the fore in the mix with warm male vocals and female harmonies.

The fourth track, "Brighter Days" --

By way of background, The Morrisons were formed in 1986. They disbanded in 1988, but reformed in 2004 and have been recording and playing new material. The members are: Elaine Churchward (vocals); Adrian Maxwell (percussion); Dave Clifford, an original member (bass); Ian Churchward, and original member (guitar and vocals); Phil Andrews, and original member (guitar and vocals); and Guy Bolt (drums, keys and vocals since 2004, but currently on leave to spend time with his family).

The Morrisons also have a full length album scheduled for release on Pastime records this year. If this EP is a good indication, it should be a "must have" for any fan of the jangle pop sound.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Your Mouth And Eyes - "Farm the Moon"

Your Mouth And Eyes is Thane Matcek, a singer/songwriter who plays country music with his father - (a country musician who inspired Thane to learn everything from Hank Sr. to Dylan to Kurt Cobain in one summer), and makes energetic indie rock like this single, "Farm the Moon":

It's good stuff, and I look forward to hearing more from them, and from this label, Ojet Records. Download the song at Bandcamp:

Your Mouth And Eyes - at Ojet Records

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

REVIEW: Spectrals - Bad Penny

What does a music writer do when he discovers that he has overlooked a release by four plus months? One option is to pretend that the release didn't have sufficient interest or wasn't worthy. But that brings the integrity of one's taste to the fore of the discussion. Another option is to hope no one notices. Frankly, given the large number and excellent taste of our readers, that isn't a realistic option. The best option, of course, is to cover the album as if it was just released. Yes, problem solved. And when it is a good album, it is the right answer for everyone. Well, having gotten that bit of business off my chest, here is....

Bad Penny by Spectrals. Spectrals is, in fact, 21 year old Louis Jones, who hails from a very small town in northern England. His work is influenced by the mix of old rock and soul records he heard growing up, resulting in elements of 60s pop and rock, doo wop, Northern Soul, garage and a bit of surf. Try the first track --

Spectrals - Get A Grip from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.

What I like about Spectrals is that, despite its clear influences, it seems completely unaffected. It seems to me that Louis isn't trying to repackage old sounds to make money off them. He's just playing his music the way he loves music. He plays all of the instruments on the album except for the drums, which are played by his brother Will.

"You Don't Have to Tell Me" --

Louis is touring in the US this spring, so if you like his music check out the tour schedule on his website, which is linked below. Bad Penny is his first LP, and it is released on Slumberland Records. He previously released some shorter efforts on Slumberland and Captured Tracks.

"Big Baby" is one of my favorites --

Twitter ( @_SPECTRALS )
Artist's page at Slumberland Records

New Blues Rock Discovery: Idle Maestro - Dark Horse EP

Idle Maestro is a rock outfit from the UK, playing a strong variety of the great blues-based stuff you are likely to recognize from the catalogs of The Black Keys, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and The White Stripes. Here are a few songs to check out:

Dark Horse EP by Idle Maestro

And here's a relatively recent video:

Looking forward to hearing more.

Idle Maestro website

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Winnifred", a single by Roommates

Yes, it is a single--four songs. But even if you are stuck in the rut of only paying attention to albums, this is an irresistibly catchy powerpop release, and if you miss out on it your life will have a black, festering, irreparable hole that will never mend and likely will result in disasters in personal relationships and cause children and cute dogs to cross the street to avoid you (yeah, I know, some of you just call that "Tuesday").

Roommates is the mutual effort of Ben Cook of the groups Fucked Up, Marvelous Darlings, and The Bitters, and Mark Fosco of Marvelous Darlings. Alternatively, you could call it a virtual reunion. Ben and Mark shared an apartment for four years. It seems that during that period they created four songs in separate two-track batches (which were released in a limited run of cassettes by a "retired" label) and performed on a few occasions.

The four songs have been salvaged by Slumberland Records, and packaged in a 7" that is available on March 20. You'll love the songs, and you can wonder whether the dominant influence belongs to Teenage Fanclub or directly to Big Star.

Here is the fourth track, "1st Floor Blues" --

Slumberland Records

"Ninas Different", single by Fiction Faction

Today's profiled single is the two-track Ninas Different by Fiction Faction. This release is the follows their fall 2011 EP, Malenky Lizards, which we reviewed here.

Fiction Faction is David (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Paul (Lead guitar, Vocals), John Paul (Bass, Backing Vocals), and Ellis (Drums, Backing Vocals). Their music features undeniably dance-able rhythms, chiming guitars and electronic carpets and flourishes. It is bright, urbane indie rock and I highly recommend it.

"Ninas Different" is the A-side:

The B-side is "Turquoise Noise":

If you prefer, here is the Bandcamp stream of the single:

Twitter ( @fictionfaction1 )
Saraseto Records

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sam Russell and the Harborrats

Before I began blogging about music, I had a collection of discs that I would take in my car. One of them was a mix of various songs by a Seattle group called The Harborrats. I didn't know much about them except that they were led by a fellow Wisconsonite, Sam Russell, and their live shows often featured waffles, toasted on the spot and tossed into the crowd. I ran across my Harborrats collection this weekend, so I resolved to see what, if anything, Sam and the gang have going on. Go ahead, click on the play button for "Dive Bar Blues (Crossing Russell Road)" by Sam Russell and the Harborrats, and keep reading:

Good stuff, right? But a good song released last December is just a small part of the story. Kenosha, Wisconsin native Sam Russell, frequently with The Harborrats and other worthy contributors, has been engaged in the Blue Moon Bible project, an intended eight albums with eight songs each. Four EPs are finished to date. The style of the music is somewhat eclectic, but can best be described as garage soul or Americana soul. But each song highlights Sam's range. As a vocalist he can deliver folk songs, soul songs and rockers, and he can do it from baritone to mid tenor. As a songwriter, he seems to have no genre boundaries, and has the ability to write songs that sound like classics from the first listen.

Sam also has a solo album, The Year of the Cow (well, I told you he is from Wisconsin), coming out on June 5, 2012. The two-track single "I Am the Ghost" has been released, and you can stream it here:

Despite the upcoming solo album, however, I can't avoid giving a bit of press to the Harborrats' material here as well, because I think it is really good and criminally underexposed. You can get to all of it from the links below, but I'll highlight a favorite song (or more) from each of the Blue Moon Bible series.
Volume A was also called The Katie Sermon. Here is the rousing eighth track, "Mt. Prospect":

Volume B, also called The Youngest Sister, featured these four songs that I have on my car mix:

Volume C, Salted Caramel Shake features this great track:

Volume D, The Sugar Nile, includes these Rocksteady74 favorites:

By the way, The Harborrats and other contributing musicians on the recent releases are as follows:

For the "I Am The Ghost" single:
Sam Russell-vocals, guitar
Kate Noson-vocals
Michael Spaly-fiddle
Ken Nottingham-upright bass

For the "Dive Bar Blues" single:
Sam Russell-lead vocals, electric guitar
James Apollo-2nd vocal, harmonica, Nord keyboard
Michael Spaly-electric violin, backing vocal
Allison Tulloss-ooo's and ahh's
Kjell Anderson-fiddle, backing vocal
Toby Hanson-accordion
Carey Rayburn-trumpet
Ken Nottingham-upright bass, backing vocal
Schuyler Jones-electric bass, backing vocal
Dave Forrester-drums, backing vocal
Isaac Chirino-percussion

For The Sugar Nile EP:
Sam Russell—vocals, guitars
Michael Spaly—vocals, guitar, violin, mandolin
Allison Tulloss—vocals
James Apollo—vocals, keyboards
Schuyler Jones—electric bass
Ken Nottingham—upright bass
Dave Forrester—drums and percussion
Isaac Chirino—drums and percussion
Kjell Anderson—violin
Toby Hanson—accordion
Carey Rayburn—trumpet
Justin Roeser—guitar on 3
Scott Andrew—vocal on 6
Johnny Sangster—Hammond B3 on 2
Kate Noson—backwards vocals on 2


The Harborrats website

REVIEW: Margot & The Nuclear So-And-So's - Rot Gut, Domestic

Rot Gut, Domestic is Margot and the Nuclear So-And-So's third album. Their leader is singer/songwriter Richard Edwards, and this record is a set of songs that he labels "panic rock". We recently featured an advance single, "Prozac Rock" and I remarked on the punk content. That's certainly in evidence on the rest of the record, but so is a real sense of musical variety. The rock songs rage on, and the ballads are sweet and affecting. There's a real sense of humor - if you find an artist with this kind of musical talent and a sharp sense of humor as well, hold onto him. From the ballad "A Journalist Falls In Love," a sad tale told from the perspective of a reporter who falls in love with a death row inmate only to have to witness his execution, this is the story of his opening line, as it were:

"Yeah, I know I killed a few
But none of those women were you"

And there's a really good rock song featuring the chorus "Arvidas Sabonis/ Come back, we miss you" - I mean, really good.

Edwards' voice is strong enough to carry real buzzsaw rock songs like "Shannon" and "Disease, Tobacco Free" but clear enough to carry the ballads here. In addition to the aforementioned "Journalist" the band also slows down for "Frank Left" which reminds me of a Paul Westerberg ballad, and the really beautiful album closer "Christ".

Here's a free download of "Shannon" via Soundcloud, where you can also stream a couple other songs, "Frank Left" and "Prozac Rock":

And here's a video for "Prozac Rock":

Margot-Prozac Rock from Margot Cloud on Vimeo.

This is an excellent rock album with a big sound - it's ambitious, and there's nothing better than hearing a talented artist aim high and hit the target. They'll be on tour all over the country starting March 31. The album will be out March 20.

Margot Website

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Rock/Soul Discovery: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires - There Is A Bomb In Gilead

Do yourself a favor and download this song NOW:

"Centreville" by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

Lee Bains III is a former member of the Dexateens, a longtime favorite of several on the WYMA staff. I'd have bought this record unheard, given the involvement of garage rock god Jim Diamond, but I have heard it and let me tell you, you will be quite upset if you pass on a chance to see them and to buy this in May when it comes out. "Centreville" is a good representation of their sound - Skynyrd meets The Dirtbombs in Memphis - and the song "Everything You Took" from the Alive Naturalsound compilation Where Is Parker Griggs? (WYMA review here) is as down, sweet and soulful as anything this side of Al Green. I'm not lying and I'm not exaggerating -- Bains is an amazing talent. Soul music this good just has to be heard. Spread the word.

Here's another track: "Righteous Ragged Songs":

A spectacular Allmans guitar intro and, again, that soulful voice fronting a screaming Southern rock band - what's not to like?

They'll be on tour with the Alabama Shakes (we've written about them before here, having first heard about them via the Drive-by Truckers) in March and April:

March 23 - Tuscaloosa, AL - Bama Theatre w/ Dexateens, Alabama Shakes
March 24 - Birmingham, AL - The Nick w/ Black Willis, Bohannons, Doc Dailey
April 5 - Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre w/ Alabama Shakes
April 6 - Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle w/ Alabama Shakes
April 7 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head w/ Alabama Shakes
April 9 - Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe Live w/ Alabama Shakes
April 10 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell's w/ The Neutron Drivers
April 11 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom w/ Alabama Shakes
April 12 - Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg w/ Alabama Shakes
April 14 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground w/ Alabama Shakes
April 15 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club w/ Alabama Shakes
April 17 - Toronto, ONT - Lee's Palace w/ Alabama Shakes
April 19 - Cincinnati, OH - The Comet w/ Buffalo Killers
April 20 - Knoxville, TN - The Well
April 21 - Waverly, AL - Old 280 Boogie w/ Centro-matic, Pine Hill Haints

REVIEW: Bristol Reggae Explosion 3: The 80s Part 2

My current favorite reggae reissue series is the Bristol Reggae Explosion series from Bristol Archive Records. The series focuses on recordings (released or unreleased and previously only sold only at gigs in the 70s and 80s). According to the liner notes, all 15 tracks in this volume were previously unreleased on CD format. Despite the narrow focus, I assure you that the quality of the reggae, and the sound of the recordings, is exceptional. And for me, the collection is even more enjoyable because the artists generally are not famous.

This wonderful live track from Joshua Moses, "Stick It Up", displays the quality of this collection.

Here is some rare footage of the performance of the final track of the CD edition: "Sweet Rosie" by Dan Ratchet --

For some Reggae soul, here is "I'm Free" by Bunny Marrett --

The album is available in limited edition vinyl (with fewer tracks) and CD formats, and are packaged with artwork, rare photographs and extensive liner notes.

If you are a roots reggae fan, and especially if you are a reggae collector, I highly recommend the entire series. The first and second edition of the series were 28th on my top album list for 2011, and were the only non-rock albums on the list. Bristol Reggae Explosion 3: The 80s Part 2 continues the high quality and joy of discovery. Every music city should have an organization like Bristol Archive Records to keep their music history alive.

Bristol Archive Records

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day, II:

I have always loved Irish music - JD already put up the Chieftains, so I won't repeat that, but I sure do like them... St. Patrick's day is a great excuse to put up my favorite song by Thin Lizzy, "Southbound"... still my favorite Irish rockers:

And this guy isn't even Irish, but he certainly got in the fookin' spirit for this song:

Happy St. Patrick's Day

All of us here at WYMA are either of true Irish ancestry or else were claimed in the Irish spirit by virtue of attending The University of Notre Dame.

Plus I own an Irish Terrier, Renny, the king of all canines.

So today we honor the Irish, whose literature, lore, and certainly music are among the very best in the history of civilization. Everything I love about Ireland comes through in the music - generous spirit, sympathy, humor, hope, ability to process sadness, the pubs and strong sense of community, and a deep love of the landscape and sea. And yes, the voices.

So here are a few of my favorites.

We'll start with a pub performance by the grand traditionalists, the Chieftains, and some friends:

Here's a thoroughly contemporary pop song, still deeply rooted in traditional Irish music, from my favorite Irish lass, Lisa Hannigan, who I will continue to push here at WYMA until everyone who has ever visited this site buys her latest CD Passenger:

The great Van Morrison with a stunning live performance of "Into the Mystic":

I uncovered a fabulous live version of one of my favorite songs of the 80's, "Fisherman's Blues" by the Waterboys, which truly captures the Irish spirit I love so much:

And of course no St. Patrick's Day musical tribute can be without Shane McGowan and the one and only brilliant, besotted and beloved Pogues. Though from London, their post-punk interpretation of traditional Irish music is deservedly revered and legendary. Here's a handful of songs, 14 minutes worth from a 1984 TV show, before they hit it big but when Shane still had it all going on:

To our readers, an Irish toast from WYMA:

May neighbours respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

Get to Know: Mi Mye

This post has a dual purpose. First, it exposes you to the music of Mi Mye, which is the recording name for Jamie Lockhart. Second, listening to the following two albums from Mi Mye demonstrates the effects of personal circumstances on art. And the comparison is all the brighter because as a vocalist, Lockhart is utterly convincing.

Originally from Skerray, in northern Scotland, Lockhart began recording around 2003. Now residing in Yorkshire, in 2010 he released the album Senc to the Shaking. The album is sunny in sound and disposition, an indie/dream pop album with layers of sound and, overall, an uplifting feel.

However, Lockhart has since suffered a divorce, and chronicled it in the recently released The Time and the Lonleyness. The album ably reflects the pain and regret.


Friday, March 16, 2012

New Folk/Rock Discovery: Professor Penguin, "Pirate" (from upcoming release Planes)

Professor Penguin is a London-based nine-piece band playing a terrifically melodic brand of folk/rock. Good vocals, understated chiming guitar and gentle beat, but with a nice release at the end via a pretty good guitar solo. Check it out:

The single will be available Monday (3/19) and the album is due out early in April.

Professor Penguin website

"Dead" by Waterworld

Waterworld is a project of members of a number of Manchester bands, apparently including Waiters, Sex Hands and Sir Yes Sir. As far as I know, they don't have a website of any sort, and I don't know if they have any long term plans (they played a gig in January). But they have provided this artifact, the reverby "Dead". It is presented here as a soundtrack to a Three Stooges cartoon.

The Soul Corner - "Skin Tight"; Ohio Players

Sly's birthday yesterday got me thinking about the great rock'n'soul era. And low and behold, the team at the Soul Corner research institute worked through the night to uncover this magnificent video, which has more good things going for it than I can list here - crazy Sun Ra/priest outfits, Japanese subtitles, the horns, the hair, the phrase "skin tight britches". Feel free to add your own favorite element here in comments below.

The Ohio Players were the party. [aside: I would feel so much better about the whole "the Ohio State University" nonsense if I thought they lifted it from the Ohio Players, but I'm guessing not]

The Ohio Players formed in 1959 and toiled away until a string of hits starting in 1974 - "Skin Tight", "Fire", "Love Rollercoaster", etc.

Further evidence of the industrial Midwest as home to the best mixologists of guitars and beats. Dayton is in the Soul Corner today.

Get to Know: Sleuth

Our jangle scouts (we employ top people) have discovered Sleuth, four musicians from in and around Vancouver, BC. The members are Julian Bowers (drums and some strings), Oliver McTavish-Wisden (keyboards), Jesse Easter (bass), and The Lion in Love (guitar and vocals). We expect that a Rickenbacker is involved in the proceedings. Songwriting generally is credited to a J. Lastoria. Is J. Lastoria also The Lion in Love? I suppose that if they had wanted us to know, they would have said so.

Sleuth released Brave Knew Nothing last spring. The physical copies are sold out, but I believe that digital downloads remain available. You can stream its jangly delights here:

And these two songs from a recent live performance are available to download:

Twitter ( @SleuthTheBand )

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beware the Ides of March and Sly Stone

Happy 68th birthday to Sylvester Stewart - aka Sly Stone. Sly and his family of funksters were only eclipsed in influence on popular R&B and Hip-Hop by James Brown. The Family Stone included Larry Graham on bass. Larry's slap bass attack has been imitated since he came on the scene. I was lucky to see Sly. His mental demons and cocaine addiction made him wildly unpredictable. He was as likely to miss a concert as perform. On July 27, 1970 Sly and the Family Stone were to appear at a free concert in Grant Park in downtown Chicago. The first band (Fat Water) started playing at 3. The second band came out at about 4. The announcer kept on giving us updates about Sly's progress to the concert. At about 6:30 they announced Sly had cancelled and a riot broke out. 150 people were arrested, 25 were injured including 10 policemen. It was the last free concert of the summer.

Sly's music has stood the test of time. You will notice the tell tale signs of cocaine abuse under Sly's nose in a number of the vids. In true funk fashion, every take is different - often devolving into extended jams.


and even more to remove the specter of Ides:

Free your ass and your mind will follow - George Clinton

Get to Know: Father Sculptor

A music blogger looking for good new talent gratefully receives emails and links to new postings, aware of the limitations of publicly available information. So here we present Glasgow band Father Sculptor--a band that reveals little of itself other than its current location and a few very good songs.

Of course, bands usually don't pop onto the scene without history, whether collective or individual. And one hears things--things about bands about which one is enthusiastic (for their quality music and rebellious attitude towards public relations), and recently blogged, dropping out of the scene. And then one hears things about bands formed and, despite their brief existence, being johnny-on-the-spot with recording-quality material. One can't help but wonder whether this is a birth or a resurrection.

But while mystery remains, we can share two Father Sculptor recordings with you. The first is the magnificent "Ember", a slow-burner that matches its name, which will be released as part of a two-track single in April. The second is January upload of two excellent songs, "Velvet Fall" and the demo for "Two of Swords". In my view, these recordings feature excellent songwriting, broad musical range, dramatic vocal presentation and a somewhat melancholy atmosphere. I'm very much looking forward to more from Father Sculptor.