Sunday, September 30, 2012

Introducing -- Woolen Men

Woolen Men is a Portland Oregon three-piece that plays makes spacey, psychedelic, lo-fi garage rock.  They came to my attention because they shared a bill with The Mallard earlier this year, and we like The Mallard quite a bit around here.  They have released recordings on Eggy Records and Gnar Tapes and Shit.  The members are Rafael Spielman, Lawton Browning and Alex Geddes, but I don't know much else about them.  I think it is good stuff.  Give it a chance.

But now to the music.  Here is "Way Over My Head" from The Hair of the Night, which was released in January 2012 on Eggy --

The '60s tinged garage rock of "Guess I was Dreaming" --

There are two more releases on the Bandcamp site linked below -- one from 2011 and one from 2009.

Eggy Records
Gnar Tapes and Shit

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New California Jangle Discovery: Sweater Girls - Sweater Girls Were Here

Sweater Girls are a California band featuring super-sweet female harmony vocals, jangly guitars and a bit of a punk backbeat... and boy, is their music catchy. Their new album, Sweater Girls Were Here, is a celebration of Southern California very much in the way that Best Coast's and The Go-Go's music was, and there are similiarities between them, but differences too. Sweater Girls don't have quite as much reverb, and probably a little more jangle on the guitars, and most of all, there are times you could overdose on the harmony vocals - so light, high and sweet are they. Check out lead track, "Infatuation Street":

I think "Fast Forward" is my favorite song on the record, and for a good portion of the song, the girls are just singing "La la la, la la la" over buzzsaw guitars and that nifty backbeat.

Here's a video for "Fred" - same formula, same delightful result:

I think when a band has a sound that works for them, they are well-served by working to perfect it and sharing it with the world. Based on Sweater Girls Were Here, I think Sweater Girls have the same philosophy.

As I mentioned in my review of Detective's However Strange, I had read that a recent show in LA featured Sweater Girls, Seapony (which we also like a lot and which Scott reviewed here recently) and Detective. Here's a video from "Part Time Punks"... Starts out with Seapony, Sweater Girls at about 3:10 and Detective at 4:55. Lucky audience...

The album is out this week (9/25) on HHBTM Records.

Friday, September 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Bohannons - Unaka Rising

The Bohannons are a Chattanooga band that combines swamp boogie, hard blues, full-on glam rock, and punk -- and it's just as bracing and crazy as that sounds. If you've enjoyed some of the proud Southern rock varietals we've blogged about this year: The Alabama Shakes, The District Attorneys, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Patterson Hood - this is something you will want to check out.

On Unaka Rising, they're loud and way up front with shouted vocals, slashing electric guitars and a rhythm section that swings like crazy. The Bohannons consist of  Nick Sterchi, Marty Bohannon, Matt Bohannon and Josh Beaver.

Here's the lead track "Goodbye Bill", available for free download:

They're dipping into the Southern folk tradition, too... listen to Marty Bohannon describe the genesis of "Goodbye Bill": "It's an ode to martyred labor organizer Joe Hill approaching the 100th anniversary of his death. The words are from his last will, as well as from Ethel Raim and The Pennywhistlers' song 'Joe Hill'."

And here you can stream "River Above", a haunting hard rock track with guitars layered on top of guitars:

And here they are playing "Built A World", a plaintive song of lost love as only the Bohannons can play such a thing - with a little bit of a ragtime feel and of course a scorching electric guitar solo:

The whole record is good, but I think the last two tracks are the highlights: "Ponchatrain", a call-and-response, foreboding blues song about an oncoming storm and "In The End", which races along at a punk rock pace and finishes this album by letting me know this band is just starting to shake things up.

Unaka Rising is out now on This Is American Music - produced by David Barbe and Drew Vandenberg.

The Soul Corner - The Four Tops "Walk Away Renee"

Here one of my favorite all time singers, Levi Stubbs, with the Four Tops, covers one of my all time favorite songs, the baroque pop classic "Walk Away Renee":

The song was written by 16 yr old Michael Brown, a member of the Left Banke who originally recorded it.  Amazing composition and arrangement. But add Levi Stubbs' vocals - wow!

And the equally great original:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

REVIEW: Détective - However Strange

LA-based band Détective is Jim Greer (a former member of Guided by Voices), Rory Modica, and Guylaine Vivarat, a wonderful female vocalist. On their latest record, However Strange, they are playing an engaging brand of artistic, Velvet Underground-influenced postpunk that old-school fans of 90's indie rockers like GbV, Sonic Youth and The Breeders will certainly recognize - but one need not be a GbV fan to enjoy this music.

To give you a sense of their sound, here's a video from their immediately preceding EP, Basket of Masks, "Rhodesian Man":

And here's an audience video of "Holy Ghost Citizens Club" from However Strange:

Really, anyone with a taste for high-quality guitar rock ought to give this record some attention. Of course, if you already know the song "Trendspotter Acrobat", well, that doesn't hurt... Check out this link for Greer's description of how he wrote that song for Sunfish Holy Breakfast. There's an updated version on this record, and it's terrific.

Before that, though, there are eleven delightful slices of guitar rock. "Man Near the Surface of the Earth" starts out with Vivarat humming, jumps into a jangly guitar line, and then her vocals rise over the guitar to achieve a sort of transcendent effect. "Basket of Masks", which was also on the EP we wrote about earlier this year, has a nice strummed guitar line that builds tension and an understated Greer vocal, and in the middle is a noisy guitar solo. "Amber" continues the interplay between Vivarat's high, sweet voice and the ragged, jangly postpunk guitar. "Telephonia" is sung as a duet, and as on the rest of the record, features strong guitar lines throughout. Further on, "Cuba" is an instrumental, a very cool guitar soundscape.

You can listen at Bandcamp:

And you can buy the cassette from Burger Records, click here.

I see on a recent date, they played a triple bill with Seapony (read Scott's review here) and Sweater Girls (keep an eye out for a review on their delightful new record soon). If you're familiar with those bands, and the kind of music Burger has been putting out, you've got an idea what to expect from Détective. Good stuff. Vivarat's voice is engaging, the guitars are great, and the songs are consistently good. The record holds up very well.

REVIEW: Cancel the Astronauts - Animal Love Match

Sometimes what initially draws me to a band can be as simple as an evident sense of humor.  Such is the case with Edinburgh's Cancel the Astronauts.  I first tracked them down a few years ago after noting the song title "I am The President of Your Fan Club and Last Night I Followed You Home".  After all, whose interest wouldn't be attracted by a tale of stalking by a fan?  A world famous music blogger certainly sympathizes, I assure you.  But while I may have come because of the humor, I stayed with them for the music.  Cancel the Astronauts specializes in energetic indie rock anthems, and after honing their craft on two Eps, they have released a delightful 12-track debut LP, Animal Love Match.

Packed with hooks, furious pace, driving beat and swooping vocals, without losing the wry, and frankly sinister, take on melancholy, lust, desire and the travails of young life -- this is an album that will boost your mood on any fall day.  The title track begins the album with sombre keys, but less than a minute and a half in, the sound builds and the boys take off.  The second track is the fine former single, "Seven Vices --

"Intervention", the third track, is s sparkling new wave tune showcasing the bands fine melodic sense --

I find it somewhat difficult to tag this album with a genre (that sound you hear may be a collective sigh of relief from the band), but I do know this: Animal Love Match is indie guitar rock that you can dance to, drive to, and (when used safely and according to directions) enhance your mood.  The more stately numbers are fine (check out "Love Backwards" at the Soundcloud link below), but what these lads do best is to play hard and fast.  And fortunately, the fast songs dominate the track list for the album.

Here is one of my favorites, "Making Dynamite".  It is somewhat less of a pop tune than "Seven Vices" and "Intervention", and it and the following track, "Lekking", showcase the band's ability to craft a fine song at less than a punk pace --

I would feel remiss if I didn't share one of the slower tracks with you, and the penultimate track, "Catch You If I Can" is my choice.  It is a really lovely song with a piano and a bit of acoustic guitar --

Cancel the Astronauts are Matt Riley, Kieran McCaffrey, Michael Craig, Neil Davidson,  and Chris Kay.  They have been together for about four years.  Animal Love Match can be streamed in its entirety at the Bandcamp and Soundcloud links below, and purchased via Bandcamp.

Twitter ( @canceltheastros )

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

REVIEW: Dot Dash - Winter Garden Light

It is quite common to complain that Washington, D.C. is a constant purveyor of misery to the rest of the country (and much of the rest of the planet), particularly during an election year.  Well, I'm here to tell you that this fall DC has given music fans one of the best power pop albums of the year.  Winter Garden Light, the second LP from Dot Dash, delivers punk pace, a bonus quantity of pop hooks, assured vocals and anthemic choruses.  Listen to the second track while continuing to read:

The band's 2011 release, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, was indeed a promising debut.  However, not only does Winter Garden Light avoid a sophomore slump, it is, in my view, a markedly better album.  The guitars and vocals are better, the songwriting is tighter, and the production sanded off the rough edges without straying into glossiness.

You'll hear elements of punk and britpop, but this album isn't an imitation of anyone; the influences are just ideas, then the talent takes over.  It is a ten-track locomotive that gathers steam for a bit more that a half hour and leaves you wanting to press the replay button.

Dot Dash is Terry Banks (vocals and guitar), Bill Crandall (guitar), Hunter Bennett (bass), and Danny Ingram (drums).  They are alums of various bands, including Julie Ocean, Modest Proposal and Swervedriver.  The CD can be ordered from the label, The Beautiful Music (link below) if your local store doesn't have it.  If you like buying on line, you should note that the album is available at the Bandcamp link below for $7.  This, indeed, is one of the bargains of this election season.

So, do you watch presidential debates or listen to Winter Garden Light loud?  The choice seems clear; the links are below.

The Beautiful Music

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

REVIEW: Murder By Death - Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death's new record Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon is out today (Sept 25) via Bloodshot Records. We wrote about them earlier this summer, noting lead singer Adam Turla's rich baritone and the rocking pace they set on the advance cut "I Came Around". That is one of the more uptempo cuts on the record, but the whole thing is carried by Turla's voice and an overall feel of foreboding.

You can download the song "Lost River" here:

"Lost River" features some dark lyrics and, as on most of the record, the sweet sound of Sarah Balliet's cello serves as a counterpoint to Turla's vocals... but there is usually some uptempo rock not far behind. In addition to Turla and Balliett, Murder By Death consists of Matt Armstrong (bass), Dagan Thogerson (drums) and Scott Brackett (piano, trumpet, accordion, mandolin, vocals, percussion). Armstrong and Thogerson supply a strong base for the guitars, horns and strings that do so much to supply a striking mood for this record.

Turla says yes, the band was named after the movie... which was a comedy. But reading the interview that accompanies the stream below, you'll see that his three favorite current authors, cited as influences on his writing, are Steinbeck, Hemingway and Garcia Marquez... perhaps supplying some explanation of the darker mood and haunting and surreal lyrics.

This is their sixth album but their first with Bloodshot. I see it as a terrific fit. Bloodshot is the label of literate, sometimes dark country-influenced rockers like The Waco Brothers, Chris Mills and the early Old 97's - so there is precedent for a band of Murder By Death's style.

You can currently stream the whole album via MTV Hive:

The Bloomington, IN-based band will head out on tour with Say Anything in October. Tour dates here.

REVIEW: Sacre Noir - Sinking Into Darkness

Edinburgh's Sacre Noir are purveyors of dark electronica and rhythm and blues, with beefy bass and other lower register notes and the haunting vocals of Carrie Beattie.  This summer they released their second album, Sinking Into Darkness, on Savage Recordings, and they have been touring Europe to support the release.  The songs are an accomplished blend of lo-fi industrial and slightly sleazy blues, making it a great album for the night time.  Although no one will mistake these tunes as campfire songs, you may want to sing along.  But whether you are singing, shivering in unease or dancing, you likely will find it compelling.

"She Can't Take It" --

Sacre Noir is Carrie Beattie, Alexis Beattie, and Phil Lock, although other artist collaborate from time to time.  The band is quite experimental in the studio, and uses loops, samples, field recordings and found percussion to flesh out their sound.

Sinking into Darkness was recorded at Savage Studios in Edinburgh.

Savage Recordings

Monday, September 24, 2012

REVIEW: Woods - Bend Beyond

Bend Beyond, by Brooklyn resident Jeremy Earl's Woods, is a strikingly rich and satisfying dose of folk rock and guitar pop.  The songs vary from more traditional pop to more jammy numbers, but it all hangs together with Earl's falsetto, excellent songwriting and tight performances form the band.  The album has noteworthy energy and exudes a confidence born of a band that knows that they have worthy material.

Here is the sunny pop of "Cali in a Cup" --

For those familiar with previous Woods releases, this one is a more straight forward affair, with cleaner and more careful production.  For those not familiar with the group, Bend Beyond is an excellent point of entry to their catalogue.

"Is It Honest" is one of my favorite songs on this album.  For me, it perfectly reflects the essential duality of the music -- a loose delivery that manages to deliver an genuine atmosphere of tension.

Woods - Is It Honest from Windows Have Eyes on Vimeo.

Bend Beyond is out not on Earl's label, Woodsist Records.  Other musicians on the album include Jarvis Taveniere, Kevin Morby, G. Lucas Crane and Aaron Neveu.

Be warned, this album gets under your skin.

Twitter ( @WOODSIST )

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Detroit Hard Rock Discovery: Wendy James with James Williamson and Jim Sclavunos - "You're So Great/It's Alright Ma"

Wendy James, former lead singer of Transvision Vamp is now working with The Stooges' James Williamson (guitar & bass) and The Bad Seeds' Jim Sclavunos (drums & percussion) on an album and in advance of that, has plans to release a double single consisting of covers of The Rendezvous Band's "You're So Great" and Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)". I'll do a little more research on her solo career, which I will admit I was not aware of, but for now, holy cow! Check out these songs:

"You're So Great"

Here's the stream of "It's Alright Ma", a really provocative take:

Apparently it was Williamson's idea for Wendy to pick her favorite Dylan song, and she's done it right. A good Dylan cover is a great thing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wild Cub - new video for "Drive"

Wild Cub is a Nashville-based electro-rock band featuring the soulful vocals of Keegan Dewitt and Jeremy Bullock's terrific soundscapes. In August, we reviewed their new album Youth. They've got a new video for the album cut "Drive":

Wild Cub "Drive" (Official Video) from Wild Cub on Vimeo.

This one was directed by Fort Ripper. 

They'll play some dates w/Sondre Lerche later this month, then perform at the Soundland music fest and CMJ Music Marathon.  Tour dates at their website.

Friday, September 21, 2012

REVIEW: Turbo Fruits - Butter

Nashville is still Music City USA. It's just that, with the presence in Middle Tennessee of rock bands like The Turbo Fruits, Jeff the Brotherhood, PUJOL, Wild Cub, The Excuses and the Ettes, that moniker no longer refers specifically to the country stuff they're making over on Music Row. There is a burgeoning rock scene - all over Nashville and Middle Tennessee - and many folks here will tell you their favorite band is The Turbo Fruits.

Their new album Butter is a pretty straight-ahead rock record, but it hops around a bit between what's commonly called "garage rock" and some of the glammier stuff you might expect from, say, The Strokes - or, going back in time, maybe Marc Bolan. What they have in common with those other bands I mentioned is an attitude - and real skill at combining punk, glam and good old guitar rock.

Most of the record features a pretty fast pace and wild guitar work - from opening cut "Where The Stars Don't Shine" with its heavy bottom and fast psychedelic guitar lead,

--to the punk metal of "Ain't The Only One Having Fun":

--the bike-culture celebration "Harley Dollar Bill$":

Turbo Fruits - Harley Dollar Bill$ from Serpents & Snakes on Vimeo.

and surf-rock workout "10 Years" and club fight anthem "Don't Like To Fight".

But lest you think that's all they've got in their bag of tricks, they vary the tempo and produce some quality songs that almost pass as ballads: "Sweet Thang" has a plaintive quality that wouldn't be out of place on a Walkmen record and "Catch & Release" swings fairly gently, albeit with plenty of tasty electric guitar licks. The record is terrific, and a lot of fun to listen to.

Butter was released last week (9/11) on Serpents and Snakes Records... you can buy it from the band at Turbo Fruits website.

The Velvet Underground & Nico by Castle Face and Friends

Among music fans there probably is a variety of opinion about tribute albums.  But if you are a fan of the music that When You Motor Away writes about, one upcoming tribute album to consider is The Velvet Underground & Nico by Castle Face and Friends.  To commemorate the 45th anniversary of The Velvet Underground and Nico, the labels Castle Face and Universal have teamed up to release a multi-artist, vinyl-only cover of VU's '60s classic.  It will be available on November 6.  For the few of you that may need a remedial course, Castle Face is the Bay Area label founded by John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, and is the home to a number of other bands, including Rocksteady74 favorite The Mallard.  Accordingly, the line-up for the album boasts a host of artists with Dwyer's seal of approval.  For your discerning inspection, the tracklist and players are as follows:

01 Kelley Stoltz: "Sunday Morning"
02 Warm Soda: "I’m Waiting For The Man"
03 Ty Segall: "Femme Fatale"
04 Blasted Canyons feat. Jeremy Cox (of Royal Baths): "Venus In Furs"
05 White Fence: "Run Run Run"
06 The Fresh & Onlys: "All Tomorrow’s Parties"
07 Burnt Ones: "Heroin"
08 The Mallard: "There She Goes Again"
09 Here Comes The Here Comes: "I’ll Be Your Mirror"
10 K. Dylan + The Black Angel’s Death Songsmen: "The Black Angel’s Death Song"
11 Thee Oh Sees: "European Son"

If you are interested in this album, you should note that it is available only through Castle Face Records (pre-orders are accepted) and from the performing bands at their gigs.  No distribution through record stores is planned.  Apparently single tracks from the album will be on various sites in the latter half of October, but I don't know whether they will be available for download.

Castle Face Records' page for the album

First Aid Kit - new video for "Wolf", iTunes session, upcoming tour

First Aid Kit continues to enthrall audiences worldwide. Here's the video for the new single "Wolf":

And they're meeting with great success all around the world... a long way from those videos of them performing folk songs in the woods, and yet pretty much the same thing: two ladies with great voices singing in really close harmony.

Performing Simon and Garfunkel's "America":

Here's a link to buy the iTunes Session - they've reworked a few of the songs from Lion's Roar and earlier records, plus a few they had not recorded before.

And tour dates:

SEPT. 24         CHICAGO, IL                    METRO*
SEPT. 25         ANN ARBOR, MI                THE BLIND PIG*
SEPT. 26         TORONTO, ON                  DANFORTH MUSIC HALL*
SEPT. 28         BOSTON, MA                    ROYALE NIGHTCLUB*
SEPT. 29         NEW YORK, NY                 IRVING PLAZA*
OCT. 3            ASHEVILLE, NC                 ORANGE PEEL*
OCT. 4            ATLANTA, GA                   BUCKHEAD THEATRE*
OCT. 5            NASHVILLE, TN                3RD & LINDSLEY*
OCT. 6            ST. LOUIS, MO                 FIREBIRD*
OCT. 8            OMAHA, NE                     WAITING ROOM*
OCT. 9            LAWRENCE, KS                 THE GRANADA THEATRE*
OCT. 12          AUSTIN, TX                      AUSTIN CITY LIMITS FESTIVAL
OCT. 13          DALLAS, TX                      THE KESSLER THEATER*
OCT. 16          LOS ANGELES, CA              THE FONDA THEATRE*
OCT. 19          PORTLAND, OR                  ROSELAND THEATER*
OCT. 20          SEATTLE, WA                    NEPTUNE**

Dan Deacon - America

Gregory Heaney, performing as Dan Deacon, has made his name in underground electronica circles as an irreverent and quirky talent.  And in comparison to that reputation, America represents a bit of a rebirth.  It feels altogether more serious and wider in scope, which is appropriate in consideration of the subject: An exploration of the essence and dichotomies of the United States.  In a sense, it is Dan Deacon's attempt at an electro-pop Appalachian Spring.  Structurally, the music is intricate and layered, combining electronic and acoustic elements.  While not a party album, there still is a palpable sense of playfulness running parallel to the grand themes.

The second track, "True Thrush" --

The wistful "Prettyboy"--

The final four tracks of the album are  "USA I" through "USA IV",  subtitled in order "Is a Monster", "The Great American Desert", "Rail", and "Manifest".  Thematically, these tracks are the heart of the album and, in my opinion, would make this album a keeper even if the other tracks were not as good as they are.  If you have the time, you can listen to the suite below.

America is an cerebral and emotional musical landscape, and it feels like a celebration of the land for which it is named, reveling in its splendor and contradictions.  And it grows on the listener with each play.

Domino Records

The Soul Corner - Major Lance "Monkey Time"

As I write this I am preparing to head to Chicago and on to Northern Indiana to attend the Notre Dame-Michigan football game Saturday.  So it's time to go back to Chicago soul.

Major Lance moved from Mississippi into Chicago's notorious Cabrini Green housing projects. He befriended his hero Jackie Wilson and other local soul artists. One of them, Curtis Mayfield, wrote this song for Lance, recorded for local soul label Okey Records:

The only thing as smooth as Major Lance's vocals are his dance moves.

And this has ties to the Fighting Irish as Lance was a major figure in the Northern soul movement in Ireland and throughout the UK.

Irish fans hope to be dancing like this late Saturday night.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Garage Rock Discovery: Eureka California - Big Cats Can Swim

Eureka California is an Athens band playing delightful garage rock - British invasion-influenced stuff that is really catchy, raw and kind of psychedelic, in the vein of the Nuggets comps or, say, 13th Floor Elevators or early Pink Floyd - or jumping forward to some of the Paisley Underground stuff like Rain Parade. Big Cats Can Swim is a really good record... as in, the more I listen, the more I like.

Here's album cut "Dos Hermanos":

And here's a video of them playing out in Athens:

It's on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records - out this week, you can order it now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

REVIEW: Robert Pollard - Jack Sells The Cow

Robert Pollard's latest release, Jack Sells The Cow, is a demonstration of a property that his fans are very familiar with: that Pollard is capable of putting out a high-quality album almost monthly.

In what might be a bit of a theme, several of the songs swing between beat-heavy, sludgy verses and catchy, almost poppy guitar-laden choruses... "Heaven Is A Gated Community" hammers home the line "I wanna go with you" over and over, until it releases with a plaintive "Will you go with me? Will you let me know?" The second song, "Take In" features jangly guitar and a soaring multi-tracked Pollard vocal, but again, over a pretty heavy rhythm section.

"Who's Running My Ranch" is probably the best example, and perhaps the best song on the record: there's the solid drum/bass line propelling the song along until the release - again, jangly guitar and that glorious British accent intoning lines like "But if you want to/but the ass won't kick" add texture to the heavy rhythm base.

But wait until you hear some of the surfy guitar lines in "Up For All That" (echoes of the Drifters' "Up On The Roof", anyone else?) and the super-jangle of "Pontius Pilate Heart", the best song on the record. Wait, didn't I just call "Who's Running My Ranch" the best... oh hell, they're all favorites. Or, more to the point, they all will be, in time. You will tap your feet to "Big Groceries" - you won't have a choice.

Here's "The Rank Of A Nurse", which features a somewhat tremulous vocal and one of the more restrained guitar lines (for the first half!):

It's an interesting record - all the songs clock in between 2:00 and 3:30 and I'd say this is a little poppier, a little catchier - but at the same time, a little heavier - than Mouseman Cloud, Pollard's previous 2012 solo release... and they make a nice pair.

Get it at Rockathon.

REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky

I'll make this short, because you are wasting time reading this when you ought to just go get this Dinosaur Jr. album. The formula is by now familiar, but no less enjoyable for that familiarity. If you love Dinosaur Jr.'s music, you aren't looking for them to get into dubstep or flamenco (surely not)... just a reassurance that they are still pumping out soaring guitar solos and J Mascis' and Lou Barlow's warm, plaintive vocals.

Well, consider yourself reassured. There are a few nifty touches here and there - the understated guitar/synth interplay on the lead-in to opening track "Don't Pretend That You Don't Know", the punk pace of "Pierce the Morning Rain"... acoustic interlude on "Recognition", but those serve only to sweeten the taste of the main offering: lots and lots of great electric guitar.

Check out the lead track, "Watch The Corners":

Isn't that pretty much a perfect Dinosaur Jr. song? Why would you mess around with that formula?

Go get this thing, out on Jagjaguwar Records today (Sept 18).

Dinosaur Jr. website

Tour dates:

09/24/12 Toronto, ON: Lee's Palace**

09/25/12 Toronto, ON: Lee's Palace**
09/26/12 Toronto, ON: Lee's Palace**
09/27/12 Detroit, MI: St. Andrew's Hall***
09/28/12 Cincinnati, OH: MidPoint Music Festival***
09/29/12 Champaign, IL: Pygmalion Festival***
10/01/12 Nashville, TN: Mercy Lounge*
10/02/12 Atlanta, GA: Variety Playhouse*
10/03/12 New Orleans, LA: Tipitina's*
10/04/12 Austin, TX: Mohawk*
10/05/12 Houston, TX: Fitzgerald's*
10/06/12 Dallas, TX: The Prophet Bar*
10/08/12 Flagstaff, AZ: Orpheum Theater*
10/09/12 Santa Ana, CA: The Observatory*
10/10/12 San Francisco, CA: The Fillmore*
10/11/12 Eugene, OR, WOW Hall*
10/12/12 Seattle, WA: Neptune Theatre*
10/14/12 Salt Lake City, UT: Urban Lounge*
10/15/12 Denver, CO: Bluebird Theater*
10/17/12 Omaha, NE: The Waiting Room*
10/18/12 Minneapolis, MN: Cabooze*
10/19/12 Madison, WI: Majestic Theatre*
10/20/12 Grand Rapids, MI: The Orbit Room*
10/22/12 Bloomington, IN: The Bluebird*
10/23/12 Cleveland, OH: Beachland Ballroom*
10/24/12 Millvale, PA: Mr. Smalls Theatre*
10/25/12 Washington, DC: Black Cat*
10/26/12 Charlottesville, VA: Jefferson Theater*
10/27/12 Philadelphia, PA: Union Transfer*
11/01/12 Taipei, Taiwan Don't Look Back, Vol. 1 @ Neo Studio
11/03/12 Tokyo, Japan Hostess Club
11/24/12 Santiago, Chile Primavera Fauna
11/28/12 Northampton, MA Pearl Street Nightclub w/ Screaming Females
11/29/12 Portland, ME The State Theatre w/ Screaming Females
11/30/12 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club w/ Screaming Females
12/01/12 New York, NY Terminal 5: Dinosaur Jr’s 25th anniversary of You’re Living All Over Me with Very Special Friends sitting in and Special Guests Kurt Vile and the Violators

REVIEW: Allah-Las - Allah-Las

In my opinion, this debut LP from Los Angeles' Allah-Las could have been titled The Fabulous Greatest Hits of the Allah-Las.  Oh, sure, there is the tricky technical point that this is their first LP and only a few of the songs have been released previously, but when you nail it like these boys have, one feels obligated to reach into the superlatives reservoir.  The capsule summary is that this record is a collection of note-perfect California surf/psych and British invasion with a modern, soulful groove.  One could wonder whether it was concocted in a laboratory by mad musical geniuses funded by a major label.  But the facts are more organic and inspiring -- these songs are the product of four guys who met working in the back room of LA's Amoeba Records and whose job exposed them to stacks of old vinyl and CDs.  Their public journey as a band began in 2008, and their first record was the two song Catamaran/Long Journey.  The latter song ends the new LP, while the jaunty "Catamaran" is the opener.

"Catamaran", with footage from a year ago trip to Seattle --

And while both of those early songs hold up as showcase tunes, the space in between is an absolute delight.  You can thrill to the Byrdsian jangle of "Vis-A-Vis", groove to the psychedelia of "Busman's Holiday" and "No Voodoo" or dance to the British Invasion styled "Don't You Forget It" or "Catalina".  The album even includes two instrumentals -- the surf rock of "Sacred Sands" and the Latin romp of "Ela Navega".  One of the true standout tracks is the psychedelic "Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)".

My favorite quote about these guys probably is "the way their music makes me feel is one of the principal reasons I listen to music."  However, since I wrote that on this blog in late June, I'd probably breach some internet ethics rule dwelling on it, so we will speak no more about it.

The Allah-Las are Miles, Pendrum, Spencer, and Matt.  Allah-Las is out today on the Innovative Leisure label, and it has Rocksteady74's highest level endorsement.  This will be of my top ten albums for the year.

Here is a video of a live performance of "Sandy", followed by an interview with the band --

We'll close the musical portion of the review as the album closes, with "Long Journey" --

Allah-Las are touring in support of the album.  Their tour partner is R&B old soul, and the producer of their album, Nick Waterhouse.  WYMA unreservedly recommends both acts.

All dates with Nick Waterhouse except for 10/5 - Brooklyn.
9/26 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
9/28 - St. Louis, MO - Plush
9/29 - Indianapolis, IN - White Rabbit Cabaret
9/30 - Nashville, TN - Hi Watt
10/2 - Washington, DC - RocknRoll Hotel
10/3 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brendas
10/4 - Boston, MA - Great Scott
10/5 - Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
10/6 - NYC - Bowery Ballroom
10/8 - Toronto, Canada - Great Hall
10/10 - Chicago - Lincoln Hall
10/11 - Minneapolis - Fine Line
10/14 - Seattle, WA - Neumo’s
10/15 - Bellingham, WA - Wild Buffalo
10/16 - Vancouver, Canada - Biltmore
10/17 - Portland, OR - Star Theater
10/20 - San Francisco, CA - Bimbo’s

Twitter ( @AllahLas )
Innovative Leisure

Saturday, September 15, 2012

REVIEW: The Hermit Crabs - Time Relentless EP

The Time Relentless EP is the first recorded output from Scotland's beloved The Hermit Crabs since 2009.  For those not familiar with the band, they produce a shimmering indie pop/folk pop that may remind the listener of fellow Scots Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian.

The first of the four tracks on Time Relentless EP  is the upbeat "On the Spectrum" -- a song based on the comparison of two relationships.  Vocals, chords, keys, guitar picking -- this song packs about as much indie pop goodness in three minutes as you could imagine.  I expect that it's choice as the opener was deliberate, as is ably dismisses any possible doubts as to whether THC have returned in top form.

"On the Spectrum" is followed by the wistful title track, the lyrics of which are supplied by a poem written by a Scottish cyclist.  The tune begins in a slow tempo, but soon the chiming guitars and soaring keys take over.

The third track, "Stop This Now", is available now as a free download.

The EP closes with "So Blue".  With a slower tempo and a theme of helping a friend in need, it is a fitting closer to a sweet indie pop triumph.

The members of The Hermit Crabs are Mel (vocals/guitar), John (lead guitar), Chris (bass) and Jo (keys/violin).  Time Relentless EP is out now on Matinee Recordings.

Twitter ( @TheHermitCrabs )
EP page at Matinee Recordings
Matinee Recordings

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Country/Folk Discovery: Aaron Embry - Tiny Prayers

Aaron Embry is working in a timeless style - acoustic country music with guitar, piano and harmonica, and twangy, emotion-filled vocals. Some of these songs would not be out of place in, say, an old Jimmy Stewart western - they're that earnest, spare and plainspoken.

Here's "Moon Of The Daylit Sky":

It's really charming stuff, and highly recommended if you enjoy the likes of Mumford & Son and The Avett Brothers. Here he is performing "Your Heart And Mine":

He's toured with Elliott Smith, Willie Nelson and Daniel Lanois and will soon be supporting Milo Greene:



Tiny Prayers will be out next week (Sept 18) via Community Music.

The Soul Corner - "I'm Your Puppet"

Has there ever been a cooler named duo than James and Bobby Purify? The given names of these Florida native cousins were James Lee Purify and Robert Lee Dickey.

And in 1966 they laid down a tremendous single "I'm Your Puppet":

Written by the great Dan Penn.

Love the bells.

REVIEW: Neil Halstead - Palindrome Hunches

I expect that Neil Halstead wants us to like his music, that he cares about whether we like his music.  But I also expect that he would make the music he makes even if we didn't like it.  And Neil is a guy with a lot of different things to say, musically.  In the '90s, barely 17, the surfer from Cornwall, UK formed beloved shoegazers Slowdive.  In the last decade, his vehicle was Americana/dream pop band Mojave 3.  And this month, he released Palindrome Hunches, his third solo album.  The songs are light in tone, although not necessarily thematically, and follow classic British and American folk traditions.  His supporting musicians are from the Band of Hope, including Ben Smith (violin), Drew Milloy (double bass), Paul Whitty (piano), and Tom Crook (guitar).  The album was produced by Nick Holton and released by Brushfire Records.

As with his previous solo work, Hastead's emphasis here is on songs, rather than sound.  Some of the songs are more lively than others, but all of them create an atmosphere that is perfect for reflection on an autumn evening.  You might reflect on what Neil sings, or you might drift off into your own thoughts. But in either case, you'll owe Halstead thanks for a good time.  Here is my current favorite track, the memorably named "Bad Drugs and Minor Chords" --

One effect of the arrangements featured on Palindrome Hunches is that Halstead's vocals become the primary focal point.  With such spare instrumentation, that suggests a risk.  But his rich, perfectly modulated tenor is more than up to the task.  Of course, it is purely a personal opinion, but I can't think of any other male vocalist that I would prefer in this musical setting.

"Wittgenstein's Arm" --

The excellent title track --

We actually don't bring you a lot of quiet albums on this blog, so when we do, you'll know that we really like them.  I like Halstead.  I like this album and expect you might as well.

Brushfire Records

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New video from Nervous Curtains - "It's The End Of Eternity" from Fake Infinity

Here's a new video from Dallas band Nervous Curtains, the guitarless doom-rockers we featured previously on WYMA:

Nervous Curtains "It's The End Of Eternity" from Justin Wilson on Vimeo.

This one actually gives a pretty good visual representation of their atmospheric sound - as pointed out previously, and elsewhere, it's evocative and they do a nice job of layering in various keyboards and piano sounds over the drumbeat... and the sometimes toneless, seemingly emotionless vocals complete the picture.

The album is Fake Infinity, and it's available now. You can also download "Wired To Make Waves" - click here.

REVIEW: Bart and Friends - It's Not The Words You Say

Bart and Friends are so generous this year that they have released their second EP of the summer.  This record, It's Not the Words You Say, is available from Portland's label Shelflife Records.  As before, the players are a indie pop supergroup consisting of Bart Cummings (Cat's Miaow and Hydroplane), Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, The Pines and Castaway Stones), Scott Stevens (Summer Cats and The Earthmen), Mark Monnone (The Lucksmiths), Louis Richter (The Lucksmiths and Mid State Orange).

The songs are classic Bart and Friends -- melancholy and hope in equal measure, with jangly guitars, endearing melodies, perfect harmonies and, on this EP, Scott Stevens' lead vocals.  It is a six song set that ably showcases Bart's ability to craft concise pop nuggets.   Willing to include the material of others, one of their tracks re-imagines "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" as a jangle pop song.

I think my favorite track is "Everything Goes Quiet in the End", a lyric of which give the EP its title --

A perfect little tune about leaving one's lover.  Or maybe not leaving one's lover.  There seems to be a bit of uncertainty here.

The jangly delights of "I Was" --

Bart and Friends are having a good musical year.  I encourage you to share it with them.

Our post regarding the earlier 2012 release is here.

Shelflife Records

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

REVIEW: Ian Hunter - When I'm President

Ian Hunter is 73 years old, but my word, you would never know it.

I saw Mr. Hunter put on a great show in Portland recently. Pure rock'n'roll, a mix of Mott the Hoople classics and solo hits like "Once Bitten, Twice Shy".  But surprisingly, many of the standout songs were from a brand new record that was released on Sept 4.

Here's one of my favorite singles of 2012, the title track from the 20th full length release of Hunter's career When I'm President:

Hunter's influences haven't changed much over the decades as there's still a lot of Stones and Dylan in him. Which is all good by me. But there's an impassioned drive here that you just very rarely find in artists at this stage of their career. Or at any stage. Hunter still brings the irresistible British pub rock on "Saint" and "Comfortable (Flyin' Scotsman)". But he also throws a couple nice curveballs, including the Native American inspired "Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)".

He has a first rate band backing him here and on the road with him - The Rant Band:
Mark Bosch, guitar
James Mastro, guitar (yes that James Mastro from the Bongos)
Steve Holley, drums (longtime McCartney drummer)
Paul Page, bass
Andy Burton, keyboards

Stream the entire CD here: MySpace stream

Tour dates: Ian Hunter 2012 Tour

Don't miss this show if you get a chance to see it.

"Dysmirror" - New song by Father Sculptor

Father Sculptor has released their final summer song, "Dysmirror".  They also have revealed a bit more of themselves.  The band is Thomas David (vocals and guitar), Felix (drums), Matthew (keyboard and vocals), Philip (bass) and Joseph (guitar).  The band was formed in Glasgow, but I believe some or all members may have relocated to the Manchester environs.  They also have been performing live, and will be playing at the We Can Still Picnic collective's Mao Disney launch at Glasgow's Elephants Head Poetry Club on September 15.

And the music? "Dysmirror" continues the band's refinement of the glorious melancholy, with soaring, aching vocals and a wall of guitar and synthesizer over a pounding rhythm.

We understand that a physical release is planned for the new year.  We intend to make room for it.

If you didn't download the previous songs of the summer from Father Sculptor, click on over to Bandcamp.  You won't regret it.

Twitter ( @fathersculptor )
Link to Felix Bucklow's visual arts site

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

REVIEW: Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray - We're From Here

Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray have put together a debut record that is simply stunning in its scope and in the sheer size of its sound. We're From Here is a title that apparently grew out of an answer to the question, often asked, "Where are you from?" Shevaughn grew up in Arkansas and Louisiana, and Wray internationally, but their most recent permanent home was Chicago, as good an American music melting pot as you could think of. In working out the songs that comprise We're From Here, they apparently took up residence in their van and travelled the country. Similarly, they imposed no limits on their music.

On beginning to listen, I am reminded of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, but that's probably too easy a comparison - after all, anybody can see that the band consists of a female folk/country/rock crooner and an ace guitar player. Although it would appear Shevaughn's an ace guitarist herself... Another comparison that came to my mind in listening to this record a few times over was "kd lang fronting Uncle Tupelo". But then, there are those guitars...

"Make It Out Alive" is an amazing song, one that owes as much to Springsteen as to, say, Emmylou and Gram. It's roots rock with some big-time guitar slinging. Similarly, "Lost My Way" reminds me of Eleventh Dream Day or Sonic Youth, just some tremendous guitar work.

But on songs like "The River Made Me Do It", Wray provides some fairly restrained picking over the first two or three minutes, which allows Shevaughn's voice to stay right on top. She's an excellent country-rock vocalist, seemingly comfortable with any type of song... and Wray's always ready with some wicked, ragged electric guitar to punctuate things in between choruses.

And there are dead-on folk songs like "Factory Clock":

Check out the guitar work on this instrumental, "Mi Burro Esta En Fuego" - a rough mix from their recording process:

There's not a bad song on the record - Wray's a good vocalist, too, and he takes lead vocals on a few of the songs here: "Make It Out Alive", "Keep On Wailin'" and "Cloin's Lament".

Mostly, though, this record is recommended if you like guitars. Whether plucking and bending the strings, as on the pretty "No Grave To Brush The Dust From", or shredding, as they do throughout most of the rest of the album, the quality of the fretwork is uniformly excellent... this is a tremendous debut. It's out today (9/11) and you can learn more at their website, or buy it directly from the band here.

REVIEW: Seapony - Falling

The debut LP from Seattle's Seapony made my list of top 30 albums for 2012, and I was eager to hear their Sophomore effort.  Falling is released today on Hardly Art, and my verdict is that everything we loved about the Seapony last year is again available for your sonic pleasure.  The hooky melodies are engaging, the breathy vocals sweet and easy, and the guitars are excellent.  What is slightly different here is all positive.  Overall, I think it is a stronger set of songs with a fuller sound, and the guitars seem to have a bit more muscle in this outing.

Here is "Outside", the album's opening track --

The dream pop field is not uncrowded these days, so standing out from the crowd isn't easy.  That Seapony succeeds in doing so is attributable to a few factors in my view.  First, the kids write good songs, with melodies that you want to hear again and again.  Second, they adroitly stitch together the jangle and fuzz of the C86 era with the DIY naivete of the K Records bands.

Seapony is Jen Weidl (guitar, vocals), Danny Rowland (guitar) and Ian Brewer (bass).  Falling was recorded in Brewer's home and mixed at the by Bob Schwenkler at K Records' Dub Narcotic Studio in Olympia, Washington.

Turn it on -- you won't want to turn it off.

Twitter ( @SeaponyBand )
Hardly Art

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Discovery: Agent Ribbons - Let Them Talk EP, out 9/11

Agent Ribbons is an Austin-based duo playing an engaging style of rock music... someplace where Liz Phair's vocals receive a Spectorish wall of sound treatment, and raw, jangly garage-rock guitars get a little extra dose of reverb. The music is well-made, and striking in both its uniqueness and its similarity to other off-center noise pop or surf rock you already enjoy.

They're pretty heavy on drama and general theatricality, for more about that check out this video for the lead track "Family Haircut":

And here they are playing the song live at SXSW:

You may like the theatricality, or like me, you may just like the music. I'm impressed with all the sound they get from one guitar, a drum kit and two voices... and that's really what kept me coming back to this record. Here's a link to download "Family Haircut".

And if you like it, I'll just tell you that it's certainly representative of the whole record. They're good songwriters who have a way with a hook and clever wordplay. It's out September 11 (tomorrow) on Antenna Farm Records. This EP is a precursor for a full-length record due out in 2013.

REVIEW: The Ravonettes - Observator

Few bands in the last couple of decades have emerged with a sound that enthralled and captivated me to the extent of Danish duo The Raveonettes.  From the opening strains of "Attack of the Ghost Riders" from the Whip It On EP, I was convinced that Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo liked what I like in music.  Ten years later with the release of Observator, their sixth full-length, I continue to find some of my most satisfying musical moments in world of The Raveonettes.  Don't misunderstand, the sound of Observator is not the three-chord stylish minimalism of the first couple albums.  But it also isn't a rejection of the sensibilities that were evident in the The Raveonettes' explosion on the scene in 2002.  The group's commitment to surfy, layered, reverb-heavy guitars, Spectorish walls of sound, primarily female lead vocals, a Buddy Holly simplicity to the melody and a distinct, but straightforward, rhythm structure remain.  What is changed, to my mind, simply reflects life.  The lives of Wagner and Foo have become more complex, layered and exposed to the darkness we all see as we live and age.  As artists, their experience is reflected in their music.  Of course, a nod to the dark and rough side was always a part of the lyrical themes.  But in the early years, it felt to be as much of a stylistic choice as it was a commentary.  Certainly now, and perhaps beginning as far back as 2008's Lust, Lust, Lust, Wagner and Foo are consciously examining, rather that iconizing, darker themes.  Accordingly, limitations, self-destructive tendencies, disappointments, despair, and death are present, as well as the redemption and triumph we all strive to find when faced with defeat.  And the sound is more complex as well, with additional guitar layers, synths and, for the first time, a piano.  While that the sound is glorious, I think it is more important to note that the current version of The Raveonettes transcends their stylish garage pop beginnings; they may now be the best dream pop band in pop music today.

The album starts out with a challenge to expectations, a stripped-down Americana song with a piano as the featured instrument.  Didn't expect that, did you?

The album's atmosphere turns darker and denser on "Observations", and the excellent following track, "Curse the Night".

But the pace and tone tick up appreciably with jangle/dream pop of "The Enemy", the rocking "Sinking with the Sun", and the following tracks.  And perhaps because I'm an optimist,  it is the sixth track that sums up the album for me.  "She Owns the Streets" is inspired by a New York performance artist.  The song celebrates the notion of following your own path, and defining triumph and success on your own terms.  Even more special, the official video feature the subject artist, as well as cameos by Sune and Sharin.

On Observator The Raveonettes continue to merge their own Scandinavian take on American music with a willingness to explore the possibilities of electronica.  Happily, the hallmarks of their career career remain: Sune is a great guitarist; Sharin is a note-perfect performer; and both have an impeccable feel for style.  At the end of the road, when a two or three disc Greatest Hits of The Raveonettes is released, it will justifiably include several songs from Observator.  For now, it simply is one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

Observator is released tomorrow, September 11, on Vice Records.

Twitter ( @theraveonettes )