Friday, November 30, 2012

This is some kind of test.

See if you can identify the thread running through this post.

Alright, if it's not clear from this picture where we're headed, I'll have to help you out a little on the others.

She doesn't look happy, does she?

Looks like Brett Somers showed up to work drunk again.

Right here, Buck Dharma and Eric Blair have just asked for LESS cowbell.

"Excuse me? I should stick my thumb up my what?"

What? You still don't get it? Do I have to do everything around here?

This song flat out cooks, and might be the best song so far this year. It'll be on the their album Honeys, forthcoming from Sub Pop in February, '13.

 This has been a test.

REVIEW: The Spook School - I Don'Know, You Don't Know, We All Don't Know The Spook School

I try to keep up with the fine young Scottish band The Spook School, and I closely follow the releases of the small but supremely tasteful Scottish label Soft Power Records.  So you can imagine how much I appreciated the potential economies to my work load when the band and the label agreed that the next EP from The Spook School would be released by Soft Power.  Thanks, guys, I'm very grateful.  (Oh sure, it is possible the parties also had subsidiary reasons, such as business reasons or mutual respect, but I can pretend it is about me if I want to.)

But, was it all worth the effort?  Well, yes -- yes it was.  I Don't Know, You Don't Know, We All Don't Know The Spook School is a delightful five-track blast of Spook music.  This band has a rare ability to combine the pace, energy and fuzz of garage with the twee side of indie.  And it is showcased well on lead track "I Don't Know".  The song begins slow and twee, but then transitions between noise pop and twee again, and then again, with male and female vocals taking turns.  "We Don't Know" is a fun tune that is garage pop from start to finish.  "That's When I Ran Away" has a slack Sonny and the Sunsets/Camper Van Beethoven vibe, but with more noise.  Ahhh ... deliciously loud guitars!  The affecting melancholy of "Something" is stunning change of pace.  It is restrained, emotional and captivating.  I pressed repeat twice.  And then we have the garage jam of the fifth track, the name of which is "Can You Ever Trust A Man Who Thinks Matt Damon's Really Cool?"  I'll say no more.

The album will be released on December 17, but we are front running the release because Soft Power is taking pre-orders for the cassettes, which are a limited run and are likely to be spoken for by savvy shoppers prior to the official release date.  At that point, your only choice would be the digital copy.  Not that having the digital only is a bad thing.  Consider the alternative: No new EP from The Spook School (I won't be tricked into typing the name of the album again).  Exactly; unthinkable.

The Spook School is Naomi Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamley.  They are located in Edinburgh.

Bandcamp for the EP
Soft Power Records

The Soul Corner - "We're A Winner" The Impressions (feat. Curtis Mayfield)

Last Friday's Soul Corner was by far the most viewed ever, so I want to build off the thematic narrative of last week, while also tipping the cap to the amazing Bruce Springsteen show I saw this Wednesday night in Portland OR. It was the most soulful Bruce show I've ever seen. To my ears, Curtis Mayfield hovered over the arena all night and not just when Bruce played bits of the Impressions "People Get Ready" a couple times during the course of the festivities.

So put those themes together and you get this week's Soul Corner song, The Impressions' "We're a Winner":

Released in 1967, written and produced by the great Curtis Mayfield (who has been previously featured here at the Soul Corner), "We're a Winner" was of course not about a football team, but a far higher calling, the Civil Rights movement. "We're a Winner" became an anthem for the times, an empowering  song that gave voice to the complex emotions of the African-American community. It was exactly the sound and heroic sense of purpose that inspired Mr. Springsteen and his E Street Band throughout their distinguished career.

Here's Bruce and a band of all stars covering Mr. Mayfield as he was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 1994:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tiny Birds - Local History EP

The Local History EP by London's Tiny Birds has been getting a lot of play around my abode of late.  The band's music has been referred to as sad songs with happy music, and I suppose that is a good starting point.  Certainly the music, which is I'll describe as indie rock with folk accents and bright African "high life" flourishes, is energetic major key stuff of high quality.  It even contains a song titled "John Travolta".

Local History is self-released, and may be flying too low under the radar to gain major traction.  I think that's a shame, as it presents five really good songs.  The EP is available as a limited edition CD, or as a "name your price" digital download.  Click on the Bandcamp link below for details.  And, as is our custom, you can take it for a test drive here.  You'll appreciate the plush surroundings, attention to detail and smooth engine.

By the way, Tiny Birds are Matt, Mark, Tim, Tom and Dave.

Twitter ( @tinybirdsongs )

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Introducing: Queen Jane

You may not have expected this, but Cumbernauld, Scotland is the home of the best Afro-pop inflected indie band you've heard in a great while.  James McGarragle, Chris Harvie, Mark MacDonald and Craig Lindsay comprise Queen Jane, a group which remains unsigned only due to the corruption and sloth rampant in the A&R segment of the music industry.  A good introduction to their sound would be the Romantics EP, which just has been released this week.  If you worked forward from their promising Confetti EP to their early 2012 EP, Denver, to now, you'd readily see the maturing of this group.  Get on the bandwagon now, boys and girls.

The lads took the time to create this video for EP track "Josephine.  It is a rousing, energetic tune and I think you'll enjoy it --

Queen Jane - Josephine from Queen Jane on Vimeo.

As I noted above, the most recent past release is the Denver EP.  The video for track "Those Summers" can be viewed here, and the entire EP streamed below.   I should note that the entire Denver EP, with a bonus amount of Afro-pop guitar, is available as a free download at Bandcamp.  I think you can figure out what to do about that, don't you?

Queen Jane - Those Summers from Queen Jane on Vimeo.

The 2011 debut EP, Confetti, is available as a free download at their Bandcamp page.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Post-Rock Discovery: Ninetails - Slept And Did Not Sleep EP

From Liverpool comes math-rock band Ninetails. They're playing with precision, but also with emotion. The bass lines are propulsive, the guitar playing is strong and vocals understated, in places reminiscent of Chris Martin and Thom Yorke. The band consists of Ed Black, Jordan Balaber, Phil Morris and Jake King. They are playing a heady mix of indie rock with world beat and dance-rock elements and some unexpected twists and turns that hint, to me, of a jazz background for at least some of these guys. Their new EP is Slept And Did Not Sleep, due for release Dec. 10.

Here's the video for "Maybe We":

And here is a live performance of "Rawdon Fever" (my favorite cut on the record):

And you can stream it at their Soundcloud site:

The album will be out soon on Superstar Destroyer Records... looking forward to more from them.

REVIEW: The Garlands - The Garlands

The self-titled LP from The Garlands, out today on Portland, Oregon's Shelflife Records, is another worthy addition to the catalog of great Swedish indie pop.  I expect that they could claim to be musical cousins with fellow Swedes The Radio Dept. and The Concretes.  But looking beyond the borders of their home country, there seems to be a kinship with Rose Melberg's Go Sailor project and the UK's Camera Obscura, The Popguns and The Shop Assistants.  As you would expect with that introduction, the melodies are delightful, the harmonies soaring, the guitars full and chiming.

The Stockholm-based band originated in 2007 as a studio project with Christin Wolderth providing vocals and Roger Gunnarsson playing the instruments.  The current line-up for live performances is Christin joined by Patrik Lindgren and Einar Ekstrom on guitars, Maria Grum playing bass and providing backing vocals, and Robert Klaesson on drums.  Apparently Roger doesn't participate in the live act, but still is involved with the recording process.

Here is album track "Open Arms", which also has been released as a single --

The Garlands have mastered the indie pop template.  With one exception, the songs don't break the three minute mark.  While the vocals are invariably sweet, the pace and brawn of the arrangements keep the proceedings exhilarating.  And the overall effect is happiness -- what more could you want from an album at the beginning of winter?

Shelflife Records

Monday, November 26, 2012

You Should Know: Reverberation Radio

Hey music fan -- do you think you are wired into the indie scene?  Certainly reading WYMA is an essential step.  But we think that everyone should know about Reverberation Radio.  The concept simply is this:  Every Wednesday the boys of Allah-Las (who would be welcomed as our official west coast house band if we ever got a west coast headquarters) and some of their friends curate a playlist.  You can stream it, and you can download it.  There will be songs you've heard before from bands you know, there will be songs you've never heard from bands you know, and they'll be songs you've never heard from artists you don't know.  But you'll enjoy the ride whether it is one of discovery or one of nostalgia.  Here is the link to the Reverberation website.  If you use Facebook, you can like-and-subscribe and get weekly notifications when the new weekly edition is available (Facebook for Reverberation Radio).

This has been a public service announcement. You may now return to your normal lives, but with a new and improved soundtrack.

New Video from Allah-Las

Our love for Allah-Las around WYMA headquarters is no secret (review of LP here).  One of my favorite songs on their self-title debut album was the Byrdsian "Vis-A-Vis", so I was thrilled to learn that they made a video for the song.  Enjoy "Vis-A-Vis" and a story about a postcard with Southern California as a backdrop.


REVIEW: Deathline - Nova

Nova is the exciting debut LP from Deathline, the London-based rock/electronic duo consisting of Jennie Werlemar (vocals and bass) and Kaoru Sato (guitar and programming).  Featuring thundering industrial beats, menacing guitars that bring to mind Suicide gleefully distorting the Stooges and Velvet Underground and Werlemar's distinctive low register vocals, this album could be your dark mood choice for the Winter.  Give it a try with "Ten of Clubs" --

DEATHLINE - Ten of Clubs from Deathline on Vimeo.

Nova's atmosphere is dense and foreboding, with synth lines and guitar riffs cutting through the fog.  In the wrong hands, these elements could be suffocating.  But the 13 tracks here are exhilarating, even liberating.  And it is all distinctly Deathline -- too dark and swaggering to be shoegaze, too noir and industrial to be psychedelic, too post-rock to truly be garage or blues rock.

If you like what you've heard, check out the Bandcamp link, where you can stream and buy the entire album.

Twitter ( @Deathline )
Bandcamp for Nova

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Texas Alt Country Discovery - J. Charles and The Trainrobbers - Upon Leaving

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers is a Dallas-based outfit playing punk-inflected country rock with the added bonus of some really gorgeous pedal steel. Produced by Centro-matic's Matt Pence, this record has a big sound that belies the fact that it's their first release. Put another way, this band has surely been refining its chops for years - they don't come out of the box sounding this strong.

From the opener's mournful a capella harmonies to the hard rocking guitars of later cuts like "Something", Upon Leaving sets the level high and keeps it high throughout. Strong, strong choruses and, again, I just can't say enough about the pedal steel. The band's lineup consists of J. Charles Saenz (Guitar, Vocals), Steven Visneau (Drums), Justin Young (Bass, Vocals) and Danny Crelin (Pedal Steel Guitar). Saenz's vocals are a bit reminiscent of a younger John Mellencamp, but this is much more C&W-leaning. Other touchpoints may be the Drive-by Truckers or Jason Isbell, in their harder-rocking country moments.

Here's a video of them performing "Something" - check out the way they build to the chorus and layer in the vocal harmonies and pedal steel on top of a very strong country rock sound:

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers is a welcome addition to my collection of terrific alt country from the DFW area (Centro-matic, Slobberbone, Old 97's)... looking forward to hearing more from them. The record is available via the label End Sounds.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Introducing: La Luz

Not ready to leave summer?  Let's look backwards a bit with some indie surf.  With an appealing sound that evokes Dick Dale or the Ventures combined with a '60s girl group, the young, all-female Seattlites called La Luz are just what the DJ prescribed.

The band members are Shana Cleveland (guitar), Marian Li Pino (drums), Abbey Blackwell (bass), and Katie Jacobson (keyboard).  And they all sing.  Give their new Damp Face EP  a spin.  Swing to the fast numbers line "Sure as Spring", feel a chill with the atmospheric surf noir instrumental of "Damp Face".  If you like it, the Bandcamp site is your new best friend.  The digital EP is available for "name your price" and the cassette for $4.  Hang on to those summer vibes with La Luz, my friends.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Special - Free Single from The Deadline Shakes

Sounding like a combination of The Strokes from NYC and Glasgow's beloved Orange Juice either one of which should be enough cool for any occasion -- "Don't Be Too Cool" is the latest single from The Deadline Shakes.  And the song has been made available for free download by the band's label, Flowers in the Dustbin.  So give it a play, and then download it at Bandcamp.  This will be the cheapest Black Friday treat, and probably the easiest to obtain.  And you won't tire of it like that sweater you just bought (whatever were you thinking?).

"Don't Be Too Cool" follows in the fine tradition of Glasgow guitar pop.  Add it to your holiday season soundtrack.

The Deadline Shakes are Greg Dingwall (guitar/vocals), Iain McKinstry (guitar/vocals), Martin McLeod (bass) and Thomas Booth (drums).  Our original profile of the band and their debut single "Sweeten the Deal" is here.

Twitter ( @deadlineshakes )
Flowers in the Dustbin

The Soul Corner - The special Irish Chocolate edition

Especially for the many Notre Dame football fans among our loyal readers, we feature the signature song of a special young man today.

Louis Nix III is a defensive lineman whose dominating play in the middle is a very big reason why Notre Dame is rated #1 in the country. But perhaps more important are Louis' enthusiasm and infectious personality, which contribute significantly to ND's remarkable team chemistry.

The junior from Jacksonville, Florida has 11 younger brothers, so he no doubt learned to lead with some humor and perspective there.

We know of his outsized personality from a series of homemade videos that he posts called Chocolate News. Here's my favorite: We pet mooses around here.

So what is the theme song that Big Lou uses in the videos?  "Candy" by Cameo from their 1986 smash  Word Up!:

Cameo were a large ensemble from New York City, led by Larry Blackmon. "Candy" has been sampled by many, including Tupac Shakur, Mariah Carey, the Black Eyed Peas, and Master P.

So as America finishes up the Thanksgiving celebration and turns its attention to Notre Dame's regular season finale against traditional rival Southern Cal tomorrow, we here at the Soul Corner give thanks for ND's remarkable season and honor the 6'3", 326 pound soul man, "Irish Chocolate", the irrepressible Louis Nix III.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from WYMA!

As we did last year, we'd like to wish our loyal readers wherever you are out there across the world, a very Happy Thanksgiving Day.  We've got a set of great tunes to give thanks to today.
Our readership nearly doubled this year, and we are grateful to all of you for the support. We are having fun here.
So thank you!
Here's two for you Soul Corner fans, the first courtesy of Frank Fahey:

And for you rockers who like your thank you's a bit more on the greasy side, here's a kick ass live version of "I Thank You" by some guys who had beards long before they were trendy hipster gear:

Here's one from the great Ray Davies, a proper Brit (well sort of), noting this American holiday:

And finally, from our dear friends in Chicago, Diane Christiansen and Steve Dawson, and their great Americana band Dolly Varden, a brand new song "Thank You". This is from their new full length CD For A While which we will be writing about here when it is released in Jan 2013. A new Dolly Varden record is indeed something to be thankful for:

Have a great Thanksgiving Day everyone! Tune in tomorrow for a very special edition of the Soul Corner that will carry particularly resonance for you Notre Dame football fans out there.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Introducing: French Films

New Order trying its hand as a garage band, or the Hives or the Strokes trying for New Order's new wave?  Whichever way you decide to view it, Finnish band French Films has captured an undeniably great sound.  The band was formed in 2010, garnered positive attention with a few demos and released a four track EP.  In 2011 they released the Imaginary Future LP.  They are working on their second full length, but this summer released the two-track 7" When People Like You Filled The Heavens.  Both tracks are excellent.

The current line-up for French Films is Johannes Leppanen (guitar/vocals), Joni Kahkonen (guitar/vocals), Santtu Vainio (keyboards), Antti Inkilainen (drums), and Tuomas Asanti (bass).

Here is "Convict" from last year's Imaginary Future full length --

You can stream four of the album's ten songs at this Soundcloud link.

The four-track EP Golden Sea was released in 2010.  Here is the title track --

You can stream the entire EP here.

I think these guys have a great future, and can make their mark far beyond Finland's shores.  Give them a little time at the links.  Their current output is available at iTunes and Amazon.  And of course, watch for the release of their second album.

Twitter ( @frenchfilmsband )

Monday, November 19, 2012

REVIEW: Woollen Kits - Four Girls

If a guitar pop fan were to pick only one city to supply his or her musical needs lately, a competitive candidate would be Melbourne, Australia.  And one of the reasons is the trio known as Woollen Kits.  With apparent influences from '60s rock, the Flying Nun bands and '80s underground rock, this band creates an exciting brand of garage pop, with enough punk, enough jangle and enough driving bass to make their music stand out from the crowd.  Can three guys sound like a mash up of The Troggs, The Clean and a band from Athens, Georgia with plenty of caffeine?  Their new LP Four Girls answers the question in the affirmative.  Try it out with the single "Susannah" --

Four Girls presents a guitar pop band that is unafraid to adorn their melodies with muscle and energy.  The confidence in the music they produce is evident, and it is infectious.  I'd give you hints about which songs are the best, but my favorites tend to change with each listen.  But the last time through the album I gave replay honors to "Be You" and "All Sorts" as well as "Susannah".

 By the way, the title of the album reflects the subject of four of the ten tracks -- in addition to "Susannah", there are songs entitled Shelley, Sandra and Cheryl.  Shall we meet Shelley?

Woollen Kits is Tom Hardisty, Tom Ridgewell and Leon Applebee.  Four Girls is their second LP of 2012, and it is out on RIP Society Records in Australia and Trouble in Mind Records in the U.S.

RIP Society Records
RIP Society Records - Tumblr
Trouble In Mind Records

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Let's honor 1988: The Replacements

We here at WYMA are a little giddy today over our 11-0 football team. It reminds us of our most recent glory days in the late '80s, early '90s, when the Fighting Irish were in the national championship hunt every year, and not forgotten for us music geeks, great American rock blasted across the quads on America's most beautiful campus and its game day parking lots.
When Cierre Wood broke off that long TD run on a picture perfect option play in the first quarter today, it immediately brought this to mind, echoes of glorious Notre Dame teams and tailgates past :  

And this:

More recently, there's this beautiful mess:

For rock trivia, did you know that the 'Mats longtime sound man and engineer Tim Powell was an Notre Dame grad?  

My favorite personal ND 'Mats story - their mgr Peter Jesperson game me a cassette advance of Tim in September 1985, shortly before it came out. I headed off to ND for a game the next day. We brought a boom box into Lee's Ribs and blasted it in there after the game, then ended up at Bridget's late that night, where we paid the bartender $20 to turn it up full blast and play it all night on continuous loop. ND fans celebrated beating Michigan State 27-10 and heard Tim, arguably the great rock'n'roll album in American history, before anyone else in the US. A Midwestern celebration of the highest order.  
It sounded like this: 


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Soul Corner - "The Tracks of My Tears'

One of the first music conversations I ever had with WYMA's founder and fearless leader, John Hyland, was about today's song. We both marvelled at its perfect construction, unforgettable lyrics and array of pop hooks.

Smokey Robinson is an absolute master and this is one of his very finest moments. Some good footage here:

Introducing: The Rosy Crucifixion

I don't know where you go for morbidly focused hillbilly garage music, but of course I go to Glasgow.  That's right, Glasgow's The Rosy Crucifixion delivers crashing and twanging roots guitars, female vocals and garage ethos.  My research indicates that the members of the band are Emily MacLaren, Stuart Evans, Andrew Power and Conal Blake.  I don't believe that you'll find any records to purchase, but perhaps if you obsessively play their music the band will be encouraged to officially release some records.

Here are some demos, some or all of which appear on a compilation of current Glasgow music arranged by three of that fair city's indie labels.  You'll hear thunder, twang, harmonies and surfy riffs.  You'll be amazed, thrilled, and want more.  You may look over your shoulder on the way home, as well.


Introducing: Dick Diver

The music of Melbourne's Dick Diver has a certain scruffiness to it.  That doesn't mean that it is sloppy or poorly executed.  In fact, it is exciting, high-quality music from a band with great promise.  What I'm trying to convey is that their music has a comfortable, well worn vibe to it; it just feels like it belongs in your life.  In that way it sounds like little else you'll listen to, despite hints of many other bands you surely have heard.

I make no claim to being an expert, having stumbled on the band after writing a recent post about Melbourne's Boomgates, which shares with Dick Diver one Stephanie Hughes.  The other members of the band are Al Montfort on bass, and founders and guitarists Alastair McKay and Rupert Edwards.  Steph is listed as a drummer, as well as one of the vocalists, although I seem to recall a video in which she was playing a guitar, so my information may not be current.  The name of the band may be taken from a character in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

In 2011 Dick Diver released the excellent LP New Start Again, which is embedded for your streaming pleasure further down in the post.  However, looking forward, the band will be releasing a new LP in 2013 on the Chapter Music label.  In the meantime, they have issued the five-track Alice EP.  The title track will be on the forthcoming album, but the other for tracks are only available on this EP.  You can try it here, and obtain it at the Bandcamp link below.

Here is the opening track from the 2011 LP --

Dick Diver - Through The D from Chapter Music on Vimeo.

The deliciously laid back "Head Back" --

Twitter ( @dick_diver )
Chapter Music

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Twin Cities Shoegaze/Psych Discovery - Pony Trash (new EP out 11/27)

Pony Trash is a Minneapolis/St. Paul rock group comprised of members of other area bands, including Chambermaids (who we featured here) and Polica (who we featured here). They have a self-titled EP due out November 27 via The Old Blackberry Way. That's the name of the new label on which it will be released, and also the studio, where lead man Neil Weir makes music and produces music for other Minnesota artists.

It's dense, kind of alternates between dark and sunny and features loads of really good electric guitar - in other words, great rock music. The label "shoegaze" is used, by the artists themselves, and I suppose it applies in part, but it is sort of limiting - their sound is much more expansive than that. The record features some astounding guitar work - sort of surfy, with the strings bending, and very full. The vocals are sort of mixed down - at least it sounds a bit that way to me - but the vocal harmonies are terrific.

Here's the video for "The Weight Of The Night" - this stuff reminds me a good bit of the late, great Love Tractor and that is a compliment of the highest order from me:

You can listen for yourself, and order a limited edition vinyl, here:

New song from Veronica Falls

I rated the debut full length (our review here) from Veronica Falls to be my sixth favorite album of 2011 (2011 list), so it will be no surprise that I welcomed the news that Bella Union and Slumberland will be releasing a new Veronica Falls album, Waiting for Something to Happen, in 2013.  I have no further details, but Slumberland made this song from the album available to stream this week.  It is good stuff, and I think you'll understand why I'm counting the days until the entire album is available.


REVIEW: Local H -- Hallelujah! I'm a Bum

How you gonna live at 40?
How you gonna live it down?
How you gonna live at 40?
Whatcha gonna tell your kids?

Scott Lucas asked those questions way back in 2004, in the classic song "Heavy Metal Bakesale" on the fifth Local H album Whatever Happened to PJ Soles? In the intervening years, Lucas himself has waded that Rubicon into middle age. So how, then, does Scott Lucas live it down, now that he's a couple of years on the other side of 40? Well, he lives it down by releasing the best Local H album yet, and then hitting the road to tour the hell out of it.

The album, Hallelujah! I'm a Bum, takes its title from a hundred year old hobo folk song, and like every Local H album, it showcases a tense interplay of empathy and fury. Despite the vocal similarities, I've always considered Lucas to be less Kurt Cobain and more Paul Westerberg -- an opinion I'd refrain from expressing if I didn't think this album proved me right. That is, for maybe the first time in this band's body of work, Lucas seems less a brash, bad-tempered smartass and more a wistful, careworn smartass.

In fact, some of the best moments on the album are when he's not trying to be a smartass at all. On "Blue Line," Lucas expands the record's "concept" beyond ruminations on the ennui and frustrations of real people struggling in a depressed economy, observing more big-picture tears in the social fabric:

It's getting hard to realize
A sense of self in other eyes
. . .
The "we" is dead

Lucas, a Chicagoan (originally from Zion, IL), has set the scene on the Blue Line train that runs from O'Hare through downtown and out to the western suburbs -- which in winter is, for many of the desperately poor, the only respite from the elements. Check it out:

Although several songs on this hour-long album tilt toward the anthemic, there's no shortage of those muscular, caustic tunes necessary to a proper Local H effort. Among my favorites is "Paddy Considine", a worthy effort to do for the English actor something along the lines of what Jonathan Richman did for Pablo Picasso.

It's hard to overstate how excellent this album is from front to back, with perfect pacing, recurring lyrical themes, and plenty of noise. Lucas always has been a great lyricist, but there are some stunning phrases on this record -- e.g., "a gauntlet of goodbyes" (from "Say the Word") -- that suggest he's one of those rare rock and roll artists whose voice as a writer continues to improve as he gets older. Indeed, he seems to be embracing his 40s. You can see this very thing in the first video from the album, for the song "Cold Manor", although he probably is not as quick to fight people in the crowd as he used to be.

"Hallelujah! I'm a Bum" was released in September by Slimstyle Records. Get it in time to be familiar with it when you catch them live, which in my case, will be on 15 December at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. Check the other dates at the band's page linked below.  First, though, here's a brilliant concert video. It's not on the album, but it did happen.

Local H page

SlimStyle Records

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Krautrock from Spain - Jupiter Lion

Jupiter Lion is a Valencia (Spain, not California)-based band playing some terrific driving music - in fact, this self-titled album is about the best driving record I've gotten in years. It's krautrock in the Kraftwerk and Neu! tradition, but it's a little heavier, calling to mind things like "Interstellar Overdrive".

The group consists of Sais (vocals, synthesizer and programming), Jose Guerrero (Bass guitar) and Gonzo In Vegas (drums). It was recorded with the help of Pablo Peiro, the bass player from Betunizer, another really good prog-rock band from Spain (we featured them on WYMA here). Gonzo's a hell of a drummer - he's got the "motorik" thing going very well here, getting into a groove that Klaus Dinger himself would be proud of. Check out the way the songs build from drum/bass, to add some drum fills, then Sais gets going on the synths. They're certainly not inventing a new style - what they are doing is playing this style very, very well.

Here's the video for "Silver Constellation":

And you can listen, and download, here:

There's a unifying approach to the record, but some variety in the ways the six longish songs are constructed. The quality is consistently good throughout. If you've got a taste for prog rock, kraut rock or really, any kind of instrumental rock, do yourself a favor and check this out. You can read more, or buy the record, at BCore Disc.

REVIEW: The Pharmacy - Stoned And Alone

This record is a blast - a Kinks-inspired blast of super catchy power pop with a fuzzy guitar edge. The Pharmacy is Scottie Yoder on vocals and guitar, drummer Brendhan Bowers, and keyboardist Stefan Rubicz. They hail from Seattle, so the grunge/garage bona fides are real. But they've spent a good bit of their recent history in New Orleans, which may be the source of the soulful touches on many of these songs ("Top Of The Ivory Stairs", for one) and the general party-rock atmosphere at work on Stoned And Alone.

The record is very entertaining throughout, and they are not new to WYMA. We have written earlier this year about them. In January, when they released advance single "Dig Your Grave" (read here), and in May, when they released an EP via Seayou (read here).

Here's a new video for "Dig Your Grave":

THE PHARMACY - DIG YOUR GRAVE (MUSIC VIDEO) from brendhan bowers on Vimeo.

This record features those earlier songs plus several more - at 13 songs, it's definitely a good use of your time and money, even if you already got some of the earlier stuff. And they offer a download of "Baby Be", one of the catchiest tunes on the record.

It's very upbeat, as opposed to the ambling "Lazy Bones" which has a real easy pace and some laid-back guitar and keyboard riffs, and the slow/fast/slow/fast "Where Do You Run To?". The variety in tempo adds to the appeal, as does Rubicz's uniformly excellent keyboard work. Yoder's a very good rock vocalist, and Bowers does a great job keeping the pace and driving things along on rockers like "Pines".

It's on Old Flame Records in the US and Seayou Records in Europe - either way, it's terrific.

Introducing: The Velveteen Saints

We writers slice and dice music into genres, sub-genres and various styles to help us describe a band's sound to the readers, but sometimes music is best described simply as rock and roll.  Such is the case with the Glasgow teenagers, The Velveteen Saints.  I have very little information about them, but their Facebook page suggests that they haven't been together long.  However, we really don't need a lot of detail when what we want is good music.  Make no mistake, these guys deliver good music, and I think they have a bright future.

Give the lads a try on the anthem Rock N Roll Is Dead, with a chorus that name checks Joe Strummer, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

I don't think that there is any music to purchase or download at this point, but you can stream songs on the band's Facebook and Soundcloud pages.  Links to both are below.

Keep an eye on this group -- The Velveteen Saints can help save music from middle of the road urban pop.  If they come to the States, I'll help arrange the tour myself.

Twitter ( @VelveteenSaints )

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

REVIEW: Guided by Voices - The Bears For Lunch

The Bears For Lunch, which is Guided by Voices' third album of 2012, is also their best of the year... and perhaps their best in quite some time. From the beginning of full-on rocker "King Arthur The Red", this is the sound of a band that is hitting its stride - well past last year's "Can they still do it?", well into "Well, hell, maybe they can do it as well as they ever did!" Certainly, Pollard's solo records in 2012 have kept up the quality, but there is still nothing like a Guided by Voices record.

Listening to the breakneck rhythm section and guitar riffing on that opening track, one has the impression that Pollard has done what might have seemed impossible. He has reunited with Tobin Sprout and brought production values that GbV really only started to employ after this original lineup broke up. But even better than merely having the old gang play the old songs in a new way, they've cranked out 19 terrific new songs.

It's not for me to pick out highlights - the whole thing's a highlight - but "Hangover Child" is terrific, with a heavy riff and multi-tracked vocals in Pollard's trademark British accent intoned over what sound like at least six or seven changes in a little under 3 minutes. And the next cut, "Dome Rust", is full of punk-inspired guitar riffs... later on, "White Flag" is a heavy guitar rocker in the tradition of "Official Ironmen Rally Song" or "Not Behind The Fighter Jet". Here's "White Flag":

Here's another one of my favorites, "Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere":

The Tobin Sprout tracks, including "The Corners Are Glowing", "Skin To Skin Combat" and "Waving At Airplanes" are as pretty and smile-inducing as the best songs Sprout has ever contributed to GbV. Sprout's gentle vocals and some sweet string sounds lead toward about a minute-long outro of psychedelic rock guitar on "Corners", and the impossibly high multi-tracked Sprout vocals of "Skin To Skin" over growling electric guitar are terrific. The vocals on "Airplanes"... just beautiful stuff.

If you're a fan, don't waste any time. If you're not sure, you can check it out for yourself and see what all the fuss is about. The record is out tomorrow on Guided by Voices, Inc. - you can buy at GBV Digital or you can order a cd or vinyl at Rockathon Records.

Also, if you look on iTunes, you can find three of the songs with B-sides available to buy.

REVIEW: The Babies - Our House On The Hill

The Babies are not taking baby steps.  The Brooklyn band has quickly evolved from a noise pop side project to an exciting indie band with a broad palette of expression and an engaging ability to marry pop melody and rock energy, and then adorn it with menace, sweetness, melancholy and a satisfying arsenal of musical touches.  And the coming out party for the grown up band is the full length Our House on the Hill, out today on Woodsist Records.  The first single, "Moonlight Mile", provides an excellent preview of the album's quality.

I was interested to learn that the band spent two months of 2011 in Los Angeles, because my first impression upon listening to the album my was that the album seemed more closely related to some of the better music coming out of the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, than to the material I've heard from Brooklyn.  The music ranges from fast-paced post punk to house party rave ups to Americana dirges.  And it has an authentic, sincere feel that gets under your skin.

The Babies are Kevin Morby, Cassie Ramone, Justin Sullivan and Brian Schleyer.  As has been well covered, the band began as a side project for Morby (of Woods) and Ramone (of Vivian Girls), along with Sullivan on the drums.  Schleyer and his bass joined more recently.  However, The Babies is no longer a side project, and that is good news for indie rock fans.

Album page at Woodsist

The Babies are embarking on a lengthly tour to support Our House On The Hill.  Here are the dates and venues:
11/13 Brooklyn, NY - Knitting Factory
11/14 New Haven, CT - BAR
11/15 Montreal, QC - Il Motore
11/16 Toronto, ON - Silver Dollar
11/17 Detroit, MI - Garden Bowl
11/18 Chicago, IL - Schuba’s
11/19 Madison, WI - Mickey’s Tavern
11/20 Minneapolis, MN - 7th St Entry
11/21 Des Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews
11/23 Kansas City, MO - Riot Room
11/24 Denver, CO - Hi Dive
11/25 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
11/26 Boise, ID - Neurolux
11/28 Portland, OR - Holocene
11/29 Vancouver, BC - Media Club
11/30 Seattle, WA - Barboza
12/01 Olympia, WA - The Northern
12/03 Reno, CA - Holland Project
12/04 Sacramento, CA - Bows and Arrows
12/05 Oakland, CA - 1-2-3-4 Go Records
12/06 San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill
12/07 Santa Cruz, CA - Crepe Place
12/08 Pomona, CA - VLHS
12/09 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
12/10 San Diego, CA - Eleven
12/11 Tucson, AZ - Topaz Tundra
12/12 El Paso, TX - Lowbrow Saloon
12/13 San Antonio, TX - Korova
12/14 Austin, TX - The Mohawk
12/15 Dallas, TX - Bryan St Tavern
12/16 Memphis, TN - Hi Tone Cafe
12/17 Birmingham, AL - Bottletree
12/18 Atlanta, GA - 529
12/19 Durham, NC - The Pinhook
12/20 Richmond, VA - Strange Matter
12/21 Washington, DC - Comet Ping Pong
12/22 Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie

Monday, November 12, 2012

REVIEW: Joshua James - From The Top Of Willamette Mountain

From The Top Of Willamette Mountain is the latest and third album from Utah's Joshua James, and it is a triumph, a record you can truly get lost in. Like some of My Morning Jacket's best work and the recent Damien Jurado record we reviewed here, it features excellent and affecting songs, a variety of tempos, a lot of reverb, terrific songcraft and a unique lead vocalist.

He's really got an amazing way with a song - on the acoustic ones (opener "Mystic" and "Doctor, Oh Doctor") he and Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, Gardens and Villas) mix it just right. On the more rocking songs, he and Swift excel at building them to what would seem a peak, only to top that with a well-placed pedal steel, nicely multitracked vocals or a string section.

You can download "Queen Of The City", the second track on the album, here. I think it's the best song on the record, and that's saying a lot - there are lots of very good songs on here. "Feel The Same" is a pretty ballad with some sobering lyrics: "I started wishing for a chemical to make me feel/ A little more animal and a little less real" - and all kinds of effects backing up a pretty simple construction. "Holly, Halej" is a beautiful, soaring yet understated rock song - almost a hymn with drums, bass, electric and pedal steel guitar.

Here is a video for "Ghost In The Town":

You can learn more, or buy the record at his label, Intelligent Noise. The record came out last week - so you're in luck. It's available now.

As a bonus, here's a video of James performing Tom Waits' "Green Grass":

Even if his songs weren't so good, his voice might draw you in. But his songs are very good. 

New Beach Guitar Pop Discovery: Cayucas: "Cayucos/Swimsuit" - new single out now

On the video for the single "Cayucos" by Cayucas, the beach scenery is fitting: the reverb and acoustic strumming are reminiscent of Brian Wilson-style pop music. It's also got a bit of the same feel as Vampire Weekend, except it swings a little more "Caribbean" whereas VW stays more in an Afro-pop mode. This stuff is very catchy and upbeat:

Cayucas is led by Zach Yudin, a native of Southern California with a confessed love of classic beach pop. They have released a 2-sided single, "Cayucos" and "Swimsuit", which sounds a bit like a 2012 reimagination of "Sloop John B" - nice organ work, handclaps, with a lot of nifty little electronic touches.

You can listen and buy both songs here:

They will have an album out in 2013 on Secretly Canadian. Looking forward to hearing more.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

REVIEW: John The Conqueror - John The Conqueror

John The Conqueror is a Philadelphia-based blues/rock trio: Cousins Pierre Moore (vocals & guitar) and Michael Gardner (drums) are originally from Jackson, MS, while bassist Ryan Lynn is a native of Philadelphia. They are working in the same general territory as The Black Keys and Dirtbombs - blues/rock with a little (or a lot) of added spice. Between the two, Moore's vocals seem a little more soul-based than Black Key Dan Auerbach's blues style... not surprising given a provenance of Mississippi crossed with Philly.

Make no mistake, this album (their self-titled debut) rocks hard, throughout. The guitar intro on "Lucille" is scorching, leading into a stomping rhythm section backing strong multitracked vocals and a nearly psychedelic guitar line. If you remember what you've always liked about rock music that hews close to the blues and soul traditions, you will be well-disposed to enjoy what JTC is doing.

There's also a punk influence, best heard on stuff like the fast guitar intro to "Say What You Want", which is a 2:25 rant that keeps a high energy level throughout. Here's a taste:

And here is video they made while recording album cut "I Just Wanna", another good representation of their style:

It's on Alive/Naturalsound, which has not let us down yet... we've featured labelmates Lee Bains III, The Buffalo Killers, Brian Olive, Left Lane Cruiser and Radio Moscow. John The Conqueror is a welcome addition to that roster of hard-rocking bands, and heir to the Alive/Naturalsound tradition started by The Black Keys themselves.