This is not music criticism. On this blog, you will only read about music we like.
Monday, September 30, 2013
More Finnish Guitar Rock: Matti Jasu - Pin on the Map
Matti Jasu is a Finnish singer/songwriter playing a tried-and-true take on guitar rock. We featured his previous EP (WYMA post here) and are glad to hear from him again. He's got a good voice - kind of clear and vulnerable - and is one heck of a guitar player - seriously, in places he's Crazy Horse-good. Feedback and all. Here's the title track from his new album, Pin on the Map:
The last three minutes of that song are a guitar lover's dream come true. No pretense, just a loping rhythm section and a guitar workout that would make Young and Sampedro proud.
And even though the best stuff (to me) is the guitar-heavy rock, he plays some very engaging folk rock too. Here's "She Won't Come Back":
And some Americana-leaning piano-based rock - here's "Love That Didn't Fail":
You can listen to the whole album, read more and buy at the links below.
Matti Jasu website
The Naysayers - Dee Eye Why: Or How We Lost All Our Money And Decided to Record It Ourselves
Here is a six-song EP of garage/blues rock with spaghetti western touches, all for the very popular "name your price" at the Bandcamp link. The generous submission comes from Melbourne's The Naysayers, who are Nathaniel Parbery (vocals/bass), Gordon Holland (vocals/guitar), Simon Gemmill (drums) and Harrie Kingston (guitar/vocals). Dee Eye Why is balls to the wall garage rock goodness, and if you don't have a copy by nightfall you are at least a little bit stupid.
"Zero to Eleven by the Julian Taylor Band
Songwriter and performer Julian Taylor has had a long, distinguished career. He was signed to a publishing deal while still in high school, and to a major label soon thereafter. The was the frontman for a successful band called Staggered Crossing, had released seven albums and had ten top forty hits in Canada. For his current project, the Julian Taylor Band, Taylor is moving in a funk rock/R&B direction. A new EP is in the works, and this new song is getting well-deserved attention. Enjoy "Zero to Eleven" --
Review: The Parson Red Heads - Orb Weaver
WYMA has been in love with the Parson Red Heads and their intelligent and tuneful West Coast pop for some time. Their brand new CD Orb Weaver (release date October 1 on Fiesta Red Records) is a step forward for the band and a good progression from their last CD Yearling, one of our favorites of 2011. Where Yearling was carefully put together over a long period of time in various studios with different producers, Orb Weaver was banged out fairly quickly with Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, The Baseball Project) producing and getting a much grittier spontaneous sound closer to the Parsons' live shows.
The band settled on a steady 4 person lineup, eschewing the extra members they tended to earlier, and toured a great deal following Yearling, which lead to a more confident and muscular sound here, while still very much with the harmonies and winsome pop sensibilities that define the Parson Red Heads.
Here's a standout track "Every Mile":
The band shows a more experimental flair here as well, dipping into some trippy psychedelic folk on "Lost Again" and the slow building 6 minute "Beginning".
While Evan Way continues to be the principal singer and songwriter here, guitarist Sam Fowles continues to grow as a singer-songwriter, contributing two terrific Beatles-Big Star influenced tracks. Here's Fowles in the studio, with one of Orb Weaver's standout songs, "Borrow Your Car" coming in at the 1:16 mark:
Fowle and Way's guitar interplay remains the foundation of this band's sound. Never flashy or overpowering, they use space very well and know what notes not to play. A great example of that is "Times", another slow building track. This one has grown on me tremendously:
There's an intangible to this band that defines them. These are good people and their thoughtfulness seems only further enhanced by drummer Brette Marie Way giving birth to her and Evan Way's first child last year. They not only strive to be a better band, but to be better people, and somehow that comes through the music, the live shows, how they interact with their fans and treat each other. In such a cynical, manipulative, 150 characters, superficial world, The Parson Red Heads stand for something better, something deeper. They manage to wear it on their sleeves without the slightest hint of preciousness or pretension. It's all real. And I love them for that.
Orb Weaver will please your ears and your soul.
Parson Red Heads Facebook page
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Introducing: Dora Maar
I don't know much about Edinburgh band Dora Maar, and attempts to find out more via the internet revealed that the name isn't unique to the band (or, obviously, to the one or more other bands that use that name). But I feel fairly confident in saying that this is the only band named Dora Maar in Scotland.
The band describes themselves as 'two Andrews, and Erika and a Liam'. They play a brand of music that I personally term urban noir guitar pop. Other bands I place in this category are Josef K, Orange Juice, Vic Godard & the Subway Sect, The Monochrome Set and Wake the President (and probably a large number of the residents of Brooklyn). The guitars are clanging, jangling and spiky, and the melodies are compelling. The crooning lead vocals (presumably by a band member not named Erika) recall the dulcet tones of Glasgow hero Edwyn Collins. A great introduction to the band is their song "Jessica Says" --
"Jessica Says" is one of four songs on the band's Soundcloud page. For your convenience, I have embedded the set below. You are welcome.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
The #1s - "Sharon Shouldn't"
One can imagine the discussion among Sean, Eddie, Cian and Conor to choose the name for their band. After rejecting every version of "Bear + _____" and "____ + Bear" as already taken, they moved on to names that they hoped signified the quality of their work. Best Band You'll Ever Hear didn't fit on the kick drum, the second vote-getter had been claimed by one of the member's younger sister for her band, and the rights to the third choice were lost in a poker game to an armless man called "Fingers". So the young Dubliners (no, that name had already been used by some Yanks) settled on The #1s. [Editor's Note: Scott's research file shows no sources for any of the statements in this opening paragraph. We suspect he may have been drinking. Again. However, he is very feisty, so we'll just add this disclaimer after he posts and goes to sleep.]
So, how does the name fit? Pretty well, thank you. Their music is energetic power pop and garage pop with punk pace and plenty of hooks. I don't know whether their song "Sharon Shouldn't" will ever be number 1, but it certainly deserves plenty of play. And you have to admire a band whose video budget only covered interior shots of the corner market. I don't know whether any of you need an explanation of the key lyric "Lisa says she can't, but Sharon shouldn't", but I'm not going to do the job.
Interested? You should be. "Sharon Shouldn't" is an adrenaline-soaked power pop blast worthy of The Undertones, but with a lot more pop in the chorus. By the way, it is available from Sorry State Records in the US and Alien Snatch Records in the Old World.
And rest assured that The #1s have more quality songs in their catalog. Click on the Soundcloud link below, and you'll have five more delightful tracks. But let me do some of the work for you and provide two of them --
Sorry State Records
Alien Snatch Records
Friday, September 27, 2013
"Hindsight" by The Stevens
The old saying is that hindsight is perfect. That may or may not comport with your experience, but I can tell you that "Hindsight", the first track released from A History of Hygiene is a near perfect guitar pop song. So go for the sure thing -- stream the song and then hit the Bandcamp link below.
Bandcamp link for Hindsight
REVIEW: Frankie Rose - Herein Wild
Frankie Rose is a few years removed from her time with the Vivian Girls, but the greater span is the musical distance covered in her path from that first band, through Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts and Frankie Rose & the Outs to her current project. But perhaps Ms. Rose is where she wants to stay for a while, because Herein Wild, her new LP for Fat Possum, follows the same path as 2012's Interstellar. And for her fans, that is a good thing because continuing to work in the realm of glossy, new wave pop allows Rose to fine tune her songcraft, tweak her sound and, it seems to me, produce the best album of her career.
As with its predecessor, Herein Wild is melodic and jangly, with sweet vocals and bass and percussion well up in the mix. Stylistically, it probably fits best straddling the fence between dreampop and new wave. The differences are the addition of strings, a more melancholy cast to the lyrics and a surer touch with production. But with the those engaging lead vocals, soaring choruses and bright arrangements, sad lyrics aren't enough to make it a downer of an album. Unless a listener is obsessed with the words, listening to this album is likely to be among the most uplifting moments of his or her day. This is high-quality pop music for savvy adults; I recommend it.
NEW SONGS: Dead Meadow - Three Songs from Warble Womb, due in Oct.
Dead Meadow has a new album, Warble Womb, coming soon, and that's great news for fans of heavy psych (like yours truly). While their label, Xemu Records, has given us two of my favorite albums of 2013, Matthew J Tow's The Way of Things and the self-titled Strangers Family Band, Dead Meadow themselves haven't released an album in years.
They've given us every reason to be excited about the upcoming release - three songs have surfaced, all with great guitars and heavy rhythms. Here's "Copper is Restless ('Til It Turns to Gold)":
Here's a new live in-studio performance by Dead Meadow of album track "In the Thicket":
And here's a link to listen or download album track "Yesterday's Blowin' Back".
And it's not like they're giving the whole thing away - there's plenty more to look forward to. It's reported to be a 75-minute double album... so plenty of room to stretch out.
Dead Meadow website
Friday Nuggets- The Fleshtones "American Beat '84"
Having dipped into the 2nd generation of great garage rock lasts week with Lyres, we started thinking about one of our all time favorites, The Fleshtones. Few bands have ever screamed of New York City like these Queens natives who started in 1976 and are still (!) going today.
And if you want pure 1980's nostalgia, it doesn't get better than this video featuring the Fleshtones doing their minor hit "American Beat '84" from the film Bachelor Party:
The Fleshtones got an extra boost from their tremendously entertaining singer and musical encyclopedia Peter Zaremba hosting a show on MTV. But it was as a live act that they shined brightest. I'm an especially big fan of guitarist Keith Streng who just plain brought it, every song, every night, a garage rock god.
Here they are doing "Hitsburg USA" and "Love's in the Game" in 1999:
The Fleshtones Facebook page
Thursday, September 26, 2013
REVIEW: Montero - The Loving Gaze
If I had received an email from someone I didn't trust suggesting I evaluate a pop album from a band headed by a man who, in addition to being described as a songwriter and frontman, is a visual artist, comic book writer, and various other things, I might well have found a way to avoid the task. But in the case of The Loving Gaze, the debut LP from Melbourne's Ben Montero and his eponymous band, the email came from a person whose taste in music had been ably demonstrated to me. So, heedless of personal risk, I bravely waded into the album. My reward? Experiencing one of the more engaging pure pop albums I've heard this year. The lesson learned? Be brave, my children, be brave.
Thematically, The Loving Gaze is filled with whimsy, hope, love and a bit of fantasy. Musically, the tones are bright and the melodies upbeat, with abundant hooks and rainbow colors. With pure vocals and assured piano grounding the songs, and masterfully played guitar, synths and percussion, it uses the timeless pop sensibilities of The Beach Boys, The Association, Eric Carmen, Emitt Rhodes and other '60s-'70s pop and power ballad masters to tell modern stories that trod the ground inside the writer's head, as well as beneath his feet. And it is that particular, highly personalized and impressionistic perspective that makes this album, despite its pop/AM radio influences (from, it should be noted, pop/AM radio's golden years) a thoroughly modern experience.
So, dear readers, my recommendation to you is to give in to your inner pop yearnings. You know you want to, and The Loving Gaze is absolutely the right album for taking the plunge.
MONTERO - ADRIANA from Geoffrey O'Connor on Vimeo.
In addition to Ben, Montero is Gerald Wells (synths), Guy Blackman (piano), Cameron Potts (drums), Robert Bravington (bass) and Geoffrey O'Connor (guitar). The album is out now via Mistletone as a vinyl LP plus digital download. I don't think US fans can purchase from iTunes or Amazon yet, but keep in mind that your dollars go further in Australia.
"Child of God", free song from Josephine Foster and Fire Records
NEW VIDEO: Spaceships - "Little" (and CMJ appearance in Brooklyn)
The Spaceships released Cool Breeze Over the Mountains - we loved their enthusiastic, lo-fi noise rock (WYMA review here). For the song "Little", they filmed the band making a mess with some pizza and vinyl records - it's a little over 2:00 of great fuzzy guitar noise and Jessie Waite's vulnerable, reverb-laden vocal and definitely representative of the album:
In other news, they're traveling from LA to NYC to play at the CMJ Music Marathon with other WYMA favorites (and members of the Riot Act stable): Norwegian Arms, Jay Arner, Shelby Earl and Torres - if you're in NYC or going up for the CMJ event, this would be a good show to check out. It's at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) on Oct. 17 from 5:00-8:00.
New 7" from Allah Las
Los Angeles' Allah Las released one of my favorite albums last year. Since then, they have been touring hard and pleasing us weekly with their curated Reverberation Radio playlists. However, apparently they haven't completely ignored the studio, and they have released "Had It All"/"Every Girl" 7" via Innovative Leisure. The A-side is a regret-soaked psychedelic track --
"Every Girl", the B-side, is a retro garage song of the type that this band does so well --
You can order the 7" here.
NEW SONGS: Atomic Bride - "We Got Muscle" from Electric Order EP
Atomic Bride is a Seattle-based postpunk outfit that comes across like a darker, 21st century version of the B-52's, what with their shouted boy/girl call/response vocals, punk backbeat, kind of retro/future contrast in their sound and even a bit of the "beach blanket bingo" surf guitars. It's got a bit more of a hard edge, but it's still plenty catchy. Here's "We Got Muscle":
I really like the surf guitar in this one - hard, fast, even a little feedback thrown in. Electric Order is a 4-song EP, and you can listen to the rest, and buy it at their Bandcamp via their website - links below.
Atomic Bride website
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
New Boardwalk video - "High Water" from upcoming self-titled debut (due Oct. 15)
We've been looking forward to Boardwalk's self-titled debut album since they first got in touch with us earlier this summer (WYMA posts here and here), and are happy to have another video to share. This is for the album track "High Water":
It's got the gauzy vocals, the shimmering guitar tones and the languid pace that we liked about "I'm To Blame". The group consists of Mike Edge, Amber Quintero and Mark Noseworthy - we'll have more on this album closer to its release (Oct. 15 on Stones Throw).
Boardwalk at Stones Throw
NEW SONGS: Mascott - "Cost/Amount" and "Our Life" from Cost/Amount EP
Mascott is the musical alter ego of Kendall Jane Meade - she's playing a breezy guitar pop which complements her bright, clear voice perfectly. I hear traces of Shawn Colvin in the vocals, and it does lean a bit "Americana". But at heart, this music is pure pop, down to the cover of Kirsty MacColl's beautiful ballad "They Don't Know" (of course many know it more readily as a Tracey Ullman song).
Here's the title track to this four-song EP, Cost/Amount. It starts out with a gently insistent guitar line and at about :40, she starts to show off some great pop hooks (both guitar and vocal):
Here's "Our Life", a slower acoustic-based ballad:
It's out now (released Sept. 17) on Kiam Records.
Mascott at Kiam Records
Lest not we forget
“`There are going to be times,’ says Kesey, `when we can’t wait for somebody. Now you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place–then it won’t make a damn.’ And nobody had to have it spelled out for them. Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: `You’re either on the bus…or off the bus.” (Wolfe: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, p. 74)
Forced Random - It's Not Your Fault, I Don't Blame You
Forced Random is the music of singer/songwriter Oliver Girdler, and it's bedroom pop in a sort of prog style - languid, slow-building guitar music that, with a combination of acoustic and electric guitars and various found sounds, strums its way to a crescendo. Check out "Once Again", a beautiful track reminiscent of American Analog Set:
Here's "No Words" - guitars are turned up just a bit, and there's a little bit of feedback right in the middle. Nice atmosphere:
The 5-track EP is out now, and available via the Bandcamp link below. It's pleasant and very well put-together, it rewards repeated listening - what more could you ask for?
Forced Random Bandcamp
New Jazz/Funk Discovery - Jyoti - Denderah
Jyoti is the name under which Georgia Anne Muldrow makes thoughtful, invigorating instrumental music that touches on jazz, soul and funk. She comes by her jazz interests and talent by way of her parents. Her father, Ronald Muldrow, was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Eddie Harris. Her mother, Rickie-Byars Beckwith, singer/songwriter/composer who served as lead singer for Pharoah Sanders Ensemble, Roland Hanna, Howard Johnson & The New York Jazz Quartet. If any of these names, or the names Coltrane, Tyner or Hancock make you sit up and pay attention, then you will be well-served to check this out. It is excellent, top-shelf instrumental jazz, at the level of contemporary artists like Brad Mehldau and Yesterday's New Quintet. And there is a not-insubstantial connection to both the spirit and approach of funk artists like George Clinton.
Here's "Turiya's Smile" - a beautiful piano ballad that really does call to mind McCoy Tyner:
And for a taste of the funkier, electronic side, here's "Optimus Prime" - all Mothership-inspired synths and beats:
I also love the swing of "Siderealin'", which calls to mind great instrumentals like "Elizabeth Reed" or "Peaches En Regalia". (All roads, for me, lead to guitar rock...)
If I am to understand the press release on this record, she wrote, arranged and played everything herself. I am beyond impressed. She is a tremendous talent with a very engaging style. If you like jazz and funk and great keyboard playing, this is recommended to you most highly. You can listen to the rest of it, and buy the download or physical via Bandcamp (click through the songs above), or read more at her links below.
Georgia Anne Muldrow at SomeOthaShip
Lunchtime Sardine Club - Icecapades
Apparently singer-songwriter Oliver Newton (who also plays in Yndi Halda, Bermuda Ern and St. Coltrane) conceived of Icecapades as a set of short stories, at least in part inspired by documentaries about weird, unexplained events. The album was recorded in Newton's home in Brighton and, at some point, he chose the name Lunchtime Sardine Club for his project. The songs are lo-fi and softly psychedelic, and I find the album to be both intriguing and relaxing. And there is a lot of variety. Some are folk tunes, some have some clang and harshness to them, some are hazy and fuzzy, and some are playful and light. If I were sitting on the porch of a summer beach house waiting for the rain to stop, this would be the perfect music to play while waiting for the weather to change.
Icecapades is out now on Sonic Anhedonic Recording Company, a collective based in Brighton, UK.
Sonic Anhedonic Recording Company on Facebook
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
"So High" from Males
New Zealand garage pop band Males is not new to us, as we wrote about them earlier this year (link). So we were happy to learn that they have offered track "So High" as a "name your price" download. These are good kids with a good sound, give them a try.
Yonder - Yonder EP
Yonder is a relatively new outfit. Alex Clark and Chris Reisinger played in a band called Elba. Elba died, and they met Nick and formed a new band. This self-titled EP was recorded at Holy Fool in Seattle. They are offering the EP at "name your price", so listen and download from the Bandcamp link below. You'll be very glad you did.
REVIEW: The Proctors - Everlasting Light
Competition is good, right? It forces everyone in the arena to up their game. In my opinion, the competition for jangle pop album of the year just got a bit hotter with the release of Everlasting Light by The Proctors. The usual elements are all there: Sunny melodies, trademark guitar sounds and fragile boy/girl vocals. But this album is more than a collection of nice elements. Quite simply, The Proctors know how to craft a perfect pop song. Take, for example "The Trouble With Forever" --
The Proctors were founded in 1993 by Gavin Priest after his former group, The Cudgels, disbanded. Playing variously as a three-piece and a four-piece they released several recordings over the next few years, including singles, and EP and an album. Their work also appeared on some compilations. Gavin was involved with other projects as well, and the band went on hiatus in '97. The band began writing again a few years ago, and have released a 7" and appeared at Indietracks and various Popfest festivals. The current line up includes Gavin, Adrian Jones and Margaret Calleja. Lisa Westerlund plays bass at live events.
Everlasting Light brings together the best of the confident west coast jangle of The Byrds and the melancholy pop songwriting of UK acts such as early Primal Scream, Biff Bang Pow!, and The House of Love, The Razorcuts and many others on the roster of Sarah Records and Creation Records. It is exactly what I needed for my fall soundtrack.
The lovely, wistful "Ember Days", with Terry Bickers of The House of Love helping out on guitar --
Everlasting Light is available from Shelflife Records as an LP (with download code), CD or digital download.
Shelflife Records link for album
New Psych/Soul Discovery - Ketchy Shuby - S.M.I.L.E. (Still Making It Look Easy)
Ketchy Shuby is a six-piece soul band from Miami, FL. They're playing a wildly creative mix of soul, pop, psychedelia and even some "musical theatre", Zappa-style freakouts. The band consists of Jason Joshua Rodriguez on lead vocals/guitars alongside his funk-soul brothers, Danny on percussions, Rob on sax/flute, Charles on organs, Matt on bass and Andres on drums. I have always loved soul music with a flute - especially with that Cuban influence, which you'd certainly expect in a Miami-based artist. But they really meld a lot of different styles - Latin, yes, but also reggae and good old soul and funk. Named after a Peter Tosh song, they play it pretty upbeat - here's "Smile", which starts off with a reggae beat:
And here's the goofy, but very musical "Super Mystery Friends" - they really let the horns take over the last half of the song:
I can easily imagine these six putting on a rousing live show - it's a conglomeration of musical styles and a party spirit that represents their hometown well. Here's a live clip from a recent Miami Beach appearance:
The album is out today (Sept. 24) on Pugilista Trading Co.
Ketchy Shuby website
Monday, September 23, 2013
Surf Dad - Unholy EP
Surf Dad are brothers George and Declan Sands, from Barwon Heads, on the southern coast of Australia. Their downbeat electronica is on display on their four-track Unholy EP, released September 23 via Zero Through Nine. For this record Surf Dad has crafted songs featuring pulsing beats, haunting vocal sample and loads of atmosphere. My current impression is that the first single, "Unholy" (with vocals from Camille Foley), and "No. 5" are the two best tracks, and we've provided them below. But all of the tracks are good, and the final two minutes of "Mind Reader" remind me of the glorious dub of the UK's Groove Corporation. The third embed below will allow to to stream the entire album. Of course, you should test it for yourself, but I like this EP more every time I listen to it.
Unholy EP is available digitally, and later this week will be available on a limited run of CDs.
Bandcamp for Unholy EP
Zero Through Nine on Facebook
Zero Through Nine website
REVIEW: Jack Cheshire - Long Mind Hotel
Jack Cheshire is a British singer/songwriter playing a style of jazz-influenced, psychedelic-leaning guitar rock. It's got the unexpectedness and temporal variety of good jazz, but like good pop music, it is in your brain almost before you know it. His new album is Long Mind Hotel, and it consists of ten songs that touch on all points from British folk to experimental jazz rock and psychedelic guitar pop, often in the same track.
Here's "Gyroscope" - it's the quintessential number on this record, showcasing Cheshire's beguiling accent and sinewy guitar playing, as well as the jazz chops of his recording band: Jon Scott on drums, Andrea DiBiase on double bass and David James Pearson on electric guitar. At times the guitar work calls to mind Tom Verlaine, at times Richard Thompson. I realize that may sound fanciful - just check it out:
Out of what must have been a tremendous record collection, Cheshire cites as particularly influential such disparate artists as The Beach Boys, Augustus Pablo, Fairport Convention, Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Laurie Anderson, Echo & the Bunnymen and Can. For myself, I'd assume that Syd Barrett and Ray Davies figure into the mix as well. He's got some of Davies in his vocal style, I think, and Barrett in a sort of restrained psychedelia on songs like "Moving In a Straight Line" or the title track, "Long Mind Hotel", a haunting story of a place where drugs and money are exchanged - where one can "knock on a door... and go to hell." The fingerpicking guitar, backed by swelling strings and accompanied by Cheshire's heavy British accent, make it a harrowing trip.
The album was recorded at Sawmills Studios Cornwall, at a fairly inaccessible location. Jack says that was integral to the process. It may be reflected in the strange combination of insularity and ethereal nature - an example, "Heavenly Bodies" which starts out very much like an Echo & the Bunnymen cut and slowly descends into a beautiful bit of quiet jazz, then leads into "Into the Void"... which is all syncopation, swing and skittering guitar leads. This is a terrific album. I liked some of it on first listen - "Gyroscope" is very accessible, for example. But I liked it more every time I listened and that is a credit to both the songs and the beautiful, intricate playing of Cheshire and his band. Long Mind Hotel is available now (released Sept. 3).
Jack Cheshire website
"Mulberry Love", free from Running Red Lights
"Mulberry Love", the debut single from Toronto foursome Running Red Lights, is a well-crafted pop song featuring soulful vocals and bright instrumentation. The subject is the allure of the toxic lover -
She is bare on my red velvet chair flung out like a rugThe band is offering the song for free, and we, and they, would like you to know that an album is planned for early in 2014.
And though I know she is barbed like a wire, I am tempted to touch
She's a lady of shipwrecks, my God, how she hurts
But as a man I am damned with desire for her
Running Red Lights are Scarlett (vocals/guitar/keys), Dave Puzak (guitar), Kein Howley (drums/programming), and Jeff Carter (bass).
The New Tigers - The Badger
For several years I have been impressed with the quality of the pop music produced by bands from Finland. The current population of the country is less than 5.5 million, yet albums by three Finnish bands (Cats on Fire, The New Tigers, Black Twig) made my top 50 albums last year (list). One of those bands, The New Tigers, is back with their sophomore LP, The Badger. And I project that this album will be in my 2013 top album.
Those of us who are fans of The New Tigers can celebrate that the band did not change their approach in crafting The Badger, although it seems to me that there is a bit more discipline in the performances and sophistication to the songwriting. As is the case with many other Scandinavian guitar pop bands, there is plenty of jangle with their harmonized vocals and engaging melodies. But the distinctive features of The New Tigers are the infusion of goodly amounts of fuzz into the mix, as well as the structure of the songs. The band does not subscribe to the under-three-minutes approach to pop songs. Three of the nine tracks on The Badger exceed six minutes, with one running almost eight minutes; three more exceed four minutes and the shortest is 3:12. But this is no jam band. The longer tracks feature interesting instrumental segments and/or changes in tempo and style. And another distinction is that The Badger is not the place to look for weepy ballads; this band thrives on energy.
I was sold on the album based on the first and second tracks, "Where Is It" and "Secondary City". They are the sort of indie pop perfection that always brings joy. Track three, "Antarktis" does not disappoint, and the following "Don't Know Where to Go" is one of the best songs on this album, and was immediately transferred to my top songs of 2013 playlist. "Blue Fell" is a gentle, slow tempo song.
The final four tracks include the two songs we've provided below -- "Remote Control" and "Quicksilver". The former is a surging, fast, rhythmic pop song with a dominant bass line. The sprawling of "Quicksilver" features warm pop vocals and jangling and ringing guitars. Of the two, Quicksilver probably is most like the other tracks on the album. "Mercury" and the closer, "Gentle Rock" are mid-tempo dream pop songs, although they also have the trademark Tigers shifts in tempo and style.
The Badger is the sound of a band growing up in fine style.
The Badger is out now on Helsinki's Soliti label, and is available on CD, vinyl and digital download.
Preview: Casey Neill and the Norway Rats "All You Pretty Vandals"
One of our most anticipated releases of the year is All You Pretty Vandals from Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. Neill's superior songwriting and passionate bar band ethos are top shelf. I've been listening to the songs from the upcoming record being worked out over the past year in Neill's frequent shows in Portland and have very high hopes for this CD.
Confirming my optimistic anticipation is this advance preview of one song from the CD, "My Little Dark Rose". Here's the song and a great summary of what is going on here from American Songwriter. Terrific song. This track and the full CD were produced by Chris Funk (Decemberists).
We'll review this CD closer to release date, but I've already reserved a spot for All You Pretty Vandals on my best of 2013 year end list.
Casey Neill artist web page
Casey Neill and the Norway Rats Facebook page
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Introducing: Mallee Songs
Melbourne's Michael Skinner records as Mallee Songs. Originally a solo, bedroom project, August releases "Stolen Flowers"and "Egyptian King" use other musicians (including Lucas Skinner and Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard). "Stolen Flowers" is a slow-paced dream pop song but flexes some electrified muscles, especially at the end. "Egyptian King" is a beautiful acoustic song. This is intelligent, atmospheric pop music, and Mallee Songs is a talent to watch. Both tracks are available at the Bandcamp link below.
You can check out more of Michael's songs at the Soundcloud link below.
Squarehead - Respect
With a repertoire that includes indie rock anthems, pop punk and jangle pop, Dublin's Squarehead want to be in your music collection. And after listening to their new album, Respect, I think they make a very good case. But this band is making your decision easy -- Respect is available at the Bandcamp link below for the popular "name your price".
Examples of the harder-edged tracks are "Crystal Ocean", "Swing" and the following "Two Miles" --
"John of God" and "Pulse" ably demonstrate the band's more straightforward indie pop chops --
Squarehead has been together for several years. They have released several singles, a split album (with So Cow in November 2012) and a debut album. Activities in 2013 include SXSW in March and a tour in the Northeast US. Respect is their second full length album, and was recorded a few months ago. The members of the band are Roy (guitar), Ian (bass), and Ruan (drums).
"Hey Now" by The Ancients
Night Bus, the new LP from Melbourne psychedelic rockers The Ancients is still about a month away from release, but the band had provided another track from the album. "Hey Now" is an upbeat pop track straightforward vocals but dense instrumentation. While more traditional than "Molokai" the previous track from the album we shared, it is no less bold. We are expecting a good album from The Ancients.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
REVIEW: Sebadoh - Defend Yourself
Sebadoh, a favorite from the "first wave" (or was it "first and a half"?) of DIY indie rock, is back. Of course, some of those guys never quit (joyfully, Robert Pollard), some have re-emerged (equally joyfully, Dinosaur Jr.). But nonetheless, I want to welcome back Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Bob D'Amico as they drop a whole new album, Defend Yourself. Although, according to Barlow, we need not have worried...“We were always going to make another record. There was never any point where we looked at each other and said, ‘That’s it. We’re done.’ We never actually quit at all-- we’ve been making music this whole time.”
Given that a lot of their subject matter (the trials and travails of becoming an adult, adult relationships, etc.) and their approach were pretty heavy, a break wasn't the worst idea. And their various solo albums and collaborative projects all features some great moments: Barlow, Loewenstein, and D’Amico worked with disparate projects in the meantime: Dinosaur Jr., Fiery Furnaces, Folk Implosion, among others. But their hasn't been a proper Sebadoh project since 1999. Quite simply, it's a return to form - the album fits quite well into their catalog - if you remember Bakesale and Harmacy fondly, chances are you'll be glad to pick this one up. Also, according to Barlow, this album features a return to the DIY way of recording - enhanced by the availability of good recording technology one would have had to have major label money to access when Sebadoh last recorded. Barlow, again: “We did ‘Defend Yourself’ the only way it could have been done: on the cheap and all by ourselves."
Here's "I Will" - a perfect combination of a wistful Barlow vocal, low-key intro and then an explosion of drums, bass and particularly guitar:
That one's got some really nice piano in the background, but the focus is the juxtaposition between the vocal and the ragged guitar lines - the well-known tension/release that all good indie rock is built on. The guitars are melodic and wonderful.
I always found a lot of Sebadoh's music (and that of side project Folk Implosion) to be particularly wistful - a combination of Barlow's vocal and something about the guitar tones. This album is certainly along those lines, and nowhere is this better represented than on "Let It Out", an acoustic/vocal-dominated track where Barlow strips off the still-healing scabs of wounds attributable to the recent dissolution of his 25-year marriage:
The subject matter is heartbreaking, but the music offers to do what good rock music always has done - deliver a bit of diversion, catharsis if possible, and some joy. Here's "State of Mine" - a particularly joyous return to form, off to the races from the beginning:
The album's out now (released Sept. 17) on Joyful Noise Recordings. Sebadoh's back! That's something to celebrate.
Joyful Noise Recordings
Headspins - VIVIDISIM
Headspins play a brand of rock that it a bit post-punk, a bit math rock and a healthy dose of dance rock. So it is spiky, jittery and taut, but boasts an infectious groove. If you are a fan of the work of Seattle band Minus the Bear or UK band Foals, you certainly will want to spend some time with Headspins. The members of the Auckland, New Zealand foursome are given as Bonsai (Ben), Tobz (Toby), Kiely (Liam) and Witchy. Their second release, the five-track VIVIDISM EP, hit the streets earlier this month. The songs are good, and the band has left enough rough edges on the performances to remain distinctive.
We have provided the first and last tracks of the EP for your evaluation. You can stream the entire record at the Bandcamp link below, and as it is available for "name your price" I think you have a pretty good incentive to do so.
NEW SONG: Belgian Fog - "You Drive Me to Madness"
Belgian Fog is the electro-rock project of Seattle's Robert Dale. We've already posted one of his tracks (WYMA post here), and now he's got a new song out, "You Drive Me to Madness" - still featuring that falsetto vocal, big drums, layered vocals and a dizzying variety of keyboard sounds:
That closing chorus (last minute of the song) is lush and very full-sounding - recommended for fans of stuff like The xx and Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. He worked with John Goodmanson, whose work with Los Campesinos! was recently featured here. Good stuff.
Friday, September 20, 2013
REVIEW: John Paul Keith - Memphis Circa 3AM
John Paul Keith is a Memphis-based singer-songwriter with a great musical grounding and the kind of pop sense you don't see often. His new album Memphis Circa 3AM features guitar jangle, rockabilly boogie and soul, all over a country rock/Americana base. Keith is a Knoxville native, former member of the V-Roys, a stalwart of the E-Squared alt/country scene in the 90's who released three strong albums before breaking up. Having formed a band in Nashville, tried the major label route and several other options, he eventually settled in Memphis and connected with veteran Memphis producer Roland Janes. Keith and his band The One Four Fives (drummer John Argroves, organist/pianist Al Gamble, and bassist Mark Edgar Stuart) are making a racket that calls to mind some of the best of that city's rock traditions. Opening track features a rhythm line that put me in mind of Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation", and the next track "We Got All Night" is the kind of California country once put forth by the legendary Wrecking Crew (including some reverb-heavy guitar work by Keith). Producer Janes once played guitar for Jerry Lee Lewis, and on "True Hard Money" here, Keith certainly calls to mind the Killer's reckless boogie-woogie, rockabilly style (including a pretty decent take on his vocal style).
Here's an impeccable, perfectly-paced pop song, "Everything's Different Now":
Traces of British Invasion guitar pop, terrific organ fills - this is, to me, kind of at the intersection of country, rock and pure pop where artists like Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam and The Mavericks have made their living. And here's a softer, sadder but every bit as catchy tune, "She's Almost You":
Keith has an impressive ability to change his vocal style to suit the song, and an impressive ability to write in several different styles - aside from the aforementioned variety, check out the full-on country song "Ninety Proof Kiss", the folky "Walking Along the Lane", the Tennessee Three rhythm in "There's A Heartache Going 'Round" and the deep soul of "New Year's Eve" (featuring big-time keyboards from Gamble and even a couple of different guitar sounds from Keith). From Knoxville to Nashville to Memphis, it's clear his decade-long journey across the state and around the world has led him to the right place. This is a terrific, big-sounding, rollicking album that just keeps on delivering. Out now (Sept. 17) on Big Legal Mess,
John Paul Keith website
Big Legal Mess Records
REVIEW: Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott - Memories and Moments
Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott are Americana royalty. Among other achievements, I have always treasured O'Brien's 1996 album of Dylan covers Red on Blonde. Their talent is also highly sought after in mainstream Nashville country, where the competition to have songs recorded is fierce. You would be hard-pressed to find another duo whose songs have been recorded by chart-toppers like The Dixie Chicks, Dierks Bentley, Nickel Creek, Kathy Mattea, Faith Hill, Guy Clark, Sam Bush, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Trace Adkins and Tim McGraw. This partially explains why, after their 2000 record Real Time met with such universal acclaim, it still took 13 years for them to find the time to record a followup. But man, was it worth the wait. I have rarely heard a duo with such perfect vocal harmonies and such perfectly coordinated instrumental runs. On some of the longer songs, they really stretch out and play - check out "Fiddler Jones":
Scott's from Kentucky and O'Brien from West Virginia, but even without knowing that, anyone listening can tell they come by their mountain music credentials honestly. Add to that their willingness and qualifications to address mountaintop removal and the legacy of mining in that part of the world: note their dead-on take on John Prine's "Paradise" (including a version with Prine himself), which plays off their original song "Keep Your Dirty Lights On" - odes to a back-breaking legacy and mountains removed, never to return, so a growing nation could have power and "Mr. Peabody" could keep his coal train filled.
There are common country and mountain music themes - religion ("On Life's Other Side"), family ("Memories and Moments"), love both found ("Angel's Blue Eyes") and lost (an absolutely devastating, mournful take on Hank Williams' "Alone and Forsaken").
And the album features unadorned traditional country and mountain music instrumentation - just perfect interplay among resonators, acoustic guitars, fiddles and mandolins. The album is on a newly formed label, Full Skies (a combination of Scott's Full Light and O'Brien's Howdy Skies) and distributed via Thirty Tigers. It's wonderful in every way - great singing, great playing, and you can feel their love for the music. You can buy it at their combined website (link below) - either digital or physical CD.
Tim and Darrell website
Howdy Skies (Tim O'Brien) website
Full Light (Darrell Scott) website
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