Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day Ravies - Tussle

We first wrote about Sydney quartet Day Ravies about three months ago (here).  But they've earned the right to be here again by virtue of an excellent debut album, Tussle.  Displaying the band's proficiency in shoegaze pop, jangle pop, fuzzy psychedelia, '60s girl-group and dream pop, Tussle doesn't make a thematic statement as much as it presents a strong case for accepting this band as adventurous young talents on the rise.  Their sonic interests seem to focus on melody and ambiance, and the album is satisfying because they manage to deliver on those elements over the range of their compositions.

Day Ravies is Sam Wilkinson, Caroline de Dear, Lani Crooks and Matt Neville.  Vocals duties alternate between Sam, the guitarist, and Caroline, who plays bass.  Lani plays keys, and Matt is the drummer.  Three of the members participate in songwriting, which may be a contributing factor in the variety of their songcraft.

"I Don't Mind" is at the intersection of dream pop and shoegaze -

The delightful jangle pop of "Sun Up" -

Day Ravies in a garage pop vein on "Reality School" -

Tussle is out now via Popfrenzy Records.  To stream or buy the entire album, hit the Bandcamp link below.

Popfrenzy Records Website

Remaining 2013 tour dates:
NOV 14 – Melbourne: John Curtain Hotel with PEARLS, PAGEANTS, VELCRO
NOV 30 – Brisbane: Trainspotters: Grand Central Hotel with NAKED MAJA, NITE FIELDS, BARBITUATES­

Jessica Hernandez "Demons" - free download for Halloween

"Demons" by WYMA favorite Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, from the great city of Detroit, is the featured free downlead of the day from Rolling Stone. Get it right here today:

"Demons" is the title song from her soon to be released debut which we'll be reviewing here soon.

This first track sounds great.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

REVIEW: The Chills - Somewhere Beautiful

Is Somewhere Beautiful a compilation of alternative takes, a greatest hits collection or a concert album?  The answer is "yes".  The album is a recording of a private concert performed at a joint birthday/New Years Eve party in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2011.  But who cares about labels?  This is a new record from The Chills, one of the most iconic and mercurial of the New Zealand bands known for the "Dunedin sound".  For the uninitiated souls asking "who are The Chills", the long answer would be to name the many musicians who have been members over the years, list the starts and stops, the tours and the crashes.  The short answer is that The Chills are Martin Phillipps and whomever he has gathered under The Chills banner.

We've been without a new album from The Chills since 1996, but Martin's Far South label now has partnered with Fire Records.  Eventually, there will be new material from the band (and Fire Records already has released the single Molten Gold), but the first fruit of the partnership is Somewhere Beautiful.  And while it may seem like a strange choice to some, I think it is perfect.  Potential new fans are exposed to 20 comprehensive reasons why they should look forward to future material from The Chills. We existing fans are able to collect beloved songs in a slightly different version than our treasured studio recordings.  In particular, this collection presents the songs of one of guitar pop's most talented songwriters in the rawer, harder edged format typical of a live concert.

Here is the opening track -

The Chills played earlier this year at a celebration for the Dunedin Botanic Garden.  Here are some clips over one of their best known songs, "Pink Frost" -

One of my favorite songs on the album is "Rolling Moon".  Here is a live version from '85 -

Pop music at its best is an experience of the moment, a spontaneous eruption of talent and inspiration interacting with the listener.  This is what a live album can deliver better than a professionally massaged studio album, and Somewhere Beautiful is a soaring testament to live albums.  It is available now from Fire Records on CD or vinyl.

In addition to Martin Phillipps, the current version of The Chills is Erica Stichbury, Oli Wilson, James Dickson and Todd Knudson.

Fire Records page for album

REVIEW: Charlie Big Time - Sale or Return EP

There are few better answers to the question "why should I pay attention to releases other than albums?" than the words Charlie Big Time.  The Bolton, UK trio consisting of Chris Tiplady, Beth Arzy and Matthew Pendlebury crafts hyper-melodic guitar pop with vocals shared between Beth and Matthew.  The group's first release was an EP via Cloudberry in 2007.  Since then there have been several CBT tracks on compilations and another EP, Dishevelled Revellers on Matinee Recordings in 2012 after Beth joined the band.  But the only album was in 2008.

This year's pop nugget from CBT is the Sale or Return EP via Seattle's Jigsaw Records..  It features three tracks of expertly crafted guitar pop with soft vocals and engaging hooks.  As was the case with the 2012 EP, the first track is the showcase tune for me.  "A Sunday Afternoon Well Spent" is the kind of track capable of making a pop fan out of anyone.  The descending guitar chords and vocal interplay are earworms of the highest order.  The tempo slows for the gentle, beautiful title track.  The third track, "Pitiful, Delightful and Alarming" is a sunny pop tune.  The EP closes with reflective acoustic song "From the Cradle to the Bar", which I liked well enough to embed below the stream and video for "A Sunday Afternoon Well Spent".

Sale or Return is available at the Jigsaw website as a CD or digital download.  Charlie Big Time is not the most prolific of recording artists, so I recommend getting their take on pop music when it is available.

Bandcamp page for EP
Jigsaw Records

REVIEW: Fanfare by Jonathan Wilson

We praise a lot of rough, raw and lo-fi music at this blog and for good reason. But we appreciate great music of any flavor. Jonathan Wilson's Fanfare is a sweeping CD of major ambition, exquisitely recorded, carefully conceived and meticulously performed, unabashedly hearkening back to the glory days of Laurel Canyon '70's folk rock. Fanfare is as hi-fi as it gets. And I love it!

So how does a young guy making his 2nd record line up Graham Nash, David Crosby and Jackson Browne to help out on vocals, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers on guitar and keyboards, and Pat Sansone from Wilco to arrange and conduct strings? You have great songs, that's how, and something truly magical going on that other musicians of substance want to be a part of. This is all on top of Wilson himself playing a staggering array of instruments, plus having his own very capable band.

Fanfare comes right out of the box with the title track, a sweeping nearly 8 minute, piano-centered beauty. It's cinematic, addictive, incredibly well played. Wilson himself explains on his web page:  “‘Fanfare’ as a word, represents a fanciful showing, a bodacious movement of energy, a celebration of sound. Something to signify an arrival, a special occasion. A fanfare follows no rules. In this case, it’s also the opening song, it’s the gateway for the rest of the record."

Certainly Fanfare follows no rules as it moves along on its 14 song, 78 minute trippy and deeply rewarding journey. Wilson's own web page describes the CD as "grandiose", which, while not a word I've ever read in a band's own marketing materials, is fair in the best sense of the word. Websters dictionary's second definition: "Impressive because of uncommon largeness, scope, effect, or grandeur". That's it, that kind of grandiose is what's going down here.

The second track "Dear Friend" has grown on me a great deal after multiple listens to the CD. As occurs on many songs on the record, what first appears to be a bridge instead turns out to be a gateway to something more like an entire other song, a gigantic left turn where you get to see what's behind door number two, in this case, wah wah pedals and a seriously trippy work out.  The "official" video:

The most immediately accessible song on the CD is the impossibly catchy "Love to Love", a perfect pop gem and an ode to making one's way to, and one's music in, Southern California:

And on and on, the discoveries and delightful journey continue, each song vastly different from the one that precedes it, and full of its own turns, nuances and surprises. When I first heard the CD, I thought well, maybe this song, "Cecil Taylor", sounds a little too much like Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Until I read the credits and realized, man that is David Crosby and Graham Nash, who I guess are allowed to sound like themselves! And it's a very cool song of freedom, the title referencing the pioneering free jazz pianist who once played on the White House lawn during the Jimmy Carter (and C, S & N) years.

In some ways these superstar guys playing on this record is a generational passing of the torch. They know what it's like to write great songs and make dynamic music of the highest quality, so wanting to be part of Fanfare makes complete sense. It's not like one of them or their peers is going to write a batch of songs this original and urgent today.

And while the classic folk rock influences are certainly there, this is highly distinctive and even idiosyncratic work. Wilson has a strong writer's voice and brings an amazingly sophisticated understanding of composition and recording practices here. The use of strings, horns, backing vocals, harmonies, solos, etc. is so remarkably well done here.  It's obvious he's hears all this in his head, plays most of the instruments himself, but then augments that with the very best dream team of people he could possibly assemble.  And Wilson takes all kinds of risks, the sort that will reward you if you dig deep and give this CD repeated listens.

I could single out nearly every song here, but would be remiss if I didn't mention the perfect country rock story song "Moses Pain", "Future Vision" which drops a little John Lennon moment and is a song I suspect Lennon himself would have deeply appreciated, and the grungy "Illumination" where Wilson plays all the instruments and locks on a Crazy Horse-worthy rock groove.

 You can hear the entire CD at SoundCloud right here:

But no one can appreciate Fanfare on a single listen or even 2 or 3. You need to digest this. And thus you need to own it. Fantastic stuff, Fanfare will finish high on my best of 2013 list.

And in closing, my personal thanks to musician and Notre Dame recruiting web site guru Mike Frank and my nephew Tom Desmond who both turned me on to this. I could have missed this one and that would have been a great loss.

Jonathan Wilson web page
Twitter page
Facebook page

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

REVIEW: Love Migrate - Dissolved EP

Two weeks ago we featured "Dissolved", the title track of the new EP from Melbourne's Love Migrate.  I was quite impressed with the song, and eager to hear the remainder of the record.  And now that I've heard it, I'm happy to report that it does not disappoint.  It begins with "Dissolved", which now has taken its place in my top 20 songs of the year so far.  But the remaining three songs keep pace with the high standard set by the opener.  Guitars chime and jangle over the foundation provided by the keys and rhythm section, accenting the earnest and emotive vocals.  The second and third songs are unhurried and reveal themselves gently, almost with a '70s country rock vibe.  The final track, "Falling Through", is more uptempo and builds to a wonderful conclusion.

I suspect that Dissolved EP will appear on some year-end lists and readers will wonder why they hadn't heard of it before.  Well, you've heard of it now, so you have no excuse.  Stream it below, and don't skip the entirety of the final track.

Love Migrate is Eddie Alexander, Casey Harnett, Eric Moore, Pete Sismanes, and Joe Walker.  The Dissolved EP is available via Flightless Records.

Flightless Records
Flightless Records on Facebook

REVIEW: Diane Coffee - My Friend Fish

Diane Coffee is former Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming, and he's made a very good psychedelic soul record. My Friend Fish is the product of a two-week sickness-driven apartment confinement immediately following Fleming's move to NYC from California. Fueled by homesickness, real sickness and nothing but guitar and drums as company -- like a fever dream or any other kind of altered state, the album's songs combine real-life stuff with flights of fantasy, most often not bothering to make clear distinctions. The lyrics make occasional reference to the circumstances:

I think that you’re cool
Yeah I’d catch a cold with you
It just seems like the right thing to do
Lord knows I can’t drink all this soup by myself

Then the soup metaphor is stretched - due in part to its fitness for the task, perhaps as much as the closed universe in which he was operating - in the last track, “Green”:

I think I finally understand
What it takes to be your man
I’ll bring you soup and I’ll hold your hand
I will never leave you baby

Diane Coffee "Green" from Western Vinyl on Vimeo.

Perhaps he's invented a new genre: Love songs by sick guys... There is a lot of sweetness to this album - there's a gentle swing to many of the choruses that wouldn't be out of place in '60's pop soul from Motown... but plenty of strangeness, too. “Tale Of a Dead Dog” brings to the party a bit of Pink Floyd influence, and along with the overwhelming doses of Beatles, Donovan, Beach Boys and Motown influences, it is more than welcome:

The song structures vary, and the recording techniques (drum tracks from iPhones, etc) just about guaranteed that the result would not be ordinary. However, they did not guarantee it would be such a great listening experience. That's where Fleming's talent comes in.

Foxygen's Jonathan Rado guests here, and Fleming claims they're still all on good terms. But really, if the band breaks up and they all go 'round making solo albums this good, I wouldn't miss Foxygen itself. But it'd be cooler if they did both. My Friend Fish is out today (Oct. 29) on Western Vinyl.

Diane Coffee at Western Vinyl

Monday, October 28, 2013

Joey Fourr / H. Grimace - Nothing Beats Reality EP

One of this week's releases that may fly under the radar, but shouldn't, is the  Nothing Beats Reality EP It is a split cassette from the Bad Paintings label featuring three songs by Joey Fourr and three songs by H. Grimace, released by UK label Bad Paintings.  A purchase of the cassette will entail a digital download code.  The artists combined to create the art work for the EP.

Joey Fourr's tracks are an exuberant, electric grunge-folk, or maybe bubblegum grunge, recorded by Joey at home with the assistance of a drum machine. The former Tubelord member infuses the songs with a Bikini Kill vibe, but with some pop vocal hooks peeking out from the chaos.  Here is the second track, "Dirty Hole" --

H. Grimace's tracks take a different tack.  Part post grunge, part '60s Velvet Underground, the songs have an urgent moody feel to them, and I like them quite a bit.  "End of the Road" and "Cemza" are provided below for your evaluation, I'm particularly fond of the former.

H. Grimace 'Cemza' from Maurizio Von Trapp on Vimeo.

A download of the EP also is available at iTunes.

Bad Paintings Website
Joey Fourr Website
Joey Fourr on Facebook
Joey Fourr on Bandcamp
H. Grimace on Facebook
H. Grimace on Bandcamp

REVIEW: Los Campesinos! - No Blues

Los Campesinos!, the Welsh wall-of-sound rockers, have released their fifth album No Blues. It's a wild ride, featuring big, big guitar sounds, lead singer Gareth's strong, nearly shouted vocals and an impressive bag of sonic tricks. It's got a kitchen-sink approach that includes a charming childrens' chorus (a local cheer squad joined them in studio) on "Avocado, Baby". As with so many songs here, the title comes out of a clever turn - "A heart of stone / A rind so tough it's crazy / That's why they call me the avocado, baby":

Gareth writes the lyrics, and claims that his lack of musical training and ability lead him to overcompensate with cleverness. He's right in part, it's definitely clever... but I'm not sure he can properly be accused of overdoing it. Nor can the instrumentalists, even though they create a tremendous ruckus. It's just that these guys (and girl) have so much to say, and seem to feel such a strong desire to share it, that anything goes.

Here's "What Death Leaves Behind" - super-upbeat, and while singing about the nominal topic of death (including Gareth's turn as a sexton), they make quite an agreeable racket and get to an optimistic place:

It would be easy to connect them with predecessors such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and they definitely truck in the anthemic stuff and sing about how a particularly poignant moment (a breakup, an emotional turning point) can seem to be never-ending. But like any successful band, they bring their own slant to the music - earnestness and enthusiasm being the top two. On this album, the enthusiasm takes the front seat and it's our pleasure (as well as those Welsh kids') to get to sing right along.

Los Campesinos! at Wichita Recordings

REVIEW: Upset - She's Gone

Ali Koehler's resume includes stints as the drummer for Best Coast and Vivian Girls.  But for her latest project she is Upset, a three-piece she formed with former Hole drummer Patty Schemel and Le Sera guitarist Jenn Prince.  Their sweet spot is expertly executed melodic punk, with equal doses of attitude and hooks.  As a songwriter, Koehler displays a deft touch with clear structures and a blast of emotion.  And with the 12-track album over in a half an hour, no song overstays its welcome.

The songwriting focuses on the punk standards of angst, boredom and alienation.  But there is a good dose of humor which, when coupled with spot-on pop instincts, results in songs that make an impact but don't leave a scar.  And in my view, that willingness to meet listeners in the space between punk anger and the listener's desire for a good time, makes She's Gone and album that is worth multiple listens.  It just makes me feel good.

She's Gone was recorded in Ali's home by Kyle Gilbride.  It is out this week on Don Giovanni Records.  Upset is touring in November on the west coast.  The dates and locations are below.

Fall 2013 tour (all dates with Screaming Females):
Nov. 15—Black Lodge—Seattle, Washington
Nov. 16—The Know Bar—Portland, Oregon
Nov. 18—The Blank Club—San Jose, California
Nov. 19—1-2-3-4 Go! Records—Oakland, California
Nov. 20—Bottom Of The Hill—San Francisco, California
Nov. 21—Echoplex—Los Angeles, California
Nov. 22—Harold’s Place—San Pedro, California
Nov. 23—Soda Bar—San Diego, California 
Don Giovanni Records

Free Album: Various Artists - Capitalised: Tall Tales & Low Lives of Edinburgh

Our generous friends at Dogs Got A Bone Records have offered as a free download Capitalised: Tall Tales & Low Lives of Edinburgh.  The compilation includes tracks by 10 different Edinburgh area artists and bands.  Some of the tracks are not available anywhere other than this record.  The tracks span psychedelia, shoegaze, folk and rock, but whatever your favorite genre, I think you'll find some songs that strike your fancy here.  You can try it out with the three tracks below.  The entire album can be streamed and downloaded at the Bandcamp link below.

Dogs Got A Bone Records

REVIEW: Elvis Costello and The Roots - Wise Up Ghost

It was inevitable that Elvis Costello and The Roots would collaborate. Costello has long been a great student of American soul music, dating back to Get Happy!, his 1980 amphetamine-paced rock'n'soul classic. American R&B has informed Costello's songwriting throughout his illustrious career. And there is no better contemporary ensemble of R&B players than The Roots.

I love this record far more than I expected to, however. These collaborations often come off forced and mildly uncomfortable. But there's a genuine fusion of styles here - The Roots giving themselves completely to the compositions and serving the songs well. Costello, meanwhile, didn't just give The Roots his latest batch of songs for them to transform, but instead brought compositions particularly well suited to The Roots' style of musicianship and deep chops. And wow, is Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson some kind of drummer!

Here's a taste, the lead track "Walk Us Uptown":

One particularly standout song for me is "Wake Me Up", which has this slinky groove but then throws down this nasty guitar line from Kirk Douglas, an aural bolt of lightning suddenly appearing over the lake on a calm summer night. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee! Done here live and looser than the recorded version:

Along the way on the CD, Costello digs back into his own lyrical history to recast "Pills and Soap" (Punch the Clock, 1983) into "Stick Out Your Tongue", shifting the mood from creepy to downright though appropriately terrifying. And "Refuse To Be Saved" here updates "Invasion Hit Parade" from Mighty Like A Rose.

 While the music on Wise Up Ghost is somewhat controlled on the surface, it crackles underneath, resulting in an underlying mood that is urgent and dark, a world spinning off its axis, a sound and feel that The Roots music and Costello's words and melodies seem custom made to share.

 Another highlight here is yet more stylistic fusion, "Cinco Minutos Con Vos" featuring singer extraordinaire La Marisoul from the Los Angeles Latin-alternative band La Santa Cecilia.

Here's a video with Questlove and Costello discussing the collaboration and Costello's background:

Overall, this is sophisticated and unique music, matching a uniquely gifted and thoughtful writer with amazing players.  Highly recommended - easily one of 2013's best CDs.

Elvis Costello homepage
The Roots homepage

Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP: Lou Reed (1942-2013)

A great deal will be written about Lou Reed in the coming days and you should read some of it. Lou Reed was a unique character who led a fascinating life. There will be many fine stories to tell.

I figured Lou Reed was too tough to die. I figured when death knocked on his door, he'd push death down the stairs, throw him out, and give him a piece of his mind. Death would go away only to return in a half hour, enamored with the charismatic rascal Lou Reed, and the two would then have a glass of wine together, the death merchant agreeing to spot Lou another 20 years.

The Long Island-raised Reed was always my ideal New York City persona - the quintessential street smart, hard yet sympathetic iconoclast who did everything on his own terms. He was the original bad ass rock star.  But also a guy who set out to write the great American novel through a 4 minute rock'n'roll song.  Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Allen Ginsberg and every other cool person flocked to Lou Reed. The word "artist" can sometimes be thrown about a bit too liberally with rock musicians, but Reed was one of the great American artists of the past 50 years. His work already has and will stand the test of time.

His work with his seminal band The Velvet Underground in the late 1960's-early 1970's was commercially ignored at the time but saved rock'n'roll from its bloated self and worst tendencies, influencing generations of bands to follow. It's not an exaggeration to say that without Lou Reed, there would be no Ramones, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Pixies, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M.  and the list goes on.

And Lou Reed understood that in rock'n'roll, simple is good, and the best rock'n'roll also doesn't stray too far from its rhythm and blues roots. Here's one of my favorites:

As great as the VU stuff and his early heralded 1970's solo work, I am particularly partial to 3 records he made in the 1980's - New Sensations, Mistrial and New York. Tough, smart, great players, taut writing, Reed was firing on all cylinders. Here's the Lou Reed of that era performing "Dirty Blvd" from New York on TV in 1989:

Lou Reed gave his life to rock'n'roll. And a countless number of musicians joined bands because Lou Reed inspired them.  We lost an original today, one of the all time greats.  Here's his ode, his anthem to his art, his beloved rock'n'roll, certainly one of the most iconic and very best songs of the rock era:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Food Court - Smile At Your Shoes EP

The Venn diagram for Sydney's Food Court finds their sound at the intersection of punk, garage pop and grunge.  To my ears, the grunge is mostly evident in the growling guitars, while the remainder of the delivery is more of a joyous garage pop.  The band recently released a six track EP titled Smile at Your Shoes.  Take it for a test spin with the title track.  If you like it, check out the Bandcamp link, where you can stream the entire EP.  You also can buy it at the Bandcamp link, but in any case the title track is a free download.

Food Court is Cristian Campano (vocals/guitar), Lewis McKeown (bass/vocals), Dan De Santis (guitar), and Nic Puertolas (drums).  Smile at Your Shoes was recorded in Melbourne by Mark Doman and mixed and mastered by Mikey Young.


What a great song: "Hacienda Motel" by Pickwick

We cover a lot of good albums, EPs and singles here, but I think there is room to just showcase a great song, new or old, separate release or not.  Today's choice is "Hacienda Motel" by Seattle band Pickwick.  The song is the third track on their 2013 LP, Can't Talk Medicine, and for me it was the standout track on a solid album.  What makes it a great song?  It is the whole package.  The individual performances are great, from the Memphis soul opening featuring the bass, drums and keys, to Galen Disston's superb vocals, to the restrained guitar.  The arrangement is interesting and builds well.  And the lyrics draw you in from the start:
That whore she left you bloody
On the motel lobby floor
Even though she took your money
You know she needed more 
Here is the official video:

We didn't review the album when it came out (our request to PR was ignored - perhaps I should have said I was from Pitchfork and promised to deconstruct the lyrics), but if you like "Hacienda Motel" I suggest that you check out a few more songs.  I think it is a very promising debut album.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Panama - Always EP

The Always EP is an electro-pop record with three danceable tracks of uplifting melodies and tasteful production.  The artist is Perth, Australia's Panama, a four-piece fronted by classically trained pianist Jarrah McCleary.  If you are like me, you'll find the EP interesting and relaxing.  You'll also fine that it is available for "name your price", which means that for most of you it can be acquired for the same amount to pay to subscribe to this, the best music blog on the planet.  We are all about value.


REVIEW: Star Anna - Go to Hell

On her solo release, Go to Hell, Seattle's Star Anna channels the voice of a raw, tortured angel.  Betrayed, disappointed and, at times, angry.  Bruised, at least on the inside, she is as real as real gets.  She may have had a few knocks, but she isn't a loser. And amid the betrayal and regret, there is hope.  Star works the intersection of the gritty end of Americana, country blues and honky tonk.  She writes good songs, picks excellent supporting players and then unleashes her wonderful vocal instrument -- powerful, emotive and always sounding like it is on the verge of breaking.  I think if you were to commission acoustic scientists to come up with the perfect voice for this kind of music, the laboratory would send back a note simply stating "Star Anna".

Star Anna has released a trio of excellent prior albums, the third with her backing band under the name Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs (our post for Alone in This Together), and for those records she sang and played guitar.  For Go to Hell, Star concentrates on vocals.  Her main collaborator was Ty Baille, who co-wrote, produced and played piano and keys.  Jeff Fielder played guitar, Julian McDonough drummed, William Moore was on bass, and Jacques Willis provided vibraphone on the title track.

Go to Hell includes songs that will be familiar to her more country oriented fans (for example, "Electric Lights" and "Mean Kind of Love") and rockers ("Let Me Be", "Smoke Signals" and "For Anyone").  She shows her pop chops on the grand "Everything You Know", and for "Power of Love" Star hits a groove I'd call honky tonk pop.  And sometimes, she is pure fun; check out the live version of track nine, a Tom Waits cover.

I don't generally note the endorsements of others in my reviews, but in this case I'll make an exception and point out that Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready is an outspoken admirer (and frequent accompanist), and Duff McKagan of Guns and Roses and Velvet Revolver is a notable supporter as well.

The opening track -

The title track -

Live version of Tom Waits' "Come On Up to the House" -

Go to Hell was released in late September via Spark & Shine Records

Spark and Shine

Lee Bains III And The Glory Fires - Can a Rock Band Be TOO LOUD?

"Too Loud For Texas?" No, that's not a song, it's a judgment rendered by the sound engineer and management of a venue called "Live Oak" in Ft. Worth, TX. Earlier this week, Southern rock and soul shouters supreme Lee Bains III And The Glory Fires played a show at this place and got into a bit of a tussle with management. The Facebooks and the Twitters are lighting up with back-and-forth, he-said-she-said, and I'm not here to place blame or render judgment on one party or the other. I am, however, here to observe that having your travelling rock and roll band declared "TOO LOUD" is the kind of publicity money can't buy.

Our interaction with Bains has been mostly one-sided. All of us at WYMA love the music of this Alabama band, and it has showed over the last couple of years. Back in early 2012, we got a preview of their album There Is A Bomb In Gilead via the Alive/Naturalsound comp, Where Is Parker Griggs? - and immediately fell in love with it. Here is the introductory piece I put up then: New Rock/Soul Discovery: Lee Bains III And The Glory Fires. You will note the use of adjectives like "screaming". Again, this is not a coincidence or accident. The music is best heard loud, and it's made to be played loud. I say, mostly one-sided. Lee did send a short note of thanks, which to me is usually the mark of a well-raised dude.

At the end of 2012, we heaped on the praise once again. Here is JD's list -- note his mention of their "fantastic bar band vibe". Here is mine -- quoting myself (I can do that, it's my blog): "Out of Alabama comes a dynamo, a hard-rocking force of nature who manages to combine punk, country and R&B to great effect. The Dexateens were really good, but Bains has upped the ante here – he’s a great shouter who can switch gears and sing straight-up soul music, backed by a great southern rock band." And finally, JD was inspired to post about their live show in Portland recently. Again, "tore through... with abandon" is mentioned in a positive light.

However, at the Live Oak in Ft. Worth, there is apparently also a "restaurant section" and Bains' band managed to clear that sucker out, which launched the series of events described in this online article from (they're rightfully proud of the ruckus their boys raised deep in the heart of Texas). You can certainly read more about it, including various points of view, at the Facebooks and Twitters of the band and the venue. There are some entertaining comments, for sure.

Here are a few videos of the guys in action:

(Given my choice between seeing a band at "Live Oak" or "Bluesklubb", I think the choice is somewhat clear)

In the end, all I guess I'm saying is: if you want loud, you get it with Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. They are the very essence of truth in advertising. No pretense, no artifice, just good, honest, LOUD rock and roll. If you want a chance to see a band that is too loud for Texas, and you live in the Southeastern US, you are in luck. Don't sleep on this:

Friday, October 25 – Houston, TX – Rudyard’s*
Saturday, October 26 – Baton Rouge, LA – Chelsea’s*
Wednesday, November 6th – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle+
Thursday, November 7th – Knoxville, TN – Pilot Light+
Saturday, November 9th – Whitesburg, KY – The Summit
Monday, November 11th – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge w/ Wyldlife, The Brooklyn What
Thursday, November 14th – Birmingham, AL – Bottletree+
Friday, November 15th – Nashville, TN – Stone Fox+
Saturday, November 16th – Chattanooga, TN – Sluggo’s+
Friday, November 22nd – Athens, GA – 40 Watt – BACKING UP SWAMP DOGG!!
Saturday, November 23rd – Atlanta, GA – The Earl – BACKING UP SWAMP DOGG!!
Friday, December 6th – Little Rock, AR – White Water Tavern – Holiday Hangout!
Saturday, December 7th – Huntsville, AL – Flying Monkey
* – with Austin Lucas!
+ – with PUJOL!

Or if you live in another part of the country and want to hear them, you can get the record from Alive/Naturalsound. Just make sure you don't put a bunch of foam or curtains around your speakers. You deserve to hear these guys in their natural state. L-O-U-D.

"Lucky Too" from Males, free download!

As we noted last week, the double LP from New Zealand's Males is being released by Fishrider Records on November 1.  To help convince you to pay attention to the album, the guys are offering the single "Lucky Too" as a free download.  An excellent pop song with soaring vocals, it is priced to move to your collection immediately.

The album, Run Run Run/MalesMalesMales, will be released on CD and digital initially, and vinyl will be available a few weeks later.  Vinyl collectors should note that only 300 copies will be pressed.

Fishrider Records

Friday Nuggets: "Can't Seem To Make You Mine"

The Seeds 1966.jpg

I know we featured The Seeds here once before on Friday Nuggets. But if you are spotlighting a garage rock classic every week, The Seeds deserve two. Or at the very least, "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" cannot be overlooked.  

"Can't Seem to Make You Mine" was The Seeds first single, released in 1965, and it failed to make the charts. But while people have been making great garage rock in the following 48 years, it never got any better than this one.  

The deliberate pace of the song, the great guitar sounds, the slurred vocals - what more could one possibly ask for in a garage rock song?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

REVIEW: Wilder Maker - Year of Endless Light

Year of Endless Light is a tremendous achievement - a series of recordings made by Wilder Maker (front man/vocalist Gabriel Birnbaum) in a period during which he set off on a trip that was intended to sever his ties with New York for good, then decided to come back to Brooklyn with a renewed commitment to making music there. The album was recorded with engineer Elio DeLuca at The Soul Shop in Medford, MA.

Recommended highly for fans of heavy folk/country/rock like Bonnie Prince Billy, Richard Buckner and Neil Young, this album is just about overwhelming in its scope and breathtaking in its execution. Birnbaum's got a background in free jazz, and that's certainly borne out here. There are contrasts between the Crazy Horse-meets-Bob Weir jam of "Float Us Through the Barroom" and the quiet, beautiful "Hangs Hooks", with its delicate dual vocals, quiet instrumentation and ambient storm sounds. In the end, it's all of a piece - the music is all anchored by his very human, earthy voice.

"Float Us Through The Barroom":

"Song For the Singer" is another epic-length work, featuring plenty of changes and wonderful guitar work - I hear traces of the ragged folk-rock of Fairport Convention, or Richard Thompson solo, but with a rhythm section that turns on a dime. It would have to, to support the guitar flights on this one. “Slow Life” features quiet interplay between acoustic guitar and horns behind Birnbaum's lead and Katie Von Schleicher's vocal harmonies. It's a beautiful song:

“Invisible Order” is another long, creative tune - featuring some strange vocal effects (looping Birnbaum's vocal back on itself just a bit), saxophone noodling and guitar feedback. Birnbaum's jazz background surfaces over the last half of the song, essentially a trumpet/piano interplay, featuring Birnbaum’s brother Adam sitting in on piano. “Lullaby” and "Holy Night" close the album. They are quieter songs, featuring some pretty trumpet work and more inspired harmony vocals between Birnbaum and Von Schleicher.

I've had this record for a while, but was having trouble describing it adequately. I am certain that I've failed, but it's the kind of album people who like good country-rock, folk-rock with an edge, and any kind of inspired singer/songwriter work will just have to hear to believe. It's a staggering, expansive album with enough conventional guitar work to support the wilder flights into improvisation - and, honestly, Birnbaum's tremendous vocals would be more than enough to make it worth your while.

Wilder Maker website

"I'll Be Honest" from The Spook School

The Spook School makes somewhat regular appearances on these pages.  I assure you that they are not blackmailing me due to their possession of scandalous pictures of me.  I think they throw away all the photos I send them.  No, they are frequently featured because they make good music (and have a good sense of humor).    Today's focus is on their double A-Side, "I'll Be Honest" / "Will You Always Be My Friend" 7".  Released on Fortuna POP!, the first side is an energetic song with garage punk flourishes - perhaps a touch of The Buzzcocks.  It concerns the narrator's discovery that some friends knew more than others about certain aspects of the narrator's life.  "Will You Always Be Me Friend?" is a more twee/C86 song about figuring out how relationships work.  The 7" vinyl comes with a digital download.

This is good pop music from a band that deserves some success.

"I'll Be Honest", via stream and video:

"Will You Always Be Me Friend?", via stream:

The Spook School also has released an album titled Dress Up on Fortuna POP!  You may stream and evaluate it here.  "I'll Be Honest" is included on the album, but "Will You Always Be Me Friend?" is available only on the double A-Side single.

The Spook School are Nye Todd (guitar), Adam Todd (guitar), Anna Cory (bass), and Niall McCamley (drums).  They reside in Edinburgh.

Fortuna POP!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Falling Down the Stairs" from Blank Realm

Brisbane's psychedelic pop group Blank Realm has released "Falling Down the Stairs" from their upcoming album Grassed In, to be released in 2014 via Fire Records.  An energetic slice of slacker pop on a foundation of garage rock organ, I think the track portends very good things for the album.  I even wanted to get up in dance, but then I remembered that I am still at the office.  Oh well, I'll play it again when I get home.

Blank Realm are siblings Daniel, Luke and Sarah Spencer, and Luke Walsh.  They have released records on Fire Records internationally, and Siltbreeze and Bedroom Suck in Australia, including the well-received Go Easy earlier in 2013.


Blank Realm consists of three siblings, Daniel, Luke and Sarah Spencer, and Luke Walsh.

SISU - Blood Tears

It is interesting to discover how different spinoff projects can be from the original group.  Sometimes the new project isn't dramatically different, but gives a musician a chance to do it their way.  In other cases, the new project reveals a surprisingly different take on pop music.  SISU, the band formed by Dum Dum Girls' drummer Sandy Vu is an excellent example of the latter.  On the recently released Blood Tears, Vu, a talented multi-instrumentalist, weaves a captivating tapestry of Gothic dream pop and synthwave.  The album is a adept blend of contrasts.  Vocal harmonies have a soft touch over the often bass-heavy arrangements.  Soft sounds contrast with loud sounds.  Dreamy arrangements are slashed by a Siouxsie Sioux-style vocal abrasion.  Ultimately, it is dream pop for people whose dreams are a bit tortured, perhaps more echoing The Cure more than Slowdive.

On Blood Tears demonstrates the key characteristics to making it apart from Dum Dum Girls.  First, Vu is a good vocalist and songwriter.  Second, she has assembled a band that helped her turn those songs into something distinctive and enjoyable.  Third, she is an able frontwoman.  This album is a delight from start to finish, and I recommend it.

SISU, which is the Finnish word for extreme perseverance, is undeniably Sandra Vu's.  For Blood Tears, she wrote the record, played instruments, sang and produced.  Additional musicians were Ryan Wood, Nathanael Keefer and Lars Stalfors.  Fellow Dum Dum Girls member Julianna Medeiros joins the band for live shows.

Blood Tears is out now on Mono Prism Records.  The label is a relatively new collective for artists in various media.


NEW SONGS: A Twofer from Fleeting Youth Records - Big Bill and Basketball Shorts EPs on one cassette, out Oct. 29

Austin cassette label Fleeting Youth Records has launched, with a frenetic twofer featuring two Austin pop/punk bands as its first release due out on Oct. 29.

Here's "Temporarily Happy" from Big Bill - starts out with a bit of a surf beat, transitions into a pure punk backbeat, all with a properly snotty vocal and two guitar explosions. That's a lot in 1:41!

Here's "Peter Venkman" from Basketball Shorts - they feature more of the classic Ramones-style singalong vocal harmonies and speed drumming throughout, with some guitar reverb thrown in for good measure. Catchy:

The cassette (and digital version available via Soundcloud or Bandcamp) will feature the complete EP's: Big Bill's A Hard Day's Bill and Basketball Shorts' Total BS.

Fleeting Youth Records website

REVIEW: Galleries - No Miracles

Glasgow's Galleries are a self-described "epic pop" band, and I must say the fellows have a keen sense of what they do: Pop songs on an grand emotional and sonic scale.  And to me, the most remarkable thing about their recent LP, No Miracles, is that it is among the most accessible collection of post-rock songs.  The melodies are engaging, the vocals are excellent (with some inspired falsetto), and the songs are adeptly structured to build to the maximum impact.  This music can be tricky, because it can be overdone or maudlin.  But if you give Galleries a chance to prove their craft to you - and I've made it easy for you with three songs below - I think you'll find that the band has exceptional balance.  Everyone needs some epic pop in their collection, and this album really hits the spot.

Galleries are David Mcadam (vocals/programming), Ross Prentice (guitar), Adam Hall (bass), and Andrew Black (drums).


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Joanna Gruesome video - "Sugarcrush"

Well, this is a very silly video. But it's a good excuse to continue to bombard you with the dirty, sweet, sweet sounds of Welsh noise pop outfit Joanna Gruesome.

My review of their album Weird Sister (released Sept. 10 on Slumberland) is here. Short version: It's awesome and you need it. And you can read more, and find tour dates, etc. at their site.

Joanna Gruesome at Slumberland Records

REVIEW: Saint Max and the Fanatics- Saint Max Is Missing and the Fanatics Are Dead

It seems to me that young Max Syed-Tollan absorbs various musical influences, runs them through his special secret Saint Max musical blender tool thingy, and turns out energetic, intriguing, and refreshingly joyful pop music.  It also is rather noisy, but I'm quite sure that is a good thing.

I first learned of Max when he was performing over a year ago as Saint Max of Galloway.  The teenager has since moved to Glasgow, acquired a band, and now performs as Saint Max and the Fanatics.  Their debut LP, Saint Max Is Missing and the Fanatics Are Dead, was released this week.  And from the opening track, "Soul Surrender", it is very clear that this is not your normal debut.  There is no evidence of the "gee, we wonder if anyone will like us", or "let's hold back a little to see if this is what people want".  No, this is more like Joe Strummer and company deciding ... well ... fuck it, this is what we are, love us or leave us.  We get Max's swooping vocals, frenetic choruses and horns (yes, real live horns) all pushed to the red line.

And all the confidence, swagger and upbeat energy works to sell the music.  The effect of the brass sometimes evokes soul and funk, sometimes ska, and sometimes mariachi, but it all fits in the context of the composition.  With the considerable energy devoted to the tempo and instruments, a listener could be forgiven for initially overlooking the lyrics.  But that would be a mistake as young Max has a good eye for a story and a knack for phrasing it.  It appears that he has complied a bulging songbook in his short life, and is eager to get it on tape.

Max and the gang are equally entertaining when they dial it back for a music hall style singalong, as is ably demonstrated by "Ode to a Teenage Heartthrob".  The song is a smashing combination of The Libertines, Edwyn Collins, The Smiths and Elvis Costello.  And if Max invokes that many references, it seems to me that the sound is undeniably Max's to claim.

And our young narrator isn't above a taunt, as in this country-influenced stomper: "I shall go to heaven / and you shall go to Glasgow".

And here is perhaps the most conventional pop song on the album, the grand "She Sings a Lovely Lullaby".

The Fanatics include Eliot, Fraser, Muir, Scott, and Aldo.  Saint Max Is Missing and the Fanatics Are Dead is out now on Armellodie Records.

Bandcamp for album
Armellodie Records

"Low" from Young Fathers

Edinburgh's Young Fathers continue to impress with their creative blend of pop and hip hop.  Their third LP, Death, is scheduled for release in early 2014.  The first release from that record is "Low", which is available now as a digital download (free, if you pre-order Death).  The trio of Kayus Bankole, Graham Hastings and Alloysious Massaquoi just keeps getting better.


NEW SONG: "Much" by Typefighter

Here's some catchy, upbeat garage rock from DC-based Typefighter. Their album The End of Everything is due out in early 2014, but they've made this track available for you to listen right now. It's a wild ride, up and down in tempo, but always very full-sounding. They bang on the guitars over the last minute or so - having built up to a big finish, they do not disappoint:

Learn more, keep up with their progress, check back for tour dates at their links below.

Typefighter website

Monday, October 21, 2013

"So High" video from Males

Most of us who love popular music keep lists of upcoming releases we are thinking of buying.  I humbly submit that one entry on your list should be the double EP Run Run Run/MalesMalesMales from Dunedin, New Zealand's Males.  The record will be released in November by Dunedin's Fishrider Records.  To whet your appetite, here is the just released video for the track "So High".  Low budget, high creativity and very entertaining.

Males are Richard Ley-Hamilton and Sam Valentine (who also is a member of Trick Mammoth).  They both are males.  The double EP will contain their previous EP, MalesMalesMales, the single "So High" and a new EP, Run Run Run.  Our introductory post about Males is here.

Fishrider Records

"Breathe In" by Japanese Wallpaper

Although only sixteen, Gab Strum - also known as Japanese Wallpaper - has been releasing his electronic music for a few years.  His latest effort is "Breathe In", which is the first single from his upcoming EP, is a delicate work of restrained beauty. The track features the vocals of Wafia, and will be officially launched in about a week.  I think this is an electronic artist to keep your eye on.


Have a little time for Casual Sex?

I introduced our uninitiated readers to Casual Sex several times earlier this year (herehere, and here).  The Glasgow band, now a foursome, consists of Sam Smith (vocals/guitar), Edward Wood (guitar), Peter Masson (bass), and Chris McCrory (drums).  They arrived in the US last week to perform at the CMJ Music Marathon, and are playing dates with Franz Ferdinand.  Their final US show is in New York tomorrow night.  Then they have two dates in Canada, and return to Europe.  The remaining tour dates are listed below after the interview and music clips.

I think that Casual Sex is an exciting band, primed to make a splash, and I wanted our readers to have a chance to learn a bit more about them.  I submitted a few questions to the band, and Chris McCrory consented to answer them.  The interview is immediately below.  After reading the interview, you can watch the video (and/or stream) a song from their upcoming EP which will be released by Glasgow's We Can Still Picnic label.

WYMA: How did the band begin?
CS:  Casual Sex began with Sam as a studio project at The Green Door Studio in Glasgow. Sam and Ed met years ago and I met him and Pete when I'd just finished recording an album there with my old band. He gave me a demo CD! I liked it, joined the band and that's how it began.

WYMA: Does everyone still have a job other than Casual Sex?
CS:  Ed has just quit his job and Sam and I both record bands for a living at The Green Door Studio, Glasgow and Shady Lane, Erskine respectively. 

WYMA: Are the songs composed by one or more individuals, or as a group?

CS:  The songs come to us in several ways. I think it's important to keep things fresh and not stick to one set way of working. Some songs could be written and recorded within two hours at a rehearsal. Another could come from a single band member and we'll work it up into a full arrangement together. Casual Sex are a creative collective, it's very open and we like it that way! 

WYMA: In the wake of several well-received singles, your first EP is being released.  Please tell us a bit about it.  For example, when, where and in what formats will it be released?   Does it contain the singles, new songs or both?

CS:  The EP has 5 new tracks and if you've seen us live then you might have already heard one or two!  We've also just put a video for one of the tracks, "Nothing On Earth" up on YouTube [WYMA: We have embedded the video below]. The EP is being released as a limited edition 12" on WCSP records on November 11th. You'll be able to buy that in good record shops in the UK or if you're elsewhere you can buy it direct from us from our big cartel store. It'll also be available on all the usual digital outlets. 

WYMA: If one song on the new EP is going to make you famous, which one is it?

CS:  Hmm, I have no idea. The fickle world of fame has never really occurred to us when making music, so you can decide for yourself when you hear it! 

WYMA: To my ears, your music has a distinctive sound.  But every band is going to sound a bit like one or more other bands.  If you were required (such as in an interview with a music blog) to name four other bands with which you think you should be grouped in terms of sound or style, which bands would you put on that list?

CS:  That's no fun! We'll leave that up to you to decipher!

WYMA: What is the grand plan?  Albums? Major labels? Private jets? Diversification into whisky distilleries?

CS:  We rate releases and touring on a scale we devised, The 'Roxy Music' Scale. I'm sure you can imagine the kind of glamorous points that feature on that scale, and I'm quite sure our aim is lofty. Whisky distilleries? There's an idea..! We were contemplating investment banking as a group while waiting in the rather long line at US Customs. However, we can confirm that an album is definitely on the way for 2014. 

WYMA: I noticed that you intend to be back in 2014 for SxSW.  Congratulations!  Do you intend to add other dates and see more of the US?

CS:  Thank you, the USA is good. We're like giddy children here. And yes, we intend to add some more dates in exciting places around then. It's all secret right now though, otherwise it'd spoil the fun!

 WYMA: Your label is Glasgow's We Can Still Picnic.  How did you choose them?

CS:  We never chose them, they chose us! Glasgow's very tight-knit, everybody knows each other and they're a good label who we share tastes with, so naturally we just gravitated towards each other. 

WYMA: You undoubtedly have caused pain, heartache and embarrassment to the fans who entered the band name in a search engine on a work computer to find out more about you (at least, that is the story given to the boss).  Have you considered providing compensation, or at least a public apology?

CS:  Absolutely not! We like our name! I will say that I have seen couples questioning each other's 'taste' in the comments section of our Facebook page before however, and that was rather amusing. Though, everybody knows how to use Google now, right? Google Chrome has an incognito mode by the way if you really must cover your tracks!

WYMA: What are you listening to in the tour van, and who decides what you will listen to?

This tour is too young to have a band favourite as of yet! Ed had Barry White singing with Pavarotti playing when he was in the shower this morning, that was cool. We're generally easy going when it comes to what's playing. Though from experience, trying to force My Bloody Valentine on unappreciative band mates isn't a good idea. 

WYMA: Since our focus is on new bands, or at least bands that are not yet well known, we have to do a bit of digging to find worthy artists for our pages.  To do that, we pay attention to music recommended by bands that we follow.  What up and coming bands would you recommend to us?

CS:  Me and Sam have just finished producing the new album by Asian Babes, they're from Carlisle in the UK and I think people should pay more attention to them. Fortunately, they're going to be on the next We Can Still Picnic compilation LP. Kill Surrrf are another grossly under appreciated band from Glasgow. I've just produced their new EP for a cassette label, Number4Door and it should be out in the next couple of months. They have a knack for lazy, lovelorn pop hooks (I think they should make an album of 'slow dances' for high school proms) and I'm rather excited to start working with them on their debut LP when I get home.

WYMA:  Thanks for the recommendations.  We covered Kill Surrrf in April (here), and will look forward to more from that band.  We'll check out Asian Babes, but that may require Incognito browsing.  What living bands or artists who are no longer recording or performing do you wish would begin playing music again?
CS:  I'd be interested to hear Brian Eno do something that isn't generative and/or ambient again. Although generally I think once bands are gone, they should stay gone and make way for something new. Think of all the interesting new music we could have coming to the fore if it wasn't saturated with reunion tours. Somebody should start a band with a defined and finite lifespan, who are contractually obliged to split up on a given date, never re-issue their records and never reform. That would be cool. 

WYMA:  Thank you very much, Chris.  We appreciate our time with Casual Sex.

CS's Big Cartel page
We Can Still Picnic on Facebook

22 October Hammerstein Ballroom New York
23 October QC Metropolis Montreal
24 October Kool Haus Toronto
8 November Stereolux Club, Nantes
9 November Theatre Barbey, Bordeaux 
10 November Boule Noire, Paris 
22 November Nice n Sleazy, Glasgow
29 November Hoxton Bar and Grill, London
20 December Mad Hatters, Inverness
31 January Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh 
1 February Nice n Sleazy, Glasgow
7 March SXSW, Austin Texas