Saturday, November 30, 2013

REVIEW: Surf Friends - Endorphins

Sun-kissed but energetic surf rhythms, fuzzed out sonic backdrops, steady grooves and harmonized vocals are on the menu for Endorphins, the new LP from Surf Friends.  It is the band's second album, and their first for legendary New Zealand label Flying Nun.  The album is fun, adventuresome and very satisfying.  And if the music world is right and just, it should earn the band new fans on distant shores.

The album leads off with the soaring fuzz and laser shots of "The Sea".  It is a song high on the list of those that never fail to induce a smile when I hear them.  The Auckland duo inevitably will draw comparisons to fellow Kiwi bands The Clean and The Chills with the next following songs, "Chance" and "Breakin".  And to be fair, there is more than geography and stylistic similarities at work, as Endorphins features a few contributions from David Kilgour.  "Mexico" finds the band exploring a bit of surfy drone.  If the Beach Boys had a side project as a garage band, they'd be proud to turn out a track like "Summer".  The middle of the album, with "Moving On" and the glorious sprawl of "Clean Deers" is a bit more space rock, but still displays the fine bones of their New Zealand antecedents.  "The Sea Outside" and "Cool" manage to suggest influences from both The Bats and The Velvet Underground.  I think the former is a sleeper track that over time will emerge as one of the standouts from this album.  The album closes with "Yourself", a 8:22 interplay of guitars and choruses over thick bass foundation.

Surf Friends are Brad Coley and Peter Westmoreland, armed with guitars, keys, drum machines, bass and a twin vocal delivery.  For two guys, they have a full and varied sound, and the able production from Nick Roughan captures all of the energy and immediacy of the songs.  I imagine The Jesus and Mary Chain could have sounded this way with a dose of happy pills and a new found appreciation for surfing.  Ah, what could have been.  But let's not dwell in the past, let's look to the future.  The future is our friend.  Specifically, the future is Surf Friends.

Test drive Endorphins with "The Sea" and "Chance", below.  We've also included the fine video for "The Sea".

Endorphins is out now via Flying Nun, and is available in CD and digital formats.  International fans can check out the link for Flying Out, below.

Flying Nun Records
Flying Out

Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: Superchunk "I Hate Music"

How did it happen that I took this long to review I Hate Music, Superchunk's excellent most recent CD? Time to fix that.

As we reflect on those things in our lives we are thankful for this weekend, let's be sure to put Superchunk on that list. I've followed this band closely since their formation in 1989 when I lived in their hometown of Chapel Hill, NC. Mac McCaughan was the super knowledgable and friendly young clerk at Schoolkids Records on Franklin Street who recommended always great new music to this older music critic who frequented the store.

I Hate Music is Superchunk's 10th record, and it holds up to their well earned legacy. It picks up where their previous effort Majesty Shredding (2010) left off, but with a strong theme of loss and a questioning of what does it all mean.

One of my favorite tracks here name checks Jackie Mittoo, the long deceased keyboardist and founding member of seminal reggae legends The Skatalites.

They released a fine video for "Me & You and Jackie Mittoo", by well respected filmmaker and fellow Tar Heel Phil Morrison:

"I hate music-- what is it worth?/ Can’t bring anyone back to this earth/ Or fill in the space between all of the notes/ But I got nothing else so I guess here we go…"

Where Superchunk seems to land on I Hate Music with these big mid-life questions is, let's get back to those people and things we love. In Superchunk's case, what they love is smart, tightly crafted, high energy American punk / power pop, and their loyal fans. And so they made a great 10th record, and off they went on a major world tour. "Cram into the back of a van, oh yeah/All of our friends with a plan, oh yeah...Whatever it takes/ Put up your feet on the dash."

Though they had to tour without bassist Laura Ballance whose tinnitus prevents her for playing live (kids, and that means you Lily my 14 year old daughter-drummer, wear those ear plugs!).

Even while Superchunk question the meaning of things on I Hate Music, they release a video for the song "Void" with a big dose of self-depreciation and a terrific sense of humor about getting older.

The other "official" video is an odd film, for "Staying Home", another exhilarating short blast of Superchunk power pop:

I'll leave you with one more, maybe my favorite here, "FOH":

Mac McCaughan wants to know how we're doing - "How's everything at the front of house?" Well Mac, we're kind of like you, up and down, getting older, experiencing loss. But we're finding plenty to love in life, and are especially appreciating those things that have given a lot to us through the years, such as music, and more specifically, Superchunk music.

You'll see I Hate Music again here at WYMA blog in a few weeks, when I publish my annual best of the year list.

Official web page:
Superchunk Facebook page
Twitter: @Superchunk 

Upcoming tour dates:

Nov 29-Dec 1 Camber Sands, UK | All Tomorrow’s Parties ‘End of an Era Pt. 2′
Dec 2 Leeds, UK | Brudenell Social Club
Dec 3 London, UK | Electric Ballroom
Dec 5 Copenhagen, Denmark | Loppen
Dec 6 Stockholm, Sweden | Debaser
Dec 8 Helsinki, Finland | Tavastia
Jan 18 Chicago, IL | Metro / Tomorrow Never Knows Festival
Jan 19 Madison, WI | High Noon Saloon – FRZN Festival
Feb 5 Dallas TX | Trees
Feb 6 Austin TX | The Mohawk
Feb 7 Houston TX | Fitzgerald’s
Feb 8 New Orleans LA | One Eyed Jack’s

Friday Nuggets: The Brogues "(I Ain't No) Miracle Worker"

We've got an obscure but amazingly great one for you this week.  The Brogues were from Merced, California and recorded just 6 songs, all in 1965. "(I Ain't No) Miracle Worker" made it to the Nuggets compilation which I where I heard it. It's a perfect '60's garage song. Here you go:

The Brogues broke up shortly after this recording when Eddie Rodrigues joined the Army.  Two members, Gary Grubb (guitar) and drummer Greg Elmore, later formed Quicksilver Messenger Service.

"(I Ain't No) Miracle Worker" was covered by various other garage bands, including Chocolate Watch Band, The Barracudas, and The Chestefield Kings, bands you just very well might see here on a future Friday.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Best Music for Thanksgiving?

I wonder if these guys have read WYMA blog? Some pretty funny stuff in here.
And they do mention Diarrhea Planet.

So what music do you listen to on Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

REVIEW: Various Artists - I Need You Bad

The west coat, and the Bay Area in particular, has a vibrant garage rock scene.  For those of us who are fans, this is a good thing.  But the proliferation of quality bands makes collecting a challenge.  It even makes finding and evaluation the music to decide what to collect a challenge.  So what are we to do?

Have no fear!  Sonny Smith of Sonny and the Sunsets (whose 2013 album should already be in your collection; our review here) has come to the rescue, curating a 15-track collection of some of the finest garage bands from San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles and Portland.  Admittedly, for I Need You Bad the definition of garage band may be a bit stretched, but the choice of bands and songs is of such quality that there will be no complaints.  Rest assured that there are no tunes written by a team of hired hook-generators and pixel pushers.  This music is hand written, hand made, and hand played.  Many of the bands have been on these pages in the past, and/or will be here in the future.  But for many of you, the album will expose you to at least a few bands you might not otherwise hear or have a reasonable chance to collect.  And most of all, I Need You Bad is a testament to the worth of a vibrant indie pop scene in modern music.

If you want to surprise and delight a music fan this holiday season, Sonny Smith may have given you your chance to shine.  Try these four tracks, or stream the entire album at the link below.

You can stream the entire album here: Stream of I Need You Bad.

There are 1,000 copies of "slime green" vinyl LPs available from Polyvinyl Records.  Burger Records are selling 300 copies on cassette.  The MP3s are available from Polyvinyl's online store as well as usual digital outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Rdio.

Polyvinyl Records

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Burn Antares - Burn Antares

Hailing from the north beaches of Sydney, Australia, Burn Antares makes music that echos back to the melodic psychedelic rock of the '60s.  However, having influences from that period can be a good thing if you add a fresh perspective and do it well.  And a spin through this band's recently released self-titled album demonstrates just how well they do it.  As a first-time listener I was impressed at just how tight the band is.  I don't know how old they are or how long they've been together, but they sound like they have played together for many years and still enjoy every minute.  And then there are the vocals of Grace Farriss.  She has great pipes, an adept delivery and undeniable star appeal.  It seems she comes from a musical family, as her sister is in a band and her father, Andrew, was one of the mainstays of Australian legends INXS.

You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link at the bottom of the post, and download it for "name your price".  I have included a few songs here.  "Man's Eyes" quite simply is a great song, and the band has filmed a fun video to go with it.  The other two songs are "Head of A Liar (Disco Amnesia)" and "Treat Me This Way", which I think are the third and second best songs of the set.  For those of us that like psychedelic music, this album earns Burn Antares a spot on the list of bands to follow.

Burn Antares are Grace Farriss, Sean Casey, Daniel Murchison, Tom Hoglund, and Thom Eagleton.


REVIEW: Casual Sex - The Bastard Beat EP

Alright, everyone - time for 14 minutes of Casual Sex!  Oh? I hear some of you complaining that it hardly is casual if we are going to be watching the clock.  I think we have a bit of a misunderstanding.  I'm not getting involved in your sordid little personal sex lives; at least not without a proper introduction and a bit of flirting.  No, I'm writing about The Bastard Beat EP, the 14-plus minute release from Glasgow's Casual Sex.  The band isn't new to regular readers of these pages.  And given their inclusion in Spin's list of the top "see these" for SxSW 2014, their recent tour supporting Franz Ferdinand, and the favorable write-up in the Wall Street Journal (not a publication known for the promotion of sex, casual or otherwise), it is clear that the word is spreading.

The EP is comprised of five tracks characterized by Sam Smith's suggestive croon, dirty bass lines, angular guitars and drumming that likely will induce feet to move.  The themes walk on the sleazy side of the street, but with a wink and a sense of humor.  Lead track "Nothing on Earth" is a perfect introduction to this band's approach to pop.   Smith extols the virtues of a lover over staccato guitar and a uptempo groove.  It is presented here in this video produced by Glasgow's Partickular Films.

Side A is completed by "The Bastard Beat".  Side B includes "The Sound of Casual Sex", "Then Again", and "What's Your Daughter For?"  The songwriting is top notch, but songwriting only gets you part way to the finish line.  The winning is in the delivery, and the delivery displayed by Casual Sex suggests this team can go far.  The vocals and musicianship are excellent, which is what you'd expect from a collection of pros, and the sound befits a foursome which includes two professional sound engineers (Sam and Chris).  But even more impressive is their feel for the songs.  You hear the music, you feel the music, and it feels like it belongs.  You may not have realized that the absence of sleazy guitar pop was a void in your life that demands to be filled.  But listen to The Bastard Beat EP and the truth will win out.

Casual Sex are Sam Smith (vocals/guitar), Edward Wood (guitar), Peter Masson (bass), and Chris McCrory (drums).  The Bastard Beat EP is released via We Can Still Picnic.  The first five songs at the Soundcloud link below comprise the EP, albeit in a different order.

We Can Still Picnic on Facebook
Casual Sex's Big Cartel page (for orders)

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Perfect Heartache" from Delay Trees

One of the fine bands from Finland who have graced our pages is Delay Trees.  Their next album is Readymade, and it will be released in January, 2014, via Helsinki's Soliti Music.  We now have the first song from that record - "Perfect Heartache".  It features warm guitar tones and a building melody.  It suggests good things for the upcoming album.

You can stream and download "Perfect Heartache" below:

Delay Trees' Blog
Soliti Music

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Introducing: Carb On Carb

Auckland, New Zealand's Carb on Carb are Nicole Gaffney (guitar/vocals) and James Stuteley (drums/vocals).  The duo is touring in Asia at the moment.  But before departing they released the single "Eden Terrors", which is available as a free download.  A bit lo-fi and jangling, with a great tempo and a catchy pop feel, it is well worth your time to download it.

If you'd like to load up on some more carbs, here is a four-track EP they released in April.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

New EP from The Cyclist

One of my favorite electronic/dance albums of the year is Bones in Motion (review here) by Andrew Morrison, a Northern Ireland producer who records and performs as The Cyclist.  Andrew's work is subtle and inventive.  But one of its most defining characteristics is its warmth.  It is desire to infuse electronic dance music with warmth that has prompted his latest effort, a self-released EP he named Digital White Label.  It is comprised of six tracks that display a beating heart in the techno wizardry.  The first two tracks can be streamed below.  The entire EP is available at the Bandcamp link below.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Introducing: Tom Lark

Tom Lark makes home-cooked pop music in Christchurch, New Zealand.  His latest creation is "Haircut", an energetic tune that has hints of '60s British Invasion (just who haven't they invaded anyway?), and "Go Get A Job", which features a vampy rhythm and '90s fuzz.  I think it is good stuff.  If you agree, you may want to hit the Bandcamp link and check out his 2011 EP.


REVIEW: Math and Physics Club - Our Hearts Beat Out Loud

Do you have an indie pop lover on your Christmas list?  I'm thinking of someone who appreciates guitar pop with a twee bent, a literate approach, a broad musical palette and a bit of an attitude.  Someone who would understand the value of analog recording at the famous Dub Narcotic studio in Olympia, Washington. Some years I'd give you a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, because this kind of music fan may be tough to please.  But this year we can make a suggestion that might cross a name off your list before the retail Armageddon known as Black Friday.  Yes, we can, because Matinee Recordings has just released Our Hearts Beat Out Loud from Seattle's Math and Physics Club.

The album delivers ten nuggets carefully crafted to tug your heartstrings, remind you of joy, take you to the bring of melancholy and then bring you back with a big sigh and expectation for a bright tomorrow.  There is classic twee pop, a few with a relaxed country feel ("We Didn't Run From Anyone" and "Thank God I Met You"), and a few that are more aggressive than is typical for this trio.  The basic set-up up is fleshed out with occasional organ, harmonica, cello and even a glockenspiel (Does one need a license for a glockenspiel?).  And the songs here bear that hallmark of good songwriting -- the ability to express raw emotions honestly without having to rely on excess drama.  And with the assured musicianship, warm vocals and pop hooks, we can take everything Math and Physics Club is serving.

An excellent introduction to the record is "We're Not Lost", just under four minutes of delicious young heartache.  If you are keeping lists of best indie pop songs of the year, you can write this one in on the list even before you press play.

One of the standout tracks is the previously released single, "Long Drag", on which the band shows a new dimension -- a narrator who is angry and willing to point out that his lover was the one who failed to work on the relationship.  With staccato percussion and handclaps, it is a great song with a killer refrain that underscores the power of music to heal wounded hearts.

Math and Physics Club is Charles Bert (vocals/rhythm guitar), Ethan Jones (bass/keys), and James Werle (guitar).  Jones co-produced the album with Bob Schwenkler.  Although I don't usually mention album art, the design for Our Hearts Beat Out Loud is an beautiful papercraft sculpture by New York artist Tae Won Yu.

The album is available on CD and 12"  vinyl.

Math and Physics Club website
Matinee Recordings page for album
Matinee Recordings website

Friday Nuggets: The Mekons "Empire of the Senseless"

The Mekons are certainly not a garage band in the narrow sense of the term, any more than they are a punk band, alt-country band, Brit rock band or any other label you might try to pin on them. 

One of the most respected if criminally underrated bands of all time, The Mekons have been doing their thing since 1976 when they formed in Leeds, England. And they have never followed any rules or formulas. The Mekons were always experimenting, introducing new sounds and instruments, and consistently taking chances and following their own instincts. Few bands have stayed as true to their own ethos. The art school anarchists made up their own rules and managed to outlast their peers that inspired them like the Clash and the Gang of Four.

The Mekons now make their home in Chicago, where head Mekon Jon Langford is particularly active on the music (Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts) and art scenes.

One of my favorite Mekons songs is "Empire of the Senseless" from their classic 1989 release The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll, which if you've not heard the Mekons before is a fine place to start. I particularly recommend this record to the many Guided by Voices fans who frequent our blog here.       

A new documentary film has just been released - "The Revenge of the Mekons".  Read about it here, and see it when it comes to your town. I will be there the first moment it screens here in Portland. Here's a trailer for the film:

REVENGE OF THE MEKONS trailer from Joe Angio on Vimeo.

Okay, we will give you one more song, also from The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll, "Memphis Egypt":

It's never too late to discover the Mekons.
Mekons Facebook page
Twitter: @The Mekons

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Bright Spot In A Bad Year" by The Deadline Shakes

If you, like me, are collecting the records from Glasgow's The Deadline Shakes, your next opportunity will come on December 9, when the label Flowers In The Dustbin will release "Bright Spot In A Bad Year".  It should be noted that the band has not had a bad year.  They have played shows and festivals, been mentioned favorably by music critics, and had their songs played on radio.  However, the protagonist in the song has faced many challenges, and yet manages to adopt an impossibly positive perspective on his life.  The song may be one of your musical bright spots of the year.  It has a compelling melody and an uptempo beat.  The boys play the song with conviction and joy, and the positive attitude is infectious, even if it comes with a wink.

And here is the video -

The single is available for pre-order from the label, and will be available from the usual digital outlets.

Flowers In The Dustbin

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

REVIEW: Astro Children - Proteus

Assuming Homer knew his stuff, Proteus of mythology was the original 'old man of the sea'.  Proteus, like his liquid domain, changes shapes, attitude, and levels of welcome and danger.  One listen to Proteus, the sophomore LP from New Zealand's Astro Children, reveals that the title is aptly chosen.  Proteus presents the band's untamed, but tightly disciplined exposition of their sound.  At times churning or threatening, other times calm or soothing, the album is a frequently changing and often mysterious mixture of textures and emotions.  But going beyond the connection with mythology, the songcraft seems to me to be like a virtuoso display by an Iron Chef -- sweetness balances acidity, tenderness is surrounded by crunch, bombast is cut by tenderness.  And all of it is served up by a duo consisting of Millie Lovelock, a fierce front woman with a voice, a guitar and an arsenal of pedals, and Isaac Hickey on drums and occasional background vocals.  The resulting eight songs make for an aural feast that will put this album in a lengthy rotation.

One of the Astro Children manifestations is dream pop, which is best represented on Proteus by "Gaze" and "Jamie Knows".  The latter is one of my favorites -- cryptic references to something going down tonight and someone being asked to help the narrator fall, wrapped in sweet vocals and delicious guitar chords.  I seek to eventually play the album without repeating the song; I'm not to that point yet.

Several of the tracks, including "Nora Barnacle" and "Eden", reveal a harder, more overtly dark side to the band.  In "Eden", Millie appears to speak to a former lover.  And while admitting that she succumbed to a fallacy, admonishes him for being dark, grim and mean.  The arrangement supports the lyrics with a mix of textures and tempos.

"Shoe" is an aggressive rant against those that would bully smaller people, but could be applied more broadly to power differentials in other settings.  "Big Muff (Strikes Again)" finds the narrator admitting difficulty in refraining from uttering "bad things", but ultimately declaring:
Trying out some new curses,
They taste good on my tongue
And I use them to hurt you

The opening track, "Sunday Afternoon", is a romp that plays with guitar effects, sonic atmosphere and tribal beats.  It is mostly instrumental, but includes spoken words (Millie thinks they are from Pynchon, but doesn't recall for certain).  The album closes with "Yonsi", a more measured wind-up underneath a reading from T.S Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".

Astro Children are a band that ignore the rules.  And they stand as proof that talent plus audacity can bring big rewards.

Proteus was recorded at The Attic in Dunedin by Adrian Ng (member of Trick Mammoth with Millie and Sam Valentine of Males).  It is available now via New Zealand label MUZAI, and can be downloaded at the Bandcamp link below for "name your price".

Muzai Records
Muzai Records site for Proteus

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bardo Pond - Peace on Venus

Peace on Venus is the kind of album I get lost in.  Happily lost, I should add.  It consists of five tracks of psychedelic rock from Philadelphia's Bardo Pond.  The framework for the band was formed twenty-two years ago by sibling guitarists Michael and John Gibbons.  In 1991 they added Isobel Sollenberger on vocals and flute, Clint Takeda on bass, and Joe Culver on drums.  The current lineup remains the same except that Ed Farnsworth, and now Jason Kourkounis, has replaced Culver on the drums, and Aaron Igler adds synths and electronics.

The music of Bardo Pond is a sonic exploration.  The explorers' targeted landscapes are shoegaze, heavy rock, psychedelia and drone; their tools are reverb, feedback, and heavy riffs, with counterpoint provided by soaring female vocals and floating flute figures.  The listener is invited into a world of textures, hypnotic tempos and unexpected structures.  Put on your headphones and go for a sonic ride.  If you know Bardo Pond, you likely know that you want to listen to the album.  If the band is new to you, try out the second track, "Taste", below.

Peace on Venus is out now on Fire Records.

Alternative Website
Fire Records page for album

Review: "Mermaids", Michael Rank and Stag

The so-called Research Triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill NC is known as a good locale to start a business. We might as well add Michael Rank Enterprises to the list.

Mermaids is Rank's second CD release of 2013, following on the heels of In The Weeds, which we reviewed here in March. And Rank plays live shows on a regular basis, hosts a weekly radio show (The Dust Hand Sessions), enlists the help of a dozen or more top local musicians to play on his CDs, recorded and mixed at 4 different NC studios. Full employment for all of Chapel Hill! (hey kids, don't forget to tip your bartenders).

Mermaids forms a trilogy of sorts with In The Weeds, and its 2012 predecessor KIN -- largely acoustic, rough hewn country music about heartbreak, rooted in a timeless Keith Richards/Gram Parsons aesthetic. The songs are personal in nature and Rank holds nothing back, working without any mask or artifice, making these songs strong and real.

Mermaids utilizes the strengths of two musicians in particular - the vocals of Emily Frantz (Mandolin Orange), many of the songs here being vocal duets, and fiddler John Teer (Chatham County Line). Frantz's voice is a beautiful instrument that is the perfect compliment to Rank's raspy drawl, like sweet vermouth to the bourbon.

Here's one of those duets from Rank and Frantz, plus Teer and co-conspirators, all fixing to break your heart on "Bound to Me":

One of my favorites here, "Bring Up You":

And the next time someone tries to tell you country rock is dead, point them to "Coming Hard", where Teer's fiddle work soars and the cut loose jam at the end is the perfect ragged but right:

I first met Rank 20+ years ago when his rock band Snatches of Pink ruled the scene in Chapel Hill, putting out a couple of great records and torching the Cat's Cradle in their rare appearances there. But Rank wasn't always the easiest guy to deal with, his attitude sometimes matching his vast talent. But time and life's experiences have made Rank a more generous and humble man, and he seems to appreciate the opportunity to make music. While many songwriters seem to have less to say as they get older, Rank is the opposite - the songs seem to be bursting out of him. He's making the most of his musical gifts, his access to great players, and a hard earned perspective on life and music. Mermaids represents Rank's continued maturation as a singer-songwriter.

We'll close with a video of "Shot of Gold":

Michael Rank is on a roll. You should check Mermaids out, you won't be disappointed.

Artist web page:
Michael Rank Facebook (friend him, he puts up great stuff for his fans and followers)
Twitter: @michaelrank7.


Monday, November 18, 2013

REVIEW: Bubblegum Lemonade - Some Like It Pop

Well, it certainly is true that some like it pop.  And I maintain that those who like it pop will most certainly like Some Like It Pop, the third LP from Glasgow's Bubblegum Lemonade.  The band is the project of Glasgow's Lawrence "Laz" McCluskey.  And while it is guitar pop, and those guitars most definitely jangle, it cannot be categorized merely as jangle pop.  Laz's palette is broader than ever and the set mixes downbeat songs with the upbeat, fuzzy distorted The Jesus and Mary Chain blasts with the chiming bubblegum, Teenage Fanclub power pop with Lucksmiths' melancholy, and the idiosyncratic pop of Belle and Sebastian with the soaring anthems of Phil Spector.  I was an early adopter of Bubblegum Lemonade, picking up the Ten Years Younger EP in 2008.  I've always found Laz's music captivating, but I'm particularly impressed at his growth as a songwriter over the ensuing five years.  And I can confidently write that if you are only going to own one Bubblegum Lemonade record to date, this is it.

You can enjoy a four-track sampler of the album below.  It begins with the uptempo rhythms of "Dead Poets Make Me Smile".  Its sunny melody and literate lyrics will brighten your day.  The proceedings take a darker cast with "You Can't Go Back Again", which reminds me of the moody folk rock of The Grass Roots (that's a '6os reference, for you youngsters).  The next track is, for me, one of the album highlights.  "Have You Seen Faith", previously released as a single, has the melody, guitar hooks, and performances that make for a perfect three minute pop song.  At the end of Laz's career, he will have written many fine songs, but this one will be in the top group.  The sampler closes with "She Brings The Sunshine", another pop nugget with echos of The Monkeys and the best of C86.  Matinee Recordings thinks it could be a single, and I'll endorse the notion.

And those tracks are only one-third of the album.  There is more '60s flavored guitar pop such as "It's Got to be Summer", '90s power pop like "Famous Blue Anorak" (nice bongos, too), and gentle downtempo in the form of "Don't Hurry Baby".  This is one of those albums that won't sit on your self.  You'll want it on your portable devices, you'll want it in your car, you'll want it on regular rotation at home.  Go ahead, wear it out.  That's what it is for.

Some Like It Pop is out now via Matinee Recordings.

Order page for Some Like It Pop
Matinee Recordings

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"City Lights" by Loon Lake

Loon Lake's "City Lights" is an indie pop tune that gathers momentum as is unfolds.  It worms inside your head and before you know it, there is a pop anthem thrashing about your cranium, tickling pleasure synapses.  Don't worry, the condition is not fatal and the lasting consequences are a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

If you like the song, check out Loon Lake's website.  The recently released LP, Gloamer, can be streamed in its entirety.  I think the 14 tracks thereon make a good claim that this is a band hitting its stride.

Loon Lake is Sam (vocals/guitar/keys), Sime (guitar), Dan (guitar), Timmy (bass) and Nick (drums).


"Bottlin' It" / "I'm Having A Terrible Time" from Collider

Last year we posted a free garage rock nugget from Collider (here).  They are back again with a fine two-song single released last week via Tye Die Tapes.  Punk guitar riffs, thundering percussion and well crafted melodies -- this is good garage rock.  The record gives the listener a bit of variety, as the second track is more relaxed and you may find yourself encouraged to sing along.  Go ahead, no one will mind.

These songs are good enough that I'm prompted to give the lads some career advice: Record an album. Yes, I expect that audacious nugget is unexpected and never before uttered in their presence, but I'm a bold guy, dispensing important advice for free.

Check out the lead track below.

Collider are Paddy, James, Bobby, Simon and Adam.  Yes, the photo above only shows three men.  I have no idea which two are missing.

The Die Tapes

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Wharves / The Rosy Crucifixion - Split Vinyl 12"

I've been waiting eagerly for this beauty.  It features six tracks by London's The Wharves and six tracks from one of my favorite emerging bands from Scotland, The Rosy Crucifixion.  The Wharves make enthralling, spiky, dark-tinged psychedelic folk rock.  And The Rosy Crucifixion?  Conjure Link Wray rockabilly with female vocals and a meaningful infusion of caffeine and moonshine.  The vinyl will be released by Soft Power Records on November 25, but interested fans are strongly urged to pre-order as only 250 copies will be pressed.

The Wharves have drawn comparisons to Smoke Fairies and Haight Ashbury, although I think they have more urgency.  Their sound is big, for a three-piece, and having three vocalists undoubtedly contributes to that effect.  The lyrics and atmosphere are dark, but the music is compelling.  The band is Mairon Andrau (drums), Gemma Fleet (bass), and Dearbhla Minogue (guitar).

One of the best tracks "Thick Syrup", with thick bass lines underneath the harmonized, almost chant-like vocals.

The Rosy Crucifixion is Emily (vocals and guitar), Stuart (bass) and Conal (drums).  Of all the active bands I cover, this one makes the list of the top ten I'd like to see live.  They induce the same excitement that I felt when I first heard the Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers a couple of years ago (interestingly, an album recorded at the Green Door studio founded by Emily and Stuart).  Named after the Henry Miller trilogy and influenced by The Monks, The Fabulous Wailers, Link Wray, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and others, their six-song set here represents the perfect combination of fun and evil.  Emily's guitar twangs and her voice, as was stated by a musician who knows her, sounds like Patsy Cline's evil sister.  Stuart and Conal set down a rhythm that could easily past muster in a 1950s east Arkansas roadhouse.

Here is a cover of Freddy and the Hitch Hikers' "Sinners" --

The band's own composition, the rocking "Hot In Your Head" --

Bandcamp for Album
Soundcloud for Album
Facebook for The Wharves
Facebook for Rosy Crucifixion

REVIEW: Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas - Demons

We've been waiting for Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas' debut for some time, since singing their praises here at WYMA earlier this year. And Demons was worth the wait.

The Detroit native, blessed with a powerful and instantly memorable voice, backed by a versatile ensemble of great young players from the Motor City, defies easy categorization. Her bio cites Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello, and she draws comparisons to Amy Winehouse. But at the core here is an undeniable Detroit soul and jazz sensibility, modern and original in sound, honed in the many gritty clubs that Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas played in their hometown for a couple years before touring the country this year.

All 5 songs here have careful arrangements, neo-soul underpinnings, great horns parts and funky danceable rhythms. But mostly what they have is Hernandez's spellbinding voice.  If her singing doesn't raise your BPMs, time to see a cardiologist.

Here's "Picture Me With You (Carnie Threesome)":

Demons was released on Instant Records, founded and operated by Richard Gottehrer, who among many other things in his distinguished career, wrote "Hang on Sloopy", co-founded Sire Records, and produced everyone from Blondie and The Go-Gos to Richard Hell and Link Wray. Gottehrer has this to say about his latest musical discovery: "Every now and then a voice comes along that speaks directly to us through the music. I felt it the first time I heard Jessica and believe it’s only a matter of time until she touches us all."

Here's a live recording of "Caught Up", one of the tracks here:

Here's the title track:

Jump on this bandwagon now while there is still room.

Artist web page:
Jessica Hernandez Facebook
Twitter: @DetroitJess

Friday Nuggets: Death "Politicians in My Eyes"

If you somehow have missed the story of the band Death, I can't retell it here because it would be a spoiler to the great documentary film "A Band Called Death", now widely available. Any fan of punk rock, garage rock, or simply a tremendous story should see this film (

Here's all you need to know for now:
Three brothers from Detroit, Bobby (bass, vocals), Dennis (drums) and David Hackney (guitar). David Hackney wrote the songs and had the vision for the band as the fastest loudest rock band around, inspired first by the Beatles and The Who, and then by Alice Cooper and Detroit rock and roll. When you listen to them, you will hear American punk rock as you have come to know it (The Ramones, Black Flag and Bad Brains especially), except that Death made their only recordings in 1973. And no one heard them until recently. 

Here's "Politicians In My Eyes":

Please do yourself a favor and see the film "A Band Called Death". For me it is as much about siblings and brotherly love as it is about the birth of punk rock. A moving and very fascinating story.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Forgiven/Forgotten" by Angel Olsen

St Louis born and Chicago based Angel Olsen is releasing a new LP, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, on February 18 via Jajaguwar.  The first song released from the album is "Forgiven/Forgotten".  On the track, Olsen displays the vocal range for which she already has a reputation, but adds a rougher, rawer rock edge.  She wears it well, and we look forward to the album.

The album is available for pre-order.

Tour dates are as follows:

Fri. Nov. 29 - Jacksonville, FL @ Jack Rabbits
Sat. Nov. 30 - Orlando, FL @ Will's Pub
Tue. Dec. 3 - Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder at FSU
Wed. Dec. 4 - New Orleans, LA @ Circle Bar
Thu. Dec. 5 - Oxford, MS @ Lamar Lounge
Thu. Dec. 12 - London, UK @ The Forum w/ Neko Case
Tue. Feb. 18 - Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern
Thu. Feb. 20 - New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
Sat. Feb. 22 - Nashville, TN @ The Stone Fox
Sun. Feb. 23 - Fayetteville, AR @ JR's Lightbulb Club
Mon. Feb. 24 - Dallas, TX @ Three Links
Tue. Feb. 25 - Austin, TX @ Red 7
Sat. March 1 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Sun. March 2 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echoplex
Mon. March 3 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
Wed. March 5 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
Thu. March 6 - Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
Fri. March 7 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza
Sat. March 8 - Moscow, ID @ Mikey's Gyros
Mon. March 10 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge


REVIEW: Josephine Foster - I Am A Dreamer

I became aware of Colorado's Josephine Foster earlier this year, initially via favorable comments made online by other musicians.  To be honest, that isn't an atypical way for When You Motor Away to become interested in an artist since we focus on music outside of the mass market pop scene.  I experienced Foster's considerable talent first-hand when I heard tracks from her 2012 release for Fire Records, Blood Rushing.  Although it likely isn't a very analytic thing to say, her vocal delivery has an undeniable magic: Expressive, high register, compelling and seductive.  I wanted to hear more.  And as a fortunate coincidence, just as I started paying attention to Josephine Foster news, the lovely folks at Fire Records announced that they were releasing Foster's new LP, I Am A Dreamer.

I Am A Dreamer is an aptly named Americana tapestry.  Except for a cover of Vernon Duke's "Cabin in the Sky" and borrowing from Kipling for the lyrics to "Blue Roses", Foster wrote the album.  But like Foster's vocals, and perhaps in great part because of her vocal style, the album has the sepia tone of photo albums from the early 20th Century.  She is accompanied by a nine piece band, but the arrangements are restrained, at times appropriately sparse, and allow Foster's voice to take center stage.  The variety is delightful, from the country blues of "Sugarpie I'm Not The Same", the caressingly seductive "I Am A Dreamer", the lilting but sad "No One's Calling Your Name", the gentle masterpiece that is "Magenta",  and the humorous and absolutely delightful "Amuse A Muse.

It is dreamy, romantic, and thematically timeless.  And you owe it to yourself to lend it your ears.

I Am A Dreamer was recorded in Nashville.  In addition to Foster (vocals/acoustic guitar/harmonica), the performers were Micah Hulscher (piano/organ), John Estes (double bass), Tommy Perkinson (drums), Victor Herrero (electric guitar), Dave Roe (double bass), Chris Scruggs (steel guitar), Aaron Mortenson (drums), Jerry Pentecost (drums) and Gyða Valtýsdóttir (cello).

Fire Records page for I Am A Dreamer

Update: Casey Neill and the Norway Rats

Okay kids, we want one of our readers to win the contest being sponsored by one of our very favorite bands Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. We reviewed their new CD All You Pretty Vandals here, and now they have released a very fine video for the title track:

If you share this video link at your Facebook or Twitter page with #allyouprettyvandals, you will be entered to win various goodies such as vinyl test pressings of the LP, framed photos and other cool stuff.

Facebook - Casey Neill and the Norway Rats
Twitter - Casey Neill

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Fireworks - Runaround 7"

Are you kids out there trying to figure out how to do guitar pop with the right balance of crunch, noise, vocals and hooks?  The nice people from the The Fireworks have kindly recorded a tutorial for you - the three-track Runaround 7".  The title track has been receiving a lot of attention, and deservedly so.  Buzzsaw guitars, a driving rhythm section, layers of fuzz and feedback and perfect female vocals from Emma.  The second track, "With My Heart", continues in the same vein, but adding a male vocal counterpart to Emma's lead.  The record concludes with the gentle "Asleep", featuring Matthew's measured vocals and viola from guest Godfrey Salmon.

Quite simply, this is pop done right.

The band is Matthew Rimell (vocals/guitar), Isabel Albiol (bass), Emma Hall (vocals/tambourine) and Shaun Charman (drums).  Previous/other bands for the assembly include Pocketbooks (Emma), Big Pink Cake (Matthew), Things in Herds (Isabel), and The Popguns and The Wedding Present (both, Shaun).

The Runaround 7" will be available via Shelflife Records in a limited run of 300 vinyl copies, as well as digital download.  The release date is November 26, but if you want one of those vinyl copies, I suggest you act soon.

Fireworks blog
Shelflife link for album

The Candy Strypers - It Is Rocket Science

Manchester's Paul Hughes records and performs as The Candy Strypers.  His tag line is "sunny powerpop from a rainy city", and it seems to me that he has his part of the equation exactly right.  Paul possesses the rare ability to churn out song after song of jangling melodies reminiscent of the Beach Boys and The Monkeys with spot on harmonies.  We introduced Paul to our readers last year (here), but we are featuring him again because he released a new set of songs called It Is Rocket Science.  While staying within his sweet spot of melodic guitar pop, Paul delivers a fair amount of variety in terms of pace and atmosphere.

I'd be bringing It Is Rocket Science to your attention even if it were priced at standard LP prices.  However, if you follow the Soundcloud link below, you'll find that all of the songs are available for free download.  So as the days get darker and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, allow The Candy Strypers to make your life sunnier.


Recommended -- The Icarus Line - Slave Vows

A Quick Note: For various personal and professional reasons, none of them tragic or even really convincing, I've taken most of the year off from regular posting around these environs. Because a) I've heard a lot of excellent music this year; b) but doing full-on reviews of albums released in, say, March isn't very cool at all; c) I'm too lazy to do full-on reviews of all these albums anyway; and d) John has forgotten to disable my password to the site; I have decided to try to do a series of short notes about stuff I've heard in '013 that I really like.

So it would make some sense to start by recommending the brilliant July release by LA's Icarus Line, which is deep in the running for my album of the year. If you look for them online, music sites will genrefy them as "post-harcore" or some other such bullshit because no one seems to believe in the genre "purest distillate of rock and roll." At least anymore. Remember when fireman Sean Connery winked at that kid Kevin at the end of Time Bandits, and then Kevin turns around and sees that smoldering chunk of black concentrated evil in his parents' microwave? That's it right there -- The Icarus Line. The photo below was taken during one of the recording sessions for Slave Vows.

Frontman Joe Cardamone's lyrical themes haven't changed any since the band's 2004 classic Penance Soiree -- he can make Greg Dulli and Nick Cave seem Victorian by comparison. But what makes this record overpowering is the ritualistic sadism practiced upon the amplifiers. Shut the door and crank up the volume for the full effect of "Rat Ass":

The searing guitar is out front in the producer's mix on every song, and it makes for an incendiary experience -- at once deeply satisfying and unnerving. It doesn't get any more rock and roll than this.

The Icarus Line

Monday, November 11, 2013

REVIEW: Porter and The Pollies - Porter and The Pollies

What tends to happen in your neighborhood when various folks get together for a little support during times of healing, emotional repair, recovery or intense and turbulent reflection?  Hugs? Pot luck dinners? Guest speakers?  Hikes in the wilderness?  How about a nice expressive quilt?  Fortunately for us music fans, when Porter (aka Chris Porter) of Back Row Baptists and Some Dark Holler travels back from Austin to Alabama for a bit of mending time and joins up with the Pollies (previous review here), who reportedly also were in need of some propping up, the result is the distinctly more useful six-track Porter and The Pollies.  (apparently, the name Divorce Camp was considered and rejected).  And being the kind, supportive friends that they are, Atlanta's This Is American Music agreed to release the pain and catharsis for everyone to share.

What's on offer?  Ballads, rockers, blues rock, boot scooting and other delicious stuff, all with a proud country bent and a gruff and wounded southern accent.  The EP was recorded live with all the edges exposed, all the attitude and, at times, spite aired out, as is appropriate for a record with this genesis.  As Porter said, "We made it sad, and angry, and drunk."  The opening and closing track follow the slower paced, reflective path, with more crunch and pace sandwiched between.  You can stream the entire EP at the Bandcamp link below, but we're providing one of each for your evaluation.

The combined players are Chris Porter (guitar/vocals), Jay Burgess (guitar/vocals/producer), Chris James (bass), Reed Watson (drums), Daniel Stoddard (steel/keys/guitar/vocals), and Helen Gassenheimer (fiddle/vocals on "Rest These Bones").

And I feel compelled to say that we wish Porter and The Pollies well.  More broadly, we don't wish any bad luck on anyone.  But if it happens, we hope the talented folks take up an instrument and tell us about it.

Bandcamp for album
Facebook for Chris Porter/Some Dark Holler
Facebook for The Pollies
This Is American Music

REVIEW: Peak Twins - Peak Twins

Following on their singles and splits, Peak Twins have released their debut album via Bedroom Suck.  And the self-titled record underscores the duo's omnivorous approach to genre, and primary allegiance to showcasing  Joel Carey's vocals and Liam Kenny's guitar work.  The duo and their mates provide a slacker twist on '60s pop in songs like "Only One" and "So Long", the latter with a clear country heart.  They venture into stoner rock territory on "Salvation", and hit full stride on the downer psychedelic pop of "Got Woken Up" and "China White".  On the previously released single "Steppin' Off", Carey and Kenny channel Jagger and the Stones to delightful effect.  The closer, "500 Days", fittingly sounds like the vocalist of the prom dance is unwinding while the last couple shuffles in an embrace through the fallen balloons and streamers as the rest of the band packs up the equipment.

What makes this special?  For me, it is a combination of individual performing talents -- Carey is a strikingly good vocalist, Kenny is a very good and versatile guitarist and the backing band of Chad McLachlan, James Mannix and Ben Quici doesn't put a wrong foot forward -- good songwriting, and production work from Jack Farley that brought out the best in everyone.  Of course, it is all about the songs, and what really works here is that the influences, while apparent, are just guidelines that are warped, stretched and merged into a distinctive final product.  The highlights for me are the beautifully sad "China White", "Steppin' Off", "So Long", and the cover of Fred Neil's torch song "Dolphins".  You can try the latter three below.

Peak Twins - Steppin' Off from BSR on Vimeo.

The album is out now via Bedroom Suck in Australia.  UK fans will be able to buy through Fire Records.

Fire Records
Bedroom Suck Records page for Peak Twins

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Introducing: Birdcloud

There are various ways in which bands come to our attention.  We can read a review from another blog, get a reference from another band we respect, receive an email from a PR firm, label or the band itself.  Another way is to let it be known that you play humorous, dirty bluegrass and that when you tried out for some TV talent show the "judges" (noted musicians Klum, Stern and Mandel) all said the band were horrible.  Suddenly, I have an interest.  Moreover, the kind of people that fill the audience for that kind of show booed the band in the parking lot.  Now, I'm really interested.  Welcome to the wacky world of Birdcloud.

Makenzie and Jasmin are Tennessee girls who met in 2009.  They commenced to making music together and their sex-charged and trailer trash lyrics have been thrilling half the room and clearing the other half of the room ever since.  The two samples here include "Warshin' my big ol pussy 'fore I go to town", which is less than 1:30 running time, but the pithy message needs no more.  And at the end the ladies conclude "Just a' warship my big ol pussy should you want to go down".  Just a couple of well brought up southern ladies.  The other is the bloody, messy "Ice balls".