Tuesday, December 30, 2014

REVIEW: Weak Boys - Weekdays/Weekends

This post about Sydney's Weak Boys combines two of my passions: Finding emerging artists to bring to your attention and losing myself in good guitar pop.  Since I'm at the office I can't add my passion for drinking beer while listening to and writing about good guitar pop, but that will be remedied in a few hours.  I'll admit that I have no idea whether the three Weak Boys are physically deficient, but their musical abilities as on display on Weekdays/Weekends strongly hit my sweet spot.  The songs are charming, shaggy (generally, and in the case of "Dog Farm" and the cover art, literally), and unapologetically  focused on youthful issues such as hangovers, landlords, soon-to-be-broken vows to 'never drink again', and tributes to desirable women (specifically Diane Keaton and Julia Wilson of Australian label Rice Is Nice).  The self-aware and observational approach reveals a musical kinship with other Australian bands such as Dick Diver, Twerps and The Ocean Party.  But Weak Boys put their own spin on it with an approach that suggests a bit more substance ingestion and an unserious perspective on matters large and small.  A number of the tracks have an infectious sing-along appeal that would work to great effect in your local pub, or around a bonfire.  They probably would be especially awesome around a bonfire in your local pub, but don't attribute that suggestion to us as our liability reserve was exhausted after a python-go-seek contest suggestion we made last year (and a shout out to Rodney, the contest winner, who we've learned is eating solid food again).

In my opinion, you are unlikely to find a guitar band that penned a more infectious set of songs this year.  Consider that the ten tracks will likely include your favorite songs about hangovers and dogs, and most certainly the best song you'll hear about Diane Keaton.  And to think that a few minutes ago you probably didn't know there was a song about Diane Keaton.  I'll be including this album on my end of the year list, give it a listen.

Weak Boys are Chris Yates, Craig Lyons and Matt Banham.  Weekdays/Weekends is available now via Strong Look Records.  You can source a digital copy at the Bandcamp link below.

Strong Look Records

Mitski - Bury Me at Make Out Creek

Mitski is SUNY-Purchase grad Mitski Miyawaki, and I suggest that you get to know her music.  Fierce, sincere, personal, observational, with soaring and crunching guitars, her November release Bury Me at Make Out Creek has flown under the radar, and we would like to do our part in remedying that.

The lyrics are clever, the theme follows the cycle of a relationship from first spark to literal dying sigh, and the musical parchment on which it is written throbs and shreds, hooks and glides.  You can stream the entire album below.  It is available in digital form at the Bandcamp link below, where you also can find her previous albums.


Monday, December 29, 2014

"For", from C Duncan

Young Glaswegian C Duncan is the latest Scottish musician to sign with Brighton's FatCat, and will be releasing his first album for the label in 2015.  But you don't need to wait to discover his charming compositional and performing skills.  Last week he made the two track single For available for free download.  Christopher has a timeless style, and an ability to make direct, but intricate arrangements.  You may have difficulty pinning down the influences: '60s pop; orchestral folk; Sufjan Stevens; Fleet Foxes?  I submit that it really doesn't matter -- the music transports you to its own world, and you'll likely find it delightful.

Duncan is son of two classical musicians, and has earned a degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  He also is a visual artist, and created the cover art for the single.  Download For at the Soundcloud link below.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Strand of Oaks - Heal

Heal should be Timothy Showalter's coming out party.  Not that the main man of Strand of Oaks is the kind of guy to be a debutant.  But the manner in which he takes the alienation, anger, rebellion and insecurities of his Hoosier adolescence, and leavens it with a growing maturity and the experience of a nearly deadly car crash in December 2013 transcends his previous work and stands in select company when considering American rock albums released in 2014.  By addressing and weaving the strands of where he was and where he is today, Showalter has crafted vivid pictures of life, complete with anger, confusion, understanding and acceptance.  And if the emotions seem contradictory, consider that for most of us, such contradictions describe life as we know it.

Of course, some songs will work better for you than others.  But the entire set is strong, and there is a reason that several of the top DJs at influential KEXP included Heal among their top ten albums of the year.  If you hear what I hear, you'll note influences such as Built to Spill, and Neil Young.  I've included a few of my favorites below, including "JM", in which Showalter discusses the importance of Jason Molina's music to his life.  Heal is out now on the Dead Oceans label.

Dead Oceans

Thigh Master - Head of The Witch 7"

Meet Brisbane's Thigh Master.  They make no claims that this album will tone or reduce the size of your lower extremities.  But you may want to dance, or at least jump in place, so there is likely to be some physical reward.  The music is a delightful meld of dirty garage rock and antipodean jangle.  The three track Head of the Witch 7" is out now, and we've included a link to previous recordings.

The Brisbane based band consists of Matthew Ford, Patrick Bryon, Daniel Ford, and Dusty Anastassiou.  In the past James Cassidy stood in on bass when Ford was unavailable; in the future, the substitute bass duties will fall to Hayden Night.

Bandcamp for this release
Bandcamp for prior releases

Friday, December 26, 2014

REVIEW: Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal

Every now and then some self-styled expert proclaims that rock and roll is dead, or on life support, and the question becomes "who is going to save rock and roll?"   To be clear, I don't subscribe to such gloom and doom notions and I don't suspect that regular readers of this blog subscribe to it either.  But to play along, if rock needed saving, what current group would you point to to revitalize the broad genre of rock?  I would guess you all have a thought, and because you are interested enough in pop music to be reading, I'll assume that your candidate is worthy and well considered.  However, in case you need a back up, or are willing to allow me to propose an alternative, take a listen to Parquet Courts and their June LP Sunbathing Animal.  Following on their well received Light Up Gold, this album continues the lads' adventure in noisy rock, with a few quieter interludes.  The album was released in June, and for some now forgotten reason I didn't listen to it.  I recently pulled it out and was thoroughly impressed.  For my ears there are clear similarities to both The Rolling Stones (when The Rolling Stones were The Rolling Stones rather than The Rolling Stones Touring Machine, Inc.) and The Clash.  Repeated listens gave me suggestions of Pavement, and maybe a bit of The Clean, The Kinks, and The Fall.  Good company, for sure, but also damn fine music.

There is volume, guitar noise, an aggressive rhythm section, and unapologetic vocals.  Of course there are ragged edges, but this is rock and roll.  And building on that statement, this isn't music that pretends to invent something.  It takes what it likes from its predecessors and interprets it.  No bells and whistles, and our experience is better for it.

The three tracks below provide a taste of the breadth of the listening experience, from the punk fury of the title track to the shambling folk rock of "Instant Disassembly" to The Clean-like "Pretty Machines".

Sunbathing Animal is out on Mom + Pop Music / What's Your Rupture.  If you like rock and roll, this is top ten stuff folks; don't sleep on it.

Parquet Courts are based in Brooklyn, and its members are Andrew Savage (lead vocals, guitar), who formerly was one-half of Denton, Texas' Fergus & Geronimo, Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Max Savage (drums).

Mom + Pop Music
What's Your Rupture? records

Rolling Stones Friday (finale): (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

We've saved the best for our last week here at Rolling Stones Friday.

I'll never forget the first time I heard "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".  I was 8 years old and at a large family gathering at my grandparents' house, amidst my Italian-American aunts, uncles and cousins packing the small house. My cousin Raymond, the coolest guy I knew (then and still today!) called me into the dining room where he had a small radio. "You heard this new song by the Rolling Stones? Well you need to. Put away that "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" stuff, this is rock and roll." Raymond was only 11 or 12 at the time but he knew how important this was.

It was the summer of 1965, and the radio was dominated by some great pop singles like The Beatles' "I Feel Fine", The Beach Boys' "Help Me Rhonda", Petula Clark's "Downtown" and "My Girl" by the Temptations. The British Invasion was in full swing with lightweight bands having hits like Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and Freddie and the Dreamers "I'm Telling You Know".

The Rolling Stones had gone into RCA Studios in Los Angeles for one day on May 12, 1965 and come out with a new single, one of their first original compositions, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". The single was rushed into release less than a month later on June 6.

To this day, it snarls and sounds threatening and downright nasty. Keith Richard's guitar riff is one of the most distinctive and memorable in rock history. There's no point in debating whether it is the single greatest rock and roll song of all time, but it's on anybody's short list, certainly up there with whatever classic song you name - "Like a Rolling Stone", "Hey Jude", "London Calling", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Jailhouse Rock", "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag".

The expression of frustration is a core element of a great deal of rock'n'roll. But seldom is it captured as succinctly as here - the girls who didn't want him, the barrage of marketing coming at him, the oppression from all sides. And the generational divide is captured in the bad grammar of the chorus: "I can't get no!"

The song is a sort of stake in the ground in 1965, a precursor of a youth revolution that would metastasize a couple years later around sexual freedom and a full-throttled rejection of the Western military-industrial complex. All this youthful frustration captured in perhaps the most famous guitar riff in history and the increasingly urgent delivery of the simple line: "I can't get no satisfaction!"

A lip synched television version from 1965:

A remarkably good live proto-punk version from a 1965 concert: 

A big and current version from the 2013 Glastonbury festival, with Mick Taylor, a horn section and more, proving that even nearly 40 years later the song still has power and relevance:

Thanks for reading this feature this year. And a special shout out to Frank Fahey who supported this enthusiastically, posted Rolling Stones Friday at his Facebook page every week, and suggested songs I might highlight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Rollin' On" from Eleanor Dunlop

"Rolling On" from Sydney's Eleanor Dunlop is stripped back garage rock with some surf accents.  An album is planned for 2015, and if it is anything like this, we'll be very happy.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Free Sampler from Milk Records

One of the great little labels in Australia is Milk! Records, founded by Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher.  Overcome with the holiday spirit, the label is offering a six song sampler of music from the label's artists for 'name your price'.  The set includes songs from both label bosses, as well as "Book of Love" from Fraser Gorman.  Tracks from East Brunswick All Girls Choir, The Finks, and Royston Vasie complete the sampler.  Find some new favorite bands for an unbeatable price.

Milk Records' webpage

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dreaming Tracks from Sea Pinks available for 'name your price'

One of my favorite albums of 2014 is Dreaming Tracks from Belfast's Sea Pinks (our review here).  For a limited time, the band and CF Records is making the album available for 'name your price', so I suggest that you hum your favorite holiday song and click your way over to the Bandcamp page.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Jumpin' Jack Flash

The year is coming to a close and we're riding our Rolling Stones Friday feature to the finish line with an extra kick.

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" released on June 1, 1968, brought the Stones back to their blues-rock roots following the psychedelic influenced material of 1966-67. Though Mick Jagger has said the song was an even more literal retreat from that era as it arouse "out of all the acid of Satanic Majesties. It's about having a hard time and getting out. Just a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things."

It was recorded in London in April 1968. Keith Richards says the open tunings used on the acoustic guitars were inspired by the "Nashville tunings" that a member of George Jones' band had taught him.  Microphones were placed directly inside the acoustic guitars to get the loudest, most direct sound possible. Brian Jones played the electric guitar parts. Bill Wyman claimed in his autobiography that he wrote the song's distinctive guitar riff but wasn't credited.

And, regardless of author, what a memorable guitar riff it is:

Here's a terrific live version from a couple years later with Mick Taylor on electric guitar:

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" is clearly one of the very best songs in the Stones' esteemed catalogue.  I've heard it thousands of times yet it still sounds fresh and urgent.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New single and free download from Fraser A. Gorman

Fraser Gorman's "Book of Love" has been floating around the internet for a while, and we have featured it here in the past.  I don't need to have much of an excuse to post it again, because I love the song and the video.  However, I have a good reason to post it now, as (1) if you hit the Soundcloud link near the bottom of the post you can have a free download of the song, and (2) the song is getting a vinyl release via House Anxiety/Marathon Artists labels.  For the 7", "Book of Love" will be paired with the demo for "Darkness Is Coming On".  The latter track shows another side to Gorman's songwriting, with a spare arrangement and slower tempo.  And note that in early 2015  Fraser will be releasing an album on Milk Records in Australia and Marathon Artists in the rest of the galaxy.

Soundcloud (free download)
Marathon Artists

Mersey - Mersey EP

Melbourne's Mersey is David Campbell, Tim O'Connor, Thomas Hyland, and Chris Campbell.  I encourage you to explore their brand of guitar pop -- a bit of jangle, a bit of melancholy, and a judicious use of space.  And they have made the exploration quite convenient, as you can either stream their self-titled EP below, or download it at their Bandcamp site.  If you are in a hurry, you can sample the second track first; it was released as a single.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

REVIEW: The Ocean Party - Soft Focus

This is one of my favorite albums of the year.  It is music I like, but it also is music that I need from time to time.  When I need to feel content, relaxed and centered, Soft Focus takes me there.  And it does the job not because it is all sunshine and unicorns, but because it is a highly evocative record.  It captures you and takes you to a place or situation.  That could be driving down the highway, sneaking around a neighborhood at night, wondering about career choices and expectations of others, trying to work out a relationship while wondering whether you really should work out the relationship, or gaining contentment even when some things are unsettling.  But the situation need not even be one described by the songwriter.  A few chords and phrases, and the listener might paint his or her own scene at the beach or in the park.  If you dive into The Ocean Party's world, you'll find a healthy dose a of self-deprecation in the lyrics, but without too much stress and anxiety.  However, I think the real magic at play here is how the five members of the band, all of whom have written songs for the album, have taken the initial concept and lyrics, and then painted a rich and layered musical landscape.  Not solely a guitar band for this outing, their jangling aesthetic is supplemented with clarinets, saxes, horns, harmonica and synths.  In many spots the music shimmers warmly, the emotions expressed in hazy thoughts and pastel colors, underscoring the apt name given to the record.  The various instrumental touches are employed with restraint, and always add rather than distract.

Inevitably, the album will draw comparisons to fellow Aussie bands The Triffids and The Go-Betweens, as well as Real Estate, and there is an undeniable honor in such references.  But Soft Focus in not an homage to anyone.  It is too multi-dimensional, too bright and firmly in the moment.  To me, it is the sound of a young band that has take a major step in growing up and mastering their art.

The Ocean Party are Jordan Thompson, Liam Halliwell, Curtis Wakeling, Lachlan Denton and Zac Denton.  Soft Focus is available now from Jigsaw Records in the US, and Spunk Records in Australia.  You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Album
Jigsaw Records
Spunk Records page for album

Machines in Heaven - Hindu Milk EP

Earlier this year Scottish electronic wizards Machines in Heaven released a fine album named bordersbreakdown.  But the creative juices clearly continue to flow, and the Glasgow band is sending us into the holiday season with the five-track Hindu Milk EP.  On the EP, the aptly named three-piece continues to deliver divine electronic compositions that marry accessible melodies, dance-worthy grooves and creative flourishes.  They eschew the impatient choice of going for the big statement early in the songs, but rather let the tracks build and reveal themselves in layers.  To me, it speaks of well-placed self-confidence and results in a rewarding listen.  I've provided two tracks below for your evaluation, but you can stream the entire EP here as well.

Machines in Heaven are Davey Gwynne (production/guitar/synth/vocals), Greg Hurst (production/synths), Connor Reid (production/guitar/synths).  Hindu Milk is out now via Hotgem Records, and available from most digital outlets.

Hotgem Records

Luke Saxton - Sunny Sadness

Well, we all can do only what we can do, but UK singer songwriter Luke Saxton is making some of us look more than a bit lazy.  Apparently he started writing songs at age 7, and at his current age of 19 he has 24 albums and 400 songs to his credit.  His latest record is Sunny Sadness, which also is his first official release.   An early influence on Luke's songwriting was Harry Nilsson, and his music continues to reflect the emphasis on careful songcraft and '60s pop arrangements.  With doses of sunshine and melody, and sophisticated but restrained production touches, the listener could wonder whether this is a current release or the discovery of a long lost gem.  If you are looking for some gentle music, this is one to check out.

The album is out now via Bad Paintings and Luke's local record store, the Inkwell.  So most of you without ready access to the Inkwell should hit the Bad Paintings link provided below.

Bad Paintings' order page for album

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Black Symbol Presents Handsworth Reggae Explosion Vol 1

Bristol, UK's Reggae Archive  Records, and its sister label Sugar Shack Records are committed to resurrecting great British reggae recordings of the past, as well as supporting current reggae artists.  And as we've written before, it would be an error to dismiss this material because it isn't from Jamaica.  Jamaican immigrants to the UK spawned a thriving reggae scene, and many Jamaican reggae artists performed and resided in the UK.  And the crucible of minority status and the cross pollination with rock and roll resulted in tough, tight rhythms and hard-hitting messages.

Today's featured release is Black Symbol Presents Handsworth Reggae Explosion Vol 1.  Consisting of two contributions each from five artists -- Sceptre, Black Symbol, Truth & Rights, Gerald Love, and Zephaniah -- this reissue of a rare UK classic record originally was released  only in vinyl format by Reggae Archive Records.  A second volume was released for UK's record store day, also in vinyl.  The label is preparing to release a CD containing both volumes, but also is making volume 1 available as a digital download as well as vinyl.  For reggae collectors, this is a 'must have', but anyone who appreciates the pulsing bass, dub effects and chanting vocals of roots reggae will find this a compelling listen.

Sceptre --

Black Symbol --

Truth & Rights' "Saddest Moment" --

Zephaniah --

Bandcamp for album
Reggae Archive Records

Burner + Break Me Up cassette, plus free downloads from ScotDrakula

Melbourne boasts a number of very good guitar pop bands, but ScotDrakula isn't one of those bands.  But what ScotDrakula is should demand your full attention.  My first reaction after listening to their music was "yeah, that's why I spend the time looking for new music".  This is punk/garage rock with attitude, rage, energy and noise.  And underneath it all, there are really good pop songs and some raspy soul.  So, you may jump around enough that you get a bit of beer on your shoes, but you will have a good time.  And I suspect it won't be the first time that beer touches your shoes.

ScotDrakula released the 7-track LP Burner in November 2012, and the two-track Break Me Up EP in November 2013.  Austin, Texas label Fleeting Youth Records have combined those nine tracks for a cassette release that is available today.  You can stream the album ('try before you buy') at the Bandcamp link below.  Note that the track "Stupid Everything" is a free download from Bandcamp and "Break Me Up" can be downloaded from the Soundcloud stream below.  The songs feature meaty hooks, vocals on the edge, and bass and drums appealingly high in the mix.  The band is Matt Neumann (guitar/vocals), Evianne Camille (drums/vocals), and Dove Bailey (bass/vocals), but if you didn't know that you'd guess that there were more people involved.  If you are planning a party, might some day plan a party, or just thinking of getting in the car and going for a drive, this is a release you will want (Warning: Liquid Jesus likely will cause you to exceed the speed limit; please listen responsibly).

Bandcamp for Burner + Break Me Up cassette
Soundcloud link for "Stupid Everything"
Fleeting Youth Records

Monday, December 15, 2014

Howard Eynon - So What If I'm Standing In Apricot Jam

People who pay attention to dogs fuss and fawn over the purebreds, often those from breeds recently featuring in a movie.  But as a long-time dog lover I firmly believe that the most rewarding interactions are with the shaggy, undefinable mixed breeds.  They have the personality, intelligence, emotional resources and willingness to please that earns the 'title man's best friend'.  And I suggest that sometimes music is a bit the same way.  The more rewarding listens can be the shaggy, out-of-left-field and previously overlooked recordings.  And that brings us to Howard Eynon and his So What If I'm Standing In Apricot Jam.

A UK born Australian, Eynon was an actor and musician.  His guitar playing and singing on stage prompted an invitation to go into the studio.  The result was So What If I'm Standing In Apricot Jam, his sole recorded output.  We can be completely honest with each other -- the title suggests that the music could be a bit on the oddball side.  Let me assure you, our instinct is not completely off base.  However, while the music clearly reflects the sensibilities of an artist accustomed to theatrical performances, and perhaps mind-expanding experiences, it also reflects a talented songwriter and performer that will have you drawing comparisons to Kevin Ayers, Syd Barrett, Donovan and Nick Drake.  It is a wacky but substantial and rewarding ride through Enyon's imagination, with poetry, characters and meta commentary on the proceedings.  Overall, the collection is witty and whimsical, but never slipshod.

We have included streams of several songs below for your evaluation.  I recommend all of them, but if you only have time for two, don't miss "Happy Song" or the perfect end-of-the-day tune "Now's the Time".

This album originally was released in 1974.  Earth Recordings has resurrected it and we are thrilled they did.  It is available on CD, black vinyl, and limited edition apricot colored vinyl.  Probably the best way to obtain the album is via Fire Records (link below).  By the way, in addition to his work in theatre, Eynon had small roles in Mad Max and The Man From Snowy River.  As a musical performer, he toured briefly with Hunter S. Thompson.

Earth Recordings on Facebook
Earth Recordings on Tumblr
Fire Records page for album

Springtime Carnivore - Springtime Carnivore

I'll start this post with the conclusion, the debut, self-titled album from Springtime Carnivore is one of the best pure pop albums from a female vocalist I've heard this year.  There are nostalgic shades to her pop melodies, such as hazed and fuzzed instruments.  Greta Morgan's voice, on the other hand, is bigger than life.  It has the capacity to fill large arenas and coo to the little tables in a small club.  It can belt and warble.  And most strikingly, it conveys youth, but not innocence.  At times one can hear a bit of Kate Bush, or even Lesley Gore.  But Morgan's style has a palpable playfulness that is her own.  There are some very nice ballads in the set, but in my opinion the album soars highest with the upbeat songs.  My current favorites are "Name on a Matchbook" and the delightfully '60s influenced "Collectors".

Multi-instrumentalist Greta is a veteran of bands Gold Motel and Hush Sound, but for this project is mostly her, her keyboards, Chris Faller on bass and production on a few tracks from Richard Swift.  The album is out now via Autumn Tone Records.  Springtime Carnivore is touring in February and March, and you can check out the dates and venues at the bottom of the post.

Autumn Tone

Tue. Feb. 10 - Sacramento, CA @ Harlow's
Wed. Feb. 11 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
Fri. Feb. 13 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
Sat. Feb. 14 - San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
Sun. Feb. 15 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom
Mon. Feb. 16 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Wed. Feb. 18 - Austin, TX @ The Parish
Thu. Feb. 19 - Dallas, TX @ Three Links
Fri. Feb. 20 - New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
Sat. Feb. 21 - Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
Sun. Feb. 22 - Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl
Mon. Feb. 23 - Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
Tue. Feb. 24 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
Thu. Feb. 26 - Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda's
Fri. Feb. 27 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sat. Feb. 28 - Hamden, CT @ The Space
Sun. Mar. 1 - Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
Mon. Mar. 2 - Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
Tue. Mar. 3 - Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
Thu. Mar. 5 - Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
Fri. Mar. 6 - Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Sat. Mar. 7 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry
Tue. Mar. 10 - Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
Wed. Mar. 11 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Thu. Mar. 12 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Mon. Mar. 16 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Persian Leaps - Drive Drive Delay

Overflowing with chunky riffs, ringing chords and sweet hooks, Drive Drive Delay form The Persian Leaps delivers is a delicious winter stew of power pop, college rock and shoegaze.  Think Teenage Fanclub with a touch of My Bloody Valentine  and doses of the band's Minneapolis brethren Husker Du and Sugar.  In my opinion, "Truth" best illustrates the band's virtues the best, but all five tracks are really good.  If you like loud, muscular power pop bound together with a bit of sweetness, this is as good as it gets.

The Persian Leaps are Drew Forsberg (founder/vocals/guitar), Brad Hendrickson (bass/vocals/guitar), and Michael McCloskey (drums/vocals).  Drive Drive Delay is out now in the US via Land Ski Records; check the Bandcamp link below.  It will be available in the UK in early 2015.

Land Ski Records

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Introducing: Blonde Tongues

Cal, Aiden, Jack and Dougal are Brisbane's Blonde Tongues.  We like them because they play jangling dream pop, just the way we like it.  We also are particularly fond of them this season, because they offering the great new tune, "Hey Good Lookin'", and two prior singles, for the every popular 'name your price'.  This is a holiday deal you shouldn't miss.


Sväva - We Have Just the Life We Want

Sväva is a very intriguing dream pop band from The Netherlands.  Bente Hout (vocals/bass), Michelle Hindriks (guitar), Olivier Copini (guitar), and Jelmer Terwal (drums), met at the Academy for Popculture in Leeuwarden, and began to work on fleshing out songs written by Hout and Hindriks while they were traveling through Scotland, England and France.  The band infuses dream pop songs with dark tones and intricate riffs, providing a fitting foundation for Hout's vocals.  With an impressive range -- an upper register that recalls Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays matched with great power -- she may be one of the more compelling vocalists in the genre.

The band has released an impressive four-track EP, We Hve Just the Life We Want, which is available on Bandcamp.  You can watch the video for the second track, "Flown", below, and stream the entire EP.


Casual Sex - A Perfect Storm / Pissing Neon

Our post punk men about Glasgow, Casual Sex, have brightened our holidays with a new two-track single, A Perfect Storm / Pissing Neon.  The first track is a polished gem, with synths and guitars combining to provide a melodic, but utterly dance-worthy, foundation for the relaxed vocals.  If you traveled in the right circles in the '80s, you might have heard something similar, but probably not as well done.  "Pissing Neon" offers a completely different vibe, with a rhythm dominated arrangement, harsh accents and urgent vocals.

The single is available now from We Can Still Picnic as a digital download and limited edition 7" vinyl.

Order page for record
We Can Still Picnic on Tumblr

Friday, December 12, 2014

Love Sport - Gol!! EP

The tendency of indie rockers to have more than one project going at a time hasn't missed Finland, and we, the listeners, are the winners.  Aki, Mikko, Petri, and Teemu, members of other Finnish bands Hopeajarvi, Lady Escape, Big Wave Riders and Black Twig, have teamed up in Love Sport.  The alert folks with the cultured ears at Helsinki's Soliti Music secured the honor releasing their debut record, the Gol!! EP.  It is an intriguing introduction, with five tracks spanning the spectrum of psychedelic guitar pop.  It begins with the tangled, swaggering blast of "Well..Shit".   Other tracks, such as "Goodbye Brains" and "Pink Rhumba", provide a dreamier track reminiscent of the first album from Avi Buffalo. Good stuff, and we hope that an album is in their future.

The Gol!! EP is available now as a digital download and, for those who collect such artifacts, cassette.

Soliti Music

Rolling Stones Friday: Dance Little Sister

We didn't realize it at the time, but The Stones 1974 album It's Only Rock 'n Roll was in some ways the end of the line. Sure, the tremendous live performances continued for 4 more decades and continue today. But the recorded output never regained the consistently stellar level of the mid '60's-early 70's.

It's Only Rock 'n Roll began a much more predictable and tepid era, far less threatening and innovative, the title track essentially conceding they'd run out of creative gas.

But The Stones are so good that even their tossed off stuff is still quite enjoyable. One such throwaway track from It's Only Rock 'n Roll that I've always enjoyed is "Dance Little Sister":

This was Mick Taylor's final album with the Stones and they were at their best in my opinion with the sort of nasty and aggressive guitar he brought the band, exhibited on "Dance Little Sister".   Though here's an excellent live version (audio only) from a club show in Toronto in 1977 with Ron Wood on guitar:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

REVIEW: Posse - Soft Opening

This is a bit embarrassing.  A friend recently asked my if I'd covered Soft Opening, the debut LP from Seattle's Posse because they are a local band and it is the sort of music I like.  I was fairly sure that I hadn't reviewed the album, but the name of the band was familiar.  So I searched the draft folders for the blog (informally referred to as the 'lazy man's wall of shame'), and discovered that I'd created a stub post for the review last spring.  Apparently, I then got busy doing other things great and small, and wrote no more about the album.  Usually, such a post sits on a wall of shame until the responsible lazy man deletes it or, if really lazy, lets it sit in draft state for years.  But I really can't do that to Posse, because Soft Opening is a fine album and you deserve reading about it and the band deserves you reading about it.

This is guitar-dominated music, which is to be expected from a three-piece consisting of two guitarists and a drummer.  The guitars are ring and jangle, with a clean sound that most recalls Real Estate, or several current Melbourne bands such as Dick Diver and The Ocean Party.  But as the album unspools you'll discover that the arrangements aren't all derived from the same template.  Depending on your preferences and listening history, you may here a bit of Pavement here, a bit of Jonathan Richman, Yo La Tengo or the Pixies there.  The guitars seem to be having a bit of a friendly discussion with each other, which reminds me of Robert Scott and Kaye Woodward of The Bats.  For that matter the vocals are straightforward and conversational as well.  It is music delivered with no drama, and little in the way of hard edges.  But the melodic textures are richly layered with plenty of shimmer and some appealing quirky diversions.

The breathtaking opener, "Interesting Thing No. 2", in which Posse does about every thing they do well in just one song, was an obvious track to pick for your evaluation.  The relaxed, sublime, shimmering slacker pop of "Shut Up" -- yes, all six and a half minutes -- is another.  In determining whether I recommend an album I typically don't pay any attention to what other people say about it.  However, because I wanted to include a third song, I wandered the internet tubes to determine whether there was an additional consensus favorite.  What I discovered is that among people that loved the album and noted a favorite, the choices included nearly every song.  That suggested two things to me.  First, it confirmed that this album is full of good songs that connect with listeners.  Second, I get to choose the song I want.

I have spilled a magnum of digital ink over the past two years championing guitar pop music as played by many bands from Australia and New Zealand, only to find that one of the best albums in that vein this year was recorded by a band in my back yard.  I could feel a bit like Dorthy being told by the good witch in Oz that what I was looking for was in front of me the whole time, but that would require introspection.  So never mind all that, just get yourself a Soft Opening.

Posse is Sacha Maxim (guitar/vocals), Paul Witmann-Todd (guitar/vocals) and Jon Salzman (drums).  The album is released via the band's own Beating A Dead Horse Records, but the easiest way for most people to buy it would be to hit the Bandcamp link below.  There was a vinyl edition, but all copies have been sold.


eagleowl - Clean the Night

eagleowl is a collective of Scottish indie musicians who are active in other well-regarded bands when not performing as eagleowl.  Bartholomew Owl (guitar/vocals) and Malcolm Benzie (violin/guitar/vocals) formed the band in Edinburgh in '05.  Clarissa Cheong (double bass/vocals) made it a trio for several years.  The current version also includes Rob St. John (organ/harmonium/vocals), Hannah Shepherd (cello) and Owen Williams (drums).  They have just released the two-track "Clean the Night" for the wiaiwya-7777777 singles club.  It is the final single in wiaiwya-7777777's singles series for 2014, and in my opinion they are closing the series with style.  The title track is haunting and atmospheric, with lean instrumentation and female-dominated vocals.  In contrast, the following "Life We Knew is a gentle, up-tempo indie pop tune with a warm vibe that invites -- and rewards -- repeated listens.  This is one of those releases that prove that singles and EPs are wonderful ways to collect music.  You can stream both tracks below, and investigate more at the following links.

By the way, the seven discs in the 2014 singles series have specially drawn art work which, when collected, provide a how-to guide to releasing your own single.  Clever and helpful -- consider it a buyer's rebate of sorts.

eagleowl on Facebook
eagleowl website
wiaiwya Records

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Waste the Alphabet" from Dick Diver

As good music news goes, there isn't much better news that a new Dick Diver album, titled Melbourne, Florida, will greet us in March of the new year.  But this news comes with the bonus unveiling of one of the songs, "Waste the Alphabet".  Playful, chugging, jangling and a bit shaggy, the lyrics result from a collaboration between the band's Al McKay and Melbourne poet Michael Farrell.  I'd say I missed these guys, but I regularly play their prior album, so I'll just say I'm excited to get more of them.

Chapter Music
Trouble In Mind Records

Another taste of Twerps' upcoming Range Anxiety

We are big fans of the Twerps around here, so we are excited about their early 2015 release for Merge Records and Chapter Music, Range Anxiety.  We shared album track "Back to You" in October, and now we have the beautifully downbeat "Shoulders".  And as an added treat, we have the amusing video trailer for the album.  US fans also should note that the band will be touring the States in March and April, including a stop at SxSW.

Merge Records page for Twerps
Chapter Music page for Twerps

Crayon - Brick Factory

Hey pop collectors.  Here is a rare and wonderful album from the first half of the '90s.  The Pacific Northwest, was banging its collective head to grunge and other forms of alternative rock.  The Southeast had R.E.M, The dBs and its own brand of swampy jangle.  But amid it all, there was a spot for a noisy, lo-fi, merger of twee, punk and noise pop.  Born in the college and lumber town of Bellingham, Washington, there was Crayon.  Consisting of Brad Roberts (guitar/vocals), Sean Tollefson (bass/vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums), the band recorded a few singles and one album, Brick Factory, released in 1994 on Harriet Records.  By the middle of the decade, they had disbanded, with Tollefson and Fell leaving to found Tullycraft.  As the release of Brick Factory hits its 20th anniversary, HHBTM Records has issued a limited edition vinyl version of the album, which comes with a digital download with including 20 bonus tracks.  There is a cassette version with some bonus material as well.

The songs on Brick Factory deftly capture the awkwardness of young adulthood, the delight in the commonplace, the trickiness of romance, and wrapping it in distorted guitar, coy lyrics and bratty vocals.  The performances are energetic, and the music begs to be played at a high volume.  The record has been out of print and much sought after for years, so its resurrection is bound to delight old and new fans.  It may never come around again.

HHBTM Records page for vinyl
HHBTM Records page for cassette

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Turns - Gone EP

Turns are a relatively new band from Los Angeles.  To me their music sounds like Ride covering The Jesus and Mary Chain for a neo psychedelic compilation.  And they absolutely nail it.  In what I believe is the band's first official record, Shelflife Records has released the three track Gone EP as a digital release.  You also can pre-order a 7" vinyl version from Shelflife, or a cassette from Lolipop Records.  The label suggests that the band could easily slot in with the late '80s Creation Records roster, and I'm think it is an astute observation.  But regardless of the label you put on it, it is good stuff.  My favorite is the closer, "You'll See", so don't miss it because it will make me sad.  Turns is comprised of Marco Cortes (bass), Michael Eng (lead vocals/guitar), Johnny Toomey (drums), and Danny Winebarger (vocals/guitar).

Shelflife Records page for EP
Lolipop Records

REVIEW: Witching Waves - Fear of Falling Down

London's Witching Waves are a serious lot.  In the last couple of years they have toured the UK three times and released three cassettes.  They've honed their sound, and added a bassist to the founding duo.  Their approach is DIY, but when one of your members is a professional sound engineer, you start out ahead of the class.  And all that culminates with their debut album, Fear of Falling Down, on Soft Power Records, and it is time for evaluation of the band's progress.

From this corner, they get a high grade.  The album consists of taut, angular indie rock with relentless, driving rhythms, and sharp, hard drum hits.  The vocals often sound defiant, although the lyrics tend to fall in the romantic vein.  Seasoning is provided via dashes of aggression and anxiety in some tracks, and jangling noise pop in others.  Although the '60s garage rock ancestry is apparent, I think this is garage rock deliberately re-imagined as post punk, with arrangements crafted to allow for changes in textures and dynamics and urgency blunted by intrusions of space and male/female sing along choruses.  The artful welding of these elements into a sturdy, pop-oriented rock album suggests good things for the future of Witching Waves, but more importantly it makes Fear of Falling Down a debut to which indie rock fans should pay attention.

Fear of Falling Down is out now on limited edition vinyl and via digital download from Soft Power Records.  Hit the Bandcamp link to stream or buy the album.

Bandcamp for Fear of Falling Down
Soft Power Records

Monday, December 8, 2014

Nicholas Krgovich - On Sunset

Vancouver-raised, LA-based Nicholas Krgovich is a multi-instrumentalist and pop songwriter with formidable gifts -- gifts that he has provided to various projects with other musicians.  On Sunset is different than those past efforts.  This is his album, albeit his album with the contributions of talented friends, centered around his new city and telling its stories.  And like the city, Krgovich delivers with a wide scope, from the surging "The Backlot", to the slick R&B of "City of Night", to the gentle piano-driven ballad "Let's Take the Car Out", to the dreamy orchestral pop of "Rock's Dream", to the electro-funk of "You're Through".  If I had to use one phrase to describe the music, I'd say "it sparkles".  The hooks, the melodies, and the pictures evoked by the lyrics combine to suggest twinkling lights, compelling characters and a sense of place.  There is experimentation as well, but it never overwhelms the melody.

LA is a place where you can get lost, or find redemption.  But there is no risk to getting lost in this album.  Redemption is up to you. On Sunset is self-released, and is available at the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for On Sunset

Deathcats/New Swears - Deathcats & New Swears split

One of our favorite discoveries of recent years is Glasgow's Deathcats.  That doesn't make their recent announcement of their upcoming hiatus any easier to take, but we can take cheer in their pre-break release for Fuzzkill Records.  And this one is extra special because Deathcats' four lo-fi, fuzzy garage punk songs are combined with four rock nuggets from Canada's exciting New Swears.  The release is available as a digital download or a cassette plus digital download.

The record finds Deathcats in prime Deathcats mode - loud, swaggering, and proudly displaying a few rough edges, but with solid pop smarts under the fuzz and bashing.  For my money, "You" is the best track (narrowly edging out "End Game"), and you can enjoy the band playing the song in the video below.  One listen to "Satan Loves You", the first track from New Swears demonstrates that they are an apt pairing for the noisy Scots.  Upbeat, garage pop with sing-along choruses.  Both these band approach music as a good time, and make music that is perfect soundtrack for good times.  Is there a better reason to grab the record?  I think not -- stream it below and hear for yourself.

Bandcamp for album
Fuzzkill Records on Facebook
Fuzzkill Records on Bandcamp
Deathcats on Facebook
Deathcats on Bandcamp
Deathcats on Twitter
New Swears on Facebook
New Swears on Twitter