Friday, January 31, 2014

"Silences" from Holy Esque

We've sung the praises of Holy Esque a few times in the past, and the word is beginning to spread.  The Glasgow band is playing SxSW in Austin, Texas in March, and their new single, "Silences" is being released worldwide digital on February 10.  Featuring an appealing brand of urgent guitar pop with a big sound and distinctive vocals, I expect the band to make a splash in Austin and with their upcoming album.  Listen to "Silences" and see if you agree.

Holy Esque on Tumblr

Rolling Stones Friday - Salt of the Earth

On many days I would say that Beggars Banquet is my favorite Stones album. It's a remarkably original work, one very much reflecting the chaos of 1968, yet timeless in its startlingly fresh sound and ambitious musicality.

And while Beggars Banquet had its share of hits ("Sympathy For the Devil", "Street Fighting Man"), today we're going to feature this truly classic album's closer, "Salt of the Earth":  

Brian Jones' drug habit left him out of most of the recording, which required Keith Richards to pick up the slack. Richards' acoustic guitar work throughout Beggars Banquet is outstanding, but nowhere more striking than on "Salt of the Earth", also just the 2nd Stones song to date then where Richards took the lead on at least a share of the vocals.

The lyrics on the surface praise the working man, hardly a unique topic in rock and roll. But the song is far more effective and memorable for the Stones' realization that their superstardom has left them at a disquieting distance from the tough daily lives of the masses:

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier; 
Spare a thought for his back breaking work....

And when I search a faceless crowd  
A swirling mass of grey and black and white
They don't look real to me 
In fact, they look so strange  

The song has rarely been performed live, but here's a truly heartfelt and terrific duet performed by Jagger and Richards at the immediately post-9/11 New York City benefit for the victims and first responders:

We will certainly come back to Beggars Banquet on some subsequent Friday later this year.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

REVIEW: Running Red Lights - There's A Bluebird in My Heart

The quality of the music on There's A Bluebird in My Heart gives no hint to the long, torturous road traveled by Running Red Lights in getting to the point where they could release an album that reflected their craft.  And I think that is a major credit to this Toronto-based band that this debut makes any discussion of the back story superfluous - the songs eloquently announce a pop band worth paying attention to.  There's no evidence to be found of "of the moment" templates such at slacker pop, urban R&B and electro pop.  This is classic pop/soft rock/folk rock that has delighted fans in every decade from the '60s onward.  But it is anything but languid, as evidenced by the energetic "Under the Wire" and the moody "Dear Liza", which prompts favorable comparisons to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac .

There's A Bluebird in My Heart ably showcases the band's ample talents.  They have excellent male and female vocals, top class musicianship and obvious chemistry.  But equally impressive is the songwriting.  There is plenty of variety, and the band isn't afraid to showcase the charms of a song with an acoustic presentation.  But irrespective of approach, each track seems crafted as if it will be the showcase single.  Of course, each listener will have favorites, but none of the tracks can be dismissed as filler.

Try out three of my favorites below, and then stream the entire album on Bandcamp.  It will brighten your day.

Running Red Lights is Scarlett (vocals/guitar), Dave Puzak (guitar/keys), Kevin Howley (vocals/drums/guitar/sampler), and Jeff Clark (bass/vocals).  There's A Bluebird in My Heart is available now via the Bandcamp link below.  Here is a two song sampler available for download until February 14.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers" by Yumi Zouma

A new track from New Zealand expats Yumi Zouma has become a weekly event, and one that I quite look forward to.  Actually, " A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers" is the rare Yumi Zouma track that qualifies as an "old" track, as it was on the internet many months ago and disappeared.  Its reemergence suggests that the track will be included on the band's EP, which will be released February 11 and is available for pre-order from Cascine.  With an upbeat melody and a dose of funk coupled with cool and sassy vocals, it is a track to treasure.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Two acoustic tracks from Dick Diver

Melbourne's Dick Diver captured the top spot on my list of top albums for 2013 (list here) with Calendar Days, an affecting and accessible look at ordinary life. The wonderful folks at La Blogotheque filmed the foursome playing "Gap Year" and "Lime Green Shirt", two of my favorite songs from Calendar Days in a cemetery.

Calendar Days is released via Chapter Music.

Chapter Music

Reverberation #96

An early treat from the folks at Reverberation Radio.  It's their usual curated mix of 60's psychedelia, garage, early world  rock combined with Music recorded and played by bands who treasure the era.

Reverberation #96

1. NickWaterhouse - Sleepin’ Pills
2. Nicolas Nils& Les Murators - Faudra Compter Avec Moi
3. Status Quo - Pictures of Matchstick Men
4. Angel Dámazo - Como Las Aguas Del Rio
6. The Young Sinclairs - Problems
8. Teta Lando - Muato Wa N’Gingila
9. Marricks - Trains
10. Allah-Las - The Other Place

Wimps - Party at the Wrong Time EP

Seattle's Wimps dish up four tracks of infectious, high-powered. punky garage pop on their new EP, Party at the Wrong Time.  With a classic three piece set up of drums, bass and guitar, and Rachael Ratner's staccato vocals, this group knows that the key to landing a punk song is to jump in with both feet, deliver as if your life depended on it, and then get out in under three minutes.  They prove themselves pros, and from the beginning of "Secret Message" through the final notes of  the title track, it is a fitting soundtrack for your party.

Party at the Wrong Time is out now via Help Yourself records.  There is a limited run of 300 7" vinyl (digital download included), and it is available as a digital download only. Click over to the Bandcamp link for ordering details and to stream the entire EP.

Wimps are David Ramm, Rachael Ratner, and Matt Nyce.

Help Yourself Records

Monday, January 27, 2014

Internet "radio" show from Fire Records

I'm a big fan of Fire Records, which is celebrating its 30 years of releasing great music.  So I was happy to learn of this stream of tracks selected from Fire Records releases curated by James Nicholls and John Foster.  Whatever your taste, you are likely to find something you like, and something you need.

Tracklist: Artist/Song Title
Smudge - "Mr Coffee Man"
Lives of Angels - "Imperial Motors"
Full Ugly - "Hanging Around"
Fawn Spots - "Recorder"
Divorced - "Weirdo Boss"
Bardo Pond - "Here Comes The Warm Jets"
Iceage - "You're Nothing"
Dennis Jones - "Sometimes"
Josephine Foster - "I'm A Dreamer" 
The Wolfgang Press "Hang On Me (For Papa)"
Mission of Burma "Trem Two"
Dirty Beaches "ELLI"
Lower Plenty "Work In The Morning"
Bitch Prefect "Adelaide"
The Zombies "She's Not There"
The Moles "Lonely Hearts Get What They Deserve"
Blank Realm "Reach You On The Phone"
Las Kellies (Featuring Ian Svenonious) "Two Types"
Boomgates "Laymens Terms"
Beach Fossils "Calyer"
Thee American Revolution "Blow My Mind"
Half Japanese "U.S. Teens Are Spoiled Bums"
The 6ths (Featuring Mary Timony) "All Dressed Up In Dreams"
Peaking Lights "Hey Sparrow"
Keel Her "Riot Girl"
Spacemen 3 "I Love You"
Unrest "Isabel"

Fire Records

Through the Sparks - Invisible Kids

There are a number of shining lights in the Birmingham, Alabama music scene, but one of the brightest is Through the Sparks.  The collective has been releasing and performing music since at least 2007, although I believe all the members have other projects as well.  Through the local label Skybucket Records, the band has released a retrospective.  Included are tracks from prior releases, some of them in a live recorded version.  There are so many good tracks, that choices for your consideration were hard, but I settled on a live version of "Brion Monchus" (from their Alamalibu album, named after Jody Nelson's recording studio), and a psychedelic cover of The Rolling Stone's "Ruby Tuesday".  You can stream (and buy) the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Are you looking for a "house" band?  That is, the default band to cue up when you come home from work and pour a beverage?  I submit Through the Sparks.

Through the Sparks are Jody Nelson, Greg Slamen, James Brangle, Shawn Avery, Grey Watson, Nikolaus Mimikakis, Thomas Mimikakis, Michael Shackelford, and The Chad Fisher Horns.

Skybucket Records


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nasimiyu - dirt. EP

With five tracks, multiple instruments, and various styles, in twenty minutes Minneapolis native - and New York City resident - Nasimiyu Murumba has played a worthy gambit for critical attention in the pop world.  It is a glorious mix of rhythms, varied instrumentation and intriguing creativity.  If I were going to make an album teaser I'd probably start with an concept involving a multiple ring circus.  You can stream the entire dirt. EP at the Bandcamp link below.  If you like it, it is available to download for "name your price".

Asimiyu provided vocals, drums, piano, beatbox, percussion, glockenspiel, flute and organ.  Kalmia Traver provided sax.  Naughty Professor contributed horns.  Andreas Gustafsson played bass.  Ainsley Matich provided Tuba.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Haters" by Law Holt

Based on the admittedly scant evidence to date, Edinburgh's Law Holt is a talent to watch.  Her latest release is "Haters" -- which is one of the tracks on her Haters and Gangsters EP which will be released on February 3.  The quality of her music that, for me, is most striking is that it is utterly captivating.  When I play a Law Holt track, my attention is totally focused on the music; it never becomes background.  I can't say that about a lot of other music, even music that I like very much.

For those that missed our earlier post about this artist, here is her video of "Hustle".


Update: Joe Henry

We here at WYMA greatly admire American singer-songwriter-producer Joe Henry. Two of his projects made my Best of 2013 list - Billy Bragg's Tooth and Nail and Over the Rhine's Meet Me at the Edge of the World. 

But what we really love are Henry's own records. His most recent record was in 2011 (Reverie) but we don't have too much longer to wait as Invisible Hour is due out in early 2014.

We haven't heard Invisible Hour yet but a solo performance of one song surfaced this week - "Swayed". It reflects the careful craft, nuanced vocals and excellent writing we've come to expect from Mr. Henry. His music has always carried a power of seduction, so it is fitting that his new song touches on the topic of seduction.

"Swayed" live at KEXP

Joe Henry official web page

Friday, January 24, 2014

Primitive Motion - Worlds Floating By

After several smaller releases on cassettes and CDs, Brisbane's Primitive Motion has released their first album, Worlds Floating By.  And suffice it to say that Leighton Craig and Sandra Selig haven't compromised their vision to try and please a hypothetical mass audience.  What we get is the duo's version of electronically oriented dream pop, with synths, machine drums, a seasoning of brass and wind instruments, and echo chamber vocals.  The repetition in the rhythms will invoke a Krautrock reference or two, and not unfairly.  They don't hurry their songs, as the running times tend towards the six minutes plus range, but I'd be very surprised if anyone minded in the least.  The overall effect is psychedelic and otherworldly.

The album begins with the airy dream pop of "Terminal Language", which unspools for nearly seven minutes and vocals aren't introduced until the song is more than half over.  The next track is the surging "Skyline", in which Sandra's voice soars over pulsing rhythms.

"The Hill" begins with stately keys over brittle machine-generated snare snaps.  Then Sandra's wistful vocals twist the atmosphere back into a dreamy soundscape.  Undemanding and appealing, t may be the loveliest song on an album of lovely songs.

Primitive Motion returns to its idiosyncratic melding of noirish Krautrock and atmospheric soundscapes on "Home of the Lone Coast" - six minutes of head music

"Silver Frosted Light Force" and the closer, "Mortal Souls, take the head music a step deeper into the atmosphere, replacing the emphasis on rhythms with swirling electronics and wistful soundscapes.  The penultimate track, "Colours", is a cinematic balance between rhythms and soaring, echoed vocals.

Primitive Motion - Colours from BSR on Vimeo.

Worlds Floating By is blissful, playful and inventive, and I recommend it.  It is out now via Bedroom Suck Records.

Bedroomsuck Records


Rolling Stones Friday: Paint it Black

"Paint It Black" is one of those great singles that hooks you in the first 10 seconds. Brian Jones's opening sitar lines are so distinctive, then the pounding Charlie Watts drum lines come in with Keith Richards' acoustic guitar strum, and then you get the provocative first line from Mick Jagger "I see a red door and it want it painted black." Boom that's a great rock song, both in 1966 and today. 

Reportedly Richards wrote the music and Jagger the lyrics, which were about a girl's funeral.    

The song went to number 1 on the charts and has stood the test of time well in my opinion.

I found a well recorded live version from 1990. Richards does a good job recreating the drama of the opening without the sitar, but overall this version sounds less sinister to me, which I always found a major part of the song's appeal. Still, a good version:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

REVIEW: I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro

Swedish duo Maria Linden and Fredrik Balck impressed many with their 2011 debut Hearts.  Featuring Linden's appealing vocals and a skillful balance of warm textures and super-chilled electronics, it left I Break Horses with a rather high bar to clear with their sophomore release.  And with Chiaroscuro now released, it seems to me that they got it just right.  What they did well on the first album still provides the sturdy platform for their work, but they have become more adventuresome in the use of electronics and the structure of the songs, and at least not singularly focused on dark themes.  Some of the sonic haze has been sharpened, making the melodies and beats more compelling.  And there is confidence on display in how they let the tracks unwind in a more leisurely fashion.

The tracks below, "Faith", "Denial", and "You Burn" probably are the standout songs.  And they leave no doubt that the band can deliver danceable music with a level of depth and texture not often encountered in a club.  However, it is worth noting that the other tracks yield little to these three in quality.  And while the beats are infectious, my preferred use for this album is late at night with the lights low and the sound turned up.  Chiaroscuro ably proves that I Break Horses is a premier electro-pop band.  But unlike the other worthy bands on the top shelf of the genre, I Break Horses has a vocalist capable of adding the correct degree of warmth, and the appropriate level of emotion, needed to give a song the additional dimension required to leave a long-lasting impression.

Chiaroscuro is out now via Bella Union.

I Break Horses will be touring in the US this spring.

Bella Union

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Sålka" from Yumi Zouma

For the second time in a week New Zealand expats Yumi Zouma have caught our attention.  This time it is for "Sålka", another wonderful electro-pop tune that we will expect to find on their forthcoming release on Cascine.


New Jazz Discovery: Jim Clayton - Songs My Daughter Knows

When it comes to jazz, I'm certainly no expert but I know what I like. And it's usually sax (Coltrane, Rollins) and piano (Tyner, Evans, Monk)... so when a new piano jazz record arrives in my inbox, I'm bound to give a listen. When a piano jazz record with a concept as charming as Songs My Daughter Knows, by Canadian pianist Jim Clayton, arrives, it'll get more than a cursory listen. And in this case, that's a good thing. This record is absolutely delightful. Clayton plays with great swing and joy - almost certainly the joy is due to the fun he must have had picking out the songs with his wife and input from their daughter, nascent tastemaker Eileen Agnes (Lenny) Clayton.

And the swing, whether wide like on "Grouch Anthem" and "Tea for Two",

or lighter as on "Rainbow Connection",

is excellent.

Clayton traveled to New Orleans to record the album and assembled a combo featuring drummer Jason Marsalis, percussionist Bill Summers, trumpeter Marlon Jordan and bassist Peter Harris. The rhythm section is uniformly excellent - the drums and piano work especially well together.

Clayton, in the information accompanying the record, describes the significance of several of these songs to him, his wife and 3-year old daughter: "Count Basie’s vibrant “'Flight of the Foo Birds'” (from 1958’s The Atomic Mr. Basie) served as the soundtrack for a montage of home movie footage ... of his daughter in various modes of play. “'Tea for Two'” served as a lullaby for his baby daughter while the jazz standard “'Autumn Leaves”' was a tune played in the recovery room after Lenny'’s birth. The opening drum cadence from the main theme to Aaron Sorkin’'s acclaimed TV series The West Wing was another musical tidbit that caught Lenny'’s ear, as was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band'’s rendition of the Cannonball Adderley tune '“Inside Straight'."

The kid has great taste in music, and her dad sure can play. If you like piano jazz, give this a listen.

Facebook page

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"All the Stars" from The Shifting Sands

Last January I reviewed Feel, the debut album from Dunedin, New Zealand's The Shifting Sands (link).  At the time I wrote that Feel would have been on my list of top albums of 2012 had I heard it during that year.  The trio of Michael McLeod (vocals/guitars/synths), Thomas Bell (bass/synths), and Jake Langley (drums) have been crafting their follow up record, which is scheduled for release in early April via Fishrider Records and we are staying on top of it this time.  We are happy to tell you that track "All the Stars" has been released on Bandcamp and is available as a "name your price" download at this link.  The tune ably showcases the band's melodic brand of psychedelic pop.

Fishrider Records

Monday, January 20, 2014

REVIEW: Painted Palms - Forever

There was a time when Painted Palms members Reese Donahue and Chris Prodhomme were forced to exchange ideas and production online because one of them lived in New Orleans and the other in San Francisco.  However, now that the cousins both live in San Francisco, their work pattern remains the same.  Of course, that is merely background for listeners discovering them via their debut LP, Forever.  And as strange as the approach may appear, it really works for this duo.  The album if full of summery electro-pop tunes, with danceable rhythms and melodies that stick in your head like the best of old AM radio pop.  The mood varies between warmth and a certain icy quality prompted, at least in part, by the precise production.  And tracks such as "Soft Hammer" balance both qualities to good effect.

For me, the reason this album works is that Donahue and Prodhomme are able to meld together Beach Boys style vocals with some psychedelic haziness and bring it forward into a EDM world.  If you find your winter a bit dreary, this album should help focus your dreams of summer.

Forever is out now via Polyvinyl Records.

Polyvinyl Records page for Painted Palms

REVIEW: Mogwai - Rave Tapes

Mogwai's not wandering far from their established style on their latest studio album Rave Tapes - they offered an advance track, "Remurdered", that did change things up a bit... but the majority of this album features their slow building, eventually ferocious guitar work - the overwhelming beauty of a style of guitar rock that they do better than anyone else. There is majestic piano work, an evocative vocal chorus here and there, and a few of their usual tricks, but it's a Mogwai album, and to me, it's to be celebrated as such. Perhaps they will be criticized for not stretching or pushing the limits, but not here. To have 10 new songs of this high quality from them is an occasion to be celebrated.

Last year's soundtrack showed how well Mogwai's atmospheric approach accompanies striking visuals - of course, their videos have always shown that. Previously we shared their video for album track "The Lord is Out of Control":

That's an excellent example of the sounds here, but my favorite track is "Hexon Bogon", mainly because the guitars are strong and the pace upbeat from the beginning of the track. There's a spoken word track that juxtaposes what sounds like a radio preacher's explication of Led Zeppelin's subliminal satanic messages with a particularly beautiful instrumental - reminiscent of Come On Die Young's "Punk Rock", except that the spoken word continues throughout the track.

But it's moments like the dizzying heights reached by the guitars on tracks like "Hexon Bogon" and "Mastercard," and the majestic swell of keyboards, drums and vocal chorus on the consecutive tracks "Deesh" and "Blues Hour" that keep me coming back to Mogwai records. In that respect, this album is a success -- the latest in a long line of successful releases from them.

Fortunately, you don't need to read much from me - you can stream the album at the Guardian website now. It's out tomorrow on Sub Pop in the US, and today on the band's label Rock Action elsewhere.

Mogwai website
Mogwai on Sub Pop

Saturday, January 18, 2014

REVIEW: Clearance - Greensleeve 7"

One of my favorite discoveries of 2013 was Chicago's Clearance.  The band obviously shares my appreciation for New Zealand guitar pop and lo-fi college rock; unlike me, they are talented enough to do something about it.  That something is, most recently, the five- track Greensleeve 7".  Released via their own Microluxe Records, Greensleeve is available digitally now, and the vinyl probably will be shipped next week.

With a running time of approximately 13 minutes, Greensleeve may not put many demands on your day, but I'll suggest that you won't want to play it just once.  The record begins with "Close Encounters", a jangling Pavement-like mid-tempo song, and follows it with "She's A Peach", which unleashes the guitar hounds to a greater extent.  The third track, "Drive-Out", will likely earn the most press of the set.  A fine, guitar-driven song, it reminds me of the glory days of The Clean.

Greensleeve closes with "Modern Luxe" and "Face the Frontier".  Both tracks have a relaxed vibe, with just the right amount of guitar noodling.

The riffs are snarling and crunching, the melodies are solid and the lyrics are fun.   Greensleeve is a good choice for a short release to chase away the winter blues.

Clearance is Mike Bellis and Arthur Velez.  I also highly recommend the band's earlier Dixie Motel Two-Step release, which we covered in 2013 (here).


Friday, January 17, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: 19th Nervous Breakdown

1965 was a crazy year for the Rolling Stones, following the explosion of their career with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", and the major TV appearances and relentless touring that followed.  While on the road, under pressure to produce follow up singles, they wrote "19th Nervous Breakdown", which Andrew Loog Oldham produced at RCA Studios in Los Angeles.  Here's the recorded version, released in February 1966: 

This single perfectly captures the Richards-Jones guitar dynamics, Jones playing off a classic Bo Diddley riff. And Jagger's sneering lyrics builds on their bad boy image, a far cry from their rivals The Beatles recent singles "Yesterday" and "Michelle".

Here's a live version from 1966, marred a bit by the girls' screaming, but great to see the band playing:


Thursday, January 16, 2014

REVIEW: Lone Justice - This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983

In the early 1980's, punk, rock, folk and country musicians rubbed shoulders in LA nightclubs - Los Lobos, X, Dwight Yoakam and The Blasters were playing at clubs like the Whiskey and the Palomino, and a lot of young musicians had the idea that one could love both George Jones and The Clash, both Buck Owens and The Velvet Underground. Out of this environment came Lone Justice (Maria McKee, Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni, and Don Heffington), full participants in the alt-country movement. In the early 1980's, McKee and Hedgecock got together over a shared love of music, met up with Etzioni who was a veteran of several LA rock bands and Heffington who was a member of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band and started playing together. In 1983, Etzioni met David Vaught, and the group went to Suite 16 Studios and laid down much of the set list they had been playing live. From that session comes This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983.

Recorded direct to two-track tape with no overdubs, those 12 tracks are finally available to the public. Nine of the tracks are previously unissued, and include originals as well as the covers they made their own in concert - namely a knockout version of Johnny and June's "Jackson" where McKee's and Hedgecock's vocals crackle and snarl as they ought to on that song.

Though McKee and Hedgecock's vision didn't meet with chart success, they made some of the most memorable music of the stuff that would come to be known as "cowpunk" and shared the stage or inspired some of the favorites of the later No Depression movement. This lineup of the band dispersed in 1985, not long after the Geffen debut was released. But they never sounded better than this. This is the band that knitted together the sounds of X and The Maddox Brothers and Rose - a high-energy rockabilly variant with a completely irrepressible lead singer and a lightning-fast lead guitarist.

Highlights include "Working Man's Blues", "Nothing Can Stop My Loving You" and the aforementioned "Jackson" - covers where McKee's reverence for the originals does not stop her from ripping through them as thought to make them her own. But her originals fit right in: "Soap, Soup and Salvation" based on her experience at the rescue mission with her Baptist parents (as well as her research into the Depression era) are of a piece with the better-known covers.

The album is out this week (Jan. 14) on Omnivore Recordings. Liner notes contain tributes to Vaught, who passed earlier in 2013, as well as reminiscences from band members and a nice endorsement from Dolly Parton, who fondly recalls seeing them live in 1983.

Lone Justice at Omnivore Recordings

Introducing: Yumi Zouma

Three New Zealanders now living in New York and Paris comprise Yumi Zouma.  Their debut EP will be out soon via Cascine, but they have released "The Brae" as an early taste of what listeners can expect.  It is dreamy and romantic, and just right for my mood today.

The four-track EP will be released in digital and limited vinyl formats on February 11 (pre-order link).


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

REVIEW: Delay Trees - Readymade

On Readymade, their third album, Delay Trees display a remarkable ability to create songs that are rich in texture yet melodically light.  Where the sophomore release, Doze, was written across a sprawling shoegaze and dream pop landscape, the Finnish band now reigns in that aspect of their craft to sharpen the pop side of the shoegaze spectrum.  And I think the result is their best work to date.

Delay Trees have adeptly chosen what to keep and what to change or improve for this album.  The haunting vocals, sung in unison, remain.  The guitar tones are superb -- a warm and low reverberation.  And the drone aesthetic still provides the foundation, but now is adorned with pop hooks, more distinct melodies and a tighter structure.  The fusion could have gone all wrong, but here it seems completely natural.  Moreover, the sequencing of the album allows the songs to flow like a single, and singular, musical story.  Apparently, the title of the album references the band's feeling that these songs seemed already created and simply "found", rather than requiring effort to craft.  I can only hope the band continues to find such ready made tunes.

The softer songs on the album are absolute gems, and I can't imagine Readymade without them.  But two of the faster-paced songs best showcase the album, so here are "Perfect Heartache" and "Fireworks".

Delay Trees are Rami Vierula, Lauri Jarvinen, Sami Korhonen and Onni Oikari.  Readymade is out now via Helsinki's Soliti Music.

Soliti Music

HL's Favorites of 2013 - Spotify Playlist

Hardy's Best of 2013 is another curated gem.   It's the final brick in the wall of the WYMA Best of 2013.  A little louder and more raucous, but a perfect counter point to the distinct sounds selected by our other reviewers. Check out the other Best of's and Spotify playlists:  John's ListJohn's Spotify PlaylistScott's ListScott's Spotify Playlist, John's List, John's Spotify PlaylistJD's List, and JD's Spotify Playlist.   Enjoy hours of solid musical choices.

HL's 2013 Favorites

Hey folks, it was a lean year in terms of blogifying by your not-so-intrepid correspondent, but as far as good music goes, there was a great bounty. I've never left so many albums off the list that I had listened to multiple times and grown rather fond of. If you've read this far, maybe your computer is getting close to finishing the download of all the music files in this post. Thanks for taking a moment to look through my list. I hope you find some stuff in here you hadn't heard about.

25. Palms -- s/t -- (Ipecac)
This is pretty nice to listen to. A bunch of Isis guys got Chino Moreno to sing for their new band. Nice.

Once you get past the fact that this project is comprised of members of two of the most earsplitting bands of the past 20 years, you start to accept that these are excellent songs, just not as loud . We are reminded, thus, that waking up without a hangover does not automatically mean that last night was a waste of time. WYMA review here.

24. Direct Hit! -- Brainless God -- (Red Scare Industries)
This is a punk rock concept album about the impending end of the world. I'd have bet $20 that such an effort would make John Lydon roll over in his grave, but this album is loud, snotty, and cleverly sardonic -- all played at breakneck speed.

23. Kylesa -- Ultraviolet -- (Season of Mist)
The Savannah band's sixth album cranks up the psychedelia, but loses none of its edge. See Exhibit A below:

I actually reviewed this one.

22. Gorguts -- Colored Sands -- (Season of Mist)
On my ipod, Gorguts is right next to Henryk Gorecki, and it makes more than just alphabetical sense. Like the recently deceased Polish composer, Gorguts founder Luc Lemay is obsessed with composition. Like Gorecki, he works in atmospheres of grays and blacks. As sorrow is to Gorecki, aggression is to Lemay. The musicianship on this album is at times overpowering. It's like King Crimson of Death Metal. Here's the title song:

21. Nuclear Santa Claust -- Order of the New Age -- (Don Giovanni)
They have a funny name, but hell, Turd Ferguson had a funny name, and he couldn't kick out the jams like this Brooklyn punk trio. I reviewed this excellent album back in March, but it stayed in heavy rotation all year. It's old school east coast American punk music, complete with period-appropriate cold war paranoia.

20. Russian Circles -- Memorial -- (Sargent House)
This is the Chicago trio's best yet, and that's saying something. No vocals (for the most part), no indulgent solos -- they start with a simple theme and beat the musical hell out of it, all the while building to a towering climax you weren't even expecting. The track below, "1777", is brooding and beautiful, with dramatic strings adding a sense that they're recording it in a cathedral.

19. Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle -- Perils From the Sea -- (Caldo Verde)
Kozelek had a busy year, releasing at least 4 full length albums on his label, Caldo Verde. I like 'em all. But this one really struck me as a departure that works on every level. Lavalle (The Album Leaf, Tristeza), composed and recorded somber, expansive electronic tracks and emailed them to Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, Desertshore), who would write and record lyrics and send them back for more work. Consistent with the trend of his recent work, Kozelek's lyrics are autobiographical, sometimes detailed to the point of being prosaic. As prosaic as they might be, they're never boring, and Lavalle's arrangements seem to give them even more ballast than usual, if only for being different from Kozelek's recent fixation with his classical guitar. The stunning "Gustavo", about an undocumented Mexican carpenter working on Kozelek's house until he gets busted for weed and deported, might be the best song I heard this year.

18. California X -- s/t -- (Don Giovanni)
I think this release from Don Giovanni was the first review I did in '13, and I love it even more now. Frontman Lemmy Gurtowski is a fantastic guitar player with a fantastic rock and roll name. And he had the stones to name one of the best songs of the year after himself! Do yourself a favor and crank the song below as loud as you can take it. And when you scratch your head at the chorus and say, 'dang that sounds like the Foo Fighters,' know that Lemmy is well aware of that, thank you.

17. Castevet -- Obsian -- (Profound Lore)
This second album by the Brooklyn metal trio gets the much coveted "getting most play by me right this very damned minute" prize. It feels like it was recorded in a foundry. The guitar sounds on this album are otherworldly -- at times evoking the proto-industrial roil created by Geordie Walker in the early 80s-era Killing Joke, and at other (admittedly, less frequent) times offering a more approachable prog harmony. It's pretty mathy, but never at the expense of the visceral. It's just a fascinating piece of music.

16. The So-So Glos -- Blowout -- (Shea Stadium)
Alex Levine is one of the most engaging and likeable frontmen in rock and roll. This New York band trades in high energy, well-played punk songs with a retro-British sensibility that will evoke everything from the Clash to the Specials over its 40 minute run time. Listen below to the album opener, which is introduced by a childhood home recording of Alex and his brother Ryan (also in the band) musing on the demise of Kurt Cobain.

15. KEN mode -- Entrenched -- (Season of Mist)
I feel sort of sorry for the people of Winnipeg. Not because it's cold there -- we all know that. It's because the Jets just hired Paul Maurice. Trust me, I know how that story ends. On the other hand, Winnipeg is also home to one of the best hardcore bands working today. KEN mode, named after Henry Rollins's acronym (for "Kill Everyone Now"), channel pure aggression into their fifth and best album, while never forgetting their sense of humor (see, for example, their songs "Secret Vasectomy" and "Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick").

14. Parquet Courts -- Light Up Gold -- (What's Your Rupture / Dull Tools)
This NYC by way of Denton, Texas band put out one of the best slacker punk albums in years (actually in 2012, but it only got its wider release in '13). The influences are not hard to list -- Modern Lovers, Feelies, early Meat Puppets, Pavement -- and yet like anything you'd expect to be played 20 years from now (and I think this record will be), it's totally original. Austin Brown's guitar work is terrific -- it would make Stephen Malkmus roll over in his grave.

13. Vhol -- s/t (Profound Lore)
I'm a huge Mike Scheidt fan -- his main band Yob's last effort was my 2011 AOY -- so I was pretty excited to see this album hit last spring even if Mike was just singing and not playing guitar. Here he's teamed up with members of Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune, and they achieve a facemelting amalgam of dark metal and hardcore. Scheidt's voice is a force of nature. He can hit the difficult notes like a three-pack-a-day RJ Dio, and then on a dime bring it down to a guttural roar that's simply terrifying.

12. The National -- Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)
I always have a lot of metal on these year end lists because I think as a rule the genre is a refuge for the best musicians. So I've gotten to the point that I'm willing to listen to a lot more in the way of growls and screams than I once did simply to be able to experience the creativity of these people who have dedicated themselves to such interesting and difficult music. I'd describe my attraction to The National in nearly the same way (although I think Matt Berninger's voice is itself fascinating). The Dessner and Devendorf brothers are terrific musicians who painstakingly build and record their songs. Trouble Will Find Me is, to me, their best album since Alligator. The only reason it's not number one on this list is because Alligator and Boxer (and Sad Songs) exist. Whenever I contemplate looking down my nose at the music taste of my fellow man, I try to pause and remember that The National have made it big.

11. Signals Midwest -- Light on the Lake (Tiny Engines)
This Cleveland band's last album, Latitudes and Longitudes, was that one record I happened upon the year after its release that made me wish I had saved an exalted place on my earlier best-of list for the oversight of the year. The new album is, I think, even better. Their songs are earnest and hard rocking, with arrangements that are more complicated than a great deal of today's alt/punk bands. At the same time, there's tasteful restraint -- the songs never devolve into emo wailing, or instrumental overindulgence. There are times on this record where I wish the song hadn't ended when it did -- and I mean that as high praise.

10. Poor Lily -- Vuxola -- (self-released)
This is the best punk rock album of the year. This Bronx three-piece should be a household name, headlining festivals, wearing panda-skin boots, endorsing the Glenlivet Archive and upscale cruise lines, sleeping with Kardashians. If you like punk music, or ever did like punk music, you should own this album. Here's my earlier review.

9. Future of the Left -- How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident -- (Prescriptions)
It'll make Morgan Freeman roll over in his grave, but this is the finest record for Andy Falkous since Mclusky Do Dallas. The targets of his ire seem more natural here than they have in awhile. Best of all, to me at least, is that he has really backed away from the keyboard for this one -- just a fierce (and Mcluskyesque) guitar/bass/drums package.

8. Restorations -- LP2 -- (Side One Dummy)
This is the phenomenal follow-up to one of my favorite albums of 2011. This Philadelphia band exudes a small-club ethos, but they've got a sound big enough for the arenas. In this video for album opener "D", they prove it in front of a room of pasty white people.

7. Pissed Jeans -- Honeys -- (Sub Pop)
This is the best album yet from the Allentown (now Philly) noise-punks. I reviewed it last February (so you'll excuse the dead photo link) after doing an apres-garde photo-montage "preview" a few months before that, but the crushing songs about employer-provided health coverage and cafeteria food are no less topical today.

6. The Icarus Line -- Slave Vows -- (Agitated)
I thought for a good while this would be my number one, and will never be firmly convinced otherwise. The burning guitar tones achieved on this album are so arresting, so rock and roll, that for about a month I played this on constant repeat. I was in a productivity trough on this blog, but made it a point to put at least something up to document my awe.

5. Deafheaven -- Sunbather -- (Deathwish)
I think this album deserves every one of the millions of accolades it's gotten. It's the first metal album ever to get the highest scoring album of the year from Metacritic. Deafheaven was also one of the best live shows I got to see all year. Don't miss them if they play your boringass backwater of a town. Here's the spectacular first song:

4. Phosphorescent -- Muchacho -- (Dead Oceans)
I didn't pick up this glorious record until about a month ago. It starts out with a beautiful mood-piece that will make you think of Bon Iver, but eventually loosens up into something entirely different -- saloon music, maybe, or music for heartbroken optimists. It's hard to describe except that it's just about flawless.

3. Inter Arma -- Sky Burial -- (Relapse)
This Richmond band has bequeathed to us the metal album of the year. It is colossal, deliberate and explosive. Much of it feels like a massing of forces, building slowly toward an apocalyptic release. It's really a stunning sonic achievement for a band's second album, and they, the production team and Relapse deserve a great deal of credit for doing what was necessary to document this in the way they did. Here's my favorite track -- give it some time to unwind:

2. Joel R.L. Phelps & the Downer Trio -- Gala -- (Triple Crown / 12XU)
This is the highest point (so far) of a music career filled with high points. Phelps's voice has never sounded stronger or more evocative. His taste for dirty guitar noise -- and sense of timing for acoustic -- is at an apex. And I'll throw in another candidate for song of the year -- I have yet to play "The Nashville Sound" for a person who did not immediately thereafter buy the entire album. Let's hope it's not another ten years before we get another solo album from Joel. WYMA review here.

1. The Drones -- I See Seaweed -- (Drones)
It's likely to make Bob Dylan roll over in his grave, but I'm going to go ahead and say that Gareth Liddiard is the greatest songwriter working today. I heaped enough superlatives on this album when I reviewed it back in May, so I'll spare you any more speechifying and just link the song that might be their crowning artistic achievement. Liddiard has a very uneasy relationship with the outside world. His ability to distill that into metaphors, then stories, then songs is, to me, without equal in rock music right now.

Holy cow, what a fantastic music year. Thanks to the artists who make the music we write about. Thanks to the readers who take the time to check this place. I hope all of you have prosperous years so you can buy a ton of new music. Thanks also to my blogmates. who suffer my comings and goings and my not pulling my weight with great equanimity. As always, on many levels, I'll try to do better.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WYMA Favorites on BreakThru Radio: Jay Arner, Mirror Travel, Joanna Gruesome

We get updates from the fine folks at BreakThru Radio when they feature WYMA-reviewed artists live in their studios. We're happy to feature these, as they are always of very good quality and usually slightly different versions of songs we've already raved about, plus they usually feature a short interview with the artists.

First example, the sweet guitar pop of Jay Arner (previous WYMA post here):

Arner's pop instincts are terrific.

Second up, here's Austin, TX shoegaze/dream pop outfit Mirror Travel:

A good occasion to fall in love with their great guitar effects all over again, and it's great to see Tiffanie Lanmon play the drums after hearing the record so often in 2013...

Finally, here's Joanna Gruesome. They made quite an impression in 2013:

Fast, loud and sweet - the guitars, the fast drumming and the vocal harmonies call to mind the best of 90's favorites like The Cure, Dinosaur Jr. and The Breeders (at least to me).

We'll continue to share these, but feel free to keep an eye on their site, too.

BTR Live Studio website

"Kindly Leave" from Party Dolls

You likely haven't heard of Party Dolls before, at least not these Party Dolls.  Formed around Drew Beskin, Frank Keith IV and Walker Beard -- several members of Atlanta/Athens group The District Attorneys, This Is American Music label mate Tedo Stone and Crooked Fingers member Jeremy Wheatley, the group has recorded Love Wars Baby, an LP to be released on Valentine's Day by TIAM.  To ensure your interest, they have made album track "Kindly Leave" available as a free download.

Having heard the entire album, I assure you that you will want to check in a few weeks from now for our review.  We'll try to do it justice.

This Is American Music

REVIEW: Blank Realm - Grassed Inn

From the opening strains of the swaggering "Back to the Flood" to the sizzling melancholic emotion of "Reach Me On the Phone", the eighth and final track, Grassed Inn showers the listener with an aggressive and relentless backbeat, tantalizing guitar riffs, and sizzling synth lines.  It is a swirling, melodic and audaciously confident mix of southern hemisphere guitar pop and psychedelia with occasional seasonings of blues and electro-rock.  For me, the particular genius in the songwriting is the ability to craft a sharply melodic song that flows and sprawls as if it is from a live performance. And it demonstrates that the surging quality of the Australian underground over the past several years is continuing into 2014.

Grassed Inn is the fourth album from Brisbane's Blank Realm, a quartet consisting of siblings Daniel Spencer (drums, vocals), Sarah Spencer (synths, vocals), and Luke Spencer (bass), and Luke Wash (guitar).  The band is equally confident with big scale rockers such as the above-mentioned "Back to the Flood" and the sprawling "Bulldozer Love", the electronic centered "Even the Score", dense psychedelia such as "Baby Closes the Door" and "Violet Delivery", and a vampy blues number like "Bell Tower".  But even in an album with no low points, a few tracks stand out to me.  The first is "Falling Down the Stairs", with layers of guitar and organ and veins of grit adding a distinctive texture.  You don't want it to end, and accommodatingly, for six minutes it doesn't end.  The second is the delightful "Baby Closes the Door".  And perhaps this is just my own preference, but the track I most often play - perhaps even to obsession level - is "Reach You On the Phone".  The tale of frustrated romance builds beautifully with trebby guitar notes and a thick bassline.  After a few bars, Daniel's drum drops in to drive the song and the synths begin to flesh out the texture.  For me, there is a lot of Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen in this song.  Please check out the live version below.

Fractured, fuzzy psychedelia, jangling distortion, lyrical themes of longing and obsession, great rhythms -- so early in the year, and I already have a worthy contender for my favorite album list.

Live version of standout track "Reach You On The Phone" -

Blank Realm - "Reach You On The Phone" from Joshua Watson on Vimeo.

Here is the video for "Falling Down the Stairs" --

Blank Realm - Falling Down the Stairs from BSR on Vimeo.

Grassed Inn is out this week on Fire Records in Europe and the US/Canada, and Bedroom Suck Records in Australia.

Fire Records
Bedroom Suck Records

Monday, January 13, 2014

"China White" from Peak Twins

The self-titled debut album from Peak Twins made my list of top albums from 2013 (link to list).  It is a fine collection of songs with powerful vocals and excellent guitar work.  And one of my favorite songs from the album is "China White".  Until now, I didn't have a stream to share with you, but the band's Australian label, Bedroom Suck Records, has uploaded the song to Soundcloud.  If you haven't been moved to check out the album before, the sadly beautiful "China White" may provide the final push.

Peak Twins is out via Fire Records in Europe/US, and Bedroom Suck Records in Australia.

Fire Records
Bedroom Suck Records