Friday, February 28, 2014

"Tongues" from PAWS

Cokefloat, the debut LP from Scotland's PAWS, was one of my top 20 albums of 2012.  I'm happy to report that they are back with their second album in early May.  The title will be Youth Culture Forever, and it will be released by FatCat Records.  The album was recorded in the States, and the band is embarking on a US tour in mid April (the dates and locations are at the bottom of this post).  The first release from the album is "Tongues", the stream and video for which are below.  Expect a bit more experimentation and a more dynamic sonic canvas this time around, but assume that there will be plenty of guitar and driving rhythms at the core.  I'm very much looking forward to it.


Fat Cat Records

Tour Dates:
04/16 Philadelphia, PA - Boot and Saddle
04/17 Washington, DC - Black Cat
04/18 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
04/19 Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
04/20 Montreal, QE - Il Motore
04/22 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
04/23 Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
04/24 Columbus, OH - The Basement
04/25 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
04/26 Minneapolis, MN - 7th St Entry
04/28 Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
04/29 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
05/01 Portland, OR - Doug Fir
05/02 Vancouver, BC - Electric Owl
05/03 Seattle, WA - The Crocodile
05/06 Santa Cruz, CA - Catalyst Atrium
05/07 San Francisco, CA - Independent
05/08 Santa Ana, CA - Constellation Room
05/09 Los Angeles, CA - Troubadour
05/10 San Diego, CA - Casbah
05/11 Phoenix, AZ - Rhythm Room
05/14 Dallas, TX - Dada
05/15 Austin, TX - Red 7
05/16 Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds
05/17 Baton Rouge, LA - Spanish Moon
05/18 Atlanta, GA - The Earl
05/19 Raleigh, NC - Kings
05/20 Greensboro, NC - The Blind Tiger 

All dates w/ We Are Scientists 

Rolling Stones Friday: Heart of Stone

1964 was a wildly successful year for the Rolling Stones, including their debut on the Ed Sullivan show and a highly successful US tour. At the end of that tour, they went into RCA Studios in Los Angeles and quickly cut a number of songs, including one of my favorites from that era, "Heart of Stone".  Still at a time when they mainly did covers, the Jagger/Richards composition became their 2nd single to make the top 20 on the US charts and appeared on the UK version of Out of Our Heads (1965) and many later greatest hits and compilations packages.

Heavily influenced by the American soul music of the time, but also with a bit of a country flavor, the ballad is striking for its distinctive, somewhat discordant guitar sounds and tough, slow burn but building chorus: "But you'll never break, never break, never break, never break [pause, bam bam bam bam!] this heart of stone."

You get 3 versions, first the recorded original:

A lip synched TV version from 1965: 

And last but certainly not least, one of my all time favorite Rolling Stones covers, by WYMA Hall of Famers The Mekons on their 1988 album So Good It Hurts. Sally Timms fantastic vocal captures all of the melancholy of the song while twisting the gender issues:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Video for "Drove Down" by Full Ugly, album soon

Fully Ugly is a quartet formed by Melbourne native Nathan Burgess.  I've featured a couple of the band's songs in recent months, and was happy to learn that their debut LP, Spent the Afternoon, will be released on April 7 by Bedroom Suck Records.  I will review the album as the release date approaches, but today I'd like to share the video for the lead track, "Drove Down".  It seems to me that any album with a song like this will be anything but ugly.

Bedroom Suck Records

New song from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have released the "Simple and Sure", the first single from their upcoming LP, Days of Abandon.  The album will be out on April 22 via YeBo Music, and TPOBPAH leader Kip Berman has promised songs that are joyful and full of light.  I expect you'll agree that if "Simple and Sure" is representative, the band delivers on that promise.

YeBo Music

Declan Welsh - Glasgow In The Sun

Glasgow In The Sun is collection of songs about Glasgow, as viewed through the keen lens of young Declan Welsh.   Young Declan claims as influences Billy Bragg, Alex Turner and Jarvis Cocker, and both that list and his distillation of their lessons have earned my respect.  His tunes are good, his delivery entertaining.  But the real gems are the manner in which he phrases his observations.  Sample the EP with "I'll Never Leave This Place".  If you like it, stream the entire album, or visit the Bandcamp link and own it



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For Abel - Greater Inventions

Here is a gem from 2011 that in my opinion didn't receive the attention it deserved.  The band is For Abel (although they once were known as Nacional), and the album is Greater Inventions.  Indie rock with folk rock stylings and plenty of passion -- political and otherwise.  The sound bears favorable resemblance to The Smiths, James, and The Wedding Present.  In other words, they are in that great tradition of Northern England post punk (but still somewhat punk) guitar band groove, of which I'm quite fond.  The members of For Abel are Robert Armstrong, Jonny McGiffen, Colin Healy, and Darron Foy.

The Band played SxSW once, and toured the UK several times.  I understand that they remain an active band, and intend to release an album in 2014 titled Wildebeest.  Greater Inventions is out on Glasgow's Flowers in the Dustbin label, and you can stream/buy it at the Bandcamp link at the bottom of the post.  Here are a few songs to stream, and a nice video for standout track "Yorkshire".

Facebook for For Abel
Bandcamp for Greater Inventions
Flowers in the Dustbin

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

You Beauty - Jersey Flegg

You Beauty is the fourpiece consisting of Will Farrier (vocals), Flyn Mckinnirey (bass), Jashua Phuah (guitar), Kino Verzosa (drums).  Hailing variously from Sydney, Wollongong and Mellbourne, and from other bands such as Absolute Boys, Mere Women , Hira Hira and Ohana.  Jersey Flegg, their debut LP, is about all things rugby league.  So if you are a rugby league fan, the album is a natural for you.  However, I submit that even if you pay no attention to that sport, you'll like the chunky rock riffs, lower-register guitar tones, authoritative rhythm section and storytelling on offer.  The songwriting is straightforward but the lyrics are vivid.  Not every story is happy, but they are interesting and the lyrics are provided for those who like to read along.  And this is a no-risk proposition, as the entire album is available for free download at the Bandcamp link below.



Choosing a palindrome for a band name is interesting enough, but when said palindrome is "taco" plus "cat", you go to the head of the class.  However, since you are here to read about music, rather than interesting names, let's get down to business.  TacocaT is three women and one man residing in Seattle who play an energetic brand of sugar-coated garage rock with plenty of humor (and a album title that nods to local legends Nirvana).  The songs cover parties, drugs, unnecessary snow days, anarchists, alien girls, catcalls ("Hey Girl") and menstrual periods (the surfy "Crimson Wave").   There even is an anti-ode to a Seattle bus line ("FU #8").  Those familiar with Seattle bands such as Tullycraft and the Fastbacks will smile at the similarities, but TacocaT are more stoned than the former and more pop than the latter.  There is some silliness, um, a lot of silliness, but the sound is fully professional and the harmonies addictive.  Moreover, when you unpack the glittery packaging there is some serious commentary about the lives of women, and you get bonus points for paying attention while you laugh.  With 13 songs inching just up to the half hour mark, none overstay their welcome.  Put NVM on repeat, and you have an hour-long party soundtrack.  Check out the sound below with the band's answer to the onset of a period and the desire for a footbridge to paradise.

TacocaT are Emily Noces (who also is the music editor for one of Seattle's alternative weeklies, The Stranger), Eric Randall, Bre McKenna, and Lelah Maupin.  The band has released a previous album and several shorter records (see the Bandcamp link below).  NVM is out now via Hardly Art.

Bandcamp (prior releases)
Hardly Art page for Tacocat

Deathcats / Fruit Tones: Thplit Tape

We were happy to feature Deathcats last April, and then again in early December when they released The Raddest EP on Fuzzkill Records (link here) .  Now they have teamed up again with Fuzzkill, and with Manchester band Fruit Tones, on a four track split tape called Thplit Tape.  And I have to give Fuzzkill a lot of credit here, this is an inspired pairing.  I wasn't familiar with Fruit Tones, but I now am a fan and I'd love to hear more from them.  Both bands have a bit of garage, a bit of punk and a bit of surf.  Oh, and there is a good dose of energy as well.  And most of all, these are DIY rock tunes that just make you feel good.  About the music, about the day, and about yourself.  They probably will give luster to your hair and tighten your abs, as well, but you won't care if they don't.  The only complaint I can muster is that a split with three songs each would have been even better.

I was going to pick one song from each band to showcase the quality of Thplit Tape.  But I was so fond of all four songs that I decided to embed two from each band (there is an additional song from Fruit Tones).  You can stream them below, you can stream them at the Bandcamp site, and order at the Bandcamp site or from Fuzzkill.

Bandcamp for thplit tape
Deathcats - Facebook
Twitter for Deathcats
Fruit Tones - Facebook
Twitter for Fruit Tones
Fuzzkill Records

Monday, February 24, 2014

REVIEW: Mozes and the Firstborn - Mozes and the Firstborn

I generally expect to find garage pop from band in places like Seattle, Austin, San Francisco, Fullerton, and even Melbourne.  But given how badly the Dutch kicked the world's collective ass in long-track speed skating this month, I shouldn't be surprised that my new favorite garage pop album is the self-titled release from the Netherlands' Mozes and the Firstborn.  Of course, it isn't a complete surprise because the record is released by Burger Records, which for me is ground zero of garage pop these days.

Mozes and the Firstborn is Melle Dielesen, Corto Blommaert, Raven Aartsen, and Ernst-Jan van Doorn, and they are from Eindhoven and Antwerp.  The band's name has its origin the animated movie Prince of Egypt, which Melle watched numerous times as a youth.  The band's music has its roots in the energy of youth and the DIY attitude and confidence that fuels the best indie music.  It is rock and roll that has no shame in showing its rough edges, or its influences.  And whether you are nodding to the garage of "Bloodsucker" or "I Got Skills", the sublime folky ballad "Skinny Girl", the British Invasion of "Peter Jr." or "What's Wrong, Mama", or the grungy "Time's A Headache", I suspect that you will have as good a time listening to the album as the band had in making it.  It really comes down to attitude. Just pretend you at at the Holland House after a Dutch sweep of another skating event, and the good times and euphoria will flow.

The band is touring in the US right now, and the remaining dates, including their SXSW show, are listed at the bottom of this post.

Mozes and the Firstborn is available in CD, digital and vinyl formats.  By the way, if you want more of Mozes and the Firstborn, here is their December EP.

Burger Records

Remaining tour dates:
Tue. Feb. 25 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
Wed. Feb. 26 - Boise, ID @ Flying M Coffee
Thu. Feb. 27 - Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
Sun. Mar. 2 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza
Wed. Mar. 5 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
Tue. Mar. 11-16 - Austin, TX @ SXSW
Fri. Mar. 21-22 - Santa Ana, CA @ Burgerama III

REVIEW: Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition - Dark Night of the Soul

Jimbo Mathus is a veteran of a number of musical styles (The Squirrel Nut Zippers' swing and The North Mississippi All-Stars' blues, to name two), but judging by the contents of Dark Night of the Soul, all of that was prelude to this. And this is, by any measure, a great American Southern rock album. I hear echoes of The Band, Crazy Horse, The Allman Brothers and Leon Russell, but that is by no means an exhaustive list of influences and cohorts for this album, which is, frankly, a bit of a masterpiece.

In addition to his band The Tri-State Coalition, Mathus is joined here by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel of the Del-Lords (and any number of great country rock albums - The Bottle Rockets' Brooklyn Side and Cheri Knight's The Knitter, to name only two) and Drive By Trucker Matt Patton. The band is terrific, and as great as the guitars - lead guitars on the uptempo rock tracks and pedal steel on the country rock stuff - are, it's Mathus' singing that is front and center. And that's as it should be, because he is equally comfortable with soul shouting on tracks like "White Angel", country crooning on "Shine Like a Diamond" and full-on roaring as on "Burn the Ships" and "Fire In the Canebrake". Here's a video of the latter - more laid-back than the album version, but you can hear Mathus' terrific vocal:

Here's "White Angel" - a perfect example of the expansive nature of the music on Dark Night, and probably overall the best track on the album:

The album was made in Mississippi at Dial Back Sound, owned by Fat Possum’s Bruce Watson. Watson and Mathus apparently pared down 40 songs to the 12 that made this album, and are to be applauded, based on the 12 that appear on Dark Night. Sequencing, production, it's all done extremely well. Every song on the album is terrific - "Casey Caught the Cannonball" swings, "Hawkeye Jordan" rocks, and "Medicine" is an old-style blues along the lines of, say, Howlin' Wolf's "Goin' Down Slow". Really, this is just a great rock album. Call it Americana - in the sense that it encompasses a lot of American musical styles (blues, country, soul, rock), that description probably fits as well as anything. But, above all, be sure to call it rock when you tell people about it, because above all, that's what it does. The album is out now (released Feb. 18) on Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records.

Jimbo Mathus website
Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records

Friday, February 21, 2014

Video for "Amnesia" by Strange Harvest

Strange Harvest is an appropriately named darkwave duo from Dunedin, New Zealand.  Combining minimalist electronics and guitar, they create soundscapes that are dreamy, cold, and a bit unsettling. They released an LP titled In A Replica City in May 2013, which you can stream it at the Bandcamp link below.  Two young video directors, Phoebe Mackenzie and Emily Berryman, have made an intriguing video for "Amnesia", the closing track on the album.


REVIEW: Guided by Voices: Motivational Jumpsuit

Since Guided by Voices reunited the "Classic Lineup" in 2011, they've released five albums. And they've all been very good to great, a trend that continues on Motivational Jumpsuit, the latest one. Right off the bat, there's a statement of purpose that is about as up-front as any of Robert Pollard's lyrics have ever been:

Gonna have a lot of fun
Gonna hit a home run
In the littlest league possible

Because if the majors aren't ready, willing or (more to the point) able to appreciate your awesome stuff, why deprive those of us in the Texas League of those knee-buckling curves and teeth-rattling brushback pitches? An ace is an ace, after all.

In a way, this album is a celebration of everything that's ever been great about GbV: short, catchy songs, a variety of ragged, glorious guitar riffs and an overdose of melody. "Planet Score" is a collection of big-time guitar riffs with Pollard's shouted British accent vocals:

"Vote For Me Dummy" could fit in with the best stuff on Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, but there are also tracks here that bear the imprint of Big Rock Bob from the "hi-fi" era: album closer "Alex and the Omegas", with its glossy guitars and fully loaded vocals, would fit in on Do the Collapse or Isolation Drills. Speaking of those albums, by the way, it's not like Bob didn't give the major leagues a chance to appreciate his devastating collection of out pitches, is it?

Also continuing a recent trend, there are five creamy, delightful, psychedelic contributions from Tobin Sprout, whose facility with vocal harmony has never been better than it is on "Some Things Are Big and Some Things Are Small". That one builds to an almost unbearably sweet crescendo of multi-tracked Sprout vocals, whereas "Jupiter Spin" is a bit more guitar-based.

With 20 tracks, song lengths that vary from 1:12 to 3:03, it doesn't take long to get into this album. As always, the band makes big melodies but doesn't need to linger... somehow, throughout Pollard's career, it has been a truism that his 1:30 or 2:00 packs more hooks and melodies than most artists can cram into 3:30, and Motivational Jumpsuit is no exception. It's out this week (Feb. 18) and available via GBV Digital and Rockathon.

Guided by Voices website
Rockathon Records

Soul Corner: Dusty Springfield "Where Is A Woman To Go"

We have to bring back the Soul Corner today to highlight a song that we somehow overlooked and just discovered by one of our favorite all time singers. Her name is Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien, but you probably know her by her stage name, Dusty Springfield. The London born superstar had a string of hits in the 1960's-70's and established herself as one of the most respected and revered blue-eyed soul singers ever.

Late in her career in 1994, long after the hits stopped, she went to Nashville to make what turned out to be her final album A Very Fine Love.  Originally (ill) conceived to be a country record called "Dusty in Nashville", the songs took a different turn during recording towards less of a 1994 Nashville country sound to a more rootsy Americana effort. It did nothing to rekindle her stature from Springfield's Dusty in Memphis days, but it had at least one amazing song that stands with anything she ever recorded.

"Where Is A Woman To Go" co-written by KT Oslin and Jerry Gillespie, is a fantastic song. But even transcending the great composition is the stunningly soulful vocal delivered by Springfield, the heartache just oozing from her. I couldn't find the chill bump inducing recorded version anywhere for you to listen to, but here's an outstanding live version from the Jools Holland TV show in 1995, one of her final TV appearances before her death from cancer. Listen to her deliver these lines starting at the 1:56 point:

Hey, bartender, honey gimme change for a ten-dollar bill
Bring it back as a stack of quarters, if you will
'Cause I'm gonna play every song on your jukebox that makes me cry
Gonna find out how many tears ten dollars can buy   

Country, Americana, pop, whatever you want to label it, that is some kind of soul singing, worth bringing the Soul Corner back for another week. I picked up a new Dusty Springfield compilation this week with most of the hits ("Wishin' and Hopin'", "Son of A Preacher Man", "What Do You Do When Love Dies", etc. though inexplicably omitting "I Only Want To Be With You"), but the song that killed me was one I'd never heard before - "Where is A Woman To Go".  I'm guessing I'm not the only one out there who missed this one before now. Enjoy.

Rolling Stones Friday: Before They Make Me Run

1977 was not a good year for Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones. Richards' arrest in Toronto for heroin possession made time in prison a real possibility. While all that was hanging over their heads, with the band's future seriously in jeopardy, and amidst the ensuing media circus, The Stones recorded Some Girls, released in 1978.

One of the best and most enduring songs on Some Girls is Richards' composition "Before They Make Me Run", a defiant, nearly mocking ode to his situation. Its greasy sound, Keith's raw vocals and unapologetic lyrics are exhibit A for how the Stones earned their rep as rock and roll's bad boys:

Booze and pills and powders, you can choose your medicine
Well here's another goodbye to another good friend [editor note: Gram Parsons?]

I wasn't looking too good  
But I was feeling real well 

Of course, in the end Keith did walk. He did move while it was still fun, in fact went on to have quite a bit more fun.

We'll give you three versions today of "Before They Make Me Run":

The studio version on Some Girls:    
Keith taking center stage very recently for a live version, this vid also reflecting the grand and effective staging of the Stones's modern day concerts:
And lastly, a fantastic cover by WYMA hero Steve Earle, a guy who knows a thing or two about the song's subject matter, backed by Seattle rockers The Supersuckers:
This week's Rolling Stones Friday was suggested by one of you out there (thank you good sir!). Nothing better than getting requests here. Please send them my way any time in the comments section here at WYMA or any way you know how to reach me.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

REVIEW: Black Twig - Heliogram

Paper Trees, Black Twig's 2011 debut was an intriguing blend of shoegaze and drone.  For their sophomore record, Heliogram, the Finnish band takes a broader approach to guitar pop, adding psychedelic elements and crafting more dynamic melodies.  For my ears, the result is a lighter, more pop-oriented album that sacrifices none of the warm tones that initially drew me to Black Twig's music.  My overall impression is that if Teenage Fanclub were injected with a minor dose of Nordic melancholy, Heliogram could be the result.  Lower register guitar chords, harmonies, lo-fi fuzz and dreamy soundscapes predominate.  It is a big, bold, room-filling sound that demands well-crafted song structures, and fortunately, Black Twig delivers fully delivers on that score.   And for those concerned about such things, the lyrics are in English.

Black Twig deserves to have an audience beyond Northern Europe, and Heliogram should deliver it.  You can take it for a test run with the second track, "Pastel Blue".

Black Twig is Aki (guitars/vocals), Aleksi (drums), Janne (guitars/keys/backing vocals), and Kaarlo (bass).  Heliogram is out now on Helsinki's Soliti Music label.

Soliti Music

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

REVIEW: Chalk and Numbers - Cassette Compilation

Chalk and Numbers are a current Brooklyn duo that channel '60s pop influences into music that resists neat categorization to era or genre.  Vocalist Sable Young is on one-person girl group, and in another time songwriter/instrumentalist Andrew Pierce would have been the most in-demand tunesmith in the Brill Building.  And with the benefit of modern production, including the conscious decision to avoid cluttering the sound with fuzz and reverb, and Andrew's surf guitar frills, this music is irresistible.  And since resistance is futile, be advised that our friends at Soft Power Records have compiled six songs - five from previous releases (including three songs that were included on the band's well received 2013 EP) and one first available on this recording - in a limited edition Cassette Compilation.  You can sample two songs below, and stream the entire EP at the Bandcamp link for the compilation.

Bandcamp for Cassette Compilation
Bandcamp for Chalk and Numbers
Softpower Records

REVIEW: Cheatahs - Cheatahs

Cheatahs are a UK shoegaze/guitar rock band, consisting of Nathan Hewitt (vocals/guitar), Marc Raue (drums), Dean Reid (bass/vocals), and James Wignall (guitar/vocals). They've gotten in touch with us three times about their music, and we've been glad to share it with our readers because their fast, roaring mix of noise, drone and heavy guitar glaze is hitting every rock button we hold dear. Last year we wrote about Extended Plays, a collection of tracks (WYMA review here), and the singles "Cut the Grass" and "Kenworth" (WYMA post here). Both of those tracks are on the album, Cheatahs, out now (Feb. 11) via Wichita Recordings.

To begin with, quoting Scott's review of Extended Plays, I can't really improve on his characterization of Cheatahs music as a "prime rock cocktail" - so just know that plenty of 90's guitar rock influences are on full display and very well-played here. The album features plenty of melody - to me, that's its strong point. There is also plenty of noise - though the drums and bass are sort of behind the guitars, there is a full-on pounding quality to the rhythm section, especially on tracks like "Geographic", which also features vocals that put me in mind of a cross between Teenage Fanclub and Swervedriver.

The band is not plowing new ground, but they certainly are playing great guitar rock. This record is a really fun listen, one that won't wear out its welcome even though you'll feel you've heard most of these sounds before.

Here's one of the more aggressive tracks, "Get Tight" - I love the layers of guitars and noise on this one:

Here's the soaring, driving guitar anthem "Fall" - the repeated background guitar figure is a beautiful touch amid all the noise:

And here's "Get Tight" - melody in the vocals, pounding drums and echoing, treated guitars throughout, plus the track length (3:25) might make this one the single. It's certainly plenty catchy:

Much like those Swervedriver and Dinosaur Jr. records this points to, I feel like this one will still sound good years from now... great guitar rock never really goes out of style, does it?

Cheatahs 2014 US tour dates:


Cheatahs website
Wichita Recordings

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

REVIEW: Keel Her - Keel Her

If you are familiar with Rose Keeler-Schaffeler, you have been waiting for her debut album as Keel Her for a long time and I need only mention that Critical Heights released it in the UK on February 10, and will release it on February 25 in the US.  But now I'm writing to the rest of you -- this self-titled album from a truly prolific songwriter is one of most melodic balls of jangle, fuzz, feedback, and distortion that you are going to find this year.  Some songs take you back the the '60s garage, some employ menacing synths, and many provide Rose's own twist of '90s slacker pop.  The scuzz is adroitly balanced by dream pop and multiple spoonfuls of sugar, and the lo-fi approach never becomes tiresome because Rose doesn't lock herself into a single style.

It probably must be said that the influences for Keel Her are not hidden.  But it takes genuine imagination to turn them into the music on this record.  Moreover, one of the most charming aspects of this album is that I can put it on at night and be delighted by the varied vehicles that Rose has created for her musical musings.  This album is going to be in rotation for a long time.

Critical Heights

Monday, February 17, 2014

REVIEW: Be Forest - Earthbeat

If Italy isn't one of the countries that comes to mind when you think of dream pop and shoegaze, Be Forest is here to educate you.  The oddly named four-piece is from Pesaro, a town on Italy's Adriatic coast that has nurtured a prolific rock music scene.  Be Forest started as a trio: Nicola Lampredi (guitar, and also guitarist with the band Brothers in Law), Costanza Delle Rose (bass and vocals), and Erica Terenzi (drums and vocals).  For this album the added Lorenzo Badioli to handle synths and other electronics.

The music walks the line between chilly desolation and romance.  Perhaps one could say it specializes in romantic despair.  But for my ears, gloompop is pop music, and I enjoy the way Be Forest creates their icy soundscapes.  Moreover, I think that Nicola Lampredi is a very talented guitarist, who augments the usual dream pop/shoegaze arsenal with a bit of twang.

Earthbeat is out now on the We Were Never Being Boring label.

We Were Never Being Boring

"Soldiers" from The Trouble With Templeton

The Trouble With Templeton began as Australian Thomas Calder's solo project, with the release of a mini album in 2011.  TTWT has grown to five members and released their debut album, Rookie, in Australia in August 2013.  The band now is signed to Bella Union, and Rookie will get its international release in May.  On the evidence of the tracks I've heard, I think this should be a breakout year for TTWT.  Their songs are passionate and melodic, exploiting emotional contrasts and reveling in their own eccentricity.  You can test TTWT out with the most recent offering from the album, "Soldiers".  I've also included the video from a previous single, "Six Months In A Cast".

Bella Union

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Swedish Psychedelic Discovery: Les Big Byrd - "Back to Bagarmossen"

Stockholm's Les Big Byrd is a guitar rock band with a big, sprawling sound -- they've released a video for "Back to Bagarmossen", one of the tracks on their forthcoming EP:

It's a great, expansive psychedelic track that bears the imprint of their producer, Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe. The EP is available via PNKSLM Records - you can pre-order limited edition vinyl now, and it'll be out next week (Feb. 20).

Les Big Byrd Facebook

Bypassers - Bypassers EP

When we introduced Bypassers to our readers last April they were based in Helsinki and getting good press for a two-track single.  Since then the band have relocated to London and released a fine EP.  Consisting of four tracks, the music will favorably bring to mind the big sound of Britpop bands such as Oasis, The Verve and Stone Roses.  Bypassers do it well, and they do it right, emphasizing the music rather than the sneer.

All of the tracks on the Bypassers EP are melodic and charming, but I favor the first two tracks and have presented them below.  The entire EP is available to download at the Soundcloud link below.

Bypassers are Niilo Klemetti (vocals, guitar), Markus Muinonen (bass), and Juho Orjala (drums).

Sound cloud

Friday, February 14, 2014

REVIEW: Crushed Stars - Farewell Young Lovers

Farewell Young Lovers is the newest album from Dallas-based dream pop band Crushed Stars. In case you're not familiar with them, Crushed Stars is multi-instrumentalist Todd Gautreau along with drummer Jeff Ryan (War on Drugs, Baptist Generals). Known as a studio-only band, Gautreau has made no secret about his desire to build a musical following without having to hit the road... and with music this good, he's on the right track. I hear hints of another Texas outfit, American Analog Set, in spots... but in others, the influences of Jesus & Mary Chain and Echo & the Bunnymen are apparent. You may hear other influences of a similar vintage. The music is an engaging combination of treated guitars, synths (even a theremin) and both quiet dream pop and upbeat dance rhythms.

My favorites are the more upbeat tracks, like "Flowerbomb":

And in a similar vein, if a bit more aggressive, "Haters":

But there are quieter songs, like the beautiful, hushed "Fly", and "Poppies" which is a longish, subtle instrumental. Not only do they demonstrate Crushed Stars' facility with all types of music, they work very well to keep the album from sounding the same, and wearing out its welcome. The longest track, "It Happens Every Time", is pure 80's guitar pop, reminiscent, to me, of that 80's generation of Roxy Music/Eno descendants like New Order, The Cure and the ones mentioned above. It's a very well-done album with a compelling variety of sounds, all pulled together by Gautreau's vocals.

Crushed Stars website

REVIEW: Party Dolls - Love Wars Baby

Look at this record as a worthy Valentine's Day present from This Is American Music.  The Party Dolls are an ad hoc collection of members of The District Attorneys (frontman Drew Beskin, Frank Keith IV, and Walker Beard), Tedo Stone, and Crooked Fingers (Jeremy Wheatley), with some contributions from other friends.  The band was born a year ago in Athens, Georgia when the other members of The District Attorneys couldn't make the show and Beskin invited Stone and Wheatly to join in.  They learned some songs Beskin had been inspired to write in the aftermath of a bad romantic breakup.  Beskin believed that the songs wouldn't fit the sound of The District Attorneys, but would be right for this assemblage.  The result, one year later, is Love Wars Baby.

The sound includes the fuzz, jangle and southern rock elements that you would expect, as well as some sweet hooks and harmonies to accompany the pain and heartache.  There are jaunty songs such as "Kindly Leave", ballads like "Vampire", the heartbreaking "Firecracker", and the barroom sing-a-long of "Sweetheart Moon".  And the performances are so tight that you will dismiss any thought that the band is a side project.  This album has my high recommendation.  You may note that two of the songs below are available to download, but that only gets you a small part of the album.  Find it at the label site, find it at Bandcamp, find it at digital purveyors (you know who they are). Just find it.

This Is American Music

Rolling Stones Friday: Ruby Tuesday

Lost in all the talk about Keith Richards' guitar heroics, open tunings, drug habits and lifestyle is the fact he's a very good songwriter. One of the first Rolling Stones songs that hooked me as a kid is "Ruby Tuesday", recorded in 1966, released in January 1967 when it quickly soared to #1 on the charts.

The lyrics and original melody were reportedly written by Richards, with help on the music later from Brian Jones. Richards' lyrics were about either a groupie or his girlfriend of the time Linda Keith. But hey, I was 10 year old and knew nothing about groupies, but was drawn to the terrific melody and overall sound of the song. I love how the chorus builds and gets repeated at the end. Brian Jones' piano sounds great too. In contrast to Richards' tough guy persona, there is something very warm and affectionate about the song both from its sound and lyrics.  

Live in 1990:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Video for "Last Century Man" from Solomon Grey

Solomon Grey is the duo of Tom Kingston and Joe Wilson.  They have spent several years writing and producing their debut album, residing in the UK, the west coast of Ireland and the Australian outback.  The album is expected later this year.   "Last Century Man" is the B-side for their recent Firechild single.  The track will feature on the Kisune label's upcoming New Faces compilation, and is the subject of the colorful, CG-created video presented below.

Firechild was released on Black Butter Records.


REVIEW: Water Liars - Water Liars

Mississippi tortured hard folk duo Water Liars are back with a third album fairly quick on the heels of last year's Wyoming. "Hard folk" is about the best I could come up with to try to encapsulate the contrasts within their music. The lyrics are provocative and arresting... opening track "Cannibals" draws an analogy: "When you taste the flesh and sweat of the one that you love / Do you feel like a cannibal?" To a slightly lesser extent than the sad, sad Wyoming, this album explores the theme of what we are willing, able and sometimes driven to do to one another, and definitely deliver more questions than answers.

Here's "I Want Blood", a lush, full country rock number with what I think is his best vocal to date:

It's definitely Southern music. In places it's languid and slow, and lead singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster definitely delivers the vocals with a drawl, but in other places it's urgent and as hard as guitar rock gets. "Swannanoa" is pretty much straight-ahead country music, with piano and vocals up front, and "Let it Breathe" is a pretty finger-picked folk song. But they plug in on tracks like "Tolling Bells", and often really turn up the guitar feedback.

Here's the song "Ray Charles' Dream" - a rollicking, upbeat track with haunting vocals over a base of growling guitars:

They're highly recommended for fans of literate guitar rock artists like Centro-Matic and My Morning Jacket... If you want to learn more about them (or read what a better writer than me thinks of their music), check out William Boyle's excellent bio on their website. The album is out now (released Feb. 4) on Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records.

Water Liars website
Water Liars at Big Legal Mess Records

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

REVIEW: Making Marks - A Thousand Half-Truths

It wouldn't be fair for me to complain about winter.  I like skiing (alpine and Nordic), skating and snowshoeing.  But I'm not immune to the periodic mini-depressions resulting from short days and cold rain.  However, as an experienced winter person, I have an antidote - bright, clear, upbeat pop music.  And it really doesn't surprise me at all that very often the source of such music is a band from a Nordic country.  Today's medicinal recommendation is A Thousand Half-Truths, by Norway's Making Marks.  With gentle, affecting vocals, memorable melodies and broad instrumentation, this album delivers a healthy dose of sunshine to nearly all users in our test audience.  The only known side effects are good moods, humming, additional energy and evangelical fervor in recommending the album.  If a wide grin persists for more that 24 hours, see your dentist for teeth whitening.

The male/female vocals and jangling guitars are standard in this genre, but Making Marks takes a step toward the head of the class with their delicious hooks and their adventuresome use of  banjos, ukuleles, harmonica and glockenspiel, providing for a rich listening experience.  There is a bit of Belle & Sebastian, but a sheen of county-inflected folk, as well.  Survive winter - experience Making Marks.

Making Marks is based in Oslo, and is comprised of Ola Innset (guitar/vocals), Nina Bo (vocals/keys), Marie Sneve (bass) and Jorgen Nordby (drums).  A Thousand Half-Truths is out now on Fika Recordings.

Fika Recordings page for album

Law - Haters & Gangsters EP

Law is Lauren Holt, an Edinburgh-based musician.  Her debut EP is Haters & Gangsters, and provides a taste of her talent and the breadth of her art, and leaves you wanting more.  The songwriting concepts are bold and well realized, and the hooks, beats and production -- with the right balance of fuzz and clarity -- are top quality.  But the star is Law's vocals.  With a hint of grit and a slight drawl, it adds a dose of clear-eyed realism to the frank lyrics.  Whether she is sounding weary and struggling, or fierce, she commands your attention.  And today is your lucky day, as the EP is available for free download at the Soundcloud link below.

It begins with "Haters", a track that combines soul and rap over a skittering rhythm.

The following six tracks represent hip-hop, soul, rap and dream pop.  But for me the EP suggests a fresh and welcome update of R&B.  And if this is the future, sign me up.

Law is from Leicester, but has been based in Edinburgh for several years.


Monday, February 10, 2014

"Anthem" / "Middle Aged Freak" from The Wolfhounds

To my delight, '80s underground heroes -- and one of the harder-edged groups tagged with the C86 label -- The Wolfhounds continue their comeback with their latest single for Odd Box Records.  "Anthem", the first track on the double A-side dishes out thick guitar riffs and swaggering vocals.  "Middle Aged Freak" quite simply is a bad-assed rocker.  This release is exhibit A for the theory that bands don't need to get soft and quiet as they age.  The Wolfhounds show that they can just get better at delivering the rock.

Odd Box Records

REVIEW: Dude York - Dehumanize

The music scene in tiny Walla Walla, Washington has gifted the music world two excellent bands recently.  One is Chastity Belt, whose No Regerts (no, that isn't a typo) was justifiably lauded last year.  Now it is the turn of another Walla Walla-to-Seattle transplant, and lablemate of Chastity Belt and Wimps at Seattle's Help Yourself Records, Dude York.  A trio consisting of Peter Richards (guitars/vocals), Claire England (bass/vocals) and Andrew Hall (drum/organ/piano), Dude York has been stoking our Pacific Northwest ears for several years, but with Dehumanize I think they deserve to earn a much larger audience.  This is the kind of band that shows up looking young, put together and maybe a bit bratty, but then blows away all the headliners.  With all the right influences, excellent musicianship and songwriting, and the ability to personalize it all into a positive and distinctive rock statement that, in my mind, makes them one of the two most exciting Seattle bands playing today.

The album opens with the punky, crunchy rock of "Sleepwalk".  No Seattle beard rock, pop or electro here. This track says welcome to our rocking world.  And just as expectations are set, the band lays down the infectious hooks and soulful groove of "Hesitate".  At this point, I'm two tracks in and I completely hooked.

Track three, "Iris", is a '60s AM radio throwback, with sugar-coated ooohhhs and aahhs on a garage rock skeleton.  "Idol" is a slick rock tune that begins with a disciplined rhythm and guitar frills that reminds of Fleetwood Mac, but audaciously adds a thumping rock chorus between the verses.  The ballad "Heartland" follows with a slower pace but red-line intensity.

"Burning" takes us back into enthusiastic rock territory.  A searing song, it reminds us of just how good Dude York is with their instruments.  Thematically, we may go back to middle school with "Eighth Grade", but musically this track continues the rock assault of the preceding tack.  At this point we may well be jumping up and down and pumping our fists.  But we don't tell anyone that because we need to be professional and objective.

Understandably, Dude York doesn't want us to forget their punk side, and with "Cannibal", forgetting just isn't possible -

"Believer" is a near perfect slice of upbeat rock.  You may well want to sing along, and I expect it will have you searching for local performances of the band.  Don't be embarrassed, I assure you that it is a natural reaction, and while I am not a doctor, I have seen the movie M*A*S*H numerous times.

And like a good book, Dehumanize pulls it all together on the final track, "Dehumanize Yourself and Face to Bloodshed".  Snaky grooves, slashing guitars, hooks and noise -- it is one of my favorite songs of the year so far.

Dehumanize is out now on Seattle's Help Yourself Records.

Help Yourself Records

Sunday, February 9, 2014

New Guitar Rock Discovery: The Silver Palms - "Superstar"

The Silver Palms are a group of young guys from Georgia with a new single, "Superstar", that's just jangly and just rough enough to bear repeated listening without wearing out its welcome. They've got a physical single out March 10 and more to come...

Here's "Superstar":

Here's a video for previous track "Georgia Boy":

If you look in the video, there's a link to sign up for their newsletter and get a free download of that one.

This is terrific stuff, especially the guitars. They're playing with Jake Bugg and The Orwells in the UK, then back to the US for SXSW and some other dates. Stay tuned... based on these tracks, these guys are becoming a WYMA favorite...

Silver Palms Facebook

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Video for "Don't Know Where to Go" by The New Tigers

The Badger by Finland's The New Tigers was number 15 on my list of top albums for 2013, and it was the second straight year for an album from this band to make my year-end list.  So I think it is fair to say that this band has a guitar sound that works very well for my ears.  One of the melodic standouts on the album is "Don't Know Where to Go", which is the subject of this recently completed video.  Enjoy The New Tigers.

The New Tigers - Don't Know Where to Go (Official video) from Appu Jasu on Vimeo.

Soliti Music (label)

Friday, February 7, 2014

REVIEW: Flyying Colours - Flyying Colours EP

I know what you are thinking -- a band named Flyying Colours with a song named "Wavy Gravy", this better be psychedelic.  Relax, it is.  But it also happens to be very good.  The Melbourne band's music is a muscular brand of shoegaze, with an aggressive rhythm section, soundscapes created via loud, heavily reverbed guitars, and male/female vocals.  Fans of My Bloody Valentine, Swervediver, Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain will find this music particularly appealing.  Perhaps most impressive to me is that the quartet succeed in making music that is dense and loud, but still manages to be melodic and radio-friendly.  "Wavy Gravy" is the track picked for single success, but I personally find the crunching guitar riffs of "She Leaves" to be equally compelling.  And the lighter touch on the jangling "Feathers" adds a wonderful dose of sunshine.

The self-titled EP was released in Australia in 2013, but wasn't generally available worldwide.  Now it is being released in the US and the UK.  While the official release is in March, we are writing about it now because it will be available only in a limited run of 500 copies of high quality vinyl (plus a download code).  Shelflife Records in the US will have 250 on black grape vinyl, available on March 11, and Club AC30 in the UK will have 250 on royal blue vinyl, available March 10.  So if you want a copy, I suggest that you act soon.  I've been advised that there is considerable interest already.  The pre-order links are at the bottom of the post.

Here are the stream and the video for "Wavy Gravy" --

Flyying Colours are Brodie J. Brummer, Sam Dawes, Joshua Dawes and Gemma O'Conner.

Pre-Order from Shelflife Records
Pre-Order from Club AC30

REVIEW: Vaadat Charigim - The World Is Well Lost

Vaadat Charigim are a Tel Aviv-based trio consisting of Juval Haring, Yuval Guttman and Dan Fabian Bloch. They've just released The World Is Well Lost, a big-sounding album with an English title that is sung completely in Hebrew, with rhythmic and guitar approaches that will be familiar all over the world. According to them, their music is "a blend of 80s Israeli underground rock with a more European Post-Punk sound". Not being familiar with the 80s Israeli underground, I would place this band at the intersection of post-punk artists Swervedriver and The Lemonheads. Haring's vocals are reminiscent of Evan Dando's, but the overall approach is a lot heavier - along the lines of Swervedriver - heavy, but catchy and plenty engaging.

There are accepted labels that certainly apply to this music - shoegaze and psychedelia for sure, but it's bigger than any one genre. The album is completely enveloping - in a way, it's like drowning in a sea of guitars. Vaadat Charigim are committed to singing in Hebrew, but that should be no obstacle to any fan of guitar rock. In fact, once you figure out how to pronounce "Kezef Al Hamayim" (pretty much the way you'd expect, but with a "hard h"), it is almost impossible not to sing along to the chorus.

Here's "Ze Beseder Lefahed", translated as "It's Okay To Be Scared" - a sentiment not lightly expressed from a band who practices in a bomb shelter:

Here's a video for "Lehitorer Velo Lada'at" set to footage edited by Yotam Wax from a 1979 animated video made by Israeli artist Dudu Geva:

Here's "Odisea", a longer, completely satisfying track with long instrumental breaks:

And their most recent video release, "Ein Nehama Ladoachim":

Like my other favorite Israeli band Rockfour, these guys take some engaging guitar rock influences and make the sound their own. Where Rockfour was heavy on the guitar jangle, Vaadat Charigim play a much heavier sound... but they still make it catchy and, in places, interweave acoustic and electric guitars behind Haring's hypnotic vocals. The record was produced by Kyle "Slick" Johnson (Modest Mouse, Wavves, Cymbals Eat Guitars) and recorded by the band in a south Tel-Aviv apartment. The initial release was of a cassette (November 12 through Burger Records), with a vinyl release in late January via Warm Ratio. Internationally, it's available via Israeli label ANOVA (CD/digital).

They will be playing SXSW and a few other US dates in March - their first time over here.

3/13 Austin, TX - Austin Psych Fest Official SXSW Showcase (Hotel Vegas)
3/15 Austin, TX - Burgermania III at SXSW (Hotel Vegas)
3/16 Hot Springs, AR - Valley of Vapors Festival
3/17 Indianapolis, IN - Joyful Noise Records Space
3/18 Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
3/19 Cleveland, OH - Mahall's
3/20 Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie
3/21 New York, NY - Piano's
3/22 Brooklyn, NY - Silent Barn

In short: if you like guitars, this album will make your day.

Vaadat Charigim Facebook
Burger Records
Warm Ratio
Anova Music