Monday, June 30, 2014

Martha - Courting Strong

Courting Strong is a sleeper album.  You have seen little press about it, but it will be on some year-end lists with very sincere and kind words that likely will make you think that you really have missed out on something.  Of course, that is because you really would have missed out on something.  Except that now you won't because I'm telling you.  It may ruin that end-of-the-year-surprise-to-discover-you-are-a-dolt, but you may do something else to earn that honor anyway.  For my part, I am confident that I will sink to the occasion in typical fashion.

However, back to this little gem.  Martha, the presumably proud creators and performers of Courting Strong are three men and one woman from Pity Me in the United Kingdom.  Their songs address growing up in a small town and not completely fitting in.  The vehicles are pop punk tunes bursting with buzzsaw guitars, pop hooks and twee vocals.  You may find some similarities to The Buzzcocks, Joanna Gruesome or Seattle's Tullycraft.  For my money, what causes this band to rise above their peers is the quality of their tunesmithing and passion of their performances.  But you don't have to trust me -- I have three songs embedded below and you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.

Martha are Naomi (bass/vocals), Nathan Griffin (drums/vocals), J. Cairris (guitar/vocals) and Daniel Ellis (guitar/vocals).  Courting Strong is out now via Fortuna POP!

Fortuna POP!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Carol

I've been sifting through a lot of early footage of The Stones this week, looking for something exciting and interesting.

In 1964, The Stones were still mainly a cover band. And among their many heroes, at the top of the long list, was Chuck Berry. Here's The Rolling Stones in one of their first American TV appearances performing "Carol" on the Mike Douglas Show:

There's just a whole lot to like there - Keith singing along, Mick's cool, Charlie's tie, the strange Mike Douglas introduction and reaction of the other guests next to Douglas.  

"Carol" became the backdrop of one of the most riveting scenes in rock documentary history when Keith Richards came face to face with his boyhood hero Chuck Berry in Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, the 1987 film by Taylor Hackford. If you've not seen this, it is essential viewing:     

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Bats' early releases re-issued

This post is about three releases, but the introduction necessarily focuses on two labels a world apart and a band of friends entering their fourth decade of making sublime music together.  Christchurch, New Zealand's Flying Nun is a iconic label.  Founded in the early '80s with a DIY punk attitude and a scrappy roster of artists such as The Bats, The Clean, Toy Love, Dead C, Chris Knox, The Verlaines, The Enemy, and The Chills, the label was instrumental in presenting New Zealand guitar pop to the world, and fans of pop music have benefited ever since.  And the modern iteration of Flying Nun continues to issue work by exciting emerging artists, including Surf Friends, T54, Tiny Ruins, Grayson Gilmour and Ghost Wave.  For its part, Brooklyn label Captured Tracks has earned a fond place in the hearts of indie fans with a tasteful roster of current artists (e.g. Wild Nothing, Perfect Pussy, Beach Fossils, Mac DeMarco, Soft Moon and Widowspeak, Donovan Blanc), and a laudable devotion to reissuing  excellent past works.  Recently, Flying Nun and Captured Tracks agreed to work together to reissue Flying Nun's past catalog.  This series already includes a comprehensive Toy Love collection (review here) and two early treasures from The Verlaines (review here).

The four friends are Robert Scott (guitar/vocals), who also is the bassist for The Clean, former Toy Love bassist Paul Kean (bass/vocals), Kaye Woodward (guitar/vocals/keys), and Malcolm Grant (drums).  In late '82 they ventured to play together and, after a trial name that didn't stick, christened themselves The Bats.  Their music is characterized by memorable melodies, intertwined guitars with plenty of jangle and chime, male/female vocal partnership of Scott and Woodward, the sinewy core provided by the interplay of the bass and lower-register guitars, and a certain shading of darkness or melancholy.  With a few breaks for other projects or to live life outside music, they have stayed together to this day.  And since The Bats is one of my all-time favorite bands, I'm happy that Captured Tracks has made the band's early work the subject of their latest Flying Nun re-issues.

The three records are the first LP by the band, Daddy's Highway, a collection of their early, pre-Daddy's Highway, EPs and demos named Completely Bats (yes, the misspelling is official and an intentional pun), and their second LP, The Law of Things.

Daddy's Highway -- While we all can enjoy music together, it remains for me a deeply personal experience.  In writing about music I try to determine how other listeners might react to the songs, but my first inquiry is how it makes me feel.  With that in mind, I'll note that my first reaction to Daddy's Highway was "this is just about perfect music".  And many years later, it remains my idea of the gold-standard guitar pop album.  If you also are a fan, you may already have this album.  But if your version is a CD or digital copy, note that this release is vinyl with a digital download code.  For readers whose album collection is missing this gem, try out a few of the tracks below.


Compiletely Bats -- Assembling the seminal mini-LP By Night, and EPs And Here's "Music for the Fireside and Made Up In Blue, and singles from the first half-decade of the band, and then seasoning with some demos, Compiletely Bats is essential for any fan of the band.  A bit scrappy and lo-fi compared to their later work, it demonstrates the development of The Bats and, it seems to me, underscores their sense of humor.  And check out "Made Up In Blue" and "Mad On You" below, as they are among the best songs in The Bats' catalog.  This album also is in vinyl with a digital download.


The Law of Things -- After the release of Daddy's Highway The Bats took one of their breaks, and Robert Scott joined up with his mates in The Clean.  However, by 1990 The Bats had recorded their second full length album, The Law of Things.  It must be said that their was nothing particularly different from the first album, but I'd be the last person to fault a band for having the good sense to continue doing something that they do sublimely well.  Moreover, close listening suggests to me that there are some developments.  The vocals seem more assured and higher in the mix, and some ragged ends have been snipped.  While some pacier songs are in the mix, the vibe seems less urgent than Daddy's Highway, making for a distinctly different listening experience than its predecessor, but nevertheless a very rewarding experience.  If you would like a suggested use, I'll mention that this is one of my favorite late night albums.


So there you are: The early history of The Bats on vinyl with digital download.  If I had decided to invent a better re-issue package to take to a desert island, I couldn't have done a better job.  Check out the commercial details at this link:  Captured Tracks page for releases.

Facebook for The Bats
The Bats' website

RIP: Steve Ruppenthal (The Popes, Chapel Hill NC)

The Popes at their 2012 reunion, Steve Ruppenthal on far right 
Chances are you've not heard of Steve Ruppenthal or his tremendous Chapel Hill power pop band from the late '80's-early '90's, The Popes (no relation to and around long before Shane McGowan's band of the same name). Though our regular readers here at WYMA who love Guided by Voices, The Bats, Centro-Matic and the many power pop bands we cover here would certainly appreciate the EP Hi We're The Popes.

Ruppenthal drowned last Friday off the North Carolina coast.  This news has made me very sad, though brought back some fond memories too. 

I moved to Chapel Hill in 1988 just when Hi We're The Popes was released. I was so enthralled with that local Chapel Hill- Raleigh scene, I started writing about music for The Spectator and The Independent weekly. The Popes were one of the first bands I championed, and I went to every show of theirs I possibly could.

Thinking back on it all now,  of all the bands and great talent that was around during my time there (1988-93) - Flat Duo Jets, The Connells, The Woods, The Veldt, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, Polvo, Snatches of Pink (Michael Rank), Majosha (Ben Folds), Queen Sarah Saturday (Johnny Irion), etc. - the band I was the most staunchly loyal to and captured by was The Popes. They were the underdogs, the most modest, tried so hard, and put on the best live shows.      

Ruppenthal shared writing, singing and guitar duties with John Elderkin, and the two complemented each other extremely effectively, and together churned out intelligent 3 minute melodic gems that merged first generation British Invasion (especially The Kinks) with the Clash, Buzzcocks and XTC. But they made it their own, seen through the eyes of Southern college students, not sounding particularly like R.E.M. or The Connells, but coming from a similar place generally, another winning take on Big Star's basic approach if you will.

What set The Popes apart for me was their unabashed spirit and the sheer joy that came through the music. R.E.M. were once famously described as "The Ramones pistol-whipping the Byrds", so by that frame, The Popes were the early Clash pistol-whipping The Kinks. Ruppenthal was an encyclopedic rock'n'roll fan with great taste and a keen sense of humor. Their shows were a total blast. Ruppenthal and Elderkin were the nicest guys in a town full of them, and always remarkably appreciative of anything I ever wrote about them.

When R.E.M. hit it big and big record companies (still very fat and happy at that time) descended on Southern college towns looking for bands to sign, The Popes were on their radar and soon lost years on near deals, never released recordings, broken promises, and you know the story. And before you know it, the A&R types packed up and headed out to Seattle, and the Popes bouncy post-punk sounded out of step with the grunge of the day. The Popes window closed before it opened.  And they were just a few years before another Chapel Hill power pop-punk band, Superhchunk, figured out you that didn't need or even want a big record company.

Ruppenthal later relocated to the Washington DC area and formed other bands, notably The Public Good.  He never stopped loving music, being a fan, and being a great friend to the many people who have turned out in droves on Facebook and various mediums to praise him this week. And the most knowledgable music writers, club owners, and members of other bands in North Carolina have been speaking with great emotion about how much The Popes meant to them.

You can listen to Hi We're The Popes here and I insist that you do. That's Steve Ruppenthal singing lead on "Charmless". If you'd have come to a party at my house in 1989, you'd have heard "Charmless" before now:

We'll close with this beautiful eulogy from Steve Ruppenthal's dear friend and musical partner John Elderkin:

A note for Steve.
Steve's best songs are his funny and angry responses to the outside world, the world outside our bands, demanding things from him he has no intention of handing over—learning clever pick-up lines, getting a good tan, settling for a quiet life. My best are apologies to the world for never quite having the right stuff, otherwise I’d gladly comply. All the songs on “Hi” work that way, on and on through the final Public Good songs. That back and forth is what made our music go, I think.

I’ve thought about writing a song about my friendship with Steve, but I can’t see pulling it off without self-indulging in a “Edmund Fitzgerald” or “American Pie” style opus, maybe even a song so long it’d take up an entire album side, like the old Yes songs he despised. Steve wanted 2 minutes 30 seconds tops. Get in, get out, play the next song.

If I went ahead and tried writing a song anyhow, I’d definitely start out in the present. Get the listener right in the moment. I’ve been traveling since I got the news, and since then I’ve lost my wallet, left behind my quarterly supply of insulin, misplaced my blood monitor, and just today forgot my poor dog’s old bed when I left town. That’d be sharp—some solid lines to show where my head is. Then maybe I’d finish with the happy note that I’m obeying speed limits and have had no trouble with the cops while license-free. 

A second verse might give a run-down of our first meeting, when we argued Beatles v. Stones. Me Beatles, him Stones. This would be a good set-up for a possible later verse, placed in the last couple of years, when Steve disowned the Stones at the same time I was championing them. Haw haw.

We’re two verses in so I’d need a chorus here. This has been vexing me. If the rest of the song is bittersweet, the chorus should address our super-tight sense of humor. Some example of the caustic, doofus, private jokes that ran between us for 35 years. Most are inappropriate for radio listeners… I will leave this as a placeholder and mull.

Next verse: a teenage ride through Charlotte, taking all day to check out new arrivals at record stores, then hitting all the guitar shops the next day. 

Verse four: At the beach with our pack (to borrow Bill Trosch's phrase), Steve refusing to leave the beer-pong table to get even five minutes of sun.

Time for the chorus again. I am still mulling.

Next verse. If I can make it fit, I’d like to put in an episode with the Popes’ famous, giant double-headed dong, the size of a man’s arm, about how I discovered it picked up newsprint like Silly Putty, and how Steve sometimes came to the kitchen in the mornings to find me reading the news off the dong at the table, section by section, and how that’d set him off into hysterics.

If that’s too complicated to fit into a verse, then instead a few lines about how, during my months-long obsession with “The Executioner’s Song,” Steve told me seriously he’d move out of the Popes house if I didn’t shut up about it, so I drew pictures instead. He declared that a compromise he could live with but totally ignored my stick-figure art.

What the hell, I’d use both of these sections and knock out two verses that way. Like I said, this is bound to be long.

Back to the chorus, which I’ll definitely work on, later, for sure.

After all that, best to shake up the structure and subject matter with a break or a bridge. Surprise and delight the listener—that’s the goal. In this case, I’d keep it real and sing that we had some ugly battles, some of them downright mean, but hey, on the bright side, we only had one serious fistfight and that ended in a draw. Equals! (That’s pretty good. If I remain stuck, I might make this the chorus.)

Here I’d throw in a sweet major 7th chord, something Steve taught me, something we might’ve used better over time than anyone else, ever.

We’re nearing “Hey Jude” length by now, but if the melody is decent people will stick with it. And a few more verses are in order, starting with a scene from our Lovely Lads recordings. Steve sang all those songs and asked me to take over all the guitar leads, no matter who wrote what. A big change for us, and I still remember watching him sing my songs in the studio, “Daytime All Around” in particular, and feeling thwacked like a frying pan to my face. I’d have cried if I hadn’t been embarrassed. Steve and his force of personality. Incredible.

One last verse, because it’s related—a few lines about struggling with singing in the studio one afternoon with The Public Good, and Chris Garges defusing that by saying nonchalantly that Steve and I sang like brothers, which came because of shared DNA… didn’t we know that’s how great we sounded?

Finally, back to the chorus. That missing chorus. Something funny but family friendly. Or not. I just don’t know. If Steve were around, I’d pitch him the song as is and ask him to help plug the hole.

Speaking of filling holes, with a song this long there’s no reason to forego an outro. People will either be wanting even more at this point, or they’ll have switched over to “Inna Gadda Da Vida” by now. 

Here’s my outro: For the last few days I’ve walked around feeling like a chunk of the sky is missing overhead. Not a hole in my life, but a great big chunk of the sky torn out – the cloudy part with the light rain. The part that would cause Steve to look up and declare, “Ah, yes. It’s gonna be a beautiful day.”

-John E.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

REVIEW: The Zebras - Siesta

Siesta, the third album from The Zebras, is a guitar pop delight from beginning to end.  If you sample it without knowing anything about the band you might nod knowingly and conclude that jangling tunes like this must originate in Scandinavia, the more melodic side of some Glasgow street, or perhaps Brighton.  However, The Zebras list their home as Melbourne, Australia, so score another victory for the land down under.

The songwriting here is first class, with the sort of breath-catching hooks you expect form the best in this genre.  But nevertheless, the tunesmithing here is forced to share the honors with soaring male/female vocals and a driving rhythm section.  Most of the tracks are fast-paced and bouncy, perfect for a summer session in the sun or a drive to the beach.  But the band gets the emotional weight spot-on for the handful of slower numbers as well.  The only reason to not get this album would be if you aren't in a good place to fall in love with a set of songs, because there really is no other reason.

Siesta is out now on CD and vinyl via Jigsaw Records (Australian fans can buy it at Lost and Lonesome Recording Co.).

The Zebras herd is Jeremy Cole, Edwina Ewins, Lachlan Franklin, Katie Geppert and Dave Rose.

Jigsaw Records
Jigsaw Records' Bandcamp page for Siesta
Lost and Lonesome Recording Co.

"Demonstration" by Alan Smithee, free download

We introduced Scottish band Alan Smithee here a few months ago via their "Snooze" single on the Flowers in the Dustbin label (here).  They are back with Demonstration, a two track single consisting of "Alan Smithee" and "Sonic".  The first track is a woozy bit of psychedelia that picks up some garage rock muscle just as you expect the song to be winding down.  "Sonic" seems to me to be a post punk tune deconstructed and artfully and deliberately assembled not quite according to traditional expectations.  It all is interesting stuff with a great promise for the future.  Moreover, it is free at the Bandcamp link.

Alan Smithee is Andrew Burns (vocals/guitar), Ruaridh Macpherson (guitar/vocals), Ryan Macpherson (bass), and Joe White (drums).  Demonstration is out now via Glasgow's Flowers in the Dustbin label.

Bandcamp for record
Flowers in the Dustbin

Monday, June 23, 2014

"New Name Blues"/"Lonely Life" from Dick Diver

One certain way to brighten my day is to tell me that there is a new release from Melbourne's Dick Diver.  Of course, none of you did that, so no credit goes your way.  But I found out anyway, so I'm a happy guy.  Moreover, I'm a happy guy who is willing to share.  The record is a two-track single "New Name Blues" with B-side "Lonely Life".  These are the first songs since Calendar Days, Dick Diver's 2013 LP on Chapter Music which regular readers might recall headed my list of best albums for the year (review2013 list).  This also is the first official US release for the band, via Fruits and Flowers Records.

The A-side presents as a relaxed pop song, and devolves into a dreamy jam.  Close your eyes, open your ears and you cans see a kaleidoscope of colors.  However, the subject is serious -- the treatment of Australia's Aboriginal people.  In my view, Dick Diver's art is sublime.  But the art goes to the next level with the infusion of a serious and well articulated point of view.  The B-side, "Lonely Life", is a cover of a '80s song by Colourful Stone.  I think the vocals on the first track are by Al Monfort, and on the second by Rupert Edwards with an assist from Steph Hughes, but that's a guess.  The other member of Dick Diver is guitarist Al McKay.  The album art for "New Name Blues"/"Lonely Life" is by Steph Hughes.

Stream the single here --

Bandcamp for single
Fruits and Flowers Records

"With Roses" by The Walking Who

In recent years we have seen a number of bands from Australia display a great feel for psychedelic rock.  A new name you might want to add to that illustrious roster is The Walking Who.  The Sydney trio of Robin Brown, Paul Mclean and Jay Drury already have one EP to their credit and are working on a second.  In their touring lives they have shared the stage with The Drones, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Delta Riggs and Dappled Cities.  You can hear some of their earlier songs at their website and Soundcloud pages.  However, their new single, "With Roses" is our first chance to listen to their new sounds.  To my ears, it is deeply psychedelic and has a harder edge than some of their past songs.  I think it is a very good track, and you can test it for yourself below.


REVIEW: The Crush - Future Blimps

We always have the interests of you, the reader, foremost in our minds.  Well, after beer.  And food.  Oh, and sex, because the love you get is equal to the love you make, or something like that.  Anyway, we think about all of you.  And we think that you deserve some good new power pop to start the week.  After searching far and wide, the choice is from my own back yard -- Seattle's The Crush.  The trio is Kira Wilson (vocals/bass), Daniel Cutting (drums/guitar) and Jacob Thiede (guitar),  Yes, indeed, a female-fronted power pop band with garage rock influences that appear to extend back to the '60s.  Their new EP was just released, and it is a good one.

Future Blimps starts out with the sneering garage rock of "Never Gonna Stop" -- hooks and attitude in perfect measure.  "Around" brings the power pop jangle to the fore.  The itinerary leads back to the garage with chunky riffs on "Better and Better", then closes with the buoyant power pop of "It's Love" and "Nothing to Lose".  The Crush has a lot of talent and a knack for writing entertaining songs.  And you have to love their pricing strategy:  Five songs for three dollars undercuts the competition (OK, maybe having a dog for a manager isn't the right strategy going forward).  We hope they make it up on volume -- give them a hand!

Bandcamp for Future Blimps

REVIEW: The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Revelation

I suppose nearly all of you know the story of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who played their first show in San Francisco in 1988 and have now released Revelation, their 14th LP,  their legacy documented in the widely viewed and critically acclaimed documentary Dig!.

Actually however, Dig! paints a fairly narrow and almost cartoonish picture that hardly does the remarkable output and quality of The Brian Jonestown Massacre justice. Which is not to say that Anton Newcombe didn't at times do his best to play into the image of an erratic, drug-addicted madman. However, Newcombe gets the last laugh here - go back to the Alternative Rock charts of 1996 and BJM's Take It From The Man era when the band caught America's attention and you'll discover that nearly every other band on those charts is no longer around, while BJM continue to not only exist but create work of consequence.
Now sober for 4 years, married, with a child, and living peacefully in Berlin where he has his own studio and has started his own record company (A Recordings Ltd.), Newcombe appears to be in a good place and the music on Revelation reflects that.

The 13 songs on Revelation refine though do not reinvent the terrific psychedelia and highly compelling rock'n'roll that BJM has churned out for 20+ years now. Overall, the songs reflect a beauty and peacefulness that one might not associate with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, with a nearly cinematic expanse, compelling trance-like rhythms and, as always, great guitar sounds.  The band's layered guitar approach is greatly aided by the relatively recent return to the fold of both Matt Hollywood and Ricky Maymi, BJM's revolving door membership swinging in the right way these days.    

Let's listen to "What You Isn't":
My favorite track here is the opening one, "Vad Hande Med Dem", sung in Swedish by guest Joachim Alhund from Les Big Byrds, a band on Newcombe's new label A Recordings Ltd. The track combines some classic BJM psych rock guitar sounds with driving rhythm tracks, coming off to me like what the Velvet Underground or Luna might sound like if they were a young band just starting out in 2014. Fantastic video too:

Longtime BJM fans will especially enjoy the kick ass rock'n'roll of "Xibaldi", followed by the album's trance rock closer, "Goodbye (Butterfly)":
Long live The Brian Jonestown Massacre. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

REVIEW: Radio Moscow - Magical Dirt

Radio Moscow is an Iowa power trio - Parker Griggs on vocals and guitar, Anthony Meier on bass and Paul Marrone on drums - playing an alternatively pounding and soaring heavy, blues-inspired psychedelic guitar rock. They're young - the blues, Hendrix and Cream records they make me think of probably belonged to their grandparents - but have talent and a command of this material that would be impressive in someone who had been jamming the blues for 30 years. Griggs has a strong voice that dominates the sound once he joins in, but all the tracks have long, drum/bass/guitar heavy intros and plenty of guitar solos. This is not post-punk, it's not post-anything. It's rock for rock's sake, by a band who knows exactly what they want to do and has continued to improve their ability to do it.

We recently posted "These Days", a new track from Magical Dirt (WYMA post here), and now the album is available (out June 17 on Alive/Naturalsound). This is their fourth* album on Alive, and their heaviest, and best, yet. Here's "Death of a Queen" - which sounds to me like the most Hendrix-inspired track on here:

The album is out now and, if you are a fan of hard rock and heavy guitar sounds, don't miss it. In the words of Jack Black, just put it on and let it melt your face. You'll thank me.

*[EDIT: Magical Dirt is their FOURTH studio album for Alive/Naturalsound. There's the self-titled debut - produced by Dan Auerbach, etc, there's Brain Waves, there's The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz- WYMA review here - and then Magical Dirt. If you're missing one, you're in for a treat.]

Radio Moscow website
Alive/Naturalsound Records

NEW SONG: Gemma Ray - "Shake Baby Shake"

Gemma Ray is a British chanteuse, currently living in Berlin. She has released a free download of "Shake Baby Shake" off her upcoming album Milk For Your Motors, which will be out 8/26 via Bronze Rat Records. You can download the track at her website in exchange for your email address - how else are you gonna know when the album comes out? I'm a fan of the sound, and specifically the way this song is put together. Her breathy vocal over that guitar reverb is a nice contrast, and the transitions into the chorus, and later the orchestral parts, are just about perfectly done:

Here's an in-studio performance of the tune:

Gemma Ray website
Gemma Ray at Bronze Rat Records

Friday, June 20, 2014

REVIEW: Jim Mize - Jim Mize

Jim Mize is a guy who's been a songwriter and part-time rock and roll singer for years, an Arkansas singer/songwriter who's apparently now, at 57, ready to become a full-time musician. He's had songs recorded (his "Let's Go Runnin'" was recorded by Blue Mountain on their album Dog Days), and has released three albums over the last 15 years, recorded in his spare time. But he never fully abandoned his career as an insurance adjuster, during which his keen perceptive powers and the time on the road gave him plenty of time to reflect, and plenty to write about. His voice is an impassioned yelp, part Tom Petty, part Springsteen and part Tom Waits.

Here's "Rabbit Hole" - a rollicking vocal workout with a ramshackle garage rock feel to the music:

There's honest emotion on this record - "This Moment With You" and "Eminence Kentucky" are frankly very pretty ballads, the latter with a Roy Orbison-meets-Memphis soul feel. And "Empty Rooms" is sort of heartbreaking, the tale of a marriage that's ended in the form of a description of the vacated house.

There's also hard rocking blues-inspired roadhouse music. With help from Fat Possum's Bruce Watson, Mize has assembled a hell of a band on this record - they raise the tempo and the temperature, and all the solos are like lightning. John Paul Keith, whose album Memphis 3AM was reviewed here, contributes some big, big guitar sounds (and what sound like some good harmony vocals) here. "Need Me Some Jesus" is a gospel-inspired rave-up, and "Eye to Eye" is good country rock with twangy guitar. The best song on the record is "I Won't Come Back Again", with its Hammond organ swells and what sounds like Mize's most inspired, desperate vocal.

Jim Mize at Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records

NEW SONG: Belgian Fog - "Before You Ever Talked"

Belgian Fog is Seattle artist Robert Dale. He may or may not be building his way to a full album, but we've gotten three tracks from him in the last year and are happy to share the latest, "Before You Ever Talked" - a slow burner with elegant electronic music that sort of bubbles along under his emotion-rich vocals. It's a striking combination:

If this is your introduction to Belgian Fog, check out the previous tracks here and here.

Rolling Stones Friday: Factory Girl

The Rolling Stones were firing on all cylinders in 1968, at their creative peak. And among the many unique moments on Beggars Banquet was "Factory Girl".  While the Stones have dabbled in country music throughout their career, "Factory Girl" is singular for them in its old time folk simplicity, drawing from both Appalachian and Irish folk traditions.

The lineup for this recording was Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards on acoustic guitar, Charlie Watts on tabla, Brian Jones on Mellotron, Rocky Dijon on conga drums, Ric Grech on fiddle/violin, with additional help from Dave Mason and Nicky Hopkins.

Here's an even more stripped down version, live from 1989:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Red, White and Blue" free from The Popguns to celebrate the World Cup

The Popguns have a free song for us to celebrate the World Cup.  "Red, White and Blue" provides you with that soundtrack for the moments before your team kicks off.  You can stream it below and download it for free at the Bandcamp link.


REVIEW: Dub Thompson - 9 Songs

The core of Dub Thompson is 19-year-olds Matt Pulos (guitar/vocals) and Evan Laffer (drums), who grew up together outside of Los Angeles.  Perhaps it is a testament to the power of the internet that in their short lives they have been exposed to so many diverse musical influences.  And it is a testament to their talent that they have been able to use those influences to create the always entertaining, and frequently exciting, 9 Songs.

The album begins with the guitar/drums noise rock of "Hayward!", which begins with belching riffs, and then adds hooky guitar.  Shouted vocals are added a few minutes in, and then the song transitions into an extended jam.  We don't wait long for the change-up, as "No Time" takes us into dub rock/reggae territory.  Next, "Epicondyles" combines an ominous bass riff, shout-sing vocals and a judicious use of space to create on of the more interesting songs on the album.  Track four is the standout tribal groove of "Dograces".  By now the listener has detected strains of Pere Ubu, Gang of Four and even The Fall here.  The emphasis is on rhythms and jagged hooks, with occasional blasts of sunlight lightening the proceedings. Tracks five and six allow the band to flex their instrumental predilections, while "Ash Wednesday" is a sleazy vamp.  Noise rock comes back in the frame in fine fashion of album closer, "Pterodactyls".  Yes, that's right -- 9 Songs consists of only eight songs, so don't make yourself crazy looking for the hidden track.

I suspect a lot of the attention on Dub Thompson will be on the potential shown here, and there is reason for that.  But I submit that 9 Songs stands on its own merit as a fun listen.

9 Songs was release on June 10 via Dead Oceans.  It was produced by Foxygen's Jonathan Rado.

Dead Oceans

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Beauty Queen of Watts" by The Moles (free download)

A few months ago we reviewed the excellent collection of material from Australian/American Richard Davies' The Moles (here).  At the time, we thought the attention to the band was solely historical.  However, we've learned that not only are The Moles touring again, but an album of new material will be released later this year.  And to coincide with The Moles' July performances in the UK, Fire Records is releasing the single "Beauty Queen of Watts"/"The Chills".  I haven't heard the B-side yet, but the jangling pop perfection of the A-side has me very excited.  Stream the joyful sounds below, and note that it is a free download.

Fire Records

Monday, June 16, 2014

REVIEW: Dignan Porch - Observatory

Let's start out with a spoiler -- Observatory may contend for inclusion of one of the top jangle pop/psychedelic albums of the year in my book.  It was created by Dignan Porch, purveyors of a sound so laid back that it is tempting to underestimate them, and I'll confess to having allowed them to drift from memory a few months after discussing their fine 2012 album Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen.  But perhaps now a reconsideration is in order, as this gang is not only talented but, I suspect, ambitious.  At least ambitious in the sense that they are willing to push the limits of their music, if not achieve world domination.  At the end of the day, however, we measure success for bands not in terms of ambition, but it terms of quality output.  And Observatory shines brightly on that scale.

To me, the secret to this album's charm is the right balance between excellent, and sincere, songwriting and a first-take feel to its performances.  Nothing is too glossy or over practiced, but it holds together enough for the quality to be evident.  One could get lost, and risk looking foolish, trying to categorize the predominant style, but being both brave and foolish, I'll venture that there is a lot of '90s guitar pop and '60s/early '70s psychedelic guitar pop with a touch of country rock.  It starts out with the pulsing, rhythm-heavy, semi-funky "Forever Unobscured", which is followed by the guitar-focused  "Deep Deep Problem".  Both tracks share a sing-along quality to the vocals which adds an element of warmth.  The third track, "Veil of Hze", is a lovely acoustic track with a mysterious vocal refrain. The fourth and fifth tracks, "No Lies" and "Between the Trees" venture into chugging guitar territory (the latter is especially nice).  Then comes one of the standout tracks, "Wait & Wait & Wait", which sounds like a California guitar pop nugget that could have been harvested from late Byrds recording sessions.  "Harshed" features a heavier, psychedelic sound.  The psychedelic feel continues through "I Plan to Come Back", but for "Dinner Tray" the band dials back to a jangling folk rock groove.  "A Warm Welcome to Hell" jangles, and "Got to Fly" adds some twang and pace to the jangle, making for one of the better tunes of the latter third of the album.  The sum of it all is a very satisfying album that should command your time as you relax this summer.

Dignan Porch started as a solo bedroom project of founder Joseph Walsh, and still adheres to the DIY ethos.  In addition to Joseph Walsh, the members are Sam Walsh (lead guitar), Ben Goodwin (bass), and Hayley Akins (keys, vocals).  The drums on the album were played by Luke Walsh, who also is a member of Old Forest.  The drums for live performances currently are played by Philippa Bloomfield.

Observatory is available today in digital and vinyl formats via Brighton label Faux Discx.

Bandcamp for album
Faux Discx

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Car" by JUNK

It probably isn't unusual to hear your friends say that there is a lot of the music on the airwaves these days is junk.  But it hasn't been junk like JUNK.  This JUNK is lo-fi, jangly, a bit poppy and a bit punky.  Following up on their excellent jangling pop rush "All I Really Wanna Do (Is Baby Get Drunk With You)" -- for which we have provided a stream and a link to a download (yes, I know, we really are wonderful people here at WYMA), the band has gone semi-professional and is preparing to release the four-track Car EP in early July.  The lead track is here for your ears to taste.

JUNK are Estella Adeyeri (vocals, guitar), Sam Coates (vocals, guitar), and Danny Barton (drums), and they are from York, UK.  The Car EP will be released by CHUD Records.

This track is a free download here.

CHUD Records (Facebook)

NEW SONG: Tussilago - "Say Hello"

Tussilago is a Swedish band playing psychedelic, languid, reverb-heavy guitar rock. Not only is the music intriguing, the vocals are well-produced and the lead singer has a warm, full baritone which sort of adds to the musical interest.

The band consists of Pierre Riddez, Rickard Renström, Samuel Lundin and Zacharias Zachrisson, and they formed in 2011. They cite inspiration in bands like Dungen, The Doors, Fela Kuti and Deerhunter - a pretty wide swath of influences, and that sort of informs the breadth of their cinematic sound. Washes of keyboards, with some very pretty plucked guitar lines, eventually (over about the last 1:00 or so) opening up into a full-on guitar attack. In addition to their claimed influences, I'd also recommend this if you like Tame Impala.

Here's an earlier track, "Farewell" - an instrumental even more languid and measured than "Say Hello", it's every bit as beautiful, with a space-inspired fadeout at the end:

They promise an album in the fall, on their label, Stockholm-based Ingrid... something to look forward to. More at their links below.

Ingrid Records

Friday, June 13, 2014

Courtney Barnett is touring North America

Young Melbourne musical storyteller Courtney Barnett put out one of my favorite albums last year (review here), The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.  Released by Milk Records in Australia, Marathon Artists in the UK and Mom + Pop in the US, I highly recommend it.  Courtney and her band are in the beginning stages of a North American tour.  I've provided the dates and venues below, and here are a couple of live clips recorded recently in New York.  If she's in your neighborhood this summer, drop in and say hello.

06.12.14 - Georgia Theatre - Athens, GA *
06.14.14 - Music Hall Of Williamsburg - Northside Festival - Brooklyn, NY **
06.15.14 - The Surf Lodge - Montauk, NY
06.17.14 - Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY **
06.18.14 - The Sinclair - Cambridge, MA **
06.19.14 - Firefly Festival - Dover, DE
06.20.14 - 06.22.14 - Silver Dollar - NXNE Festival - Toronto, ON
06.24.14 - Varsity Theater - Minneapolis, MN **
07.01.14 - Larimer Lounge - Denver, CO ^^
07.02.14 - Urban Lounge - Salt Lake City, UT ^^
07.04.14 - Fortune Sound Club - Vancouver, BC ^^
07.05.14 - Neptune - Seattle, WA ^
07.07.14 - The Triple Door - Seattle, WA
07.30.14 - Schubas Tavern - Chicago, IL
08.01.14 - Lollapalooza - Chicago, IL
08.02.14 - Osheaga Festival - Montreal, QC
08.03.14 - Pickathon Festival - Happy Valley, OR 
08.07.14 - Casbah - San Diego, CA
08.08.14 - Pappy and Harriets - Pioneertown, CA
08.08.14 - 08.10.14 - Outside Lands Festival - San Francisco, CA 
11.07.14 - Fun Fun Fun Fest - Austin, TX

* w/ Phosphorescent
** w/ Benjamin Booker
^ w/ Sharon Van Etten
^^ w/ Your Friend

Mom + Pop
Marathon Artists

NEW SONG: Princess - "Neverlook"

Princess is a Dublin band playing a style of guitar rock that leans toward shoegaze, with plenty of electronic sounds along with noisy guitars. They recently opened for Cloud Nothings on that band's Irish tour, and have a new track to share, "Neverlook":

Heavy drum and bass lines anchor the tune, and the wall of treated guitar sounds take it to another level. This is a treat for fans of MBV, Deerhunter... guitar rock generally, and I note some similarities to another band we've enjoyed and featured recently - The Cheatahs. The tune ends wonderfully in a squall of guitar feedback that fades into the background... leave 'em wanting more, right? No specific news about an album yet, but surely that is in the works - we'll hopefully have more music from them to share soon. Tour info is available via their Facebook and Twitter, links below.

Facebook page

Rolling Stones Friday: Loving Cup

This every Friday feature started in 2011 with a weekly post called the Soul Corner featuring a classic soul song. This week we'll knit both the Soul Corner and Rolling Stones Friday together.

The Rolling Stones were as good of students of soul music as the rock world ever produced. But they weren't slaves to the genre and reinterpreted it, mixed in blues, rock and country and made it their own. And few songs demonstrated their magic touch better than "Loving Cup" recorded in Los Angeles in 1971-72 for Exile On Main Street.

"Loving Cup" is as good a country soul track as I can think of -- Keith Richards' chiming acoustic guitars and Nicky Hopkins' rocking piano carrying the melody, Charlie Watts turning it loose on the drums, while Mick Jagger's affected Southern drawl channels the influence of Gram Parsons, the band's friend and muse of the time. The track picks up steam and throws it into 5th gear for a rollicking finish accentuated by the horns of Bobby Keys and Jim Price.

Here's a terrific video of some 1972 live footage with the Stones playing over a partially recorded track (hints: Nicky Hopkins isn't there but his piano track is intact, while Mick Taylor who reportedly did not play on the recorded version is there):

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Introducing: Los Tones

Just a warning -- handling this garage rock may result in grease under your fingernails and oil on your jeans.  I expect you'll enjoy every minute of it however.  I certainly did.  It has the '60s retro roll, the vocal sneer and all of the take it or leave it attitude you covet but can't buy.

Los Tones are from Sydney.  Their latest single is "Ordinary Man", and I highly recommend it.  You can check out old releases at the Bandcamp link below.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Hideaway" by Cloud Boat

Cloud Boat, a UK electronic/pop duo, received well-deserved acclaim for their 2013 debut Book Of Hours.  Their follow up -- Model Of You -- will be available on July 8 via Apollo Records  "Carmine" was shared recently (video here on NPR), and now they have release "Hideaway".  It suggests that the sophomore release will be wider in scope and more deeply textured than the debut.  And it suggests that it will be very good.

Cloud Boat are Sam Ricketts and Tom Clarke.

R&S Records

REVIEW: I Saved Latin! (Wes Anderson Tribute album)

American Laundromat Records is known for its inspired collections of theme-related covers - a full album of Cure covers, a collection of women artists covering Neil Young (to name a few). ALR has come up with what I think is the best one yet. The theme is music from Wes Anderson's films - and if you're a fan of those films, you know that part of the fun is hearing tracks like The Creation's "Making Time", placed perfectly in a scene. Those tracks become an inextricable part of the story. The best example I can think of is "They'll never catch me, man - 'cause I'm fuckin' innocent" leading into the sweet Stones anthem "2000 Man". But of course there are dozens more, and the artists on this collection do a great job, some hewing close to the originals, others varying from them, but all drawing some inspiration from Anderson's work (not to mention that of Mark Mothersbaugh). In films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, pivotal scenes are impossible to envision without the music that illuminates them.

Here's what I think is the best track on the album, and one of the best songs in any Wes Anderson movie, The Creation's "Making Time" reimagined by WYMA favorites The Generationals (from Rushmore):

And here is a haunting cover of The Kinks' "Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" by The Solvents (also from Rushmore):

Tele Novella does a fascinating take on the Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says" (from The Royal Tenenbaums)- instead of Lou Reed's world-weary vocal, the beautiful lead vocal of Natalie Gordon (also of Agent Ribbons) makes the effect of the lyrics even more immediate:

Oh, okay, one more - "Ziggy Stardust" by Margot and the Nuclear So-and-So's (from The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou):

The album is out now (released May 13), and it contains 19 more tracks, including instrumental interludes like "Margaret Yang's Theme" by Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, as well as more Stones covers ("I Am Waiting" sung by Jesse Sykes, "Play With Fire" by Elk City, and "Street Fighting Man" by Mike Watt and the Secondmen) and, really, too many to name. Oh - Jackson Browne's "These Days" is beautifully covered by Matt Pond PA with Laura Stevenson.

Disc 1
1. Margaret Yang's Theme - Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin [1:19]
2. A Quick One While He’s Away - Saint Motel [2:57]
3. These Days - Matt Pond (feat. Laura Stevenson & Chris Hansen) [3:47]
4. Let Her Dance - Freelance Whales [2:10]
5. I Am Waiting - Tomo Nakayama (feat. Jesse Sykes) [3:05]
6. The Wind - William Fitzsimmons [1:57]
7. Needle In The Hay - Juliana Hatfield [4:13]
8. Making Time - Generationals [3:34]
9. The Way I Feel Inside - PHOX [1:44]
10. This Time Tomorrow - Telekinesis [3:18]
11. Strangers - Escondido [4:08]

Disc 2
1. Alone Again Or - Sara Lov [3:26]
2. Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrin' Bout That Girl - Solvents [4:00]
3. Here Comes My Baby - Tea Cozies [2:36]
4. Fly - Kristin Hersh [3:16]
5. Ziggy Stardust - Margot & the Nuclear So and So's [3:06]
6. Play with Fire - Elk City [3:29]
7. Stephanie Says - Tele Novella [2:49]
8. Oh Yoko - The Ghost In You [4:56]
9. Fairest Of The Seasons - Trespassers William [4:58]
10. 30 Century Man - Tomten [2:08]
11. Street Fighting Man - Mike Watt & The Secondmen [3:41]
12. Five Years - Santah [4:32]

This is a tremendous accomplishment, and it makes the anticipation for American Laundromat's next compilation even higher. Additionally, at the ALR store where you can buy the album (and get a look at the others), there's enough Wes Anderson-related material to keep you in the money at hipster bingo for months.

American Laundromat Records

REVIEW: Deathcats - All Hail Deathcats

Not that I'd want to do so, but I don't think it would be productive to tell Deathcats to quiet down.  These guys are noisy and that's just the way they are.  So the question is, 'good noise, or bad noise?'  Well, that probably is the easiest question I'll field this week.  All Hail Deathcats is surf-tinged garage rock -- intense, loud, fast and fun.  The trio is from Glasgow, but you can more easily visualize them in a California garage as the sun sets on another day of surfing or skateboarding and the kegs are tapped.  I don't know whether Ty Segall or John Dwyer have weighed in on these guys, but I think they'd be fans.

And while the overall sheen is fun, this is seriously good songwriting.  At the core of each track is a gem of a pop song, then the band dresses it up for performance.  The hardcore rumble and psychedelic flourishes whip in like the white foam on the top of waves, but the chorus of oohhs and aahhs and the concise running time ensures that each song makes its simple statement and avoids the danger of over-exposure.   The tracks I've selected to profile here give you a sense of the range of the band.  "Danny Dyer" could be on the soundtrack of a late '60s movie about the underground drug party scene in the surf community.  Slightly sugar-coated garage pop is on order with "Dreamz".  "Alligator" is a swaggering slice of Detroit garage rock, while the band's early surf/garage roots shine on "Saturday Night Golden Retriever".  And if you want a dose of bluesy psychedelia, go to the Bandcamp page and spin the closing track, "Troll Troll".  The really good thing about this album is that is sounds better every time I listen to it.

All Hail Deathcats is available in digital form and vinyl from Glasgow's Fuzzkill Records.  You can order either at the Bandcamp link below.  The songs were written by Deathcat James McGarragle and performed by the three Deathcats.  The album was recorded at Glasgow's Green Door Studio.

Deathcats on Facebook
Fuzzkill Records