Thursday, July 31, 2014

REVIEW: Flashlights - Bummer Summer

Flashlights are a delightful indie guitar rock band from Brevard County, Florida, playing an uptempo style that is simultaneously nervous and relaxing, fast and slow, quiet and loud... qualities that define the best of the lo-fi indie rock inspired by 90's bands like Sebadoh and Guided by Voices. The band began as a solo acoustic project for 24-year-old singer/guitarist Terry Caudill in 2007, and since has added various members from the local punk scene before settling on their current lineup of Ian Turner-Sanders on guitar, Will Powell on bass and Melissa Hopkins on drums. They call to mind such WYMA favorites as The Henry Clay People and (fellow Floridians) Human Television, what with Caudill's cracking voice, the simple arrangements and the urgently strummed, often jangly electric guitars.

Here's a video they made of "Failure":

It's a great-sounding song about some very sad stuff - heartbreak, a bad relationship gone even worse:

"...Your nails are made
of glass, cutting up my heart into pieces. Talking to myself
when yesterday's repeating. I can't go on like this.

Fall apart just to recollect that I'm a failure.
All the moments I spent with you, what was it all for?
I break my fucking back day after day and that's what hurts.
You got me on my knees."

Here's a video for the second track, a previously-released single, "Don't Take Me Seriously":

And I think the flourish of guitars on "All Cats Are Beautiful" is just terrific - beautiful in itself:

The album was produced by Scott Hutchison and Andy Monaghan of Frightened Rabbit and among the influences they claim are Archers of Loaf, Superchunk and Built to Spill. I hear bits of all those, as well as Frightened Rabbit. It's certainly an interesting intersection of sounds, but you should know that it's much easier on the ears than all that sad-sack lyrical content might suggest. That's not unusual, really, but it seemed worth mentioning. The guitars, especially, have a diaphanous, sort of jewel-like quality to them - something that's prettier the more you listen.

Bummer Summer is out now (June 24th) on Hard Rock Records and they're on tour throughout August and into the fall - dates (as well as a free MP3) available at their website. This is one of the nicest surprises I've had this summer - it came out of nowhere and in an unassuming way just sort of took over my stereo for a while.

Flashlights website

"Don't Marry the One You Love" from Laura Jean

"Don't Marry the One You Love" is the next single (and a public service announcement) from the upcoming self-titled album from Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Laura Jean.  The album, her fourth, will be released via Chapter Music on August 22, but this song is available now via the Bandcamp link below.  I think that Laura Jean's notable attributes include a wonderful voice, excellent songwriting and perfectly nuanced delivery, and this song is perfect example.

Bandcamp for single
Chapter Music

"3AM Coke Dream" from Teardrop Factory, album in September

Tina  Muat and Andy Ward, who record and perform as Teardrop Factory, caught our attention last year with their excellent Topshop EP (review here).  The Brighton-based duo will be releasing their debut LP. Thrash in the Heart, September 15 on the Faux Discx label.  Our first taste is available now in the form of "3AM Coke Dream".  The track reveals the band's lo-fi, DIY ethic (recorded in the bathroom) coupled with a good ear for an infectious melody and well-placed hook.  This is '90s guitar and drum explosions with a subversively pop core.  Enjoy!

Pre-Order link for album
Faux Discx

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Mary Jane" from Iggy & The German Kids

"Mary Jane" is an infectious summer jam that will find its way on to a number of seasonal and party playlists.  The source is Iggy & The German Kids, which is comprised of New Yorker Iggy (Ignacio Uriarte or Marshall, depending on whether one believes the website or Facebook) and production duo DTC Music Productions.  DTC are Hubertus Dahlem and Freddy Todenhofer, who are from Germany and apparently met Iggy at Munich's Oktoberfest.  Thus, the collaboration is Iggy & The German Kids.  The synergy between the producers and Iggy, who trained as an opera singer as well as mastering several instruments, seems to have found a pop music sweet spot.  A debut album is being prepared, and based on the evidence of the several tracks I've heard, I expect it to be good.

For the single, "Mary Jane" is paired with the more straightforward electro-pop song "Follow the Sun".  Both are available singly or together on Amazon and iTunes.


REVIEW: Slow Club - Complete Surrender

Slow Club is a British soul duo consisting of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor. Both are excellent vocalists and each play a variety of instruments. Since forming in Sheffield in 2006, they have released two EPs and two albums, the latest and current one being the delightfully soulful and wide-ranging Complete Surrender. From the opener, "Tears of Joy", which sounds a bit like a cross between the modern dance rock of Arcade Fire and classic 70's folk rock, to "The Pieces", a swinging, soulful combination of rock instrumentation, horns and lush vocal harmonies, the album is a joy to listen to all the way through.

Complete Surrender is, in essence, an exploration of five or six decades of radio-friendly sounds with a refreshing willingness to embrace modern (or post-modern?) production techniques that somehow makes the whole thing even better - anchored in classic soul and pop, but a few degrees off from the often-heard "retro soul" sound. Those horns, those vocal harmonies, the insistent drumbeats, it's all of a piece and makes for one of the best records you'll hear in 2014.

The vocals and guitar lines on the ballad “Not Mine To Love” are extremely well-done, classic guitar pop - nothing new, but a classic sound that is presented just about perfectly. As it should be, the song is a showcase for Rebecca Taylor's vocals. Her range and just the variety in presentation are impressive. As slow and evocative as this track is, she switches to a quicker, poppier sound on the title track and the contrast between the quickened drumbeat and the lush strings throughout the track, as well as her multi-tracked vocals in the chorus, are terrific touches.

There's a big, Motown-meets-British-soul feel to "Suffering You, Suffering Me".

Watson has a few impressive vocal turns as well, and his quiet ballad "Paraguay and Panama" provides a nice counterpoint to the lush, full pop stuff.

Giving a bit of background to what drives their sound, Watson says: “We really didn’t want it to sound ‘retro,’ but we wanted it to have that grace and sort of respect for itself. I think it’s in the playing really. A lot of those old records they’re not coated in reverb and that’s what people tend to go for. It tends to just be really amazing players that have practiced and locked in. We just tried to practice the best we could.” And that, to me, is the point of Complete Surrender and where Slow Club have succeeded. They have clearly practiced, and certainly locked in. Like so much of the big radio rock we loved in days gone by (Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, to name a few), these two are able to combine reverence and creativity in a delightful way. Take note of this record and these two musicians. They're at a very high level. The album is out now (released July 15) on Wichita Recordings.

Slow Club website
Wichita Recordings

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

REVIEW: Pale Lights - Before There Were Pictures

Before There Were Pictures is one of the best jangle pop albums of the year.  Yes, I wrote that about an album released in May to very little fanfare and, as near as I can tell, very little support from my fellow bloggers.  But after playing the album through four times after discovering it a few days ago, I don't think the opinion should be the least bit controversial.  On this album you can have a bit of Byrdsian California rock, a bit of the '80s New Zealand sound, some Rattlesnakes-era Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and Cattle and Cain-era Go-Betweens.  The product of Brooklyn's Pale Lights, which consists of Philip Sutton (guitar/vocals), formerly of Comet Gain and Soft City, Andrew Adler (lead guitar) of Crystal Stilts, Lisa Goldstein (drums/vocals) and Maria Pace (bass), it follows their fine May 2012 EP.  The jangle, rhythm, tones and vocals are all just what jangle pop fans dream of.  But you don't need to dream about it, you can have it for your very own.

Try a few my favorite tracks from the album below.  If you want to stream the entire album, you can do so at the Soundcloud or Bandcamp links.  Bandcamp also is your friend for the reasonably priced digital download.  A vinyl version also is available for those who collect such artifacts.


Introducing: Fantastic Fantastic

Somehow, while living in London, Micke and Kris of Fantastic Fantastic contrive to channel those tropical vibes that draw us all to sand and beaches, and then shape those vibes into summery electro-pop.  They released "Never Enough" a few months ago, and are back now with official single "Houses" via the 37 Adventures label.  The single includes "Houses" and "Never Enough" and is available digitally.  By the way, the great cover art is by Dutch artist Jordy Van den Niewendijk.

37 Adventures

Monday, July 28, 2014

REVIEW: Sugar Stems - Only Come Out At Night

Summer BBQs can be dangerous times for music fans.  Remember last year when Sally pouted until some manufactured pop was bouncing over the speakers?  Luke wanted everyone to give his Slovenian emo music a chance.  Cousin Hank insisted on time for his bootleg of the ACDC cover band from the wet T-shirt night at the local tavern, and Uncle George (no one quite remembers who he is related to -- how does that work anyway?) wanted real American music played by guys in cowboy hats and flannel shirts with no sleeves.  No wonder you are dreading the weekend!

Never fear, we here at WYMA are here to help.  May we suggest something that everyone might be able to agree on for the time it takes to chat a bit and eat your meal?  How about power pop with a heaping helping of girl group, some garage grease and some bubblegum holding it all together -- what a great idea!  And all this comes to you in the form of Only Come Out at Night, the new album from Milwaukee's Sugar Stems.  There is humor, anger, and a lot in-between.  On highlight track "The One" Betsy warns her date that she has no intention of being 'the one he is waiting for'; clearly no sitting around on a pedestal for this young lady.  The pace is breakneck from start to finish, and the hooks come sharp and fast And since they are from Milwaukee, it might be a good excuse to break out the bratwurst.

Sugar Stems are Betsy, Jon, Drew and Steph, with friend Andy Harris filling out the sound on the organ.  Only Come Out At Night is released by Dirtnap Records.  The band is touring now, with a few more dates in the west and then a couple in Wisconsin.  And if they are half as good live as they are on record, they may be the most fun concert you'll attend this summer.
July 28 Oakland, CA - Night Light
July 29 Riverside, CA - Mission Tobacco Lounge
July 30 Los Angeles, CA - Redwood
July 31 San Diego, CA - Ken Club
August 1 Orange County, CA - House of Blues
August 2 Phoenix, AZ - Time Out Lounge
August 8 Appleton, WI - Mile of Music
August 9 Appleton, WI - Mile of Music   

Dirtnap Records

Review: Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas "Secret Evil"

We've been all in for Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas for some time, featuring them here at WYMA a few times, from as early as June 2013. So it's an understatement to say we've been looking forward to their first full length LP, Secret Evil, to be released on August 19.

Let's cut to the chase - Jessica Hernandez is a star waiting to happen. She's a powerhouse performer, blessed with a memorable and strong voice, and charisma to burn. And the Detroit native is backed by a crack outfit who do the rock and soul traditions of that music mecca proud, yet take it in their own new direction, influenced by not only Detroit's rich musical heritage but by rockabilly, ska, and Hernandez' Mexican-Cuban-American roots, having grown up in an inner SW Detroit neighborhood known as "Mexicantown". Her family owns a popular restaurant and a bakery there. This young Detroiter embodies the new Detroit resurgence - artistic, edgy, street smart, socially conscious.

Secret Evil is a big step up for this young band compared to their early recordings. It's well produced by Argentinian Milo Froideval (won a Latin Grammy for Best Alternative Album for Ely Guerra’s Hombre Invisible), and aided by the radio-friendly mixing of veteran hit maker Richard Gottehrer, owner of Instant Records, the label releasing Secret Evil. Gottehrer produced, among many noteworthy things, the Blondie hits, and there's a similar big city toughness yet accessibility here. The use of horns throughout this CD, which the band employs live as well, is outstanding, makes the songs jump, with a nod to the great Stevie Wonder 1970's hits.

Let's start with "Caught Up", a garage-surf rocker that perviously appeared on the band's Demons EP, with a very winning video here:

"Sorry I Stole Your Man" has a similar avant-garage feel, with a hint of Latin jazz and some fantastic background vocals honoring the band's Motown lineage -- love the girl group sound in the fade out -- though sorry to say there's no audio or video available for that one yet that I can link.  That song has become a highlight of the band's live performances. Aug 5 update: USA Today posted an exclusive audio of the song right here:

Here's a link to the audio of opening track "No Place left To Hide", maybe the most pure rock song on the record:

"Tired Oak", one of the songs on Secret Evil that seems ready for commercial radio:

Hernandez' range as both a singer and artist is best reflected in a ballad here, "Cry Cry Cry" (an original song, not the Johnny Cash classic), just a beautiful vocal where she puts her big rockabilly belt-it-out gear on pause, and instead shows off her softer and higher register. Recorded version not yet available for public consumption, but here's an audio of a fine live version:

The hit here in my view, and hey aren't we all frustrated A&R geeks, is "Dead Brains", a hybrid of Detroit soul, ska, and modern dance rock, with a killer chorus. If the band catches just a little break it wouldn't surprise me to see 80,000 kids at the next Bonaroo or Coachella festival jumping up and down and singing "Your brain's gone dead, you feel no power, where's your head?" Here's an earlier version of "Dead Brains" live, acoustic, super stripped down. Pop quiz: Is there anything more Detroit than piling into a Lincoln Continental with your friends and driving around singing? (A: No).

This album reflects Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas absolutely irresistible sound and personality. As good as Secret Evil is, and it will for sure be high on my Best of 2014 list, I still sense that Jessica Hernandez' best work is ahead of her. The sky is the limit for this band. Get on this bandwagon now while there's still room.

You can pre-order Secret Evil now for just $7.99 at iTunes here.

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas Facebook page
Artist web page, tour dates etc

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Guess Work" from Free Time

US-based Melbourne native Dion Nania's Free Time very much impressed me last year with their self-titled debut (review here).  Despite spending free time lately to work as the backing band for Richard Davies' resurrection of The Moles, they are sending more good music our way with the August 19 release of a double A-side 7".  The two tracks are "Esoteric Tizz", which is said to be an energetic, up-tempo song, and the relaxed romantically focused "Guess Work".  "Esoteric Tizz" isn't available for evaluation yet, but you can enjoy "Guess Work" right here, right now.  The single will be released by Underwater Peoples, as was the debut album.  We hope that the single signifies a new album of music.

For the 7", Free Time was Dion Nania (guitar/vocals), Jonah Maurer (guitar), Mike Mimoun (drums) and Adrienne Humblet (bass).  Going forward, Eric Harm will be playing bass.

Free Time page at Underwater Peoples

Friday, July 25, 2014

"When I Fall In Love" from The School

The next installment of the wiaiwya-7777777 singles club, and the fourth for 2014, is on the horizon.  Well, the morning of August 7, to be precise.  But because these little treasures have a way of selling out, I'm bringing it to your attention now as pre-orders are available.  The single is "When I Fall In Love"/"Just Let Me Be Here" from Cardiff, Wales' The School.  Astute fans of the indie pop world may remember this band's highly praised LPs Loveless Unbeliever from 2010 and Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything from 2012.  For those of you for whom The School is a new experience, know that this is the kind of achingly sweet indie pop championed in the past by Sarah Records, and more recently by Shelflife Records and Matinee Recordings.  There are memorable melodies, jangling guitars, and winning vocals, and you can't help but feel good when you hear it.  In a way, it is medicine but with no bad side effects.  The A-side is presented below for your consideration.

Facebook for The School
Soundcloud for release
Bandcamp for release
WIAIWYA website

Rolling Stones Friday: Sway

Mick Taylor, in approx. 1971
We're going back to 1971 and Sticky Fingers to pull up an underrated favorite of mine, "Sway".

While the song is credited to Jagger-Richards like all Stones originals, Keith was MIA for this one and didn't play on it. Mick Taylor has long contended he wrote the music and Jagger the lyrics.  Taylor's slide guitar in the middle and then his solo at the finish define the song, just super tasty.

The Stones did not perform the song live with Taylor until just last year in 2013:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beach Pigs - Grom Warfare

Dahnu Graham, Daniel Kerr, Billy Robertson and Suren Unka are pigs!  Specifically, they are the Beach Pigs, from Auckland, New Zealand.  In early June they released Grom Warfare, which they say portrays two years in the life of the members of the band.  I don't know that they've been up to anything all that different from any group of young men.  But unlike most guys with whom I passed the time in my 20s, the Beach Pigs make really good guitar pop.  The guitars shimmer and jangle with a hint of garage grit, and the vocals deliver power pop harmonies.  The melodies are good, with a lot of variety, but equally impressive are the rich textures in some of the tracks, such as "Big Peach".

The Beach Pigs don't have a label, and have self-released Grom Warfare on Bandcamp.  Sure, it will cost you some money, but it is just New Zealand dollars anyway.  And think of the value of being the first guy in your group to have the original Beach Pigs album.  Priceless, yes, priceless.  I've included a few tracks and a video below, and you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.


Alvvays - Alvvays

It seems inevitable that I would fall in love with this album.  It had a few obstacles to overcome, including the fact that I hadn't previously heard of this Toronto-based band, and I am not fond of misspelled names (weird, rude and nonsensical names are just fine, of course).  But I was mollified on one of those points when I learned that a "w" was changed to two "v"s to avoid a conflict with another band named Always, and they wanted the visual similarity and insist on pronouncing Alvvays as always.  Moreover, I'd read some very positive statements about the band from sources I trust, so I gave it a chance.

And my firm conclusion is that all guitar pop fans should give this self-titled release a chance, because it is everything a good guitar pop album should be.  The hooks are infectious and plentiful.  Frontwoman Molly Rankin's vocals have the tone and emotional weight of Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura), and the power of Wendy Morgan (The Popguns).  And the arrangements are robust, fully realized, and determinedly sunny -- it is like Glasgow guitar pop on happy pills, or perhaps on a summer holiday to the coast.  You know, the themes can be melancholy and a bit sad, but that doesn't mean the music has to bring you down. There is a hint of nostalgia in some of the '60s era melodies and surfy touches, but it all has a natural and cohesive feel.

So, jangling guitars, sturdy basslines, well crafted songs with some wry humor, great melodies, and standout vocals.  It sounds like summer to me, and it sounds like a highly recommended summer album for you.

Alvvays consists of Molly Rankin, Kerri MacLellen, Alec O'Hanley, Brian Murphy and Philip MacIsaac.  Alvvays is out now via Polyvinyl.

Canadian and European fans can see Alvvays live on tour now.  The remaining dates are:
Jul 25 Guelph, ON @ Hillside Music Fest
Jul 26 Guelph, ON @ Hillside Music Fest
Aug 9 Kingston, ON @ Wolfe Island Festival
Aug 16 Montreal, QC @ La Vitrola
Oct 20 Cambridge, UK @ Junction
Oct 21 Liverpool, UK @ Kazimier
Oct 22 Dublin, Ireland @ O2 Academy
Oct 24 Birmingham, UK @ The Institute
Oct 25 Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
Oct 26 Newcastle, UK @ Riverside
Oct 28 Brighton, UK @ Komedia
Oct 29 London, UK @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Aug 5 London, UK @ Birthdays Presented by DIY Mag
Aug 6 London, UK  @ Rough Trade East

Polyvinyl Records

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Working - More Weight EP

Nineties-style noise pop (think Velocity Girl and Black Tambourine) has a permanent place in my heart, and my music collection.  So I'm always on the lookout for bands that can satisfy my appetite.  Happily, this week brings Working, a quartet from Rhode Island who has graced us with a three-track EP titled More Weight.  The EP is released in digital-only format by Shelflife Record, an outfit that repeatedly impresses us with its ear for quality indie pop.

On the More Weight EP Working demonstrates a great feel for the critical elements of the noise pop -- good melodies, sweet vocals and a wall of feedback.  Couple that with some affecting songs and you have a band to treasure.  We understand that an LP is planned for next year, but for the present this little nugget will do very nicely indeed.

The members of the band are Catherine Kolodij (vocals/gutar), John Kolodiz (drums), Mary-Kim Arnold (bass), and Matthew Derby (guitar/vocals).

Shelflife Records page for EP

REVIEW: Astronauts - Hollow Ponds

As Astronauts, former Dark Captain Dan Carney takes you on an unlikely space journey.  Rather than launch the listeners beyond the atmosphere, the new LP dares you to venture inward.  To face the dark corners, the regrets, the insecurities, as well as the hopes, strengths and dreams.  So for this one, turn down the lights, settle into a chair, put on your earphones and become immersed in the brooding, atmospheric electro-folk/pop of Hollow Ponds.  Just in time, it is raining here.

Perhaps perversely, given my introduction, the album commences with a soaring ray of light in the form of "Skydive".  Already released as a single, I think it is one of the highlight songs of the year so far.  Such moments of brightness aren't typical here, to be fair, but the emotional weight of the songs is adeptly balanced by the thoughtful acoustic instrumentation, hushed vocals, ambient electronics, intriguing rhythms and, quite notably, the judicious use of space.

The brooding begins in earnest with the contemplative "Everything's A System, Everything's A Sign".  The song is emerging as one of my favorites on the album for several reasons, but one is the delightful rhythm track.

Driven by ominous instrumentation, electro-pop track "Vampires" is one of the more up-tempo songs on Hollow Ponds.  Then the pace drops to dream state for the standout track "Flame Exchange".  Hushed vocals float on gently picked acoustic guitar and a barely-there synths to create a sadly beautiful song.

"Spanish Archer" gets the blood going again, bouncing along as perhaps the most mainstream pop song on the album.  But Carney's more melancholy purposes pull us back on the following title track.  In fact, the first third of "Hollow Ponds" is so sparsely adorned that the listener might be tempted to adjust the volume.  Patience is rewarded, however, as the beat rises and vocals drop in, resulting in a very rewarding seven minute exploration of inner emotional landscapes.  "In My Direction" continues the hushed vocals over yet another delightful rhythmic foundation.

"Try To Put It Out Of Your Mind" is the electro-pop version of a relaxing babbling brook, while "Openside" crosses the line into indie rock territory, and is the most expansive track on the record after the opening "Skydive".  The album closes with the acoustic plucking and nearly whispered musings of "Slow Days".

Hollow Ponds is an interesting and rewarding journey.  And at the end, we may all be able to call ourselves Astronauts.  The album is out now via Lo Recordings.

Lo Recordings

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Molten Gold" from The Chills

The Chills are among the stalwarts that made Dunedin, New Zealand a frequently name-checked source of great guitar pop in the '80s and '90s.  Founder, frontman and sole constant member Martin Phillipps has assembled the latest edition of the band to tour and record.  Last year they released new song "Molten Gold" only in digital format, as well as Somewhere Beautiful, an album of a live performance at a private party in 20ll (review here).  Now the glittering guitar pop of "Molten Gold" is getting a well-deserved vinyl release.   It will be paired with an re-working of the band's famed 1982 song "Pink Frost".  You can stream both tracks below.

"Molten Gold" will be released on July 29 via Fire Records on vinyl with an accompanying digital download.  Pre-orders are available now.

The Chills are Martin Phillipps (guitar/vocals), James Dickson (bass/backing vocals), Todd Knudson (drums/backing vocals), Erica Stichbury (violin/backing vocals), Oli Wilson (keys/backing vocals).

Fire Records
Fire Records pre-order page for "Molten Gold"

REVIEW: Melted Toys - Melted Toys

The usual path of musical discovery to to become familiar with a band, and then experience the side projects of its various members.  I've done things a bit backward here, as I first became aware of, and enamored with Brian Wakefield's recording project Emotional, which I covered several times in the recent past (herehere, and here).  Through Brian's project I became familiar with Melted Toys, a west coast band consisting of founders Daniel Rosado and Steven Harkins, with Brian Wakefield and Ole Haarstad.  Melted Toys' sweet spot is a hazy, lo-fi psychedelic pop that they first displayed on their 2009 Washed & Dried EP and have perfected for the new self-titled LP.  Overall, the twelve tracks on the album reveal an impressive ability to create interesting dream pop songs infused with vitality and a welcome upbeat vibe.  The sounds are a bit woozy and warped, with gentle but bright guitars and tastefully restrained synths.  The vocals blend in with, rather than ride over the top of, the instruments, which enhances the relaxed atmosphere.

If you are looking for an album to make you dance or pump your fist in the air, Melted Toys isn't the answer.  But I've been hoping for a full length from these guys for some time, and I'm very pleased with what they have wrought.  Every time I listen to it a feel peaceful and happy, and who couldn't use a big dose of that in their lives?  And looking beyond that, songs this carefully constructed suggest that we can expect more good things in the future from Melted Toys.

Melted Toys is out now via label Underwater Peoples.

Here is the video for "Observations" --

Underwater Peoples

Friday, July 18, 2014

REVIEW: Honeyblood - Honeyblood

FatCat Records is based in England, but over the years it has shown a keen eye for talent north of Hadrian's Wall.  It's catalog shows releases for The Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Frightened Rabbit, and PAWS.  And now they've scored the right to release the self-titled debut album from Glasgow duo Honeyblood.  What Shona McVicar and Stina Tweeddale offer on the album doesn't break new ground.  Female-voiced gauzy, sometimes grungy guitar pop also is available from September Girls, La Sera, Frankie Rose, Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast and others.  But I think there are several attributes that suggest that Honeyblood deserves a harder look and a chance to be in your music collection.  One is that Tweeddale's lead vocals, and the harmony provided by McVicar's contributions, are compelling.  Another is that the songwriting is very good, with plenty of punch and plenty of hooks on top of the punch.  And then there is that bit of edge to the lyrics and the delivery, that touch of Glasgow hard guy that you could get with, for example, The Shop Assistants, but not from Best Coast.  For my taste, a bit of riot girrrl in my current music is a welcome touch.

Those familiar with the band's earlier work will find the sound a bit different.  The energy and attitude remain, but the increased production budget has brought a cleaner sound.  I have no complaint about that development.  I serves to better showcase the vocals, Stina's guitar, Shona's drums, and the economical arrangements.  Moreover, the clean production doesn't blunt the attitude.  Based on the evidence of these songs, the women of Honeyblood are rambunctious and ready to give at least as good as they get.  There is a lot of velvet in their voices, but a velvet wrapped hammer is still a hammer.

Honeyblood is out now via FatCat Records.  The band is playing several shows in the eastern United States in late July, so US fans should check the band's website at the link below.

FatCat Records

Rolling Stones Friday; 2120 South Michigan Ave.

We're going way back this week, to 1964 and The Stones' 2nd US release 5 x 5. 

"2120 South Michigan Avenue" is a short instrumental jam, inspired by Chicago blues and R&B, the title being the Chicago address of the business offices and recording studio for Chess Records, home to Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and so many others. The Stones recorded the song there at the Chess studios during their first US tour.

For me, the best part is Brian Jones' harmonica playing, simply fantastic. That's Ian Stewart on keyboards, and Keith Richards playing the tremolo guitar riff.

Every band has its influences and the Stones wore theirs right there on their sleeves.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Skygreen Leopards - Family Crimes

Imagine if years ago members of New Zealand's The Bats secretly joined forces with The Byrds in a sunny California hideaway, and spent several days writing and recording.  Inspired by their surroundings, the collective produced 14 sunny guitar pop tracks in all of their ragged 'one-take' glory, and then boxed up the results and hid them away to be released in 2014.  Of course, that didn't really happen (at least, I don't know that it happened).  But Family Crimes from Skygreen Leopards could make you think that it happened.  Sun kissed, hazy and lo-fi, it gives me that pleasant blissed-out feeling that I get when I go to a picnic on a sunny summer day and drink a bit too much wine a bit too fast.  Suddenly I'm happy and affectionate, albeit not particularly focused.  So grab a bottle of chilled pinot gris, a copy of Family Crimes, a blanket or two and some friends.  There you have it -- a summer afternoon all sorted out.

This jangling nugget of good summer vibes is out now via Woodsist


RIP Johnny Winter

Blue guitarist great Johnny Winter died  yesterday in a hotel room in Zurich.  I would take every opportunity to see Johnny.  The thought in the front of my brain was, "This is probably the last time I will ever see him play."  Johnny beat the reaper for decades.  Years of alcohol and heroin abuse,  from 1980 through 2005,made Johnny a perennial top draft pick in "death pools."  Winter resumed his career 2006 after kicking multiple habits.   I saw him a couple of years ago at the 35th Reunion for Vegetable Buddies - an iconic midwest music club.  Gaunt and frail but still capable letting loose with monster licks.

 In 1968,  Winter signed a contract with a bonus of $600,000 after being "discovered" by Columbia Records executives sitting in with Mike Bloomfield ad Al Kooper at the Fillmore East.  The following Spotify playlist is Winter's 1969 major album release.


Johnny left his own indelible mark when playing other artist's originals.  Everyone has their favorite Bob Dylan cover.  My favorite is Johnny's cover of "Highway 61 Revisited' - a version so rousing that i once found myself unintentionally driving over 100mph while lost in his guitar playing.

My favorite Johnny memory is from 1981 ChicagoFest on Navy Pier.  Muddy Waters was playing the blues stage.  I had scored tix on the SS Milwaukee, an old Lake Michigan ferry, 29 feet behind and 20 feet above the stage.  It was a humid 90 degree night with the audience packed cheek to jowl.  The fist half was classic Muddy and then Johnny walked on stage.  Fire up the Enola Gay.  It went nuclear.  I recently found this recording of the concert.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"We Go On" from The Luxembourg Signal

We featured the excellent two-track Distant Drive single from London/Los Angeles project The Luxembourg Signal in late April (link here).  Today, we have for you another song, "We Go On", and a reminder that the group will release and album later this year.  Save your pennies -- we think it will be good.

Shelflife Records

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

REVIEW: Reigning Sound - Shattered

I doubt that When You Motor Away is alone in its love for a sound that combines garage rock, southern rock, and soul.  And a band that does it about as well as anyone around these days is the current iteration of Reigning Sound.  Unfamiliar with them?  The band is organized around George Cartwright, whose past projects include Detroit Cobras, Deadly Snakes, and The Oblivians.  For Shattered, the new album just released on Merge Records, Cartwright, is joined by his longtime collaborator and keyboardist Dave Amels, and Mike Catanese, Benny Trokan, and Mikey Post.  Mike, Benny and Mikey all had played with Dave in a soul band called The Jay Vons.  The combination of  players may be new, but the result, when melded with Cartwright's songwriting, is rock and roll magic.  The songs are sincere, emotionally direct and span from roadhouse rock and roll to ballads.  As appropriate, the vocals convey world-weary resoluteness and rock and roll swagger.  Moreover, the music jumps out of the speakers with a live recording vibrancy, while still leaving no doubt that the band is tight, crisp, polished and punchy.

The album opens with "North Cackalacky Girl", a rocking number with organ trills and guitar solos, Cartwright's gritty and velvet tenor and a driving beat.  The following "Never Coming Home" (stream below) emerges as one of the standout tracks, the upbeat melody carrying a story of a clear eyed view of a failed relationship.  The Reigning Sound soul revue kicks into high gear with the glorious "Falling Rain" (stream below).  Soulful, nuanced ballads "If You Gotta Leave" and "Once More" hold tracks four and six, respectively.  Those ballads sandwich one of my favorite tracks -- the forward-pushing '60s garage rock nugget "You Did Wrong", which to my ears plays like a lost early Zombies demo.  But for me, the best soul rocker on the album is "My My" (stream below), which makes me want to go for a drive with the windows down and the stereo turned up (thank you, Merge, for not releasing this album in the winter).  And to give props when due, the bass player absolutely earned his share on this song.  I think that the best of the ballads is track eight, "Starting New", as it showcases Cartwright's ability to deliver a note-perfect '70s slow burning soul song.  "Baby, It's Too Late" is rousing soul rock.  "In My Dreams" is an atmospheric, organ-driven, mid-tempo blues song.  Shattered closes with "I'm Trying (To Be the Man You Need"), an absolutely delicious soul ballad.

As news of this album trickles out, I expect that it will garner a lot of praise.  That praise will be well deserved, and you deserve this album.  Check it out.

Shattered was recorded at the Daptone studio in Brooklyn.  It is out now via Merge Records.

Merge Records page for Reigning Sound

Saturday, July 12, 2014

RIP: Thomas Erdelyi a/k/a Tommy Ramone

The last living original member of The Ramones, drummer Tommy Ramone, died of cancer yesterday.
Thomas Erdelyi was born in Budapest Hungay in 1952, his parents both Holocaust survivors. He was raised in Forest Hills, New York.  He started his music and studio career at a young age, serving as an engineer on Jimi Hendrix' Band of Gypsys record (1970).

Tommy Ramone was the glue to The Ramones, and a highly influential drummer. He was as responsible as anyone for The Ramones indelible sound, and their uncanny ability to sound primitive and incredibly precise at the same time. And he was the main writer of one of the Ramones most iconic songs "Blitzkrieg Bop", done here live in 1977, fantastic footage:

Joey Ramone was The Ramones original drummer when they first got together in 1974, and Tommy was their manager. But Tommy had to take over on drums when Joey couldn't keep pace with the increasingly fast pace of the songs they were writing, moving Joey out front to sing. Tommy left the band in 1978 (replaced by Marky Ramone), though stayed around to produce Road to Ruin and later Too Tough To Die (1984).  But The Ramones sound and legend was made on their brilliant first three records, all featuring Tommy on drums and as co-producer -- Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia.

Tommy had a long career in music, playing many instruments and styles of music, including bluegrass. But he further left his mark on rock and roll by producing one of the very best albums of the '80s, Tim by The Replacements. While so much '80's music is nearly unlistenable for its production (I'm talking to you Bruce Springsteen, and you too The Police), Tim sounds as perfect today as it did upon its release in 1985:

So The Ramones are all gone, which makes me feel both sad and old. Hard to believe every Ramone is now gone while every other member of the Rolling Stones has survived since Brian Jones' death 45 years ago.

I can't imagine any new band coming along now that would so turn everything upside down like the Ramones did in 1976, such equal parts anarchy and exuberant fun.

So we'll remember the great Tommy Ramone with one more, "Rockaway Beach", one of the greatest all time rock and roll summer songs; how this was not a top 10 hit I will never understand. Pay close attention to the drums, so perfect:

King Post Kitsch offers free sampler

Recording and performing as King Post Kitsch, Glasgow-based musician Charlie Ward has released several EPs and two albums, 2011's The Party's Over via Song by Toad Records, and this year's Sheep On A Beach via New Pleasure Recordings.  Charlie has generously created this free sampler of his music so fans and potential fans can sample his art.  Personally, I find his brand of garage rock to be raw, but intelligent and compelling.  I highly recommend that you download the sampler, and then seek out the recordings from which the songs were culled.  You may find some new favorite albums.


Friday, July 11, 2014

"One Lost Year" free from The Vaselines, new album in October

Glasgow's The Vaselines have exhibited more staying power in this century than the last.  Their much revered debut Dum Dum was released in 1989 just as the band was dissolving.  However, Eugene and Frances reformed for S With An X in 2010, and October of this year will follow up with V For Vaselines.  Always irreverent and naughty, and with a keen understanding that rock music requires the right mix of melody, noise and attitude, I'm very much looking forward to what they have cooked up for this album.

You can take the latest edition of The Vaselines out for a test drive with "One Lost Year".  They aren't kids anymore, but they haven't lost their edge.


Rolling Stones Friday: Citadel

The year was 1967 - psychedelia in full bloom, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Vietnam, a raging generation gap, chaos in Western society at many levels. Meanwhile, inside the Rolling Stones' world, there was a heavy use of psychedelic drugs, drug busts, a lack of focus, a desire to keep up with The Beatles, and the severe decline of Brian Jones as a contributing member of the band. All of which led to, what was by many reports, the very messy making of Their Satanic Majesties Request, a record that Keith Richards much later referred to as "a load of crap".

But tucked away in there is one song I put on my all time Stones underrated favorite list, "Citadel", a raging garage rocker, with one of Keith Richard's toughest and rawest guitar riffs. I love the sound of this song, a very successful experiment, completely apart from the Stones usual R&B style:  

And the lyrics were as tough as the guitar sound, foreshadowing a future dystopian world, filled with class warfare, Christian zealotry, excessive police presence, environmental destruction, and technology run amuck. Not that any of that every actually came to pass decades after 1967....

The criminally underrated UK punk band The Damned referred to "Citadel" as "the best song the Rolling Stones ever did" and themselves did this terrific cover in 1981, and frequently played it live:


Thursday, July 10, 2014

"501-415" from Allah-Las, new album in September

I found the self-titled debut from LA's psych rockers Allah-Las to be among the top albums of 2012 (review here), so I'm happy to learn that their second album, Worship the Sun, will be released in September.  In advance of that album, Innovative Leisure is releasing the single "501-415".  The record consists of the title track and a B-side instrumental "No Werewolf".  You can pre-order the single from the label, and stream the video below.

Allah-Las also are touring in support of Worship the Sun, and I've provided the dates below.  Unfortunately for the Americans in the crowd, our Canadian brethren and Europeans get nearly all of the shows this time.  I don't get it -- why play Barcelona when there probably is a good venue in Cleveland or St. Louis?

I also want to take this opportunity to again plug Reverberation Radio.  It is a weekly stream of excellent, and often obscure, pop music curated by Allah-Las and their friends.  A new stream is published every Wednesday, and I never miss one.  The link is here.

Innovative Leisure

Aug 15 - Los Angeles, CA - Echo Park Rising
Aug 23 - Ucluelet, BC - Otalith Music Festival
Aug 30 - Vancouver, BC - Nootkah Sound Festival
Sept 4 - Santa Monica, CA - Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert Series
Sep 21 - Brighton, UK - The Haunt
Sep 22 - Nottingham, UK - Bodega
Sep 24 - London, UK - Oval Space
Sep 26 - Liverpool, UK - Psych Fest  @ Camp
Sep 28 - Workman's Club - Dublin, IRE
Sep 29 - Glasgow, UK - Broadcast
Sep 30 - Edinburgh, UK - Electric Circus
Oct 2 - Sheffeild, UK - The Harley
Oct 3 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds
Oct 4 - Bristol, UK - Start The Bus
Oct 7 - Paris, FR - Badaboum
Oct 9 - Amsterdam, NL - Tolhuisuin
Oct 10 - Brussels, BE - Orangerie @ Botanique
Oct 11 - Luxembourg, LX - CarreRotondes
Oct 13 - Cologne, GER - Underground
Oct 14 - Hamburg, GER - Mojo
Oct 15 - Berlin, GER - C-Club
Oct 17 - Munich, GER - Atomic Cafe
Oct 18 - Wiesbaden, GER - Schachthof
Oct 20 - Zurich, CH - Kinski
Oct 21 - Mezzago, IT - Bloom
Oct 24 - Barcelona, SPA - Sala Apolo
Oct 25 - Madrid, SPA - Sala El Sol

REVIEW: Gingerlys - Jumprope EP

Most of us have a sweet tooth, but most of us also want to look good on the beach.  And we all know that too much candy can make that impressive set of abs turn into one, big, soft "ab", and that isn't anyone's idea of an impressive beach physique.  Since you turn to When You Motor Away for answers, our suggestion is give up real sugar for ear candy.  And may we suggest something new?  Something that has the hooks, fuzzy guitars, keyboard accents and female vocals that we associate with the finest ear candy, but from a fresh young group?  Excellent!  We suggest you try the Jumprope EP from New York's Gingerlys.  With four songs spanning bright dream pop ("Jumprope"), noise pop with jagged edges ("Summer Cramps"), propulsive C86 stylings ("Better Hearts"), and hazy summer beach pop ("Set You Off").  You can stream all of the songs below.  If I were going to choose just one, I'd choose "Better Hearts", but I really wouldn't like to choose just one.

For a band so new, the performances are satisfyingly tight, and Maria's vocals are a seductive force of nature.  The songwriting is excellent and the package from Shelflife Records is typically attractive and tasteful.  So, I assume you are interested.  Here is the tricky bit -- this record has a limited run of 300 vinyl copies (with digital download), it went on sale two days ago, and as of last night only 60 were left.  So your lo-cal ear candy problem is solved only if you can manage to hit some links.  We have confidence that this diet will work for you -- you can do it.

Gingerlys are Matt Richards (guitar), Maria Garnica (vocals, keys), Colin O'Neill (guitar), Kevin Doxsey (bass), and Brian Alvarez (drums).

Shelflife page for Jumprope EP