Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Party of the Mind" from Robert Scott, from the Adrian Borland tribute album

Adrian Borland was one of the most intriguing figures of London's punk era of the late '70s.  Literary, musically gifted, and intense, he created excellent punk and post punk music that never attained the commercial success it deserved.  His bands included The Outsiders and the Sound, and he released solo projects with various collaborators.  The excellent little Canadian label The Beautiful Music soon will be releasing There Must Be A Hole In Your Memory, a tribute to the music of the Sound and Adrian Borland.  All tracks on the album are taken from releases by the Sound or Adrian Borland, except for two tracks that are found on releases by other bands that included Borland.

I may have more on this project in the near future, but I'd like to share one of the tracks with you because if the rest of the album is as good as this, it will be worth including in your collection.  The track is "Party of the Mind", and it is performed by the inimitable Robert Scott, frontman of The Bats, bass player for The Clean, and a solo artist as well.

The list of artists and songs is below:
1. Typwrtr – Hothouse
2. Easy – Counting The Days
3. Spasmodique – Silent Air
4. 1000 Mexicans – Night Cascade 
5. Hearts Fail – Monument
6. Elliot Wheeler & Friends – Winter
7. Roy Moller – I Can’t Escape Myself
8. Robert Scott – Party Of The Mind
9. Dalmasy – Iron Years
10. Changing Gears – Cinematic *
11. The Social Icons – Total Recall
12. Last Burning Embers – Heyday
13. The Last Hour – Winning
14. Great Dynamo – Silent Air (V2)
15. Black Wings – Judgement
16. Shakespeare & The Bible – Dead Guitars 
17. Temporary Thing – Missiles

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The June Brides - She Seems Quite Free 7"

The June Brides are justifiably well-loved as one of the edgier C86-era jangle bands of the mid-80s, earning respect from fans, critics and peers.  But after an album and several singles and EPs, the group disbanded.  Frontman Phil Wilson released some solo material, and then withdrew from recording and performing for a couple of decades.  He returned to music in fine form in 2008 with the excellent LP for Slumberland, God Bless Jim Kennedy. The path has come full circle, and Phil and his recent collaborators Steve Beswick and Arash Torabi have now been joined by Phil's previous bandmates Simon Beesley, Frank Sweeney and Jon Hunter.  So, The June Brides ride again.  The reformed and rejuvenated Brides are now releasing the three-track single She Seems Quite Free.  The record consists of "Being There" and "She Seems Quite Free", both of which were written by Phil Wilson, and Simon Beesley's "I'm Undone".  Amazingly, they haven't lost a thing.  All three tracks are well written and the performances are excellent.  I suppose it could be helpful if I could choose a favorite, but I can't.  From the wistful jangle pop of the opener to the taut title track to the chugging melancholy of the closing song, I'd judge this to be a triple A-side single.  It seems to me that the pros are back in town.

She Seems Quite Free is available in North America from Slumberland, and in the UK/Europe from Occultation, see the links below.  The record is a digital download, but vinyl will be available as well and can be pre-ordered.

Slumberland Records page for EP
Occultation Records page for EP

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Stevens are touring the US

One of my favorite bands to emerge from Melbourne in the past couple of years is The Stevens.  Their debut LP, The History of Hygiene (review here), was released by Chapter Music and in my opinion should be in the collection of all guitar pop fans, but especially fans of Guided By Voices.  The band commences a US tour next week, so stateside fans have the opportunity to experience The Stevens in the flesh.  To help prompt music lovers to leave their couches and shuffle to the venue and drink beer while listening to Australian rockers, they have released an newly recorded song, "Thirsty Eye".  Their debut EP also is being released in North America by Kingfisher Records.

I nearly didn't publicize this tour after looking at the dates and venues and learning that my house didn't make the cut.  But more dates may be added, so I'l be a good soldier and, well, who knows?  Here are the dates, venues and other acts as of this week:

9/4 LA @ Los Globos w/ The Memories
9/6 SF @Hemlock w/ Scott & Charlene's Wedding
9/10 NY @ Cake Shop w/ Free Time, Ballroom
9/11 Brooklyn @ Baby's All Right w/ Ducktails
9/14 Brooklyn @ Death By Audio w/ Rat Columns
9/16 Baltimore @ The Crown
9/17 Cleveland @ Happy Dog w/ S&C Wedding
9/18 Detroit @ Garden Bowl
9/19 Lexington @ TBD w/ Rat Columns
9/20 Columbus@Double Happiness w/Connections
9/22 Chicago @ The Owl
9/23 Milwaukee @ Linnemans Inn
9/24 Minneapolis @ Hexagon w/ Naomi Punk
9/27 Memphis @ Goner Fest
10/3 Austin @ Hotel Vegas


"Jamais Vu" from The History of Apple Pie

As the release date for Feel Something, the sophomore album from The History of Apple Pie inches closer, the London band has provided another single.  "Jamais Vu" reminds us of what THOAP does so well, Steph Min's sugar-drenched vocals floating over focused guitar blasts.

THOAP is Sephanie Min (vocals), Jerome Watson (guitar), James Thomas (drums), Aslam Ghauri (guitar) and Joanna Curwood (bass).

Marshall Teller Records

Rolling Stones Friday: Dancing With Mr. D

Keith Richards once remarked that the Rolling Stones went to Jamaica in November 1972 to record Goats Head Soup because it was the only country that would let him in. The resulting record was far more laid back than its predecessor Exile on Main St

One of my favorites is the lead track, the dark and brooding "Dancing With Mr. D". I love the slow burn and groove of this one, fitting well with the death imagery:    

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Psychotropic" from Los Tones

One of our favorite psychedelic garage rock bands, Sydney, Australia's Los Tones, have laid another delicious tracks on our grateful ears.  "Psychotropic" as a swampy swing, a rock attitude and plenty of ragged edges found in the best tunes from the garage.  The song is taken from their debut album, which will be out in October.  If you can't wait, the single can be purchases at the Bandcamp link below.  Great stuff -- play it loud and proud!


Preview: Bumbershoot, Seattle, Aug 30 - Sept 1

The Replacements, 2013

It's not too late to get yourself to Seattle this weekend for one of year's most enjoyable festivals, Bumbershoot, now in its 31st year. It's held in the heart of that scenic and great city on the grounds of the 1962 World's Fair. There's an unusually wide variety of music, comedy (Eugene Mirman!), authors, and visual art, and even a family friendly series of offerings ("Youngershoot").

I'm heading up there Sunday for the privilege of seeing The Replacements (photo above) and an all star tribute to Big Star featuring original drummer Jody Stephens, performing the band's classic record Third / Sister Lovers  with Mike Mills, Ken Stringfellow, Mitch Easter, Chris Stamey, various other musicians of note and a 12 piece orchestra.

Festival headliners include Wu-Tang Clan, Elvis Costello, Foster the People, Panic! At The Disco, and The Head and the Heart.

We'll report back on what we see up there, especially how the mighty Replacements, or what's left of them, performed.

Many bands we've covered here at WYMA will play at Bumbershoot, including Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, Red Fang, Los Lobos, Polica, Pickwick, and Lonely Forest.

Everything you need to know about Bumbershoot, from lineups for how to get tickets is at their web page:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

REVIEW: The Griswolds - Be Impressive

Be Impressive from The Griswolds is one of those albums that seems to have the ambition to live up to its name.  It has accessible melodies, big hooks, engaging choruses that invite you to sing along, solid rhythms with a touch of the tropical and tendency to provoke dancing, and energy to spare.  So, you ask, should I like it?  For my money, the answer is yes.  This is pop/rock that always has a place at the table.  Music doesn't need to have an edge, or a controversial point of view.  It can just be fun for those many, many listeners who want fun.  And Be Impressive is packed with an impressive amount of fun.  But more importantly, this debut album from four young Australians is about as smart and sharp as pop music can be.  And one of the many things I love about it is that you don't need huge studio budgets and teams of guest musician, hired hook specialists and beat producers to create music that you really, really want to hear when you turn on the radio or que up a playlist.

If you haven't heard The Griswolds, you might be inclined to think I'm overstating their case, so I invite you to take them for a test listen with their hit single from the album, "Beware the Dog".

The Griswolds seem to be on the right track for a long stay on the music scene, and they even have an appropriately named track to celebrate it.

The Griswolds are Christopher Whitehall (vocals/guitar), Daniel Duque-Perez (lead guitar), Tim John (bass) and Lachlan West (drums).  Be Impressive is out now via Wind Up Records

By the way, The Griswolds are in the United States now and you may be able to feed off of their energy at one of the remaining tour dates:
8/28 -- Albany, NY -- Hollow
8/29 -- Burlington, NY -- Higher Ground
8/30 -- Rochester, NY -- Montage Music Hall
9/3 -- Lansing, MI -- The Loft
9/5 -- Kansas City, KS -- Sporting Park
9/6 -- Tulsa, OK -- The Vanguard
The band will then resume touring in Australia.

Wind Up Records

Monday, August 25, 2014

"14 Years Young" from Food Court (free download)

When bands announce an upcoming record, you can be sure that they hope you remember.  Otherwise there wouldn't be any point.  Well, Australian garage rockers Food Court have announced that they will release their Big Weak EP in early November.  Are potential buyers going to remember?  I expect that the name of the band helps with a certain demographic.  They go to the mall, they get hungry, and they decide to go to the food court.  Hah! There is the reminder that the EP is coming.  But sometimes you need something more.

Well, Food Court has that something more.  They are giving away "14 Years Young", the first single off of Big Weak, as a free download on Bandcamp.  This indeed is the right stuff.  We download this raucous nugget of rock excellence, play it daily and remember, even crave, the EP.


REVIEW: Peter Escott - The Long O

The Long O is very intriguing album of somewhat idiosyncratic, keyboard-based ballads and experimental pop from Hobart, Tasmania's poet and musician Peter Escott.  It is true that his output as one half of Native Cats was keyboard-based pop as well, but it seems to me that the similar choice of musical weapons doesn't add up to more of the same.  Without his Native Cats conspirator, bassist Julian Teakle,  Peter's range of expression swings away from that project's dance-oriented tunes to something more insular and dreamy.  The piano, synth, melodica and a touch of guitar are his only tools other than his voice.  The minimal instrumentation leads results in a bounty of space around the chords and lyrics, which both lends power and creates a sense of distance.  There are no players other than Escott on The Long O.  And coupled with Escott's restrained delivery, the overall effect is as if discovering the song and piano man at the nightclub playing for himself after closing.  But rather than feeling like I'm getting leftover material not deemed good enough for the drinkers who stuffed bills in the tip jar, it seems to me that I'm getting the songs that actually mean something to the piano man.

The songs vary between brief snips and more lengthy works.  Some tracks such as "O", are decidedly experimental, while others, "Ship of Theseus" for example, is more meditative.  More straightforward pop is on offer with "My Heaven, My Rules", "No One", "Mealymouth", and "Believe In The Devil World".  For my money, "My Heaven, My Rules" is the highlight of the album and, in fact is one of my favorite songs of the year. Driven by Escott's piano, the song is a crooner's recap of a relationship, in which he points out that the other party never had to live by his rules.  "Mealymouth" is a dream pop creation, all appealing haze.  "Believe in the Devil World" is another delicious slice of cabaret, sung over a simple organ riff and drum machine.  You can stream three of those tracks below, but to stop there would deprive you of the power of "No One" and the quiet, meandering beauty of "Desmond's Song".

Peter Escott - My Heaven My Rules from BSR on Vimeo.

The more dreamy "Mealymouth" --

Bedroom Suck Records

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Introducing: Little Shoes Big Voice

Introductions are important for new bands.  While it is unrealistic to expect a fledging act to be fully realized from its inception, the songs have to be good enough to attract some fans and prompt the right people pay attention.  It seems to me that London duo Little Shoes Big Voice got it just right.  Jack Durtnall and Emily Harvey previously released the moodily engaging "Nightfall" without much fanfare, and now are following it with the gorgeous soul-infused electro-pop "Blue Veins".  Taken together, the songs make a convincing statement that this is a project to watch.


Friday, August 22, 2014

REVIEW: Laura Jean - Laura Jean

On her self-titled fifth album, Melbourne-based Laura Jean supports her formidable vocal instrument with a notably sharp set of songs.  With a couple of exceptions, including the delightful "Don't Marry The One You Love", the arrangements are sparse, allowing full attention to be drawn to Laura Jean's performance, the quality of the material, and the delightfully backing vocals from Norway's Jenny Hval.  The material leans to the intimate, but is decidedly not claustrophobic.  The effect is that of a close friend reading aloud from her journals, and thereby sharing her observations, memories, insecurities, and short stories, as well as dispensing advice.  In addition to a satisfying thematic range, the artist varies her delivery along a broad range in these ten tracks.  "Don't Marry The One You Love", which is one of my favorites of the set, reveals excellent pop chops to deliver a rather unexpected message regarding romantic attachments.  On two other standout tracks, "Here Comes the Miner" and When I First Brought Him Home", Laura Jean displays old English folk stylings and a touch of southern Gothic, respectively.

Lead-off track "June" walks the line between pop and folk, with an upbeat melody but a haunting vibe, and contains some of the best vocal interplay between Laura Jean and Hval on the album.  "How Will I Know When I'm Home" is a moody, dreamy track with simple piano accompaniment.  The lovely "First Love Song" understandably was chosen as one of the single released in advance of the album.  Stream it below and experience the exquisite phrasing and quite emotional weight of that track and the following "Sister All I Have Are My Arms".  A songwriter this good, deserves a top flight vocalist, and a vocalist this good deserves first class material.  Fortunately, Laura Jean has found herself.

I recommend this album for late at night with your headphones on.  Be warned that the headphones may have formed dents in your head by the time you remove them.

Laura Jean was recorded in Bristol, UK, by long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish.  It is available in digital, vinyl and compact disc formats via Chapter Music.

Chapter Music

Rolling Stones Friday: Honky Tonk Women

We're on vacation this week and not much time to write. So let's go with a sure fire winner that needs little explanation.

"Honky Tonk Women" did not appear on a studio album, but was released as a single in 1969.  Mick Taylor had just joined the band and transformed the song, magically I would say, from its earlier acoustic hoedown version "Country Honk" that appeared on Let It Bleed.

The first 15 seconds here are one of my favorite song openings ever - first cowbell, then drums, then Taylor's nasty guitar lick:

Keith Richards had this to say about "Honky Tonk Women", one of the band's signature songs and biggest hit singles: "It was a groove, no doubt about it, and it's one of those tracks that you knew was a Number One before you'd finished the motherfucker."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: The Hobbes Fanclub - Up At Lagrange

Someone must have been under the impression that I had a landmark birthday on the close horizon (I'm still 29 and holding firm, thank you).  How else to explain finding in my inbox Up At Lagrange from The Hobbes Fanclub?  This is an album that seems to be an ingenious distillation of three of my favorite groups: The Close Lobsters; Teenage Fanclub; and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with a good bit of Ride for good measure.  The album has feedback, jangle, reverb, big hooks and soaring choruses.  It sounds like 1,000 guitars all energetically on task.

It begins with the "Into the Night", a perfect shoegaze song for driving under the stars with the windows down and the summer breeze blowing your hair -- you know, hazy vocals and jangling guitar.  The following "Stay Gold" (stream below) is a jaunty song with upbeat riffs bracketing a simple chorus.  "Your Doubting Heart", one of my favorites, perfectly marries shoegaze and college rock in fine Close Lobsters style.  Track four, "The Boy From Outer Space" is a soaring Teenage Fanclub-meets-Ride tune, with affecting oohhs and aahhs, and  "I Knew You'd Understand" could be its birth twin.  "Run Into The Sea" hits TJ&MC territory with pulsing percussion, and loud and jangling guitars with a touch of feedback.  There are echos of early Ride in "How Could You Leave Me Like This".  Track 8, "Outside Myself" is another standout track that that recalls the The Close Lobsters hits that I still regularly find time to play.

Is this cutting edge music?  No, of course not.  But the game here was never to invent, but to thrill.  And thrill it does.  If I did things like make year end lists of top albums, I would include this one.  And because I do make such lists (and publish them), I assure you that Up At Lagrange already has a spot.

The Hobbes Fanclub is Leon (guitar/vocals), Louise (bass/vocals), and Adam (drums), and they reside in Bradford, UK.  Up At Lagrange is available via Shelflife Records in vinyl, digital and CD formats.

Shelflife Records page for album

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

REVIEW: The Holy Ghost Electric Show - The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show

The Holy Ghost Electric Show have one of those sounds.  The kind of sound that if you hear it while walking through the grounds of a music festival, you stop at their stage and listen until they are done.  The kind of sound that makes you stay on a radio station when spinning the dial.  The kind of sound that makes you click "like" on an online curated playlist from Songza and then open a browser to find out more about the band.  The kind of sound that when it comes on the speakers in a party you realize that you gradually have stopped listening to the conversation and are paying attention to the songs.

The band is from Corinth in the Mississippi hill country.  The members are Cody Rogers (songwriter, lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jake Rogers (guitar and banjo), Will Shirley (guitar), Conner Wroten (bass), Austin Wheeler (drums) and Jesse James (trombone and keys).  The Rogers brothers, sons of a southern preacher, and their mates assembled the band in the college town of Oxford, Mississippi, and created a musical collage from rock, folk, country, soul and California pop influences.  The band performs with professional competence and flair, but often just on the edge of the raggedy, ramshackle territory that reminds you of musician friends deciding to go to their car in the parking lot, bring in their instruments and jam until closing in the local tavern.  But there is something more as well  -- a current of almost unsettling emotion, a nearly desperate need to touch the listener.  While musically satisfying, this ain't good time background music.

The boys have packaged twelve tracks of their southern Gothic brew in The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show, which is out now via Atlanta label This Is American Music.  As hard as it is to choose tracks (or more precisely, to eliminate tracks) to use to illustrate the album, the first three tracks and the seventh will provide an excellent snapshot of the range and power of The Holy Ghost Electric Show.  But you don't have to live just with my choices.  The Website link below will allow you to stream the entire album.  Put on your earphones and listen tonight under the stars.  If not sooner, by the time you hit "Kerosene Heater Blues" and "Elizabeth", you will be hauled in hook, line and sinker.

This Is American Music

"There's A Girl In The Corner" from The Twilight Sad

If I were to propose making three statements about Scotland's The Twilight Sad and challenge you to to determine which of the statements was false, could you do it?  The statements are (1) The band will release a new album in October, (2) the band will tour the UK and North America this fall with We Were Promised Jetpacks, and (3) The Twilight Sad have decided to make frivolous, happy music.  Do you have an answer in mind?

Statement number one is correct, as Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave will be released on FatCat Records on October 29.  That means either two or three is incorrect.  Your hint can be found in the following titles from the upcoming album: "I Could Give You All That You Don't Want", "Drown So I Can Watch", and "Pills I Swallow".  Those sad titles mean, happily, that number two is correct.  Moreover, they will cover North America pretty extensively.  And the good news is that when it comes to sad songs, The Twilight Sad does them very, very well, with rich sound textures and palpable emotion.  And to remind you of all that, here is the first song from the album, "There's A Girl In The Corner".

Fat Cat Records

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

REVIEW: Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards - Distance

With his gravelly baritone, Dan Michaelson may remind a listeners of Leonard Cohen or, perhaps, Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening.  It is a commanding instrument, but also, I think, a dangerous one.  A voice like that can become monotonous over the course of an album if the delivery isn't right and the songs don't have enough innate sparkle.  Fortunately, on Distance, both Dan and the songs are more than up to the task.

For this album, crafted in the aftermath of his divorce, Dan is exploring loss, heartache and related issues of physical and emotional distance.  There are emotional pleas such as "come on home I want you, come on home I need you" in "Bones", swathed in minor keys.  But hope, resilience and, most refreshingly, an absence of self-pity ultimately make this album a triumph of the spirit rather than a funereal dirge.  And while Dan and the Coastguards (I love that name) are in fine form musically, the real stars are Dan's unaffected delivery and the quality of his lyrics.  Happily, the production allows both to shine.  In eight tracks over thirty minutes, the first glance could suggest that this album is quiet and slight.  But my take is that Distance is proof that the true measure of a set of songs isn't in the decibels or running time, but rather in the power of the words and the conviction of the performance.

Here is the more upbeat showcase track "Burning Hearts" --

In addition to Dan, Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards are Laurie Earle, Horse, Henry Spenner, Gabriel Stebbing, Romeo Stodart and Johnny Flynn.  Distance is out now via London label The State51 Conspiracy.

The State51 Conspiracy

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Dream Happening" from Sea Pinks

Belfast's Sea Pinks doesn't put a wrong foot forward, in my opinion, so I regard it as very good news that they will be releasing an album on September 29 via CF Records.  Regular readers here know what I'm talking about, as I've featured the band a few times.  Those of you who missed it can enter the band's name in this site's search box, or simply check out the Bandcamp link below.  But before you do that, enjoy "Dream Happening", which is the first song to be released from the album Dreaming Tracks.

Sea Pinks is Neil Brogan, who also has been drummer for Belfast's Girls Names.  His Girls Names mates have helped with previous Sea Pinks releases, but I don't know whether they are involved in this album.

CF Records

Sunday, August 17, 2014

REVIEW: Toco - Memoria

Tomaz di Cunto performs under the name Toco, which could be a diminutive or short form of his full name, but is also Portuguese for ‘"play’". He is a vocalist, guitarist and composer of breathtaking talent and has a rare ability to combine the best parts of two great genres - Brazilian samba and European jazz. Toco has been making records in Milan for the Italian Schema label but hails from Brazil. Working with the Milanese acid jazz producer Stefano Tirone, (aka S-Tone), Toco'’s reputation has been steadily building. If you watched the film Silver Linings Playbook, you heard “Guarapiranga”, a track from one of his previous albums.

The title of the album, Memoria, refers specifically to the regions of Minas Gerais and the Brazilian northeast, its hot climate, the religiousness of the people and its faith in miracles, calling to mind images of mysterious and surreal popular tales, where time flows slowly in an intimate dimension.

“Minas”, a poetic homage to Minas Gerais, opens the album:

In his youth, Toco met Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and that influence shows in the more "bossa" numbers, such as "Manè":

Toco's collaborators include Brazilian artists such as Robert and Eduardo Taufic, Mauro Martins, Edu Hebling, Marquinho Baboo, Ligiana Costa and Selton. Nina Miranda, already known to the public for her collaboration with Smoke City and Da Lata, joined this cast of amazing artists.

This is the third album that Toco and Tirone have produced together. The previous collaborations were “Instalaçao Do Samba” (Schema, 2004) and “Outro Lugar” (Schema, 2007). Their collaboration results in some absolutely breathtaking music - bearing out some obviously ambitious artistic concepts, certainly... but free-flowing and full of the joy of life. This is a beautiful record - one of the best I have heard so far this year.

Memoria is available now via Schema Records.

Friday, August 15, 2014

REVIEW: Cosines - Oscillations

Cosines are a guitar and synth pop band from London, named after Carole King's doo wop group from the '60s and making quite a name for themselves at festivals and shows this year.  And based on their debut LP Oscillations, the buzz is well-deserved.  The songs are very engaging, with affecting emotion in the (mostly female) vocals, hummable melodies, hooks, and a very adept feel for dynamic changes over the course of the songs.  There are elements of the sweetness and fuzzy guitars of a straight indie pop group, but also clear currents of more forward-looking pop as well, as may be expected from a group that considers themselves 'math pop'.   Thematically, the album charts the chaos of young relationships, and I think it is about as good a soundtrack for that subject as I've heard in a while.  A few tracks below demonstrate the band's range and quality, but if you only have time for one, get lost in the wonder of "Our Ghosts".

Cosines are Alice Hubley, Daniel Chapman, Simon Nelson, The Late Jonny Drums (yes, that's what it says), and Kajsa Tretow.  Oscillations is out now via Fika Recordings.

Cosines - Commuter Love from Fika Recordings on Vimeo.

Fika Recordings page for album

"Go Back" from Chase City

We here at WYMA look far and wide for ways to improve your weekend.  Today's guaranteed jump-start is Chase City, a quartet from Hobart, Tasmania.  Tarik Stoneman (vocals), Michael Snape (drums), Peter Snape (guitar) and Jed Appleton (bass) craft music that is irrepressibly bouncy and energetic.  Their latest effort is "Go Back", which features a multitude of hooks that grab you  for a 2:41 ride that makes you feel young and happy.  You'll likely play it many times, so get comfortable.


Rolling Stones Friday: Street Fighting Man

Perhaps the only positive thing that can be said about the Vietnam War was that the outrage and chaos around it created some great music. Mick Jagger was inspired to write "Street Fighting Man" in 1968 after witnessing a huge and intense anti-war protest in Grosvenor Square in London, where 86 were injured and 200 arrested.

"Street Fighting Man' is for good reason considered one of the Rolling Stones greatest achievements, a stunning and powerful piece of music that was the centerpiece of the great Beggars Banquet LP. Among its many strengths is its ambiguity, completing avoiding the trap of most political songs that leave nothing to the imagination. It seems to start as a call to action, the darker more violent cousin to Martha and the Vandellas "Dancing in the Streets": "Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy / Cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the streets, boy".  But just a few lines later, resignation sets in, or is withdrawal, or pacificism, or cowardice?: "Well now what can a poor boy do, Except to sing for a rock & roll band? /  Cause in sleepy London Town there's just no place for a street fighting man, no."

The music is just as striking, the song just leaping out of the speakers, raw and powerful, despite the complete absence of any electric instruments except the bass. Keith Richards created the distorted guitar sound by recording layers of acoustic guitars through a mono cassette recorder. Meanwhile Charlie Watts is playing deliberately off-kilter rhythms on a very small, antique drum kit that came up in a suitcase, set up on top of the cassette recorder and miked up to sound extra loud. Add Brian Jones' sitar, Nicky Hopkin's piano (sounds especially cool in the outro) and Dave Mason playing Shehnai, an Indian double reed oboe, and you have one jarringly unique sound on par with the urgency taking place in the streets of most major cities in the Western world in 1968.

Okay enough of my yacking. "Get down":

The song is a staple of the Stones' live shows. And wow, are there are a great many live versions to chose from. But this one from 1972 is strong:

The song is greatly admired. Bruce Springsteen likes to cover it in his concerts and once said: "That one line, 'What can a poor boy do but sing in a rock and roll band?' is one of the greatest rock and roll lines of all time. ... [The song] has that edge-of-the-cliff thing when you hit it. And it's funny; it's got humor to it." But the best cover I came upon was by the Stones' little brothers, Oasis, audio version only, terrific:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introducing: Palms On Fire

Palms On Fire is a pop group from Russia.  Attempting to capture your hearts, or at least your ears, they are offering their self-titled EP at "name your price at their Bandcamp page.  It contains four bright tracks with female vocals and major chord melodies to brighten your day.


Free Time - Esoteric Tizz 7"

Next week Dion Nania's Australian-American project Free Time will release its first new music since last year's excellent self-titled debut (review here).  We featured the second track, "Guess Work", a few weeks ago, but we now can share both tracks.  The title track is an upbeat, hooky guitar pop song with some guitar-god flourishes.  It makes me want to hang on to summer a bit longer.  "Guess Work" is a charming, laid-back romantic tune that balances "Esoteric Tizz" perfectly.

The Esoteric Tizz 7" will be released on August 19, but label Underwater Peoples is taking pre-orders now.

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.

Underwater Peoples' pre-order page

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

REVIEW: Peter Rowan - Dharma Blues

Peter Rowan is a roots music giant - as lead singer of Old And In The Way, his warm, straight country vocal approach was perhaps the single best thing about a group that also included Jerry Garcia on banjo, Vassar Clemens on fiddle and the transcendent David Grisman on mandolin. All that said, Rowan's singing was what always distinguished their versions of "Wild Horses" and the like. And Rowan originals like "Midnight Moonlight" and "Panama Red" were so right, they just seemed like songs cowboys must have brought home from the range. He always seemed wise, mature and mellow. And of course, so he is. On his latest album, Dharma Blues, Rowan is dusting off all his musical and creative tools and putting them to work in service of an album that is really, like the best of Rowan's work, unforgettable.

From the opening track, so much about this album just feels right. That a capella opening - just right. The transition into a full, rocking country band with a gracious pedal steel played by Dave Easley - just right. And Gillian Welch's vocals on several tracks here - absolutely just right.

Here is Welch accompanying Rowan on "Raven", a spiritual meditation based in part on Poe's poem. Rowan's been playing this live for years, but for this recording, his harmonies with Welch add a wonderful touch:

Throughout the album, Rowan deftly combines Eastern themes (both musical and spiritual) with his time-honored bluegrass and country chops and a California country-rock sound you'd expect from a teaming of Rowan and Jack Casady, whose work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna bring almost as much gravitas to this project as Rowan's history. Recorded in Los Angeles and New Orleans as well as Rowan's home base of Sausalito, Dharma Blues features twelve new Rowan songs. In addition to Casady, Welch and Easley's contributions, Jody Stetcher (David Bromberg, Jerry Jeff Walker) played banjo and tamboura. The tamboura is a key ingredient of the title track, and several others here.

The best thing about the record is that, far from being weighted with expectations and history, it soars with a pleasure and joy that's hard to describe, but easy to feel on the very first listen. In Rowan's words: “The doubts and resolutions of the spiritual journey are what drive Dharma Blues. May this music bring joy to all.” It is out now (released in June) on Omnivore Recordings.

Peter Rowan website
Dharma Blues at Omnivore Records

"High Tide Low Tide" from The Vaselines

The release date for the second LP from Glasgow's The Vaselines since Frances and Eugene resurrected the band a few years ago is still over a month in the future.  But they have unveiled the second track to keep fans from rioting in the streets while waiting for V For Vaselines.  Enjoy it here and look for the album, and our review of the album, in late September.  The duo were assisted by members of Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub and Sons & Daughters, among others, and we expect songs that are engaging, wryly humorous, irreverent and probably at times naughty.  We like all of that in songs.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Temporary, a Dunedin Sampler from Fishrider Records

Supporting emerging music is what we do here, so we are very happy to see a project like Temporary.  The simple concept is to showcase young talent from the fertile music scene of Dunedin, New Zealand.  Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's south island, has a population of about 126,000 and a rich rock music tradition.  The foundations of that reputation were laid by bands such at The Clean, The Bats, The Chills, The Verlaines, and Toy Love.  However, the focus here is on current bands, emerging talent that deserve to have their voices heard.

The collection is curated by Ian Henderson, a kindred spirit who in addition to being the Global CEO of Dunedin's Fishrider Records, devotes his time, money, production skills, engineering skills, drumming, driving, vehicle and even his basement to aid the dreams of aspiring musicians.  The music here is a diverse offering of musical styles from jangle pop to darkwave, and previously has appeared on various releases from several different labels.  The common denominator is that it is good, and fresh.  Fishrider's Bandcamp page currently makes two tracks available to stream, "All Over the World" by The Prophet Hens and "Winded" by Kane Strang.  However, I want to reveal the overall strength of the album, so I also included the songs from Mavis Gary and Death and the Maiden (I hope Ian forgives me for grabbing an embed from prior releases of the songs).

I'm a big fan of this release. Most of the bands are familiar to me and have featured on these pages over the past couple of years.  Some were welcome new discoveries.  However, new to you or not, this collection represents your only chance to get a representative song from all of these bands.  The release is available in vinyl or CD or formats, and come with a collectible DIY zine including photos, art and other items created by the bands.  In an inspired move, Fishrider has avoided high import prices for the American market by partnering with New York label Ba Da Bing Records.  Temporary is available for pre-order now from Fishrider's Bandcamp page or Ba Da Bing, links for both are provided below.  It eventually will be available in Europe from British label Occultation.

Fishrider Records
Ba Da Bing order page
Ba Da Bing Records

"Istanbul" from Jakil

Here is a refreshing guitar pop song with a bouncy groove and a good helping of soul stylings.  The song is "Istanbul" and the band is Jakil.  "Istanbul" will be released on September 28 via Sticky Lips Music.  Jakil are from Edinburgh, although they now reside in London.  Its members are Kieran Grant (bass), Kieran O'Brien (lead vocals), Callum Paterson (drums), Jamie Robertson (guitar/backing vocals), and Liam Narrie (guitar/backing vocals).


Monday, August 11, 2014

New Jazz Trio Discovery - Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart - Ramshackle Serenade

As I have shared here before, I am not a jazz critic. However, I sure do appreciate good jazz, and when the opportunity arises, I'm happy to share new recordings with WYMA's readers. It's been my experience that piano trios or quartets tend to make my favorite records (excepting Coltrane, of course), but occasionally we come across a group led by a Hammond B3 player like Larry Goldings, and you are going to want to check out this trio: Golding on organ, Peter Bernstein on guitar and Bill Stewart on drums. They've recorded together for years and together have produced some world-class music. Their latest is Ramshackle Serenade.

Here's a short video featuring some discussion and some clips of the players - it gives a good idea of their approach and the album's sound, which is pristine:

This is not just a good,solid jazz album by some very good veteran players -- there is greatness here. From the inspired covers like Jobim's "Luiza" and Horace Silver's "Peace", plus the standard "Sweet and Lovely", to the sweet originals: album opener "Roach", a Goldings composition which gives Stewart ample opportunities to show off his chops, and Bernstein's "Simple as That", which is pretty straight ahead. Actually, it's mostly originals and they stand up very well.

Here's the album closer, "Peace" - just beautiful:

The album's out now (released in late June) on Pirouet Records.

Ramshackle Serenade at Pirouet Records website

REVIEW: Black Lizard - Burning EP

Black Lizard's Burning EP is the perfect use of the EP format.  In four tracks the Helsinki-based quartet build on the foundations set in their self-titled debut LP and explore the fringes of their territory.  Where the 2013 album displayed a masterful vocabulary of thick, crunchy and noisy psychedelia reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spaceman 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Burning EP takes us into the quieter, more sparsely adorned territory that infused BRMC's Howl Sessions or, in my view one of the most interesting albums in my collection, TJ&MC's The Power of Negative Thinking (a collections of B-sides, demos and rarities).  The pace is slower, the instruments more restrained and with greater use of electronics.  The vocals are measured and, on the title track, low in the mix.  The vitality is derived from the judiciously applied textures and insistent bass and percussion, while the vocals and guitars create a moody swirl.

The first track is "Can't You Hear it", which begins with a bluesy acoustic guitar figure and builds to full-blooded, chugging psychedelia.  The following title track is available for you to stream below in its bass-heavy glory.

"Turquoise" is a psychedelic dream pop tune, with acoustic guitar and vibrato effects on the vocals.  It is a lovely song and one of the EP highlights.  The closing track is the stately "Long Gone", combining synths, guitar, and guest vocals from Henna Emilia Hietamaki.

Black Lizard is Paltsa-Kai Salama (vocals/guitar), Joni Seppanen (guitars/keys), Lauri Lyytinen (bass), and Onni Nieminen (drums/percussion).  Burning EP is released via Soliti Music.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

REVIEW: Gramercy Arms - The Seasons of Love

Gramercy Arms is a revolving cast of well-known artists based in NYC and led by Dave Derby, who spent time with Dambuilders and Lloyd Cole, among others. Their second album is The Seasons of Love. Cole is in the cast here, along with Joan Wasser (Joan as Policewoman), Doug Gillard and Kevin March of GbV and Tanya Donnelly, to name just a few. While the large cast does bring some variety to the sound, Derby's done a great job of tying it all together. The general approach is very upbeat and poppy, but this cast has the talent to make upbeat, poppy music that sticks.

Here's the lead track, "Always In Love" - a bouncy, guitar and piano approach with horns scattered throughout back Derby's just-right vocal. For most of the song, he sounds just tremendously cynical and burnt-out, but at the end he reveals his real desire. Hey, that's the first step, right?

Here's the video for "Beautiful Disguise" - Lloyd Cole and Joan Wasser (Joan as Policewoman) play wonderfully together, as a pair that just can't seem to get through to one another:

Other highlights include "Winterlight", which is as light, airy and catchy a song as you will hear this year, and "Novemberlong", which features some terrific vocal harmonies throughout and is propelled nicely by piano on the beat with the drums (and more of those bright-sounding horn parts throughout). There are some pretty ballads, too - "Playing With Fire" calls to mind that great collaboration of Ronnie Lane and Pete Townshend, Rough Mix. And the title cut has a Brazilian lilt - ethereal vocal harmonies over a gently rocking Latin rhythm. I could keep naming songs, but I'd be saying the same thing. They're all well-written and very well-realized.

The Seasons of Love is out now (July 22, 2014) on Reveal Records. It's a terrific pop record - perfectly suitable for driving, or just walking on a sunny day.

Gramercy Arms website

"Fools Gold Rush" from The Naysayers

We are unabashed fans of garage rock here at WYMA, so we are always happy to feature it on the blog.  And it doesn't matter where it's from.  As long as it is well done, greasy, lo-fi, nuggety garage rock, it is welcome.  Today's contribution is from Melbourne's The Naysayers.  Astute readers might remember that we featured their Dee Eye Why EP last September (here).   The happy news is that the band has just released the two-track "Fools Gold Rush" single, and it is available at Bandcamp for "name your price".  The title track is good old fashioned garage rock bashing.  The second track, "Molotov Fairytale", has more of a pop feel, although decidedly still in the band's lo-fi, DIY groove.  We think everyone should have some of The Naysayers in their collection, and these tracks prove us right.

The members of the band are Nathaniel Parbery (vocals/bass), Gordon Holland (vocals/guitar), Simon Gemmill (drums), and Harrie Kingston (guitar/vocals).

Bandcamp for "Fools Gold Rush"

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hideout Block Party & Onion A.V. Fest - Friday Sept 5 and Saturday Sept 6

Summers in Chicago are a gift from the gods. September is the peak month of the season. Temperate weather is ensured by Lake Michigan at its warmest. The days are easy and the nights dreamlike. A jewel on September's crown is the Hideout Block Party: Two Chicago stalwarts, The Hideout and the Onion's A.V. Club, are hosting the block party outside the Hideout for the third straight year. As always the fest will be family friendly and party ready.

You can buy tickets at Block Party Tix. Don't let the handling fee throw a curve at you. A good chunk of it will be going to local charities rather then enriching Ticketmaster. NOLA's Funky Meters, alone, are worth the price of admission. Every other band will be icing on the cake... and a tasty cake it will be.

Friday, September 5:

Death Cab For Cutie
Hamilton Leithauser
The Handsome Family
Bad Luck Jonathan (feat. Jon Langford)

Saturday, September 6:

The War On Drugs
The Dismemberment Plan
funky METERS
Mac DeMarco
Sylvan Esso
Valerie June
Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestra

Here's a playlist to give you a sonic taste of what awaits you:

Music fans should not limit their visits to The Hideout to one time a year. The club is one of my favorite venues for one beer or a dose of good music. Checkout the calendar, and put it them on your rotation.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

REVIEW: White Reaper - White Reaper EP

White Reaper is a young group from Louisville, with a sound that should allow these guys to lay claim to a heck of an inheritance. If you've enjoyed indie rock music for a while (I'm old, let's say for a generation or so), you will remember great Louisville artists like Eleventh Dream Day, Rodan and Squirrel Bait... well, that's where these guys come from, both geographically and artistically. And just to keep you from having to go back too far in time, you can put them in your garage punk collection next to Jeff the Brotherhood, Ty Segall and Pujol, to name a few.

Here's "Cool" - hard not to love the retro-garage, almost Munsters feel to the video:

On some of the tracks, "Half Bad" and "She Wants To" for example, it sounds like someone took a Stooges template, cranked up the tempo and used it to build a power-pop soundtrack to a space cartoon:

I'm a little late with this review, but since Polyvinyl is still selling the records, you ought to take this opportunity to listen and learn more. It's only six songs, but every one is noisy, raucous and fun.

White Reaper at Polyvinyl

"Dreams" from Kick To Kill

Glasgow's Kick to Kill is taking the deliberate approach to building a fan base.  They have been releasing singles from time to time for over a half decade, and waited over a year to follow up their Spring 2013 single "Avalanche" (feature here).  But finally we have "Dreams".  Also released by the Glasgow label Flowers In The Dustbin, the quartet continue to ply a razor sharp brand of post-punk featuring ominous tones, chilly synths and atmospheric production.  I like the track very much, and it reminds me that my only complaint about this band is how little music they produce.

Kick to Kill are Dave Cook (vocals/guitar), Harris Hill (synth), Lewis Macaulay (drums/vocals), and Ewen Shearer (bass).  "Dreams" is available in digital format from the label (see the Bandcamp link below for "Dreams and other KtK releases) and the usual other digital outlets.

Bandcamp for "Dreams"
Flowers In The Dustbin

REVIEW: Billy Joe Shaver - Long In The Tooth

Billy Joe Shaver is a real treasure, and it's a good thing he keeps promises. Long In The Tooth is his first album in 7 years, and his best, I think, since 2001's The Earth Rolls On. The promise? Well, Shaver released a live album not long ago and appreciated the positive reception so much that he promised his next album would consist of all original songs. Shaver's songwriting is as good as country music gets, so this is a welcome development.

Shaver has often been known by the company he keeps, and this record is no exception: he's got Tony Joe White playing guitar, Leon Russell on piano, and sings a duet with old friend Willie Nelson. True to form, there's a little wink, one of those little turns of phrase that's so wryly true, it makes you wonder why nobody's written it before: "It's hard to be an outlaw/Who ain't wanted anymore":

The title cut is a silly but engaging song, Shaver's self-deprecating country-fried rap about being older and wiser, taking the good with the bad. And there is plenty of humor on the record, but as is usual with Shaver, there's more wisdom and pathos than you will find on country radio in a year's worth of listening. And we'd all be better off listening to Billy Joe Shaver more. He's at home in Nashville as much as Texas, but that's only because he knows the score and is willing to march to his own drummer. Check out "Music City USA":

Shaver calls this his best record ever. I'd say that's downplaying some of his earlier work, but he's right to be excited about how this one turned out. Every song crackles with his outlaw spirit and his ragged but upbeat vocals, the songwriting is some of his best, and the production and sequencing are excellent. Long In The Tooth is out now (Aug. 5) on Lightning Rod Records.

Billy Joe Shaver website
Billy Joe Shaver on Lightning Rod Records