Tuesday, September 30, 2014

REVIEW: Martyr Privates - Martyr Privates

Martyr Privates' new self-titled debut album is not the shy, retiring type.  Make no mistake, it isn't a friendly puppy dog, either.  But this records growls, stomps and swaggers through your cranium like it owns the place.  And fortunately, the invasion is likely to leave you happy and satisfied.  It is the kind of psychedelic rock that dwells in noise, chunky drone and expertly curated grime -- more The 13th Floor Elevators filtered through '80s-'90s alt rock than the acoustic side of Jefferson Airplane.  You know, hammers instead of scalpels and all that.  But from the opening chug of album opener "Someone's Head", I was impressed with this band's clear-eyed and unfussy vision of rock and roll.  The sound is full, but there is nothing extraneous.  There also is nothing to tie you to current trends in music. No synths, samples, or guests, and certainly nothing you'll hear on mainstream radio or by a contestant in a blind audition for the voice.  And that is one more thing to treasure about Martyr Privates -- it is our album and we don't have to share it with pre-teens and Madison Avenue ad agencies.

Martyr Privates is a Brisbane trio consisting of Ashleigh Shipton (bass), ex-Slug Guts member Cameron Hawes (vocals and guitar), and Sam Dixon (drums).  Martyr Privates is available now in digital and vinyl formats from Bedroom Suck in Australia and New Zealand, and Fire Records elsewhere.  And as an aside, I'll observe that the partnership between Bedroom Suck and Fire Records is an incredible boon to indie music fans.  Bedroom Suck is one of the finer little labels around, with their finger on the pulse of vital underground Australian music.  Fire Records comes to the table with a distribution and support reach that labels the size of Bedroom Suck cannot generate, couples with Fire's proven excellent taste in music.

Fire Records
Bedroom Suck Records

Monday, September 29, 2014

"And It Grows" from Cool Ghouls

It is always a happy event to learn that San Francisco's Cool Ghouls is about to release new music.  As we announced a few weeks ago when we previewed album track "The Mile" (link), the band will release A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye on November 11 via Empty Cellar Records.  A second song, "And It Grows" has just been made available.  It proves that Pat Thomas, Ryan Wong, Pat McDonald, and Alex Fleshman make some of the best psychedelic garage rock on today's scene.

Empty Cellar Records

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Introducing: American Wrestlers

I'd love to tell you more about American Wrestlers, but other than they are from St. Louis, they have this excellent track named "I Can Do No Wrong" floating around the web and available on Bandcamp for 'name your price', and they recorded a cassette which presumably is available, I don't know anything.  But if you enjoy the song, download it and send them a dollar so they can make more music.

Bandcamp for "I Can Do No Wrong"

Friday, September 26, 2014

REVIEW: Sister Flo - Tragician's Hat

You may never have heard of Sister Flo.  While they sang in English, they never earned a significant following outside the borders of Finland.  However, the beauty of their 2004 debut LP,  Tragician's Hat, endures.  It contains some of the most beautiful songs I've heard -- all dreamy acoustic and electric guitars and synths, horns, gentle vocals with hints of yearning and melancholy, and inventive pop.  One listen and you can endorse the comparisons to Belle and Sebastian and Stereolab, although the music is sufficiently unique that one couldn't easily fit Sister Flo into any other group's box.  And the reason we are writing about it now is that Helsinki label Soliti has released Tragician's Hat, remastered and with additional outtakes, rare and unreleased tracks, songs from an EP, a radio spot and two live performances.  The album is available on vinyl (only 300 copies), double CD (500 copies) and digital download, containing 22 tracks and the original artwork.  Note that the bonus tracks are only available on the CD version.

The music varies from the straightforward to the inscrutable, but always pleases.  The songs have a sense of strength, not by virtue of volume but rather sincerity and immaculate construction.  You can find music everywhere these days, but you can rarely find music like this.  Here is your second chance -- don't blow it.

And here is a track that was left off of the compilation in error, so Soliti is offering it as a free download:

Sister Flo was Janne Lastumäki, Antti Kaistinen, Samae Koskinen, Mikko Salonen, and Jarno Alho.

Soliti Music

Rolling Stones Friday: When the Whip Comes Down

In looking for a song for this week, I had to find one that truly rocked. And few Stones songs rock harder than "When the Whip Comes Down" from Some Girls. Recorded in 1977 in Paris, the song tells the story of a young gay man who leaves LA for New York City and ends up walking the streets, and some have interpreted the lyrics as suggesting him also possibly holding a day job as a garbage man (though I tend to interpret the garbage language as oblique references to life as a gay hustler).

Yeah I go to 53rd Street and they spit in my face
But I'm learning the ropes, yeah, I'm learning a trade
The East River truckers is churning with trash
I've got so much money but I spend it so fast.

Yeah, some call me garbage when I'm sweeping up the street
But I never roll and I never cheat
And I'm filling a need, yeah, I'm plugging a hole
My mama's so glad I ain't on the dole.

Pretty edgy stuff for 1978 even by the Stones standards. Though for me the glory of the song is the full on punk-inspired rock and Charlie Watts' relentless beat.

They have preformed this one live regularly through the years with many great versions out there including some recent ones. Here's a particularly blistering vintage version from 1978, three guitars blazing, demonstrating why they earned the title "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band":

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"So We Know" from DMA's

Johnny Took, Matt Mason, and Tommy O'Dell -- three friends from Newtown, Australia -- comprise DMA's.  Their residence may be in the southern hemisphere, but their sound seems to be an Australian version of '90s Britpop.  The band previously released a self-titled EP (which is available on iTunes).  Tracks "Laced" and "So We Know" will be released in physical form in November, but "So We Know" has been released digitally this week via Mermaid Avenue and Mom+Pop in the US, and Partisan in Europe.  The band also will be touring Europe and the US in October and November, and making an appearance at CMJ in New Your.  Lend your ears, this may be the Next Big Thing.  But even if they don't hit that level, this is a very nice song.


"Heaven Ain't High" from Little Shoes Big Voice

In late August we introduced London duo Little Shoes Big Voice via their tracks "Blue Veins" and "Nightfall" (link).  And while we haven't done any due diligence on the size of anyone's shoes, we can endorse Jack Durtnall's production skills and the size of Emily Harvey's voice. Their latest track is the dramatic slow-burner "Heaven Ain't High".  I particularly like how they infuse the song with emotion without relying on excess production touches.  Enjoy --


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Copper Girl" 7" from The Grand Rapids

Pssst, here's a deal: Two tracks of psychedelic rock for $1 (Australian) from Melbourne's Grand Rapids on their Copper Girl 7".  Grand Rapids are Sasha L. Smith (vocals/guitar), Daniel Hallpike (guitar), Deon Slaviero (bass), and Keith Ratnan (drums).  The 7" is released by Psyche Ward, which also released the bands October 2013 full length album.  The music tends toward the thicker, heavier, droning end of the psychedelic spectrum, and if that is your thing, this is a group to investigate.

Psyche Ward

"Shalala" from Moses Gunn Collective

A relatively new psychedelic rock and to keep your eye on is Moses Gun Collective, from Brisbane.  They can be dreamy, and they can hit the big riffs.  Try them out on new single "Shalala" and watch for their EP later this year.

Moses Gun Collective is Aidan Moore (vocals/guitar), Samuel Sargent (drums), Alex Mitchell (bass),  and Lewis Stephenson (guitar).


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

REVIEW: Lunchbox - Lunchbox Loves You

Listening to Lunchbox Loves You can be compared to opening an actual lunchbox packed by your mother without consulting you beforehand.  You know that your mother loves you, because she is your mother.  You know that Oakland, California's Lunchbox loves you, because they told you so in the title to the album.Lunchbox Loves You .  But the core question is whether the contents bear witness to the love.  I certainly can't speak to the contents of your school lunches, and my lunches weren't always ready for Master Chef.  However, I think you'll like the ten course lunch that Tim Brown and Donna McKean have packed for you.  The ingredients include jangle, fuzz, hooks and a good dose of bubblegum for your finishing pleasure.  It is a rush of sounds constructed around Tim's acoustic and electric guitars and Donna's bass, with other embellishing touches, and the male/female vocals.  There appears to be a punk foundation to these songs, but the execution is pop with the emphasis on fun.  And to show you how good it is, I didn't cherry pick songs, I just embedded the first three.  Enjoy!

Lunchbox Loves You is released on vinyl and CD, and as a digital download, by Jigsaw Records

Jigsaw Records'.Bandcamp for album
Jigsaw Record's order page for LP

Monday, September 22, 2014

REVIEW: Terry Malts - Insides EP

We confidently predicted that the new four-track EP from the San Francisco's Terry Malts would be good, and of course we were right.  This trio has a knack for combining melody, distortion, chainsaw guitar, feedback, roof-raising beats and positive energy into performances that remind you exactly why you like rock and roll.  You might regard them as sitting in the middle of the intersection of garage, power pop and punk, and it could well become your favorite musical address.  Their journey since forming in 2009 has produced two excellent LPs, and now continues with Insides EP, which is out September 23 via Slumberland Records.  The record starts out with "Let Me In", a thrilling version of the powerpop that this band does so well.  Go ahead and pump your fist in the air, you won't be alone.  "Grumpiest Old Men" can make all of us curmudgeons feel a bit better about ourselves -- maybe.  "Don't" is a dark foot-tapper.  The EP closes with Terry Malts' cover of The Chills' Hidden Bay; Dunedin guitar pop reimagined as West Coast garage fuzz.

Somewhere between the dark, we-can't-be-bothered anger and disenchantment of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the in-your-face outsider buzzsaw pop of The Ramones, is Terry Malts.  And that gives them a lot of room to work their magic.  This could be your best legal source of energy as you slide into fall.

Terry Malts is Phil Benson (bass/vocals), Corey Cunningham (guitar/vocals) and Nathan Sweet (drums/vocals).

Slumberland Records

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teardrop Factory - Trash In The Heart

Trash In The Heart from Teardrop Factory offers sweet shoegaze dressed up in gloriously grungy slabs of guitar and pounding drums.  There is nothing slick here -- this Brighton duo of Tina and Andy is so-committed to lo-fi and DIY that they record in their bathroom.  And while the energy and big riffs and dirty bass underscore the truth of the album's title, the little secret is that these songs are good enough that they'd work as an acoustic set as well.

With a bit of scuzzy menace, solid melodies and an intelligent spin on '90s alt rock, this is a gem of a debut album, a celebration of rock swagger, blasting guitar noise and with shouted lyrics climbing over the riffs.  While pop stars sing team-manufactured, corporate-hyped hits, rock and roll lives on with Teardrop Factory.  Trash In The Heart is available via Faux Discx.

Faux Discx order page for album

Saturday, September 20, 2014

REVIEW: Literature - Chorus

In their sophomore album Chorus, Literature has delivered a top class indie pop recording.  It is full of hooks, melody, and lively performances.  The sound quality is excellent.  And at its core, this album just has a very sincere charm.  It appeals to you to let it be in your life, and after one listen you will be happy to comply.  Who doesn't want a high energy, well meaning friend with good jokes to hang around with?

You can hear a bit of the Smiths, The Loft, Felt or the Weather Prophets in the jangle and shimmer of the guitar, and a dose of the Feelies in the energy.   There is a bit of punk pop brattyness to some of the vocals, which gives the proceedings a touch of Tullycraft.  But, this album is not the least bit twee.   The sound is full and smooth, and fleshed out with synths.  And in any case the dominant impressions are of the confident and tight performances and assured songwriting rather than any particular influence.  In fact, one of the many impressive aspects of Chorus is the variety.  The vocals are swooning, aching, pleading or defiant as required by the theme of the moment.  The styles on offer include C86, noise pop and even '60s guitar pop.

Any band that can deliver an album of this quality, and with such clear progress from their promising debut, can be expected to deliver excellent music in the future.  But you shouldn't wait -- Chorus is begging to be in your collection, and it deserves to be in your collection.

Literature are Kevin Attics, Nathaniel Cardaci, Chris Schackerman, and Seth Whaland.  Chorus is out now via Slumberland Records.

Slumberland Records

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: Happy

"Happy" from Exile on Main Street with Keith Richards on lead vocals is certainly one of his signature songs and an irresistible gem. It was written and recorded very quickly, in an afternoon in 1971 at Villa Nellcote in France. Some overdubs were added later but the base track was just Keith on guitar, bass and vocals, Jimmy Miller on drums and Bobby Keys playing maracas.  

Here's a terrific live version from 1972:

And here's Keith and the X-Pensive Winos live in Los Angeles 1988:

The song has been covered a great deal, become a bar band staple. Best cover I ever heard was by Elvis Costello and the Imposters a few years ago at their Spinning Wheel tour, when the dial landed on the word "Happy" and Elvis tore through a cover of "Happy" and then his own "I Hope You're Happy Now".

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Slipping From Your Heart" from The Deadline Shakes

Since the Scots are voting on independence today, we think it is appropriate to post some Scottish music.  The choice is the upcoming single from Glasgow's The Deadline Shakes.  It meets our criteria because the band plays a style of guitar pop for which Glasgow is well known, and because the song, "Slipping From Your Heart", speaks to the prospect of losing someone close to you.  The tempo of the track is a bit slower than some of their other offerings, but offers some swells that may remind you of Queen (the group, not The Queen, I'm not going to get into politics).  And it is a fine opportunity for this talented young band to demonstrate some new dynamics.

The single will be released on November 10, but is available for pre-order from Glasgow label Flowers In The Dustbin.

Flowers In The Dustbin

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

REVIEW: Allah Las - Worship the Sun

On their 2012 self-titled debut LP, the Allah Las blended garage rock, folk rock, country, surf and a bit of Britpop and Latin rhythms into a magical brew of mid-tempo, minor key nuggets that resonated with me, and it appears with a large number of other musical fans.  Two years down the road brings the band's sophomore release, Worship the Sun.  For this outing there is no shift in templates.  Rather, the band simply has focused on getting better at what they do well.  And even better they are.  Worship the Sun yields no ground to the excellence of their 2012 debut and, in my view, is a better and more varied set of songs.

There is no doubt that Miles Michaud (guitar, lead vocals), Matthew Correia (drums, vocals), Pedrum Siadatian (lead guitar, vocals), and Spencer Dunham (bass, vocals) are apt students of pop music.  One only need listen -- as I do faithfully every Wednesday -- to the weekly mix that they and their friends assemble under the name Reverberation Radio (link) to know that these guys have a depth of influences that no ordinary musician's record collection could hope to replicate.  But having a good ear doesn't necessarily lead to the creation of good music (I type as I nod knowingly to my reflection in the beer glass at my elbow).  What Allah Las do so well includes both more obvious musical touches, and some less tangible qualities.  As for the former, with four voices allowing soaring harmonies supporting the lead vocals, and no weak spots in the instrumental line up, the foundation is rock solid.  Moreover, the songwriting is tight, and has that wonderful quality of appearing effortless, despite the likelihood that it all was hard work following the inspiration.  For the less tangible, one only need to listen to the album to feel the hint of an ocean breeze, the desert sand under your boots, the warmth of the sun on your face, the thrill of hooking up and the joint pain and freedom of breaking up.  And in evoking such feeling, they also evoke a sense of place.  Worship the Sun is not only of Southern California, it represents Southern California.

The songs remain solidly mid-tempo and mostly minor key, but there is ample variety.  Britpop style garage on "Recurring",  a '60s nugget via standout track "I Have It All", hazy mid-century pop on the title track, psychedelia on "Nothing to Hide" and "501-405", a couple of surfy instrumentals, and crunchy country rock on "Buffalo Nickel" and "Better Than Mine".  While most of the recording and production was handled by labelmate Nick Waterhouse, one of the best tracks is the self-recorded and sun kissed "Artifact", which with repeated listens currently heads my list of best tracks.

The vinyl record has twelve tracks, while the digital and CD versions include two bonus tracks, including "Every Girl" --

To sample two more tracks check out the official video for "Follow You Down" and the live version of "Had It All" from Mello Johnny's Bike Shop at SXSW in March 2014.  You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Finally, our European readers should take note that Allah Las are invading next week.  The dates, cities and venues are below.

Bandcamp for Worship the Sun
Innovative Leisure

European Tour Dates
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 - Dublin, IRE - Workmans Club
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, ITA - Bloom
Oct 24 - Barcelona, SPA - Sala Apolo
Oct 25 - Madrid, SPA - Sala El Sol
Oct 26 - Bilbao, SPA - 
Oct 31 - Thessaloniki, GR - Principal Club
Nov 1 - Athens, GR - Fuzz Club

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"I Am A Sardine" from Turtle & Fox

Melbourne siblings Dan and Shireen Rawlings record and perform as Turtle & Fox.  They have released a jaunty tune with an environmental message.  We understand that the duo are working on their debut LP, but for now you can take your introduction from the home-recorded and self-produced "I'm A Sardine".


REVIEW: Further - Where Were You Then?

There was plenty of good music in the '90s, but there was a bit too much Britney Spears, Hanson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, boy bands, rappers who can't distinguish themselves from the pack, and U2 still in existence, so it doesn't rate as my favorite decade.  However, thanks to the good taste of the folks at small UK label Bad Paintings we are reminded of the gems we might miss if we dismiss the '90s too quickly.  Exhibit A is Where Were You Then, a compilation of the output of Southern California's Further.  Consisting of 13 tracks representing, in chronological order, the best of their singles, it demonstrates why this band was selected to play with the likes of Sebadoh, Pavement, Beck, and Flaming Lips.

Further was founded by brothers Darren and Brent Rademaker, Kevin Fitzgerald, and Josh Schwartz.  They released records on several labels, but eschewed an opportunity to sign a major label contract.  Listening to the songs on Where Were You Then, I'm struck by the the atmosphere of freedom, of we do what we want to do, that infuses the tracks.  The fidelity is low, the garage rock quotient is high.  This is the joy of shredding -- loud guitars, pounding drums, driving bass, and pop song melody and vocals snugly nestled inside the sonic storm.

The Rademaker brothers went on to form Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde, both of which are probably are better known.  But the Further chapter should be known and celebrated.  These are great songs, and represent the best of harder edged garage rock.  Thank you, Bad Paintings!

Pre-Order link for Physical
Pre-Order link of digital
Soundcloud for the album

Monday, September 15, 2014

Time for some digital Dick diving!

"Say what?" I hear from our loyal readers.  You want us to do what with what?  I can't tell you how disappointed I am that everyone's mind immediately heads for the gutter instead of, for example, to their bookshelves to re-read Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.  But the real reason for my post has nothing to do with your base desires or your reading list.  It is to inform you that one of my favorite bands, in fact the band whose 2013 album was my album of the year (link), have scrimped, saved and stolen the coffee fund at Chapter Music to fund a trip to the United States.  The first date is September 19 in Los Angeles, and a list of shows and venues is provided below with, in some cases, links for ticket purchases.

I've already spilled a month's supply of digital ink extolling this Melbourne-based project, and those who are interested can use the search function on this page to find it.  But I'll point out that in my view Rupert Edwards (guitar, vocals), Alistair McKay (guitar, vocals), Steph Hughes (drums, vocals), and Al Montfort (bass, vocals) may some of the most charming, grounded, evocative and engaging guitar pop available today.  And to entice you to consider attending one of the shows on the tour (and/or buying some of their music, I've provided a little digital Dick Diver concert below.  So relax and listen to some Dicks at work.

First up is the B-side from their recent No Name Blues 7" for North American label Fruits & Flowers.

Next we have three songs from their excellent 2014 LP, Calendar Days -- the title track, "Water Damage", and "Alice.

"Time Life Life" is from a 2012 compilation for the band's Australian label, Chapter Music.

And I'm closing with two wonderful tracks from their first LP, New Start Again.  They are the first two tracks from the band that I heard, and I hope you like them as much as I do.

Chapter Music

Friday 19th September –
at Jewels Catch One
w/ Bouquet and Tortured Genies

Saturday 20th September
at Makeout Room
w/ Greg Ashley

Sunday 21st September
w/ Michael O + Odd Hope

Monday 22nd September
at Third Space
With Michael O and G Green

Tuesday 23rd September
House Show! (address oncoming)
w/ Woolen Men and Shelley Short/Jack Lewis collab

Wednesday 24th September
SEAVIEW (At the beach! Near Portland)
at the Sou Wester
with Michael Hurley and Shelley Short
(and it's the launch of the Sou Wester's new SPA!)

Thursday 25th September
w/ Final Bloom, Sapphire Mansions and The New Lines

Friday 26th September
w/ PC Worship, Free Time and Guerilla Toss

Saturday 27th September
at Boot and Saddle
with Dark Blue

Sunday 28th September
at Gooski's
with The City Buses

Monday 29th September –
at UFO Factory
w/ The Feelings

Tuesday 30th September
at FooBar
w/ R Stevie Moore and The Stevens

Thursday 2nd October
at The Burlington
Noise in My head book launch
w/ xNOBBQx and X Wave

Friday 3rd October
Hexagon Bar w/ The Velveteens + others
(presented by F Scott Fitzgerald Society)

REVIEW: Skinny Dipper - Masks EP

Summer may be nearly over, but it isn't so over that you can't enjoy Skinny Dipper.  And for this skinny dipping experience, you don't have to get wet or take off your clothes, although we have no objection if your preferences take you in that direction.  Skinny Dipper is an nine-piece group consisting of eight women and one man, and boasting some of the best vocals you'll hear on record this year.  Apparently Alex Kenzel (of Blochestra) and Vicki Cole (of Randolf's Leap) began the project as a personal songwriting exercise, but happily decided that the songs deserved a wider audience.  The project swelled with reinforcements from bands such as Randolph's Leap, Quickbeam,  Aerials Up, and Trapped In Kansas, leading to gigs, increased public profile, and now the five-track Masks EP on Olive Grove Records.

The instrumentation on this EP is full and varied, including two violins and a flugelhorn, as well as the usual guitar, drums and keyboard.  The melodies are divine, with cinematic scope, and the lead vocal and supporting harmonies could melt the coldest heart.  This little record will make both your sunny fall days and chilly nights better.  And while it is an auspicious debut, I suspect this assembly can go even higher with more time.

The opening track --

The closing track --

Skinny Dipper are Alex Kenzel (vocals), Vicki Cole (guitar), Heather Thikey (violin), Ali Hendry (flugelhorn), Gillian Higgins (keys and vocals), Cat Calton (violin), Ruth Campbell, Monika Gromek, and Iain Symes-Marshall.  Masks EP is out now in vinyl and digital formats.

Bandcamp for EP
Olive Grove Records

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Introducing: Nieves

Nieves are a new talent from Glasgow.  Indelibly Scottish by their unmodulated accents and their embrace of both the light and the dark side of human existence, the group consists of Brendan Dafters (vocals/guitar) and Herre de Leur (piano/percussion).  And the darkness certainly is front and center on their latest offering, "Straight Line".  A sparsely adorned vocal and piano song about a terminally ill child, told from the perspective of an older sibling, one cannot help but be impressed by its grace and depth of emotion, despite its sad theme.

Two other tracks from Nieves are included below, as well as a video for their first released song, "Winter".  To my ears, the lyrics are poetic and evocative, and the arrangements simple and suitably supportive, dominated by de Leur's elegant piano.


Friday, September 12, 2014

REVIEW: Robert Scott - The Green House

Life has many uncertainties, but one thing I've learned to count on is the quality of Robert Scott's songwriting.  If this New Zealander pens a tune, I know I want to hear it and I know that I am very likely to enjoy it.  The songcraft for which he is most widely known is his work for his band, The Bats, which has a three decade history of excellent songs (review of the recent release of their early albums here).  But he also contributed to creating songs for The Clean, for which he is the bass player, and as a solo artist.  Amazingly, Scott's writing shows no sign of the well running dry.  The Bats' most recent outing, 2011's Free All The Monsters contained some of that group's best work (our review here).  And now we have his latest solo album, The Green House, consisting of 12 tracks on which Scott reveals his thoughts in a somewhat quieter, slower-paced fashion than his other projects.  The melodies are fine, and finely-tuned; more relaxed than on songs penned for The Bats, but thoroughly engaging and adorned with various textures and thoughtful flourishes.  And playing guitar, bass and keys for the recording, one has to assume that Scott got the sound he wanted.  As one would expect, the vocals feature Scott's tenor, almost delicate with a hint of smokiness.  But the artist was inspired to add the vocal contributions of gifted young Kiwi singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook, who records and performs as Tiny Ruins (and reviewing her album is on my long "to do" list).  Hollie's voice can be sweet and crystalline, or mature and knowing, and her contributions add the depth and contrast that Scott undoubtedly was anticipating when he invited her to the recording sessions.

The album begins with the superbly moody mid-tempo "Lights Are Low".  Taut and almost ominous, with winning vocal interplay between Robert and Hollie, it merges dream pop and folk rock to wonderful effect, and is the perfect beginning to the album.  The following "Lava" showcases Scott's restraint and use of space to highlight the melody and vocals.  The guitar pop muse prompts the delicious third song "Vertigo" (funny, I almost looked at the liner notes to see if Bob Mould guested on that one).  The quietly elegant "Lazy Boy" brings a bit of the English folk song to the proceedings, and is followed by "Favourite Case", an acoustic instrumental that sounds like the musical representation of a summer breeze.  The first half of the album is closed out with the simply affecting lover's plea, "Now In Your Hands".

The flip side is introduced with two of my favorite songs on the album.  The first is the soaring guitar pop of "Month of Sundays".  It is not easy to explain, but it is one of those songs that just sounds like redemption.  The second is "Little Bird", an  elegant and rich folk pop tune which may feature the best vocal duet on the album.  Next are the hushed "Hear the Hondas" and the upbeat dreaminess of the appropriately named "The Starry Show".  If the earlier instrumental "Favourite Case" sounded like summer, the almost instrumental "Where the Frost Lies" sounds like a crisp but sunny late fall morning.  The album closes with the lovely "Right From Wrong", which may be a textbook example of saving the most precious moment to the end.

The Green House is out now via Flying Nun Records.  It is available on vinyl and CD, and via digital download.

Flying Nun
Bandcamp for The Green House

Rolling Stones Friday: Start Me Up

Tough day here, having trouble getting going.
Maybe this one from Tattoo You (1981) will do it:


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Old Mate - It Is What It Is

The debut album from Pat Telfer of Bitch Prefect, recording as Old Mate, is titled It Is What It Is.  And if one plays with the title to turn it into a question, it provides a nice segue into the quality of the album.  That is, what is It Is What It Is like?  The answer for me is that it is an strikingly good record.  Telfer doesn't pretend to choose a sub-genre of indie rock, resulting in an appealing variety of music.  And each song makes a convincing case for your attention.  The opening track "Medicine Man" is a bluesy roadhouse jam that sprawls for ten minutes -- and doesn't feel one second too long.  "Requesting Permission" (stream below) is a relaxed guitar pop tune, with Pat's southern Australian drawl supported by barely-there female background vocals and an organ. line.  "Something" is an urgent, chugging track that brings to mind Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.  Melancholy singer-songwriter sensibility infuses the sparsely adorned "February".

The second half of the album kicks-off with "Stressin" (video below), which is a somewhat jittery instrumental for 2:45, before the simple admonition that "Sally's stressin". Driven by Telfer's baritone, the following "Know What He Wants" has a vibe that hints at Nick Cave or the Velvet Underground.  Like a ray of light, "Him" begins with a chorus of female and male voices, and continues the enigmatic refrain accompanied predominantly by a bass guitar, drum and occasional guitar strokes.  The album ends with "Truth Boy". a strutting post-punk gem that builds and then recedes with deserved confidence.

That's it.  Eight tracks, but a fair measure of running time.  The tone is a bit sinister and decadent, owing only partially to Telfer's voice and the arrangements.  The true skeleton of this record is astute songwriting.  Telfer doesn't hit you in the head; he just lets the words and atmosphere seep into your skin. Lay out some cash for this album, and you'll be richer for it.

Originally a solo project, Telfer now relies on a group of 7-10 musicians to flesh out Old Mate.  It is a credit to Telfer's vision and the players' discipline that the songs are focused and efficient, with no hint of competition for time or attention.  It Is What It Is is out now via French label SDZ Records.

Bandcamp for album
SDZ Records

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Collar Up" from Kate Miller

Today we'd like to introduce you to 19 year old London singer-songwriter and art student Kate Miller.  Kate has a five track EP titled Neophyte coming out later this month via Karma Artists, and we think it deserves our attention.  Sample Kate's work with EP track "Collar Up" below.  The song is impressive, and the vocals are divine.

Karma Artists

Some notes on being called a fucking hillbilly by Mark Kozelek.

I guess I'll just get this part out of the way right now rather than try to build uncertainty into a narrative so I can cut the legs out of it with a surprise unequivocal conclusion. Mark Kozelek is a huge asshole. It is a fact I'd have been happy never to learn, but this past Friday night, at his Hopscotch Music Festival set at the Lincoln Theater in downtown Raleigh, my fellow attendees and I got our faces rubbed in it.

I don't think I'm violating this blog's credo by writing about my experience in coming to this conclusion. Until I learned what a self-important diva douchepump he is Friday, I might have said he was my favorite songwriter. I've done 4 year end best-of lists on this site, and three of them have named a record of his. In my 2010 list, where I ranked Admiral Fell Promises number 4, I called myself "an unrepentant Kozelek fanboy." (I hate people who quote themselves, but I'd like it noted I only do it when it outs me as the drooling halfwit that I am.) But wait for this one --  the "Kozelek" playlist on my itunes, which has Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, Desertshore, solo, collaborations, and the live albums he puts out every couple of weeks, has 312 songs (all paid for -- i.e., no scarfing from friends, because none of my friends listen to this asshole). That's 26 hours of freaking Kozelek. It's 6 more songs, and 14 more hours, than my Robert Pollard playlist.

Maybe you haven't heard what happened Friday at the Sun Kil Moon set at the Lincoln. By mid-day Saturday it was making the rounds online, starting locally at the venerable IndyWeek, which reported, accurately, that before Kozelek had played his first note, he said, "everybody, all you fucking hillbillies, shut the fuck up." If you go to that link, you can click on a recording of it on someone's instagram account. It actually splices two distinct unpleasantnesses together, making them sound like a single rant. In fact, after the first song, he threatened to quit, claiming not to care whether he got paid or not. He started bitching about trying to do "really delicate" musical things and needing to hear the others in the band -- all valid, no doubt, but conveyed with such poindexterish superiority and patronizing contempt that I, who had been looking forward to this set more than any other of the festival, had to stifle a hurl before muttering 'give me a fucking break' (very, very quietly, to be sure). By this time I was experiencing traumatic remorse at having left in the middle of a facemelting performance by KEN Mode so I could be on time for the abuse.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like I'm this bent out of shape about being called a fucking hillbilly. It should be pointed out that, technically, those of us from this general region are really more redneck than hillbilly, but now I'm the pedantic asshole, aren't I? After a couple of songs, Kozelek could see he had completely lost the room, and claimed to have been joking about the fucking hillbilly stuff. Frankly I believe him. Although tons of his songs are about all the European places he's traveled to for performances, and all the beautiful women he's seduced with his brooding faux-diffidence and melancholy charm, his latest album is deeply prosaic and earthbound -- its beauty inheres in these things. Despite showing himself to be a diva artiste this weekend, Kozelek never has seemed to be trying to convince us of any sort of literary sophistication or privileged upbringing. In any event, I went to college in the midwest, where being a southern redneck could be put to great use in nearly any situation in your day. No, I learned long ago not to be reflexively offended by such epithets, especially coming from a guy who's not ashamed of his own humble origins.

Old Mark did piss off quite a few with the fucking hillbilly remark, but that's not what got my shorts all bunched up about him. For me, it was seeing this great artist reveal himself as lacking any sense of humility or appreciation for the people who have put him where he is in the world. I had sensed some of the resigned contempt Kozelek has for much of his audience before this night -- his lyrics lamenting signing posters for guys in tennis shoes; much of the crowd banter on his recent live album recorded in Milan, but I got that. I'm Kozelek's age, and I can empathize with the notion that being an itinerant singer-songwriter is much more fun when you're a twenty-something guy than a late-40s guy. But seeing Kozelek berate a stage tech because of sound issues, and then lash into the crowd for lacking proper reverence for the moment, including threatening to quit after one song -- it was just a massive disappointment. Kind of like Charlie Bucket when Wonka (at least the Wilder version) told him to go screw himself because he'd gone in that bubble chamber or whatever that thing was.

The ripples from this little squall spread surprisingly wide (and quickly), and the recriminations have flowed back with equal force. The Kozelek apologists have blamed the entire matter on Hopscotch logistics, saying that scheduling this set in the traditionally rowdy Lincoln Theater is akin to displaying the Faberge eggs at an interstate Bob Evans. Friends, that is horseshit. The Lincoln is a music venue, and an excellent one at that. Bands play there, and the people who go see those bands change, depending on the band. I've seen the National play there, and I've seen Corrosion of Conformity play there, and I bet that I was one of maybe 5 people who was at both of those shows. From time to time they have gentle bands play there, and no one gets hurt, other than maybe some hurt feelings.

The fact is that this was a festival set -- and that's a fact that appears to have been lost on Mark Kozelek. Because this was a festival set, it meant that Sun Kil Moon was one of six bands playing at the 12.30 a.m. time slot. Thousands of fans with weekend passes would be going to these six shows, and many would be unfamiliar with the bands. With an album widely expected to be on many of the year end best-of lists, it's easy to see why Sun Kil Moon might be a favorite among uncommitted festival-goers, regardless of where he was told to play. That Kozelek decided to go out of his way to be a complete dick to all these fresh-faced, slightly drunk (it was late) would-be-initiates is not the fault of the Hopscotch brass (who put on a terrific festival) or the chimerical "Lincoln Theater crowd."

Kozelek clearly doesn't like festival crowds because they don't properly prostrate themselves (i.e., very quietly prostrate themselves) before his overwhelming genius. Seems like henceforth he should avoid festivals for that reason. He was able to make do this weekend though. Halfway through the show, two-thirds of the alienated crowd had staggered out of the theater into the warm embrace of the Raleigh night, leaving only mindless sycophants and bewildered morons (like me) to witness the episode lumbering to its sad end. Those in the exodus were wondering what on earth they could have done so wrong as to have provoked that old man on stage to treat them in such a way. Don't worry, Raleigh. Sleep tight. You didn't do anything wrong. That old man's just an asshole.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review and Tour Notice: The Gooch Palms - Novo's

FROM HOMELAND SECURITY:  The Department has learned that The Gooch Palms are touring the states and indoctrinating our children regarding garage punk, surf rock, power pop, and the utility of crop tops in male stage attire.  Everyone must be on the alert.  The Department suggests that to keep your community safe, all adults should check the tour schedule below, find the show nearest to you, buy all available tickets and take your adult friends.  By following these procedures, the adults will become familiar with the subversive nature of this music, and unsuspecting innocents will not be able to buy tickets, and thus will not be exposed to the debauchery and questionable fashion sense.  The Department is cognizant of the financial and time burdens resulting from these procedures, but it is deemed the only way to protect the American way of life from alien influences.  Think of the children!

From the Oversight Committee of the Executive Members of the Editorial Board of WYMA:  We think that every adult in America should follow the above recommendations.  We also believe that everyone else in America should see The Gooch Palms.  It is as if The Ramones, The Clash, FIDLAR, Cool Ghouls, and a soulful, well-in-their-cups doo wop group from Brooklyn were all put in a blender (painful, I know, but it is for art) and poured out as an efficient, exuberant party machine.  And let there be no misunderstanding -- this duo seems to be having so much fun that I don't understand how their audience could not have fun.  This is rock music for the sweaty, beer-soaked masses.  In other words, it is rock music for us! The remaining dates on their US tour are listed below.

The Gooch Palms are Leroy Macqueen (guitar and vocals) and Kat Friend (drums) from Newcastle, Australia.  The initial pressing for their LP, Novo',s sold out, but I understand that another pressing is in the works.  You may also be able to source it digitally.

Thu 11 Sep 2014Turf ClubSt. Paul, MN, US
Fri 12 Sep 2014Cactus ClubMilwaukee, WI, US
Sat 13 Sep 2014The BurlingtonChicago, IL, US
Sun 14 Sep 2014Jumbo's BarDetroit, MI, US
Wed 17 Sep 2014Now That's ClassCleveland, OH, US
Thu 18 Sep 2014The Windup SpaceBaltimore, MD, US
Fri 19 Sep 2014Cake ShopNew York, NY, US
Sat 20 Sep 2014Death By AudioBrooklyn, NY, US
Sun 21 Sep 2014O'Brien's PubAllston, MA, US
Mon 22 Sep 2014The FlatBrooklyn, NY, US
Tue 23 Sep 2014Bourbon & BranchPhiladelphia, PA, US
Sat 27 Sep 2014Murphy'sMemphis, TN, US

Anti Fade Records