Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fourteen Stories Tall / Twisting the Knife from Pale Lights

Brooklyn's Pale Lights released Before There Were Pictures, an LP of chiming, jangling guitar pop in May.   When I discovered it in July, I opined that it was one of the better jangle pop albums of the year (review here), and nothing since then has dissuaded me from that view.   The quartet probably could have be forgiven if they rested on the laurels of that release, but instead they are closing out the year with a fine two-track single, Fourteen Stories Tall / Twisting the Knife.

For me, the obvious touchstones are the Go-Betweens and some of the early Flying Nun bands such as The Bats.  Both songs have bright tones and appealing melodies, although the lyrics paint a different picture.  "Fourteen Stories Tall" advises a woman to leave a man that doesn't treat her right, while "Twisting the Knife" asks a man why he hasn't left a woman who has done him wrong.  Great stuff, and a great little digital single that will brighten your holiday season for $2.

Pale Lights are Phil Sutton (rhythm guitar, lead vocals, songwriting), who also has been a member of Comet Gain, Andy Adler (lead guitar) from Crystal Stilts, Lisa Goldstein (drums, vocals), and Maria Pace (bass).  For this single, the band also received contributions from Suzanne Neinaber (backing vocals) and Kyle Forester (keyboards).


Friday, November 28, 2014

Firestations - Never Closer

Firestations are five Londoners who create energetic dream pop with some shoegaze and psychedelic moments.  Twelve of their creations comprise their Never Closer LP, which recently was released on Waltz Time Records.  The instrumental centerpiece is chiming, ringing, jangling guitars, but in addition to a traditional rhythm section the band makes use of electronics, flugelhorn and flute to flesh out the sound.  The vocals are strong and the arrangements interesting.  I'm listening to the album while writing this post as Pacific Northwest rain slams into my office windows, and I'm quite sure that this brand of melodic indie rock is just about perfect for the day.  Standout songs include "Forgetful Man", the title track, "French Caves" (all of which can be streamed below), and "Tightrope".  If you like dream pop, this may well be an album for you.  You can stream the entire album at the band's website.

The band members are Michael Cranny (guitar/vocals), Laura Copsey (laptop/flugelhorn/flute/vocals), Martin Thompson (guitar), Chin Keeler (drums), and Giles Littleford (bass).  Prior bands include Dark Captain, Quickspace, and Left With Pictures.

Waltz Time Records

Soul Corner: "The First Cut is the Deepest"

It being Thanksgiving, we thought we'd resurrect the Soul Corner and present you a great one with a history I'll bet some of you didn't know.

If you assumed Sheryl Crow wrote or did the original version of "The First Cut is the Deepest" in 2003 you would be wrong. You'd also be wrong if you thought the 1977 Rod Stewart version was the original.

"The First Cut is the Deepest" was written in 1967 by a British songwriter you may have heard of, Cat Stevens, and released on his second record New Masters. But Stevens' version was overshadowed by the P.P. Arnold cover which came out in 1967 just before the release of New Masters. Even Stevens considered P.P. Arnold's tremendous recording the definitive version:

P.P. Arnold was an American, an Ikette who left the Ike and Tina Turner Revue to move to England to start her solo career. England was crazy then for American soul music, and her version of "First Cut" got the classic UK soul-pop treatment, much like the great Dusty Springfield singles of the same era. 

P.P. Arnold returned to live in the US for a time in the mid-1970's after marrying bassist Fuzzy Samuels (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). Following their divorce, she moved back to England. Arnold had a successful and varied career, including being backed by the Small Faces, appearing in major stage musicals, and recording with a wide variety of major artists, including Eric Clapton, Barry Gibb, Roger Waters, and Steel Pulse. 

Speaking of Steel Pulse, "The First Cut is the Deepest" has been recorded by various reggae artists including Marcia Griffiths and this fine version by Norma Fraser:

We'll leave you with the Cat Stevens recording:  

Rolling Stones Friday: You Better Move On

So how does a young singer from London become so convincing a soul, R&B and even country vocalist? In the case of Mick Jagger, he learns from the best - Arthur Alexander. For those of you not familiar with Arthur Alexander, his work is essential (his best of compilation is an absolute must own CD). Mick's phrasing and vocal style in 1964 and still today are straight up Arthur Alexander.

Very early in their career, The Rolling Stones released a faithful and tremendous cover of one of Alexander's best songs "You Better Move On". Here is a terrific live version from 1964:

But you must listen to the Arthur Alexander original, recorded in 1961, which not only introduced Alexander but helped establish FAME Studios and the city of Memphis as the artistic center of R&B music:

And speaking of great singers, here's the George Jones version of "You Better Move On" from 1980 (backed by Johnny Paycheck):

Arthur Alexander never got his due, and ended up working as bus driver at one point, though he enjoyed a very brief comeback before dying of a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 53. But he will forever be the only songwriter in history to have been covered on studio recordings by the Rolling Stones ("You Better Move On"), The Beatles ("Anna")  and Bob Dylan ("Sally Sue Brown" on 1988's Down in the Groove).

We'll leave you with a bonus track today, another of my favorite Arthur Alexander songs, "Soldier or Love (Lay Down Your Arms)" beautifully covered by Marshall Crenshaw on his 1982 debut, followed by the Arthur Alexander original:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Introducing: Danny and the Darleans

Danny and the Darleans aren't a brand new band, and the music we are featuring here is from the 2013 album.  But it would violate the spirit of this website to not introduce our readers to a garage band this good.  The Detroit three piece is Danny Kroha (guitar/vocals), Colleen Burke (bass/vocals) and Richie Wohlfeil (drums/vocals).  They remind me of a high octane blend of The Sonics and the early White Stripes.  No frills, no fuss, just great, gritty, close to the edge garage rock.  If you like it, hit the Bandcamp link and download for a ten spot.


Danny Kroha - guitar, vocals
Colleen Burke - bass, vocals
Richie Wohlfeil - drums, vocals

Milky Chance - Sadnecessary

I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical about a style of music described as folktronic, but Sadnecessary, the album from Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch, the German duo known as Milky Chance, is full of compelling songs that just make me feel good.  The set up is a laptop loaded with the electronic component and wielded by Philipp, and a guitar (sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric) in the hands of singer/songwriter Clemens. The DJ's grooves are substantial and infectious, and the vocal performances warm and sincere.  Unsurprisingly, I found myself liking some songs better than others; for my ears, Milky Chance's music is best on the songs with a faster tempo.  But fortunately the 14 song set includes many of such nuggets and all of the songs are worthy.  And the contemplative "Loveland" is a treasure.

Of course, the best introduction to the album is the group's solid gold hit, "Stolen Dance".  Enjoy it below and then check out two other strong tracks, "Flashed Junk Mind" and "Down by the River".  Sadnecessary is out now.  If you are an online shopper it is available at Amazon and iTunes.  Milky Chance will be touring North America in 2015.  The dates and venues are at the bottom of this post.


Milky Chance 2015 Tour Dates 
March 20         Dallas, TX                   South Side Music Hall
March 21         Houston, TX                Warehouse Live
March 23           Charlotte, NC             Amos’ Southend
March 24         Raleigh, NC                 Lincoln Theatre
March 25         Washington, D.C.        9:30 Club
March 27         Philadelphia, PA          Trocadero Theatre
March 28         Brooklyn, NY                Music Hall of Williamsburg
March 29         Boston, MA                  House of Blues
March 31         New York, NY              Webster Hall
April 3              Montreal, QC               Metropolis
April 4              Toronto, ONT               Phoenix Concert Theater
April 7              Kansas City, MO          Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
April 14            San Francisco, CA       The Regency Ballroom
April 21            Salt Lake City, UT        The Depot
April 22            Denver, CO                  Ogden Theatre
April 24            Chicago, IL                  The Vic Theatre
April 26            Indianapolis, IN            Deluxe at Old National Center
April 28            Royal Oak, MI              Royal Oak Theatre
April 29            Columbus, OH             Newport Music Hall
April 30            Pittsburgh, PA              Stage AE
May 1              Richmond, VA              National Theatre
May 5              Charleston, SC            Music Farm
May 6              Nashville, TN               The Cannery Ballroom
May 11            Louisville, KY               Headliners Music Hall
May 1              St. Louis, MO              The Pageant
May 14            Milwaukee, WI             Turner Hall Ballroom
May 15            Minneapolis, MN          Mill City Nights
May 17            Winnipeg, MB              Garrick Centre
May 19            Edmonton, AB             Union Hall
May 20            Calgary, AB                  Flames Central
May 22            Vancouver, BC             Commodore Ballroom

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

alansmithee, featuring Marklar - Checking Out

Four young men based in Livingston, Scotland comprise alansmithee, a band that has featured here several times.  It seems that they are still evolving, but their sweet spot is woozy, frayed pop with psychedelic leanings.  Depending on their muse of the moment, added ingredients may be blues, shoegaze or something else.  For their latest edition, the two-track Checking Out, the band teams up with Marklar for a delightfully foggy and layered psychedelic pop record.  The single was just released by Glasgow label Flowers In The Dustbin.  Tune in and drop out -- but hit the play button first.

alansmithee is Ryan Macpherson (bass), Andrew Burns (guitar/vocals), Ruaridh Macpherson (guitar/vocals), and Joe White (drums).

Facebook for AlanSmithee
AlanSmithee's Bandcamp
Bandcamp for Flowers in the Dustbin
Twitter for Alansmithee
Facebook for Flowers In The Dustbin
Twitter for Flowers In The Dustbin

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Katie Sue" from Thee Gold Blooms

Thee Gold Blooms are a garage rock quartet with surf rock tendencies.  The Perth boys have their roots in the '60s, but smear it enough to keep it fresh and fun.  Their latest effort is the jangling, rootsy jam "Katie Sue", which will be released by Pavement Records in early December.  I'll warn you that you may be tempted to sing along,  It happened to me, but I took mercy on my neighbors and closed my office door first.

An earlier garage rock nugget titled "Alana" is below, and their Soundcloud page includes a third track called "My Girlfriend".

Thee Gold Blooms are Dylan (guitar/vocals), Jase (guitar/vocals), Goldy (bass/vocals), and Sean (drums).


Sunday, November 23, 2014

REVIEW: The Solicitors - Blank Check

The Solicitors are the sound of Friday night.  Get out of work, head straight to a smart bar with desirable romantic options.  Dance, drink, and try your luck.  On stage are four sharply dressed guys (maybe they just left work too) laying down an end of the work week soundtrack that is a perfect mix of new wave and power pop.  You aren't sure, but they seem perfectly in tune with what's happening around you: Found love, lost love, laughter and tears.  How the hell to they do that anyway?

Their debut LP, Blank Check, races through ten songs in a little over a half an hour.  With one exception, the tempo is high and adrenaline-charged.  The instruments pull no tricks -- there is a rock-solid and straightforward rhythm section, a guitar driving the hooks and a call-and-response approach with the lead and backing vocals.  The lyrics can have a bite, but no worries -- you are young and it is a  Friday night.  Let some other band carry the load on date night, the work week is over and lust is in the air -- find The Solicitors.

The Solicitors were formed in Melbourne by English songwriter Lee Jones and American guitarist Laf Zucallerello.  James Manning (bass and vocals) and Max Sterling (drums) complete the quartet.  There is a bit of Elvis Costello, The Knack and Joe Jackson here, but the garage rock energy and power pop arrangements bring it all up to date.  These guys are too good to be a pub band, but if you were filming a movie and wanted a top drawer band that could play the part of a pub band, only be really, really good, these guys should be at the casting call.  Of course, that probably is why Popbboomerang Records snapped them up soon after their birth.  Blank Check is available at the Bandcamp site, and you have a few more days to get ready for Friday.

The Solicitors - If You Let Me Hold You from The Solicitors on Vimeo.

The Solicitors on Facebook
Bandcamp for Blank Check
Popboomerang Records

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Ghost of Jack Nance - My Heart Sings EP

What will you find on My Heart Sings EP, from The Ghost of Jack Nance?  My take is that you'll find five fine pop songs re-imagined by a collaboration of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Beat Happening.  In other words, Glasgow shoegaze noir and Olympia dark folk-punk meet in Helsinki for gloomy fun.  Oh, and I should add that it is quite good.

The EP begins with "Summerday", a baritone vocal swathed in distortion and feedback, but with a nice melody and infectious bass-driven groove.  The drums get bigger on "Don't Talk", a track that could be described as the Beat Happening in an echo chamber.  "You Never Come Around Anymore" suggests Joy Division singing a sassy '60s girl group taunt.  The Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons come to the fore with the glorious "Sandman", which boasts the jauntiest bass line of the set, and the closing "Strange Inception".  I love this record, and if you crave a fresh twist on TJ&MC approach, I expect you will as well.

The Ghost of Jack Nance is Eetu (drums/percussion), Ekku (bass), and Lari (guitar/vocals).  My Heart Sings will be released by Helsinki's Soliti Music on November 28.

Soliti Music link for record

Soul Corner RIP: Jimmy Ruffin 1936-2014

It probably wasn't easy being Jimmy Ruffin. Despite recording one of the greatest songs in Motown history in 1966, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted", his career sputtered and he eventually had to relocate to the UK where riding the Northern Soul wave, he at least enjoyed enough popularity to earn a living.

But Jimmy Ruffin will always be best known for being David Ruffin's brother. The comparisons started early and cruelly as Jimmy got pegged to join Motown's most popular male group The Temptations until Berry Gordy heard his younger brother David sing and at the last second gave David the slot instead, the rest of course being history ("My Girl", "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", "(I Know I'm) Losing You", "Beauty is Only Skin Deep" etc.).

But while David Ruffin may have been the best vocalist Motown produced, not even he ever turned in a vocal performance more memorable than that of his big brother Jimmy's on "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted":  

Following his giant hit, now one of the fabled Motown's catalogues most beloved songs, Jimmy Ruffin only had one other top 10 single, "Hold On (To My Love)" (1980) written by Robin Gibb. However, I am far more fond of his two highly underrated follow up singles to Brokenhearted, "I've Passed This Way Before" (1966) and "Gonna Give Her All the Love I've Got" (1967):

Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) was such a big fan of Jimmy Ruffin's that he enlisted him to sing on "Soul Deep", a 1984 single benefitting striking UK coal miners:  

Ruffin was an Army veteran and a father of 6 children. Following his brother David's death from a drug overdose in 199l, Jimmy became an anti-drug advocate.

Jimmy Ruffin is on my list of all-time underrated vocalists and I was sorry to hear he passed away this week in Las Vegas where he was residing.

We'll leave you with the great Jimmy Ruffin signing his signature song "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" live in the mid-1970's on a British TV show:

Rolling Stones Friday: Sweet Black Angel

The Rolling Stones, while heavily influenced by and certainly adept at capturing the tumult of the late 1960's, were not an overtly political band. They tended to delve in the personal and avoid sweeping political statements.

This context makes "Sweet Black Angel", recorded in various forms during 1970-72 and finally released on Exile on Main Street in 1972, all the more remarkable. It is a tribute to American civil rights activist Angela Davis (photo above), a university professor who was charged with murder and conspiracy in the 1970 armed take-over of a Marin County California courtroom in which four persons died.

I love the feel and vibe of this song, especially the marimba and percussions played by Charlie Watts, producer Jimmy Miller and Richard "Didymus" Washington.

The lyrics of "Sweet Black Angel", garbled by Jagger with an exaggerated Southern twang, include:

For a judge's murder
In a judge's court
Now de judge he gonna judge her
For all dat he's worth

Well the gal in danger
The gal in chains
But she keep on pushin'
Would you do the same?

She countin' up the minutes
She countin' up the days
She's a sweet black angel
Not a gun toting teacher

Not a red lovin' school Mom
Ain't someone gonna free her?
Free the sweet black slave
Free the sweet black slave

Here's the song:

Angela Davis went on to become a professor at UC Santa Cruz, publish books, lecture all over the world on various social justice issues, and be an outspoken advocate against what she refers to as the "prison-industrial complex." The Rolling Stones went on to record "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and "Fool to Cry".  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Stranger" by MOTHXR

Brooklyn's MOTHXR are Jimmy Giannopoulos,  Darren Will, Penn Badgley and Simon Oscroft.  I don't know whether they aim to rule the world, but I'm quite happy to let them boss my ears for the three minutes and fifteen seconds of "Stranger".  And then I'll let them do it again.  I'm a bit easy that way.  "Stranger" is their fourth single, and follows five shows at CMJ and a European tour.  These guys are masters with the groove and earworm hook, and I want to hear a lot more from them.


"Cheap Extensions" from Sonny & the Sunsets

Next February will bring Talent Night at the Ashram, a new album from Sonny & the Sunsets.  That should sweep out any post holiday blues I'm feeling at that point.  Do you want a little hint about the contests?  Of course you do.  Here is the video for album track "Cheap Extensions".

Polyvinyl Records

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

REVIEW: The Young Evils - False Starts EP

The Young Evils are on an interesting musical journey, from founding members Troy Nelson and Mackenzie Mercer meeting at Seattle's Easy Street Records and starting the band, to their debut garage folk rock LP Enchanted Chapel, to their darker Foreign Spells EP, to the latest record, the six song False Starts EP.  And as you may guess from the title, there is a lot more between the points on the bare timeline I provided.  For example, Troy and Mackenzie became a couple early in the band's history, and now are married.  For another, their career arc took them on an overseas tour, and appearance at SxSW, and a deal with the arm of a major label.  Said arc also led to the mutual realization that the big label platform wasn't going to work for The Young Evils.  So armed with tracks recorded at Sound City Studios in LA and The Kill Room in Seattle, they begin again - a fresh start after a false start, if you will.  But one thing that has remained true through the journey, and the style changes from The Vaselines-flavored male-female band to The Ravonettes-inspired dark guitar pop to the current indie rock, is the emphasis on good songwriting and sincere performances.

The line-up now includes Michael Lee on guitar, and brothers Brendon and Scott Helgason as the rhythm section.  The songs are energetic, for the most part noisy, and packed with vivid imagery.  Opening track "Renegades" begins with buzzing guitar, pounding drums and driving bass, with Troy and Mac singing over the top.  The song builds, and Lee assaults your ears with slashing riffs.  If you only knew of The Young Evils from Enchanted Chapel, your expectations have been reset.  This is a rock band.

The following "Get Your Guns" features Mac's vocals over a percussive rhythm.  "Twisted Heart" is very nearly a pop song, riding a snaky beat and muscular guitar, and reminds me a bit of Fleetwood Mac just as they were beginning to take off.  On "It Happens All the Time", The Young Evils knocks out what may become your favorite new driving song featuring notable alternating vocals from Mac and Troy.  "Another Tragedy" sees Troy and Mac singing in unison.  With a well conceived melody, it may be the most accessible song of a strong set.  The closing track, "House of Lies", stands out in a couple of respects.  First, it is the only truly slow song on the record.  Second, while Mac is a rock vocalist rather than a balladeer (at least in my opinion), I think that her performance outside of her comfort zone is exceptionally affecting and completely charming, and the duet portions with Troy and Velvet Underground inspired backing from the band make it well worth your time.

False Starts EP is available on iTunes, but you can stream and buy it from the band on Bandcamp, which is linked below.


Review: Immigrant Union "Anyway"

What the heck do they put in the water in Australia that produces such exquisite pop bands? Immigrant Union hail from Melbourne though one of the band's two singer-songwriters is an American ex-pat, Brent DeBoer from the Dandy Warhols. DeBoer and Bob Harrow have written a terrific batch of songs on Immigrant Union's second album Anyway, the band's first since the departure of Courtney Barnett.

I won't waste any more time talking here because I want to take you straight to "I Can't Return", my favorite song on Anyway, and one of my favorite songs of 2014:
Here's "Shameless", the lead track on the CD, another sublime psych pop song:

If this reminds you of The Bats or The Chills, you would be right. And we can't get enough of that sort of stuff here at WYMA, but rarely is it done this well.

The songs on Anyway do stylistically vary and contain some nice surprises, such as the haunting album closer, the Velvets-influenced "The End Has Come" (featuring Courtney Barnett on lead vocals). And there's also this country hoe down, "War is Peace", whose fun sound belies its biting satire about America's recent military interventions:

This CD is strong from beginning to end, a true gem.

Artist web page:
Twitter: @ImmigrantUnion
Facebook Immigrant Union

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Are You Happy", free song from The Outdoor Type

What do we know about Melbourne artist The Outdoor Type?  Very little, indeed.  We know his location, that his music features guitars and analog synths, and that a record release is planned for 2015.  But most important for today's purposes, The Outdoor Type is providing a free download of his excellent "Are You Happy".  An upbeat, shimmering pop song painted in happy tones and bright colors, this is a perfect way to start the week.


ROMP - Sorry, Not Sorry

Today is free stuff Monday, courtesy of New Jersey band ROMP.  ROMP has energy, ROMP has fun, and ROMP has the not-completely-normal aspiration to play every basement in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Their four track EP Sorry, Not Sorry is available on Bandcamp for 'name your price', so you can not only listen to ROMP, you can own a piece of ROMP without even venturing into a New Jersey basement.

As near as I can decipher from various internet sources, ROMP is Madison, Lucas, Luke, Mitch, with with Jenny Diaz helping out.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

"The Coat Tales" from Charlie Big Time

When it comes to intelligent, shimmering guitar pop the UK's Charlie Big Time are in the top flight.  I'm happy to report that an new album is in the works (title, label and dates are unknown to me), but I'm sure it will be good.  And since one or two of our millions of readers may not have complete faith in me, I bring proof.  Here is album track "The Coat Tales".  Masterfully performed pop, with a vocal hook reminiscent of Dream Academy's "Life In A Northern Town".  Lovely and deeply satisfying.  Nothing more needs to be written.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Pretty Sad - Pretty Sad EP

When it comes to perfect little pop gems, Shelflife is one of the most reliable labels in the world, and they've proved it again with the digital only self -titled release for joint Scotland-Denmark-England project Pretty Sad.  The original intent was to release these three songs on vinyl, but realities of production and the top-quality of the songs suggested that a current digital release was the correct approach.  With the band members in different locations, songs are drafted and exchanged via digital files rather than face to face in a messy flat, but that shouldn't matter a bit to listeners.  There is no A side here -- all three tracks are lead-off quality dream-pop songs.  The vocals soar, the guitars chime, ring and jangle and the bass rumbles.  The arrangements are full, even lush, but retain the punch you expect from a good indie band.  I've replayed the EP five times in a row in an attempt to rank the songs, and I just can't choose.

You can stream the entirety of Pretty Sad EP below.  If you are a guitar pop fan, you likely will be tempted to replay it several times.  But remember, if you hit the Shelflife link below, you can own all three songs for $3.  That should make your weekend a bit happier.

Pretty Sad are Victoria (guitar/vocals), Luke (bass), and Maxim (guitar).  They intend to release a full length album on Shelflife in 2015.

Shelflife page for release

Rolling Stones Friday: No Expectations

"No Expectations" was the last song in which Brian Jones played a meaningful role. It was recorded in June 1968 and Jones died a year later. His slide guitar defines the mournful mood of the song.  

It's an acoustic blues song stylistically recalling their hero Robert Johnson. Keith Richards plays an open tuning on acoustic guitar. The song was reportedly recorded while the band sat in a circle on the floor playing together.

The song hasn't been performed live very often by the Stones, perhaps because it is so closely associated with Brian Jones. Perhaps the most memorable versions of it are with Jones in the Rock and Roll Circus film, and this live version performed in London's Hyde Park at a free concert on July 5. 1969 staged as a memorial to Jones just 2 days after his death:  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

REVIEW: Ultimate Painting - Ultimate Painting

With today's post, James Hoare has been featured on WYMA with three different bands.  He is the lead guitarist for Veronica Falls, one of my favorite bands of the past few years (their latest album was number six on my2013 list ).  Earlier this year James and Max Claps released an excellent self-titled album from their project Proper Ornaments (review here).  Now James has teamed with Jack Cooper of UK band Mazes to form Ultimate Painting.  Apparently James and Jack became friends when Mazes and Veronica Falls toured together.  They took their name from a work of art from the '60s Colorado artists' community known as Drop City.

If you like either of James' other bands or Jack's Mazes, you likely be curious to see what the boys have created in this collaboration.  But my advice to all fans of guitar pop is to check out this album. Each musician contributed five songs, and you'll hear hints of their other projects But for my ears there is a good bit of The Feelies, The Bats and even a bit of The dB's, early R.E.M and The Velvet Underground.  With intertwined guitars the hooks are frequent, like a Cracker Jack box with as many prizes as kernels of candy-coated popcorn and peanuts, while the bass and drums provide a sturdy backbone to the melodies.  The set includes slower-tempo tracks and tracks with quicker tempos.  I personally connect more with the latter, particularly "Central Park Blues", "Rolling in the Deep End", "Jane" and "Ten Street" (stream below).  But the more languid tracks are packed with charm, as the title track (stream below) ably demonstrates.  And all of the songs work together like the elements of a painting.  Some are bolder and demand attention, while some perform a supporting, but critical role.

One final note is that this album is a "grower"  -- I liked it the first time I heard it, but I like it better each time I play it.  James and Jack compliment each other bring out the best in each other.  I hope the collaboration continues.  And I hope you get yourself an Ultimate Painting to adorn your life.

Ultimate Painting is out now in vinyl and CD formats via Trouble In Mind Records.

Trouble In Mind Records

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Double Negative" from Love of Diagrams

We've learned to trust Australia's mighty little Bedroom Suck Records to keep the underground alive.  One of their upcoming releases will be Blast, from trio Love of Diagrams.  Your first hint as to the aural joys of the album are found in "Double Negative".  Taught, urgent, perhaps a bit reckless, with understated vocals and an alt rock love of noise.  Another reason to look forward to the new year in music.

Love of Diagrams is Antonia Sellbach (vocals/bass), Luke Horton (vocals/guitar), and Monika Fikerle (drums).

Bedroom Suck

REVIEW: Cool Ghouls - A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye

Ah, the Cool Ghouls.  How cool are these ghouls?  Well, for one thing they are releasing a fall album and, despite their self-proclaimed status as ghouls, felt no pressure to release A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye on Halloween.  Perhaps the lesson is that cool, playful, noisy ghouls are welcome in any season.  It certainly is a lesson to which I can subscribe.  In fact, I'd endorse these guys to be the WYMA house band.  Why?  They check a large number of boxes critical for listening around here.  There is the garage rock base with reminders of the '60s and plenty of West Coast psychedelia layered on, and the guitars satisfy my yearning for a dose of jangle and a swath of acid with my garage rock.  The band's arrangements make the most of their multiple strong vocalists, and their delivery is energetic and infectiously focused on fun.  Recorded by fellow San Francisco musician Sonny Smith and mixed and mastered by Melbourne's Mr. Music Everyman Mikey Young, this sophomore LP is a powerful statement of the band's abilities.

The album kicks off with the energetic "And It Grows", with chunky, psych guitar riffs and soaring harmonies.  The following "The Mile" is a garage nugget featuring a muscular groove and ringing guitar accents.  The boys may not consider themselves retro, but this is one of those songs that reminds me of the Sir Douglas Quintet.  "What A Dream I Had" is a slower paced psychedelic track.  The proceedings shift back to the garage rock side of the ledger for the duration, providing my favorite songs of the set.  Running the table are "Orange Light", "Insight", the glorious anthem "Get A Feeling" (this one should be on everyone's party mix), "Across the River", the delightfully Byrdsian "Reelin'" and "New Moon", and the relaxed swing of "Sweet Rain".  They unspool like a band recorded live in a single setting, with increasing confidence and swagger.  In fact, I assure you that as good as the three songs embedded below are, to my ears they aren't even the best songs on the album.  From track four on this album races into garage rock gold standard territory -- a band that is instrumentally tight, focused and completely dialed in to their songs.  Make this album yours, and you'll get many hours of pleasure out of it.

A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye is out now via Empty Cellar Records.

Empty Cellar Records

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Hallelujah" from The Colourful Band

Ian McKelvie's The Colourful Band is preparing another album.  I find that to be excellent news, as I loved their 2012 album (review here) and ranked it among my top 50 albums of the year (link here).  I don't know when it will be released, but I can share with you the one album track that Ian has made available.  Enjoy!

In addition to Ian, members of The Colourful Band at various points in time are Dave Curry, Jon Tyler, Fraser Stewart, Steve Tonge, Sam Stevenson, and Dave Steele.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Video for Robert Scott's "Vertigo"

In mid-September we featured The Green House (review here), the latest solo album from The Bats' frontman Robert Scott.  It truly is a lovely album, showcasing Scott's excellent songwriting and including female vocals from Hollie Fullbrook (aka Tiny Ruins).  One of my favorite tracks on the album is "Vertigo", which is the subject of this new animated video.

The Green House is out now via Flying Nun.

Flying Nun
Bandcamp for The Green House

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)"

"Tell Me (You're Coming Back)" was recorded in February 1964 and became the first US single of the Rolling Stones written by Jagger-Richards. It reflected the band's ability at a very early point in their career to write original songs that were very different than the blues and R&B material that they were covering on their first records.

I love the early Stones stuff and this one is no exception.  The sad almost resigned feeling at the beginning soon gives way to a bouncier pop song. Certainly a sign of things to come in the Stones' evolution. It hasn't been performed live much at all through the years, so we'll just feature this lip synched version of the recorded version from the Mike Douglas show:


REVIEW: The Orchids - Beatitude #9

Many of the bands we cover have no significant history.  The Orchids are not one of such bands.  The Glasgow outfit, formed in 1986, was one of the notable bands on legendary indie pop label Sarah Records.  Over the years they have released six studio albums, including three since they reformed in 2004 after about a decade on the shelf.  Not content to only mine the melancholy guitar pop vein of many of their '80s peers, The Orchids were early adopters of electronics and samples, an artistic choice the allows the over 20 year-old band to fit comfortably into today's indie scene.  But for me the core of their appeal has always been excellent songwriting and an effortless performance style, and on this important criteria, their latest album, Beatitude #9 is another triumph.

Containing a generous 14 tracks (including the radio sample opener), the album delivers perfectly formed upbeat indie pop songs such as "Something Going On" and "Just A Girl", achingly beautiful gems such as  "Felurian's Dream", and "A Perfect Foil", and fine dance grooves in "Someone Like You", The Coolest Thing" and "Today's the Day".  And other delightful odds and ends are presented, such as the glitchy "A Way to You", and the moody jangle of "Your Heart Sends Me", which is emerging as one of my favorites of the set.  The band's sense for the right combination of textures, the right mix of space and sound, is remarkable, and results in each song having a distinct personality.  One can -- and will -- find favorites, but there is no filler here.  There are 14 songs because the band had 14 quality songs that fit together -- songs that take you on a pop journey that I find perfect as a soundtrack for a sunny Saturday with time to myself.

You can stream the entirety of Beatitude #9 here.  If you don't have time for all of it, stream the second track, "Something Going On", "Someone Like You" and then the video below for "Hey! Sometimes".  That will give you a shortened tour of three main styles and the album, and the quality of the writing and execution.

Beatitude #9 is out now via Spanish label Acuarela, and you can find it at the usual digital outlets.

Acuarela (label)

Human Hearts - Loyal Opposition 7"

To celebrate Friday, we have another pop gem from that wonderful little organization devoted to the 7" format - wiaiwya-7777777.  This recording is from Franklin Bruno and Jenny Toomey calling themselves Human Hearts.  Jenny is a veteren of indie bands Tsunami, Grenadine and Liquorice, as well as founder if indie label Simple Machines.  Frank is a member of Nothing Painted Blue, as well as a singer-songwriter, writer, academic and blogger.  Their collaboration on the Loyal Opposition 7" marks Jenny's first new music in 12 years.  As you would expect from someone with her resume, she has chosen well.  The duo also enjoyed the assistance of  violinist and vocalist Jean Cook.

Consisting of two tracks, the Loyal Opposition 7" presents two faces to fans.  The title track is lush, atmospheric pop with jazzy accents.  Put on earphones and be transported into another world.  "Distracted" contrasts with a bouncing melody featuring a throbbing bass line and piano and guitar solos.  Jenny is in top form on both tracks.  Folks, this is top shelf pop music, and you can only get it at wiaiwya-7777777.

Bandcamp for record

Thursday, November 6, 2014

La Bastard - Ooh La La Bastard

Melbourne's La Bastard plays garage rock with influences such as surf rock, rockabilly and '50s and '60s pop.  To celebrate their recent European tour they have packaged 10 of their best tracks on Ooh La La Bastard.  It is available in vinyl and CD formats, and a digital download comes with either.  This gang is all about fun, attitude and atmosphere.  And they deliver it all.  The video for "Call of the Wild" sums it up perfectly.

La Bastard are Anna (vocals), Ben (guitar), Dick (bass), and Julia (drums).

Bandcamp for album

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

REVIEW: The Chills - BBC Sessions

Fans of iconic New Zealand guitar pop band The Chills have enjoyed a few delectable treats in recent years, all thanks to Fire Records.  In 2013 Fire Records released Somewhere Beautiful, an excellent recording of a private concert given on New Years Eve 2011 in New Zealand.  Previously this year the label released the two track single Molten Gold and tour EP Stand By.  And now we have The BBC Sessions.  The band, which was formed in 1980 by permanent headman Martin Phillipps, was ascending from scrappy Dunedin pop band to target of international labels, was invited by the legendary John Peel to record live at the BBC studios.  There were three sessions, December of 1985, April of 1987, and December of 1988, with four songs selected by the band recorded in each session.  Unsurprisingly, for the first session the band chose better known songs from their catalog, including my favorites "Rolling Moon" and "Wet Blanket".  For the later sessions the band expanded their selections.  The result of those choices, and the quality of the recording set up provided by the BBC, results in a wonderful and unique collection that showcases a variety of their songs with the vitality that can only be captured in a live-to-tape setting.  Owning The BBC Sessions is like owning a high quality bootleg concert tape, and presents a collection of tracks you won't find elsewhere in The Chills' discography.  Martin Phillipps is a top pop craftsman, and at the height of their game they were one of the most exciting bands on the scene.  This time capsule captures it all perfectly.

Below you can sample the opening track, "Rolling Moon".  I've also provided You Tube streams of the entire first and second sessions, although they don't provide the fidelity available on the recording.

1985 session ("Rolling Moon", "Brave Words", "Wet Blanket", and "Night of the Chill Blue") --

1987 session ("Dan Destiny and the Silver Dawn", "Living in a Jungle", "Rain", Moonlight on Flesh") --

Fire Records page for album