Monday, March 31, 2014

Ginnels - A Country Life

Young Irishman Mark Chester is a member of Grand Pocket Orchestra and No Monster Club.  But two bands just aren't enough, so Mark also records as Ginnels.  For live performances he is joined by Paddy Hanna, Bobby Aherne, Roy Duffy and Ruan Van Vliet.  Ginnels' 2013 album Plumes (review here) made my list of top 50 albums of 2013.  And now that we've had the opportunity to digest Plumes, Ginnels has released A Country Life -- 14 tracks of chiming, ringing, jangling guitar, fuzz, powerpop and other great guitar pop embellishments.  I assure you that you can listen to this album all day (as proof, I've been through it three times this morning) and like it more each time.  Mark has a gift, and he's sharing it with everyone.

A Country Life is available from labels Popical Island (for digital and tape, see the album's Bandcamp link below) and Tenorio Cotobade (for vinyl), and from the Ginnels' Bandcamp site.  See the links below.









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"Swimming Pool Blues" from Miniature Tigers

We have a great new song from Miniature Tigers.  The name is "Swimming Pool Blues", and it is euphoric pop tinged with a bit of nostalgia and painted with sunshine.  Summer is coming, and "Swimming Pool Blues" is the sound of summer.  Enjoy it while watching the official video below.  The song is taken from the forthcoming album, Cruel Runnings, which will be out in June.



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Friday, March 28, 2014

Scraps - Electric Ocean

Recording and performing as Scraps, Brisbane's Laura Hill delivers synth-pop tapestries that are in turns playful,warm,  moody, spacey, and dense.  Some of the strands pleasantly echo her synth pop forebears (recycled scraps, perhaps?), but to my ears all of the songs on her new album for Fire Records, Electric Ocean, are sincere and individualistic.  The vocals are subdued, but I suspect that such is a conscious choice in the context of the music rather than a lack of confidence in her vocals.  My overall impression is that this artist continually pushes herself to shape her music.  And I have great respect for an artist that simultaneously manages the intimacy of bedroom pop and the grander flourishes needed to thrill live audiences.

To give you a sense of the breadth of expression on the album I've included the dreamy "Asleep" and the more aggressive "Projections".  Electric Ocean is out now via Fire Records.





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"Don't You Call On Me" from Chris Devotion and the Expectations


Chris Devotion and the Expectations craft muscular, euphoric rock and roll and use it as the launching pad for Chris' swaggering, star-turn vocals.  We covered the band's debut album for Armellodie Records in 2012 (here).  Their new album, Break Out, will be available in June and can be pre-ordered at the Bandcamp link below.  But who would pre-order the album without sampling the songs?  That's a fair point, I think.  But CD/EX and Armellodie have anticipated that question, and have released "Don't You Call On Me" for your listening pleasure.  Moreover, the song can be downloaded free here.  Lend your ears to the cause, and I expect you'll agree that Chris Devotion and the Expectations can bring the heat.





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Rolling Stones Friday: Respectable


By 1978, The Rolling Stones were, in fact, respectable -- massively popular, audiences with royalty, and backstage scenes that were a who's who of actors, models. musicians, politicians and assorted rich and famous. So fittingly, the Stones tossed off a fun and casual Chuck Berry-inspired song on Some Girls mocking their own stature. Of course, all the while Keith was into the heroin, and who knows what else was swirling around the Stones' personal lives.

Here's the pre-MTV official promo video for "Respectable":



You can see the 1978 punk influence here both in sound and appearance. Jagger intended for the song to have a slower tempo, but Keith and the record company wanted it cranked up to show that the Stones were not ready to be put out to pasture by The Clash, Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks. And they in fact demonstrated that they could still rock with anyone and didn't even have to try all that hard to do so.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Let's Take the Day Off" by Lenzie Moss


The talented Finlay Macdonald has been a member of Music and Movement, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and Speedboat.  Now recording and performing as Lenzie Moss, he released a fine debut album in 2012 (our review here).  His new single is the gentle, jangling "Let's Take the Day Off".  A great tune for spring, it showcases Finlay's ability to craft uplifting melodies with a timeless feel.  The single will be released on March 31, and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp or iTunes.



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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

REVIEW: Vehicle Flips - Friends Like Nations (1994 - 1997)

As I understand it, first there was the short-lived Wimp Factor 14.  That band spawned Vehicle Flips, formed by Wimp Factor 14 frontman Frank Boscoe, and Puget Sound's beloved twee punks Tullycraft.  Boscoe later formed Gazetteers, but the latter group is a subject for another day.  Our current focus is Vehicle Flips, and more specifically Friends Like Nations (1994 - 1997), the new 25-track collection of singles, compilation tracks and previously unreleased tunes from Jigsaw Records.  This album would be worthwhile if it just served the needs of indie music historians or hard-core fans, but the delightful truth is that it is so much more.  The songs range from indie guitar gems with hints of Galaxie 500, Luna, and the Sugargliders.  But Vehicle Flips could make some noise as well, and Boscoe's vocals add the right touch of bratty punk attitude or garage rock snarl when the occasion demands.  For an example of the punk attitude, check out "Dodge Veg-O-Matic" below.  "O Tedium" has a swing to it that calls to mind the Doobie Brothers in full '70s summer stadium flight and "Duophonic Sterophonic" is a taught, spiky post-punk tune.

The singles and compilation tracks comprising most of this album were released over several years and on various labels, so this is the sole comprehensive collections of such tracks.  I was impressed with the excellent musicianship and Boscoe's interesting lyrical observations.  I also noted that in terms of inflection and tone, his voice reminds me of another wry commentator on life, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats.  I have a lot of new music at my disposal, and this record is one to which I find myself turning with great frequency; it is a keeper.

And as you'll note at the Bandcamp link, the CD is a ten-spot, and the digital version is $8.

It is my blog, so we'll start with one of the best: "Impressed Beyond Belief" --


And then there is "Household Expatriate" --


"Our Returning Champion" --


As promised, "Dodge Veg-O-Matic" --


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From the South - Cool, Cool Memories

Paisley underground influenced jangle pop is a favorite genre of mine, and I'm always on the lookout for new discoveries.  Today's find is From the South, a band hailing from southern Australia.  In mid February they released their sophomore LP, Cool, Cool Memories via Birds Love Fighting.  With relaxed vocal harmonies, guitars that jangle, chime and ring, and Conor Hutchison's intriguing lyrics, the album delivers a pleasing amalgamation of California guitar pop, Glasgow's Teenage Fanclub and The Bats.  It is available in a limited edition vinyl and a $10 digital download at the Bandcamp site.  Three of my favorite tracks are streamed below, and Bandcamp will allow you to evaluate the entire album.





 

From the South is Conor Hutchison, Harry Bellchambers, Goo Calligeros, Phizz Calligeros, Kay Chinnery, and George Calligeros.  By the way, if you are a fan, check out the name your price download of their debut album here.  While not quite as polished to my ears, it is a nice companion to Cool, Cool Memories.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Melodic - Effra Parade

The Melodic are a London five-piece who play folk rock with Latin influences.  With male/female vocals, a melodica, a variety of stringed instruments and world pop rhythms, they are an indie band like none other on the scene.  Eschewing the current mania among their folky brethren for Americana, they provide a breath of fresh air on genre alone.  However, their recently released debut album, Effra Parade, demonstrates that they can deliver musical content that certainly will excite fans of folk and world pop.  The songs on the album generally are both relaxed and relaxing, with a few rousing numbers that I expect would bring an appreciative live crowd to their feet.  Their art is sincere, and their home production perfect for the 15 songs on offer.  The vocals shine in the austere arrangements and the interplay of the vocals is smooth and unforced.  For me the overall effect is as if I were sitting in the living room of a group of musician friends on a Saturday night while they played their favorite tunes.  And that makes for a very good evening.

Effra Parade is out now via ANTI Records.  Below are three of the standout tracks from the album.  The third clip is a live version of "Come Outside", with fellow UK folk rocker and tour partner Johnny Flynn providing the fiddle.






The Melodic are Huw Williams, Rudi Schmidt, John Naldrett, Lydia Samuels, and James McCandless.  They currently are touring the United States, and the remaining dates are listed under the "Tour Dates" tab on their website.

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Review: The War on Drugs "Lost in the Dream"


The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream is an hour long journey to musical bliss, every song taking surprise turns, elastically swirling, layering more and more sounds - guitars and rhythm and keyboards and a baritone saxophone - packed with a subtle-on-the-surface but underlying emotional wallop that very few rock records achieve.

Adam Granduciel spent a year making Lost in the Dream, reportedly fussing meticulously over every note from every instrument. But rather than that resulting in a cold mess as so often happens, Lost in the Dream is a perfect realization, both sonically and emotionally, of Granduciel's strong vision for the record.

The first time I heard Lost in the Dream, I was driving in the car after a very bad work day, and it immediately saved me, took me somewhere else, reminding me a bit of a couple of my favorite ever road trip bands - The Feelies and Luna - and allowing me to be transported, hypnotized, transformed. But what's particularly interesting about that is the songs create a palpable sense of being lost, hurt, smothered. But at the same time there's a cathartic letting go - the soaring choruses, the highly effective vocals, the searing guitar lines, the attention grabbing ring of the keyboards and saxophone.

I could highlight any one of the 10 songs here, not a false note anywhere much less a clunker. But the one just killing me today is "An Ocean Between the Waves", the title capturing how the whole of this record is so much more than the sum of its parts.

I watch you as you hesitate
walking through the rain
I bet against the company again
been trying to redefine
everything that I know as love

I'm in my finest hour
Can I be more than just a fool?
It always gets so hard to see night before the moon


Lost, trying to hang on, tension rising and then - bam! - the song unfurls, the crashing of the waves, giving way to a massive release.  Listen here:


"Red Eyes" is the featured song from the CD with a proper video, perhaps the best track for radio because at only 4:59 it's shorter than nearly everything else here, and even by War On Drugs standards has a massive and wonderful chorus:


I have to give you one more, the first song, "Under the Pressure", a moody, stunning opening statement of a song - "Standing in the water, just trying not to crack, under pressure" - a slow burn with a sonic and emotional haze of of psychedelic guitars and synths, where the song swirls and builds, then ultimately recedes. Listen at the 5:20 mark when you can hear Granduciel whoop, as he does on other songs here, when he finally releases the tension:


Lost in the Dream is a starkly original work, hard to categorize, though it draws from Dylan, Neil Young and Springsteen, psychedelia, 80's post-punk pop, Americana, and bears somewhat of a musical kinship with fellow Philadelphian and former War on Drugs member Kurt Vile. But Granduciel creates a bold sound here, unmistakably him with every note, assisted by very capable players.

While it doesn't sound like either of these records, Lost in the Dream reminds me of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and R.E.M.'s Murmur with how it creates a timeless sound, a feel, an emotional and unique journey - and listen to any part of it and you know you aren't listening to any other record.  And placing Lost in the Dream in that company is about the highest praise I can give.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

REVIEW: Wild Beasts - Present Tense

Present Tense, the fourth able from Wild Beasts, is an intimate and emotional journey writ in an electro-pop language.  The themes encompass rage, dehumanization, angst, physicality, hope and redemption.  The soundscapes are adventuresome and boast multiple textures, bold rhythms and playful melodies.  The interplay of baritone and falsetto vocals deepens the emotional impact.  It is electronic-based synth music that is triumphantly alive and vital.  Listeners familiar with the previous albums from Wild Beats will note the increased reliance on keyboards, a reliance on the additional depth and touch of menace added by the synth bass, and the soaring high-register atmospherics.  But in light of the results I would be surprised if there are any complaints.   The album consists of eleven tracks, but they fit together so well, and the sequencing is so perfect, that it really seems like a single performance in eleven acts.  While it may not be unusual for a band to seek that effect, the successful execution is rare.

If you wonder whether pop music can be intelligent and carnal, pop but progressive, emotional but subtle and restrained, electronic and human, the answer is "yes, see Wild Beasts".





Wild Beasts are Hayden Thorpe (guitar, bass, keys and falsetto vocals), Benny Little (guitar and keys), Tom Fleming (bass, keys and tenor vocals), and Chris Talbot (percussion and baritone vocals).  Present Tense is out now on Domino Records.

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Kill Surrrf - "I Can't Sleep For Dreaming Of You"


Kill Surrrf are Johnny Lynn, Thomas Dornan, Ciaran Gilbert and Matthew Turner.  We introduced the Glasgow band to our readers about 11 months ago (link), as we were impressed with their surf pop sound.  The quartet is about to release a four-track cassette titled I Can't Sleep For Dreaming Of You on their hometown's Fuzzkill Records.  The title track is presented here as a stream and a video, and is an appealing dose of dreamy, psychedelic surf pop.





I Can't Sleep For Dreaming Of You is available on March 28 and can be pre-ordered now.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

REVIEW: Tripping the Light Fantastic - ... Is Tripping the Light Fantastic

One of the great secrets of the indie pop world is the existence of Jigsaw Records.  They scour the world for all manner of pop records, and generally will have in stock wonderful stuff you won't find elsewhere.  And if you live in the US, you can avoid international postage on the great releases Chris, the Jigsaw CEO, brings back from his trips abroad.  And not content to bring you delicious pop from other labels, Jigsaw runs its own label as well, and we think it is worth writing about.

Today's focus is the Hamburg, Germany outfit Tripping the Light Fantastic, and their debut album ... Is Tripping the Light Fantastic.  The band was formed in 2001, and assumed its current name in 2008.  Their past releases include several singles and an EP.  With a large line-up consisting of Frauke Brammer, Adrian Adam, Cornelius von Tiedermann, Henning Kasbohm, Jil Hesse, Johannes Huhmann, Leif Gutschow, and Tilman van der Leeden, the band can deploy male female voices in multiple combinations.  Musically, they appear related to the Glasgow guitar pop of The Pastels and Orange Juice, but  as you might expect with a collective this size, Tripping the Light Fantastic benefits from the infusion of a number of musical personalities.  The ten tracks include jangle pop, ballads, sugary noise pop, vampy piano-driven tunes and a bit of chamber pop.  There is a lot of fun here, and the digital copy is only $7.  Take THAT, iTunes!





You can purchase a digital copy or a CD at the Bandcamp link below, as well as stream the entire album.

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Rolling Stones Friday: Wild Horses


The Rolling Stones write some damn fine ballads too, and it's about time we feature one.

"Wild Horses" was recorded in December 1969 in Muscle Shoals Alabama and released on the Sticky Fingers LP in 1971. Memphis legend Jim Dickinson played piano on the song. Mick Taylor's country-flavored lead guitar is particularly effective.


It's one of The Stones' most enduring ballads. Here's an acoustic version done as a video in 1995:


The first release of the song was actually in 1970 when Keith granted his friend Gram Parsons the right to cover it on The Flying Burrito Brothers' LP Burrito Deluxe:  


Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Cadillac Girl" from Only Real

It seems to me that it is time for the northern hemisphere dwellers to start collecting songs to comprise your warm weather soundtrack.  Today's suggestion is "Cadillac Girl" from Only Real, the performing name of Londoner Niall Galvin.  Mr. Galvin wasn't on my radar, but I have become very fond of this song.  It features woozy instrumentation and a unique delivery that conveys slacker charm and an appealing confidence.  It will be available digitally on April 14 from Harvest Records in the US and Virgin EMI in the UK.  And if you like his work, you may want to track down last year's Days in the City EP.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

REVIEW: Somos -- Temple of Plenty


The debut album from Boston indie-punk band Somos will be released next week on Tiny Engines. Temple of Plenty is nearly equal parts loud and melodic -- happily tilting a bit toward the former -- and is one of the best records I've heard this year. The engineering and production (by Jesse Cannon and Mike Oettinger, who worked on the fantastic new (and to-be-reviewed) Morning Glory album) favors a guitar sound that Donald Trump would label "Yoooge!", supporting the stately, powerful vocals of bassist Michael Fiorentino. Have a listen to "Domestic":

 

The guitar work (Phil Haggerty and Justin Hahn) shifts naturally between cascading power chords and linear, melodic leads, reminding me of some of my favorite songs by Restorations (whose first album was released by Tiny Engines). And Evan Deges's drums flat out speak for themselves.



Oh, and, you know, it's Lent. My Lenten sacrifice this year is to try to be more patient with the parade of freaking morons who I encounter on a minute by minute basis in my everyday life. So, in an effort to comport myself in a manner consistent with this sacrifice, I'll reject the impulse to disparage the plebeian, whitebread tastes of those of you who haven't picked up this album by the end of business next Tuesday -- heck, you can even pre-order here. I'll also mention that I'm looking forward to next Thursday night, when Somos will be playing at the excellent downtown Raleigh venue Deep South -- The Bar. They're hitting the road next week, so make sure you go see them when they come to your godforsaken backwater hellhole.

MAR 21 - Providence, RI @ AS220
MAR 22 - Queens, NY @ Hollis Woods Community Church
MAR 23 - Oaklyn, NJ @ Studio Luloo
MAR 24 - Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
MAR 25 - Alexandria, VA @ The Lab
MAR 27 - Raleigh, NC @ Deep South - The Bar
MAR 28 - Greensboro, NC @ Carolina Theatre
MAR 29 - Atlanta, GA @ Wonderroot
MAR 30 - Augusta, GA @ Dirty Kids Den
MAR 31 - Tallahassee, FL @ Cuddlepunx Riot House
APR 01 - Tampa, FL @ Epic Problem
APR 02 - Pembroke Pines, FL @ Talent Farm
APR 03 - Orlando, FL @ Wills Pub
APR 04 - Gainesville, FL @ Looseys
APR 05 - Wilmington, NC @ Orton's Underground
APR 08 - Stroudsburg, PA @ The Living Room
APR 10 - Cambridge, MA @ The Middle East (Record Release) w/ The Hotelier, Choke Up and Grandview
APR 11 - Amherst, MA @ The Pub
APR 12 - Albany, NY @ The Icehouse w/ Save Ends
APR 13 - Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar w/ Save Ends
APR 14 - Cleveland, OH @ Now That's Class w/ Save Ends
APR 15 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean w/ Save Ends
APR 16 - Flint, MI @ TBA w/ Save Ends
APR 17 - Pittsburgh, PA @ The Roboto Project w/ Save Ends
APR 18 - Doylestown, PA @ Siren Records w/ Save Ends
APR 19 - Copiague, NY @ The Wood Shop w/ Save Ends

Here, check out another great song from the album:



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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

REVIEW: Tony Molina - Dissed and Dismissed

Don't you hate it when you hear that some album that dropped with little fanfare, limited availability is now both completely unavailable and a must-have masterpiece? (and while I'm thinking about it, will someone re-release Nectarine No. 9's Saint Jack? Thanks in advance!)  Apparently, such things bother the good people at Slumberland Records as well, because on March 25 they are re-leasing the delightful powerpop record Dissed and Dismissed by Tony Molina.  Originally issues on a limited run of vinyl in 2013, the album now will be available on vinyl, cassette and digital formats.  Pick one, pick all, and the The Tony will be with you always.

Tony is involved in hardcore projects as well, but Dissed and Dismissed displays his connection with the sounds that make Guided by Voices, Teenage Fanclub and The Feelies so beloved by their fans regardless of the genre of the day on the pop music scene (even including one GBV cover).  All that doesn't mean that Tony is just replicating history.  He is thematically and lyrically adventurous, perhaps even subversive.  The songs are concise, but so sharp and well-formed that the length seems just right.  They seem like AM radio blasts from bands whose names you can't quite remember but whose work you loved.

This album may well be the stuff of legend around the campfires after Armageddon.  And maybe not.  But you'll enjoy it thoroughly regardless.  Besides, most of us  won't survive Armageddon.  If you're like me, you've been stockpiling beer, not food.  I'm just hoping to escape my library fines.




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RIP: Scott Asheton (The Stooges)


Scott Asheton died on March 15 at age 64.

In 1967, in Ann Arbor Michigan where his family had moved a few years before, Scott and his guitar playing brother Ron, along with two other school pals, Dave Alexander and James Osterberg Jr. (a/k/a Iggy Pop), formed The Stooges. And it is fair to say that Scott Asheton and his band mates changed the course of rock history. The Stooges primitive, super aggressive sound took '60's garage rock to its most extreme, forming a blueprint for generations of punk and garage bands to follow.

While there have certainly been "better" drummers than Scott Asheton in terms of technique and innovation, no one could have suited The Stooges proto-punk approach more skillfully. Deceptively simple, relentless  and uncompromising - Scott Asheton in many ways led was The Stooges as much as Iggy Pop did.

Listen here - "Raw Power" indeed:

      
Following The Stooges break up in 1974, Scott Asheton played with many bands and artists, among them Sonic's Rendezvous Band (featuring MC5 alum Fred "Sonic" Smith), The Scott Morgan Band, Sonny Vincent, Captain Sensible, Destroy All Monsters, and Iggy Pop. Following Ron Asheton's death in 2009, Scott, along with Iggy Pop was the only original member of The Stooges to play in their various festival and other shows in recent years.

Here's The Stooges in 2003 in their first show on their Detroit home turf in 29 years -- chaos ensues, but Scott Asheton keeps the beat, pulverizing the skins, as true and tough as rock'n'roll gets:  


Monday, March 17, 2014

Our St Patrick's Day Toast to You




Let us not let St. Patrick's Day pass without a visit from Ireland's finest young singer, the great Lisa Hannigan. This one "Safe Travels" from her fine and most recent CD Passenger is our toast to all of you today:



REVIEW: Appletop - Brave Mountains

The sun is out, the temperatures are getting warmer and I think Spring is creeping in.  So my musical appetite requires some sunny sounding power pop and southern influenced rock.  Where would I find that?  Well, at the moment, I'm finding it on Brave Mountains, the new LP from the French group Appletop.  Yes, a French group on a Scottish label playing American-style alt rock with a bit of a country flavor.  We are citizens of the world.

Channeling '80s and '90s British and American guitar rock, the riffs are chunky and jangling, the harmonies soaring -- this trio has their finger on the pulse of timelessly appealing indie rock.  In fact, I would suggest that if you heard a few of these songs in isolation you might wonder whether you were listening to recently discovered unreleased tracks from Teenage Fanclub or Pavement.  The set includes muscular rockers, anthems, and slow-burners.

Appletop are Olivier Cancellieri, Pierre Cristofari and Nicolas Faou.  They formed the band in 2008, and previously have released shorter records and an debut album.  With this album, they demonstrate that the deserve worldwide exposure.  Test out two of the great tracks below.





Brave Mountains is out now via Armellodie Records.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

REVIEW: Withered Hand - New Gods

Some of you looked at the title of this post and thought to yourself "hmm, Withered Hand, eh, this is either going to be some thrash metal group or some weepy emo stuff - has Scott run short of material?'  However, the truth is that Withered Hand, the performing name for Edinburgh's Dan Willson, is neither, and New Gods is an album that you really should consider owning.  Now.

Prior offerings from Withered Hand have tended to attract terms such as anti-folk.   But on New Gods Willson and his band of contributors have emerged as an energetic, melodically clever pop band, merging the lyrical talents of a first class folk storyteller with clear-eyed observational skills with the the pace, tone and melodies of pop.  There is wit, self-effacement, joy, loss, cries of the wounded loser, and tales of travels in America set over a Byrdsian jangle and Shins-level hooks.  And I have to give extra points to a man who scores a deal with Slumberland Records for an album with a song named after the label boss' own band (Black Tambourine) and featuring that band's lead singer, Pam Berry, on the track.  And Pam isn't the only notable to assist Willson with New Gods.  He also received contributions from Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines, among other projects), King Creosote, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit and members of Belle and Sebastian.  The production is by the highly regarded Tony Doogan, whose other clients include Belle and Sebastian, The Delgados, Mogwai and Teenage Fanclub.

The album opens with the incredibly appealing "Horseshoe".  I think it is one of the songs of the year, and since it is Willson's favorite of the set, I'll credit myself with good taste.  The following track, the above-mentioned "Black Tambourine" is buoyant, sugary indie pop of the first order.  At this point of my first run through the album, the thought occurred to me that this music was generating the same same sort of excitement in me as did James Mercer's first few albums as The Shins.  The third song is the America-shaded "Love Over Desire", about the classic (and never-ending) struggle between love and desire.  Then Withered Hand launches into rock mode with the fast-pace "King of Hollywood", a song that always makes me want to climb into a car and drive with the song on loud and the windows down.

The pace and volume finally slow for the reflective and dreamy "California".  "Fall Apart" and "Between Love and Ruin" are note-perfect California guitar pop.  Country rock shoulders back into the set with "Live of Doubt".  The final three tracks, "New Gods", "Heart Heart and "Not Alone" take the listener on a bracing ride of reflection, joy and togetherness that quite appropriately has the feel of a well-deserved encore.

I suspect that you won't find many better indie rock albums this year; I know that I won't.





New Gods is out now via Slumberland Records in North America and FortunaPOP! in the UK/EU.

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Introducing: Tijuana Bibles; free download

Based in Glasgow, Tijuana Bibles aim to satisfy your craving for head bobbing, fist pumping rock and roll.  The lineup is Tony Costello, Behn Cross, Mikey Dornan, and James Brannigan. Their first EP, Wild River, was released last April, and their second EP is expected this June.  On March 14, they will release "Toledo".  Download it free here.

Here is the Wild River EP:


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Rolling Stones Friday: Gimme Shelter


The opening track on Let It Bleed, "Gimme Shelter" is undoubtably one on the Rolling Stones most powerful and best songs.  Raging with anger, alienation and violence of the Vietnam War, "Gimme Shelter", recorded in November 1969, effectively closed the 1960's and still serves as one of the truly emblematic cultural pieces of that era.


While Brian Jones was present at the time, he did not play on the track, while Keith Richards played both the rhythm and lead guitar parts. It's some of the best work Keith ever did.

As a piece of music, its most striking feature however may be the vocal of Merry Clayton. "Rape, murder! It's just a shot away"! The story of this performance was perhaps the most compelling scene in the fabulously compelling 20 Feet From Stardom which just won the Academy Award for best documentary film of 2013. See this film now if you have not. Clayton, pregnant at the time, was summoned to the studio near her home in Los Angeles in the middle of the night for an emergency undisclosed project, arriving in pajamas and hair curlers. Here is part of her vocal isolated -- listen to the break in Clayton's voice voice when she strains to shout the word "murder" even harder, it being so strong you can hear Mick Jagger react with a spontaneous "woo!":
 
Lisa Fisher, also featured in 20 Feet From Stardom, has toured with the Stones for decades and has done a very credible job taking on the same vocal in live performances over the many decades, as here in a remarkably good video from a small club appearance in Amsterdam in 1995:  


 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Oddments

Fill Your Lungs (review here), the 2013 release from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was number 18 on my year end list.  The prolific psych/garage rock collective from south Australia has quickly returned with the 12-track album Oddments.  Continuing their penchant for wide-scope musical expression, the first three tracks give an organ instrumental, the soft psychedelia of "Stressin'", and the garage pop "Vegemite".  Track four, "It's Got Old", features blues harp laced through a slacker vamp.  You get the picture, and I'm sure you'd love to have a copy of the triple gatefold deluxe vinyl or CD.  Well, sucker, you are out of luck as both those items are sole out.  And before you blame me, I'll point out that the album was released less than a week ago.  However, things are not all dark and painful as you can obtain a digital copy for ten Australian dollars at the link below.  Did you ask whether I'd convert that to American dollars or British pounds for you?  Clearly you are unaware of my math grades.  And you will remain unaware of my math grades.  Test out a few tracks below, and stream the entire album at the purchase link below.  It will be a weird and wonderful 34 minutes, but what do you expect from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard?

"Stressin'"




)

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New videos from Yumi Zouma

As regular readers know, I was very impressed with the pre-released songs from the debut EP fromNew Zealand ex-pats Yumi Zouma.  Now that the EP is out on Cascine, the band have released paired videos for tracks "A Long Walk Home for Parted Lovers" and "Brae".  Telling the story of a fragile relationship and a budding triangle, they were created by Eugene Kotlyarenko in a stylish manner these songs deserve.  By the way, Cascine is sold out of the physical copies, but the EP can be purchased from online digital sources.





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Monday, March 10, 2014

Introducing: Ghost Gum

Apparently, Philadelphia's Ghost Gum has been a band for a little less than a half year, but based on this free Demos 2014 EP on their Bandcamp page, I think they already deserve a bit of the WYMA boost.  Featuring a chunky, reverb-heavy instrumental assault with plenty of bass and a vocalist that reminds me of Wendy Morgan of the Popguns (which is a way of reminding you that I love Wendy Morgan's voice), they have a sound that tickles me head to foot.  At this point, we only have the demos, but I assure you that this is a group whose show I want to see and debut album I want to own.

Ghost Gum is Ben, Arik, Travis and Carolyn.  You can stream/download all four demos at the Bandcamp link.

 


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Friday, March 7, 2014

REVIEW: The Jet Age - Jukebox Memoir

Jukebox Memoir is a very satisfying indie rock album dressed up as a concept album.  And I happen to really like the concept -- write songs that honor the bands that inspired The Jet Age through the years, and present it as a radio playlist.  To do this, you need confidence and chops.  Fortunately, this Washington, DC area band has both.  The band's usual sound is rooted in The Wedding Present indie rock style, but for this project they adeptly execute boogie rock, funk, dance, shoegaze and British Invasion, among others.  Where this album really works for me is the fresh spin it puts on familiar styles, and the variety of the offerings.  Because the songs all are original compositions, The Jet Age sidesteps the dreaded reaction provoked by classic rock stations everywhere (oh, that Steve Miller song; oh, that Rolling Stones song) while still reminding you what you liked about a particular sound from the past.

Here are a few tastes.  You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.  "Dissolve Into the Bedroom" features the choppy riffage, boogie rhythms and swagger of '70s rock, calling to mind the Rolling Stones and Zeppelin.

 
My favorite song on the album, "I Could Spend the Whole Day in Bed", reflects the British Invasion, and specifically The Small Faces and the Beatles.

 
The dancing shoes slip on for "You Want to Dance", which celebrates Chic and Duran Duran.

 

The Jet Age are Eric Tischler (guitars/vocals/keys), Pete Nuwayser (drums), and Greg Bennett (bass).  The album is out now, and can be sourced in physical copy from the band's website and digitally from Bandcamp.  And if I may muck around in the commercial arena for a moment, the 12 tracks are a mere $7 for the digital download, and $11 for a CD plus download.

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Rolling Stones Friday: All Down the Line


We've been waiting all year to give you one from Exile On Main Street (1972). And it doesn't get better than "All Down the Line", a pure rock'n'roll song that for me represents the Stones at the top of their game. Mick Taylor's slide guitar, the rhythm and riffs from Keith, Bobby Keys and Jim Price on horns, Nicky Hopkins' piano - this song lifts off and just roars.

The recorded version:


The song has been a staple of Stones live shows for the past 40 years.  Here's a smoking hot live performance from 1972:


I was probably subconsciously nudged to go with this one by my incessant listening to the new Drive-By Truckers CD English Oceans (review here), which is as close to a great Stones record like Exile as we're possibly going to get in 2014. I don't know if the Truckers have covered "All Down the Line" but it's probably safe to assume it has inspired them as it has countless rock bands over the past  four decades.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

REVIEW: CYMBALS - The Age of Fracture


The Age of Fracture by London's CYMBALS takes the synth/guitar-based post punk of New Order, Factory Records and Depeche Mode and polishes and tweaks it for a new era.  It is nostalgic and warm in tone and lyrically reflective.  I've liked it each of the many times I've played it, but it has been a particular favorite late at night.  The album is takes its name from work by a Princeton University professor, and the band cites multiple influences, including visual artists and musicians.  And the lyrics reflect a thoughtful take on the band's art.  But where this album works, and works well, is at the visceral level.  It envelops you, engages your body and may make you -- yes even you -- want to dance.

I don't know whether the world is ready to embrace CYMBALS, but I'm a fan.  If you are at SXSW, they have shows scheduled on March 12 and 13.  Test out a few tracks below.  This may be the feel good music to take you into the summer.







The Age of Fracture is out now via Tough Love Records.

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Performance Dates:
12th March - SXSW - Forcefield @ Maggie Mae's - 12am
13th March - SXSW - Howl Cheer Up Charlie's -1:15 am
2nd May - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
3rd May - Live At Leeds, Leeds
4th June - Corsica Studios, London

D.D Dumbo - D.D. Dumbo EP

D.D Dumbo, the stage name for Castlemaine, Australia's Oliver Hugh Perry, is a pop and indie rock soul with an adventuresome, even unrestrained, delivery.  Using 12 string guitar, loop pedals and voice that rivals some of the top vocalists of the genre, he will paint you a musical picture using blues, psychedelia, dream pop, and, in a highlight moment, Roy Orbison's "Crying".  Interested?  I assure you that you should be.  I regret to inform you that the vinyl version of his five-track, self-titled EP is already sold out (blame your local blogger for not telling you sooner).  However, it remains available at digital outlets.  Lucky SXSW visitors can catch him live on the 12th and 15th of March (other dates likely will be added).

Devote your ears to the slashing blues riffs and soulful moan of "Tropical Oceans".  You won't regret it.



Track two is "I Woke Up Covered In Sand" -


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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Love Is A Bitter Thing" from RAMS' Pocket Radio

RAM's Pocket Radio is Peter McCauley.  The resident of Northern Ireland released his debut alum,  B├ęton, in 2013.  As he embarks on Irish and American tours, including five appearances at the SXSW Festival, he is releasing a single from the album, "Love Is A Bitter Thing", on March 17.  A dynamic piano track, I think it is an appropriate introduction to a talented artist.  Give it four minutes and sixteen seconds of your life, it is well spent.


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Tour Dates
08-03-14 New York Webster Hall (with Duke Special)
10-03-14 SXSW Northern Irish party O/S 10pm
11-03-14 SXSW UKTI Great British Breakfast, Parkside
12-03-14 SXSW British Music Embassy showcase O/S 2.50pm
14-03-14 SXSW Full Irish Breakfast, BD Rileys
14-03-14 SXSW Official Showcase, BD Rileys
25-03-14 Ruby Sessions, Doyles, Dublin
29-03-14 Strand Arts Centre [All ages], Belfast

Monday, March 3, 2014

REVIEW: Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans


The release of a new CD by the great Drive-By Truckers would be a cause for celebration here at WYMA under any circumstance. But the fact that English Oceans, the band's 12th CD, is one of their very best makes us extremely happy.

The band took some time off in 2012-13 and had more time to write. It shows as the compositions are strong. And the current lineup of the band is both muscular and versatile.  English Oceans captures the feel, spirit and variety of the Truckers' legendary live shows.  There is a confidence and high level of competence to this record reflecting just how seasoned and unified the Truckers are.

In particular. English Oceans represents a high water mark in Mike Cooley's songwriting. His 6 songs here are to my ears the best overall batch he's done. And they fit very well with Patterson Hood's songs, the two longtime musical partners seemingly influencing each other a bit and growing together as songwriters. Rather than a dramatic yin-yang, there's somewhat of a cohesive whole here from start to finish.

Producer David Barbe knows the band well and captures a great sound - organic but tough, keeping it simple but adding a little extra flavor like horns at just the right time. Overall, English Oceans is the sound of a true band, and a rock band at that, a collective, the whole even greater than the sum of its parts.

We love this record so much, John and I will give you a song-by-song tour:

"Shit Shots Count":
JD: The record launches with a kick ass Stonesy rocker from Cooley that may be my favorite of his since "3 Dimes Down". The song is the perfect introduction to English Oceans - sit up and pay attention folks, we mean business here! The song has a a killer horn piece at the the end that is straight out of their Muscle Shoals rock and soul roots. I love Cooley's knack for the great line like: "Boss ain't as smart as he'd like to be, but he ain't nearly as dumb as you think." Man this sounds great turned up real loud on the car stereo.

JH: This song is reminiscent of some previous rock songs as slices of working class life: Wilco's "Monday" and Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", the former for that great horn section JD mentioned, the latter for an overall feel, something about the guitar parts and the spirit of "I'm not afraid of you -- you can't do anything to me that hasn't already been done."

"When He's Gone":
JH: Lots of sadness on this album... or perhaps ennui? This is probably the most devastating track, in its depiction of what sounds like a completely empty relationship. Hood's expressive vocal really carries the mood of the song.

JD: The toughness of the sound contrasting the tender story is one of the things Hood and this band do best. Hood's singing is great throughout this record, but nowhere more than here.

"Primer Coat":
JD: A mid-tempo gem from Cooley that would been right at home on a mid-period R.E.M. record. Almost sounds like Peter Buck is playing on it. Great example of the story-driven lyrics and a bit down-on-their-luck characters that these guys are so good at. Very economical and illuminating writing: "He used to swim back in school. Graduated in '84, quit drinking in 92."

JH: Almost? Here's a video of Buck playing on it!



And what I said earlier about a lot of sadness? Reflecting on the sentiments of "When He's Gone", hearing Cooley sing "Someone comes for their babies/ Something dies right then" is even more melancholy as it describes a father's predicament...

"Pauline Hawkins":



JH: This one sounds a LOT like the earlier Hood composition, "When He's Gone". And, from another point of view, it's an even more unstintingly negative take on popular notions of love and devotion (i.e., they don't exist). Hood's vocals are plaintive here, in counterpoint to the tough-as-nails stance of the narrator: "Don’t call me your baby, I’m nobody’s baby/ I won’t let you cage me or lock me away/ I’m not yours to keep, don’t want you to save me".

JD: For such a bunch of badass Southern boys, the Truckers sure do a great job writing about strong and sympathetic female protagonists.  Add Pauline Hawkins to the list, a character lifted by Hood from Willy Vlautin's new novel The Free. The song structure takes a terrific turn with the big piano bridge 2/3 of the way through that leads to the stark piano work of Jay Gonzalez, followed by the all out jam at the end, guitars blazing, rhythm section firing. Hood is at the top of his game here.

"Made Up English Oceans":
JD: A nice change of pace on the sort of title track - a southwest desert sound. Cooley stretches himself a bit here as a writer to great effect. Acoustic guitars and maracas accented by guitar echo. The song is said to be about '80's political operative Lee Atwater.

JH: Yes, I got the southwest twang, too, and Cooley's almost auctioneer-pace on the vocals is an intriguing touch. Kind of a vocal gunslinger?

"The Part of Him":
JH: Some hilarious lyrics in this Hood track about a late, not-much-lamented crooked Southern machine politican:

He was a piece of work, pretty much a total jerk

and, punctuated in Hood's laconic, understated way of delivering a devastating truth with good ol' boy humor:

his own mama called him an SOB

The repetition of his less-savory qualities with good vocal humor has its effect (think "Brutus, he was an honorable man" repeated over and over), and the message is one you'll recall from a much older rock song, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".



JD: it ain't easy being an informed, passionate political progressive in the red state South, and Hood lets it fly here, quoted recently that the song is about "political assholery". Yet it's a catchy tune. With a bigger more obvious chorus it could be a sing-a-long. C'mon everybody let's hear it  - "His own Mama called him an SOB!" Okay, it might not have supplanted "Yellow Submarine" in the collective consciousness, but it's a great sounding, cathartic song.  

"Hearing Jimmy Loud": 
JD: Matt Patton from the Dexateens has been a great addition to the band. Patton's bass line that starts and dominates "Hearing Jimmy Loud" is so kick ass. Another Stonesy balls out rocker from Cooley.  Love the greasy lead guitar throughout. "She’s like a talking leather couch /  Warm between the cushions where she hid whatever treasure fell out."

JH: Is this the story of a young guy who hitched a ride, spent the duration of the trip listening to Jimmy complain about his ex-wife, and wisely chalked it up to experience? Or maybe a fellow driver - he talks about Jimmy's "band" (CB radio band?) and you can almost see the narrator being mesmerized by the sound of this sad character ranting about his wife's tanning habit and spoiled kids. Either way, Cooley's fairly sanguine about it: "That earful cost me nothing/ poor old Jimmy’s paying for it by the pound."

"Til He's Dead or Rises": 
JH: It's a Hood tune sung by Cooley, and it absolutely works.

JD: I've expressed my admiration for Cooley's songs throughout here. But I must admit, the first time I heard this, I thought, damn, Cooley is writing with more gravitas these days, good for him. Turns out Hood wrote this one but had trouble with the vocal, so Cooley took the mic and nailed it. Maybe if Jagger and Richards respected each other this much and still functioned together at this high a level they too could commander a record as good as English Oceans. This performance has a great full band feel - piano, drums, bass, guitars all working exceptionally well together.

"Hanging On": 
JD: A gorgeous and tender Patterson Hood folk ballad. Very simple, Hood on acoustic guitar with a little bit of keyboard and guitar accents. Hood has become a far more nuanced singer over the years and pulls this off so well.

JH: Sweet, sad and tuneful, this song about a kid who leaves home to "hump it town to town/and never let them down", but still fights crippling self-doubt until finally writing a song "that suddenly the whole world wants to sing"... which brings its own set of struggles. A very pretty song that wouldn't be out of place on Hood's last, very autobiographical solo record.

"Natural Light":
JH: This is a great country song with a bunch of ragged, lo-fi rock guitar that's so wrong it's right. The piano, Cooley's drawn-out vocalization, it's as country as they get.

JD: This one sounds like it's the end of a great night, long beyond last call, light of the next day coming up. Jay Gonzalez is playing the piano, Cooley is crooning a suitably ragged country ballad. Better empty the ashtrays and try to get some sleep.

"When Walter Went Crazy":
JD: For such a seemingly well centered guy, Hood sure has a knack for writing about some devastatingly troubled characters. Walter snapped, poured gasoline throughout the house. "He had rattlesnake in his eyes, blended whiskey in his veins and murder in his heart." Yet, Hood writes about Walter with sympathy. The music in the song is sparse, moving and just right. This one has grown on me more than any song here - dark, haunting, sad, yet beautiful somehow.

JH: Walter's another of the sad, unique characters the Truckers specialize in drawing out... and the ending of the song underlines the cinematic nature of a lot of Hood's writing:

When Walter went crazy and the house went up in flames
You could see his hands shaking from the bourbon and the shame
He never planned the ending he just rolled the credit names
When the lights came up we all went home but never quite the same


And am I the only one reminded of Dylan's grandpa?

"First Day of Autumn":
JH: Jesus, the saddest/sweetest one yet! First day of autumn brings back memories, but they ain't good: "Memory only shows the promise beauty broke/ of beauty ageless in its time" - not ageless, but ageless in its time (which is about the opposite of ageless, if you think about it. "First day of autumn leaves me numb." And what a simple, sweet, beautiful country rock ballad.

JD: Another southwest deserty kind of feel. Slowed down a bit, understated, pretty.  Cooley's deceptively easy and natural vocals are just right. This is the kind of a great quiet ballad a rock band can make look effortless only after playing together for 20 years.

"Grand Canyon": 
JD: An epic close to the record. A haunting and gorgeous tribute to the band's dear friend and crew member Craig Lieske who died of a heart attack in January 2013. Brad Morgan's drums give the song the feel of slow emotional march. Wide open road, an American monument and natural wonder, memory, loss, grief, sadness, highlighting both the fleeting element and permanence of life. So beautiful and sad. A truly stunning piece of writing, a highlight of Hood's esteemed career.

JH: Epic, haunting and gorgeous - all words I remember using to describe how I felt listening to "Moonlight Mile". JD used a Stones comparison to open the review, and I'll use one here... great bands have a way to use changes of pace and sparse instrumentation in counterpoint to the harder-rocking stuff, and it has an even greater emotional punch. What I said about sadness? Well, sure, but this thing is so beautiful, a fitting tribute to a friend, the overriding emotion here is wonder. It's a majestic song closing out their best record yet.

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REVIEW: Blood of the Bull - Bend Over E.P.


Blood of the Bull is American born Glasgow resident Hillary Van Scoy.  For the past couple of years we have enjoyed her contributions to the lamentably defunct Aggi Doom, as well as DIVORCE and Phat Trophies.  But with Aggi Doom doomed, the silver lining may be more time for the members to delight us with their other projects.  And Hillary is the first to fill the gap with the four-track vinyl release, the Bend Over EP.  Treading the line between garage rock and mid-fi indie rock the EP delivers interesting and sweet-sounding melodies featuring Hillary's clear vocals and passionate delivery.  The lyrics balance the melodies with dark wit and shards of broken glass.  You'll find an appealing variety here, with the first two tracks more in the garage vein, the third track ventures into dream pop and the fourth track is a lo-fi keyboard romp. Try tracks two and four below.  You can stream the entire EP at the Bandcamp link.

I think the Bend Over EP hails the arrival of a talented artist, and I strongly recommend it.  The EP is available today via Soft Power Records.




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