Saturday, January 31, 2015

Introducing: Skittle Alley

I don't know much about Skittle Alley (the name seems to be misspelled on the Soundcloud clip).  If my research is correct the band is the bedroom recording project of Carlos Rene.  I think both Carlos and his bedroom are in Madrid.  I discovered the song "Boy Meets Girl", and think it is terrific.  It is from and album named Love Is An Action, which is available at  the links below.  It is lovely, euphoric pop music.  Turn it up and let it wash over you.

Website for album
Bandcamp for album
Facebook for label

Friday, January 30, 2015

"All Her Time" from Black Lizard, new album in March

Finland's Black Lizard will release Solarize, their second LP, via Soliti Music this spring.  Expect more of their thick, muscular blend of garage and shoegaze, but with synths added to fill out the sound.  You can test out the first single from the album, "All Her Time".

Soliti Music

"Pedestrian At Best" from Courtney Barnett, album in March

Here in the executive dining room of WYMA headquarters the main topic of conversation is the great news that Courtney Barnett's frequent touring of late hasn't prevented her from writing new music.  In fact, we are looking forward to the release of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (likely to be called Sometimes or SISATASIJS by most music writers) on March 24.  We know what to expect: Wryly crafted observations with humor, self-awareness and probably some regret and sorrow.  And our expectations are high.  Our first taste comes courtesy of the video for album track "Pedestrian At Best", in which Courtney seems to make fun or her own recent fame and holds others at arms length with self-deprecation and a critical eye.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

REVIEW: The Black Watch - Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy

The Black Watch is a long-standing cult band founded by John Andrew Fredrick in the late '80s.  They have released a number of LPs with various line-ups.  The one constant is Fredrick -- singer, songwriter and, for Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy, the sole musician for all instruments other than drums.  I confess to being thoroughly impressed by the fact that after all of those years of flying under the radar and enduring membership changes, Fredrick still sounds fully engaged and vital.  His songwriting is varied and uniformly assured.  The lyrics are literate and clever, and the vocal delivery expressive and sincere.

The songs on the album are varied, with jaunty indie pop balanced with gentle near-lullabies and a few taut post-punk and shoegazy compositions.  The guitar tones are interesting and range from buzz and crunch to restrained acoustic strumming.  It is an album that deserves repeated listens, but more importantly, it rewards repeated listens.  Fredrick has a knack for simultaneously discussing relationships in a straightforward manner and displaying a cold-eyed self-awareness of the prospective dangers.  For example, in one of my favorite tracks, "Anne of Leaves", Fredrick notes that he has only talked to to his hoped-to-be-paramour for two drinks before he had to catch a plane, that he has a bright impression of her that he knows will not last, but he nevertheless will return to her side as soon as possible.  I don't know about you, but that could be a summary of a few dozen chapters in my life, just stated more cleverly.

Influences detected include The Beatles and The Soft Boys, but the result is so much more than the sum or its components.  It is a melodic, shimmering glimpse at the romantic corner of the human condition, and a pleasure to hear.

Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy is out now via Pop Culture Press Records.

Facebook for Pop Culture Press Records

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Depth of Perception" from Dubarry

Dubarry, from Australia's Sunshine Coast, creates electronic music with world beat and dub elements.  They are said to deliver a smashing live show as well.  Let your introduction be their new "Depth of Perception".  Well conceived and executed, the tribal percussion is outstanding.

Dubarry are Brett Gadenne, Kate Gadenne, Damian Campbell and, from time to time, Adam Scriven and Chelsea Campbell-Wilson.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"That's Right" from Tuff Love, new EP soon

One of our favorite discoveries last year was the Junk EP from Glasgow band Tuff Love (here).  Then a trio, Julie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals) now work as a duo.  We are happy to report that the release of their second EP, Dross, is fewer than two weeks away.  The first single from the new record was "Slammer", which we featured last November (here).  We now have the video for a second track, "That's Right".  Packed with crunchy guitar, burly bass and gooey harmonies, it is just what we need to brighten up our winter days.

Dross EP will be released via Scotland's Lost Map Records.

Lost Map Records page for Tuff Love

Monday, January 26, 2015

H. Grimace - I Am Material EP

You may find the name H. Grimace awkward, or you may find it memorable.  But we strongly suggest that you find the band's I Am Material EP.  It is available as a cassette or download (i.e. iTunes), and the songs are terrific.  The EP commences with standout track "Imogen".  Throbbing, woozy and urgent, you  have my permission to fall in love with this band at first song. I did.  The following track "Royal Hush" initially slows the pace, but is suffused with an ominous intensity that builds to a satisfying release.  "To The Shaggerston" moves into '90s alt guitar/shoegaze territory with muscle and attitude.  "Immaterial Girl" and "Great Divide" are fulsome slices of crunchy indie rock, with intertwined guitars and clever hooks.  Closing track "Wasted Sun" is a slow tempo, brooding jam that leaves you wanting more.  We have provided three tracks below, and you can stream the entire album at the Soundcloud and Bandcamp links below.

H. Grimace is a London-based four piece founded by Hannah Gledhill (guitar/vocals) and Asher Preston (drums/vocals).  More recently they added Shan Pasha (bass) and Marcus P. Browne (guitar).  I Am Material EP is out now via Soft Power Records.  The band will be touring the United States this winter with San Francisco band Couches.

Bandcamp for cassette
Soft Power Records

"Say Yeah", a plea for a Glastonbury gig

Mann Friday is a London-based band comprise of musicians from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Italy.  Their decade on the scene has produced five studio albums and a number of fans of their Afro-folk-rock.  But their remaining dream is to play a stage at Glastonbury.  To that end, they have crafted this musical plea to the festival's organizer, Emily Eavis.  The simple and sincere request to Emily is to "say yeah", and book Mann Friday for the gig.

We here at WYMA aren't going to pretend that Emily's job is easy, or that she can or should give in to every request for a piece of the stage.  But we founded this blog to help promote the dreams of the artists that were reaching for a higher rung on the ladder.  We think that "Say Yeah" is a fine tune, so from the suburbs of Seattle on a Sunday night, we'll make a long distance pitch to Emily: Say Yeah.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Shaky Ground (Hey Na Na Na)" from Freedom Fry

Marie Seyrat, a young lady from France, and Bruce Driscoll, a young man from Michigan, and a common love of warm pop songs combine to form Los Angeles-based duo Freedom Fry.  They released an EP last August and have several videos of songs on their website.  But today's post is to introduce their first song of 2015, the incredibly catchy "Shaky Ground (Hey Na Na Na)".


Friday, January 23, 2015

"Bad Betty" from The Sonics, new album soon

There is a familiar rock and roll story in which the aging rock band mellows out, embraces age and finds their inner country music story-teller voice.  This is NOT one of those stories.  This story begins with the return of the Pacific Northwest's greatest ever garage band.  Yes, The Sonics are preparing to release their first studio album since 1967, and it does not appear that any of them have embraced their inner county music story-teller voice.  And thank Buddha for that!  The album's 12 tracks were recorded live in the studio in mono, and will be released on the band's own label, Revox Records.

Original members Jerry Roslie (keys and vocals), Larry Parypa (guitar and vocals) and Rob Lind (sax, harmonica and vocals) are joined by Freddie Dennis of the Kingsmen and the Liverpool Five on bass and Dusty Watson from Dick Dale and Agent Orange on drums.  The band will be touring in April, and we've included the dates at the bottom of the post.

Would we leave you without a sample of the goods?  Of course not!  Here is "Bad Betty".


Tour Dates
4/2/2015 Seattle, WA - Moore Theater (record release party with Mudhoney & special guests)
4/4/2015 Las Vegas, NV - Viva Las Vegas Weekender
4/5/2015 Las Vegas, NV - Viva Las Vegas Weekender
4/8/2015 New York, NY - Irving Plaza*
4/9/2015 Asbury Park, NJ - Stone Pony*
4/10/2015 Allston, MA - Brighton Music Hall*
4/11/2015 Providence, RI - Columbus Theater*
4/12/2015 Philadelphia, PA - Theater of Living Arts*
4/23/2015 Cincinnati, OH - Woodward Theater*
4/24/2015 Chicago, IL - Thalia Hall*
4/25/2015 Detroit, MI - Magic Stick*
4/26/2015 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace*
* support: Barrence Whitfield & the Savages

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Hollow Veins" from Surf City, new album in March

Surf City, one of my favorite New Zealand bands, is releasing their next album via Fire Records internationally and Popfrenzy in Australia.  Named Jekyll Island, it is expected on March 23.  Sample its buzzsaw guitar glory below on album track number four, "Hollow Veins".  You can pre-order the album at the Bandcamp link below.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Spotify Playlist: WYMA Top Albums of 2014 (Scott's List)

Scott did a yeoman's job of keeping WYMA moving forward in 2014.  Feast your senses pn the fruits of his efforts.

WYMA Top Albums of 2014 (Scott's List)

We music blog writers do certain things.  We listen to music, we write about music, we drink beer, and many of us write a year-end list.  So here we are with my list.  I don't pretend that this list is represents the definitive top 55 new albums released in 2014 (although it might).  I haven't listened to every album released, and the albums I did listen to reflect my tastes in music.  The reason I write this list, in addition to an obsessive desire to introduce some order to my life, is to give people who read this blog because they like what I like a bit of a recap of the year's more notable releases.  If you aren't one of those people and you are reading this anyway, you either are bored, imprisoned, or looking for some fodder to rebut your cousin when he starts spouting off about his favorite 2014 albums at the Super Bowl party.  In the latter case, this list will likely give you a few albums your cousin hasn't heard of.

There are a few guidelines for this list.  Generally, my list of ranked albums only includes new releases.  Compilations, reissues and EPs/singles will be the subject of a separate post if I have the time to devote to it.  I'll also point out that while Mom + Pop released Courtney Barnetts' Double EP: Sea of Split Peas in 2014, it originally was a 2013 release and was in my top ten for that year, so I am not including it this year.  However, it is wonderful, and everyone should own it.

Note that the list is in three sections, each presented in alphabetical order.  Some years the voices in my head tell me that this approach is better than a straight numerical list, some years the voices say the opposite.  I suspect they are just fucking with me, but they are my voices -- waddayagonnado?

One Through Fifteen (alphabetical order)

Allah LasWorship the Sun - Consistently note perfect Southern California garage/psych tunes. Our review here.

Blank Realm - Grassed Inn - Intense garage and psychedelic vibe.  I couldn't stop playing this album all year, so its inclusion on this list is an easy decision.  Our review here.

Blank Realm - Reach You On The Phone' from fire records on Vimeo.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir - Seven Drummers - Eight rock nuggets that everyone should here.   Intense, loud, crunchy, mysterious, and satisfying.  Our review here.

Fear of Men - Loom - Much anticipated debut delivered on the promise of the previous singles. Our review here.

The Hobbes Fanclub - Up at Lagrange - Jangle, reverb, hooks and big choruses from start to finish in this shoegaze offering.  Our review here.

The Holy Ghost Electric Show - The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show - Infectious Southern Gothic brew.  Our review here.

The Ocean Party - Soft Focus - A confident step forward out of the pack of southern Australian guitar bands brings well shaped and musically interesting songs and the promise of a bright future.  Our review here.

Posse - Soft Opening - Wonderful guitar driven jangle pop that seems equal parts Real Estate, Melbourne slacker pop and Seattle indie. Our review here.

Reigning Sound - Shattered - George Cartwright's garage/soul/power pop reincarnation (Tennessee garage rocker backed by Brooklyn soul and R&B band) produced one of the more enjoyable listens of the year.  Our review here.

Sea Pinks - Dreaming Tracks - Inspired and energetic indie rock redolent of California from Neil Brogan's Northern Irish band.  Our review here.

Trick Mammoth - Floristry - An early 2014 release from a Dunedin, New Zealand band blessed with a couple of very talented songwriters.  All the members play in other good bands, but this one seems to have special magic sauce.  Our feature here.

War on DrugsLost in the Dream - Aptly named record invites the listener to become lost in the layers of sounds and rhythms.  Indie rock fans can quibble about its specific place on year-end lists, but there is little debate about its right to be on the lists.  JD's review here.

Weak Boys - Weekdays/Weekends - Incredibly infectious guitar pop with a sense of humor. Our review here.

Withered Hand - New Gods - Rich indie pop LP with folky accents from Edinburgh's Dan Wilson with a host of Scottish music luminaries in support.  Our review here.

Young Fathers - Dead - Breathtakingly audacious urban pop from Edinburgh trio that just keeps getting better.  Stream the entire album at their website (here).

Sixteen Through Thirty (alphabetical order)

Black TwigHeliogram - A masterful mix of shoegaze, dream pop and droning psychedelic guitar pop. Our review here.

Cool Ghouls - A Burning Fire Swirling Though the Rye - One of the best of the Bay Area garage/psyche bands sidesteps the sophomore slump with one of the better party soundtracks of the year.  Our review here.

Dude York - Dehumanize - One of the best of Seattle's emerging rock bands with a meaty and complete LP. Our review here.

Immigrant Union - Anyway - Jangling and psychedelic with a few country accents, this is an album sitting square in my sweet spot.  JD's write up here.

The Luxembourg Signal - The Luxembourg Signal - LA/Anglo supergroup comprised of members of Trembling Blue Stars, Aberdeen and Fonda with a fantastic shoegaze/dream pop set.  Our review here.

Pale Lights - Before There Were Pictures - Brooklyn band that sounds as if Lloyd Cole and Robert Scott had been additional members of Felt. Heavenly stuff.  Our review here.

Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal - Expertly crafted rock album pulling in influences from the last several decades. Our review here.

The Popguns - Pop Fiction - One of my favorite guitar pop bands of the late '80s and early '90s was Brighton's The Popguns.  They are back and in top form.  Our review here.

ScotDrakula - ScotDrakula - Smashing debut LP from Melbourne garage/punk trio.  Serving suggestion: Beer.  Our review here.

Total ControlTypical System - Thick synth-based post punk and dark wave.  Our review here.

The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave - Glasgow's most famous miserabilists  continue to make dense, soaring soundscapes to carry their dark tales.  Review coming soon.  Website.

Ultimate Painting - Ultimate Painting - James Hoare of Veronica Falls and Jack Cooper of Mazes with an understated guitar pop offering featuring subtle touches that sound better with each listen. Our review here.

The Vaselines V is for Vaselines - Cheeky and irreverent with songs crafted with a dose of adult perspective.  They were gone too long.  Our review here.

Virgin of the Birds - Winter Seeds - A lyrical and aural pleasure, with one of the best songs of the year - "Every Revelry".  Our review here.

The Wolfhounds - Middle Aged Freaks - The Wolfhounds came back on the scene with crunch, noise and swagger.  Our recent review here.

Thirty-One Through Fifty-Five (alphabetical order)

Allo Darlin' - We Come From the Same Place - Aussie/Anglo band continue to refine their brand of melodic indie pop and deliver a strong set of songs. Our review here.

Alvvays - Alvvays - Jangling, hook-filled guitar pop from Canada, with a stellar vocalist in Molly Rankin.  Our review here.

Astronauts - Hollow Ponds - Elements of folk rock and electronic combine magically from the former member of Dark Captain.  Our review here.

Chris Devotion and the ExpectationsBreak Out - Crunchy, soul-infused power pop from Glasgow.  Our review here.

David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights - End Times Undone - Melodic, jangling and substantial addition to the superb catalog of David Kilgour, co-founder of Dunedin's The Clean.  John's review here.

The DeathcatsAll Hail Deathcats - Surfy, punky garage rock from talented Glasgow band.  Now on hiatus, enjoy this one. Our review here.

Delay TreesReadymade - Excellent dream pop from Finland. Our review here.

Donovan Blanc - Donovan Blanc - Our review here.

Flowers - Do What You Want to, It's What You Should Do - C86-style noise pop with the airy, strikingly angelic vocals of Rachel Kenedy.  Our review here.

Full Ugly Spent the Afternoon - Appealing guitar pop debut from Melbourne band.  "Drove Down" is one of my favorite songs of the year.  Our review here.

Gold BearsDalliance - Crashing noise pop, just the way we like it.  Our review here.

Literature - Chorus - Melodic, up tempo indie pop with hooks and jangles.  I'm truly surprised to not see it on more year-end lists.  Our review here.

Mark Martyre - Red Letters - Gravel-voiced Canadian poet and singer-songwriter can sing me stories all day long.  Here is a good chapter for your introduction.  Our review here.

Marlovers - (Stalking) You - Spanish pop band delivers album to make you sigh and search for someone to love. Our recent review here.

MarthaCourting Strong - Buzzsaw guitars, pop hooks and twee vocals from quartet residing in Pity Me in the UK.  Our review here.

Old Mate - It Is What It Is - Eight well-crafted and somewhat sinister guitar pop tunes.  Under the radar and totally collectable.  Our review here.

Party Dolls - Love Wars Baby - Drew Beskin from Atlanta/Athens' The District Attorneys recorded these anti-valentine songs with bandmates and friends for release last February.  The results were predictably excellent.  Our review here.

Peter Escott - The Long O - Keyboard ballads and experimental pop from Tasmanian who also is one half of band Native Cats.  Song "My Heaven, My Rules" shouldn't be missed.  Our review here.

The Proper Ornaments - Wooden Head - James Hoare of Veronica Falls combines with Argentinian Max Claps for one of his two projects of the year, providing a relaxed take on psychedelia and shoegaze.  Our review here.

Robert ScottThe Green House - Master songwriter Robert Scott (The Bats; The Clean) goes solo, with some help from Hollie Fullbrook (aka Tiny Ruins) on a deep and satisfying album.  One of the best 'late night' albums of many years. Our review here.

The Sugar Stems - Only Come Out at Night - It may be the first record from a Milwaukee band to make a year-end list here, but it is well-deserved.  The album is a sweet and catchy collection of power pop tunes with a vein of grit.  Our review here.

TacocaT - NVM - Sugar-coated and irreverent garage rock from Seattle quartet.  Our review here.

Watoo Watoo – Une Si Longue Attente - Glossy and sophisticated French pop. Our review here.

Witching Waves - Fear of Falling Down - Promising debut LP of angular post punk and jangling garage from London-based trio.  Our review here.

The ZebrasSiesta - Melbourne band with a pristine set of guitar pop.  Our review here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

JD's Favorites of 2014 - Spotify Playlist

For your listening pleasure - 240 songs and 15 hours. Enjoy.


JD's 2014 Favorites

Drive-By Truckers
Joe Henry

2014 brought some great joys musically, particularly since two of my all time favorite artists, Drive-By Truckers and Joe Henry, released deeply heartfelt and truly great CDs.  Plus, black artists gave rock and roll a much needed kick in the ass with tremendous new records from Benjamin Booker, TV on the Radio and D'Angelo. Another major highlight was that The Delines Colfax and Sturgiss Simpson's  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music achieved the difficult feat of resurrecting country music, now in danger of becoming a lost American art form and going the way of the blues. 

Though my listening was curtailed this year due to work and family demands, I discovered an eclectic array of fine new music, some of it heralded like D'Angelo's first release in 12 years and War on Drugs acclaimed Lost in the Dream, some from newer artists like St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, and some from old favorites Spoon, The Vaselines, and The New Pornographers. 

My record of the year is English Oceans by the Drive-By Truckers
The venerable Southern rock quintet overcame the death of a dear friend and crew member by channeling their grief into a compelling and urgent set of songs that draws out everything this band has ever done well. In the end, English Oceans is about DBT's love of each other and making music, brothers in arms. John Hyland and I reviewed English Oceans in detail here  and the record has aged exceptionally well for me since March. English Oceans and Lost in the Dream by War on Drugs were my go to CDs when I need to hear some great new rock and roll. English Oceans finds the Drive-By Truckers in their 18th year but still at their very best, doing what they do, which is making deeply heartfelt, kick ass rock and roll. And the most heartfelt song of all is the album closer "Grand Canyon", Patterson Hood's haunting tribute to their friend Craig Lieske:

And of course the Truckers bring the greasy rock and roll, as here on English Ocean's opening track, "Shit Shots Count": 

The remainder of my best of 2014 in alphabetical order:

Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires, Dereconstructed. 
The complexity, social injustice and charm of the South have long inspired great art from everyone from Flannery O'Conner and Walker Percy to Drive-By Truckers and R.E.M.  Lee Bains III channels his socially conscious young Southern man's angst into a potent mix of punk and Southern rock that leaves you begging for mercy. Full review here. As great as Dereconstructed is, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires have to be seen live to be fully appreciated, as few out there are better right now. Here's one of my favorites from the CD, "The Weeds Downtown" performed live:


The Baseball Project, 3rd
Sometimes I feel like this band was invented especially for me - witty and intelligent songs about baseball played by Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, and Linda Pitmon - are you kidding me? I love everything about this.. Full review here. Love the biting edge too, as here on Wynn's song. "13", about ARod: 

More fastball rock and jangle guitar please. I'm looking forward to The Baseball Project's 4th and 5th records too. 

Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker. 

What a debut! Booker is a 25 year old, born in Virginia, a graduate of the University of Florida, and now based on New Orleans. This is a furious and effortless blend of blues, punk, soul, and garage rock. I just can't enough of this guy. 

D'Angelo and The Vanguard, Black Messiah
There's so much well deserved and well written praise for this record, the world hardly needs a review from me.  But D'Angelo's first CD in more than a decade is all that - deeply musical and profound soul music. Sly and The Family Stone for the 21st Century. I don't know if there's a riot goin' on, but given the state of both race relations and the music industry, perhaps there should be. You can listen to Black Messiah in its glorious entirety here.

The Delines, Colfax. 
Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine), Amy Boone (Damnations TX) and some of Portland's best musicians formed to present some of the most soulful and pure country music I could ever hope for in 2014. Boone's gorgeous voice brings such pathos to Vlautin's sympathetic short stories and characters.
"I Won't Slip Up": 

Diarrhea Planet. Aliens in the Outfield (EP). 
Yes, this may well be the worst band name in the history of rock. And yes, high energy poppy punk rock is not a novel concept. But few of the very many young bands in this genre can match the exuberance or tunefulness of this Nashville sextet with - count 'em - 4 guitar players, plus bass and a drummer who sounds like he's 4 drummers too. Aliens in the Outfield is a tornado - organized and tight on the one hand but destructive chaos on the other. Give in to the unbridled joy of Diarrhea Planet. 

Guided by Voices, Motivational Jumpsuit
We admire GBV so much that John Hyland, our founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board, named our dang blog after one of their songs. So their breakup in 2014 was a sad event even though we've been through this before with this volatile bunch. Motivational Jumpsuit is exactly the sort of tuneful, irresistible r-o-c-k we've come to expect and love from Robert Pollard and his merry band of rock savants.  Here's a hilarious video to go with the great rock of "Planet Score":

Joe Henry, Invisible Hour.  Like Patterson Hood and Drive-By Truckers, Joe Henry dove deep into his considerable talent as a writer and musician to create one of the most heartfelt and deeply affecting records of his distinguished, if criminally underrated, career. Invisible Hour is an exploration of family, faith and love, set to remarkably soulful folk music played by Henry's absolutely top shelf crew of LA-based studio musicians, including the incomparable percussionist Jay Bellerose. Full review here
Spend some time with Invisible Hour and let Joe Henry take you deep. 

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, Secret Evil. 
The charismatic and irresistible Jessica Hernandez embodies the resurgence of her hometown Detroit - street smart, urban, hip, funky, and drawing on rich traditions (in her case Detroit's rock and soul and her Cuban-Mexican American roots). As impressive as this debut is, Jessica Hernandez and her fine Motor City band are yet even more captivating in concert. One gets the feeling that even better things lie ahead for this talented artist. Full review here.

Hiss Golden Messenger, Lateness of Dancers.
Durham based Michael Taylor made the move to indie rock flagship Merge Records this year and released the most accessible and fully realized CD of his career. Tackling his devout Christian faith in the idiom of alt-folk rock is a high hire act that succeeds because Taylor is such a gifted and subtle writer and a remarkably soulful vocalist. A lot of Southern soul and even boogie here. "Saturday's Song" is one of my favorites of the year, in a perfect world it would've been a hit single: 

Jenny Lewis, The Voyager. 
This CD would make my best of list just for this single and video alone: 

The Voyager is excellent throughout. Jenny Lewis makes singing appear a great deal easier than it actually is. 

Bob Mould, Beauty and Ruin. 
Bob Mould is a national treasure. They oughta put him on Mt. Rushmore or have a national holiday in his honor. When he makes a record this good whether it's with Husker Du, Sugar or his current stellar power trio (Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster), it's a cause for celebration. This is classic Bob Mould power and melody and a must have record for anyone who ever liked him. Full review here. 
Bonus point because the official video was filmed for Record Store Day here in Portland at Music Millenium, my favorite shop. 

The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers
The New Pornographers may be the only hipster indie band who with credibility could slyly reference the NYC 1960's hit making songwriting factory.  AC Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar and the rest of this Canadian "supergroup" come together every so often to create remarkably tight and intelligent power pop. There's not a more fun band around even though the New Pornographers are deadly serious about what they do. 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  Half the City
I'm skeptical of anything reeking of music revivalism. But Paul Janeway is such an amazing singer and so genuinely steeped in Southern soul music that I will lead the parade for this red hot band of young Alabama white boys. They are the real deal. Janeway combines a preacher's fervor with the enthusiasm and good taste of a classic Southern soul  music expert. St. Paul and the Broken Bones appearance on super fan David Letterman's show was memorable, Letterman throwing down the gauntlet and the band picking it up. 

Spoon. They Want My Soul
It's hard to believe this is Spoon's 8th record. Even harder to believe is that one of America's best rock and roll bands manages to get even better. Britt Daniel is a truly great rock singer, like Rod Stewart and Paul Rodgers were great rock singers, and arguably the best of his generation - expressive, distinctive, compelling. Spoon's songs are so meticulous and well crafted, perfect really. We love this record and its videos so much, we'll give you two. 
First, "Do You": 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Animal Daydream - Easy Pleasures EP

Maybe there should be a rule prohibiting bands from teasing us with four great tracks and then leaving us with nothing except the replay button.  But that is what Swedish duo Animal Daydream has done with their Easy Pleasures EP.  From the opening "Canyon Rose", with its reminders of the golden years of Teenage Fanclub to the pop gold of "Glass Ships" to the jangling Fleetwood Mac-worthy title track and closing track, the EP is packed with hooks and harmonies, an aural feel-good pill for your winter blahs.  This little record is a great way to start out your 2015 music collection.

Animal Daydream are Daniel Fridlund Brandt and Alexander Wahl, and they are based in Gothenburg, Sweden.  This EP is being released by the sharp-eared folks at Jigsaw Records, who have keen ears for great pop sounds.

Jigsaw Records page for vinyl
Jigsaw Records' Bandcamp page for vinyl and digital

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wolfhounds - Middle Aged Freaks

Middle Aged Freaks is the title of the late 2014 album from The Wolfhounds, their fifth overall and first in 24 years.  And the title seems perfect to me.  The band that was among the noisier of the acts lumped into the C86 category a few decades ago have managed to craft a return album that simultaneously reminds you why they were so well regarded in the past and demonstrates their right to be considered a vibrant player in the current indie rock scene.  The music is dynamic, by turns gritty and hopeful, made by pros who know what music they want to make and are determined to make it regardless of what is charting.  After all, if it the charts didn't matter to them in 1990, why would it matter now?

Its versatility is one of the album's many strong points.   Tracks such as "Cheer Up" and "Divide and Fall" have a guitar pop sheen to them, while the title track recalls the grunge side of punk.  "Anthem" drives a chugging garage rhythm into your brain while Callahan muses whether a dreamer like him has a place in modern reality.  Semi-bitter reflections are on tap for the psych-influenced "Slide".  Echos of Joy Division post-punk dominate "Tunnel".  "6,000 Acres" and "Rats on a Raft" bring back the garage rock swagger with a sneer and a snarl.  The album dials down the volume, but not the intensity, for the philosophical musing of the wonderful folk-rock "The Devil Looks After Her Own".  I detect a nod to the band's C86 roots in "Security", while the progressive "The Ten Commandments of Public Life" is a hard-hitting novel of a pop song.

Middle Aged Freaks doesn't seek to be the next new and different thing.  It is a return to noisy form for The Wolfhounds, and one of the notable rock albums of the year.

"The Ten Commandments of Public Life" --

The Wolfhounds are David Callahan (vocals, guitar, samples), Andy Golding (guitar, backing vocals), Pete Wilkins (drums, percussion), and Richard Golding (bass).  Middle Aged Freaks is out now via Odd Box Records.  You can stream and buy the digital version at the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for album
Odd Box Records

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

East Brunswick All Girls Choir - Seven Drummers

Seven Drummers from East Brunswick All Girls Choir is a grand slam of 'under the radar': An album that received little fanfare outside of Australia from a Melbourne band most of you have never heard of released on the modest (but excellent) Milk Records.   Its eight tracks include chugging rockers, guitar pop, and even a bit of country. The songs are characterized by poetic writing, Marcus Hobbs' impassioned and soulful vocals, and, most of all, the twin guitar assault from Hobbes and Robert Wrigley.  And the guitars are wonderful -- loud, rumbling, distorted, pleading, droning, and cathartic.  You won't find Neil Young's name in the liner notes, but you can be excused for feeling his influence in the flow.  The performances are raw, sincere, and distinctively textured.  That the band isn't concerned with the radio friendly pop structure is delightfully evident as the songs unspool to reveal multiple jams and unexpected diversions.

I started this post months ago, and then moved on without finishing it.  When compiling my forthcoming year end list I realized that I'd hadn't published a post on this album, so here is one of the 2014 gems, presented for your ears in 2015.  Stream and buy the album at the Bandcamp link.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir is Marcus Hobbs, Rie Nakayama, Robert Wrigley and Jen Sholkis.  In their time as a band they have had seven drummers, hence the name of this album.  Apparently none of them have ever lived in East Brunswick.

The opening track, "West Brunswick" --

Mon Repos (Charlie's Jam) from East Brunswick All Girls Choir on Vimeo.

Milk Records

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Go Away and Leave It All Behind: 2014/15 - Free sampler from Bedroom Suck Records

The good folks at Bedroom Suck Records have excellent taste, bringing to music fans worldwide a large spectrum of great music.  Whether you like mellow tunes or shattering noise, BSR will sort you out with top flight tracks from under the radar Australian artists.  To gently remind you to keep an eye out for their releases, they are offering this sampler of music they released in 2014, or will release.  And the price is affordable for everyone that can manage a 'name your price' button.  You can stream a few tracks below, or take the entire collection for a test drive at the Bandcamp link.

Bedroom Suck Records

Monday, January 12, 2015

Good Morning - Shawcross EP

We are going to burden your 'bands to watch' list with another promising group from Melbourne.  Good Morning are Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons.  Reportedly they met in high school and have been writing together since 2013.  A more recent two-week span of inspiration resulted in the seven-track Shawcross EP, which was released by Solitaire Recordings last November 14.  The tunes are unabashedly breezy and sunny, bouncing along to the duo's guitars and a bit of synth from their mate Hamish Mitchell.  It seems to me that these tracks are about melody, tone and vibe.  There are no hard edges or abrasive surfaces, and you'll be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable soundtrack for relaxation.  In fact, if you don't have such time scheduled, this music may prompt you to relax just so you have an excuse to listen to the album.

Check out all the tracks at Bandcamp or Soundcloud links below, and buy the cassette or a digital download at the Bandcamp site.

Solitaire Recordings

Introducing: Paper Rifles

In one sense Edinburgh's Paper Rifles is a singer songwriter, but before you draw too many conclusions from that description, you should know that "acoustic punk" probably is more descriptive of the music.  I've always had a soft spot in my heart for someone who can take their experiences, political rage or humorous observations and put them to a simple melody on an acoustic and sing like they really want the words to mean something to the listener.  And Lord knows, if you are playing an acoustic guitar and aren't paired with a "producer", you aren't in it for the money.  That's OK, I understand Jon is a teacher by day, and we all know they get rich fast …

So, pour a pint and load up with Paper Rifles.  The three-track Politics EP and two-track Made to Break/Four Hours single are available at the Bandcamp links below.  And consider giving the boy a bit of cash so he can freshen his guitar strings when he needs to.

Bandcamp for Politics EP
Bandcamp for Made to Break/Four Hours single

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Introducing: Ed Ling

Ed Ling is a songwriter from London who has started releasing solo material.  His debut album, Transatlantic Meditation, will be released in March, but you can become introduced via three tracks that have been shared: "Swimmers"; "The Paling of the Day"; and "Devil".  Ed describes his style as chamber pop, and we find a melodic indie rock vein running through it.  However, Ed likes to draw from varied pop influences, and your recognition of some Echo and the Bunnymen may have to share space with '60s pop and scores from spaghetti westerns.  Fun and well done -- try it!


Thursday, January 8, 2015


If the quality of album is determined by the number of plays you give it, and I think a credible argument can be made that it is so, this self-titled debut LP from the Melbourne garage rock trio ScotDrakula has earned a spot on my list of best albums.  I've never been concerned about whether august music critics (I don't know who there are, it is enough to know that I'm not invited to their monthly lunches) will regard an album as a worthy artistic achievement five years down the road.  For me, music is experienced viscerally and emotionally, and this album is a grade A infusion of adrenaline and youthful energy.

The songs spring from the mind of guitarist and provider of the appealingly on the edge lead vocals, Matt Neumann.  The songs are then fleshed out with the super-ace rhythm section of Dove Bailey (bass/keys/backing vocals) and Evianne Camille (drums/backing vocals).  The result is as if The Undertones merged with Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall, were sent back in a time machine and grew up in Australia.  And on top of the very well executed indie rock, the lyrics reveal Neumann to be an inventive songwriter who takes a kernel of an idea and runs it out in interesting and unexpected directions.  Here are a few favorites --

This is music that cleanses.  Not one of those icky sounding Gwyneth Paltrow type cleanses, of course.  ScotDrakula works by making you feel the way you do when you stumble down the basement steps in the party house on Friday night, drink beer, dance, pogo, sweat, burp, smooch, and scream.  You stagger home -- well, to someone's home -- and collapse.  The next morning you wake up a bit blurry, but still vibrating.  This music is cleansing because it strips away the niggling loose ends of stuff that bothered you yesterday, and just makes you feel alive.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if doctors prescribed at least one spin of this LP every day.  And rather than leave anything to chance, and since I did briefly consider medical school, I will prescribe it for you.  Head to Bandcamp and fill your prescription.  Unlimited refills.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Marlovers - (Stalking) You

A rush of guitars and keys, with achingly beautiful female vocals and classic melodies makes (Stalking) You from Spain's Marlovers one of those under the radar gems that you need to experience.  Listening to this album  is a bit like letting warm, gentle waves lap over you as you sit on the beach on a perfect summer evening.  Dream to it, fall in love to it, make eye babies to it, but in any case sample the two tracks below, and then go to the Bandcamp page and stream the entire album.  You'll find that picking the best track is a fool's game, because there is too much consistency to make a reasonable choice (that said, don't miss "Bittergum").

Marlovers have been a band since 2005, but (Stalking) You is their first LP.  It is out now via Jigsaw Records.

Bandcamp for this album
Jigsaw Records page for album
Bandcamp for previous recordings