Thursday, April 30, 2015

REVIEW: Sarah Mary Chadwick - 9 Classic Tracks

9 Classic Tracks by Sarah Mary Chadwick is music that is emotionally raw, guileless, devastatingly  clear-eyed and devoid of sentimental optimism, stately of pace, and utterly beautiful and captivating.  The keys, drum machines and occasional guitar remain in the background, as they should.  Because however appealing the listener finds the melodies, the star of the show is Chadwick's voice -- clear of tone, with a natural ache and an almost unnerving directness and intimacy.  And that style perfectly matches the material at hand.  Consider them love songs, perhaps, but bleak and sad love songs performed at a codeine-induced pace.  Chadwick has written that all of the songs are about specific times and people, in which case some people may owe other people some apologies (or, at the least, explanations).  Of course, Chadwick will assume that neither will be forthcoming.

 With the church-like background of warm synths, the songs unspool like words from the confessional captured by a hidden microphone.  But the unfiltered stories never feel awkward, because the songwriting is so very good, the phrasing so straightforward and willing, that even the visceral sadness takes on a sensual beauty.  This tear-streaked gem is highly recommended for your late-night listening.

A New Zealand native, Chadwick currently is based in Melbourne.  She formerly fronted the dark-themed guitar band Batrider, but 9 Classic Tracks is her second solo album.  9 Classic Tracks is out now on Melbourne label Rice Is Nice, and actually has 11 songs.  The album art presented above is from the artist's own watercolor.  I'm advised that iTunes and Spotify have replaced it with the less NSFW back cover.

Bandcamp for 2014 release
Rice Is Nice order page for album

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

REVIEW: Blue Blood - This Is The Life

If spending a year as a fly fishing guide after your band breaks up reliably produced songs such as the eleven tracks on This Is The Life, then the strategy would be well known and the various species of North American trout would be on the endangered list.  So we'll guess that fly fishing isn't a muse for every musician, but it certainly has worked for Atlanta's Hunter Morris.  After Gift Horse ceased to exist, Morris took on fishing clients and worked on the songs that comprise this album, recorded under the name Blue Blood.  With a thematic focus on learning the lessons life teaches and a rhythmic, softly psychedelic sound merged with crunchy indie rock that suggests what Syd Barrett or John Lennon may have produced if they had been raised in the American south, the album is an absolute aural delight.

While as a songwriter Morris may have been looking inward, in the hands of the band the songs bloom into fully realized and richly layered pop songs.  Certainly, the band can make a righteous ruckus.  But even when the volume is appreciable, the songs remain detailed and melodic.  The title track is one of my favorite songs of the year, but "We Could Never Be Friends" and "Helping Hands" are among the tracks that close behind.  You can stream all of the songs at the Bandcamp link, and I suggest that spending some time with this album is well worth your time.

Although Blue Blood began as a solo project, Morris recruited Hank Sullivant of MGMT and Kuroma as and instrumentalist and producer.  The project was further fleshed out in the studio with J.J. Bower,Dave Spivey, and on one track, Walker Howle.  For live performances, Blue Blood is Morris, Nick Robbins, Dave Spivey, Noel Brown and Michael Gonzalez.

This Is The Life is out now on Atlanta label This Is American Music on viny, CD or as a digital download.  Source any of those at the Bandcamp or label links, or hit up your favorite digital distributor.

Bandcamp for album
This Is American Music

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Oh No" from Jack and Eliza

Our favorite retro-pop duo Jack and Eliza are inching closer to the release date for their debut LP, Gentle Warnings, and will be touring Europe and North America in May and June.  Here is a taste of the sweet harmonies and jangling guitars to remind you why we are paying attention: New track "Oh No".

Tour Dates and Locations:
14 - Brighton, UK - The Great Escape (London In Stereo Showcase @ Patters)
15 - Brighton, UK - The Great Escape (Spindle Showcase @ Place Pier)
16 - Brighton, UK - The Great Escape (Killing Moon Show @ Tigmus, North Laines)
19 - London, UK - The Slaughtered Lamb
22 - Manchester, UK - Dot to Dot Festival
23 - Bristol, UK - Dot to Dot Festival
24 - Nottingham, UK - Dot to Dot Festival
28 - New York, NY - Mercury Lounge
31 - Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe Live

04 - Vancouver, BC - VENUE
05 - Seattle, WA - Tractor Tavern
06 - Portland, OR - Mississippi Studios
10 - San Francisco, CA - The Independent
11 - Los Angeles, CA - Bahia Live
13 - San Diego, CA - Casbah
15 - Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent Ballroom

17 - Denver, CO - Lost Lake Lounge


Murder Shoes - Murder Shoes EP

Friday, May 1, welcomes the release of the self-titled EP from Minneapolis five-piece Murder Shoes.  Key elements are female vocals and a blend of post punk and surf noir.  Reverb and echo on top of a pulsating rhythm section provide a thick, atmospheric stew.  The two tracks below provide representative sample of the songs, with "Charlotte Manning" emphasizing the surfy licks and "Maybe You Can" showcasing the band's harder rocking side.  The following "Under the Sea" is more relaxed, and is my current favorite on the EP.  "Sea A Little Louder" is a rhythmic post punk track built on ominous instrumental lines.  "In Your Bed Or On A Train" closes the EP with a galloping rhythm, surfy guitar and soaring vocals. Throughout the proceedings, vocalist Tess Weinberg's voice swoops, pleads, snarls and seduces in a commanding and versatile fashion.  I want to hear a lot more from these guys.

Murder Shoes is Tess Weinberg (vocals/keys), Derek Van Gieson (guitar), Chris White (guitar/vocals), Elliot Manthey (drums), and Tim Heinlein (bass).

Murder Shoes EP is a digital and CD release via Land Ski Records.


Monday, April 27, 2015

REVIEW: The Granite Shore - Once More From The Top

On this blog we only write about music we like.  But even against that standard I consider Once More From The Top to be a special recording.  Special?  Why yes, special in so many ways.  It is a well-executed concept album about a fictional band, with Side A addressing the public side and Side B addressing the behind the scenes aspects.  The packaging looks beautiful, with different cover art for the CD and vinyl versions (the latter with a booklet including lyrics), and special box set editions as well.  But most importantly, it is special because of the quality of the music.  Stylish and charming pop songs benefiting from a warm and intimate delivery from a stellar group of musicians.  The Granite Shore is helmed by Nick Halliwell of The Distractions, and also head of Occultation Recordings, and includes Phil Wilson of the June Brides, Arash Torabi, Mike Kellie, Steve Perrin, Mike Finney, Probyn Gregory, Martin Bramah, and Bella Quinn.  I apologize to anyone I've forgotten.

One struggles to assign a genre to these songs.  Not quite, or not solely, folk, progressive, C86 or chamber pop, they succeed on the merits of strong melodies and sincere performances.  Perhaps in identifying a comparison one needs to consider a pop craftsmen such as Lee Hazlewood, Jacques Brel, The Go-Betweens, or, at his best, Kevin Ayers.  Of course, even the best song, and the most affecting melody, will miss its mark if the performance isn't sufficient.  But there is no danger that The Granite Shore will fail on that yardstick.  The worthy players contribute measured performances with no hint of ego.  For his part, songwriter and vocalist Halliwell envelopes the listener with tones like honeyed brandy.  In fact, I've taken to listening to this album late in the evening because something about the man's voice makes me think that everything in the world is alright.  My hunch is that in a few years this album will be considered one of those treasures that should have been better know when released.  Don't set yourself up for regret, check out Once More From The Top.

Once More From The Top is available from Occultation Recordings (see link).  Note that Occultation has released other fine records and also is the UK distributor for New Zealand super mini-label Fishrider Records, so if you place an order for this album they may be able to offer you a discount on other items that strike your fancy.

Occultation Recordings

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Charlatans (UK) - Modern Nature

After over two decades as a band and the deaths of a couple of key members, The Charlatans prove that they remain the masters of the rock music with a delectable groove, soulful vocals and a bit of funky vibe.  Their latest offering is Modern Nature, which offers that and a good bit more.  This is the sound of a band that is doing more than just defending their place in pop music; it is the sound of a band that continues to refine and push the boundaries of their music.  Building on their foundations, including welcome elements of the Manchester sound, the band infuses the new collection of songs with warmth and optimism (e.g. "So Oh" and "Come Home Baby").  Still relevant, still exciting, this is another triumph from The Charlatans.

The Charlatans are Tim Burgess, Mark Collins, Martin Blunt, and Tony Rogers.  Modern Nature is out now via BMG Chrysalis.  The album is available as a digital download, CD or on vinyl.  There also are deluxe CD and vinyl versions with bonus tracks.


"Go" from Pleasure Beach

I can't claim to knowing much about Belfast's Pleasure Beach, but any band that makes a song like "Go" is a band from which I want to hear a lot more music.  The members are Lisa, Kat, Alan, Richard and Rachel (yes, that means either Alan or Richard is missing from the above set of photos; you'll just have to get over it).  Apparently the five songwriters only formed the band earlier this year.  "Go" will be paired with "Absentee" for Pleasure Beach's first single, set for release on May 25th.  To my ears, there is a bit of the clean Scandinavian pop anthem sound to "Go".  Very promising stuff, I think.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thirty Pounds of Bone - The Taxidermist

The Taxidermist is the fourth album from Thirty Pounds of Bone, the performing name assumed by multi-instrumentalist Johny Lamb.  Lamb's reputation is built on his version of melancholy folk.  But for this outing the man broadens his scope in chamber pop, soft-focus psychedelic and even shoegaze, directions.  Several tracks boast distorted guitar and layered waves of sound, and there is a gauzy filter to the production.  Moreover, his thematic focus on life, love and death seems to come from a less melancholy place.  I don't know whether Lamb is newly happy, or whether he just has decided to express his sentiments more directly.  In either case, he has crafted and album that is bursting with feeling and life, and written very appealing songs to carry his message.

Lamb was born in Scotland's Shetland Islands, but now resided in Cornwall, where he recorded The Taxidermist.  Remarkably, Lamb played all of the instruments and provided all of the vocals. The album is out now via Scottish label Armellodie Records on vinyl and as a digital download, and you can stream and buy it at the Bandcamp link below.  An example of the more shoegaze/dreampop approach are "Before I'm Done", "All Your Sons", and "Expelled".  "Two Birds in the Brine" and "Your Walk" are more representative of Lamb's acoustic folky side.  If you already are a fan of Thirty Pounds of Bone you probably need no further encouragement to investigate this release.  If this artist is new to you, I think yo will find this to be his most accessible work to date, and well worth your time.

Bandcamp for The Taxidermist
Armellodie Records

Introducing: The Van T's

The Van T's are Hannah and Chloe Van Thompson.  The duo from Glasgow play fuzzy garage rock just the way we like it.   There is a bit of alt rock here, but they update and personalize it well.  New song "Growler" shows off their sound very well, but I've included a couple of other tracks as well, because you deserve it.  And because Chloe and Hannah deserve your ears.


Elder - Lore

 When I was a kid, back in the days of vinyl, my desire to go to the record store outpaced my ability to buy anything once I got there. I could only afford maybe one new record a month, even if Record Bar had them on sale. The solution to this problem was the cut-out bin -- a couple of shelves of remaindered records that usually were half price or less compared to the new stuff. I got a ton of music out of the cut-out bin. A lot of it was crap, like Tormato by Yes. I should have known that when I saw Roger Dean hadn't done the cover art, so I'm not complaining. Some of it, though, was life-changing. I bought the first Black Sabbath album out of the cut-out bin. I was probably 12, and had never heard Black Sabbath before, except the song "Paranoid" was on a Don Kirshner compilation album my mom bought me when I was 10. You can only imagine the effect that first song, "Black Sabbath," had on a kid my age. I have never listened to music the same way since.

I still rummage from time to time through the latter-day version of the cut-out bin -- the $5.00 album listing on Amazon. There's some great music to be found there. Some it is famous -- I bought a Marvin Gaye album out of the five buck bin a couple of months ago. Some of it is more obscure, like one of my favorite albums I bought last year, Dead Roots Stirring by Massachusetts trio Elder. That album didn't make my 2014 year end list for one simple reason -- it was released in 2011. It did, however, get played unrelentingly for months. And for months, as well, I kept a lookout, trying to see what had become of this terrific band, finally to learn that they had a new album, titled Lore, set for release in late February. I bought it the day it was released, and after dozens of runs through its hour long, five song cycle, I love it more than ever. It is truly a revelation. 

Many, maybe most, descriptions I've read of Elder online categorize their music as "stoner metal," and that's a shame. The term itself has become reductive -- these days, stoner metal pretty much means not black metal, or it means metal where you can understand the vocals. Not helpful. Lore is refreshingly "classic" metal, where the musicality is the base on which the aggression gets played out, and not the reverse. As if to set that tone for the entire record, the first song, "Compendium," starts out with a mathy guitar figure that reminds me of some of Mastodon's more prog moments. I mentioned that to my brother, who was hearing it for the first time, and he said it reminded him of Meat Puppets, and danged if he's not right. That intro gives way to power chords and then a beautifully aggressive tribal stomp, after which guitarist/singer Nick DeSalvo's soulful vocals are interwoven with a variation on the original guitar theme. At this point we're only two and a half minutes into an 11 minute song, and it doesn't let up from there. Check it out:

Even more than being a "metal" album, which it clearly is, this is a guitar album. Nick DeSalvo is an incredibly gifted young musician who, thankfully, also has a tremendous sense for composition. These songs are long, but they fly by. There are no dead spaces, no noodling, no jamming. Bassist Jack Donovan works through a distortion pedal that more than takes the place of a rhythm guitar, and drummer Matt Couto eschews the blastbeats for an old school, John Bonham influenced approach. There are headbanging and fistpumping parts, of course, but there are parts that are pure art rock. After 3 or 4 listens, the many complex parts begin to cohere, although after two months I still hear new things with each trip through.

All of the songs have been my "favorite" at one point or another, but right now I can't get enough of "Deadweight," where a delicate 45 second intro morphs into a minute and a half of psychedelia, finally exploding into a full-on heavy metal assault. Like everything else on this album, it's brilliant. 

Lore was released in the US by Armageddon Shop, and in Europe by Stickman Records. You can download it for seven lousy simoleons right here at the Elder Bandcamp site

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Superstar - Table for Two

Six tracks of delicate precision and beauty, as if they were formed from crystal and lace.  Sparkling synths, thoughtful keys and hushed female vocals are complemented by cascading guitar lines and drum machines in the lower register.  Table for Two is the work of the enigmatic Melbourne band Supertar.  The duo of Esther Edquist (keys/vocals) and Kieran Hegarty (guitar/drum machines) have an unhurried approach to their art, and this album follows their debut album by two years.  The tempos are stately, but one senses the emotion burning below the surface, and delights at the bursts of playfulness.  This is one for turning down the lights and putting on the earphones.  Absolutely stunning!

Table for Two is available in vinyl and digital via Bedroom Suck Records.

Order page for album
Bedroom Suck Records

"No Moon"/"Dream On, Baby Blue" from Chorusgirl

We introduced London band Chorusgirl here in late 2013 (link), praising their brand on noise pop for the fusion of jangle and grumble.  The band, which was founded by Silvi Wersing, has been recruited by Odd Box Records to be part of its 100 Club series.  Thus, Chorusgirl will have its first release on April 28 -- the two-song "No Moon"/"Dream On, Baby Blue".  The release is limited to 100 copies of vinyl, with a digital download, but also will be available as a digital download.  You can test drive the rootsy, atmospheric "No Moon" below.

In addition to Silvi, Chorusgirl is Caroline, Udo, and Mike.

Bandcamp for release

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Artisans release free song

Why settle for mass-produced, lowest common denominator pop music when you can have music created by artisans.  Yes, real live artisans.  In this case, The Artisans from the northeast of England.  Their carefully handcrafted little gem "However Much I Love You I Love Lloyd Honeyghan More" is a masterpiece of musical craft.  Ringing, jangling guitars over a sturdy backbeat and a melody that brings pleasant memories of Orange Juice and beloved C86 era bands.

With a melancholy edge and a story about boxer Lloyd Honeyghan, this single is likely to be one of your favorite songs for a long while.  You'd expect to pay artisanal prices for a song like this, and the band would deserve to get it.  But in an inspired bit of marketing, and a frightening disregard for their financial future, The Artisans are making the song available for a free download.  Yes even you can afford it.  For the download, see the Soundcloud link below or visit their webpage.  The Soundcloud link contains other songs from the band as well.

The Artisans are Kevin McGrother (vocals/guitar), Nick Thompson (lead guitar), Steve Thompson (drums), and Karen Forster (bass).


The Fleas - Telling Tales

Telling Tales is four-song EP from UK five-piece The Fleas.  To my ears, its primary purpose is to make the listener feel good.  And it totally succeeds.  A bit too funky to be folk, and a bit too dedicated to storytelling to be rock, it builds on energy, joy and diversity.  Telling Tales opens with the enthusiastic folk jam "Free".  You likely will play it over a couple of times before you play the other songs.  That's OK, I did too, and the other songs are patient.  However, to get to to move on, I'll point out that "Free" is a free download.  The following "Born to Run" is a slick dose of energy.  "She Doesn't Miss You" is a slice of indie soul, and it is good enough that you might feel bad about spending so much time with "Free", which by now you have downloaded anyway.  The band leaves you on a big note with the rocking "No More Tears".

You can stream the entire EP at the Soundcloud link below.  It is available on April 27

The Fleas are Piers (lead vocals/guitar), Bernadette (vocals/percussion/glockenspiel), Mannie (vocals/drums), Woody (bass/upright bass), and Chris (lead guitar).


Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Hang Tough" from Lilith Ai

Lilith Ai has seen a lot of life.  Born in London, she ran away to the United States as a teen and lived on the streets of Queens, New York.  Back in the UK, she is starting to make a name for herself as a singer-songwriter with a powerful voice and a gritty, urban perspective.  The two-song "Hang Tough" will be released by Lo Recordings.

Lo Recordings

Friday, April 17, 2015

REVIEW: Totally Mild - Down Time

Elizabeth Mitchell has a pretty much perfect pop voice.  So with good material and the right supporting players, one would expect good things.  Fortunately, for Down Time, the just released album for her band Totally Mild, she has written very good material and assembled an excellent complement of bandmates in Zach Schneider (of Full Ugly, which we covered last year, and The Great Outdoors, which was on these pages earlier in the week) on guitar, Lehmann Smith (of Kes Band) on bass and Ashley Bundang (whose band Zone Out included Mitchell) on drums.  The songs consist of ten well formed nuggets of autumnal pop melancholy that still manage to be airy and warm.  The rhythm section is sparse, but authoritative and Schneider's guitar perfectly accents Mitchell's vocals.  So, we expected good things, and Totally Mild delivered very, very good things.

Sophisticated and precise without becoming slick or cold, and produced to give the vocals and instruments sufficient space for maximum impact, these are songs that you can live with and play over and over.  And while there is a bit of Beach House in the vibe, it is the organic nature of the sound and the restraint in the production which sets Down Time apart from, and above, most comparisons.  You'll hear about relationships, stagnancy, and the fear of both.

Totally Mild - Christa from BSR on Vimeo.

Down Time is out now via Bedroom Such Records, which is offering it as a CD or vinyl plus digital download.  If you want to check out the album Mitchell released while Totally Mild was still a solo project, it it as the Bandcamp link below.

Bedroom Suck order page for album
Bandcamp for previous album

Dog Legs - Holiday EP

Oh those kids -- they do like to make noise.  But we aren't telling London/Brighton's Dog Legs to turn down the damn stereo because, truth be told, this duo makes really good noise.  Comprising Moema Meade and Liam Bradbury, their talents are well-displayed on their cassette/download mini-album Holiday EP.

Starting with a bang, opening track "Holiday" provides enough volume, noise, melody and fuzz for a whole album.  "Ugly" offers some bratty girl-group touches over a muscular garage arrangement.  "I Trusted You Is 100% punk energy compacted into just under two minutes, followed by a 36-second ode to an ice cream cone.  Apparently our young heroes are dessert-obsessed, because track six is the rootsy "Xmas Cookie".  The throbbing "Messy Cloud" is one of my favorites, but lamentably too brief.  The closing "Things I'll Never Be" is a fitting bookend to the opening track.  This release is out today, just in time to jump start your weekend.

You can stream the Holiday EP at the Bandcamp link below.  It is available only as a limited edition cassette with digital download from the sharp talent scouts at Scotland's Soft Power Records.

Bandcamp for Holiday EP

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roaming Herds of Buffalo - Apocalypse Beach

Increasingly there is discussion about how to return the U. S. of A. to its past glory.  And from time to time there is focus on iconic symbols that may have lost their special place in the hearts of its citizens -- symbols such as the bald eagle, the Washington Monument, and the stars and stripes.  The executive committee of the editorial board of WYMA strives to help, so we have considered what other symbols should to be returned to the consciousness of the Nation.  After careful consideration and a couple of cases of the finest domestic fortified wine, we have decided that we need to bring back roaming herds of buffalo.  In the 19th century they were a sign of the America's bounty, her brawny, outdoorsy lifestyle with the freedom to roam without boundaries.  In devising this recommendation we had to ignore several realities, such as the fact that our lifestyles are much less outdoorsy, that herds of large wild animals aren't compatible with urban life, and that it is our own damn fault that we don't have herds of buffalo because we shot them.  But dreamers don't let things like that stop them, and we are dreamy.  So we found a solution.

Yes, we bring to you Seattle's Roaming Herds of Buffalo.  Playing crunchy indie rock, with a few country and surf accents, the band was formed in 2011.  Their third LP, Apocalypse Beach, was self-released last month, and offers ten tracks mostly recorded in a single take to capture the feel of a live show.  This is an album that quite simply makes you feel good -- like you would feel if you just saw a herd of buffalo run alongside your air conditioned gas-guzzling pick up as you sped down the highway to get to the mall.  The musicianship and vocals are excellent, the performances sincere and the songs varied, from the crunchy "Antelope" to the surfy "Summer" to the acoustic-turns-frenetic beach jam of the title track (Beach Boys on drugs alert!) to the dusty California country rock of the showcase track "Cereal Prize".  Check out some songs below and stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  "Rewind" begins with the line 'I want beer', and became an instant favorite around here.  The digital album is only $7.  I will also note that the great album are is the work of Darin Shuler.

Make this country strong again, support the return of the buffalo, get Apocalypse Beach.

The members of Roaming Herds of Buffalo are Scott Roots, Neal Flaherty, Jared Fiechtner, and William Cremin.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

REVIEW: Sneaky Feelings - Send You

Flying Nun's deluxe reissue of Send You, the 1983 debut album from Dunedin's Sneaky Feelings, is not only a welcome bit of the iconic label's glorious part in indie music history, but a key rebuttal to the argument that the "Dunedin Sound" was confined to scrappy punk-inflected bands such as The Clean or melodic melancholy pop bands like The Bats.   The sound of Sneaky Feelings was a full, even lush, guitar pop, often with jangling psychedelic touches.   The songs bore affecting harmonies and lead vocals more reminiscent of UK's The Verve, The Weather Prophets or Simple Minds, or California guitar pop, than of many of their labelmates.   With all three members -- Matthew Bannister, David Pine and Martin Durrant -- writing songs for the album, the material was strong throughout.  Moreover, for this reissue the label has supplemented the nine remastered original songs with seven more, including all of the tracks from the popular Husband House EP.

This was music with sophistication, breadth, and justifiable ambition, musically and thematically. The dynamic emotional expression truthfully is more akin to The Beatles than what one might have expected from a band sharing space on the seminal Dunedin Double release from Flying Nun.  I would buy this album just to get "Throwing Stones" "Be My Friend" and "Everything I Want" (a song I love to an embarrassing degree), even if the rest of the songs weren't good.  But the happy fact is that this collection is wonderful from start to finish.  It may be the most robust jangle pop album you ever hear.

Send You can be ordered from the Flying Nun affiliate, Flying Out, or in the US from Captured Tracks.  Links for both are below.

Order page for Send You at Flying Out
Order page for Send You at Captured Tracks

Fairlight Myth - Alpha November

Our favorite singles club is wiaiwya-7777777.  For each of seven consecutive years (2015 is the fourth) WIAIWYA is releasing a limited run of 7" vinyl releases.  A subscription will get you the vinyl, free streaming of the releases on Bandcamp and a digital download.  You will not be surprised to learn that each release of the releases is out on the 7th of the month, with each day of the week being represented by the end of the year.

This year WIAIWYA asked artists to collaborate, resulting in rare and interesting songs.  This month's release is Alpha November by Fairlight Myth, which is a collaboration between Peter Astor and Keith Negus.  Astor's impressive career includes The Loft and, one of my all-time favorites, The Weather Prophets, as well as writing about music.  Negus is a veteran of Cane and The Coconut Dogs, and several electronic projects.  He also has written about music and works in academia.

The title track is a features a slinky rhythm underpinning an insistent melody and taut vocals.  Play this one before going out late at night.  The flip side is "Love Repeats" couples warm synths with a buoyant rhythm.  Perhaps it is a perfect lovers' soundtrack for a Sunday afternoon?  Test drive both tracks below.  Note that the single can be purchased as a digital download at the Bandcamp link.

Bandcamp for Alpha November
Subscription information for wiaiwya-7777777

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kane Strang - Blue Cheese

Dunedin, New Zealand's Kane Strang in one of the artists we have been following for a while.  He creates melodic guitar pop with layers of sound that render the compositions full, yet unfussy.  You can detect a strain of historic Dunedin guitar pop, but there are more psychedelic and dream pop touches and nary a hint of punk.  Kane's debut LP, Blue Cheese, is available now as a digital download on Bandcamp,  It consists of nine well conceived and individualistic songs that bear the mark of a true pop craftsman.  By turns dark and mysterious (e.g. the opener "Web Web") and buoyant (e.g. "What's Wrong?") the album lays down a fulsome soundtrack that begs to be played loudly.  And because it is over in 25 minutes, it begs, and deserves, to be replayed.

The young man has talent -- give him some love.


"When The Sun Goes Down" from The Outdoor Type

"When The Sun Goes Down" is the first single from the upcoming debut EP from Melbourne musician The Outdoor Type.  Synths and guitars combine to make a hazy and pulsating soundscape with a bit of an '80s anthem vibe.  I think it is a smashing song, and when you also track back and listen to his earlier free song "Are You Happy" (link) you may agree with me that the debut EP is one to watch for.


Monday, April 13, 2015

"A Bell" from Expert Alterations, EP forthcoming on Slumberland

Meeting halfway in between the dense jangle of Close Lobsters and more stripped down indie rock of, perhaps, The Clean, we have Expert Alterations.  The Baltimore trio released an excellent five-song self-titled cassette-only EP earlier this year, that probably didn't get the attention it deserved because of the format.  Fortunately -- for the band and music fans -- Slumberland Records is re-releasing the EP in a one-sided 12 vinyl edition.  I've listened to the EP (and you can as well below), and I think that Paul, Alan and Patrick have crafted a very appealing take on jangle pop, including a very welcome spotlight on the bass.

Slumberland order page
Bandcamp for cassette

Natalie Pryce - Vol. II: The Ascent from Ego to Ego

To my ears, part of what makes Glasgow collective Natalie Pryce special is their bleak and grimy version of garage rock.  Perhaps the genre could be called rockabilly noir meets post punk desolation, but that lacks a marketing zing.  But I assure you that on their second LP, Vol. II: The Ascent From Ego To Ego, the gloomy and foreboding atmosphere doesn't mean mournful music.  The musicians swagger through rootsy grooves, while Mark Swan sneers, howls, pleads and croons throughout the thirteen tracks, each of which is titled with someone's name.  The other special aspect of the album is the immediacy, vitality and energy of the recordings.  The band insists on recording each song in one take, in analogue.  Certainly, some music benefits from multiple takes and overdubs.  Natalie Pryce's music is not designed to be such music.

The cultural touchstones giving life to the vignettes can be found in art, psychology, philosophy, sexual fetishism, dystopian fantasy  and fairly tales, all with this collective's dark twist and dashed romanticism distilled to cynicism.  If that puts you off, this album might not be for you, but you should at least give it a listen.  For me, it is an enthralling album, with the sort of songs you would expect to find in a Twilight Zone episode in which the protagonist gets lost on backroads in the fog and ends up in a roadhouse full of nightmarish characters.

This band makes music for music's sake, not for money.  The album can be downloaded free at this link (as can their debut LP), and streamed in full and downloaded at this Soundcloud link.

In addition to Mark Swan, the players in the Natalie Pryce collective are Steven Litts (bass), Greg Taylor (guitar) and Stephen Coleman (drums).  Ascent From Ego to Ego was recorded at Glasgow's Green Door Studio by Samuel Smith (frontman of WYMA favorite Casual Sex), and was financed via crowd funding.

Soundcloud stream of Ascent From Ego To Ego

Friday, April 10, 2015

REVIEW: Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

Ivy Tripp is the third album from Alabama native and former indie/punk rocker Kate Crutchfield, recording and performing as Waxahatchee.  All of us have to, or have had to, go through the various stages of growing up, finding out who we are and becoming at peace with where we are at various stages of life.  What Crutchfield brings to the table is a talent for looking critically at where she is and distilling pieces of it into well-formed songs.  For me, the appeal is in the sincerity of the observations, the soaring but innocent-sounding vocals and the solid songwriting.  The tempos vary from the more stately pace standard with singer songwriter work and crunchy rockers.  While my personal taste favors that latter on this album (although the lovely ballad "Summer of Love" is my current number one), I think all of the songs are well-done and the balance among the various styles works well.  My personal favorites are "Under A Rock", "Poison", "La Loose", "Air", "Grey Hair", and "Summer of Love".

The album presents an intimacy and airiness with makes it appealingly accessible.  We can understand Crutchfield, but we also and fell for her and cheer her progress.   In the final analysis, this is an album to showcase the vocals and lyrical prowess of the artist, and she is more than up to the task in both respects.

Crutchfield was assisted by Kyle Gilbride and Keith Spencer of the band Swearin' in recording Ivy Tripp, and all three share production credit.  The album is out now via Merge Records on vinyl, CD, and as a digital download.

Merge Records page for Ivy Tripp

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dollar Bar - Hot Ones

We have some hot ones for you.  How do we know they are hot ones?  It says so right in the album title -- we aren't complete idiots here!  In our view,  Hot Ones from Australia's Dollar Bar is a fulsome celebration of one of the most exuberant forms of rock music - lo-fi garage rock.  It also reminds me of what it might be like to go to your local pub on Friday night, and have 16 conversations while consuming a comforting amount of beer.  Some conversations are short, some are longer.  Some are humorous, and some are sad.  But there is plenty of embellishment and self-deprecation because,  well, because beer.  The soundtrack to the stories is garage and power pop, and you'll hear a bit of Guided By Voices, a bit of Weezer, a bit of Teenage Fanclub and perhaps a bit of Jonathan Richman.  The stylistic diversity is the result of three distinct songwriting voices, just as if your pub excursion included three lubricated storytellers.  And I have to love a band that once recorded a song titled "Cute Gurls Have the Best Diseases" (check it out on their Soundcloud page).

Oh, did I mention that the album is a free download at the Bandcamp link below?  Aren't these guys wonderful?  Their fine label Sonic Masala Records also has vinyl packages available at the link.

The wonderful and generous men of Dollar Bar are Chris Yates, Patrick McCabe and Dale Peachey, and their impeccable drummer Brendan Rosen.  Hot Ones is their third LP.

Bandcamp for Hot Ones


"Dirt In My Eye" from Junk

We like JUNK here at WYMA.  It started with our feature of their promising debut EP Car last June (here), and our admiration has only increased with their new release "Dirt In My Eye".  The song is from their next EP, Liquorice, which is out on CHUD Records in May.  Garage/punk with veins of melody -- one of the best ways to start your day!

JUNK are a York, UK-based trio consisting of Estella Adeyeri (vocals/guitar), Sam Coates (vocals/guitar), and Danny Barton (drums).

CHUD Records on Soundcloud

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

American Wrestlers - American Wrestlers

American Wrestlers is mid-30s Scotland native and Missouri resident Gary McClure.  Formerly, he was a member of Working for a Nuclear Free City, as well as releasing an album under his own name.  He moved to the United States a few years ago, and while working a day job, he has been writing music and recording at home with analog equipment.  His approach to marketing has been to send out tracks under the name American Wrestlers, with little or no background information.  The songs obviously have connected with many recipients, and while the mysterious source may have contributed, I am of the opinion that the songs have earned him the attention he now is getting.

With McClure playing all the instruments (including pushing the button on the drum machine), he has prepared an eight-song American debut LP for Fat Possum.  Steadfastly lo-fi and with a bit of a psychedelic swirl, it is, to my ears, timeless guitar pop.  Guitar pop crafted to please the ears with melody and sound, and please the mind with carefully thought-out lyrics.  It seems to me that it is the kind of music that a gifted musician makes when he is writing and recording to please himself, with at most a hope that anyone else will want to listen.  But McClure has also said that he understands that once the song is recorded and pressed in vinyl, it is immutable.  So he takes great care in the process.

The songs are warm, if not always thematically easy, and what McClure's recording process yields in terms of fidelity it gives back in terms of immediacy and accessibility.  The songs aren't just set out there for you to purchase, they are shared with you.  For me, the standout tracks are "There's No One Crying Over Me Either", "I Can Do No Wrong", "The Rest of You", "Kelly" (a beautiful song about a tough subject), and "Cheapshot".  Yes, I know that that is over half the songs, but this album has gotten a bit under my skin, and it feels pretty good there.  We hope Mr. McClure keeps at it, because we want to hear what he has to say.

In the interest of full disclosure, I note that I am an American, and I was a wrestler in high school.

American Wrestlers is available on vinyl, CD, cassette and as a digital download.

Fat Possum Records
Order link for album

"I Like Rain"/"Fish In The Sea" from The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience

If you are interested in the New Zealand pop music scene of the '80s and early '90s, The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience probably is on your list of bands to investigate.  If you were a fan back in the day, you probably regret your copies disappearing when that jerk of a former roommate moved back to the parents' basement.  And if you have tried to find/replace their music, you probably have discovered that their three LPs and several EPs are hard to find, and very expensive to acquire if found.  Fortunately, Fire Records is coming to the rescue.  Later this year, the label will release a comprehensive box set I Like Rain: The Story of the Jean Paul Sartre Experience.  Although you'll have to wait a few months for that compilation, you can whet your appetite with the just released two-track single "I Like Rain", in which the band's first single dating from 1987 is paired with "Fish In The Sea", taken from their first 12" release.  The title track can be streamed below, and a captivating pop tune it is!

And to further sell you on this one, here is a stream of the B-side, which is a bit more experimental, but even more interesting in its own way.

Bandcamp order page
Fire Records

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

John Krautner - Fun With Gum Vol. 1

Are you confident enough in yourself to admit that sometimes bubblegum and glam sound really, really good?  Yes, I thought you were.  So we present John Krautner's Fun With Gum Vol. 1.  The Detroit rocker is a veteran of The Go and Conspiracy of Owls.  For this outing he has enlisted the assistance of Ben Luckett, Steve Nawara, and Justin Walker, and together they channel AM-worthy gooey tunes and crunchy chords.  This isn't the kind of music ones discusses at length; this is music that you just play while sitting back and with a big smile on your face.  You can stream the entire LP below.  If you only have time for two, I recommend "I Can Cry Too" and "Lion Eyes".

The little hidden gem here is the 'Vol. 1' designation.  Dare we think this means there will be more fun with gum in the future?

Fun With Gum Vol. 1 is out today on Burger Records on cassette, CD, and vinyl.  Digital downloads are available from iTunes and Amazon.

Burger Records order page for album
iTunes page from album
Amazon page for album

REVIEW: The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ

I suspect the reaction of some who learn that the latest album from The Mountain Goats, Beat the Champ, is a concept album about professional wrestling is "what the hell?"   Let's see, a band known to release concept albums and named after the noble and testosterone-charged horned beast of the mountains, who must defend his turf from invasion by climbers and hunters, records their 17th album about the testosterone-charged morality play that was post-WWII professional wrestling?  I say 'it's about time, John Darnielle, it's about time!'

Apparently, Mr. Darnielle was a fan of professional wrestling growing up, and was enthralled and entertained by the good versus evil presented by the athletes.  While Beat the Champ is more about the wrestling John (and from time to time, this writer) watched in his youth than the current version, it is no thumbnail history of sport.  In the adept storyteller's hands, impressions of the wrestlers' lives and motivations, challenges and hardships, dangers and triumphs, are woven with other details of life both large and small in scope, and washed with the colors of mythology.  It is a vividly drawn work, and you can hear the crowd, smell the sweat, feel the fear, sense the desperation -- just consider the song titles, including "Stabbed Outside of San Juan" (about a real incident), "Choked Out", "Heel Turn 2", "Hair Match", "Animal Mask", "The Ballad of Bull Ramos", and "Werewolf Gimmick".  More importantly, you can feel the appreciation of, and even need for, heroes; heroes whose imperfections and out-of-the-ring failures are irrelevant when they don their costumes and play out the muscular theater of pro wrestling.

The professional wrestling of Darnielle's youth may be gone, but Beat the Champ is like an aural version of a graphic novel for the sport, and for exploring life.  Jump into the ring -- is is thrilling, exciting and, most of all, sounds wonderful.

The Mountain Goats, in addition to John Darnielle, are Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster.  Beat the Champ is out today on Merge Records.

Merge Records page for Beat the Champ

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Box Batteries" from Mac McCaughan

We know of Mac McCaughan as a frontman for Superchunk, as well as co-founder of Merge Records.  But he is on the page today in his third guise as solo artist, Mac McCaughan.  Solo Mac has an album title Non-Believers scheduled for release on May 5.  And just to make sure you care about that, he is releasing a single edit of album track "Box Batteries", paired with "Whatever Light".  The title track is an upbeat slice of lo-fi, GBV/The Clean indie rock with a few streaks of punk.  It makes me feel young, and I'm growing to like that in my music.

The single hits the streets tomorrow via Merge, and limited edition 7" versions will be available at certain records stores and from Mac on tour.

Album order page at Merge Records
Artist's page at Merge Records

The Tamborines - Sea of Murmur

The Tamborines are Brazilian male-female duo Henrique Laurindo (guitar/vocals) and Lulu Grave (drums/vocals).  Based in London, their latest release is the 11-track Sea of Murmur, and offers melodic power pop with obvious conviction and, when appropriate, serious volume (e.g. "Black & Blue", "Slowdown", and "Dreaming Girls").  Thematically, the album dwells in the melancholy register with sharp looks at love and life, which is no surprise when you learn that it was written as the personal relationship between the players was disintegrating.  But the beautiful melodies anchor the songs and render a warm-sounding and coherent set of songs.  The style varies from the psychedelic-tinged folk rock of "Another Day" to the My Bloody Valentine noise levels of "Black & Blue" to the Teenage Fanclub-like feel of tracks 3-8, including "Ghost At The Lighthouse", Fellini's Thorn", and "Said The Spider To The Fly".

Sea of Murmur should prove a very satisfying listen for power pop fans, especially those that like a wistful and melancholy tint.  You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below, which probably also is the best source for purchase.

Sea of Murmur is available in vinyl, CD and digital formats via the band's own Beat-Mo Records.