Friday, September 30, 2016

"Katy-Anne Bellis" by Hooton Tennis Club

I'm an active guy, and I make it a point to exercise in some fashion every day.  Of course, doing the same thing every day gets stale, so I like to mix it up -- running, biking, gym, kayaking, skiing, hiking and other stuff as available.  I've also been know to play a bit of tennis, and like other enthusiasts for the game, I have my favorite venues.  My current tennis club of choice is Hooton Tennis Club.  The Liverpool foursome's central feature is scrappy guitar pop with a solid melodic core and a big, upbeat sound.  This is rock and roll on the fun side, and we love them for it.

Hooton Tennis Club is releasing a new album titled Big Box Of Chocolates on October 21 via Heavenly Recordings.  Our first taste is via "Katy-Anne Bellis", a tribute to a former housemate of on of the members of the band.  Check it out below in video or streaming formats.

Oh, did you really expect information about tennis?  Not today -- just go for a run.  That's what I'm going to do.  But I'll listen to Big Box Of Chocolates, so there will be a smile on my face.

Heavenly Recordings

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Meteors In Gorges" by Through The Sparks

It seems to me that everything recorded by Through The Sparks (in case I hadn't mentioned it before, great name for a rock band) is not only excellent music, but also is a testament to the beautiful adventure that is rock and roll.  The band has a big toolbox, not only instrumentally, but also stylistically.  They are as adept at West Coast guitar pop and '70s glam as they are southern rock.  Their vocals feature big choruses riding the waves of guitar, percussion and synths.  The songwriting is sharp and audacious.  It is hard to imagine a band being trippy, groovy, swaggering and heady at the same time, but these guys pull it off.

The latest offering from Through The Sparks is the new single "Meteors In Gorges".  It starts with a spare, pulsing synth, then adding a big, sexy groove and talk-sing vocals.  The sound builds with synths at the high end, eventually bringing in a six-woman chorus for the big finish.  Spin it below and find it at the links or your favorite digital retailer.

For "Meteors In Gorges" Through The Sparks" are Jody Nelson (guitar/vocals), Greg Slamen (keys/bass), Mikey Leon Williams (drums), with backing vocals by Andrea Paschal, Lindsay Ellinas, Mandy Graffeo, Jacklyn Loquidis Hamric, Janet Simpson, and Rebekah Fox.  The single was produced by the band, Daniel Farris and Jeffrey Cain, and released via Communicating Vessels.

Communicating Vessels page for "Meteors In Gorges"
Communicating Vessels
Bandcamp for previous releases

Beach Slang - A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings

A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings is a descriptive title.  The new album from Beach Slang is a rush of melodic but noisy rock, infused with a teenager's sensibility of living for the moment and washing away uncertainties and anxieties with, well, what teenagers do.  At times the style is pleasantly reminiscent of The Replacements, at other times it slides into shoegaze.  There is rage, a bit of reflection, and a good dose of romanticism.  It is that last element, and some very adept lyrical touches, that give the album its warmth and connection.  Cathartic? Surely.  But for catharsis to work for more than a momentary rush, the audience has to feel it, not just hear it.  That is a tough challenge for a band, but we think Beach Slang pulls it off here.

A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings is out now via Polyvinyl Records.  The band begins a five week tour in early October.  The dates and locations are at the bottom of this post.

Bandcamp for A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings

10/6 -- Boston, MA -- Royale
10/8 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Project Pabst Citywide Festival @ Electric Factory
10/11 -- Washington, DC -- Black Cat 
10/12 -- Virginia Beach, VA -- Shaka's
10/13 -- West Columbia, SC -- New Brookland Tavern
10/14 -- Orlando, FL -- Blackbooth**
10/15 -- Jacksonville, FL -- Jack Rabbits
10/16 -- Atlanta, GA -- The Masquerade (Hell)
10/18 -- Nashville, TN -- The Basement East
10/19 -- Louisville, KY -- Zanzabar
10/20 -- Newport, KY -- The Southgate House Revival
10/21 -- Cleveland, OH -- Grog Shop
10/22 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- Cattivo
10/24 -- Columbus, OH -- Rumba Cafe
10/25 -- Bloomington, IN -- The Bishop
10/26 -- St. Louis, MO -- Old Rock House
10/28 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Triple Rock Social Club
10/29 -- Maquoketa, IA -- Codfish Hollow
10/30 -- Omaha, NE -- Reverb Lounge
10/31 -- Kansas City, MO -- The Tank Room
11/01 -- Fayetteville, AR -- George's Majestic Lounge
11/02 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- 89th Street Collective
11/4-6 -- Austin, TX -- Sound on Sound Festival

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Staying Up At Night" by Dag

Modern life makes many demands.  At any point in the day my mind is multi-tasking on various projects that require immediate attention, while dealing with the clutter of secondary demands, random noise, additional scheduling demands and the need to have a life.  Sometimes music has to take a back seat to all that.  But other times a song cuts through the clutter like a sharp knife, with a melody that burrows into my brain and lyrics that seem to speak directly to me.  Such a song is "Staying Up At Night" by Melbourne's Dag.  The song is an instant classic of folk-rock melodic melancholy, with a chugging rhythm, a jangling guitar background, and a tinge of country.  Fans of Australian indie will detect favorable parallels to The Go-Betweens and the Cannanes.

Frontman and songwriter Dusty Anastassiou founded the Dag in Brisbane, moved to Melbourne, and now has signed with Bedroom Suck Records.  For the recording, he recruited mates Matt Ford, Josh Watson, and Skye McNicol.  The band's first album, Benefits of Solitude, will be released by Bedroom Suck on February 24, 2017.  The single "Staying Up At Night" is available now from Bedroom Suck Records.

Bedroom Suck Records page for "Staying Up At Night"
Bandcamp for previous releases

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Cleaners From Venus - The Last Boy In The Locarno

What an absolute delight The Last Boy In The Locarno is!  The fifteenth album released under the banner of The Cleaners From Venus, it is yet another generous dose of engaging music from Englishman Martin Newell.  While the overall atmosphere is laid back, the songs are carefully constructed and cleverly detailed.  Moreover, Newall has packed a generous amount of variety among the 12 tracks.  The gems include a tribute to '60s girl groups in opener "The Crystals and Ronettes", dream pop tunes such as "Gorgeous Day" and "Pearl of the Palais", the rhythmic indie rock of "Voodoo Watusi", the shimmering pop of "Time Star", street corner '50s stylings on "Eight O'Clock Angel", classic Cleaners From Venus jangle pop of "Victorian Doll", the wonderful country-tinged "My Life In Film".  And there is more, and all of good.  The Last Boy In The Locarno is like a set of nesting boxes with wonderful gifts at every level.  It is an album to enjoy at first listen, and then find even greater joy as you find more to love at each replay.

The Last Boy In The Locarno is out now via Soft Bodies Records.  I expect everyone will go immediately to the Bandcamp link below and purchase the CD or digital version.  But if you are one of those skeptical types you can stream a few track below.  If you are even more distrustful, you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.

Martin Newell's website
Soft Bodies Records

Monday, September 26, 2016

Howe Gelb - Sno Angel Like You

A decade ago country musician Howe Gelb, who also records as Giant Sand, traveled from his southern Arizona home to Ottawa, Canada to record a project called Sno Angel.  Sno Angel was comprised of Gelb singing his loose-jointed country compositions with backing vocals by a Canadian Gospel Choir called Voices Of Praise.  The recording included seven songs composed for the Sno Angel project, three covers of Giant Sand songs, and three songs by the late slide guitarist Rainer Ptacek.  The album was slyly titled Sno Angel Like You.  The combination of Gelb's earthy sandpaper-soaked-in-Drambuie lead vocals, the evocative stories embodied in the songs, and the Gospel stylings of the backing vocals make for a transcendent listening experience.  The performances are bursting with life, with the performers playing off each other's contributions with building energy.  The production is amazingly clean, with the vocals high in the mix, as they should be.

For Gelb fans, I think this collection is a 'must have'.  But I submit that this is pretty close to a 'must have' for the collection of any music fan who isn't wedded to one narrow genre.  I've included streams of several album tracks below, and you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link

Sno Angel Like You is available now in a deluxe reissue on 3 CDs or 2 LPs.

Bandcamp for Sno Angel Like You
Facebook for Howe Gelb
Fire Records page for Howe Gelb

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"1057" by Jasmine Sokko

Jasmine Sokko is a fresh voice from Singapore.  The songwriter, vocalist and producer is making her mark with her new disco shaded single, the eminently danceable "1057".  We have it here in video form as well as a Soundcloud stream.  By the way, the title of the song is intended to be a representation of the word 'lost'.  We hope to hear much more of that voice.


No Monster Club - Where Did You Get That Milkshake

Oh happy days -- we have a new record from Dublin's No Monster Club.  Where Did You Get That Milkshake only has four tracks, but Bobby Aherne packs so much melody and fun in every track that no one will complain, and we're always happy to feature them (most recently his fine I Feel Magic album here).  Bobby's brand of music is art pop played by the Beach Boys on amphetamines with additional toy instruments to freshen the sound.  It is euphoric, upbeat, surreal and irresistible.

And in our opinion, Where Did You Get That Milkshake is a very special edition of No Monster Club's deluxe tunesmithing.  Starting with the surf pop opener "Do The Mess Around" and closing with "Hippocampus Circus Maximus", it offers four A-side quality tunes.  You can stream both the songs named above in this post, but for a real dose of fun, view the video for "Do The Mess Around".  A lurid, blood soaked tale of double-crossing and an unfortunate encounter with a depraved weirdo, all played for dark laughs, it begs for repeated views.  And of course you can listen to the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

You can find the digital version of the EP at the Bandcamp link, and the vinyl at the Emotional Response Records link.  If you are in the UK or Ireland, Norman Records is your source.

And for the United States contingent of readers, No Monster Club has invaded us for nine shows.  See the dates and locations of the seven remaining shows at the bottom of this post.

Bandcamp for Where Did You Get That Milkshake (for digital)
Emotional Response page for release (for vinyl 7")
Norman Records (UK purchase)

9/26 Pinky Swear, Chicago, IL
9/27 Stone Tavern at Michel’s, Kent, OH
9/28 Coyote Joe’s, Dubois, PA
9/29 The Dev, Utica, NY
9/30 Midnight at Otto’s Shrunken Head, Manhattan, NY
9/2 Candy Apple Island, Bloomfield, NJ
10/5 New Funky Jungle, Providence, RI

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Cannanes - A Love Affair With Nature [9/16]

A Love Affair With Nature may or may not speak to my relationship with the great outdoors, but it certainly rekindled by love affair with The Cannanes.  The album is Chapter Music's reissue of the beloved -- and long out of print -- 1989 album for the Australian indie pop band.  The original album consisted of ten songs, but this new, deluxe edition includes 13 bonus tracks, new liner notes, and a booklet, available on picture disc vinyl or digital.

The band was formed in Sydney in the '80s, and  in their three plus decades as a band  they have produced 11 albums  and many singles, as well as earning fans worldwide and having a pair of limited edition Converse sneakers named after them.  The band took the name of a member, Michelle Cannane, who left before this album, only their second, was made.  Steadfastly DIY, but never twee, the band's music featured a robust lower register rhythm (reminding me of The Bats), jangling guitar and affecting male/female vocals.  The songwriting was truly special, with the ability to look at life with a keen eye and discuss it with heartfelt emotion or witty detachment.  Or perhaps witty but heartfelt detached emotions.  Their sound and accents bear testimony to their Antipodean origins, but one could also imagine that this is the record that would be made for K Records by The Vaselines with a bit more maturity (apologies to The Vaselines, who I suspect reject the notion of maturity even now) and more disciplined songwriting and preforming.

The Cannanes have gone through multiple players over the years, and an interesting description of the lineups and history can be found on the band's webpage.  The three members at the time of A Love Affair With Nature were Stephen O'Neil (guitar), Fran Gibson (bass) and David Nichols (drums), each of whom contributed songs to the record.

The album is out now.  You can listen to several of my favorite songs below, or stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  This truly is one of the top reissues of the year.

Bandcamp for A Love Affair With Nature

American Mustard - American Mustard

Just a short post to start our publishing day -- please meet the best classic American rock band in Cardiff, Wales.  Yes, American Mustard resides in Wales. And yes, their recently release LP is packed with the sounds one associates with classic American rock and roll.  It is bold, bluesy and great fun.  We also note that half the proceeds from purchase of the album are donated to a charity that works to prevent male suicide.  An album sampler is provided below, but you can stream and purchase the album at the Bandcamp link.  Good music, and a chance to help preserve us endangered males.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Poppies" by KNGDAVD

KNGDAVD, the New York duo consisting of Tye James and Jon Buscema, impressed us with their previous songs "Blood On Our Hands" (feature here) and "Say My Name" (feature here).  We are happy to report that they took our advice and dedicated themselves to making more music.  The result is the pulsating concoction of funky rock and production wizardry about one of our favorite themes, sex.  Enjoy below!


The Eastern Swell - One Day, A Flood

I've had One Day, A Flood by Edinburgh-based The Eastern Swell on my car's CD changer for the past week.  When I got home yesterday evening I got out of the car to open the garage bay while the stereo was still playing the album.  In the dying sunlight with the beginning of the Fall leaves swirling around my feet, I realized the perfect timing of the release.  One Day, A Flood is an album for Autumn, for increasing darkness, unpredictable weather, inevitable decay, and dark clouds and rain.  I don't mean to suggest that it is depressing -- far from it.  But it is an album of layered moods and uncertainties.  Yeah, it is music for adults, and whether I like it or not, I'm at that stage of life.

The music is a somewhat unusual combination of folk rock, alt country and progressive rock.  Yes, that means that there will be hints of Led Zeppelin (but only hints and absent the warlock posturing).  The haunting vocals are high in the mix, but even when the band isn't reaching for high volume, the arrangements barely contain an omnipresent current of lower-register, bass-heavy power and emotional conviction.  My favorites are the opening "Rattling Bones" and the epic country-tinged prog rock closer "Run Down Country Palace", but aural treats abound and a scan of other reviews reveal that many of the tracks have impressed the music press, which is a sign of consistent quality.

The Eastern Swell are Lainie Urquhart (vocals/tambourine), Chris Reeve (guitar/vocals), Neil Collman (bass/vocals), and Andy Glover (drums/percussion).  One Day, A Flood is out now on digital and CD formats via Stereogram Recordings.

Bandcamp for One Day, A Flood
Stereogram Recordings

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ice Choir - Designs In Rhythm

Designs In Rhythm, the new album from Ice Choir, takes us back to the '80s in such a good way.  Layers of warm synth lines combine with understated guitars and a smooth vocal performance to give us the sort of danceable romanticism that makes the sun a bit brighter and your troubles a bit more manageable.  With soaring choruses and big hooks, the arrangements are designed for maximum emotional response.  A listener could be forgiven wondering whether any of the songs found their way on to a John Hughes movie soundtrack, but we can all be content to allow them to serve as the current soundtrack for our happy times.

Ice Choir is commercial sound designer and composer Kurt Feldman.  The ten songs on the album stand as a tribute to his talent.  The songs are playful, whimsical, and packed with detail, yet shimmer and flow effortlessly.  And despite the unflaggingly grand scope of the music, it remains an accessible album, inviting you to interpret the music as it fits into your life.  We all know that too much sugar isn't good for us, but Ice Choir is here to remind you just how wonderful it is to binge now and again.

 Designs In Rhythm is available everywhere now as a digital release.  Vinyl is available in the US and Japan, and a CD format also is available in Japan.  The release is via Shelflife Records, except in Japan where it is out via Fastcut Records.

Bandcamp for Designs In Rhythm
Shelflife Records page for Designs In Rhythm

Law Holt - City

Does the state of pop music invoke despair?  Do you tire of homogenized songs constructed by crews of beat makers, melody draftsmen, hook specialists and lyric consultants, sung by people who actually seem to be trying to sound like the last person who had a hit?  Yeah, it drives us crazy too.  But there is hope out there, and we find it in the person of Law Holt.  Holt emerged from the Edinburgh underground pop scene that also produced Young Fathers, with whom she has collaborated.  After promising early recordings, Holt took time off to recover from serious injuries suffered in a random attack.  Having sufficiently recovered to write and record, she has unleashed her debut LP, City, via the Soulpunk label.

Holt's take on pop is versatile.  Sunshine pop like "Summer's Coming" and "Love Drive Through" are balanced with intriguing songs featuring more adventuresome arrangements such as static, woozy filters, underwater effects, jittery percussion and other bells and whistles.  It is an album of layers and surprises -- layers of beats, layers of effects, layers of emotions.  But the execution is so disciplined that none of it seems cluttered.  It must be said that one of our favorite things about Ms. Holt is that she is unafraid of packing her music with an unapologetic bite, and those well placed chomps coupled with her perfect pop sensibilities make her one of the more exciting artists making music these days.

City is direct, even blunt, artistic expression that remembers to entertain.  A few streams are below, and you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.

Bandcamp for City

Monday, September 19, 2016

Earth Heart - Homesick

If you are a fan of garage rock and raw indie rock, you owe it to yourself to check out Allston, Massachusettes' Earth Heart.  Originally formed by vocalist/guitarist Katie Coriander and drummer Matt Axten, the band now includes Natan Keyes on bass.  The trio makes a righteous racket, and Coriander, who also writes the song, delivers the vocals with power and conviction.

After several EPs and singles, the band has released Homesick.  The first four songs are crash-bang indie rock, and suggest that this band likely is a killer live act.  The fifth song, "NSA", is a more melodic garage rocker with a pop core.  The tempo doesn't take a break until "Fire Song", in the seventh slot.  But even when the band takes it slower, the muscles are flexing.  This is a band of grit, snarl and power.  Homesick is ten songs bursting with vitality and a decidedly  outsider perspective on society.  Give it a spin at the Bandcamp link below.

 Homesick is out now in digital and CD formats.

Bandcamp for Homesick

Teenage Fanclub - Here

Yes, we will add more words about Here, the new album from Scotland's Teenage Fanclub.  The Fannies are a well known and deservedly loved band, so their releases -- less frequent at this point in their career -- draw a lot of attention.  So while we can't claim to have an exclusive feature or any 'new discovery' credit, or even first-to-publish rights, we are compelled to help celebrate the album.

Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley are the core and enduring members of the band.  But more importantly, they are the powerhouse engine room that makes Teenage Fanclub so special.  All three are expert songwriters and effective vocalists.  As a result, a Teenage Fanclub album typically will have contributions from all three, resulting in a 'no filler' record with trademark harmonies from musicians that have grown increasingly comfortable with melding their vocal talents.  And so it is with Here, the band's tenth studio album and first since 2010's Shadows.

Teenage Fanclub's work in the early '90s bore grunge and alt-rock influences, but soon transitioned to a brand of melodic power pop that still retained a bit of heaviness in the guitars.  Over time, the sound has jettisoned the grunge elements, and travels the power pop road.  But the result is in no respect generic.  Big Star may be the god father of power pop, but Teenage Fanclub has come to define the genre, and is the standard against which we measure other power pop recordings.  Based on the aural evidence on Here, this album finds the members of Teenage Fanclub, each of whom contributed four compositions to the album, relatively content.  The songs have a folky, singer-songwriter feel, and are focused on relationships and living in the moment.  Of course, when one addresses love and relationships, an honest take likely will be bittersweet and acknowledge challenges and limitations, and Teenage Fanclub has always been honest in their songwriting.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere on Here is light, and the tone hopeful.  The production is hushed and flowing, echoing the lyrical content.  If the press of life and the demands of their other projects means that Here will be the last Teenage Fanclub record for a while, we can be content for a long time with the 12 worthy gems comprising Here.

In addition to Love, Blake and McGinley, the band for Here included Francis Macdonald (drums) and Dave McGowan (keys).  The album is self-released in the UK, and is out now via Merge Records in North America.  The band will be playing limited North American dates in October (unfortunately, none out West); see the show list at the bottom of this post.

October North American Dates:
12 – Toronto
14 – Washington, DC
15 – New York, NY
16 – Brooklyn, NY
17 – Boston, MA
18 – Philadelphia, PA
20 – Cleveland, OH
21 – Chicago, IL
22 – Minneapolis, MN
23 – Madison, WI
25 – Detroit, MI

Merge Records page for Here

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Sweaty Hands" by The Goon Sax (video)

Any excuse to feature The Goon Sax is OK with us.  In this case, the Brisbane, Australia trio is playing some shows in the UK (see the bottom of this post for dates and locations), and are hoping to generate interest by offering a video from one of the fine songs on their debut album, Up To Anything (our review here).  The band are Riley Jones, Louis Forster, and James Harrison, and their brand of The Cannanes meets The Bats meets Galaxie 500, all whirling in a meta, John Hughes' alternative coming of age movie script strikes us as lightning in a bottle.

Bandcamp for Up To Anything
Chapter Music page for The Goon Sax
26 London DIY Space
27 London The Shacklewell Arms* SOLD OUT
28 Leeds Headrow House*
29 Manchester Eagle Inn*
30 Glasgow Mono*
* with support from Boys Forever

See Gulls - Curtain Call

See Gulls do Raleigh, North Carolina proud.  With a mix of crunchy power pop, doo wop harmonies, garage grit angular post-punk riffs,and surfy flourishes, the band provides an appealing melodic backdrop for their tales of dealing with cads and winning the day on their new EP Curtain Call.  On the six songs See Gulls display plenty of attitude and dress it up with ready for prime time musical chops.  A good listen, to be sure.

See Gulls are Sarah Fuller, Maria Albani, Jacki Huntington, Leah Gibson, and Duncan Webster.  Curtain Call is available now in digital and CD formats.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Curtain Call

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thee Mightees - Glimmer

What keeps us writing about indie music, cut off from the payola and other benefits from big labels and their corporate partners?  A large part of it is discovering bands that do not yet have a big media profile, and may never have a big media profile without some help, but send shivers down our arms and detonate pleasure bombs in our heads.  And right now I can think of no better example of such a band than Sheffield's Thee Mightees.  Hailing from a city I more often associate with electronic music (which probably is a personal limitation) and with a name that sounds like it comes from the Kingston, Jamaica music scene circa 1969, Thee Mightees may be the best lo-fi, jangle pop band not yet on your radar.

Thee Mightee's new album is Glimmer, and over the course of ten tracks the band proves to be equally adept at jangle pop (e.g. "Emoji Dreamworld"), sunny California psychedelia (e.g. "Yoko"), and '60s garage rock (e.g. "Shalalala Man").  They also slip in one of the most perfect guitar pop gems of the year in "Shining Sea" (video below).  I was familiar with Thee Mightees from a previous release via Fuzzkill Records (Smiling cassette), and loved their pop smarts and excellent songwriting, but I was nevertheless bowled over by the quality and remarkable consistency of Glimmer.  Around WYMA World Headquarters, this is being tipped as a top 30 album for the year.

Thee Mightees are Thomas Shore, Ben Russell, Tom Roper, and Chris Wood.  Glimmer is a joint release by Leed's Chud Records and Glasgow's Fuzzkill Records, and is available digitally and on cassette.  Three songs mentioned above are embedded below, and you can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp and Soundcloud links below.

Chud Records' Bandcamp for Glimmer
Fuzzkill Records' Bandcamp for Glimmer cassette
Soundcloud for Glimmer
Bandcamp for earlier releases
Chud Records
Fuzzkill Records

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Persian Leaps - Your City, Underwater

Are you a fan of the sort of crunchy, jangling power pop and noise pop that many of us, and certainly the WYMA crew, love about the early Teenage Fanclub albums or, perhaps, The Feelies and R.E.M.?  If so, we welcome you to The Persian Leaps' fanclub.  If you aren't already a member, you may be new here because we covered two previous EPs from the Minnesota trio.  This Friday sees the release of their new five-song EP Your City, Underwater.  Hooks, riffs clever lyrics and themes such as anxiety and climate change catastrophe are in abundance, and your only complaint can be that it is over too quickly.  But the band manages an EP per year, so you can load up on their back catalog after grabbing this one.

The Persian Leaps are Drew Forsberg (vocals/guitar), Adam Brunner (bass/vocals), and Mike McCloskey (drums/vocals).  Your City, Underwater is available in digital and CD formats via Land Ski Records.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for EP

First Class Rock Steady (Box Set)

As one can discern from the nickname I chose when I started writing about music, I am a fan of the Jamaican form of music known as rocksteady.  Rocksteady was the musical bridge between the ska movement of the '50s and first half of the '60s and the classic reggae of the very late '60s and '70s.  Characterized by a slower tempo than ska (and usually dropping the horns), with a greater emphasis on backbeat and bass, and a focus on vocals.  And what vocals they were -- rivaling the best soul music being recorded in North America at the same time.  The rocksteady period was brief -- 1966-1968, but incredibly productive.  One estimate suggests that 5700 rocksteady singles were pressed in Jamaica and the UK during the period, which is over 6 singles released per day.  Moreover, many of the songs had a life beyond rocksteady, as many served as the base track for the DJ period of Jamaican music spearheaded by worthies such as U Roy, Big Youth and I Roy in the latter half of the '70s.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of rocksteady, and to celebrate VP Records and its 17 North Parade imprint for vintage releases have offered two wonderful collections.  The first was a Record Store Day special in April: A box set of of 7" vinyl singles showcasing 14 universally recognized rocksteady classics.  The second is the more recently available 2-CD Box Set and digital edition consisting of 40 rocksteady hits (including the 14 which comprised the Record Store Day release).  Carefully selected and remastered, the songs in the collection represent good taste and consummate knowledge of the classics of rocksteady.  The set also includes a well executed booklet.

I own four other rocksteady collections, as well as various rocksteady tracks on other reggae compilations and albums for individual artists or groups, but this collection still represents an essential part of my collection.  Rocksteady is beautiful and vibrant music, and this collection is a great way to own it.

VP Records page for release

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Second Hand Shops" and "Bright And Better Days" by Skytone

Ottawa, Canada's Skytone are Rodney Doddridge (vocals/keys/drum edits) and Darius Doddridge (vocals/guitars), brothers with a keen ear for melodies that pack more sunshine and warmth per decibel than you would have thought possible.  Two recent offerings are the bright jangle pop tune "Second Hand Shops" and the moodier "Bright and Better Days.  Both tracks are available for digital download at the links provided.  And if you like Skytone, check out their live set Skytone Live @ The Fishfry, which has eleven mostly upbeat and summery backyard indie tunes.  I included lead track "Jackie O" for your listening pleasure.  I recommend the album highly, and was listening to it on my morning trip to the office.

Skytone's music is released via Ottawa label The Beautiful Music.

Bandcamp for "Second Hand Shops"
Bandcamp for "Bright And Better Days"
The Beautiful Music (label) page for Skytone

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hockey Dad - Boronia

The term "hockey dad" may conjure the image of a beefy North American or Northern European wearing a pro hockey jersey and screaming from the stands to urge his nine-year-old son and his friends to board the other team into oblivion.  Translating the term to music, however, requires an adjustment to your expectations.  The indie band Hockey Dad is Australian, and the only boards suggested by their music are surf boards and skate boards.  Rather than demanding violence, these guys are preaching fun, beaches, parties, surf and good times, leavened with a bit of pop punk grit.  Or maybe that was sand after all.  The tunes are upbeat, sunny, fuzz pop sing-alongs that don't take anything too seriously.  After all, the band's name is take from and episode of The Simpsons and the album's title reflects Boronia Street, the street near the beach where the duo grew up and have been friends since age four.

Boronia is a warm and approving look at life lived by the the members of Hockey Dad -- Zach Stephenson (guitar/vocals) and bill Fleming (drums) -- both of whom are in their early '20s.  You won't find a lot of regret of bitterness, and why should you.  The lives described sound like great fun, and the songs that describe them a definitely fun.  We think Boronia is a very good way to extend your summer.

 Boronia is out now.  See the Bandcamp link below for details.

Bandcamp for Boronia

Lucy Dacus - No Burden

Lucy Dacus is a former film student from Richmond, Virginia.  Supposedly, she recorded an album on a whim, and it now has been picked up by Matador Records.  Titled No Burden, it has nine tracks that cover the spectrum from southern indie confessional rockers that wouldn't be out of place in the company of Courtney Barnett, and more stripped-down singer songwriter tunes, and a few that are in-between.  While my taste runs more towards the first group -- typified by "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore", "Troublemaker Doppelganger", and "Strange Torpedo" -- one listen to "Dream State" will convince you that Dacus need not confine herself to one style of musical expression.  Her vocal range is impressive, and her delivery is equally adept and self-deprecatory asides, bitter observations and tender entreaties.  Her lyrical talent is impressive, whether from the perspective of the major actor in the action or the keen-eyed outside observer.  And we'll note that the lyrics are included at the Bandcamp link below.  Overall, this is a very impressive debut.

We doubt that Dacus has much time to make films at this point, but with a European tour and other commitments arising from a deservedly positive reception to No Burden, I don't expect that she is feeling bad about life.  I expect that she is finding her current state to be no burden at all.

Bandcamp for No Burden
Matador Records

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Introducing Dehd

What a great debut album this is!  This self-titled debut from Chicago's Dehd offers surf pop, psychedelia, and other tasty lo-fi treats.  The trio is Jason Balla (also in Earring), Emily Kempf, and Eric McGrady, and they recently signed to Brooklyn's Fire Talk Records.  Boy/girl vocals, big drums high in the mix, surf guitars, simple arrangements and nice up-tempo melodies -- it is as if Beat Happening invaded the bodies of Melbourne's Twerps.  This is one of my new, favorite bands.  Check out the wonderful "Sunburn" below, and then stream the entire album.  The digital version is a steal  at a mere $5.  This is your bargain of the week, folks.

Bandcamp for digital or cassette album
Fire Talk Records

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Tyde - Darren 4

We had despaired of never having another record from The Tyde.  Perhaps Darren Rademaker, Mr. Tyde himself, had similar thoughts.  After all, the last record of original material -- and their third overall -- was released in 2006.  We haven't been completely without Rademaker, not only via the past albums but also via the fine compilation of the songs of California rockers Further, the Rademaker brothers' '90s project, courtesy of British label Bad Paintings (review here).  And fortunately for us, in addition to catching waves when the swells are good, Darren didn't stop writing songs.  So now we have album four from The Tyde: Darren 4.

The album begins with the upbeat tune "Nice To Know You", a friendly combination of '80s British guitar pop and California sunshine.  The following "Ode To The Islands" has an appropriately sunny, tropical vibe. Third in line is the flowing Laurel Canyon psychedelia of "The Rights".  The showpiece song of the album is "The Curse In Reverse", with co-vocals and guitar from former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.  I think it will stand as one of the best ever songs under The Tyde banner.  The perfect follow up is offered by the California jangling country romp of "Rainbow Boogie".  The album ends with the reflective "Situations" and poignant "It's Not Gossip If It's True".

As compared to his work in the '90s and '00s, Darren 4 finds Rademaker older, and possessed of many additional life experiences -- and not all happy ones.  What hasn't changed is his ability to channel his thoughts and experiences into meaningful and entertaining music, and his innate feel for a pop song.  The result is an album that reflects the sunshine of summer, and the hints of decay that come with autumn.  I hope this album doesn't drop quietly, because it is a powerful, top quality record, and will stick with us long after many other releases are put back on the shelf.

The line-up for this album is Darren Rademaker, Ben Knight, Brent Rademaker, Colby Buddelmeyer, Richard Gowen, Chelsea Larkin, Paige Stark, Rachel Dean, Andres Renteria, and Neal Casal.  Darren 4 is released today, September 9, on vinyl and digital platforms via Spiritual Pajamas and on cassette tape via Burger Records.

Bandcamp link for Darren 4 (for vinyl/digital)
Spiritual Pajamas
Burger Records

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Frisk" by Black Marble

In "Frisk", we have another synth pop gem from Black Marble (i.e. Chris Stewart and friends) in advance of the October 14 release of the new LP, It's Immaterial.  Warm, with a shading of mystery, it is a delightful listen.  We previously shared album track "Iron Lung" (link).  Play them back to back and you have a compelling case for eagerly anticipating this album.

It's Immaterial will be released by Ghostly International.

Pre-Order link for It's Immaterial

"Saltwater" by Geowulf

Star Kendrick and Toma Banjanin are Geowulf, a Australian-born multi-city (London, Gothenburg and Berlin) dream pop duo.  Having just signed to London label 37 Adventures, they are making serious waves with their sunny single "Saltwater".  The song was recently included on 37 Adventures' Odd Numbers: Volume 1 compilation (link).

37 Adventures

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mumrunner - Gentle Slopes EP

In our opinion, some of the most gorgeous guitar pop in the world over the past several years has been coming out of Finland.  The latest is the superb Gentle Slopes by Tampere, Finland's four-piece Mumrunner.  The five song EP, the band's sophomore EP, displays a muscular brand of dreampop and shoegaze with massive post punk rhythms and and upbeat tempos.  And then there are the guitars -- they jangle, chime, ring, grind and chug, with twin emphasis on urgency and melody.  The vocals are just high enough in the mix to be interesting, but never intrude on the instrumental fireworks.  Rare is the band that can create dense and intricate soundscapes while still delivering pop music satisfaction.  Mumrunner is such a rare band, and Gentle Slopes is a deeply satisfying example of their art.

Gentle Slopes will be released on Friday, September 9, in digital by Helsinki label Soliti.  Vinyl will be available via German label Wolves & Vibrancy Records.

Soliti Music
Wolves & Vibrancy Records

Tomgirl - Tomgirl

Cherie Ko has been known to us for a number of years.  First as the ace guitarist and back-up vocalist for Singapore indie rock band Obedient Wives, then also as the synth-bubblegum popster of Pastelpower and the vocalist for transcontinental indie project Bored Spies.  But we didn't know the Cherie Ko that has emerged as the frontwoman for Tomgirl.  A collaboration between Singapore-based Ko and talented Melbourne producer and multi-instrumentalist Ted Dore, Tomgirl creates stylish pop noir with a cinematic sheen.  Sexy, tough, and loaded with bad boy/bad girl appeal, their new self titled debut races through ten tracks that leave a great taste that you will leave you wanting more. With Dore providing thumping but adeptly dynamic production, images that recall retro guys and dolls with guns story lines, Ko steps forward as a pop star and Tomgirl emerges as one of our new favorite pop bands.

Tomgirl is available in vinyl and digital formats via Deer Island Records.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Closer" by Ali Robertson

We first featured Glasgow singer songwriter Ali Robertson in February of this year (link).  It has been a long wait, but we have another track confirming Ali's talent for intricate but understated pop gems.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Scott & Charlene's Wedding - Mid Thirties Single Scene

Scott & Charlene's Wedding plays garage rock just the way we like it -- long on enthusiasm with a shambling approach to precision.  But don't dismiss this band as just a bunch of bangers.  Beneath that garage rock fuzz and jangle there is a solid vein of the Velvet Underground, The Fall, The Lemmonheads, and Television.  Moreover, frontman Craig Dermody's casual attitude towards singing in key and conversational lyrics belies focused and adept songwriting.  S&CW's previous album, Any Port In A Storm, relayed Craig's experiences living in New York City in highly entertaining fashion.  In the band's new album, Mid Thirties Single Scene,  Craig tackles the romantic detritus of a mid thirties indie rock frontman and sometimes blue collar worker.  There are observations about daily life -- making eggs for breakfast, watching TV, hanging out in the bar, being jobless -- interspersed with regrets and reminisces about relationships that didn't last.

The album kicks off with "Maureen", which will stoke VU comparisons.  The following "Don't Bother Me" is a chugging, garage sing-along, and definitely an album highlight.  "Hardest Year" and the closer, "Forever And A Day" together comprise ten minutes of the album's running time, and give the band a chance to display their ability to dial it down for an affecting slow tempo song.   "Scrambled Eggs" is a self-deprecating view of a drifting life, while "End of the Story" steps out to rock hard.  In contrast, "Distracted" and "Delivered" quite simply should burnish the band's reputation as the garage rock voice of their generation.  The band is top quality at every position and gives every track a rumbling, crackling live vibe.

Now back in Melbourne, Craig's mates for this outing include Jack Farley, Joe Alexander, Gill Tucker, and Esther Edquist.  The album is out via Bedroom Suck Records in the Southern Hemisphere, and Fire Records in the rest of the world.

This is one of my personal favorites of the year so far.

Bandcamp for Mid Thirties Single Scene
Fire Records' order page for vinyl
Fire Records' Bandcamp page for Mid Thirties Single Scene
Bedroom Suck Records page for Mid Thirties Single Scene
Bedroom Suck Records

Introducing The Slow Revolt

"Messina" is our moody beginning to the week.  The song is taken from Sketches, by London songwriter Joe Mirza recording as The Slow Revolt.  Joe's music is restrained, layered pop with a strong current of emotion.  I think that "Messina" is the strongest of the three songs on the EP, but all of them offer them are worthy of your time.  Both "Messina" and Sketches are available for 'name your price' at the Bandcamp links provided below.

Bandcamp for "Messina"
Bandcamp for Sketches
The Slow Revolt on Soundcloud

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Chills - Kaleidoscope World

The Chills shimmer and chime, crackle with energy and wit, and permanently invade your brain with hooks and melodies.  Discovering a new song from the band is like coming home and finding that your lover has decorated your favorite space with Christmas lights, opened a bottle of champagne, and decided that clothing is unnecessary for the weekend.  Of course, Kaleidoscope World, the newly expanded and re-issued compilation from Flying Nun isn't comprised of new songs, but rather is a fulsome collection of all of the band's early singles, including the songs included on the groundbreaking Dunedin Double compilation the label issued in 1982.  It is an extended look at the band's early years, now with 24 songs that display the breadth and complexity of Martin Phillipps' songwriting.  Phillipps is equally adept at styling sunny, jangling guitar pop, organ-driven garage rock, punk-tinged rockers and post punk songs that ventured into art rock, he also displayed an emotional range that embraced darkness, regret, mortality and insecurity to balance the often peppy arrangements.  Like probably all long-time fans of The Chills, I have my favorites among the early songs included in this compilation.  "Pink Frost", the title track, and "I Love My Leather Jacket" often are mentioned.  For me, it is "Satin Doll, closely followed by "Rolling Moon" and "Frantic Drift".

If you are a fan of the band, this collection is essential unless you already own all the songs.  And even if you do, the extras may tip the balance for you.  For those without a thorough collection, we give this set our high recommendation.  The music of The Chills is pop, is art, is a slice of humanity.

Kaleidoscope World  is available in vinyl (2 LPs), CD and digital formats.  It addition to early singles, it includes some demos, B-sides and live tracks, as well as photos, posters, liner notes, and lists of the multitude of band rosters.

Flying Nun order page