Thursday, December 29, 2016

Super Paradise - Quençebo

Achieving paradise sounds like a great goal, but some people are not satisfied with the simple extraordinary.  Take, for example, the Milan-to-London band formed by Francesco Roma and Nico Spreafico.  Adding Juliet Styles and Bradley Smith when to duo arrived in the UK, they  bypassed paradise and became Super Paradise.  And what is super paradise in this context?  It is the eight-song Quençebo, a bold, confident fusion of garage and dreampop, anthemic in scope and thrilling in the execution.  Seven songs are Francesco's original compositions, and the band added an excellent version of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends".  This is a powerful little package, bursting with joy, melody and energy.  You will be thankful for the replay button.

Quençebo is available now via Jigsaw records as a digital download or CD.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Quencebo
Jigsaw Records

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Free five-song sampler from Dot Dash

We've been singing the praises of Washington, D.C.'s Dot Dash for several years.  Actually, as I look at that first sentence I feel the need for a correction.  We have been writing praises of Dot Dash -- we've left the singing to them.  Trust us, it is better that way.  Much, much better.  And as the holiday season is in full flight, there is a Dot Dash gift for everyone.  Due to the kind folks at the Last Day Deaf blog, a five song sampler is available to stream and download for $0.  Yes, indeed.  A free song from each of the band's excellent albums.  You can stream it below.  If you would like to download the songs (and of course you do), hit the Soundcloud link below and then click on each song in turn for the download arrow.  So there you go -- Merry Christmas from Dot Dash, Last Day Deaf and, a little bit, from us at WYMA.

Soundcloud link for Dot Dash sampler
Dot Dash on Facebook
Dot Dash albums on Bandcamp
Dot Dash on Twitter
The Beautiful Music (label for Dot Dash albums)
Last Day Deaf blog

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Magnetic Fields - The Wayward Bus / Distant Plastic Trees

If you appreciate songwriting as an art, Stephin Merritt should be a familiar to you.  His work is available under his own name, and four different bands including The Magnetic Fields.  Of course, his best known work under that band name was the multi-disc 69 Love Songs, which was released by Merge Records in 1999.  But to focus on that one, admittedly transcendent, release to the exclusion of others is to deny yourself a wealth of inventive, clever and incredibly satisfying pop music.  Cases in point are his first two The Magnetic Fields albums, The Wayward Bus and Distant Plastic Trees, which were released in the early '90s.   While those indie releases initially didn't attract a wide audience, they received a bump in 1994 when Merge Records released them as a double album.  The records showcase the signature Merritt art -- wistful and caustic, clever and direct, sad and humorous, retro but somehow timeless.  And always melodic.  The records were a breath of fresh air in an industry awash in grunge, alt rock and Britpop.  The listener will hear hints of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, and more broadly Baroque pop over the decades.  But there should be no compulsion to categorize, this is classic pop that deserves a place in your collection.

The Wayward Bus / Distant Plastic Trees are now available from Merge Records as a 2-LP vinyl release.

Merge Records page for release

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Callum Easter - Get Don't Want

Edinburgh's Callum Easter is a young man with a degree in sound production and a distinctive approach to pop music.  Formerly a member of Stagger Rats, he now is exploring life as a solo artist.  On his new EP Get Don't Want, he displays an impressive range of skills.  The record begins with a swaggering, glam rock stomp titled "Feelings Gone".  With his rock/pop chops thus well established, Easter spreads his wings with dub effects and washed out soundscapes and a lyrical delivery that varies between singing and speaking.  Easter explores dark corners, and he does it with a captivating style.

Get Don't Want is out now via Soulpunk Records.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Get Don't Want
Soulpunk Records

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Halfsour - Charm School EP

Boston's Halfsour creates power pop with punch and an uncompromising attitude.  There is a challenging note to the vocals and the drums are pummeled hard and high in the mix.  Really, everything is high in the mix, with the effect that you think you are standing right in front of the stage while Halfsour runs through a six song set.  In fact, the six songs are on Charm School, an EP that follows their excellent LP release from earlier this year, Tuesday Night Live.  So the bad news it that the band aren't live and in front of you.  The good news is that you can own this EP and play it any time -- yes, even when you aren't wearing any pants.

All six songs are keepers (one of the wonderful things about EPs, I think), but you'll likely be sold on the set after listening to the first and second tracks, "Ten Year Tenure" and "Vinyl Siding".  The following "Scenes From A Coach" sounds like the sort of song that becomes a fan favorite with every aware person in the audience singing along.  Track five, "Ice Cream Dinner", is the first song in the set that slows the tempo and lets that band display a bit of nuance.  But even on this one, the guitar fizzes and crackles and the band goes loud on the chorus.  Face it folks, these kids like to rock, and they do it well.

With Charm School, Halfsour has twice proved in 2016 to be a fresh and worthy set of faces on the indie rock scene.  You need no more evidence, get the EP.

Charm School is available in digital, vinyl and cassette formats.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Charm School EP

"We Are Magic" by Red Sleeping Beauty

Last year Sweden's Red Sleeping Beauty roused themselves from a two-decade slumber to create the 2016 release Kristina, which is one of the best electro pop albums we've heard this year.  They have given us yet another reason to remember them with the just released single "We Are Magic".  Lush, sweet, and built for the dance floor, it is a special tune.  Enjoy below.

Labrador Records page for "We Are Magic"
Labrador Records

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Guards Down" by Dag

Dag are a Melbourne guitar band we think will soon make a big splash.  We featured one of their songs recently, but we now have "Guards Down", a single available for digital download.  And it comes with a video for your complete, 360 degrees pleasure.  As an added bonus, Heidi Cutlack performs background vocals.  Dag's debut LP, Benefits of Solitude, will be released on February 24 via Bedroom Suck Records and Omnian Music Group.

Bandcamp page for single
Bedroom Suck Records
Omnian Music Group

"Meat Moon" / "Mary, Gary, warehouse" by Love Sport

New music from Helsinki's Love Sport is early Christmas here at WYMA world headquarters.  The A-side is "Meat Moon", which may have you wondering whether Helsinki is now in California.  It isn't by the way -- we had our one partially sober intern look into it and three hours later he announced with 80% confidence that Helsinki was still in Finland (he's a keeper, that boy).  But the vibe is definitely Cool Ghouls plays Guided By Voices and The Feelies to our ears, which makes us happy all day.  The B-side is "Mary, Gary, warehouse", a jangling, country-tinged garage rock romp.

The single is out today via Soliti Music.  Love Sport's album Dull Tracks will be released by Soliti in the next few months.  We are betting that the tracks on Dull Tracks will be anything but dull.

Soliti Music

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tears Run Rings - In Surges

The winter months bring an increased density.  The clouds overhead are thicker, darker and appear weightier.  The moisture from the sky often is solid.  Even the seasonal food tends to be more substantial.  And for some psychological reason, my taste in music shifts to crave more sonic density, as well.  With perfect timing, West Coast band Tears Run Rings have delivered just what the season demands:  In Surges, a ten-song shoegaze and dreampop album of remarkable quality and consistency.  The arrangements are lush, full, and wide scope.  But the magic here is the band's infusion of delicacy and sweetness.

The album opens with the moody, staticy, mid-tempo "Happiness 6".  In the following "Belly Up" Tears Run Rings spread their melodic shoegaze wings with soaring melodies and layered vocals.  The band's dreampop craftsmanship is showcased on "Things Have Changed", which is likely to be a favorite among most listeners.  "Parts of Glass" is jangling, moody haze dissolving to sunshine.  "Green Lakes" presents ethereal tension and a sense of mystery.  Dreampop and shoegaze meld into a perfect hazy bliss with angelic vocals on "Broken".  "Destroyer" shimmers and sparkles, leading to the rocking, Ride-like shoegaze of "Something You Can't Hide".  The album relaxes into jangling dreampop with "Sine Wave Sleep", and then ends with a "Happiness 7" -- a sweeping soundscape.  Varied, detailed and beautifully executed, In Surges may be the shoegaze LP of the year.  Sample below, and stream the entire album at the Bandacmp link.

Tears Run Rings are Dwayne Palasek (drums), Ed Mazzucco (guitar), Laura Watling (vocals/bass), and Matthew Bice (vocals/guitar).  The four members reside variously in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, which results in the members writing and sending their contributions via the internet to other members.  From time to time, they converge and record, but as In Surges was under construction for six years, you'll have plenty of time to digest it before you hear a follow up.  The band's past recordings include two LPs (most recently, the well received Distance) and one EP.

In Surges is out now on vinyl and digital formats via North Carolina's Deep Space Recordings.

Bandcamp page for digital album
Order page for vinyl
Deep Space Recordings

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Still Ticking" by Hollow Everdaze

Melbourne's Hollow Everdaze creates appealing psychedelic pop.  Nods to the '60s are evident, but the band's interpretation doesn't seem the least bit dated.  Check it out with the melodic haze of "Still Ticking", taken from their upcoming LP Cartoon.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Hymn On The 45" b/w "Wanderlust" by Allo Darlin'

Not all good things last forever.  Recently, beloved Anglo/Aussie indie pop band Allo Darlin' announced that they were closing up shop.  But they are too nice to just drop the mic and leave the room without a kiss goodbye.  That kiss to their fans now is here via the single "Hymn On The 45" b/w "Wanderlust".  And as goodbye kisses go, this is the type to feature at the end of a grand scale romantic drama.  Or if you prefer to dwell in the more personal, the kiss from your year-long college sweetheart when separating for the summer, with warm, young-love memories and hopes for the future.

Allo Darlin' has always been adept at combining melancholy and sunshine, romanticism and steely realism, emotional weight and devil-may-care attitudes, a longing for home and wanderlust.  And this final record finds them in absolute top form doing what they do best.  As always, the tone and phrasing of Elizabeth Morris' vocals star, and on the A-track in particular Paul Rain's guitar work shines.  "Hymn On The 45" speaks to starting out in a new city, while "Wanderlust" addresses missing people and places while striking out for new adventures.  This is a perfect slice of indie pop to end the year and end the recording career of an excellent band, the appreciation of which will only grow over the coming years.  Are you ready for your goodbye kiss?

"Hymn On The 45" b/w "Wanderlust" is out now via Fortuna POP!  The gold 7" vinyl is only available at the few shows the band are playing in the UK, but the record is available in digital format via the Bandcamp link below.

Allo Darlin's members are, or were, Elizabeth Morris (guitar/ukulele), Paul Rain (guitar), Bill Bottlng (bass), and Michael Collins (drums).

Bandcamp for "Hymn On The 45" b/w "Wanderlust"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lower Plenty - Sister Sister

At the same time Lower Plenty are many good things, but barely, just barely, a band.  The members of the Melbourne four piece are all members of other bands (Total Control, Dick Diver, Deaf Wish, Exhaustion), so their energies are directed to recording for this project only about every two years, with few live performances.  I suppose that makes growing a fan base a bit of a challenge.  But those of us who have been devoted Lower Plenty devotees since 2012's Hard Rubbish will always find time to tune in for the latest edition.  And that latest edition is Sister Sister, the band's fourth LP.

With three songwriters and three voices, the band's offerings are uniformly high quality and very diverse, despite a core melancholic suburban ethos.  While the songs initially can present a ramshackle face, the listener quickly appreciates the careful craftsmanship, and deadly aim, of the composer.  The performances sound like a group of friends recording around a kitchen table, and supposedly, that is exactly how Lower Plenty pull things together.  One could wonder whether the Velvet Underground would have sounded a bit like this if they were suburban Melbournians recording acoustic demos.  Given the variety, it is impossible to predict anyone's favorite tracks.  My ears pull me to the more upbeat opener, "Bondi's Dead", the weary "Glory Rats" and "Cursed By Numbers", the sprawling psychedelic "Ravesh" (which features an excellent sax contribution), and the anti-war "All The Young Men".  But it is all excellent, and all so unlike what else you are likely playing now.  Dance with the mystery girl, my friends, it is worth it.

Lower Plenty are Al Montfort, Jensen Tjhung and Sarah Heyward.  Sister Sister is out now via Bedroom Suck Records in Australia/New Zealand and Omnian Music Group in North America.

Bandcamp for Sister Sister
Bedroom Suck Records
Omnian Music Group page for Sister Sister

Veronique Vincent & Aksak Maboul - 16 Visions of Ex-Futur

Like a fine wine, the music on 16 Visions of Ex-Futur has aged beautifully.  Written over 30 years ago by March Hollander and Veronique Vincent (the vocalist for the band Honeymoon Killers), the songs were recorded by Vincent and Hollander's band Aksak Maboul for an album titled Ex-Futur.  However, the album was then left on the shelf.  It finally reached our ears a few years ago when released a few years ago by Crammed Discs, the Belgian label founded by Hollander.

The songs mix electro pop with French pop and electronic dance music, and sound perfectly current for today's tastes despite their date of origin.  16 Visions of Ex-Futur isn't a re-release of the original album, but effectively a tribute album with covers and remixes of the songs from the original album.  In addition to updated interpretations from the original artists, contributions come from Nite Jewel, Jaakko Eno Kalevi, Laetitia Sadier (late of Stereolab), Forever Pavot, Ramona Gonzalez and others.  The result is a delightfully swirling and rhythmic soundscape in which you can get happily lost.  And then press replay over and over again.

By the way, Crammed Discs has been one of my favorite label discoveries of the year.

Crammed Discs page for 16 Visions of Ex-Futur
Crammed Discs

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Soliti Five Years - My Brain Hurts A Lot

It isn't unusual for a label to celebrate five years of existence with a release of some of their best artists playing some of the best songs released on the imprint over that five years.  Samplers are great, and the five year anniversary is as good of a reason is publish a sampler as any.  But leave it to Helsinki's Soliti Music to put an interesting twist on things.  Yes, My Brain Hurts includes some of the label - and Finland's - best artists, and some of those wonderful songs.  But the twist is that each of the featured band's has contributed a cover of a song by another Soliti artist rather than one of their own compositions.  The result is fresh interpretations of great tunes, and a collection that doesn't replicate your current version of the song even if you are a collector of Soliti Music releases (which, of course, you should be).  So, we have dream pop band Delay Trees covering "Our Old Centre Back" from Cats on Fire's latest LP.  The New Tigers offer a stunning take on Black Twig's "Pastel Blue".  Black Twig returns the favor and covers "World's Greatest Actor" by The New Tigers.  In a flurry of genre-crossing, Cats of Transnistria cover Black Lizard, while Black Lizard cover Cats of Transnistria.  Astrid Swan sings in Finnish to cover Puunhalaaja's "Härkä ja Paimen", and Love Sport reinterpret's Astrid Swan's "Rabbit Catcher".  A great collection of songs heard in a new way, just in time for your holiday shopping!

Soliti Music page for My Brain Hurts A Lot
Soliti Music

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ablebody - Adult Contemporaries

Adult Contemporaries is the kid of intelligent, well crafted pop that deserves our appreciation.  The product of twin brothers Christoph and Anton Hochheim, working as Ablebody, it offers eleven shimmering songs with loads of hooks.  These songs are certified, Grade A sun-kissed and dreamy, with an underlying backbone of rhythms that likely will inspire to to take a drive by the beach or, failing that opportunity, dance around the family room.  No gimmicks, no frills, but plenty of well chosen detail.  You may detect similarities to the pop heyday of the '80s,  but while Brothers Hochheim retain the romanticism of that era, they have a modern take on the sound that seems more much more fresh and organic.  And by the way, Anton, some of that percussion reminds me of Steely Dan, and that's no bad thing at all.

Adult Contemporaries is out now via Lolipop Records in CD, vinyl and digital formats (cassettes are sold out).

Bandcamp for Adult Contemporaries
Lolipop Records

Monday, December 5, 2016

Meursault - Simple Is Good

Followers of Scottish pop have been hoping for the resurgence of Meursault, the Edinburgh-based project of Neil Pennycook.  Meursault released a well-received EP in 2012, and an award-nominated album in 2014.  Neil tried expanding the project to a full band, then shelved it.  Now recording again, he has just released the Simple Is Good EP via Song By Toad Records, to be followed by a full album titled I Will Kill You Again in 2017.

For Simple Is Good, Meursault is again Neil plus collaborators.  In this case, Robyn Dawson, Fraser Hughes, Sam Mallalieu, Reuben F. Taylor, Sophie Dodds and Bart Owl.  The songs are varied, with powerful emotions expressed acoustically via tracks such as stunning opener "Simple Is Good"  and the gorgeous but heartbreaking "A Kind Of A Cure", soaring dramatic pop as in "By Gaslight", alt folk as in "A Killer Chorus", and full on rocking intensity on tracks such as "The Fix Is In".  As would be expected, the stars of the show are Pennycook's voice, and his songwriting.  With respect to the latter, his approach is poetic, but direct and often dark and angry.  It is an economical and highly effective approach not only because he is a gifted songwriter, but also because a vocal instrument such as the one possessed by Pennycook can sell any message.  The atmospheric arrangements provide rich support for the compositions, but never overshadow them.  This EP is an elegant and polished gem, perfect for the winter months.  It is available in CD and digital formats.

Meursault - Simple Is Good from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Bandcamp for Simple Is Good
Song By Toad Records

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sam Russell & The Harborrats - "Born To Hurt" / "Make Me Lose Control"

Sam Russell & The Harborrats are back, and that makes us very happy.  Call this gang garage doo wop, Americana soul or whatever, but they deliver stirring performances highlighted by Russell's superb vocals.  The Wisconsin Polka, the band's first studio album in four years, is due soon.  Your first taste is the single "Born To Hurt" / "Make Me Lose Control", consisting of the high energy "Born To Hurt", and a cover of the 1988 ballad by Eric Carmen.  The single is a digital download at the Bandcamp link below.  We will share more details regarding The Wisconsin Polka as they are available.

Bandcamp for "Born To Hurt" / "Make Me Lose Control"


Friday, December 2, 2016

Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers - Goths!!!

Most of us are adept at processing joy and happiness, contentment and peace.  And if we lose our way a bit in that regard some holiday TV special or the feel-good movie of the season will give us a helping hand.  But the real challenge is how we process the darker elements of life.  I'm not speaking about wide scope tragedies such as terrorist bombings, floods and famine.  My focus is on more personal devastation, such as death, old age helplessness, a crumbling marriage, loss of children and giving up in the face of overwhelming troubles.  Do we ignore it as long as we are able, even while others around us see us crushed?  Do we panic? Or do we crumple in a heap, utterly unable to continue?  OK, good questions, Scott -- what is the answer?

Well, there may be no single answer, but Scotland's Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers have an answer.  According to JY&TPGLP, sometimes you have to dance in the gutter, troll through the graveyard, share copious tears and contemplate degradation and mortality to know that you are alive and feel good about your life.  And their motivation for you to do so is their darkly addictive dark soul, doom wop, and gutter Gospel.  A few years ago we covered Luck, the band's smashing debut LP.  They are back now with Goths!!!, seven songs that overall are a bit slower in tempo and quieter in volume, but packed with dark emotion.  The album opens with "The Tigris", a simple piano-driven arrangement in which the protagonist tells of life and loss, ending with a decision to drown himself in the titular river.  Showcase tune "The Gospel According To The Selfish Gene" follows with a glorious slice of roadhouse R&B.  It is so good I've provided it twice below, one a stream of the test pressing, the other a portion of Jacob's live performance of the song.  One of the best tracks is the following "Grace of God", in which Jacob tells of a man who has lost his job, home, family, and eventually his life.  "Winter In My Heart" is a jazzy, nocturnal meditation that you'd expect to hear as the last patron on the club while the barman cleans up and the roadies pack the amps (Jackson Browne, eat your heart out).  Next is the dub dominated "Care Home", which addresses the grim life in a home for the aged.  Even at seven and a half minutes, it could run longer with no complaint from me.  The album closes with the dark tales "Bits of Glass" and "The Heart".  The later is one of my favorites on the album, and is my preferred tune for a late night whisky before bed.

The arrangements are spare, but spot on throughout. Jacob's bluesy vocals, ably backed by Cassie Exeji of Golden Teacher sell the message, and the package from London's VAVA Records is first class.  Wallow in the darkness with us -- it is surprisingly fun!

For Goths!!!, Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers are main man Jacob Lovatt, with Jamie Bolland, Richard Holmes, Michael Bleazard, Christopher Haddow, Niall Dobbie, Cassie Exeji, Stuart Evans, Emily MacLaren.  The album was recorded at Glasgow's Green Door

VAVA Records page for Goths
VAVA Records

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Cleaners From Venus - Cleaned Up Collectables

Our recent feature (link) for the latest album from Martin Newell's Cleaners From Venus project proved quite popular, so we are pleased to alert you to a new album titled Cleaned Up Collectables.  Consisting of thirteen songs Martin recorded as demos in 1987 for the album Town and Country, which have been digitalized and otherwise cleaned up for your listening pleasure, it is a fine addition to your collection of Martin's brand of jangling, idiosyncratically English songcraft.  Take "Denmark Street" and "Cardboard Town" for a test drive, and if they pleasure your ears, you can stream the entire collection.  It is available as a digital download at the Bandcamp link below.

Martin's Website