Friday, March 25, 2016
Through The Sparks is an excellent band that makes exciting music, and has done so for over a decade. They aren't from one of the big music capitals of the US, although I've discovered that the Birmingham, Alabama scene deserves far more attention than it receives. I must admit that the band's wonderfully evocative name probably would have prompted me to check them out even without having heard their music. But it was the music I heard first, and I was hooked. Through The Sparks has the sound of a band that has listened to a lot of music by disparate artists, and they find a way to incorporate or reinterpret everything they like into their own sound. And for their latest album, Transindifference, it seems to me that there is a lot of '70s and '80s rock in the DNA. You know, a time when rock bands were happy to be known are rock bands. The album kicks off with the proggy "Execution", then offers "Burning Bush" and "Living Rooms" -- two bits of pop noir perfection that recalls the best of Joe Jackson and David Bowie. "The Roseroom" boasts a cinematic western twang. By the time we're done we've been treated to well-crafted slices of southern rock, psychedelia, indie pop and glam, with soulful vocals and contributions from a large compliment of talented musicians headed by Jody Nelson. The breadth of the music is ambitious, but the band manages it without strain and, I dare say, a certain looseness born of confidence.
My own personal list of top tracks is "Self Immolation", "The Driveway" "Burning Bush", and "Heavy (-30-)". You may or may not agree with my choices, but if you like rock music, you will find favorites on this album.
Transindifference is out now via Communicating Vessels.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Males are Richard, Sam and Pipsy. Richard, Sam and Pipsy also, individually and collective are males, but we are more focused today on their status as Males. Is that clear?
We have featured this Dunedin, New Zealand guitar pop band several times in the past, always enjoying their energetic take on indie rock. We are featuring them again because they have released album None The Wiser this month. Characterized by a propulsive rhythm section and helium vocals, the lads are an instant party machine. To my ears, Males has become more proficient instrumentally, and sharpened their songwriting. And generally they now play a slightly heavier brand of rock, but can still dash off a truly winning pop song such as "Popeye". The nine songs on None The Wiser are the sound of a band that has grown up and is ready for prime time. Lend them your ears.
Currently, the album is available only as a digital download on Bandcamp.
HD Hausmann is a UK collective that makes epic soundscapes combining acoustic and electronic elements. Their working method is for the various contributing members to work remotely from each other and add their portion of the composition to the piece as it is passed among the members. Their 2015 record, Wring The Moisture From The Surf, was one of the more refreshing releases of the year in my opinion (link to review). They recently released "The Yves Klein Blues". It is a worthy follow-up to the 2015 album, and I commend it to your ears. The performers on this song are Liam Palmer, Ross Hall, Alex Oates, Jessica Stanley, and Ali Smith.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Free Time borrows players who are based in New York and Melbourne and whose resumes include Panel of Judges, Totally Mild, Terrible Truths and Twerps. From my perspective, it is an indie super group, and I celebrate each edition of new music. Their new album is titled In Search of Free Time and will be out in late April on Bedroom Suck Records in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and Underwater Peoples in the United States and Europe. We featured album track "Who Owns The Moon" in January (link), and now have a second song, "All Four Seasons". Based on evidence to date, this is going to be a very, very good album.
Bandcamp for "All Four Seasons"
Bedroom Suck Records
Bandcamp for "All Four Seasons"
Bedroom Suck Records
Helsinki's Cats of Transnistria play pop music, but pop music that ignores conventional boundaries. To my ears, their core elements are aural atmospherics and layers of tension. And the tensions fuse and built over the course of each track until the listener feels that song will burst. It manages to be simultaneously intimate and otherworldly, ethereal and darkly-shaded. It is the music of ghosts and aspirations, suggesting hope but refusing to banish menace. As with the best music, it doesn't tell you what to think but creates a setting where the listener's own mind runs free to associate. Six of their generously paced creations comprise Divine, their first LP which is out now via Soliti Music. This is magical stuff -- treat your ears.
Cats of Transnistria are Tuomas Alatalo and Henna Emilia Hietamaki.
Bandcamp for Divine
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Eric Bachmann has been sharing pain, heartache, love, and the other essential elements of life for over two decades as a member of indie rockers Archers of Loaf, and then Americana icons Crooked Fingers. Eric is a fine musician and possesses a raspy, care worn vocal instrument that seems to be constructed of whisky-soaked velvet. But the essential genius of the man is his ability to open his soul, with no apparent filter, and describe the reality therein with a turn of phrase that makes it meaningful and memorable. Or to put it another way, the man is a treasure of a songwriter. And his journey continues with his new self-titled album.
What Eric Bachmann offers us is the artist's personal perspective on love, personal relationships, and a bit of political-social observation. The pace is unhurried, but not languid, and several songs, including "Carolina", "Mercy", "Separation Fright", and my current favorite, the closing "The Old Temptation" take flight with soaring instrumental contributions and appealing background vocals. Eric always has had the ability to expose his own raw nerves without demanding pity, but on this outing the nerves are less exposed, and the viewpoint is more both more accepting and more understanding of what life is capable of delivering. The musical touchstone is alt country, singer songwriter, but Eric is too singular of talent to be easily categorized, and his cast of supporting players are talented and versatile. Our view is that Eric Bachmann is to be celebrated in all of his musical incarnations, but whether you are an old fan or a newbie looking for a place to start, we urge you to dive into Eric Bachmann.
Eric Bachmann is out Friday, March 25, via Merge Records.
Merge Records page for album
Monday, March 21, 2016
Swedish producer Johan Angergard, of projects Club 8, the Legends and Pallers, and synthpop vocalist Rose Suau of Detroit collaborate by mail. But their musical partnership as Djustin appears to be ready for prime time. Their new single for Swedish label Labrador is "Stars", a love ballad for the dance floor.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Eliza Shaddad is a young lady with a compelling voice, an undeniable skill as a songwriter and a bright future. She has just released the four-song Run EP via Beatnik Creative, and if life is fair, it will launch her career to a new level. The songs are intimate, yet full of detail. The production is stellar, but the star is Eliza's performance. It is available as a digital download, although vinyl and CD versions may be available at her UK shows. For my ears, "Wars" and "Run" are the top cuts, but all four are worthy of your attention.
Eliza is of Scots and Sudanese parentage, and her ancestors include painters and poets.