Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Build A Building" by Firestations

As we resign ourselves to the onset of winter, we could use some upbeat tunes, couldn't we?  Today's single suggestion is "Build A Building" by London's Firestations.  This track sparkles like sunshine and rippling waves of a summer lake (and that is an image I need as I huddle in my sweater and look at the sun trying to decide whether it is even going to bother today).  You can stream it or watch the fun video for the song created by Emily Scaife.  Or you can do both, like we did.

The single is out now as a digital release from Lost Map.  The release includes The Firestations' original version plus remixes by Bit Cloudy and Ed Dowie.

Firestations are Mike Cranny, Laura Copsey, Martin Thompson, Giles Littleford, and Tom Hargreaves.  The band's next album, The Year Dot, will be out February 1 via Lost Map.

Lost Map page for single
Lost Map

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Jet Age - At The End Of The World

Medical professionals tell us that holding our emotions in check, silently fuming about the sad events and looming tragedies in the world can be bad for our health.  We know this.  And Eric Tischler and his bandmates in The Jet Age, Greg Bennett and Pete Nuwayser, know this as well.  So their response to the world they endured in 2016 was to record their emotions in the 11 tracks that became At The End Of The World.  Of course that means there are political observations, in particular in the tracks that bookend the record, but the album isn't all about that.  But among the political angst and the other things it is about, it is a really good indie rock album.  While the drums are pummeled and the bass reverberates like a foot thick rubber band, the guitar dishes out beefy riffs and sharp hooks.  As is the case in their prior half dozen or so albums, Eric sings with absolute conviction.  At The End Of The World is part lament, part complaint, and part defiant call to carry on.  And all of it is worth your ears.

Eric sings and plays guitar, Greg plays bass, and Pete drums.  At The End Of The World is out now as a digital release.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for At The End Of The World

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile - Lotta Sea Lice

Certainly, Lotta Sea Lice is a cute idea.  Australian Courtney Barnett and American Kurt Vile are justifiably celebrated for the quality of the guitar pop each has created in this decade, so putting them together could be expected to attract the interest of fans of both artists.  Happily, this combination is more than just a cute idea.  It also is a warm, tuneful collection of songs by two artists at the top of their game.  With Courtney and Kurt you expect ace songwriting, and they deliver.  What was less certain was whether the chemistry would be there.  However, these musicians sound completely comfortable with each other, and if you didn't know differently and judged solely on the performances, you would guess that they had spent years playing together.  The delivery is laconic, but that is no act for these two artists.  And while there aren't many pyrotechnics, there is plenty of guitar and an appealing back-porch summer evening vibe to the proceedings.  In fact, it all sounds so easy that it might take you a moment to realize just how good it is.  Take the moment, and then play it again.  You'll probably want to take it home with you.

For Lotta Sea Lice, Courtney and Kurt received assistance from Mick Turner, Jim White, Stella Mozgawa, Rob Laakso, Mick Harvey, Jess Riberio, Jade Imagine, Bones Sloane, Dave Mudie, and Alex Landragin.

Lotta Sea Lice is out now via Milk! Records and Matador Records.

Website for duo
Bandcamp for Lotta Sea Lice (Milk! Records)
Matador Records page for Lotta Sea Lice
Facebook for Courtney Barnett
Facebook Kurt Vile


Kicking Giant - This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 - 1993

As John Lennon wrote, "So this is Christmas ... ."  But unlike John, we aren't here to discuss the state of the world, but help you with your shopping.  While we believe that buying music is a year-round task that is essential for your mental health and well-being, we also think that this season is particularly appropriate for special acquisitions.  And with that perspective firmly locked into our tunnel vision, we suggest you evaluate This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 - 1993Kicking Giant was a duo formed in New York by Coopers Union students Tae Won Yu, a local lad, and Rachel Carns from Wisconsin.  With Yu on guitar, Carns on drums, and both sharing vocal duties, they forged a partnership grounded in minimalist punk but venturing into twee, art-noise, riot grrl and some very affecting pop. After releasing several cassettes in NYC, Yu and Carns relocated to Olympia, Washington, released the Halo EP and signed with Calvin Johnson's K Records.

 Kicking Giant only lasted a few more years before Carns moved on to other musical projects and Yu focused on the visual arts, but the music they left seems to us as a prime example of the art that can be created by fearless, DIY spirit and inspiration, rivaling Johnson's own Beat Happening.  It was music of hard surfaces and vigorous, even aggressive performances, with not much vulnerability (but see "Cry Baby Cry" below for a stunning exception).   But it also was vital, inspiring and often quite danceable.  As a small town Wisconsin boy who earned a degree and eventually took up residence in the Puget Sound area, I also have a soft spot for Carns' journey, but our choice of this album is about the music.  And this is music that we keep playing daily around the office despite having lots of other music to cover.

This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 - 1993 is out now in vinyl and digital formats via Brooklyn-based label Drawing Room Records.

Bandcamp for album
Drawing Room Records page for album

Monday, December 18, 2017

Arts & Leisure - Rescued Objects

Last night's guitar pop treat was from the East coast of the United States.  Today, we showcase a fine West coast band - Sacramento's Arts & Leisure.  The four piece has a firm grasp of the intersection of power pop and retro guitar pop.  The chiming and jangling guitars evoke the 60s and C86.  The scrappy energy and robust rhythm section could slot in with worthies from Glasgow, Dunedin or Seattle.  And the sunshine of their California home is never far away.  The band includes members of the late English Singles and Baby Grand, and impressed us four years ago with Choose Your Adventure, but had been quiet on the recording front since then.  So the arrival of Rescued Objects was a surprise as well as a thrill.

Actually, this album is packed with thrills.  Arts & Leisure is a band that buys their hooks in bulk, and they deploys them generously.  The songs are well written, with plenty of depth if you want to dig in, but more than enough surface joy if you don't have the inclination.  And the performances are exceptionally tight, allowing vocalist/songwriter Gerri White to effectively work as a one-woman girl group.  The quality and consistency of the record could lead listeners new to this band to wonder whether they have stumbled on a hits compilation.  Not so, they just have stumbled onto Arts & Leisure.

Arts & Leisure are Gerri White (vocals/guitar), Tim White (bass), Cory Vick (guitar), and Ed Carroll (drums). They also received contributions from Allen Clapp, who recorded the album and runs Mystery Lawn, the label that released it.  Rescued Objects is out now as a digital release via Mystery Lawn.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Rescued Objects
Mystery Lawn page for Rescued Objects

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pale Lights - The Stars Seemed Brighter

Are you in a dark, semi-hopeless mood due to end of the year deadlines, the pressures and conflicts of the holiday season and the decidedly return-of-the-robber-barons state of politics?  Oh, we're sorry - are we making it worse?  Allow us to suggest there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It is, in fact, a Pale Lights.  And what are Pale Lights? Well, as longtime readers of this blog know they are one of the best and criminally under-exposed guitar pop bands in the United States.  Purveyors of melodies and lyrics masterfully crafted to last the test of time, the Brooklyn-based band has just released new LP The Stars Seemed Brighter with ten tracks that will make you smile and put a bounce in your step.  Worries? What worries?  With tunes like this you'll think you won the 'good mood lottery'.  Frontman and songwriter Phil Sutton sings with a casual, good-humored sincerity, underscored by female backing vocals, jangling and ringing guitars and an excellent rhythm section.  The recordings have a live-to-tape feel we find produces warmth and immediacy.  And the hint of country rock in the songs' DNA adds an interesting element as well.

Pale Lights are Phil Sutton (vocals/guitar), Andy Adler (lead guitar), Lisa Goldstein (drums), Maria Pace (bass guitar), and Suzanne Nienaber (vocals), the various resumes of whom include Comet Gain, Crystal Stilts, Knight School, Cinema Red and Blue, and Great Lakes.  There also were guest appearances by Hamish Kilgour (The Clean) and Kyle Forester (Crystal Stilts/The Ladybug Tansistor).  The Stars Seemed Brighter was released December 15 by German label Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten.

Bandcamp for The Stars Seem Brighter

Friday, December 15, 2017

Various Artists - From Olive Us to Olive You

Here is your end of the week holiday deal that lets you simultaneously give and receive.  While paying a relatively modest amount for 11 seasonal tracks from friends and family of the fine Glasgow label Olive Grove Records, you enjoy the music knowing that all profits go to charity.  Sweet!  The title is the obvious pun From Olive Us to Olive You, but we aren't going to  get critical when all profits are getting funneled to charity, are we?

So, start our your Christmas season by giving and receiving, without even leaving your chair.  With your smart phone you can even do it from the pub or bistro while waiting for a refill, and feel oh so very sophisticated.

Bandcamp for album

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Keep Left Signs - Tomorrow

To answer the first question nearly everyone will have - no, I don't know the explanation behind the name. Perhaps they were driving and decided to name the band after the next man-made object they saw, but your guess is as good as mine.  If you figure it out you can tackle the story behind Car Seat Headrest.  But, no more distractions.  We are here to tell you what a wonderful discovery The Keep Left Signs should be for all of you.  A Swedish project bringing together members of The Electric Pop Group and The Mare, the band plays the sort of glistening guitar pop that often seems to have "Made In Sweden" stamped on the label.  There is a '60s tinge to the melodies and two part harmonies, but their execution is so flawless that it all seems more timeless than retro.

The band recently released the seven-track Tomorrow.  As you would expect given their lineage, there is no shortage of jangling and chiming guitars, but the rhythm section is satisfyingly robust and the songs have a confident, forward push.  We were so impressed with this album that we decided that the minimum number of songs for a record to be considered for our year end list of favorite albums would be no more than seven, because we aren't going to leave Tomorrow off of our list.  We've provided two slices of guitar pop heaven below, but we suggest you stream the entire album.

Tomorrow is out now as in digital and vinyl formats via Spanish label Kocliko Records and US label Shelflife Records (see the Bandcamp link below).

Kocliko Records page for Tomorrow
Shelflife Records page for Tomorrow
Kocliko Records page for vinyl
Soundcloud link to stream Tomorrow

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Song" and "Rose" by Dante

Beautiful, brooding, atmospheric folk rock is what you can expect from Scottish band Dante.  The songwriting is mature and nuanced, and the performances will thrill fans of Frightened Rabbit, Idlewild, and The National.  Dante's second LP, I Wear Your Weight With Mine, is due on March 9, 2018, but two tracks, "Song" and "Rose" are available now.

Bandcamp for pre-order of I Wear Your Weight With Mine

Crepes - Channel Four

Crepes are no longer just a treat for brunch.  They also are, in fact, a delightful indie pop band based in Melbourne.  Their debut LP, Channel Four, bubbles with irresistible melodies and clever hooks, reminding us of the stylish indie pop of Voxtrot and Spoon, as well as a number of '70s soft rock favorites.  The five-piece is equally adept at upbeat bangers and laid-back mid-tempo tunes.  But the lasting impression is that this is the rare band with a highly polished gloss to go with their considerable substance.  We have too many favorite songs here to mention, so hit the links and choose your own.

Crepes are Tim Karmouche, Nick Robbins, Pat Robbins, Jackson Dahlenburg, and Sam Cooper.   Channel Four is out now via Australia's Spunk Records and Deaf Ambitions.

Deaf Ambitions page for Channel Four
Spunk Records page for Channel Four

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Legendary House Cats - Greatest Blips, Vol. 1

We now present the greatest blips ever.  How do we know that they are the greatest blips ever?  It says so right on the label.  And blips that are the greatest ever are just what we would expect from the top cat in The Legendary House Cats, John Girgus.  Girgus' past associations are Aberdeen, Languis, and Ultra Non Joy, so you know that you can expect electronic dreampop, soaring soundscapes and deft hooks. The man knows his way around a soundboard, but more importantly, he knows how to make sweet love to your ears.  This album may be the most inspiring and life affirming electronica you can afford.  Go ahead, you deserve it.

Greatest Blips, Vol. 1 is out now in digital and CD formats.

Twitter (The Legendary House Cats)
Twitter (John Girgus)
Bandcamp for Greatest Blips, Vol. 1

"King of the Last Calls" by Unlikely Friends

D. Crane (Boat) and Charles Bert (Math and Physics Club) bill themselves as Unlikely Friends.  And while we will take them at their word regarding friendship, it is clear that the duo are well matched musically.  Some writers were very impressed with their first LP, Solid Gold Cowboys.  Take for example, the following words:
"The appropriate references here are the crunchy lo-fi indie rock of Guided By Voices and the hook-filled power pop of Teenage Fanclub. It isn't glossy and it isn't twee. But it is top flight songwriting from musicians that know their craft and are focused on fun."
 Good stuff, right?  Thanks, we wrote it.  So we are thrilled to learn that the Seattle band that claims to be hardly known and under-practiced have recruited Mark McKenzie of BOAT and Ethan Jones of Math and Physics Club to help them record a second LP titled Crooked Numbers.  The album will be out on January 12 via Swoon Records, and we anticipate that it will deliver a full load of scruffy, energetic, melodic guitar pop.  And it likely will give us the chance to create another blurb that we can lazily quote when referring back to Crooked Numbers when we discuss their third album.

Meanwhile, enjoy album track "King of the Last Calls" which, just based on the title, may be about me in my college years (when cheap beer was even cheaper).  And if you see these guys, buy them some pizza.  They love pizza.

Swoon Records

"Dig" by Seazoo

Well, well, well, this is a cracking pop tune that makes the start of the day shoot from intolerable to "I think I'll make it" to "I'm on top of the world" in a four minute span.  Hell, the stuff I took in college to write term papers all night didn't work that well.  So lend your ears to "Dig" by Welsh five-piece Seazoo.  There have been comparisons to Super Furry Animals, but we think they fall in the middle of a musical stew with that band, fellow Welsh musicians El Goodo, Yo La Tengo, and Pavement.

"Dig" is out now in digital format.  See the Bandcamp link below or your favorite digital outlet.

Bandcamp for "Dig"

Monday, December 11, 2017

Fascinations Grand Chorus - Anglesea EP

After two days rest, we continue our westward march from Belfast to New York City, where pop duo Fascinations Grand Chorus has released their Anglesea EP.  Combining the formidable songwriting talents and sharp performing chops of Stephanie Cupo and Andrew Pierce with Cupo's vocal prowess, the EP demonstrates the band's knack for creating irresistible, retro-tinged melodic nuggets.  The record begins with the upbeat, '60s girl group influenced "When You're Mine".  The following title track demonstrates the band's versatility, with a moody atmosphere reminiscent of Bristol's Fear of Men.  "Hereford Inlet" then steps in with the sassiest vocal of the bunch.  It is the kind of song that puts a bounce in your step as you conquer the day.  "Sundown" and "Wait" complete the set with energy and style, leaving us wanting more, and expecting that the duo will deliver it in the future.

Anglesea EP is out now as a digital release.  See the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for Anglesea EP

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sea Pinks - Minimum Wage-BBC Sessions (& Others)

So far in our end of the week flurry of new music posts we have traveled westward from Norway to Scotland.  We now cross the Irish Sea to Belfast to laud the most recent offering from WYMA favorites Sea Pinks.  Whether you are looking for an introduction to the band, or are a Sea Pinks fan excited about the prospect of a band-curated set of songs from their catalog, you need to check out Minimum Wage-BBC Sessions (& Others).  The songs represent the band's output since their 2011 debut, tracing their slight evolution from scrappy jangle pop to a still jangling Creation Records-meets-California-guitar-pop vibe.  The recordings capture the songs live, so there is an appealing rawness and immediacy that gives new life to even the songs familiar to the listener.  The set has character to the extent that studio albums often don't.  It isn't that one approach is good and the other band, they are just different.  Thus, even if you have the studio version of some of these songs -- and you are unlikely to have them all -- this is an essential compilation for fans.

Sea Pinks are Neil Brogan (guitar/vocals), Steven Henry (bass/backing vocals), and Davey Agnew (drums/backing vocals).  For now  Minimum Wage-BBC Sessions (& Others) is a digital release only, although a vinyl addition might be available in the future.  You can find it on all the usual digital platforms, but we recommend the band's own Bandcamp link.


"Bang The Drum Slowly" by The Little Kicks

After beginning our end of the week run of posts in Norway, we cross the North Sea to Aberdeen on the northeast coast of Scotland to celebrate the new single from local favorites The Little Kicks.  Taken from Shake Your Troubles, their album of earlier this year, "Bang the Drum Slowly" is an upbeat and fully charged slice of swaggering indie pop.  Turn it up loud and proud for your Friday morning pick me up. The B-side is the moodier "You and Someone Like Me (Night Version)", and you can test drive it at the Bandcamp link below.

The single It  is out now via Loosen Up Records, and can be found at the Bandcamp link below and the usual digital sources.  Vinyl can reach your hot little hands directly from the band, which can be contacted via their website.

The Little Kicks are Steven Milne, Andrew Corse, Adam Morrice, and Scott Kelman.

Bandcamp for record

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Tailwind" / "Dreaming With Our Feet" by Elva

To celebrate the end of the week we are intending to feature several releases that deserve your attention.  We are going to being in Norway and head west, probably ending in Australia with several stops in between.  First on our journey is the debut single by Elva, a pop band from Moss, Norway, featuring (among others) former members of Allo Darlin' and Making Marks.  The two-song record features a shimmering - and slightly scrappy - guitar pop gem titled "Tailwind", and the lovely acoustic "Dreaming With Our Feet".  Of course you want it, so we'll crush your spirit by advising you that the vinyl probably is sold out.  Contact them now to find our.  However, you can still buy the lovely little electrons at the WIAIWYA Bandcamp page.

Bandcamp for record

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Modern Studies - Swell To Great

How are things around the When You Motor Away headquarters today?  Thanks for asking, things are swell to great.  Yes, all day so far we have been listening to Swell to Great, the lovely album from Scottish chamber pop/alt folk quartet Modern Studies.  The album reveals itself shyly, with a relaxed pace and a generous 13-track collection of melancholy but richly detailed gems that sparkle a new way with each listen.  The atmosphere is redolent of rural autumn landscapes, isolated seacoasts and the flood of memories.  The vocals are hushed, even delicate, while the melodic arrangements are precise and derive a cinematic vibe via a harmonium and a cello.  We recommend giving this album your ears, preferably with earphones and time to let the album seep into your life.  The rewards are worth your time.

Modern Studies are Emily Scott, Rob St John, Pete Harvey, and Joe Smillie.  Swell to Great is out now on vinyl, CD and digital formats via Fire Records.  This is a re-release, as the album originally was put out by Edinburgh's Song By Toad Records in 2016.  By the way, the title of the album reflects the name for a stop on an organ rather than one's attitude.  However, we aren't the type to eschew the chance of making a weak joke.

Bandcamp for Swell to Great
Fire Records

Monday, December 4, 2017

Drahla - Third Article EP

A warm When You Motor Away welcome to a new talent from the UK, Drahla.  The introduction comes by way of their debut Third Article EP, which is released via their own Blank Ad label.  Not a band given to tentative hellos, the EP's four tracks crackle with energy and aggression, driven by furious guitar and an uncompromising rhythm section, and underlying deadpan, but affecting, vocals.  There is plenty of youthful rumble and crash, but solid melodic currents and obvious intelligence.  This is a fine set of songs, and gives us a new band to follow.

Drahla are Luciel Brown, Rob Riggs, and Mike Ainsley.

Bandcamp for Third Article EP

Even As We Speak - Yellow Food: BBC Sessions

One of our more popular posts in the past few months featured a new EP from Australian band Even As We Speak (our feature here).  The Black Forest EP marked the band's return from a 25-year hiatus, and finds them in peak form.  But while we are waiting for more new songs from the well-rested and obviously rejuvenated band, we wondered whether we could get our hands on some of their past work.  Well, we didn't have to wonder long as Emotional Response Records, the mighty little label that released The Black Forest also gifted the world with Yellow Food: BBC Sessions, a compilation of recordings Even As We Speak made for John Peel and Mark Goodier at the BBC on four occasions in 1992 and 1993.  The compilation contains a generous 16 songs of wide ranging indie pop that demonstrates why the band was one of the darlings of the Sarah Records stable.  You can get it from the label at the Bandcamp link below.  Act fast before the electrons are all purchased and there are no more.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Ocean Party - Guilt

Perhaps the holidays seems like an odd time for us to encourage you to embrace guilt (an emotion that usually infuses us after the holidays).  But Guilt, the new EP from The Ocean Party, is not an ordinary record, just as its Melbourne-based creators are not just an ordinary band.  The final offering of the year from a sextet that has enjoyed a cornucopia of productivity in 2017, the six-song set underscores The Ocean Party's ability to voice the fabric of their, and perhaps our, lives and dress their word-portraits up in some of the sweetest, shimmering guitar pop we have ever heard.  Their observations are concise but poignant, sentimental but clear-eyed  And they don't always have the answers, but they ask the right questions.  The songs on Guilt are intimate and immediate -- they could be a conversation with a mate as easily as a voice over your earphones.  Of course, unless you happen to be a friend of one of the six songwriters and singers that comprise the band, you will have to settle for listening over your earphones.  But that shouldn't stop you.  In our view The Ocean Party are one of the finest guitar pop bands in the world, and Guilt does them proud.

Guilt is out now via the fine Spunk Records in digital and cassette formats.  Their previous releases this year consist of an album of B-sides and outtakes, a tour tape, and the excellent Beauty Point LP (our review here).  The members of the band are Jordan Thompson, Liam Halliwell, Curtis Wakeling, Lachlan Denton, Zac Denton, and Crowman.

Bandcamp for Guilt
Spunk Records page for cassette

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Just Joans - You Might Be Smiling Now ...

Indie pop with wit and bite to go with the melody is a very special delight, and any artist or band that can deliver such music is to be treasured.   One such treasure is Glasgow's The Just Joans (I'm sorry, did you think this was about Taylor Swift?).  Named for a long-running newspaper advice columnist, the band's themes focus on the normal, mundane aspects of their -- or maybe your -- life, and specifically growing up as recollected a decade or more down the line.  But the genius is in the irreverent, self-depreciating storytelling.  The songs on their new album, You Might Be Smiling Now..., vary among sentimental, lewd and rude, but are always funny and entertaining.  Even the song titles hint at the humor to be found (e.g. "You Make Me Physically Sick (Let's Start Having Children)", "Someone Else You Might Like More Than Me", and "Johnny, Have You Come Lately?").  There is a bit of The Magnetic Fields here, but a Magnetic Fields lubricated at the pub and in a rude mood.  It is hard to imagine listening to You Might Be Smiling Now... and not smiling over 95% of the time.  The only criticism I have is that The Just Joans take a long time creating albums (unlike Taylor Swift).  But when you can deliver an album that combines resigned cynicism and melodic sunshine like this one, you don't need swift.

The Just Joans are David Pope (vocals/guitar), Katie Pope (vocals), Chris Elkin (lead guitar), Fraser Ford (bass), Doog Cameron (keys), and Jason Sweeney (drums).  You Might Be Smiling Now... is our today via Fika Recordings.

Fika Recordings page for album (stream and purchase)
Fika Recordings