Monday, April 12, 2021

Smile - The Name of This Band Is Smile


 Turin is the center of Italy's auto industry, and the home of famed football/soccer team Juventus. It also happens to be the home of Smile, a four-piece indie band. Their debut album, The Name of This Band Is Smile, proves them to be an energetic group with influences favoring '80s and '90s American indie rock. Their sound ranges from an early R.E.M style jangle, as typified by "Try", to a noisier sound represented below by "How The Race Is Done" and "Broken Kid" (our ears detect a bit of The Replacements on the latter). In fact, there is a good bit of punk in the delivery of many of the songs on this album. The combination of the aggressive punk attitude, the post punk guitar sound and a bit of jangle make this album a winner.

Smile is Michele Sarda (vocals), Hamilton Santia (guitar), Mariano Zaffarano (bass), and Francesco Musso (drums). The album is out now via Subjangle and Turin label Dotto.



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Sunday, April 11, 2021

"How We Met (Cherry Pie)" by Teen Canteen

Carla, Sita, Amanda, Chloe and Debs are Teen Canteen, a Glasgow band that set out to make charming, bubblegum-inspired songs. Their debut album was released five years ago, but the band believes that they had the material for a debut several years earlier. What to do about that, you ask. Teen Canteen's answer is 'release it now'. So later this year we will have the bouncy girl-group sounds of This Is How It Starts, the real, but delayed, debut album. And while the album is not yet ready for the world, we now have the lead single -- "How We Met (Cherry Pie)". The song is a fresh, effervescent 'we just fell in love' song with unaffected sincerity and lovely harmonies. But make no mistake, it is sharply written and expertly executed. In fact, the song is not only a smashing success, it is inspirational. Time to find somebody to love (apologies to Grace Slick).

The single is out now on all digital platforms. The album will be out in August via Last Night From Glasgow's Hive imprint.


"Deshta (Forever)" by Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell

 

It wouldn't be like us to know that there is a new song by Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell, formerly of Dead Can Dance, and not feature it. And benefitting from robust self-esteem, we believe in being as much like us as we can. We know you will understand. 

"Deshta (Forever)" is a dark, atmospheric and dynamic song about a dream of eternity. Recognizably the work of Lisa and Jules and bearing that distinctive 4AD vibe, "Deshta (Forever)" tells us that the duo's forthcoming album Burn will be on our priority listen list.

The album will be released May 7 via London label Atlantic Curve.

Lisa Gerrard's website

Twitter (Lisa Gerrard)

Jules Maxwell's website

Twitter (Jules Maxwell}

Various links for Burn

Carlos Niño and Friends - “Thanking the Earth” from forthcoming More Energy Fields, Current, out May 7

Carlos Niño is a Los Angeles-based producer, arranger, DJ and is the leader of the ensemble that created these wonderful tracks from his upcoming album More Energy Fields, Current. It is quiet, unhurried, fairly self-contained instrumental music, with a theme of our relationship with our planet. Carlos has a good-sized contingent of collaborators, each bringing something unique to the mix. In true DJ fashion, Carlos is able to pull it all together within the bounds of the length of a single track.


And here is a track released earlier, "Pleasewakeupalittlefasterplease". It is also fantastic:

 

Stay tuned for more - the album is due to be released digitally May 7, with physical copies (vinyl, cassettes, etc) due to arrive in June. You can preorder and check out some of his other music (recommended) at his Bandcamp site.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Reds, Pinks & Purples - Uncommon Weather


 Upon the very first listen my impression of Uncommon Weather by The Reds, Pinks & Purples was that it is an unqualified, jaw dropping, sigh inducing example of perfect indie pop music. However, knowing how initial impressions sometimes can be overly enthusiastic and then be tempered by time and perspective, I set the album aside. This week I played it several times again in anticipation of writing this feature, and with the passage of time, despite the physical challenge of sighing while one's jaw drops, my conclusion is that Uncommon Weather is an unqualified, jaw dropping, sigh inducing example of perfect indie pop music. The album consists of thirteen tracks of shimmering, melodic, richly detailed pop music bearing themes of lost love, pain, betrayal, bitterness and heartache. Lots of heartache.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples is the project of Glenn Donaldson (of Skygreen Leopards and Art Musems), who wrote, recorded, sang and played most of the instrumental parts of Uncommon Weather. The album closely follows the release of his 2019 mini-album You Might Be Happy Someday, which many of us fortunate to hear felt was one of the insufficiently heralded indie pop triumphs of that year. In many ways, this album is more of the same, only with more, and in my view, even better songs. The pairing of melancholy and heartache with sublimely melodic music is not an atypical approach to an indie pop song. But the difference between 'been there before' and 'head of the class' is all about execution. On Uncommon Weather the listener is treated to songwriting that pulls no punches in delivering the melancholy and heartache, and arrangements that reveal a mastery of all of the details and nuances of a great pop song. And the two prongs compliment rather than detract from each other. The lyrics give the lovely arrangements depth and an impact beyond the final note, and the music reminds the listener that there is always life to live and the potential of joy elsewhere and down the road. Glenn's vocals deserve special mention. They are high enough in the mix to leave no doubt about the raw feelings and disappointment. However, rather than spit out the lyrics like an angry and recently scorned lover, they are delivered with a sincere weariness and resignation. The lasting effect of that approach is that the singer-songwriter isn't playing a part in a work of art, but rather revealing his reality. That packs a meaningful punch.

Uncommon Weather is out now via Slumberland Records. You owe it to yourself to get a copy.




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Friday, April 9, 2021

"Magic" by Melby

 "Magic" is the fourth successive single by Stockholm's Melby, following the 2019 release of their well-received debut album. Thematically the song pushes against the hyper-realism of the Swedish mindset, but the title also is an apt descriptor of the music that Melby makes. Blending psychedelia, pop and folk elements into dynamic and accessible music, their songs invariably delight us and, quite often, manage to surprise us as well.

Melby are Matilda Wiezell (vocals), Are Engen Steinsholm (back-up vocals, guitar), David Jehrlander (bass) and Teo Jernkvist (drums). "Magic" is out now via Stockholm's Rama Lama Records.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

"Oh Christine" and "A Little More Time" by Reigning Sound

We are happy to report that Reigning Sound will release new LP A Little More Time with Reigning Sound on May 21 via Merge. The band is one of the many projects of Greg Cartwright (The Oblivians, Parting Gifts, Compulsive Gamblers, Detroit Cobras), and have released six studio albums and a number of EPs and live recordings. You can be reminded of Reigning Sound's soulful indie rock via the two singles taken from the album so far, "Oh Christine" and "A Little More Time". Suffice it to say that this band is just as vital and exciting as they were two decades ago.

In addition to Cartwright (vocals/guitars/percussion), Reigning Sound includes Alex Greene (vocals/keys/percussion), Greg Roberson (vocals/drums/percussion), Jeremy Scott (bass/vocals), and Graham Winchester (drums/percussion). Guest players on the album included Coco Hames, John Whittemore, Elen Wroten, and Krista Wroten.


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Two singles by Jo Yonderly

The dynamic and unpredictable songs of Malmo, Sweden's Jo Yonderly thrill and delight with their psychedelic near-chaos and pop smarts. Two new ones, "Big Boys Cry And Small Men Are Violent" and "Heart" are out now on all digital platforms via Stockholm's Rama Lama Records. We are particularly fond of "Big Boys Cry And Small Men Are Violent", but each of the few releases so far has intrigued us. His debut album, Greatest Hits 1.0, will be released via Rama Lama on April 23.



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Bandcamp for "Heart"

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Aaron Lee Tasjan - Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!

 Aaron Lee Tasjan has really matured as an artist, and his latest Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! is a terrific pop rock album, exploring strands of Americana, power pop, folk rock and some fairly baroque Britpop. He's also become a local Nashville hero, with his album cover portrait on the side of Grimey's, and he played a show a couple weeks ago to celebrate the release of the vinyl edition of this record.

I'm reminded of several of the Wilburys - I think the quality of the first four songs puts him in league with Petty in terms of the big chorus/guitar combos, and there are strains of ELO all over this record. Tasjan is a really good vocalist - his voice supports every one of these turns, and the record combines these elements well. 

Here’s “Don’t Overthink It”:



 

 And here's "Up All Night" - I love the way he is not the least bit restrained from repeating a chorus over and over - good thing for an artist to know when he's struck gold:

 

 

 The songs are all high quality, with plenty of variety to reward repeated listens. The album ends on a strong emotional note with soaring vocal harmonies and acoustic-based melodies of "Not That Bad" and "Got What I Wanted", which seem to be a denouement, based on the album's themes of self-discovery and self-care. Very well done. I realize this has been out a while, but the vinyl just came out a couple weeks ago, and I really like it, so here you go.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"Half A Feeling" by Massage

I think we all can a agree that half a feeling is better than none. But in the case of "Half A Feeling" by Los Angeles five-piece Massage, the listener can't help but feel like they got a full dose of feeling and maybe a bonus hug. With a backbeat, hooks and distortion that recall The Jesus and Mary Chain, and a burning vibe, it is one of the more thrilling songs I have heard in a while. And the best news is that this isn't a one-off single, but rather the opening track of Still Life, the band's second album which is due via Mt.St.Mtn. (North America), Bobo Integral (Europe) and Tear Jerk Records (Australia)

Massage are Alex Naidus, Andrew Romano, Gabi Ferrer, and Natalie de Almeida, and David Rager, four of whom were members of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

            

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Various links for "Half A Feeling"



Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Acid Dad - “BBQ” - single from forthcoming album Take It From The Dead

Acid Dad is a Brooklyn psych / slacker rock band set to release a new album in June, and they've provided us with a foretaste in the form of this song, "BBQ", as both a visualizer video:
 

... and a streaming track. It's got a great sort of slacker rock feel underlaid by an insistent drum/bass line, a vocal reminiscent of Waaves or Ty Segall, and a lot of different guitar sounds. Like the way the repeated guitar line runs throughout, swerving in and out for the length of the song:


Umbrella Puzzles - A Slowly Dawning Realization


Ryan Marquez, the main man of The Umbrella Puzzles, lists Gerry Love, Grant McLennan and Peter Astor among his music inspirations. Listening to Ryan's jangling creations on his newest release it seems to us that he has been well and truly inspired. The songs on A Slowly Dawning Realization are lo fi, but definitely a thoughtful, finished product. Mid-tempo twang and jangle, but with plenty of drive and bounce, it is a very pleasant listen that rewards repeated listens.

Ryan's other projects are Apple Orchard and Golden Teardrops. With The Umbrella Puzzles added to the mix, it seems to us that the California musician is building a fine body of work.

A Slowly Dawning Realization is out now in digital and CD formats via Subjangle Records.



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Monday, April 5, 2021

Dr. Lonnie Smith - Breathe

Out now on Blue Note is Dr. Lonnie Smith's fine set of live jazz tunes bookended by a couple of wonderful collaborations with Iggy Pop, on which Iggy's distinctive baritone renders the lyrics of a couple of great Summer of Love standards into almost spoken word pieces. The first one, "Why Can't We Live Together", is a pretty inspired choice. The original was not a pop tune in a conventional sense - Timmy Thomas anchored the song with a drum machine and then did a lot of improvising on the keyboard. They took over a minute out of the song to get to a radio version. Here, Smith takes the improvising to another level, stretching it out to over 6:00. I'm so glad to have this version of this song:

 

"Sunshine Superman" is another quirky tune that these guys take on to create a distinctive version of their own. Donovan's sort of behind the beat, swaying vocal makes a good take off point for Iggy's unhurried, warm vocal:

 

In between these two are some well-played tunes, covers like "Too Damn Hot" and "Epistrophy" and Smith originals like "Bright Eyes" and "Track 9". Smith's band features some stars in their own right: Jonathan Blake (drums), Jonathan Kreisberg (guitar), Robin Eubanks (trombone), John Ellis and Jason Marshall on saxophones and Sean Jones on trumpet, with Richard Bravo adding percussion on the two bookend covers. Don Was produced the record and it's an example of quality-meets-quality, with great results. 

Here is Smith, on how the record got done: “I was playing with my trio at Arts Garage in Delray Beach in Florida. Iggy would come by and say he wanted to play with me. I let him play slaparoo and he loved it. He enjoyed playing with us. We thought about recording a few songs, so we went in with my trio backing us up, and it worked.” I'll say it worked. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Adult Books - Grecian Urn

Adult Books is LA-based Nick Winfrey, who writes, sings and plays a lot of the music on Grecian Urn, with help from Sina Salessi (drums) and Alex Galindo (guitar/synth). This is his second record, coming four years after his first. The intervening time was spent touring, considering his future in the music business and, fortunately for us, writing and creating this excellent record. A host of new wave and indie rock comparisons are getting thrown around - Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, Mission of Burma - and that's fine, but like the best new music, Grecian Urn takes those influences and goes in its own direction. 

The opening track is "Innocence", with a pulsating rhythm section and slashing guitar lines. And here Winfrey's vocals remind me of Richard Lloyd's solo work. There's a bit of desperation in his voice:

   

 The title track, "Grecian Urn". The opening synth and bass line certainly shows where the New Order comparisons are coming from, but stick around while he layers in some guitars at the top of the range, multi-tracked vocals, and the whole thing takes off. 

  

And here is previously-released “Florence”. Have to admire a track that starts with the lyric “Do you really know yourself?”

 

The last track is, to me, the masterpiece here - "Sparrows on the Wire", at about 4:00, builds to a hell of a crescendo for the last minute, and Winfrey shouts out the last several lines of the song over some fiery guitar lines. You'll have to get the record to hear that one, and you should.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Dom & The Wizards - The Australian Cyclone Intensity Scale


 We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of ... well, to be precise, we are off to hear the wizards, the wonderful wizards of Adelaide. And admittedly, there is no Emerald City and not a munchkin in sight. However, the imagery The Australian Cyclone Intensity Scale is as weird, wild and delightful as anything in The Wizard of Oz, and the music is far, far better.  The work of Dom Trimboli, headman of the incomparable Wireheads and a few co-conspirators of similar left-field reality recording as Dom & The Wizards, this is a set of songs composed in technicolor and sketched out in fevered dreams that would make Hunter Thompson proud. There is plenty of pop smarts injected into a Syd Barrett aural landscape that is adds up to a thoroughly enthralling listen. Scott thinks that this will be one of his top ten albums of the year.

The roster of Wizards supporting Dom includes Vic Conrad, Col Gellard, Jess Johns, Tom Spall, Harry Freeman, Liam Kenny, Jessica Johns, Katie Schilling, Dexter Campos, David John Wilke, and Alexander Meuniere. The Australian Cyclone Intensity Scale is out now via Tenth Court Records in Brisbane



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Friday, April 2, 2021

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio - “Jimmy’s Groove” - out today



Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio is a tight three-piece playing impeccable funk/jazz. Their latest single, “Jimmy’s Groove”, is available right now - it’s an outtake from their recent album and is part of two non-album singles being released to supplement the record. It’s a rollicking six minute instrumental - just try to sit or stand still while you’re listening, and tell me you don’t feel that bass line right from the start:

   

 An added treat - when doing a little research on these guys I found a live version of one of my favorite songs, so you get this thrown in. Definitely stick around for the part where Delvon takes it up a notch on the keyboards at about 2:30:

 

These guys are incredible, expect to hear much more from us about them. The track is available at Bandcamp, you can clidk through the track above. On Colemine Records.

New Metal track - Pentral: “ All My Wounds”

 


Pentral is a Brazilian band playing a slightly different turn on heavy metal. They sing in English and are up front about the message in their music. They are heavy, but melodic. Like most bands, they stand at an intersection between their local (Amazon region) influences and the global music genre they are a part of. And their concerns, while also local, are universal - what is changing, what’s been taken away, and how to cope with forces you cannot hope to counteract alone. 

Or you can just turn it up and throw your hair around. Like all good metal, this is conducive to that. Their latest song is “All My Wounds”, a strong, fast-paced drum-driven track. They’re excellent musicians and play well together. Producer is Tim Palmer, who’s worked with, among others, Ozzy Osbourne and Pearl Jam.


It’s from a forthcoming album What Lies Ahead of Us - available to pre-order now, due for release on May 7. 




Thursday, April 1, 2021

"IDK" by Jeshua


One of our recent favorite dream pop records is the new single "IDK" by Jeshua -- Glasgow musician Joshua Gray. Featuring a captivating combination of dreamy pop textures and a driving beat, we think "IDK" displays Joshua's formidable talent, and marks him as a artist to follow.

The single is out now as a digital download consisting of "IDK" and a mnlghtr mix of the song.

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Various links for "IDK"

"Pink Lunettes" by Pond


 Well, well, well, this is a fine way to get fans to pay attention to your upcoming tour. Australian psychedelic rock five-piece Pond are going to tour western Australia soon. But with that announcement they have released new single "Pink Lunettes". With a locked in, tribal groove this song is a relentless adrenaline rush verging on the edge of chaos. With over a decade as a band and eight albums to their credit, this wild bunch proves they still have the magic

"Pink Lunettes" is out via Spinning Top Records.


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"Woah Man" by Dayglow

As promised last night, we started our day with a few more spins of rousing glam rock from Wales. But as the sunshine began to warm an early spring day here, we decided to turn to some sweet pop. Our first choice is "Woah Man", the fresh new single by Dayglow. The man behind the project is 21-year old Texan Sloan Struble, and the song is taken from his upcoming second album Harmony House, which will be out May 21 via Struble's own Very Nice Records.

"Woah Man" has a warm '70s vibe, infused with a relaxed, natural charm. And just makes us smile every time we listen. For the fourth day of a busy work week, that is just what we needed.

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Various links for "Woah Man"

New Guitar Pop Tracks - “Promises I’ve Made” plus 2 more by Andrew Gabbard

 We’ve written about the Buffalo Killers here before - always have liked their laid back psychedelic rock, and I’m not surprised at the quality of Andrew Gabbard’s pop instincts on his solo work. This track is a tribute to Emitt Rhodes, one of Andrew’s musical heroes. 

Andrew says, "Emitt wrote the book on homemade albums. His music endlessly inspires me to create. ‘Promises I’ve Made’ is a personal favorite of mine - I had to do it. Recorded at home. Emitt Rhodes forever!”

 

 And here are two earlier tracks - I’m getting caught up on Andrew’s recent solo activity and glad to share it with you; as he says, it’s “made at home with love”. "Instant Trancer" is one he calls an ode to his daughter, a sweet song. Really like the way he layers the vocals on the chorus and the guitar effects:

 

 Finally, his 2021 New Year's song - "Wake Up, Brother" - a song of hope and a call for change, with what I hear as some echoes of some nice 70's Laurel Canyon psych folk rock a la Dennis Wilson:

Andrew Gabbard on Instagram

Colemine Records

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"Fuzzy" by Bandicoot


 If a band describes their new song as "a deranged attempt at seduction which draws on 70s 'Top of the Pops', glam rock and memories of misguided adolescence", we are all ears. And that is without considering our significant other's suggestions that it could be a chapter in our biography. After listening to Bandicoot's "Fuzzy", we'd have to say that the band nailed both the song and the description -- our pride precludes a response to spousal derision of our persons. But back to "Fuzzy", this song chugs, slashes and swings in all the right places. It is the final song we will listen to tonight, and the first song we will listen to in the morning. Probably the second and third we will listen to in the morning as well.

"Fuzzy" will be out as a digital single on April 9 via Libertino Records. Bandicoot is a four-piece from Swansea, Wales, home of the Swansea Swans Football Club (where a friend of mine played this winter until he was injured).

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"Window" by Wy

"Window", the fourth single from the upcoming album Marriage LP by Malmo, Sweden's Wy, emphasizes the duo's focus on direct expressions of strong emotion. Their music is beautiful in sound and impeccably constructed, but it also is raw and revealing. "Window" may be our favorite so far from the album.

Wy are Ebba and Michel Gustafsson Agren. Marriage will be released May 7 via Rama Lama Records.

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Various links for "Window"

Bandcamp link to pre-order Marriage

Aaron Frazer - Introducing Aaron Frazer

This is some fine, sweet soul music. Frazer has a clear, bright falsetto, and his vocals just flow. He's backed by a strong soul band - the bass in particular stands out, just moving so easily behind a great collection of guitar, piano, flute and drum/conga work. Frazer was part of Durand Jones & The Indications - co-lead singer and writer of some of their songs. On this record, Dan Auerbach put together a great group of musicians, from members of the Memphis Gang, featured on records by Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin, to members of the Dap-Tone family, and his influence is felt, too, in the way this record is built. Opening track is "You Don't Want to Be My Baby". Starts out slow, languid, and builds to a great, full sound like an old Stylistics or Delfonics track:

   

 And listen to how they build this song - "Bad News" - a light touch on the drums sets the pace, some excellent piano, layer on a flute, then a light guitar riff, and finally Frazer's falsetto - and you're off to the races. Just try to sit still:

   




Frazer proudly claims influences like Gil-Scott Heron and Curtis Mayfield and takes his work seriously. It shows - this record is tight and rewards repeated listening. Introducing... Aaron Frazer is out now on Dead Oceans, available on all the streaming sites, or you can order cd's and vinyl with download codes included at Bandcamp. This is going to be a big part of my summer playlist. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Tim Cohen - You Are Still Here


 An album by Tim Cohen, whether with his projects the Fresh & Onlys and Magic Trick, or -- as is the case today -- one of his solo albums, is a treat for the ears. His music represents that fine Bay Area tradition of garage and psychedelic arrangements with literate lyrics. On You are Still Here, Cohen's sixth solo album, the songwriting is focused and taut, and the melodies sparkle. A timeless set of music, it is a good listen now, would have been a good listen a decade ago, and it will be a good listen in 2031.

While we have embedded three fine songs below, we think you should venture to Bandcamp or your other favorite streaming source. And if you do, and you have limited time, make sure to cue up the album closer, "Dadaist Friend". It will be six minutes well-spent.

You Are Still Here is out now via Bobo Integral Records



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Monday, March 29, 2021

"Said Bernie" by Buffet Lunch

Having just had breakfast, we are already thinking about lunch. A Buffet Lunch, in fact. But we just can't help ourselves because "Said Bernie" is an exhilarating listen and a perfect jump start for our Monday. Buffet Lunch is a Glasgow/Edinburgh band with a fun, energetic and delightfully skewed vision of guitar pop. Comprised of Petty O'Bray, Neil Robinson, John Muir, and Luke Moran, they have an 11-track album titled The Power of Rocks due May 7 via Upset The Rhythm. If "Said Bernie" is a representative song, we are really going to like this album.

The Power of Rocks is available for pre-order.

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April March, Olivia Jean - Palladium EP


From Third Man Records comes an EP as delightful as a spring day - six "versions" of a short number titled "Let's Go" or "Allons-y" - you see, it's put forth in both English and French, with slightly different versions for each track. The common elements are April March and Olivia Jean's bright, clear, totally confident vocals and great backbeats and guitars. Some tracks feature chicken-scratch soul guitar, some a heavier rock sound, and of course it would not be complete without a couple of surf guitar numbers. Short (18:00 all in), sweet and completely satisfying, you can get just the music at all your usual digital sources, or a "French flag" tricolored vinyl. Here we are, a week into spring, and you may have here your record of the summer:

 
 

Below is a link to the record's landing page at Third Man. I encourage you to check it out, and read the ladies' bios, which feature interactions with a host of figures including Bo Diddley, Brian Wilson, Ronnie Spector and of course Jack White, at whose studio these tracks were produced. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Voom - Hello, Are You There?

This post comes with a special alert for readers who are indie pop collectors. Hello, Are You There? is considered by many to be one of those "must have" records for your music library. A 2006 release by New Zealand band Voom on Lil' Chief Records, it has been listed as one of the 100 essential New Zealand albums. The album is now available for the first time ever on vinyl via Flying Nun Records.

The main driving force of Voom was reformed stockbroker and prolific songwriter Buzz Moeller. His songcraft favored concise expressions but he embraced a multitude of styles. At times Voom songs featured the eclecticism, buzz, chug and energy of Seattle's The Young Fresh Fellows, at other times the sweet harmonies of The Beach Boys. But what was universal was a sincerity in the performance and the quality of the material. For this release the original album has been remastered by the band and augmented with additional material.

Time for some vinyl Voom in your lives!





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Sunny War - Simple Syrup

 


Simple Syrup, by LA-based artist Sunny War, is a masterpiece of folk rock. I’m just knocked out by her talent as a writer, player and arranger. Sometimes the guitar leads, sometimes the voice - the interplay is wonderful and haunting. An example of that is the track “A Love So True” - her voice and her guitar playing swing so nicely, you’ll find yourself swinging, nodding and tapping along:



There are more aggressive, electric tracks, like "Mama's Milk" - obviously Dylan-inspired. She straddles the folk/rock acoustic/electric divide nicely, as Bob did during the mid-60's run which included the iconic "Subterranean Homesick Blues". Speaking of which, check out this wonderful video, directed by Particle Kid, aka Micah Nelson:

 

 

 There’s an emotionally affecting track about a friend of hers, a young homeless veteran who calls her when he’s in jail; the title says it all: “Deployed and Destroyed”. This song really go to me. Again, her beautiful fingerpicked guitar under these lyrics: 

“You’d believe in angels if you heard him sing 
He’s got a gift only hardships bring 
He’s been called a man since he was a boy 
Fought for Uncle Sam and they left him 
Deployed destroyed”

What a writer! Check out the whole album -- she is definitely an artist to watch.


Friday, March 26, 2021

3 A.M. Again - Come Back From the Sun


 3 A.M. is a time of day. But musically via Come Back From the Sun it is a state of mind embodying sunny summer morning, a quiet coffee on the balcony, watching the children play. It is the aural expression of contentment and fulfillment. And it is absolutely beautiful.

We receive a large number of submissions, and sometimes we listen before we read the words that come with it. Such is the case with Come Back From the Sun. But after bathing in the wonderful acoustic renderings of 3 A.M., we turned to the accompanying documentation and discovered that the bliss was attributable to one Michael Telles, who formerly was known as Night Heron and received this rave feature from us last year: Night Heron. So we haven't been part of a discovery of a new artist after all, but rather the re-birth of an already cherished artist. We are quite happy with that.

The songs feature acoustic guitar jangle, understated vocals, and a number of instrumental tracks. Telles is equally adept at slow pastoral, midtempo pop/folk and instrumental songs. All are delightfully expressive but non-intrusive. Wake up in the morning and cue up this album. Your day will be immeasurably enhanced.

Come Back From the Sun is out now via JanglePopHub, which has proved to us time and again that they have impeccable taste in indie pop music. And while we often don't mention such things, we feel compelled to point out that the lovely album art is the work of Jodie Lowther of Karakasa Design.



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Throttle Elevator Music - Final Floor

Throttle Elevator Music is a collective featuring saxophonist Kamasi Washington and trumpeter Erik Jekabson along with longtime collaborators and songwriters Matt Montgomery and Gregory Howe. Howe is the guitar player and founder of Wide Hive, the label that released all TEM's music. Joining them are Mike Hughes on drums, Kasey Knudsen on alto saxophone, Ross Howe on fender guitar with Mike Blankenship on organ. Recorded between 2013-2020, the tracks on Final Floor have not been released previously and are a testament to the quality of work this group was doing together. These are not outtakes, but finished pieces, fully realized visions of the interplay between jazz, funk, surf rock, punk, reggae and motorik. It's exhilarating. I've been a big fan of Washington's work - both the affecting tone of his playing and the wide variety of musical types and collaborators. But as talented as these players are individually, the group here is even greater than the sum of its parts. There's plenty of tension, but also a lot of beauty, sometimes together - like the way the guitar underlies the soaring sax solo on "Ice Windows":

 




Sadly, Final means final - as in, Throttle Elevator Music is no longer a collective. Happily, a lot of these guys play together in the Wide Hive "house band" so keep an eye out for more from this label. And of course, Washington has continued to release music, including the soundtrack for the Netflix documentary profiling Michelle Obama, Becoming.

"Dödläge" by änsendå

The self-titled album by Swedish act änsendå is still three weeks away, but Nico Chavez - the man behind the moniker - has brightened our day with the sweet slice of pop titled "Dödläge". It is out now as a digital release via Rama Lama Records, which also will release the album.



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Various links for "Dodlage"

Rama Lama Records

credits

Guided by Voices - two new tracks from upcoming Earth Man Blues

I'm back, and so are they! Guided by Voices is in a groove, on to its first full-length release of 2021 (after 3 in 2020) and 33rd overall, Earth Man Blues. Described by the band as "a magical cinematic rock album, full of dramatic and surreal twists and turns. Lyrics and liner notes trace the growth of young Harold Admore Harold through a coming of age and a reckoning with darkness. Vivid scenes appear: snapshots of youth, fantastical nightmares, unknown worlds." So, Tommy meets Harold Pig, perhaps? Well, it already has two short, sweet and crackling tracks to recommend it. Here's "Trust Them Now", 2:20 of racing, chiming guitars and vocal melodies:

 




Here is "Free Agents", featuring the couplet "Life is like a slot machine / All goes up and down as in a dream" - which pretty well summarizes the experience of being a fan of GbV, except it is mostly up:

 


When somebody is this good at something, you don’t want them to stop, or even slow down. And they’re not, thankfully.

Out April 30 on Rockathon Records.


Guided by Voices website

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Wurld Series - What's Growing

All Wurld Series has to do to please us is to keep doing what the do on What's Growing, their second LP. Comprised of transplanted Brit Luke Towart, Kiwi Brian Feary and, as available, others, the Christchurch-based band crafts a thrilling collage of psychedelic folk-pop with a pastoral wash, '90 indie rock and '80s New Zealand indie pop. The songs are concise, fuzzing along brightly and then ending with your synapses still at level 10 and expecting more. But there is no disappointment because the next song provides a matching punch and the high continues until the last note. The lyrics are intelligent and inventive, and the performances top level. While the band's assumed influences seem easy to spot, the music they have created for What's Growing clearly is no imitation of forebears, but rather a strikingly entertaining distillation of various forms of psychedelic pop played through a fuzzy, hooky filter. And while there is plenty of squalling, buzzing guitars, some of the most special moments are the shorter, quieter songs. Highly recommended for your weekend, my friends. 

The album is out now via Meritorio Records (Europe/USA), Osborne Again (Australia) and Melted Ice Cream (New Zealand/Rest of the world).





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Bandcamp for What's Growing

Osborne Again Music

Meritorio Records

Melted Ice Cream Records


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

"Off Grid" by Holiday Ghosts

 In 2017 (link) and again in 2019 (link) we spent a considerable portion of our digital ink budget (minus the portion seconded to our beverage purchase budget) extolling the virtues of English band Holiday Ghosts. We recently were wondering whether the band was still together and writing music when we discovered the video for "Off Grid" -- a spanking new tune from the Falmouth-based artists. The tune chugs and bounces like a terrific soundtrack for your first springtime drive with the windows down while male/female vocals spin the tale. And the happiest news is that the band's next album North Street Air will be out May 21 via Fat Cat Records.

The core of Holiday Ghosts is Katja Rackin and Sam Stacpoole. For the new album, they have recruited former band member Charles Murphy and others.

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Fat Cat Records page for North Street Air

Real Numbers - Brighter Then


 Brighter Then by Minneapolis band Real Numbers is nothing less than jangle pop perfection, pleasantly recalling veins of C86 and the heyday of Sarah Records. The melodies are sweet and upbeat, the hooks plentiful, the vocals are gentle with a melancholy wash, and of course, the guitars jangle and chime. Repeated listenings reveal songs carefully constructed and delightfully detailed and, if our experience is representative, you feel a sense of loss when you stop playing the record. However, we have discovered a work-around. We don't stop playing the record.

Real Numbers is a five-piece consisting of Eli Hansen, Ian Nygaard, James Blackfield, Cameron Soojian, and Sophie Durbin. Brighter Then is out now via Slumberland Records in North America and Meritorio Records in Europe.

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Bandcamp for EP

Various relevant links