Thursday, March 23, 2017

Èlan Vital - Shadow Self

Put on your earphones and surf the darkwave dreams of Dunedin, New Zealand's Èlan Vital on their debut LP Shadow Self.  Synths groan and drone, rise and fall, lasers shoot, but all with a sly dance-able undercurrent, veins of analog warmth, and a human touch with the female vocals.  The overall effect is as if the band threw their dreams and nightmares in a big pot and cooked it to trance/dance soundscape.  Oh, and we should mention that it is highly addictive and, like all addictive substances, becomes more so with prolonged exposure.

The album commences with a Gothic tone and static fog, but as it unspools we are treated to increased dynamics (e.g. the spacey, funky "Space") and lighter moments, such as on "Janina", break through like rays of sunshine.  Èlan Vital seem to have a strong sense of what they want to do, and the ability to execute their ideas.  Impressively, they stay within their desired groove while keeping the compositions accessible to the listener.  I chose a few representative tracks below, but I recommend the final stream, which will give you the full album.  To my ears, the songs on the last half of the record are especially recommended, but it is all good.

If we understand correctly, the genesis of the band was in Berlin, where two of its members resided.  A following stop was Auckland, on New Zealand's north island, and then a relocation to Dunedin.  The band's current rehearsal space is the None Gallery which, before it became an artist-run creative space served time as a pharmaceutical factory and then a strip club.

Èlan Vital is Renee Barrance (keyboards, vocals), Danny Brady (synths, drum machines, effects, vocals) and Nikolai Sim (bass).  Shadow Self is released on vinyl, CD and digital formats via Fishrider Records on March 24, and by Occultation Recordings in UK/Europe on May 12.

Bandcamp for Shadow Self
Fishrider Records
Occultation Recordings

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bunch - Forever My Sparring Partner

We here at WYMA are a lot like the rest of you.  After all, we put on our pants one day at at time -- at least on the days we wear pants.  One difference, however, is that when we learn of great new music our first instinct is to write about it here so you can enjoy it as well.  It is, after all, why we exist, not the trappings of the glamorous lifestyle of pop music journalists with a $3 annual expense account (no questions asked!) and as many paper clips as our hearts desire.

So today we bring you Forever My Sparring Partner by Alabama band Bunch.  Founded by ex El Cantador Heath Underwood, this is guitar-oriented rock that is earthy and soulful -- elements which characterize our favorite southern rock.  More specifically, the album is a collection of gospels of red dirt, full blooded lives, travails, lessons, persistence and triumphs, told with a keen eye, a poet's tongue and an artist's flair.  The performances are tight, and fully do justice to the material.  And don't read too much into the "southern" tag.  The music is un-mistakenly regional, but is in no way country.

You may note at the Bandcamp link below that Forever My Sparring Partner was released in mid-November, and we are just getting around to writing about it.  News travels slowly to us in the North, and other events in November had captured our bandwidth for a while.  Check out some tracks below, and if they hit the spot, go to the Bandcamp link and play the entire album.  You will note that the lyrics are available, and I suggest displaying them while listening.  Then buy the record like good little boys and girls.

All songs on Forever My Sparring Partner were written and arranged by Heath Underwood, who also provided the vocals, as well as guitars, pedals and effects, and vibe-bells.  Additional players and vocalists were Paul Kimsal, Joe Dickey, Allan Castleberry, Simon Roper, Matt Prince, Maria Kowalski, Bruce Bouton, Lesley Jones-Smith, Amanda Smolinski, Victoria Noll, and Samantha Harlow.

Bandcamp for Forever My Sparring Partner

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Copenhagen" by First Hate

Danish duo First Hate will be dropping their debut album A Prayer For The Unemployed on May 12, and you can get your first listen of the electro pop excellence via "Copenhagen".  The album will be released by Copenhagen label Escho.


Emotional - The Band

Brian Wakefield is Emotional.  Not that he is weepy or has anger management issues.  He just is, well, Emotional.  I think that when Brian originally became Emotional, the project was just Brian and a crowded bedroom as a side project to Melted Toys and his other side projects.  But over time the project seems to have become his main focus.  And that causes happiness here at WYMA, because Brian's brand on psychedelic garage pop is a particular favorite.  For his new album, his second full-length, he seems to have gathered a band.  So, of course, the album is named The Band.  After all, you have to take care of the people who take care of you.

It is rare to hear an album that suggests influences as varied as Syd Barrett, Big Star, Gram Parsons.  And even rarer, I suspect, would be an album that shares that influences by nevertheless presents a coherent style.  But The Band is such an album, presenting nine varied songs of smeared psychedelic pop that delights from open to close.  We've provided a few tracks below, but we urge you to hit the Bandcamp link and listen to the entire album.

The Band is released on Brian's own Long Live Death Records, and Emotional are in the midst of a US tour.  We've provided dates and venues below (although we personally believe that if you don't come to Seattle, you aren't trying very hard).  In creating the album, Wakefield received contributions from Alex Brettin, Danny James, Sarah Bethe Nelson, Simi Sohota, Emmet Moskowitz, Geoff Morris, Ole Haarstad and Joel Robinow.

Bandcamp for The Band
Death Records' page for The Band

Mar. 21 — Nashville, TN @ Blackbird Tattoo*$
Mar. 22 — Lexington, KY @ Best Friend Bar *
Mar. 23 — Washington, DC @ Smash! Records *
Mar. 24 — Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs *$
Mar. 25 — New York, NY @ Baby’s All Right *$
Mar. 26 — Burlington, VT @ TBD *
Mar. 27 — New York, NY @ Berlin ^#
Mar. 28 — Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Upstairs ^
Mar. 29 — Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog *
Mar. 30 — Indianapolis, IN @ SST *
Mar. 31 — Milwaukee, WI @ Company Brewing *
Apr. 1 — Chicago, IL @ Cole’s Bar *
Apr. 2 — Minneapolis, MN @ TBD *
Apr. 3 — Kansas City, MO @ Blind Tiger *
Apr. 4 — Denver, CO @ Hi Dive*
Apr. 5 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
Apr. 6 — Las Vegas, NV @ The Griffin *
Apr. 7 — Joshua Tree
* = w/ The Memories
% = w/ Death Valley Girls, Death Hymn No. 9
$ = w/ Colleen Green
# = w/ Cosmonauts

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Tourists" and "Let Us Prey" by Mt. Doubt

Mt. Doubt is an Edinburgh project fronted by Leo Bargery that we think has the right stuff.  "Tourists" and "Let Us Prey" are Mt. Doubt's contributions to Tourists / Lights Off, Carry Me Home, a split vinyl 7" that will be released by Scottish Fiction on March 31.  The other two tracks on the record are by Scottish rockers Foreignfox.  You can stream both of Mt. Doubt's tracks below, and we also have the band's new video for "Tourist".

Scottish Fiction
Bandcamp for split single

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Floored" by Stutter Steps

Ben Harrison is a curator at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.  He also is the frontman for Stutter Steps, which released one of our favorite debuts of 2015.  The core sound is a jangling guitar pop that would fit well in the catalog of some of our favorite southern hemisphere bands.  The project soon will release a six-song EP titled Floored on Blue Arrow Records.  The title track is available now as a single, and you can enjoy a stream below.

Blue Arrow Records

Thursday, March 16, 2017

31Ø8 - 31Ø8 (BLU)

Unusual names can get a band noticed, but for those of us that write about music unusual spelling, capitalization or characters present challenges.  Of course, the easy approach would be to ignore the bands that create extra effort.  But that presents a problem when the band is good.  A case in point is London project 31Ø8.  That unusual third character isn't on my keyboard, but the music on their new album definitely is the sort of thing I want to hear, and want to tell our readers about.  So I'm stuck working harder for the same wage.  Oh, and even though we refer to 31Ø8 as a band, the liner notes also say that it is one guy called Kyle, who formerly was known as Tyler.  The Facebook photos suggest there are three guys -- of course it does, why would anything be clear?  Life would indeed suck if it weren't for the cool music on the new album 31Ø8 (BLU).  Why the "(BLU)"?  To distinguish it from a prior album named 31Ø8 (PNK) which was released by Trouble In Mind in 2014.

On to the music.  To my ears, there are some similarities to Ned's Atomic Dustbin, American Culture, The Jesus and Mary Chain and a bit of Stone Roses baggy beats (check out "Conflicted Soul" and "Come The Winter"), with a bit of shoegaze and dream pop.  That all rings our bell in a good way, so we groove along while the band races through the ten songs, even giving us a jangling gem in "Another Wave".  This is quality stuff, and Jigsaw Records offers it in digital and CD formats -- see the Bandcamp link.  

So, Kyle, all is forgiven.  We like your album, and look forward to 31Ø8 (GRN) whenever it is ready.

Bandcamp for album

"Colourful Rain" by Sweet Tempest

Spring is tentatively checking to see whether it is safe to emerge on a more permanent basis.  We suspect that it won't make a favorable decision for another three or four weeks, but the effort prompted us to play some new dream pop.  The song is "Colourful Rain", which will be released tomorrow by Danish/English duo Sweet Tempest.  The single is taken from their upcoming EP Bones and Machinations, which will is due on April 7 via Cicada Music.  Polished, versatile vocals, sturdy rhythms and sweet melodies are the hallmarks of this band, and if this single is representative, the EP should be welcome indeed.

Sweet Tempest are Julian Winding and Luna Kira.  Their prior output includes the 2015 EP Snow and the soundtrack to the 2016 film The Neon Demon.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bill Botting and The Two Drink Minimums - Better Friends

We knew of Bill Botting from the recently and sadly defunct Allo Darlin, so his next musical steps would have been of interest to us anyway.  But with the name Bill Botting and The Two Drink Minimums, the project seemed like the sort of thing that demands our attention.  Good music and at least two drinks (doesn't one only order a second as a necessary predicate to reaching number three?), what's not to like?

Bill provides nine fun songs (including a delightful cover of Paul Simon's "Graceland"), talented co-conspirators, and tight set of performances with just enough wiggle in the structure to help you think you are lucky enough to hear it live.  You provide your ears, and your own two+ drinks (yeah, I know, but at least you don't have to leave yourself a tip).  Bill's warm vocal delivery, musicians who are completely invested and good stories make this a record worth your time.  Take a test spin of the quality and range of the album with the country flavored "Knew You When", the rocking "Treating You Right", and the more pop tinged "Feeling Sad Again" below.  Here is evidence that we all need to have better friends to improve our lives.

Bill Botting and The Two Drink Minimums are Bill Botting, Hannah Botting (of Owl & Mouse), Paul Rains (of Allo Darlin' and Tigercats), Tom Wade (of Owl & Mouse), and Jonny Helm (of The Wave Pictures.  Darren Haman also helped with recording and played the sax on track four.  Better Friends is out now in digital and limited edition vinyl formats via London label wiaiwya.  See the Bandcamp link below (and for a full stream of the album).

Bandcamp for Better Friends