Tuesday, December 31, 2013

REVIEW: Mark Martyre - London

Toronto singer-songwriter Mark Martyre creates poignant stories, and adorns them with just the right amount of accompaniment.  Mark's 2012 release, Down, Record, impressed me (link), so I was pleased when he followed it up with this year's London.  After multiple spins, I think this is about the best late night music I've heard this year.  With poetic lyrics, a touch of guitar, piano, violin, cello and accordion, and Mark's velvet and gravel vocals, the songs swirl around you like pages of your life ripped from your diary and reinterpreted for a new day.

Mark describes his music as folk music, so I'll live with that description.  However, it would be most unfortunate if his work was dismissed by those who have a narrow view of folk music.  Consider the guy your troubadour, your new inner voice, your invisible buddy -- whatever.  Just don't ignore him.  London is a very good listen.



A Merry Christmas from Ballboy

I generally don't seek out Christmas songs by modern artists, but for me Ballboy isn't just any artist.  And my faith in their art is justified by Merry Christmas to the Drunks, Merry Christmas to the Lovers, a mini-album they released for the holidays.  Consisting of six tracks of indie pop/modern folk that will nudge the nostalgia sensors in your brain and tug on your melancholy heartstrings.  Here are the opening and closing tracks; you can stream/purchase the record at the Bandcamp link.  You may well find that these songs will become a regular feature in your holiday playlist.

Ballboy is Gordon McIntyre, Nick Reynolds, Gary Morgan and Alexa Morrison.  Additional assistance was provided by Lucy Pringle and Katey Lee.  Merry Christmas to the Drunks, Merry Christmas to the Lovers was recorded by Pete Harvey at Pumpkinfield Studios in Perthshire and Gordon McIntyre at Housechurch in Edinburgh, and was recorded live with the members facing each other.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Gap Dream - Shine Your Light

Another day, another gem of a release from Fullerton, California's Burger Records - Shine Your Light from Gap Dream.  Who is/are Gap Dream?  The answer is that Gap Dream is Gabriel Fulvimar, who in late 2012 moved from Ohio to live at Burger Records.  About that time he started writing the songs that would become Shine Your Light.  Under the circumstances, it is unsurprising that Burger Records was Gabe's choice to release the album.  The question is, did the Garage rock powerhouse that is Burger make a good decision in releasing Gabe's sophomore release?  I think the answer is "yes".  While Burger isn't known for synth pop - and Shine Your Light is synth/bedroom pop - the label is unafraid of stepping outside the borders of garage rock when they detect talent.  Moreover, to my ears there is a garage rock sensibility to this release that proclaims "I belong at Burger".  And a good thing, too, because who wants to be evicted during the holidays.

The album presents multiple facets of Gabe's sound.  Some tracks are dark (e.g. "Snow Your Mind") while others have a sunny pop feel (e.g. "Fantastic Sam").  The production allows for both grit and gloss, and the arrangements allow plenty of space for the instrumentation to carry the mood in between the vocals.  If you are going to search for influences, you probably will bring up Eno, Alan Parsons, Giorgio Morode and California surf pop.  The overall result is an album that I rely on more for atmosphere than specific songs or lyrical message.  But that isn't a knock on the album.  Music serves many different purposes in life and this one is good for filling a room and setting a mood.  Check out some tracks below.

"Chill Spot" --

Burger Records

Mavis Gary - Pin Me Up

Mavis Gary is Trick Mammoth's Adrian Ng, vocalist, guitarist and a songwriting talent.  Frankly, the young Dunedin musicians such as Ng, Millie Lovelock (Astro Children; Trick Mammoth) and Sam Valentine (Trick Mammoth; Males) are so prolific I don't know which projects are side/solo projects and which are the primary effort.  Perhaps trying to analyze it in such fashion is simply a fault of my own and such rankings aren't relevant to the artists.  In any case, Ng has gathered of his ten sparkling lo-fi guitar pop nuggets in Pin Me Up.  The album features layered vocals, sweet chord progressions and haunting melodies.  There is a good bit of jangling guitar and a dose of glam and sunshine.  You can sample three tracks below and stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link.

Adrian has made the album available for download for "name your price".  If you give him a bit of money it may help him write more songs, and I think that is a good thing.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Introducing: Girl One and the Grease Guns

Girl One and the Grease Guns have a great sound reminiscent of early electro-rock bands and an interesting visual style in composing their videos.  I think the name is pretty good as well.  I don't know much more about them as I suspect the group members' names - Sissy Space Echo, Warren Betamax, Charles Bronson Burner and Bruce LeeFax - were selected some time after Christening.  The UK's Squirrel Records has the honor of bringing the band's music to the world and have released three 7" recordings so far.  Here is the video for the April release, "Driving Without Headlights (Once Again)".

"Jessica 6"

Imagine Manhattan Love Suicides repurposed as a subversive synth pop band.  It is glorious if you try.

This was their debut -

Artist page at Squirrel Records

Free sampler from Fishrider Records

We have devoted a considerable amount of digital ink on the fine releases of Dunedin, New Zealand's Fishrider Records.  Just in the past eighteen months we have lauded the work of Trick Mammoth, Males, The Prophet Hens, The Shifting Sands, Opposite Sex and The Puddle (whose drummer is Fishrider boss Ian Henderson).  The great news is that Fishrider has collected eleven tracks from these bands in All Over The World - A 2013/2014 Fishrider Records Sampler, and is offering it for "name your price" on the Fishrider Bandcamp page (see link below).  The set is a great introduction to the high quality music produced by these artists.  I've provided streams of four songs below, and you can stream the entire album on Bandcamp.


Friday Nuggets: Flamin' Groovies

We saved the best for last in our final installment of the 2013 Friday Nuggets series.

No band captured the garage rock / power pop / pre-punk sound and ethos better than the Flamin' Groovies, certainly one of my favorite bands of all time.

The Flamin' Groovies were founded by Cyril Jordan in San Francisco in 1965. Their best work was done in the '70's when they released four consecutive great albums - Teenage Head, Shake Some Action,  Flamin' Groovies Now, and  Jumpin' in the Night. Like a lot of the garage rock that we've featured here at Friday Nuggets, The Flamin' Groovies were heavily influenced by British invasion rock and roll (in their case, especially The Rolling Stones), Motown, and California pop, which they merged into a super amped up, fast and loud speedball, with copious amounts of psychedelia thrown in. It's a winning and timeless combo.

"Shake Some Action" (1976) is one of the great American rock and roll songs, and became by itself a
significant blueprint for the best American bands of the '80's - R.E.M., the dBs and The Replacements:

The first Flamin' Groovies song I ever heard was "Slow Death", released in 1972. It got some airplay on WABX in Detroit. My friend Steve, always a step ahead of every other kid at our high school, was into it. It's gotta be the best anti-drugs rock and roll song ever written. Here's an absolutely blistering live version from a French television show in 1972:  


Another classic of theirs is "Jumpin' in the Night", the title track from their 1979 LP, inexplicably never released as a single or pushed to radio even though they were on a major label at the time. How this was not a major hit song is a great mystery:

The Flamin' Groovies went through many personnel changes through the years, broke up and reunited only to break up again. Various members went on to do great stuff with other bands, but the magic of The Flamin' Groovies has endured. Much like their 1970's Southern cohorts Big Star, the band is far more revered today than they were at the time.

Cyril Jordan and the current incarnation of the Flamin' Groovies played a few shows this year, in San Francisco and in Australia for the Hoodoo Gurus' Dig It Up festival.  

The band has done some recording and is slated to release a new CD in 2014, it's first since 1993.

Flamin' Groovies Facebook page

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Northern Portrait - Ta!

Assume you have a pop fan on your list that you haven't covered yet, despite the fact that it is already Christmas Day.  I'm thinking of someone who will appreciate high quality pop that is a bit out of the mainstream.  Despite your tardiness, you can quickly rescue your reputation with Ta!, a collection of tracks not previously released on albums by Denmark's Northern Portrait.  Selected from singles and EPs from the last six years, the album reveals the band to be one of Scandinavia's premier pop outfits.  The songwriting, vocals and performances all reflect wit and craftsmanship.  Sample the album with "The Fallen Aristocracy".  You also can listen to a four song sampler below.  I think there is a good chance you will conclude that the pop fan who merits this last minute present is you.

Northern Portrait is based in Copenhagen.  The members of the band are Michael Sorensen, Stefan Larsen, and Rune Reholt.  Their style of jangling instrumentation and strong, soulful vocals reminds me of The Housemartins, although they draw comparisons to The Smiths as well, largely due to the vocals.

This is Matinee Recordings' second release for Northern Portrait this year, following the EP Pretty Decent Swimmers (our review here).

Matinee Recordings page for album

The greatest Christmas Day song of all time

My favorite Christmas song, "Jesus Christ" by Big Star: 

And the very fine cover by R.E.M., with Mike Mills on lead vocals:

Merry Christmas to our WYMA readers. We wish you and your families all the best.

Monday, December 23, 2013

An early Christmas gift from Reverberation Radio

If it's Wednesday...wait it's not Wednesday, but the folks at Reverberation Radio have released another edition  of musical eclectica two days earlier than usual.  Take a break from Bing, Perry and Burl and put on your twisted Santa hat.  Click on the artists name if you want on know more about them.

1. Johnny Largo At The Optigon - I’ll Be Home For Christmas
2. Reuben Anderson - Christmas Time Again
3. Huey “Piano” Smith & His Clowns - Almost Time For Santa Claus
4. Jr. and His Soulettes - Rock & Roll Santa
5. The Crusaders - Little Drummer Boy
6. The Ventures - Blue Christmas
7. The Tremeloes- Suddenly Winter
8. Billy Nicholls - Winter Rose
10. The Flirtations - Christmas Time Is Here Again
11. The Poets - Merry Christmas Baby
13. Parkas - Snowplow
15. Brook BentonYou’re All I Want For Christmas
16. Eddie “Tex” Curtis - Sleighbells In The Moonlight
17. Bob Lind - White Snow
18. Captain Elmo McKenzie & The Roosters - Home On Christmas Day

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Nuggets - Johnny Thunder "I'm Alive"

Johnny Thunder, from Florida, later lived in New York (not to be confused with punk legend Johnny Thunders), and was a touring member of The Drifters and Ink Spots. While thought of as an R&B or blues singer, he put out a great single in 1969 written by Tommy James that is a perfect combo of '60's garage rock and soul music.

Here it is, "I'm Alive":

I discovered the song only this week when I saw this mind-blowing video of stunt snow skiing in downtown Detroit. These guys out jackass Jackass! The whole video is amazingly well done. The soundtrack, including the Johnny Thunder song "I'm Alive" (kicks in at the 7:52 mark), is only part of its brilliance.

 Johnny Thunder still performs today at age 80, mainly on luxury cruise ships.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Trick Mammoth releases Floristry

If Floristry was released in 2013, I would gush about it being one of the best debut LPs of the year, and a clear top 20, for me.  Instead, I'll warn you that I will be providing a full review in mid-January in advance of its official January 31 release date.  So why write about it at all now?  Because Trick Mammoth is yielding to the demands of an eager fan base, and providing an advance digital release to coincide with their show on December 20.  Thus, the album now is available on the band's Bandcamp page.

Dunedin, New Zealand's Trick Mammoth are Adrian Ng (guitars, vocals, bass), Millie Lovelock (vocals, guitar, bass), and Sam Valentine (drums, bass).  Their sweet spot is jangling guitar pop and dreamy noise pop.  This fall the band released two of the album tracks, "Delphine (With A Purpose)" and "Pinker Sea", which understandably piqued interest in the album.  We posted them a few months ago (link), so we will highlight a few other tracks here.  "Baltimore" was among the early demos from the band (along with album tracks "Pinker Sea" and Vesper II), and it sold me on the trio's talent --

But it is with some of the more recent songs that I think Trick Mammoth reveals their, well, mammoth potential (some puns almost write themselves).  Two that have become stuck in my head for weeks are "Days Of Being Wild" and "Cold Dalmatian".  The first has a great melody, fast tempo and wonderful shared vocals by Adrian and Millie--

"Cold Dalmatian" is sweet melancholy and completely captivating.

And yes, if you are a regular reader of these pages, you've read these names before.  Millie also is in Astro Children and Sam in in Males.  Adrian also has a project called Mavis Gary, which we will discuss soon.  Clearly, the talent pool is deep in Dunedin.

Floristry is released by Fishrider Records.  In the UK, it will be released by Fishrider in conjunction with Occultation Recordings.

Fishrider Records

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

REVIEW: Talulah Gosh - Was It Just A Dream?

I sometimes tend to save posts about compilations for the holidays.  It isn't really about the price, although sometimes that is a factor.  It is that to my mind there is something festive about a collection of notable works by a favorite artist.  So that brings us to Was It Just A Dream?, the complete collection of songs by Oxford, UK band Talulah Gosh.  And by "complete" I mean all the tracks from every EP, every single, all of the radio sessions and even the demos.  Yes, indeed!  There are 29 tracks and it would have to satisfy any TG fan on your shopping list, because there isn't anything more

Talulah Gosh is about as representative of the twee pop and C86 sub-genre of indie pop as a band can be.  Proudly DIY, the band's music was characterized by a rush of sweet, girl group vocals and jangling guitars with a fast tempo and punk rhythm section.  The band was formed in '86, apparently when Amelia Fletcher (vocals and guitar) and Elizabeth Price (vocals) met and discovered a mutual affection for Scots pop band The Pastels (coincidentally, the band's first recording contract was with Stephen Pastel's 53 & 3rd label).  The remainder of the original line up was Mathew Fletcher (drums), Peter Momtchiloff (lead guitar), and Rob Pursey (bass).  When Rob left the band, he was replaced by Chris Scott.  Elizabeth departed in '87 and was replaced by Eithne Farry.  The band split up in '88, but Amelia, Mathew, Peter and Rob reformed as Heavenly, which ran until '96 playing a similar, but tighter and more disciplined approach.

The band's sound and decidedly non-pop star approach to dress inspired both devotion and hostility.  Curiously, they were more broadly accepted in the US, and were considered a major influence on the punk and Riot Grrrl scene spawned in Olympia and championed by Calvin Johnson's K Records.  After spending a good bit of time with this compilation, I have concluded that Talulah Gosh's work bears up very well to the test of time.  While old fans will rejoice at having new material in one place, new fans will realize that the music would plug in very well in certain corners of the current indie scene.

An interesting part of the Talulah Gosh story is the members' post music careers.  Elizabeth Price won a Turner Prize in 2012 for her film "The Woolworth's Choir of 1979".  Amelia Fletcher has served a chief economist and director of mergers at the Office of Fair Trading. Peter Momtchiloff is a senior editor for philosophy at Oxford University Press.  And Eithne Farry is a literary critic.

The retrospective Was It Just A Dream? is available via Damaged Goods Records.

Damaged Goods Records

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

REVIEW: The Verlaines - "Hallelujah - All the Way Home" and "Juvenilia"

One might be tempted to assume that a band named after the 19th century French poet Paul Verlaine and playing literate pop songs is going to be a bit precious.  In the case of New Zealand's The Verlaines, the temptation should be avoided.  The truth of The Verlaines is that few bands have as adroitly combined a palpable cool with fury, grit, debauchery and romance.  Formed in 1981 in Dunedin by student Graeme Downes (who now chairs the music department at the University of Otago), the band released several singles and an EP over the next few years.  Their first full length album was Hallelujah - All the Way Home, released in 1985 on Flying Nun Records.  In 1987, before the release of their next official full length, Flying Nun released Juvenilia, which compiled the band's early singles and EPs.

Overall, The Verlaines have released nine albums and numerous singles, and Downes and the current members still play and record.  In fact, the original line-up from Halleluhah - All the Way Home days performed in Auckland last week at the 'Jangle All The Way Home' show, and Downes and the current members played at the event as well.

Flying Nun has re-released both Hallelujah - All The Way Home and Juvenilia this month, completely remastered and with bonus artwork.  In addition, Juvenilia comes with a 10 page booklet and additional memorabilia.  The CD version of Juvenilia also includes select tracks from releases before the debut album. In this writer's opinion, the results are among the more worthwhile re-releases of the year.  And if they were new albums, they would be in the the top echelon of my year end list.  American fans should note that Brooklyn label Captured Tracks has entered into a partnership with Flying Nun to release the New Zealand label's back catalog, so the order links below are to the Captured Tracks site.


The line-up for Hallelujah - All The Way Home was Downes (guitar), Jane Dodd (bass) and Robbie Yeats (drums).  The eight tracks presented rollicking rock songs, down tempo folk rock and pub sing-a-longs.  Perhaps subversively, Downes used classical music forms and, without any fanfare, French horn, clarinet, recorder and cello.  I read somewhere that the album had been composed for a music class, and that Downes received an A.  I hope the story is true, because it is a great story, and he deserved the grade.  The seamless combination of '80s jangling guitar and Renaissance-era folk gives the album a timeless aura and exotic texture that would make it remarkable even if the tunes weren't so good.  Yes, it is brooding, judgmental and sometimes bitter.  But the undercurrent us that you can always have another pint or three and do it all again tomorrow.  The ambition was remarkable for a debut album; the execution was a triumph.

Here are three of my favorites --


The CD version of Juvenilia is a beefier, if more eclectic, offering as compared to Hallelujah, featuring 15 tracks.  And the diversity is its signature appeal as it showcases the variety of Downes' songwriting, and the band's versatility in convincingly carving out memorable love songs and moody ramblers.  It contains very good songs in its own right, but it also provides the listener with an understanding of the journey Downes made as a songwriter from '81 to '85, as he worked on his craft and tried out various band combinations until he settled on Dodd and Yeats for Hallelujah.  Juvenilia has been out of print since 1987, so this re-release is a welcome treat for new and old fans.

Some consider "Death And The Maiden" to be the quintessential song from The Verlaines' catalog.

Warning, this may cause (awkward) dancing -

Pre-order link for Hallelujah All the Way Home
Pre-order link for Juvenilia
Captured Tracks on Facebook
Flying Nun Records
Flying Nun Records on Facebook

REVIEW: Joel R.L. Phelps & the Downer Trio -- Gala

To the extent Joel R.L. Phelps remains most famous as one of the three original creative forces of Missoula indie icons Silkworm, that's a shame. It's been nearly 20 years since he split from the band after the release of their brilliant third album, Libertine (and before their masterpiece, Firewater), and teamed up with bassist Robert Mercer and drummer William Herzog to form the Downer Trio. Over the next 7 or 8 years, Phelps and his mates would release three very-good-to-excellent albums and a covers EP featuring songs by the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Iris Dement. In 2004, they put out a near-masterpiece of their own -- Customs would make my top 20 records of the decade if I ever committed such a list to paper. Phelps was at the top of his game, and then he went quiet.

So, in a year overflowing with excellent music, the most pleasant surprise for me was the October release of Phelps/The Downer Trio's first record in nine years -- the oddly named Gala. And the surprise is not so much the release itself, but the fact that this collection of haunting, searing songs is Phelps's finest effort -- easily one of the best releases of the year. True to his style, there's nothing gala at all about this album. The happiest sound on the record is the almost ska-tinged bass intro of the first song, "Nashville Sound". Phelps comes in with a yearning vocal, followed by the crash-twang of as beautiful a guitar chord as you'll ever hear. The themes that resonate through the album are introduced here -- searching for redemption; coping with loss -- in lines like "I want the grace to put my bottle down" and "I want a way to soothe my black desire." I played this song for a buddy at work who had never heard of Phelps, Silkworm, whatever, and by the break after the second verse he had dialed up itunes and bought the whole album. Check it out for yourself.

Gala moves effortlessly between fuzzed out rock songs and brooding acoustic pieces, incorporating tastefully restrained keyboards on several tracks. You can hear the influences in Phelps's guitar work -- Neil Young being the most obvious, but maybe with some Steve Earle and Jason Molina in there as well. What really sets this work apart, though, is Phelps's voice, and in this as much as anything else, the years have been good to him. His ability to convey emotion at both intensely quiet and intensely unhinged levels -- sometimes in the same damned song -- is better than ever. Here's one of the excellent acoustic tracks, "Wind at Her Face."

The album is out in the US on 12XU Records, in Canada on Triple Crown Audio Recordings, and in the UK/Europe on Damnably.  You can still stream it on Exclaim.  And while we're on the subject, you really ought to check out the 2004 record, and here's one of roughly a dozen reasons why:


The latest from Emotional

We've happily featured the music of Brian Wakefield's Emotional project several times here.  Brian, who also is a member of San Francisco band Melted Toys, creates fuzzed out, warped but melodic soundscapes.  His latest effort is the ten-track Demons, and it is available on cassette form Fred Thomas' Life Like Tapes.  A five track digital download is available at the Bandcamp link below.

Here is a video trailer for the cassette release:

To my mind, the magic here is that Brian can approach a song from an unexpected angle, and infuse it with emotion and vibrancy.  Try tracks "Better" and "Is This Falling Apart" --

Life Like Tape page for cassette

Monday, December 16, 2013

Free song from Cassorla

Cassorla is Ben Cassorla, in-demand guitarist for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Slick Rick and others.  But for his Amigos EP it will be Ben and his friends, including actress Aubrey Plaza, Eric Earley from Blitzen Trapper, Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, Crash from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Krystle Warren, Henry Wolfe, and Elizaveta.  The EP is scheduled for early February release, but the track "Bona Fide" is available for free download.  I haven't heard the rest of the EP yet, but this track is great pop music.  Enjoy!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

REVIEW: Fuzz - Fuzz

What is a year in music without several Ty Segall projects with different vibes?  Well, an unusual year, to be sure.  And a bit emptier as well.   This fall California's most prolific garage rocker joined up with long time friends Charlie Moothart and Roland Cosio to explore their heavy rock side as Fuzz.  Unexpectedly, Segall moves to the drum kit, Moothart plays guitar and Cosio provides the bass.  Ty and Charlie both contribute vocals.  The fruits of their labor are the eight tracks comprising Fuzz.  The mood is heavy and the sound is heavy.  The trio has fused heavy rock, metal, progressive rock and a bit of blues rock into a sonic assault that I find both intriguing and cathartic.  A great introduction is "Loose Sutures".

Yes, a bit of Black Sabbath, perhaps some Blue Cheer and some hints of early Steamhammer

Fuzz is scuzzy, fuzzy, psychedelic and full of sonic power.  There is a nod to punk in the vocals, but otherwise this album unspools as the next logical step of '60s and '70s heavy rock.  Ty Segall fans should like it because it is another interesting chapter in Ty's musical journey.  Heavy rock fans should like it for the simple reason that it is good heavy rock of a type not often produced these days.  Get some Fuzz, kids - make your holidays   loud.

Fuzz is out now via In The Red Record.

In The Red Records
Ty Segall's website

Friday, December 13, 2013

No Monster Club - Foie Gras

Foie Gras, the new EP from Dublin's No Monster Club is fun, melodic, energetic and, quite often, satisfyingly noisy. Picking a genre presents some challenges, however.  It is pop that varies in approach from punk to sing-alongs.  But in all cases the songs are entertaining and well written, and given our modern ability to insert streams of album tracks, genre isn't real relevant.  It should suffice to say that this is indie pop that you will be happy to listen to.

Here is one of my favorites, the album closer "Those Little Bastards" --

No Monster Club is Bobby Aherne, Mark Chester, Paddy Hanna and Shane Murphy.  Foie Gras includes some new songs and a few singles they've released in the past year.

The album is available as a digital download or a cassette. See the Bandcamp link below and to stream the entire album.


Friday Nuggets - Pere Ubu "Non-Alignment Pact"

Pere Ubu, a recent photo above, have been doing their wonderfully unique and challenging thing since 1975 when they roared out from deep within the Cleveland underground with some of the most thoughtful, art damaged music the rock world had ever seen. Their outrageous and brilliant frontman David Thomas was as much a poet, performance artist and provocateur as singer. And against all odds, Pere Ubu, which is really Thomas and a rotating cast of always top flight avant garde rock musicians, are still doing their thing. In fact, as I write this I am preparing to go see Pere Ubu tonight in Portland right before this blog piece appears.  

This being a Nuggets feature, we will give you one from the very early days. While certainly not "garage rock" in the narrow sense of the word, Pere Ubu certainly was influenced by Captain Beefheart, The MC5, Lou Reed and plenty of stuff that loosely falls under the banner we salute every Friday here. Thomas once, as somewhat of a joke, referred to Pere Ubu as "avant-garage", and the term stuck.  

One of my all-time favorites of theirs is "Non-Alignment Pact" from their brilliant 1978 debut record The Modern Dance. What a chorus!  And the Tony Maimone bass lines are absolutely killer.  

Okay that sounds so good, you get one more, their very fist single "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" released in 1975. Trust me, nothing sounded like this in 1975, but you certainly heard it in Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Gang of Four and the wave of great avant rock that followed Pere Ubu:

If you wonder what Pere Ubu are up to today, Matthew Singer wrote this very fine piece in a Portland weekly this week previewing their show (link here).  Pere Ubu recently released its 15th studio LP The Lady From Shanghai.

Pere Ubu Facebook page

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Out of the Way" by The Good Sports

Nash, Jake, Andre, Liam and Lily are Brisbane's The Good Sports.  And good sports that they are, they have made some very attractively-priced songs available on their Bandcamp page.  Sample them with the British invasion-style garage nugget "Out of the Way", and then, if 'name your price' is in your budget, click on the Bandcamp link and enjoy the tunes.  And you could be a good sport and actually pay them something to reward their generosity.


FKA Twigs - EP2

EP2 is, as the title suggests, the second EP from intriguing UK talent FKA Twigs.  Both EPs were released on The Young Turks label.  EP2 consists for four tracks, the first three of which - "How's That", Papi Pacify" and "Water Me" - are presented below.  Since the visual presentation of FKA Twigs' songs is an important part of her art, we have used the video versions.  Musically, she has been compared to XX and downbeat masters Massive Attack.  The twenty-five year old moved from the country to London to pursue music and dance.  She originally performed under the name Twigs, but added FKA at the request of another artist already using that name.

We are advised that FKA Twigs is working on an album.  Watch the videos below and see if you agree that this artist is one to watch in the coming year.

The Young Turks

Video: Nick Jaina, "Don't Come To Me" (from the CD Primary Perception)

This video came to my attention this week via the Portland ballet circles that my daughter travels in. But you say - ballet?! - hold on man, we come to WYMA for the rock.

But we have eclectic tastes here at WYMA and cover a great deal of fantastic indie pop and singer-songwriter fare like Nick Jaina from Portland. Jaina's sixth and most recent CD Primary Perception is excellent.

In thinking about a video for one of the standout tracks from Primary Perception, "Don't Come To Me," Jaina got interested in the idea of incorporating dance and movement, a medium with which he has worked before.  So he enlisted the help of one of Portland's best dancers, Candace Bouchard, from the Oregon Ballet Theater, who has choreographed various dance performances in rock music clubs set to live rock music. The entire story behind the video is well worth reading here.

I like everything about this.

Read more about Jaina and purchase Primary Perception for just $6.74 at the web site of his fine Portland based record company, Fluff and Gravy Records.

Artist page: nickjaina.com
Twitter: @NickJaina
Nick Jaina Facebook page

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

REVIEW: Lower Plenty - Hard Rubbish

Lower Plenty is a four-piece with a criminally low international profile, named after a Melbourne suburb in which none of members of the group reside.  Their debut LP, Hard Rubbish, was released in Australia in 2012 on Special Award Records, and at least one publication in Australia voted it album of the year.  Hard Rubbish received its worldwide release in 2013 when it was picked up by Fire Records and made available in April.  The album presents unique songs that are raw, melancholy, and sparsely arranged.  The result is an atmosphere that is dense, compelling, and hits harder than one would expect given the restrained instrumentation.  But full context to the atmosphere is left to the listener, because the sorrow, disappointment and desperation is hazily outlined and whispered over a short running time.  And somehow the songs manage to be more intimate as a result.  It is as if they fulfill the promise of the album title and cover art by leaving bleak, emotional debris in a desolate space for someone else to deal with.  Or to choose not to deal with.

And despite all of that, Hard Rubbish is melodic and full of moments of beauty.  "Strange Beast" is a haunting Lee Hazelwood-style tune with the reminder that loneliness is the biggest killer of all, but I've been obsessed with the beauty of the track since I first heard it.  Similarly, "Nullarbor" is another memorable track despite its downbeat themes of leaving, loss and letting go.  There are a few harsher tracks, such as "Dirty Flowers" and "Girls They Stick Together", and a few tracks that at least hint at sunlight.  For the most part, however, this is music for late nights quiet time or morning regrets.  The songwriting is top class, with deft lyrical touches such as "I was far enough away just to hear myself say goodbye" ("Close Enough"), "did you have to take all the love and leave the rest to no one" ("Grass").

The band is comprised of Daniel Twomey, Jensen Tjhung, Sarah Heyward and Al Monfort.  Their other bands include Deaf Wish, UV Race, Total Control, The Focus, and Dick Diver, many of which are far noisier than this project.  But for Hard Rubbish the quartet display a sure hand in dealing with quieter songs.  The set up is two guitars, drums and mechanical percussion with all four members taking turns singing.  The usually one-take recording often occurred around a kitchen table.  Given the band's location and its relaxed performing vibe, their self-applied label of "suburban country" seems apt.

I highly recommend this album for a place in your collection.

Label page for Hard Rubbish
Fire Records

Update: Radkey, new video "Stop Freaking Out"

Back in October we reviewed Devil Fruit, the new EP by Radkey, the astonishingly great young power trio from St. Josephs MO (review here).

One of the songs we praised there, "Start Freaking Out", had no audio or video we could link to at that time. But, good things come to those who wait and so here we have the new official video for "Start Freaking Out", which shows the band in its live glory.

As their Twitter page proclaims: "Three brothers on a quest to help save the world from false rock." We here at WYMA strongly support this noble quest!

They have some shows coming up very soon with Red Fang, and one with Ty Segall in March:

Radkey with Drop a Grand and Stiff Middle Fingers at Recordbar

Red Fang with Cancer Bats, Shrine, and Radkey at The Shelter

Red Fang with Cancer Bats, Shrine, and Radkey at Logan Square Auditorium

Red Fang with Shrine and Radkey at Triple Rock Social Club

Red Fang with Shrine and Radkey at Black Sheep

Ty Segall and Dum Dum Girls with Astronautalis, Blouse, and 8 more… at Club Dada

Radkey Facebook page 

Twitter: @Radkey

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Sing / Hum" from Surf Bored

We introduced our readers to Surf Bored in mid-October (here) when the band released free track "The Urge".  Phase two of the four-piece's plan to conquer the pop music world has commenced with the release of another "name your price" track, "Sing / Hum".  The combination of sunny surf pop and soulful southern-accented vocals is a winning one.  The band plans a 2014 album release via This Is American Music, but for now you can enjoy "Sing / Hum" and "The Urge".

Surf Bored members are Jack Blauvelt (drums, omniharp and harmonica; from Dana Swimmer), John Riccetelli (lead guitar; from Dana Swimmer), Danny Hurley (backing vocals), and T.J. Mimbs (rhythm guitar and omniharp; from The District Attorneys).  All four members provide vocals.

To save you the trouble of looking for it, here is the October release.

This Is American Music

Introducing: Chorusgirl

London's Chorusgirl is Silvi, Caroline and Udo, and they play guitar pop with satisfying doses of jangle and grumble.  While there likely is more that one could know about them, there is nothing more that I know about them, so I'll just suggest you enjoy the two songs they have posted on Soundcloud.


Monday, December 9, 2013

REVIEW: The Stevens - A History of Hygiene

The Stevens are a band that quite clearly deserve to be covered on this blog.  Why?  Of course I think they make good music, so that is reason number one.  But a more specific reason is found in the type of music this Melbourne outfit plays.  This blog takes its name from the work of Ohio band Guided By Voices.  And the album I've heard this year that sounds the most like a classic Guided By Voices album without being an album by Guided By Voices (or one of Pollard's other projects) is A History of Hygiene.  The album is a treasure trove of lo-fi guitar pop, often with quirky titles.  Of the generous offering of 24 tracks, only four of them run past 2:30 in length and only one breaks the three minute barrier.  And for my money, some of the best are less than two minute - melodic, hooky and leaving you yearning for more.

The Stevens were founded by guitarists/songwriters Travis MacDonald and Alex Macfarlane.  The band now includes bassist Gus Lord (who also is in Boomgates) and drummer Matt Harkin.  They have a previous EP to their credit, which sufficiently impressed Guy Blackman of Chapter Music that he snapped them up for his label.  For this, their debut, the band seems to be following a very deliberate and specific path.  Their influences, which in addition to GBV probably include New Zealand guitar pop, some Brit Pop, and American '90s bands such as Pavement, are channeled into songs that are only lightly polished, and end just as the taste begins to become intense.  Most of them were recorded by Mikey Young in a single take and seem propelled by a certain anxiety (which also is reflected in some of the song titles).  But neither brevity nor one-take rough edges prevent the songs from leaving a lasting impression.  I think the staying power is due to interesting, if cryptic, lyrics, excellent and varied guitar tones, and a strong sense of melody.  And the band seems quite tight in their performance, so perhaps they simply need fewer takes than some others.

I've given you a sampler of songs below, but I encourage you to visit the Bandcamp link below if you like the tracks here, and try the whole thing.   This album hit quietly, but at some point the noise will give a wide audience.  You might as well get on the wave early.

The GBV strain is strong in this one --

The title of the album comes from the opening line of this song.

"Hindsight" was previously released as a single --

The History of Hygiene is out now on Chapter Music.  It is available in CD or LP formats from the label, or digital download at the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for album
Chapter Music

"Secondary City" by The New Tigers

Finland's The New Tigers were on these pages in September when we reviewed their great new LP, The Badger (see here).  They are back with a new video for album track "Secondary City".  The fine track is played under scenes of the band's hometown of Turku and film shot when they were visiting London last year.  If you don't have The Badger yet, this video should serve as your reminder.

The New Tigers - Secondary City from Appu Jasu on Vimeo.

Soliti Music

The Bennetts - Dreamkeeper

Ahhhh - the fuzzy, jangling guitars get me every time.  The delivery in this case is via The Bennetts, a four-piece from Athens, Greece, consisting of Fotis (vocals and guitar), Thanasis (guitar), Don Mondie (bass) and Akis (drums).  The ace explorers for all things indie pop at Seattle's Jigsaw Records have signed the band up for a seven-track release titled Dreamkeeper.

The arrangements stand as a testament to the theory that often the simple is most effective.  Fotis' vocals have a distinctive natural ache that infuses the songs with poignancy.  I have provided four of my favorites below (I had intended to limit myself to three, but couldn't decide which one to cut).  If you only have time for two, I recommend "Monday" and "Naples", which are classic guitar pop gems.  If  you want more than four, stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.  Dreamkeeper is a very nice album on its own, and is a strong opening statement for a band that should have a lot to offer in the future.

The album is available as a digital download for $5.  The CD plus a download code is $6, and a cassette plus download is $5.  See the links below.

Jigsaw link for physical copy
Bandcamp for digital copy
The Bennetts' Soundcloud

Saturday, December 7, 2013

REVIEW: The Spook School - Dress Up

Some maintain that The Spook School are a C86 indie band masquerading as a punk band.  Other observers assert that the Edinburgh quartet is a punk band playing C86 guitar pop.  Clearly, a professional opinion is required to resolve the matter.  The answer, dear readers, is "yes".  Twee punk or punky twee?  Does it really matter?

I am too lazy to count how many times this band has appeared on these pages, but suffice it to say that the number is large enough to evidence either a personal fondness for their music or that the pictures from college that I had been assured were destroyed have instead fallen into devious hands in Scotland. I maintain that the simple truth is that these kids pack an incredible amount of energy, humor and melody into fast-paced two and three minute pop songs.  The bass bounces with authority, the guitars buzz, clang and jangle, and Niall spanks the drums like an angry headmaster.   And their ability to address serious social issues without weighting down the tunes suggests a more mature hand at songwriting than one might have expected at this stage of their career.  And speaking of writing, one might peruse the band's website to read the collection of offbeat and occasionally outrageous love letters Niall has written to other bands.

The multifaceted approach encompasses punk, twee, grumbling indie rock and a touch of folk rock.  It is like a semi-unholy merger of The Flatmates, Buzzcocks and Beat Happening.  Picking songs to give you a taste is enjoyable and easy, because I think they are all good.  But here are four that should convince you to go to Bandcamp and stream the album.

The Spook School is Nye Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory, and Niall McCamley.  Dress Up is out now via FortunaPOP on vinyl, compact disc or digital download.  See the Bandcamp link below for details. You probably can find it on iTunes and other digital outlets as well.

And if the pictures I mentioned in the second paragraph, which never existed by the way, are published on the web, I assure you that any resemblance to me is photoshopped.


Friday, December 6, 2013

New songs from Augustines, new album in February

First there was Pela.  I liked those guys a lot, but they disbanded.  Then Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson from Pela became We Are Augustines, and released a very nice album in 2011.  Sometime along the path Rob Allen joined with Billy and Eric, and at some point the band became Augustines.  And we care because these guys are talented and passionate.  A new album is planned for 2014, and we have a few tracks as an appetizer.  "Nothing to Lose But Your Head has the classic Pela/Augustines sound -- emotional, heartfelt and dramatic.  "Cruel City" is more rhythm-heavy, and has a bit of a world beat feel.  I think both tracks are very good and we're looking forward to the full meal.


The Wolfhounds - Divide and Fall

A band often mentioned as a C86 mainstay by reason of their inclusion in the original compilation, but really a noisier, harder edged band, The Wolfhounds are making a welcome return.  Here is a taste of their new work, the two-track Divide and Fall released via Odd Box Records.  We are looking forward to more.

The current members are David Callahan (vocals and guitar), Andy Golding (guitar) and Pete Wilkins (drums and percussion).

Odd Box Records

Friday Nuggets - The Dirtbombs, "Ever Lovin' Man"

Garage rock is neither a lost nor stagnant art. Nor is Detroit a lost or "bankrupt" city.

So our thoughts this week bring us back to our beloved hometown of Detroit. And few bands carry the torch for garage rock better than The Dirtbombs, formed by Detroit garage punk legend Mick Collins (The Gories) in 1996. Following a Noah's Ark philosophy that if you want to survive and thrive, two is the way to go, The Dirtbombs are a rotating ensemble known to feature two drummers and two bass players.

Collins had this to say about the label "garage rock": "A real garage band is like a 1960s punk band heavily influenced by R&B. These bands nowadays calling themselves garage bands are not. They don’t have it. They have vintage gear. They copied a bunch of Humble Pie riffs, and that’s the extent of it. That isn’t garage.” 

This on the other hand, is garage:


The Dirtbombs Facebook page
Twitter - @Dirtbombsband

Thursday, December 5, 2013

REVIEW: Bitch Prefect - Bird Nerds

Bird Nerds is the sound of life unfolding.  For most people, sometimes you're happy, sometimes you're sad.  And while I expect that is true of the lads in Bitch Prefect, a number of the songs of Bird Nerds make certain that you hear the negative.  You lose the girl you want as a friend because she wants a boyfriend ("It's A Shame").  You leave your home town, but nostalgia is crowded out by feelings that the departure was in certain respects overdue ("Adelaide").  An asshole know-it-all dominates the discussion in the university classroom ("University Friend").  You want some wine and are desperate enough to ask your grandmother, and star-crossed enough that she refuses.  Plan B is to make money at the horse races, but the nags treat you no better than grandma, although they promise to do better next time ("Better Next Time").  There are some slacker guitar pop furnishings and a few songs pace the sunny side of the street, but the core of this album is damn-it-life-has-been-kicking-me-in-the-teeth-and-dishing-me-lemons.  So, you ask, does it work?  And if so, why?   First things first:  In my opinion it most certainly does work, and it works very well.

As for the "why", it comes down to a few simple points for me.  First, while much of the perspective focuses on specific disappointments, there isn't any plea for sympathy or begging for mercy.  Liam Kenny, Pat Telfer and Scott O'Hara are just telling it as it is.  Second, the songwriting is both mature and clever.  The melodies and musicianship are very good, albeit in a shambling garage rock groove.  The songs relate the stories in an entertaining manner, and the trio has the critical knack for creating an atmosphere with their arrangements that match the emotions in the lyrics (compare "Shipped It" with the other two songs below).  Finally, Bitch Prefect  takes themes of disappointment and disaffection and manages to convey them in their own guitar pop style, without resorting to a traditional disaffected youth punk template.  So its punk themes, but with a an indie guitar pop approach.  Of course, a few other bands have done it before.  But when a band invokes comparisons to the Modern Lovers and Beat Happening, they are doing it right.

Bird Nerds is available in vinyl and CD formats via Bedroom Suck Records.

Bedroom Suck Records