Tropical Temperate Zone

October 24, 2014 at 10:44 am | Posted in Music, Seattle, Shows, Reggae, Tropical Pop | Leave a comment
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Hollie Cook at the Nectar Lounge, Seattle | 21 October 2014

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I wasn’t sure what to expect seeing Hollie Cook at the Nectar Lounge earlier this week. Would anyone show up considering none of Cook’s albums have been released in the US? I shouldn’t have worried, people turned out for the show, obviously aware how good her records are, especially her newest one Twice which is string drenched tropical bliss. The basic sound is reggae, but with the help of collaborator Prince Fatty her records transcend that genre’s narrow confines. Cook’s father Paul plays drums for Edwyn Collins and Vic Godard, he also played in a punk rock band back in the 70’s. Her mom sang in Culture Club for a while and Hollie herself did a brief spell in the reformed Slits. Even though she comes from a performing family, Cook has a shy onstage demeanor that she occasionally bursts out of with infectious smiles, sincere dialog and serene dance moves.

The strings that are so prevalent on Twice were missed on some of the songs, but it was understandable since touring with a string section is economically unrealistic. Cook more than made up for any of the missing studio flourishes. Her band was all top shelf and Cook’s sweet voice glided gently over everything with ease. She played all the best stuff from her two albums, opening the set with Ari Up, her ode to the Slit’s front woman. She also did a cover of the Slit’s Newtown, emphasizing how influential this seminal band is to her. Shadow Kissing and 99 were the clear highlights for me. The only one I wished she would have played was Desdemona, but it was likely left out because it features a significant string section.

I don’t go to many reggae shows, so it was refreshing to see and experience the positive vibrations. There was much dancing, bands interacting with the audience, lots of smiles and general cheerfulness and of course ganja. Near the end of the set a fellow lit up a spliff and brought it up to Cook, who graciously accepted it and hung onto it while she sang. For most of the evening it felt so un-Seattle, almost tropical.

Crimson Wave

October 19, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Posted in 7-inches, indiepop, Music, Singles | Leave a comment
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crimsonwave

It seems as though Baltimore has had a minor outbreak of excellent indiepop bands. You might remember the recent singles from Wildhoney and the EP from Expert Alterations? Get ready to add another band to the contagion. Crimson Wave have just released their debut 7-inch single on Accidental Guest records. The A-side Say has a detached melancholy that rides over you the way Scrawl did on records like Velvet Hammer and Smallmouth and an infectious quality in the vein of Bleached. On the flip side Calling You the guitar playing has a pace and sense of space that also brings to mind more languorous side of Felt. For a first single, this is subtle,accomplished and compelling stuff!

stream & buy: Crimson Wave – Say 7″

In the Pink

October 15, 2014 at 10:29 am | Posted in Albums, Jangle, Music | Leave a comment
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seapinks

Northern Ireland doesn’t have a west coast, so I can only imagine that Sea Pinks are left to conjure sunny wide open California scenes through their music. Top Pink, Neil Brogan was originally the drummer in Girls Names but left that band to concentrate on his band Sea Pinks. For good reason, as he seems to have an endless supply of lush, jangle filled songs in his head. Sea Pinks’ music has an affinity with the US west coast due to Brogan’s smooth tenor which evokes the lugubriousness of the Beach Boys, combined with the guitars cracking with the dusty jangle of the Byrds.

Brogan’s boyish tenor could make him an honorary Beach Boy. It’s smooth and easy on the ears, lending a sense of melancholy to these otherwise upbeat songs. The new album Dream Tracks, their fourth, is not drastically different from the previous three, but in little ways you can tell that Brogan is stretching out as a songwriter and open to incorporating a more varied pallet of sounds onto his records. The inclusion of cello on songs like Dream Happening and Invisible Lines provides more depth to the sound, while Meat and Drink employs a undulating Stereolab-like bass which adds something new to the jangly Sea Pinks cannon. These additional embellishments mesh easily with Brogans top songwriting talent to produce what may be the best Sea Pinks album yet.

stream and purchase: Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks

The Inaugural Monthly Top Ten List

October 6, 2014 at 7:39 am | Posted in Lists, Music, Top 10 | Leave a comment
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You may have noticed that I’ve been struggling to keep up around here: fewer and fewer posts, overflowing in box, long beard and unclipped nails. In an effort to get back on track and clean myself up I’m going to try and start doing a top ten list for each month of things that I’ve neglected to post about in the past month. Well, I’m already behind seeing as it’s October and I’m doing a top ten for September. Before it gets any later, here are ten things from the last month that merit some recognition.

1. The Aislers Set at Neumos

Aislers Set at Neumo's, Seattle

The Aislers Set breifly reunited for the Chickfactor 20th anniversary shows back in 2012. I saw that show and it was good, but seeing them a couple weeks ago in Seattle was even better. This was a brief West coast tour celebrating the reissue of all three of their LP’s from the 90’s (Slumberland & Suicide Squeeze). Linton and company were in top form this night performing their glistening pop that never got old.

2. The Intelligence at Lo-Fi

The Intelligence at the Lo-Fi, Seattle
Sadly the Intelligence are no longer based in Seattle, so the opportunities to see them live have greatly decreased since Lars Finberg’s migration to L.A. Other things have changed as well, This is not your kid brother’s Intelligence. Although this was a release party for reissue of their first LP Boredom and Terror (In the Red), they played a bunch of new songs that featured a powerful rhythm section and meaty jam sections to them. A far cry from the bedroom tape hiss of that first record. No, they haven’t turned into Phish, but they’ve evolved into something even more formidable than before. Can’t wait to hear the new album!

3. Fresh Hop Beer

hops
It’s harvest time and up here in the pacific NW, and that means hops. Fresh hop beer is made with hops just picked off the vine and when it’s done right, it’s a fruity mouthful of flavorful beer. You have to be quick though, because it’s made in limited quantities and it goes fast. Recommended ones that I’ve tasted this year include Fremont’s Cowiche Canyon, Fort George Fresh IPA and Schooner Exact’s Amarillo Fresh Hop. Still hoping to get a taste of Bale Breaker’s Piled High!

4. Erik Blood – Cannons Vol. 1 
Erik Blood, the guy that made a shoegaze record about porn has switched gears slightly into electronics and motorik beats. His new four song EP (free to download at his bandcamp) features Mahogany’s Andrew Prinz and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler.

5. Fat White Family – I Am Mark E Smith 
I was nonplussed over Fat White Family’s debut album last year, but this new single has got my attention. They may be claiming to be the Fall front man, but they sound like they’ve been hanging out with David J and Daniel Ash.

6. Primitives – Spin-o-Rama 7″ 
The Primitives have a perfect pop single in Spin-o-Rama. It’s Bright and sunny. It’s got hand claps. It’s under three minutes and leaves you wanting more. You hear it once and you can immediately sing it. I defy you to to find a more immediately infectious song that’s come out this year.

7. Go-Betweens Box Set – G Stands for Go-Betweens (Domino)

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Just the other day I was pining for someone to reissue the Go-Betweens catalog on vinyl, since I never see them in the used bins. I should have been more specific in my wishing and added that they be individually released and affordable. Domino announced last week that they are planning a box set containing the first four Go-Be’s LP’s and four CD’s of rare stuff. It’s due to be released in January of 2015 and it’s only $160. Looks like I’ll still be scouring the used bins. Oh well.

8. Tacocat – Bridge To Hawaii (Hardly Art)
In between listening to and singing songs from Frozen my daughter will sing or play Tacocat’s Bridge to Hawaii. The first time this happened I did a double take and couldn’t figure out where she heard it. I like to think she heard it from me, but with kids these day’s you don’t want to ruin it for them by letting them know you like it too.

9. Butter the Children – True Crime 
When Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs split up after releasing one stellar self-titled LP, two bands immediately emerged from their ashes. The Butter the Children sect (Heaven’s Gate is the other sect) continue the warbly, spazzed-out guitar attack of Sweet Bulbs and feature Sweet Bulbs singer Inna but she’s more forward in the mix which I think makes for a unique and better combination. The band put up their album on bandcamp as a free download. I don’t know if this means they gave up trying to get it released by a label, broke up, or are simply a benevolent noise pop band.

10. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
I wasn’t sure after the first few listens to Flowers debut album. They seemed to have toned down the noise for something more subtle. Recording with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler the London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.

Island Living

September 26, 2014 at 10:50 am | Posted in Albums, Electronic, Italia, Music | Leave a comment
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tayi bebba cover

Every once in a while even the most ardent rock fans need a break from the daily slog of guitar, bass and drums. My break has come courtesy of Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci who goes by the moniker Clap! Clap! Tayi Bebba is an album as well as an imaginary island. The record takes place all over the island and comes with a map so you know where you are at all times. It’s a good thing too because it’s easy to get lost in the landscapes of field recordings, tribal rhythms, creek crossings, big beats, jungle vibes and trade winds.

Crisci recently did a YouTube session for Hyponik in which he posted 10 videos that influenced him while making the record. It’s a deep dive into worlds far beyond the daily niche grind of indie guitar, bass and drums.

stream: Clap! Clap! – Rainsick Fable (from Tayi Bebba out on Black Acre)

Dial S for Slum of Legs

September 17, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Posted in 7-inches, Music, Singles | Leave a comment
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Slum-of-legs

You may remember Brighton’s Slum of Legs from their demo last year. I certainly do! The six piece avant indiepop group have just released their first single on Tuff Enuff records. The record has elements of the Velvet Underground’s Lady Godiva’s Operation and the Fall’s Sing Harpy. Like both of those bands, Slum of Legs ably combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew. I especially love how they feature the violin in both songs. It gives a cathartic tension and melancholy not often found in strictly guitar, bass and drum bands. Begin to Dissolve slithers and stabs at once. It’s downright Hitchcockian in the way it builds up tension that culminates in a bloodbath of noise at the end.  The flip side Razorblade the Tape starts with a warm jangle that morphs into a near-anthem with the huge refrain of the band chanting “I won’t let you get away!”  Don’t let this single get away!

stream & buy: Slum of Legs – Begin to Dissolve

People People Why Are We Fighting?

September 10, 2014 at 7:03 am | Posted in Albums, Music, Punks | Leave a comment
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gotobeds

So at this point it’s looking like Protomarty‘s Under Color of Official Light is the record to beat this year. But, hold on a minute, coming up fast on the outside lane is Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds with their debut album Poor People are Revolting. Just by their name and the album title you know the band have a sense of humor and relish double meanings and have some smarts. You may be scratching your head wondering if it’s pronounced like Robert Gotobed or got to bed? Do the band hate poor people or are they trying to incite a riot? The Gotobeds seem to have an irreverent sense humor and they are adept at letting loose with angular jabs of impertinence.

In the song Jenna Rations there’s a part that references Lou Reed, followed by someone letting the singer know he’s dead and then a sample that sounds like Lou himself uttering an expletive.  The Gotobeds move pretty fast and if you snooze you miss a lot. They will likely remind you of Pavement from the way they sound. They’re certainly as sharp as Malkmus, Kannberg and the gang ever were and they bring a certain mania to their songs that keeps you wondering if it will all come crushing down into a giant pile of debris. It doesn’t. In fact it blows away so much of the mundanity of today’s scene that it (along with Protomartyr) may actually restore your faith in rock n’ roll. Nah, but it’s good!

The Gotobeds album is available on vinyl from 12xu and on mp3 via bandcamp.

stream: Poor People Are Revolting

Perspex White Out

August 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Music | Leave a comment
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g1atgg

After last year’s brash and audacious noise-fest of a record Here Come the Catastrophe Machines, it would take something downright amazing to to top that single. Well, Brighton’s Girl One and the Grease Guns don’t quite top that acme but they come close with their latest slab of in-the-red, treble filled sucre. Bashed Beaten and Broken(Trip the Switch)/Made Out of Perspex features more claustrophobic industrial clamor to raise your blood pressure. They obviously have some Cabaret Voltaire and Ultravox records and the same model drum machine that the Jesus and Mary Chain used on Automatic. Bashed Beaten and Broken is the more mechanically inclined A-side with its frosty vocals and synthesizers while the flip Made out of Perspex has more hemoglobin pumping through its wiring.  The group are on a hot streak right now. Don’t miss it.

stream: Girl One and the Grease Guns – Made out of Perspex

You can order the vinyl from Squirrel Records. The mp3 inclined can head to Amazon.

Crimson, Clover, Paisley and Monomyth

August 20, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Posted in 1990's, Albums, Canada, Music, Paisley, Psychedelic Pop | Leave a comment
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monomyth

When you think of bands from Halifax, Nova Scotia, if you don’t draw a blank, then you probably think of the 90’s grunge era bands like Sloan, Superfriendz and Thrush Hermit. You probably don’t think of jangly neo-psychedelic music and you most certainly wouldn’t think of bands like the Church, the Dylans, the Dentists, the Sneetches or Ultra Vivid Scene. Well, Monomyth are here to re-put Halifax on the map and change any previous ideas about what goes on up in the Canadian Maritime provinces.

The band have just released their debut album Saturnalia Regalia! on Mint records. It’s an accomplished record with great some great song featuring lush harmonies. The band features three songwriters in Seamus Dalton, Josh Salter, and Graeme Stewart, but they have a similar aesthetic and high quality which keeps the album engaging and interesting. Since this record arrived in the mail last week it’s been on constant rotation. Its bright songs and nods to obscure psychedelic bands without sounding too obvious make this one a keeper.

You can stream the entire album at the Monomyth’s bandcamp page and order up a vinyl copy over at Mint Records.

Bittersweet Pocket Symphonies

August 12, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Posted in Music, Psychedelic Pop, Records | Leave a comment
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The Proper Ornaments have finally released a proper debut album. After last summer’s download only download only release on Lo which compiled their previous EP on No Pain in Pop,their debut single on Make a Mess, and some odds and ends the duo of James Hoare and Max Claps have employed Slumberland Records to issue their album Wooden Head. James Hoare who’s main band is Veronica Falls and also moonlights in the Ultimate Painting is a busy guy these days. For the Proper Ornaments he’s teamed up with Argentinian and one-time Andrew Loog Oldham protege Max Claps.

The duo met in a shop that Hoare was working at while Claps’s girlfriend attempted to steal a pair of boots.  It’s amazing what a shared love of the Velvet Underground can overcome. Named after a Free Deign Song, they get a lot of comparisons to the  Beach Boys, the Left Banke and Love. But if you ask my I think they sound like the Chills.

Wooden Head is nearly as good as their No Pain In Pop EP, but I don’t know if I think that because the EP had five astonishingly good good with no filler. It was easy to take in while Wooden Head is bigger and requires more time to consume.  The record is astonishingly good, it just  requires more time to your head around. Hoare and Claps sing in unison on nearly every song. Their melancholy, sparse psychedelic songs have a sing-song quality that makes them both comfortable and haunting at once. Each unassuming song buzzes into your ears to create endorphin rushes, but music being like a drug it takes more to recreate that initial high each time.

stream: The Proper Ornaments – Magazine (Wooden Head is out on Slumberland Records)

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