In a Big Univers

May 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Music, Spain | 2 Comments
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universe

Barcelona based moody rockers Univers released their debut album last month. It is a soaring and fuzzy beauty full of cascading guitars and sullen vocals.  They could be Spain’s version of Girls Names, southern cousins of early Cure or even Big Country minus the e-bow/bagpipe guitars. The band have flown under the radar here in the States probably because they choose not to sing in English and their records don’t get released over here, but you the savvy internet user of 2014 can find out about bands like this with the simple click of a hyperlink. They played SXSW earlier this year to little fanfare. I found out about them by fortuitously reading about them on Brooklyn Vegan and Cloudberry Cake Proselytism on the same day. I clicked a link, listened, and bought the record.

Even though L’estat Natural is all sung in Catalan , Univers speaks the universal language of big guitars and lots of reverb which is more than enough to make this record compelling even for non-Catalan speakers. The dual guitar attack and driving rhythms make it really chug along even if the slightly monotone vocals every once in while threaten to derail it. It’s a fun, solid album and recommended to fans of any of the aforementioned bands.

L’estate Natural is available from Famèlic Records.

Tarpeian Rock

May 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Posted in Black Lodge, Music, Seattle | 4 Comments
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Protomartyr, Grave Babies, Unnatural Helpers at Black Lodge, Seattle | 20 May 2014

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Detroit post punks Protomartyr played the Black Lodge in Seattle Tuesday night. This was their third time in Seattle, but only the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them. After sold out singles and the band’s debut album No Passion All Technique selling out of multiple pressings on Urinal Cake records, the band have followed it up with Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art. Where Techniques was a lo-fi punk record, the new record keeps the punk attitude and intelligence while adding in better songs and better sound.

Label mates and localites Unnatural Helpers and Grave Babies began the evening’s intensities with two quality if workman-like sets. When the time came for Protomartyr, there was no big entrance or formality for the band, they merely stopped setting up and started rocking. No pomp, no circumstance, just the goods. In Protomartyr’s case the goods are frontman Joe Casey barking over his very good band. The solid rhythm section (besides being really good, drummer  Alex Leonard was wearing a Spray Paint shirt) laid down the law which left Casey and guitarist Greg Ahee to fill in the picture with their riffs and rants.

Protomartyr write gutter anthems. They write about the underbelly of society and coming from Detroit they have first hand knowledge of the downtrodden. Detroit and Detroit rock is in their veins. They employ the abrasive qualities of the Stooges, MC5 and Tyvek (Kevin Boyer was the original Protomartyr bassist) while incorporating the likes of the Fall, Girls Against Boys and Nick Cave into their brew. Their first record was recorded on the cheap while their new one has a noticeably better budget. Live they veer toward the budget sound of the first record but that rawness keeps it vital. I like how Casey dresses in a double breasted blazer and a button up shirt but sings like he’s dressed in rags. The juxtaposition catches your attention and you wonder why this mad man is dressed up. Besides looking quite good, Casey is the kind of songwriter that will have you looking stuff up in your encyclopedia. He’s smart, he dresses up and he rocks. I also loved Ahee’s endlessly inventive guitar. Casey gets a lot of attention for his lyrichs, but Ahee’s guitar really took these songs to the next level beyond just another garage band.

Before the show I had heard from numerous people about how Protomartyr were a jaw-droppingly good live band. They did nothing to make me think otherwise. My only complaint would be that Casey’s vocals weren’t as clear as the recorded songs, but that’s what the album is for.

stream: Protomartyr – Come & See (from Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art)

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Beating a Dead Horse

May 20, 2014 at 8:35 am | Posted in Music, Records, Scenes, Seattle, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. In the case of Posse, they decided to forego the process of trying to get signed to a record label and started their own. It’s called Beating a Dead Horse Records. The first album that the fledgling label put out was of course their own album. It’s called Soft Opening and it’s their second album. Actually Posse put out their own first record too , but that was two years ago, before BADH.

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Soft Opening is nearly perfect. While the trio is based in Seattle, they sound like the wide open dusty roads of the desert that lies on the other side of the Cascades. The songs have a lonely, melancholy and druggy feel to them similar to Acetone and Galaxie 500. The guitars seem to be inspired by Dean Wareham’s watery, lackadaisical sound while the playful boy-girl vocals create some healthy sexual tension. Both Paul Wittmann-Todd and Sacha Maxim play guitar and sing while Jon Salzman is solely relied upon to keep the beat. Posse keep things tight, putting only eight songs on the record. Maybe they thought keeping it short would circumvent short term attention spans in this internet age, but Posse are good enough that they could have snuck another one in and nobody would have hit the skip button.

stream: Posse – Interesting Thing No. 2 (from Soft Opening on BADH)

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For its second release BADH have just put out Neighbors third album Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? The record’s title made me get out my Raymond Carver books and reminded me of when Paul Kelley and the Messengers named So Much Water, So Close to Home after one of the well known Northwest author’s short stories. Neighbors write songs that straddle Pavement’s Range Life, REM’s Harborcoat and the Meat Puppets’ Up on the Sun. Like those bands, there is more to their sound than what is on the surface. Beneath the psychedelic, country sheen you can hear the influence of Gang of Four, Wire and the Wedding Present. The band smartly pulled the best tracks from last year’s tour only cassette Power Country and included them here. Muscle Girl on Muscle Beach which features some sweet guest vocals from Lexi Lee, and Hot Jack get things off to a rocking start. Muscle Beach . Newer songs Loretta and Heather have a twangy angular feel to them that hints at the band getting better and progressing into new territory. After cassette and download releases it’s nice to see that Neighbors have finally released an album on vinyl for posterity.

Beating a dead horse have a small catalog and don’t seem to be in a hurry to grow fast. It’s more of a means of documenting themselves and their friends. Sounds like a good business plan to me.

stream: Neighbors – Loretta (from Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? on BADH)

Read more about Posse and Neighbors front man José Díaz Rohena.

The Good Earth of the Ginnels

May 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Music, Pastoral Bliss, Psychedelic Pop | 1 Comment
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After last year’s Plumes compilation caught us up on what the Ginnels had been up to over the course of their previous three albums, they are back with album number four, A Country Life. Plumes was a sublimely excellent collection of songs separating the wheat from the chaff. A Country Life is a richly stalked silo of brand new songs that leads me to believe there never was any chaff in the Ginnels catalog. 

A Country Life paints a bucolic scene with its psychedelic, hazy, jangling songs. Previously Ginnels records were mostly Mark Chester solo affairs, but on A Country life he’s got some help on drums and guitar making this more of a band effort. To tell the truth it isn’t vastly different from before, which is ok since before was quite good. Songs like Woodlands and Car’s Parked and Honestly and Not What You Think are upbeat jangling affairs that are inviting and fun. The quieter, gentler ones like  the Great Escape and Settle Down and Ashton Memorial are perfect for kicking up your feet after a long day in fields, or in front of the computer. 

The Ginnels fourth album is pretty little thing. Recommended to fans of Elliot Smith, Apples in Stereo, early Divine Comedy, the Feelies and Teenage Fanclub with a good appreciation for tricks of the light and other subtleties of the countryside.

stream: The Ginnels – Woodlands (from A Country Life out on Tenorio Cotobade)

 

Crates Full of the People’s Temple

May 2, 2014 at 9:46 am | Posted in Albums, Garage Rock, Music | 1 Comment
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“That moment when you’re listening to an LP and you think, This is cool and all, but I’ve got crates FULL of stuff like this” said Mick Collins of the Dirtbombs earlier this week. I’m guessing many of you have this same problem. I know I do. Maybe I’m becoming jaded or maybe I’ve just met my lifetime quota for certain genres of music. I love lo-fi garage rock, but I really do have crates full of it, so it’s gotta be pretty good for me to really like it.

I’ve got the first two albums from Lansing, Michigan’s the People’s Temple in my crates and their third album Musical Garden recently released on Hozac is their best one yet. Arguably these temple lads aren’t doing garage rock per se. The heavy riffs could cause some to recall Led Zepplin or Black Sabbath. Their bluesy bravado may bring to mind the Rolling Stones.  They’ve got a mystic quality like Van Morrison, while their compact intense songs have a punk inspired brevity. Musical Garden rolls all of it into one exceptional record. The People’s Temple have over the course of three albums set the bar even higher for all other garage rock inspired bands to get into my crates. Good luck everybody else.

stream: The People’s Temple – Male Secretary (from Musical Garden out on Hozac)

If you’re on the east coast you can catch them on tour right now.

Fri 5/2 – Atlanta, GA – 529
Sat 5/3 – Mobile, AL – Alabama Music Box
Sun 5/4 – off day
Mon 5/5 – St. Augustine, FL – Nobby’s
Tues 5/6 – Jacksonville, FL- Shantytown Pub
Wed 5/7 – Orlando, FL- Wills Pub
Thurs 5/8 – working on DIY Gainesville show
Fri 5/9 – Tampa, FL – Tropical Heatwave Fest (New World Pub)
Sat 5/10 – Miami, FL – Churchill’s Pub
Sun 5/11 – Savannah, GA – Congress St. Social Club
Mon 5/12 – Raleigh, NC – Slim’s
Tues 5/13 – Asheville,NC – Mothlight
Wed 5/14 – Boone, NC – Boone Saloon
Thurs 5/15 -Columbus, OH- Double Happiness
Fri 5/16 – Lakewood, OH – Mahall’s -
Sat 5/17 – Lansing, MI – East Lansing Art Festival

Pang

April 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Glam, Music, Post-punk, Single of the Week, Singles | Leave a comment
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pang

If you are still lamenting the demise of Long Blondes, or maybe you still pine for the sounds of Kleenex/LiLiPUT or Girls at Our Best.  If you answered yes to any of the above you should definitely check out Pang. The Oakland, California band has just released its second 7-inch single Young Professionals. The single is really an EP since it has five songs. All of them are packed full of umbrage,  intensity and punk glamour. The title track and companion So It Goes especially are guaranteed soon to be classics.

stream: Pang – Young Professionals (from the 7-inch single available on Grazer Records)

Expert Alterations’ Finely Tailored Jangle

April 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Cassettes, indiepop, Jangle | 2 Comments
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expert alterations

You can only buy so many reissues of the Monochrome Set, Close Lobsters and Josef K, until you feel like you’ve been cheated. Actually no one has ever seen fit to reissue a Close Lobsters album. What the heck? Obscure and influential, these bands seem to generate a lot of interest from record collectors, but there are very few current bands that I could link to any of those bands.  That was up until a few weeks ago when I read this @poolhoneys tweet, and now thanks to Baltimore, Maryland’s Expert Alterations I no longer have that problem.

Playful bass lines percolate to your ears while moody vocals and jangly guitars abound on their self-released cassette/bandcamp EP that deserves to be more than just a cassette/bandcamp EP.The EP is five songs. The first two tracks Venetian Blinds and A Bell display some superb Scottish influenced power jangle, while Midnight Gardens could be a distant relative of the Monochrome Set’s He’s Frank.

This trio also released a split cassette with the equally excellent Wildhoney for the this year’s Baltimore Popfest. Between these two acts alone,  Baltimore has an indie pop scene to envy!

stream: Expert Alterations – A Bell (from their self-titled Cassette)

Echo and the Tunabunny

April 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Albums, DIY, Found Sound | 1 Comment
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tunabunny

You never know what someone is going to throw away. Not everyone can be bothered to put their junk up for sale on Ebay. Athens, Georgia band Tunabunny recovered a “sound input device” from the garbage heap. Now a sound input device could be anything, right? In Tunabunny’s case it appears to be electronic in nature that has the ability to create synthetic sounds: loops, dots, blips, and other various and sundry glitchy sounding things. So the band are finally diving into a vast new kingdom of technology by accident.

Of course, some of the greatest things ever discovered by man were by accident, right? Peanut butter and jelly, velcro, viagra, and now Tunabunny’s re-imagine themselves on their fourth album. The previous three records were strictly guitar bass drums but now that they fished their very own “Echo” out a dumpster they sound like they’ve been re-energized with new possibilities and song structures. Save It Up sounds like Black Box Recorder while Power Breaks reminds me of something from Peter Gutteridge‘s Pure cassette. The band do restrain themselves and don’t let their new device totally take over the ship. Coming For You is vintage Tunabunny with the just the right amount of pop smarts and noise. Kingdom Technology is the most fun Tunabunny have sounded yet.
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stream: Tunabunny – Save It Up (from the Kingdom Technology album on HHBTM)

Ça Plane Pour La Femme

April 11, 2014 at 10:46 am | Posted in Dark Wave, La France, Music, Seattle, Vera Project | Leave a comment
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lafemme

Paris by way of Biarritz, France group La Femme released one of my favorite records of last year. Psycho Tropical Berlin was a mix of electronic metronomic underground, cold wave surfy twang and punky ye-ye. It’s sly, fun, and playful. Listening to the album you it’s readily apparent that La Femme know how to have a good time. This impression was confirmed Wednesday night at the Vera Project.

The group knows how to throw a party, even in a sterile all ages venue where the nearest alcohol is blocks away (or in the flask you snuck in). Indie music is full of inanimate objects on stage so it was refreshing to see all six members of La Femme know how to entertain. Three keyboards buttressed the stage, but that did not stop them from coming into the crowd and dancing with each other. Singer Clémence Quélennec was constantly dancing, displaying some cool robotic 80’s Valley Girl moves, while her co-keyboard MC Marlon Magnée danced and pranced about the stage. It was infectious, fun to watch and provoked the entire audience into dancing too.

A couple highlights of the set were the manic Antitaxi with its lengthy synth introduction building anticipation that exploded in a twangy surf guitar riff to everyone’s elated satisfaction. The epic It’s Time to Wake Up in showcased guitarist and Theremin maestro Sacha Got playing some tiny wooden leaf shaped gypsy guitar from which he coaxed huge washes of sitar like hallucinogenic sounds.

I’m sure touring and playing the same songs night after night gets old for a band, but La Femme genuinely seemed to be having a great time. They are a band in search of a party and if there isn’t one nearby they are fully capable of starting it themselves. Like a French B-52’s.

Psycho Tropical Berlin is available on vinyl, cd and download.

stream: La Femme – It’s Time To Wake Up (2023)

FAC DANCE

April 9, 2014 at 7:36 am | Posted in Barboza, Dance, Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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A few things about the Factory Floor show last night:
1. The name Factory Floor conjures up many connotations. The Factory part evokes Manchester’s Factory Records and the austere and eccentric sounds from so many releases on the that classic label. The name also makes me think of dilapidated rusting out buildings where formerly existed the engines of capitalism, or if you aren’t a pessimist maybe you think of present day hangars where jumbo jets are made, or air the tight pristine confines of computer chip factories. It all contributes to what this London based trio sound like.

2. Factory Floor are a band. You might not get that impression listening to their self-titled debut album from last year. Although two thirds of the band stood behind tables of electronics last night poking nobs like old Ma Bell connecting long distance phone calls you could tell by their eye contact that they were synced up.

3. Early on New Order drummer Stephen Gilbert remixed their track Wooden Box solidifying a connection with Factory Records. I remember seeing New Order in the late 80’s a couple times and Gilbert would alternate between playing drums for a song or two and punching some buttons and grabbing a glass of water and walking off to the side of the stage for a for a break while the rest of the band played. The songs when he actually played drums where always the better ones and Factory Floor seem to understand that a live drummer makes for a better song as well. Set up on one side of the stage the drummer was the catalyst of the set and made the songs crackle and with extreme punctuation.

3. Singer, guitarist and button pusher Nik Colk played her guitar with a bow like some prog rocker. When she sang what came out was undecipherable, like a robot version of Nico singing in binary.

4. Factory Floor make dance music for people who don’t normally dance. Maybe because they are heavily influenced by bleak post punk, they draw more of a rocker crowd. At least, last night the room appeared to be filled with more rockers than dancers, but the hypnotic bouncy grooves that they laid down had most everyone at the very least with their bobbing their heads. A few times I felt my body unconsciously start moving and I looked down and I was dancing. How did they do that?

5. Most of my past experiences seeing electronic groups live have been underwhelming because frankly watching someone turn nobs and stare intently at their laptop is hard to get excited about. Factory Floor, by incorporating live drums and guitar with their nob turning and a minimal amount of laptop gazing made their live show something not to be missed. The songs extended beyond their recorded versions into expeditions into the unknown and the band pulled off a rare feat for an electronic group, they are better live than on record.

stream: Factory Floor – How You Say (from DFA Records)

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