Rat Columns Emerge From the Murky Depths

June 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm | Posted in Albums, Australia, Music | Leave a comment
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ratcolumns

How many sweet spots lie between Wire‘s 154 and Of Skins and Heart by the Church? By my estimation there are at least a few hundred and Rat Columns second album hits a good many of them. The San Francisco by way of Australia band have just released their second album Leaf on Australia’s RIP Society records. It was recorded in San Francisco at Kelley Stoltz‘s Electric Duck Studios. Main Rat David West employed the aid of both Stoltz and Mikey Young (Total Control & Eddie Current Suppression Ring) to make the record.

Where the first Rat Columns album was murky and dense, album number two sheds opaqueness for sunnier realms and glistens in the pop sun. The first song Straight to hell with its shinny and shimmering guitar immediately lets you know that this Rat Columns album is a more immediate infectious beast than its predecessor. The second song Another day with its Cure-like synthy intro and bouncing bass reinforce the fact. You can just imagine Kelley Stoltz swinging by the control room while the band were recording and yelling ‘more pop’ and then sneaking in and dialing up the pop knob just a tad on each of these songs. There were hints and traces of pop genius on the previous album Sceptre Hole, but Leaves goes far beyond anything I was expecting. It still has some mystery to it and can be obtuse in parts the way Wire pushed the boundaries of art and punk on 154, but at its heart it’s in love with jangly bittersweet pop that the Church excelled at on Of Skins and Heart. A great unexpected record.

stream: Rat Columns – Another Day

stream: Rat Columns – Fooling Around

You can stream and buy the download of the album from Rat Columns’ bandcamp. If you’re in the US, Goner has vinyl copies for sale, or if you prefer you can order from RIP Society in Australia. Also, don’t miss Rat Columns on tour later this summer:

29-Aug FRI – SAN FRANCISCO w/ COLD BEAT
30-Aug SAT – OAKLAND
31-Aug SUN – SACRAMENTO
3-Sep WEDS – PORTLAND w/ RUBY PINS
4-Sep THURS – VANCOUVER w/ RUBY PINS? GET IN TOUCH!!!
5-Sep FRI – OLYMPIA w/RUBY PINS
6-Sep SAT – SEATTLE w/RUBY PINS
7-Sep SUN – BOISE w/ RUBY PINS
10-Sep WEDS – ST PAUL
11-Sep THURS – CHICAGO
12-Sep FRI – ANN ARBOR/DETROIT
13-Sep SAT – PITTSBURGH
14-Sep SUN – NEW YORK CITY
16-Sep TUES – BOSTON
17-Sep WEDS – PHILLY
18-Sep THURS – RICHMOND @ GALLERY FIVE
19-Sep FRI – LEXINGTON w/ IDIOT GLEE
20-Sep SAT – MEMPHIS w/ IDIOT GLEE
21-Sep SUN – HOT SPRINGS? w/ IDIOT GLEE
22-Sep MON – DALLAS w/ IDIOT GLEE: Three Links – Deep Ellum, TX, 2704 Elm St
23-Sep TUES – AUSTIN w/ IDIOT GLEE
26-Sep FRI – TUSCON / PHOENIX-TEMPE??? GET IN TOUCH!!!
27-Sep SAT – SAN DIEGO
28-Sep SUN – LOS ANGELES? GET IN TOUCH!!!

Close Lobsters Give Us Something To Smile About

June 9, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Posted in C-86, Jangle-pop, Music, Singles, Things You Thought Would Never Happen | 1 Comment
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“Things will never will be the same” sings Andrew Burnett on the A-side of the Close Lobsters‘ new single. Maybe not quite the same, but the more things change the more they stay the same. The seminal C-86 compilation that the band appeared on has just seen a reissue that extends that cassette into a three CD set and Paisley, Scotland’s Close Lobsters who have been dormant for some 20 odd years (their final album Headache Rhetoric came out in 1989) have just released a brand new 7″ single on Shelflife records here in the US.

Time has not altered the sound of their bittersweet wall of jangle an iota, nor has it diminished their knack for writing adroit pop songs. The two on this single sound like they could have come from the lost follow-up to Headache Rhetoric. Now Time is a six minute epic that walks a fine line down memory lane without really looking back. The flip side is something of a love letter to the United States with Burnet landing in the canyons of NYC in ridiculous heat then setting out on the road on a bus to Chicago. The dusty guitar solo in the middle almost makes you feel the hot breeze in your face.

Who knows if this single is one-off thing or the start of  Close Lobsters phase II? I’m just still pinching myself that this new single even exits.  Welcome back fellows!

stream: Close Lobsters – Now Time (The 7″ single is available from Shelflife Records)

The Captain of Her Heart

June 4, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Posted in Music, Singles, Synths | Leave a comment
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The first thing you notice about Geoffrey O’Connor‘s new song Her Name On Every Tongue is that he steps it down an octave. In his band Crayon Fields and on his first solo record he employed his falsetto much of the time. I almost didn’t recognize him the first time I heard the song. I like it though. The lower octave provides more gravitas.

Her Name On Every Tongue has hints of Heartbeat City by the Cars, as well as some nice refined euro smoothness a la Roxy Music and Double. It also has similarities with Trevor Dickson‘s Summer Legs from last year. It glides like a bead of water down the side of your perspiring cocktail as you lounge in the shade of a palm tree somewhere on the Riviera.

stream: Geoffrey O’Connor – Her Name on Every Tongue (from Fan Fiction on August 8 on Chapter Music).

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)

neighbors

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)

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