Listen Lady

June 19, 2015 at 10:50 am | Posted in indiepop, Seattle | Leave a comment
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listenlady

Luckily you don’t read this music blog for timely updates or to get turned onto the newest records. Seattle’s Listen Lady released their debut single about six months ago. I think it’s been up on bandcamp even longer, but the trickle down effect of the internet has just brought it to my attention. Their five song 7″ is an all killer no filler indiepop get-down. If you dig Diet Cig and Sourpatch or remember Small Factory and Tiger Trap then this record is aching to be in your collection. Ater all, what’s six months in terms of classic sounding indiepop groups named for a Simpsons episode?

Stream and buy the 7-inch from Listen Lady’s bandcamp page.

No Joy from No Joy

June 14, 2015 at 11:14 am | Posted in Music, Seattle, Shoegaze | Leave a comment
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No Joy, So Pitted and Versing at the Sunset, Seattle | 10 June 2015

NoJoy

There’s a fine line to getting the ratio of guitar squall to ethereal vocals in the shoegaze genre just right.Up to this point No Joy had struggled to do it. On their third record they seem to have finally got it. More Faithful is their best record. It was produced by Jorge Elbrecht who is the guy behind Violens, Lansing-Drieden and has worked with Ariel Pink (He also produced their previous album to lesser effect). His M.O. is slick, well produced records that verge on the sterile. Montreal’s No Joy on the other hand like to let it bleed in the sense of blistering guitars that feedback so much that you struggle to make out the melodies.  More Faithful is just the right blend of guitar, voice and studio gadgetry. It allows you to hear that No Joy write some pretty good songs. On some songs they barely use distortion or loudness opting instead to go in more dreampop route. This new direction is a good route and puts them into Cocteau Twins, Curve and A Sunny Day In Glasgow territory.

The band really seem like they’ve emerged as confident and competent shoegazers, so I was excited to see them play expecting them bring the dreamier aspects of their sound out live. What I got was something else entirely. No Joy played a set of white noise that made me wonder if it was not an entirely different band that recorded More Faithful. Obviously the new album is a studio record that the band either haven’t figured out how to play live or don’t want to recreate live. Each song essentially sounded the same. They would hit a couple buttons on their playback contraption to start the synth-based backing track from the studio and then they would blast white noise guitar feedback over it while singer Laura Lloyd apparently sang. I watched her mouth the words but rarely could I actually hear her voice. I think I recognized one song, but it was like seeing it through blast goggles. A truly disappointing performance that provided no joy.

soPitted

Thankfully the opening acts were better. Seattle’s So Pitted sound like part OC surf punks and part hard core post-holocaust survivors. They make loud primal blasts of sound that you can nod your head to. The drummer and guitarist switch instruments and vocal duties. Their final song featured a guitar freak out that took place under the cover of one of those foil survivor blankets as if he had just been melted by the raygun of some malevolent outer space being. Brilliant!

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Opening the night were Versing who were new to me, but I instantly liked their Swell Maps and Wire (also Seam and Pavement) inspired songs. It was the right combination of dissonant chords and plaintive vocals. I’m looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the future. They said that they’ve just finished recording and EP, in the meantime they have a demo and a KEXP session up on their Soundcloud page.

The Ghost Ease

June 9, 2015 at 9:28 pm | Posted in Grunge, Music | Leave a comment
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ghosease

Some of you may remember that grunge music was a thing 20 years ago up here in the Pacific Northwest. You might recall flannel shirts, torn jeans, lamestains, and of course lots of swingin’ on the flippity-flop. It started in Seattle and even made it down to Portland and according to the Ghost Ease it’s still alive in some musty corners of that city. Tagging themselves as grunge they roll over you with some hefty guitar riffs on Canine, the opener to their four song 7-inch which they recently self-released. What I like about Ghost Ease is that they keep the melody at the front and don’t scream which seemed to be big grunge thing. They’re actually more like the Breeders in that they can crank up the noise but also coo in your ear at the same time. Bad Girls sees them marrying grunge with MIA style hip hop. Great stuff. Apparently they’ve recorded a full album with Steve Fisk which hopefully is as inventive and exciting as this single.

Finnmark! Or I Saw the Northern Light

June 4, 2015 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Albums, indiepop | Leave a comment
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finnmark!

The first thing I noticed about Finnmark! when listening to their debut album Things Always Change was how much the first song on the album Can’t Go On reminded me of Synchronized Sinking by the Lucksmiths. The second thing I noticed was how much better recorded it was than their EP from a couple of years ago. Then I noticed that beneath all their Scandanavian imagery the group are from Leeds in the UK. Apparently the band was started in a kitchen in Gothenburg. No information what they were cooking at the time.

The album has an austere wintry feel to it that feels a little bit like Cats on Fire and sometimes like Wild Swans. Singer Edward Forth has a friendly melodramatic baritone that brings the sparse arrangements to life. On upbeat songs like Transpennine Express and Cardigan Fields the guitars jangle enough to make you move your feet. On Losing My Style they even get a little rowdy and trash someone’s kitchen at a party.  The songwriting is top quality throughout the record. The minimalist Northern Coastline is a favorite of mine. Forth is accompanied by an acoustic guitar on this ode to isolation and death that recalls Morrissey’s Everyday is Like Sunday.  The only (slight) misstep was the inclusion of a cover of Guided By Voices’ Jar of Cardinals (from Vampire on Titus). It’s a good version in that it takes the lo-fi tape hiss of GBV and adds some organ to make it sound almost lush, but their originals are better in my opinion. If you are in the market for one of the best indiepop album of the years you should notice Finnmark! too!!

You can stream and buy the album at Beko’s Bandcamp page.

Robert Forster’s Ten Best

May 31, 2015 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Lists, Music, Ten Best | 4 Comments
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forster

Last week I was reading a list of the top ten Stereolab songs that somebody put together for the Stereogum site. I disagreed with 90 percent of the choices. So I thought to myself, I should make a list that you can disagree with 90 percent of the selections. With the Go-Betweens you either lean towards Robert Forester or Grant McLennan. The younger me was a McLennan guy, the older me is most certainly a Forester disciple. Since McLennan’s untimely death Forster is all we’ve got. He’s reportedly working on his sixth solo album so what better reason to choose him for this first semi-irregular installment of Ten Best.

10. Make Her Day (Go-Betweens – Bright Yellow Bright Orange -2003)
This comes from one of the slighter Go-Betweens albums, their second reunion album. This song flew under my radar until I saw them play it live on what became their final tour of the US. It was at the Triple Door here in Seattle. Forster counted it off tapping his boot against the stage floor. The jangling warmness filled the room and this song just bloomed. This recorded version doesn’t quite reach those heights I experienced seeing it performed live that night, but it is close. A shame they buried at the end of Bright Yellow Bright Orange.

9. Warm Nights (Robert Forster – Warm Nights -1996)
I remember when Warm Nights came out and how disappointed many were about it. After all, it was a Robert Forster album produced by Edwyn Collins. It had to be good. I guess we were expecting something else. Hindsight provides some clarity thankfully. The slight country tinge is something Forster has explored a lot on his solo records and that is present here, but there is also Television-esque guitar that gives this song a different feel than much of his catalog. His previous record was an all covers album titled I Had a New York Girlfriend, but this is his most New York sounding song he ever wrote.

8. Dear Black Dream (Robert Forster – Danger In the Past -1990)
Dear Black Dream comes from Forster’s first solo album. After the breakup of the Go-Betweens he went to Germany and recorded it with Mick Harvey of the the Bad Seeds. It was well known that Forster was the one who often struggled with writers block while McLennan seems to have an endless supply of songs. So it was kind of surprising that Danger In the Past bettered McLennan’s Watershed. Dear Black Dream has a gospel feel to it, like he’s elated to have come out of the murk of being in the under appreciated Go-Betweens and the idea of wide open roads ahead brought excitement and hope to his song writing.

7. Surfing Magazines (Go-Betweens – Friends of Rachel Worth -2000)
This song comes from the Go-Betweens’s first album after reuniting after 12 years apart and four solo albums. Surfing Magazines successfully unites the whimsy of adolescent dreams of being a surf bum and dropping off of the grid with becoming an adult and the knowledge that those were just dreams. You get the feeling from the song’s poignancy that he thinks he should have really been a surfer, or at least still wonders what might have been.

6. Spring Rain (Go-Betweens – Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express -1986)
McLennan and Forester both had distinct styles, but every once in a while they would write a song that sounded like the other one. Spring Rain had a killer hook and beautiful guitar solo that gave you the feeling that the two were living closely together. This was written after they’d moved to London from Brisbane so they probably were.

5. The Circle (Robert Forster Calling from a Country Phone -1993)
Forster’s second album is his best one and unfortunately the only one that was never released in the US. Go figure, the curse of the Go-Betweens continues I guess. The Circle married the pop smarts of the Go-Betweens with country twang and charm. He seems like he’s having fun, like he did when he sang odes to Lee Remick and Karen.

4. People Say (Go-Betweens second 7″ single -1979)
In the liner notes of the Go-Betweens best of 1978-1990, Forster said that, “Sometimes I think this is the best song I’ve ever written.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s got a great old time organ throughout and the line “The clouds lie on their backs, rain on everyone, But you always stay dry, You got your own private own sun” which is a classic. Not bad for the second single out of the gate.

3. Darlinghurst Nights (Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart -2005)
If under duress and I had to pick a favorite Go-Betweens album, I might pick their final album Oceans Apart. That is due to the number of high quality Forster songs on it. The best one is Darlinghurst Nights, which is a tour through the past that begins with an acoustic guitar and Forster opening a notebook and progresses into a frenzy of horns while people and places streak by. It’s a glimpse of the past that like all great songs, provides more questions than answers.

2. Lee Remick (Go-Betweens first 7″ single -1978)
Forster wrote both sides of the first Go-Betweens single. This was the A-side. A Two and a half minute ode to a screen jem of the past. “She was in The Omen with Gregory Peck, She got killed, what the heck?!” Not taking himself too seriously, and not knowing that he had a written a classic song at his first go. The song that launched a thousand indiepop groups.

1. Draining The Pool For You (Go-Betweens – Spring Hill Fair -1984)
Forster as the pool boy. Not for long, because he knows that he’s too smart for this kind of gig. Of course it’s analogy for many of life’s unfair predicaments. Here Forster takes the mundane experience of pool cleaning and makes it into an ode of contempt. He’s draining the pool, but not the way you think. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, knowing that these Hollywood stars could just as easily be draining the pool for him.

Back From the Dead: basementcast #20

May 28, 2015 at 7:45 am | Posted in Basementcast, Music, Podcasts | 2 Comments
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revived

At some point the basementcast got put on a shelf in a dark corner of the basement. It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop doing them, but it was a conscious one to start it back up. So for good or bad the basement cast has been reborn, salvaged, reawakened,and hopefully rediscovered. Like the ones of old, this one has new stuff, old stuff, odd stuff, and local stuff interspersed with me yapping. Give it a go, there may be something you like on it, and if not there’s always the fast forward button.

Frankie & The Witch Fingers – Diamonds (Permanent)
Lime Crush – Graveyard (Fettikakau)
Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator (Mom+Pop)

Barringtone – Feverhead (Onomatopia)
Finnmark! – Transpennine Express (Beko)
Unlikely Friends – Wear a Halo (Jigsaw)

A Frames – Calculator (S-S)
Cult Hero – I Dig You (Elektra)
Contrast – Sidewalk (Moontown)

Lower Dens – Société Anonyme (Ribbon)
Thee Oh Sees – Poor Queen (Castle Face)
Buck Owens – Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass (Rhino)
Arthur & Yu – There Are Too Many Birds (Hardly Art)

Nic Hessler – Do You Ever? (Captured Tracks)
Saun & Starr – Hot Shot (Daptone)
The Bardots – Sad Anne (Bliss Out)
Flyying Colours – Not Today (Shelflife)

Walls – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (Ecstatic)
King Tubby – The Immortal Dub (Clocktower)
Rozi Plain – Jogalong (Lost Map)
Fever Dream – Serotonin Hit (Club AC30)

Les Chausettes – Volanoes (Punk Fox)
The Shifters – Algeria (Comfort)

The Exploited – Sex & Violence (Secret)

Emergency Third Rail Power Triptych

May 13, 2015 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Music | Leave a comment
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girlsnames

Girls Names continue their upward trajectory by releasing an eleven minute opus called Zero Triptych. The Belfast band fly over a motorik beat that kicks up camel dust from an old trip that the Church took on Myrrh back in ’85 and then blasts off into a globular cluster of some nether region. Not bad for a song inspired by three panel paintings from the middle ages. Depending on your circumstances you might remember the Church and their song Myrrh. It was an obtuse song about wine, gold, personal favors, drum kits and the birth of Christ. Zero Triptch picks up where Kilby and company trailed off with the sound of aliens landing, obliterating space and time and taking us through a wormhole that dusts you with myrrh, frankincense and gold, skips over an obelisk, a couple monoliths and then leaves them all behind.

Word on the street is that this is going to be released only as a 12″ single and won’t be on their next album, so plan accordingly.

Shocker in Gloomtown

April 25, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Music, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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tufflove

You may remember that the Breeders Head To Toe EP? The one where they covered both Guided By Voices and Sebadoh? You probably don’t remember because it was released as a 10-inch. The 10-inch record is like the bastard step child of the 12-inch long player. It just doesn’t seem to get any respect, and often get’s buried in between its larger cousins. Nothing says we don’t care what you think like releasing one.

Glasgow’s Tuff Love have released two of them so far, so I get the feeling they like toiling in obscurity. The Junk 10-inch came out last year and quickly sold out and the Dross 10-inch is sure to follow suite. Its sharp riffs that quickly turn into buzzing choruses evoke the 90’s and bands like the Breeders, Elastica and Madder Rose.
Julie Eisenstein (guitar, vocals) and Suse Bear (bass, vocals) share vocals, effortlessly harmonizing so it seems like one voice. On Slammer the refrain of “I’ve got rage” seems like it should be sung with more emotion, but their nonchalant delivery over the top of buzzing guitar seems to evoke just the right emotion. Now for a record slightly larger in diameter.

The Dross EP is out now on Lost Map Records.

Perfect Time(ing)

April 19, 2015 at 9:45 pm | Posted in Music, Shoegaze | 3 Comments
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Ride at Humphreys By the Bay, San Diego | 16 April 2015

ride at humphries, san diego

As luck would have it, I was in San Diego for spring break during the dead week of Coachella to see the recently reformed  Ride, OG shoegazers from Oxford. The dead week is the week between the two Coachella weekends where bands if they’re lucky book shows in San Francisco, San Diego, Pamona, or anywhere but Los Angeles due to contractual restrictions of playing that giant festival in the desert. Having lived in San Diego for 11% of my life I wasn’t completely surprised when I arrived to see that the venue was mostly empty. Shows that routinely sell out places like the Showbox or the Neptune here in Seattle barely fill the Casbah in San Diego which is about he size of the Sunset in Seattle. To be fair, there had been problems with buying advanced tickets through Ticketmaster up until a few days before the show. Humphreys By the Bay holds about 1500 and is a place that usually hosts acts like the Steve Miller Band, Chicago and Boz Scaggs. The venue is nestled in palm trees and sail boats on San Diego bay. I don’t think I’ve been to a nicer place to see a show.

Ride, having recently reformed, had only played a handful of shows prior to this one, but they were in top form. Unaffected by the poor turn out, the band still seemed be energized to be playing for the meager crowd that San Diego offered up. They opened the set with a surprise. Nowhere the title track from their 1990 debut album is a meandering song that closes the album and hadn’t been played yet at one of their reunion shows. It was nearly twice as long as its recorded version and acted as warm up for both band and crowd. It ebbed and flowed like the monster wave on the album cover, creating an ominous feel in among the palm trees that surrounded the venue. Andy Bell and Mark Gardner wove their guitars into surges and then let it go all hazy as the song washed over everyone. They quickly followed with Seagull which sent a burst of lightening into everything. Steve Queralt delivered that sinewy bass groove for everything to wrap itself around while Andy Bell playing a twelve string guitar and made everything go hallucinogenic.

The younger me was always enamored by the guitars of Bell and Gardener, but the older me realized that the reason Ride were so good on their first two albums was due to the drumming of Loz Colbert and Queralt’s bass. Loz resembles Stuart Copeland in his look and style. It’s an adrenaline filled delivery that hasn’t lost a step in 20 years. It’s almost like he’s playing to a different song sometimes, and he’ll seemingly pull the band into the breach with him. Queralt often-times was laying down a guitar like riff with his bass that propelled the songs while Bell and Gardener were left free to make their squalls of noise with no concern for melody thanks to him.

The set list was hard to argue with. They only played one post Going Blank Again Song (Black Night Crash) and hit nearly every highlight from Nowhere and Going Blank Again. I only wish they would have included one or two more from Nowhere like Decay, Polar Bear or Kaleidoscope. That’s a minor qualm when you consider that they played Dreams Burn Down, Taste, Vapor Trail, Chrome Waves, Leave Them All Behind, Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind.

I’m a big skeptic when it comes to reunion shows, but Ride were the real deal. Comparing it to when I saw them on the Going Blank Again tour back in 1992, I would say it was even. Sure, they lacked the youthful bravado of those heady days, and Gardener was missing his rock god locks and sported a fedora to hide the fact. I would argue that they are better musicians today with more attention to making the songs really crack. Bell was playing insane riffs that I doubt he was capable of back then. The rhythm section seemed to own every song, and Gardener’s voice was stronger which gave the often obscured melodies to the songs a bit more sheen than they ever had. During the finale of Drive Blind you could make out a giant grin across Mark Gardener fave. It used to be serious noise that Ride made, now it’s just fun, as it always should have been.

ride2

Set List:

Nowhere
Seagull
Twisterella
Unfamiliar
Cool Your Boots
Black Nite Crash
OX4
Dreams Burn Down
Time of Her Time
Chrome Waves
Paralysed
Taste
Vapour Trail
Drive Blind
Encore:
Leave Them All Behind
Chelsea Girl

Shoegaze Sans Chapeau

April 12, 2015 at 11:54 am | Posted in Cassettes, Music, Shoegaze | 1 Comment
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Day Ravies

Sydney’s Day Ravies followup last year’s stellar 7-inch with a four song EP they call Under the Lamp. It’s being released as a cassette and download by Strange Pursuits which is a brand new label started by Sam Wilkinson who sings and plays guitar in the band. The band say this is a teaser for their second album which they are working on. No word on whether any of these four songs will be on their next album, but based on how good they are I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of them make an appearance.

The four song EP starts with Sleepwalk which takes up right where Hickford Whizz left off  last year and sees the Ravies continuing their more straightforward pop head rush. Perennial features a great chorus and a killer guitar solo that is brief but efficient and keeps with the song’s penny arcade psychedelia. Prior Hour the closer is the comedown from the pop highs of the previous three songs and has a slow burn melancholy to it that has touches of Mazzy Star in it. This EP and the Hickford Whizz single from last year should have folks lining up for the upcoming album number two.

Day Ravies’ Under the Lamp EP is available from Strange Pursuits.

 

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