November Roundup

Item number one in the November roundup  is a complaint about how bands and labels sell their records on bandcamp. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love bandcamp. Who wouldn’t? You buy the record and you immediately get to download it. Hell, you can even listen to the entire thing before you buy it. The problem arises in the business model when you decide you actually want to buy the vinyl version of a record. More often than not it’s a pre-order with a release date that’s off in the not too distant future, but you figure it’s ok, because you get the immediate download, so waiting for the actual record to arrive in a few weeks is no sweat. Fast forward six weeks and you’re brushing your teeth in the morning and the record comes up on shuffle and you suddenly realize you never actually got the record you ordered. You give the band the benefit of the doubt and decide to wait another week. Still nothing. You contact them through their bandcamp page asking them if the record was ever sent. Usually you get a response saying the record was delayed or there was some problem with coordinating the vinyl with the sleeves or some other logistical problem. Fine, you say. You’re an understanding kind of person. At least you know that your order wasn’t forgotten or lost in the mail.

My complaint is that why didn’t the band email the good people that bought their record and are anxiously waiting to see it in their mailbox to let them know that there was delay? Especially since there’s an explicit date your bandcamp page that said the record would be sent at a specific date. How hard is it to send a mass email to the 50, 100 or 500 people that bought the record letting them know there’s been a delay? Is the band or label embarrassed? Does the band or label not know how to use BCC when sending emails? the band/lable set up a bandcamp page, uploaded the album and made a record so they must be somewhat literate with communication and the internet. Send an email to the fine folks who are giving you money to hear your music. It’s not hard.  People will like your band if you write great songs, but they’ll love you even more for your great customer service!

Now, on with the November round up.

Patsy’s Rats are a Portland band. Their Is It Alright single is pure pop to the jugular. Reminds me of Let’s Active with the boy-girl choruses and jangly nature. If you don’t like singles, this is also on the compilation of singles the band just released on Bachelor records.

Faux-Discx-SAD-1100
November saw the end of UK label Faux Discx. A sad thing. The label was run by Dan Reeves. His two bands, Soft Walls and Cold Pumas I assume are still going.  Faux Discx put out some great records.  Reeves had great taste, and records like Omi Palone, Vison Fortune, Cold Pumas and Rips regularly appeared on this blog and many others with discerning taste. The label is having a huge sale, so if you’ve been eying something now’s the time to pull the trigger.

Sad news from Seattle as the city slowly disintegrates into a shell of its former being, Posse decided add to the ash pile and call it quits.  The trio gifted to the world their final album Horse Blanket and leave the city to contemplate what life will be like when all that’s left for bands in the city are high school jazz combos. You can get a free download of the Horse Blanket from their Bandcamp, and be sure to head over to their web site to grab the accompanying comic book.

Lars Finberg got out of Seattle a long time ago. Escaped down to LA and then back to his hometown of Bakersfield. His first solo album could easily have been released under the moniker of his band the Intelligence. Since it really always was him. Now, I guess he’s hanging out with Ty Segall and entertaining fantasies of being Dean Martin. Instead of serenading PBR guzzling kids down at local hole int he wall, he’s moved up to the seedy red pleather booths of the forlorn diner at the edge of town near the freeway exit. If you are in or around Seattle, he plays the Highline on Capitol Hill this Friday, December 8th.

In keeping with the downer mood of this month’s round up. The Too Pure singles club has decided to call it a day. Not surprising, since the 7-inch single seems to be dying a slow agonizing death. I subscribed to it a couple years, but when they began to allow you to order individual singles I let my subscription lapse. This year’s batch has some gems worth hearing including Family Scraps, Bruising and Seize the Chair.

You should know about this album by Pamplona’s Melenas. Snooping the Bandcamp blog posted about them a few days ago and their excellent debut album has been on repeat for days since. Jangly goodness that answers the question, what if Look Blue Go Purple had been Spanish.

I find myself getting more excited about bands from Portland than those from Seattle these days. Probably because there are more of them to be excited about. Mo Tropper apparently is both a person and a band. His/Their new album combines psychedelia and power pop in a similar way that jellyfish did. I am also reminded of the Return of the Frog Queen by Jeremy Enigk, Cardinal, Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground and the Beach Boys. This album is in technicolor.

Just last month I was reminiscing about speeding motorcycles and the Pastels because of the Neutrals’ song Motorcycle Cop. Now I’m reminiscing about motorcycle cops and the Neutrals because of Flat Worms’s song Motorbike. If you haven’t figured it out yet, things don’t change very much around here. Flat Worms’ debut which rocks out like old Wire and A-Frames records is out on Castle Face,  and features members of Thee Oh Sees, Dream Boys and the Babies.

It wouldn’t be a post if we didn’t include something about an Australian band. Vacant Smiles’ new single brings on heavy Hoodoo Gurus like vibrations. Anyone remember classics like Bittersweet, I Was a Kamikaze Pilot and Good Times? Messin’ Around fits nicely in that breadbasket of surfy goodness.

October Round Up

October was a long month, but to the best of my ability I’ve recollected what happened in the last 31 days. Since this blog has been neglected for many more than the last 31 days, a few things may have slipped in that took place 61, 91, or even 121 days ago.

Display Homes
This single is a great example of a Pylon influenced groove combined with current climate change dilemma that the world is now in. Who says you can’t dance to the apocalypse?

Savak
Album number two from this New York band is no let down. The record is full of
urgent, politically astute, post-punk songs. My favorite is buried near the end. Keys to the City is an hallucination inducing slice of Byrdsian psychedelic haze.

RVG
This Australian band who likely count the Triffids and U2 and maybe even the Go-Betweens as influences, self-released their debut album earlier this year and it instantly sold out of the first vinyl pressing. The excitement has not died down, and it’s been repressed. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Neutrals
When I first heard Motorcycle Cop from this Bay Area band I thought it might have been a direct decedent of the Pastel’s Speeding Motorcycle. On second thought, it might just be an ode to Larry Baker and Frank Poncherello. Whatever it is, it’s brilliant!

Last Leaves
The Lucksmiths broke up some years back and chief songwriter Marty Donald went into semi-retirement. I’m glad it wasn’t permanent, and now he’s got the boys back together minus drummer and lead singer Tali White. Mr. Donald can still turn a phrase and his voice reminds me a little of Max Eider of the Jazz Butcher. The only song I remember Marty singing in the Lucksmiths was their cover of the Magnetic Fields Deep Sea Diving Suit. Maybe they could do a cover of Partytime or D.R.I.N.K.

Holiday Ghosts
Maybe I just have the Pastels on the brain (or the Clean, Coconut Coolouts or Modern Lovers for that matter), but Falmouth, England’s Holiday Ghosts have a similar ramshackle approach to pop music as that Scottish institution. Their debut album is lots of fun, with songs that make you want to wiggle your extremities.

A Certain Smile

Portland’s A Certain Smile played in Seattle last weekend opening for Zebra Hunt and Math & Physics Club. I won’t go into how Portland is beating Seattle right now in great new bands to get excited about, but I will say that this band’s debut is an understated janglepop beauty!

Deadbeat Beat
Detroit, Michigan band Deadbeat Beat released When I Talk To You on cassette way back in 2011. Six years later it get’s a vinyl treatment. Make no mistake this record is an early 10’s surfy-garage rock classic that is has elements of Buddy Holly, Beach Boys, and Agent Orange.

Protomartyr

Another Detroit band, this one with a new record on a new label. Formerly signed to Seattle’s Hardly Art, these Motor city post punks moved on to Domino for album number four and it’s nearly as good as their high point (in my opinion) Under Color of Official Right. Live, they’re like going 10 rounds in a heavy weight fight. They’re set a Chop Suey here in Seattle was an Olympia beer fueled pummeling. I left feeling battered and bruised, and woke up swollen and sore the next morning. It was great.

Landlines
Portland’s Landlines remind me of Sloan around their Twice Removed and One Chord to Another era. Their songs are catchy, classic sounding pop. This is their second album and it would seem that their well of great songs is very deep.

The World
This Bay Area band has a white hot sound that will get you on the floor skanking. Great saxophone bits juxtaposed with angular guitar bits. I feel like the World is what the Specials would have evolved into if they would have gotten King Tubby to produce a third album. Anxiously awaiting on the dub version of this record!

Dead Leaf Echo
The cover of New York shoegaze outfit Dead Leaf Echo new album looks like it came out on 4AD in the 80’s, and sounds like it was made in the shoegaze heyday of 90’s. Funny because Guy Fixen (Moose, My Bloody Valentine) helped record it and the cover was designed by 4AD alumna Timothy O’Donnell.

Slowdive

The last time I saw Slowdive play was at CMJ in 1991. I have vague recollections of that show where they were on a bill with Blur and Levitation. Last week in Seattle their show at the Neptune Theatre was mesmerizing and imprinted (hopefully) long-term memories in my cerebral cortex. The reformed band’s new LP is top notch, but it was Catch the Breeze, Avalyn and their cover of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair that were massive sounding and downright otherworldly!

Catching Up With 2017 or What’s Happened So Far

Looking at these 28 albums and then looking at my meager postings for this year I’ve come to the realization that if I could just bring myself to post 1.07 times per week I could have dispensed with doing this mid-year round up. The one thing I have going for my lack of weekly motivation is that at least I have a little bit of perspective. At least that’s what I tell myself. And on the bright side of things, if I would have generated 1.07 posts per week then this post probably wouldn’t exist because that would have put me up around 1.11 post per week, which is virtually unattainable. That would be like, hall of fame blogging.

b boys
B Boys – Dada
I could be easily convinced that Brooklyn band B Boys are really Parquet Courts in disguise. I’m gullible, but I’m also a sucker for this kind of Devo meets Wire meets Tubway Army stuff and Dada rocks it like it’s 1979.

beach

Beach Fossils – Somersalt
I actually wasn’t expecting to like the third Beach Fossils album after the lull of their second one, but they sound reinvigorated on their new label for their third album. The album features a guest appearances from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, rapper Cities Aviv, and gauzy pop influenced by High Llamas, the Bee Gees and Burt Bacharach.

blacksprings
Black Springs – When We Were Great
I keep expecting the Australian well of goodness to dry up any day now, but this year has featured so many quality releases from down under that the well is deeper than most. This Sydney band makes mellow jangly goodness that has much in common with Teenage Fanclub, the Earthmen and Dick Diver. Back in the 90’s something of like this would likely have come out on Summershine records.

bonniedoon
Bonnie Doon – Dooner Nooner
These Canadian female punk rockers don’t seem to adhere to any conventions and that is a good thing. You could describe Dooner Nooner as a punk record, but it’s a scattershot of so many influences that it may not adhere to your notion of punk rock. It’s a record with a day-glow, Rocky Horror Picture vibe steeped in surf-horror-goth greatness.

cableties

Cable Ties – Cable Ties
More Australians infiltrating the mid year run-down of notable records. Cable Ties are three piece Melbourne band who deliver a blistering punk vibes on their debut album and answer the question of what an Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Sleater Kinney team-up would sound like.

clap
Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies
Fresh off of last year’s collaboration with Paul Simon, Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci unleashes his second album as Clap! Clap!. Only two of the 15 tracks top 3 minutes, so it’s a delightful collage of West African rhythms and Mediterranean sounds both sampled and live for the short attention spanned.

dag

Dag – Benefits of Solitude
When an Australian band makes an album of songs that are slightly melancholy, a little bit jangly, and tinged with some violin and acoustic guitar it’s hard not to compare them to the Go-Betweens. So I won’t. Ha!

fazerdaze
Fazerdaze – Morningside
Do artists still make songs that are intended to be heard from loud speakers or do they assume their songs will be heard through a cheap pair of earbuds? I don’t know if that thought ever crossed New Zealand’s Amelia Murray, but her bedroom pop from half a world away buzzes your brain in both scenarios. Songs like Misread and Lucky Girl would have been staples on 90’s alternative radio, but also sound great on your home made playlist.

feature

Feature – Banishing Ritual
If Wire had been three girls instead of four boys I imagine they would have called themselves Feature. Featuring members of Slow Coaches and Sauna Youth this band are lightening hot and exude loads of attitude on the ten songs on their debut. Too bad they’ve apparently already broken up.

glaciers
Glaciers – Living Right
Melbourne’s Glaciers excel at making shimmering janlgy pop. Their debut is full understated, autumnal songs that evoke memories of the Railway Children and early Church.

groupd

Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla – Sahara – Session
An unlikely combination of French weirdo’s Cheveu and the Western Saraha’s ultimate wedding band Group Doueh makes for one of the most compelling and interesting albums of the year so far. It’s quite a juxtaposition and provides a full spectrum of gothic progginess to swirling vocal chants to guitar noise freakouts.

jaysom
Jay Som – Everybody Works
Jay Som is really Melina Duterte. She is a mastermind of bedroom pop and is a kindered spirit of Amelia Murray’s Fazerdaze. Duterte, likes chunky guitar riffs and floating vocals. It’s an tried and true combination that in the right hands really pays off, like on Everybody Works.

hater

Hater – You Tried
On their debut album, Sweden’s Hater hit the sweet spot of chiming guitars and emotive vocals. I use to think that the Swedes had a lock on this sort of thing with the likes of the Wannadies, Ida Maria and Fine Arts Showcase, but it’s been a while since I’ve heard something this good from above the 55 parallel.

lake
Lake – Forever or Never
Lake are masters at creating lush sounding songs that sound like they are from another world, one where the sun always shines, folks say hello when they pass you on the street and everyone owns at least one Free Design album. This is their eighth and most accomplished album yet.

manuela

Manuela – Manuela
Manuela Gernedel and former Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nick McCarthy are a couple and a band. Their first album is a low key affair that has elements of 80’s synth bands and 70’s prog rock. A weird combination, but that’s sort of the point.

megabog
Mega Bog – Happy Together
Formerly based in Seattle, Erin Birgy has taken her Mega Bog to LA for record number two. It’s a cornucopia of goodness. Each time I listen to it I heard something new. Hector Zazou, Kate Bush, Cate Le Bon and Kevin Ayers all get mixed in to the broth.

novella

Novella – Change of State
I love a band that improves on their debut because so often it is the opposite. Recorded by James Hoare in his studio, Change of State takes its cues from bands like Moonshake, Broadcast and Unrest yet make a wonderful hypnotic sound that is uniquely their own.

Priests
Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Washington, DC’s Priests have made a record that has two personalities. Side one is the angry, bluesy punk persona that will get you riled up. Side two veers into the post punk lane with more melodic songs to sooth the post meltdown blues. For those of us listening on electronic devices, the band provide an interlude to separate the two sides of themselves.

properorn

Proper Ornaments – Foxhole
Former Veronica Falls guy James Hoare is a busy guy. Between Proper Ornaments, Ultimate Painting and various and a sundry recording efforts, I doubt we’ll see a Veronica Falls reunion anytime soon. This record has a downbeat vibe, heavily influenced by Velvet Underground and the Chills. This record is like your favorite sweater, well worn, but comfortable.

rays
Rays – Rays
It seems that about five or so years ago half the bands I liked were from the San Francisco bay area. Now a band from the bay area is a rarity. Rays make up for the population collapse with a ramshackle beauty that brings to mind Comet Gain.

rose

Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular
It took seven years for this former Pippett follow up her debut album. The time off allowed her to refine the pop hooks of this batch of songs. It’s a meld of dance music but has enough guitars and a nod or two to Klaus Dinger’s motorik beat. A stellar second album and worth the wait.

sacredpaws
Sacred Paws – Strike a Match
Glaswegian duo make hyper, tightly wound, horn-tinged pop with more energy than ten cups of coffee. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that they are related to bands like Shopping, Trash Kit and Golden Grrrls and if you are a fan of any of those bands, Sacred Paws are likely already in your record collection.

sleaford

Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
You might think that Sleaford Mods would have hit the bottom of the barrel by now with their rapid fire social commentary over sparse beats, but of course you’d be wrong. Their first LP for Rough Trade may be the dynamic duo’s best yet.

slowdive
Slowdive – Slowdive
As a rule, reunion albums are a bust. There’s always an exception to a rule, and of course Slowdive, smart-asses that they are make that point. Shoegaze of course, never went out of style and 20 years after breaking up they return with a record not quite as good as Souvlaki, but better than Just for a Day.

summer fiction

Summer Fiction – Himalaya
Sometimes I feel like I’m still catching up with last year, or the year before for that matter. This album originally came out in 2015, but thanks to Pretty Olivia’s vinyl reissue this beautiful album came to my attention. Himalaya is full of exquisite, ornate pop influenced by Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, the Left Banke and Jellyfish. Worthy of more attention in any year.

UVTV
Trementina – 810
On their sophomore album, Chilean shoegazers Trementina move more into a dreampop sound but are no less successful. On side two, A Place Up In the Sky hits the heights of the Swirlies’ Pancake Cleaner, which is no small feat.

UVTV

UVTV – Glass
This Florida band has unleashed a ripping record for their debut. Side one has the fire of the Shop Assistants and the Primitives, while side two goes for more of a Spacemen 3 vibe. Both are equally great.

UVTV
Zebra Hunt – In Phases
I have a weakness for bands who carry a torch for the Go-Betweens, the Clean and the Feelies. Seattle band Zebra Hunt continue their torch carrying on their sophomore album which features better production and the same high quality song writing. Most folks look to Australia these days for their jangly rock fix, but I don’t need travel any further than Ballard to get my fill.

Zebra Hunt Phasing Into the Sunset

Zebra Hunt, Unlikely Friends & Seacats at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 June 2017

Over the last five years it seems like many of my favorite Seattle bands have either broken up or left town. A few new ones have come up to replace them, but it seems like we’re in a slight lean period compared to the previous bounties we’ve experienced. Friday night at the Sunset in Ballard three Seattle bands provided some much needed rain on the parched fields of the Seattle music scene. Zebra Hunt, keepers of the Seattle pop flame, were celebrating their second album seeing the light of day courtesy of Spanish record label Tenorio Cotobade.

If you haven’t heard, Zebra Hunt are Seattle’s answer to the classic Flying Nun jangle of the 80’s and the current day jangling explosion of bands from Australia. If you’re old and dig the Clean and the Chills or young and love the Twerps and Chook Race, then Zebra Hunt will fit nicely into your wheelhouse. Having employed Jack Endino to record it, their sophomore effort improves on sound quality and sees no let up in song quality.

Focusing mostly on the new record the band played a great set for the home crowd and provided after show cupcakes decorated with their album cover. Since the last record Zebra Hunt have added a fourth member to the band to help flesh out their sound. The additional guitar and keyboard combined with their already stellar rhythm section increases the impact of the Zebra Hunt experience.

Singer and songwriter Robert Mercer writes about ordinary life but supplies an element of mystery to to his songs by being economical with the details. He is of the Raymond Carver school of writing. You get stories of house hunting, evening walks, listening to records in the kitchen and Foxhill Drive in 2005 with clues to what happened but no answers. I Wont’ Blame You house hunting backdrop sounds partly inspired by Courtney Barnett’s Depreston which was inspired by Paul Kelly’s To Her Door, which was inspired by Carver’s short stories. The lineage is impeccable.  With the release of In Phases, the band now have a larger trove of treasures to pull from for their live shows with a virtual guarantee never to disappoint.

Unlikely Friends were coerced out of their sabbatical to provide support. A BOAT and Math and Physics Club team-up, the group features the um, unlikely combination of both band’s singers, except on this night D. Crane had lost his voice . Probably due to the previous weekend’s BOAT reunion show or some rogue virus, the voiceless Crane  replaced his voice with a message he wrote on a series of notebook pages that littered the stage. The band was in triage mode with Charles Bert of MAPC taking over most of the vocals but letting the drummer Chris have some leads as well. They persevered and kept their sense of humor about them. Look for a second album and hopefully more shows from these underdogs when they’re restored to full power sometime in the not too distant future.

Opening the night were Seacats. Formerly of Kelso-Longview, but now apparently based in Seattle. The two singles I have of theirs give the impression that their a silly, happy-go-lucky sort of band, but as I walked in it was in the middle of their heavy stuff. I think it was their nuclear bomb song. Then they switched singers and pulled off a sublime psych-pop number and I was thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but at least it was interesting!

Feature

feature Photo by Owen Richards

Wouldn’t ya know it, one of the better records of the year comes out by a band that’s already broken up. Punk trio Feature released their debut LP Banishing Ritual last month, but have already moved on.  Too bad, because, this group has attitude and style combining elements of Brilliant Colors and early Lush and the Ramones into and undeniable punk melange. The lead off track Psalms grabs your attention immediately with its Lush meets Ramones riff and harmonies. The highlight of the record is Schedules Align which starts with a killer riff and features a monotone melody made infamous by OG punks Wire. Like most great records, Feature’s debuts molds its influences into something that sounds at once familiar and new and exciting.

I wonder if anyone could convince Sauna Youth‘s Jen Calleja, Slow Coaches‘ Heather Perkins and Liv Willars to get back together and make another record? Maybe selling a couple hundred thousand of their debut long player would do it. I bought one so the rest of you 199,000 get on it and do your duty.

Vinyl available from Upset the Rhythm and download/stream from bandcamp.

Lake Serene

lake

Some groups sound so damn polite, like they would take you in if you showed up on their doorstep shivering in the freezing rain and give you some dry clothes, a seat by the fire and a warm drink. Lake are one such group. Some of their songs sound downright churchly. The Free Design always gave me the same impression, dealing in lush, bucolic pop paintings that could only offend if you find politeness offensive.

On their new album Forever or Never they leave the Olympia, K Records stable for the pastures of Hamburg, Germany’s Tapete records. The band are still based around the Puget Sound, now calling Whidbey Island their home. Label change aside, the band continue down their garden path into summer’s cauldron with everything in full bloom. Songs like Christian Comedians with its lush string parts takes some cues from Seeds of Love era Tears for Fears and XTC‘s Skylarking. You can almost see the pollen floating in the air. Other tracks hint at light 70’s funk akin to Hall and Oats, while many are fine with just being their unique brand of childlike wonder juxtaposed with smooth rock vibes.

Lake sound like real pros dealing in stealthy psychedelia. Everything is proper, fully enunciated and always polite. Come in out of the rain and warm up to Forever or Never.

Stream / Buy Lake – Forever or Never.

Rolling Coastal Blacking Out or Something Like That

rbcf

One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.

Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.

One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.

One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!

Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:

    • In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
    • Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
    • The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
    • They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
    • They just keep getting better!
    • They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?