Moon Types or Sweden Rides Again

August 23, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Music, Singles | Leave a comment
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moontypes

Take a little bit of Ladybug Transistor and some Pelle Carlberg and the Bee Gees and you get an idea of what Stockholm, Sweden’s Moon Types are up to on their debut single. Moon Types remind me of a time not long ago when every week featured a new band from Sweden. It’s cooled down a little since those days, I suppose all of those bands like Park Hotell, Popundret, Boolteans, Carpet People, Liechtenstein, Wannadies, Rough Bunnies and Shout Out Louds have all hung up the rock and roll spandex to settle into lives out of the indiepop spotlight.

Know the Reason features a wonderful trumpet and a jangly riff that could thaw the iciest of hearts. Nothing’s Holy and Do It All Over Again have a slight country tinge to them, but it’s Swedish country so they kick up a different sort of dust. It’s nice to see there’s a new band from Sweden pick up the indiepop torch again.

You can stream and buy Moon Types’ single from their record label Jigsaw Records.

Best Ones of the Year So Far

August 7, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Albums, Lists, Music | 4 Comments
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This was supposed to be a mid-year list. Actually it still is, but it’s month late. What does that make it? I’m still calling it a mid year list since I saw mid year lists in May. It’s also not as diverse as I was hoping it would be as you will likely notice that the letter F is over-represented here. Hopefully some of the other letters will get a little more attention in the year end list.   Hope you find something you might have missed and it’s in reverse alphabetical order for your convenience!

zebrahunt

Zebra Hunt – City Sighs (Tenorio Cotobade)

It just so happens that doing this list in reverse alphabetical order puts my favorite album of the year so far at the top of the list. How’s that for coincidence? Hopefully you already know and own this record. If not, you need it in your life because who doesn’t need a little kiwi flavored jangle served up by this Seattle trio?

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youngguv
Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland)

Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook  will through you for a loop if you’re expecting hard core here. This is Cheap Trick style power pop mixed in with blue eyed soul and 80’s top 40 that is undeniably great.

wildhoney
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Deranged)

Sleep Through It is full of shimmering anthems in the classic pop mold. Wildhoney’s debut album easily places them at the top of the heap of the shoegaze revival.

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Viet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)

An album of bleak post punk that sounds like it could have been made during the age of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race. It’s like twisted a time warp back to the era of the Comsat Angels and the Sound.

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Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)

Indiepop supergroup debut album that softens the edges of BOAT and adds some teeth to Math & Physics Club. The perfect Seattle elixir.

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Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)

Melbourne’s Twerps deliver the Flying Nun influenced jangly goods on their second LP. Fans of the Go-Betweens, Feelies and the Bats take note.

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theesatisfaction
TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sup Pop)

The otherworldly second album from the interstellar Seattle hip hop duo is spiritual and strange at once. If psychedelic hip hop were a genre this would be at the top.

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theeohsees
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)

Finally an Oh Sees LP that marries John Dwyers more experimental solo outing material with his band’s freak outs.

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The Shifters – ST (Comfort 35)

Sure, the Fall put out a new record this year, but for my money Australia’s Shifters do it better in 2015. Full of bile, but they have a playfulness to them that is missing from the band that undoubtedly inspired them.

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saunayouth
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)

Taught, anxiety filled post punk jams from this London band are designed for those who prefer their music played with sharp jabs and shouted choruses.

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Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)

Sharon Jones backup singers Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan Lowe finally come to the front of the stage to take the spotlight and give us a smooth soul classic.

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jessicapratt
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)

If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.

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Rozi Plain – Friend (Lost Map)

For her third LP Rozi Plain paints from a bucolic pallet to give us music of rolling hills and wandering brooks.

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outfit
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)

Second album from Liverpool quintet evokes the greatness of Talk Talk and the Blue Nile.

NoJoy
No Joy – More Faithful (Mexican Summer)

With the help of Jorge Elbrecht this Montreal dreampop have produced an intricate studio creation that is a marvel to he ears.

menacebeach
Menace Beach – Ratworld (Memphis Industries)

Want to relive those 90’s indie rock glory days, Menace Beach are here to help. Their debut album is super charged with great riffs and choruses.

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malegaze
Male Gaze – Gale Maze (Castle Face)

Male Gaze have an intensity about them that puts them into the same league with A-Frames. Their debut album is steeped in post-apocalyptic paranoia that never goes out of style.

joannagruesome
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)

Album number two from Cardiff’s Joanna Gruesome is as high quality as their debut. It continues the uncanny mixture of sweet choruses, mad freak-outs and made freak-outs and sweet choruses.

NicHessler
Nic Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)

I feel like Nic Hessler’s debut album would have gotten more attention if he would have stayed with his Catwalk moniker. Marketing aside, Soft Connections is beautiful record of accomplished pop that is as good as anything Aztec Camera ever did.

hhawkline
H Hawkline – In the Pink Condition (Heavenly)

Welsh musician H Hawkline, also known as Huw Gwynfryn Evans fits right in with some of his more famous psychedelic countrymen like Gruff Rhys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon who also produced the album.

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friedaandale
Frida & Ale – I don’t like to see others having fun (WWNBB)

Former Rough Bunnie Frida teams up with Ale of Le Man Avec Les Lunettes to create a wonderful little folk record retains the same innocent playfulness of  Rough Bunnies.

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Frankie & the Witch Fingers – ST (Permanent)

Los Angeles garage maestros by way Bloomington, Indiana have put out the best garage rock record of the year. Yeah, I know it’s only August, but I sincerely doubt anything will surpass this white hot record.

fleshworld
Flesh World – The Wild Animals In My Life (Iron Lung)

An intense and textured debut from former this bay area band lead by Jess Scott formerly of Brilliant Colors.  Tons of guitars create a dense o wall of sound and makes this record beg to be played at maximum volume.

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fireworks
Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)

Switch Me On is packed full of adrenaline fueled pop songs. Fuzz pop blasts that outfuzz all other fuzz pop.

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finnmark
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)

Singer Edward Forth has a deep baritone that reminds you of Edwynn Collins on one of the most understated and pleasure inducing indiepop record of the year.

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faithhealer
Faith Healer – Cosmic Troubles (Mint)

Jessica Jalbert aka Faith Healer is also a member of Edmonton garage rockers Tee-Tahs who put out one of my favorite albums of last year. Faith Healer is an entirely different thing, but no less good. Cosmic Troubles is full of easy psychedelic jams in the vein of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon. I wonder if she’s got some Welsh in her?

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eternalsummers
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)

Eternal Summers’ fourth LP is their best one yet. It’s full of buzz and jangle with just right amounts of polish and tarnish.

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downtownboys
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovani)

Downtown Boys debut LP rages against the machine of of capitalism, sexism, racism, queerphobia, fascism, and boredom to the unstoppable sound of a twin sax tsunami. Hardcore never sounded this inviting and inclusive.

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DickDiver
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (Trouble In Mind)

Dick Diver have many similarities with their fellow Australians Twerps. They jangle, sound a little like the Go-Betweens but Dick Diver aren’t afraid to get a little weird and experiment a little more on their records. Melboure, Florida is their third LP and though not as immediate as 2013’s Calendar Days, it sticks to the bones.

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courtneybarnett
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Courtney Barnett’s stream of conscious lyrics are endlessly interesting to interpret and decipher and you have ample opportunity because the songs are so good on her debut LP that they beg to be played again and again.

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Lions In My Own Garden: Enter Gurgles

July 29, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Albums, Hi-fi | 1 Comment
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gurgles

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when you were shopping for new stereo equipment, the go to disc for stereo salesmen was a Steely Dan or Chicago album to show off the hi-fi racks. I haven’t been into a stereo store in years, but I bet a few sales guys still reach for the Dan when showing off their wears. Well all you stereo salesmen I’ve got just the record to help sell loads more equipment in your shop.

Early last year, you might remember Bradford’s best Gurgles releasing their debut 7-inch single. Since the 7-inch single buying public has shrunk more than video rental market you might have let it pass you buy. No matter, Bradford’s best have returned with their debut album that they’ve christened Gurglefirst? It’s a big sounding and playful record that doesn’t sound too big or too playful. In other words, it’s just right. Their keyboard driven songs have elements of gospel, new age jazz and 80’s pop. You might ask how could a band that combines the syncopated jazz of Steely Dan, the gospel spells of Prefab Sprout  and sudden swerves into into psychedelic Hawkwind  territory succeed? I don’t know, but Gurgles do.

Both songs from last year’s single make welcome returns and are just as impressive a second time around. New songs like Eccleshill ring in with a tight chorus while the Fender Rhodes keyboard climbs the spires. Weakdays has a great bluesy riff while How Could I Tell adds some Krautrock elements into the mix while singer Augustine sounds like Paddy McAloon has temporarily taken him over. Ably recorded by MJ of Hookworms, Gurglefirst? is a record that begs to be blasted, but don’t worry if you don’t have one of those expensive hi-fi’s it sounds just as good bleeding into your ears from a pair of cheap ear buds.

Gurglefirs? is available on vinyl, CD and download from Gurgles’ bandcamp.

Look, It’s Still Breathing: basementcast #21

July 13, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Basementcast, Music, Podcasts | 3 Comments

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Coming back from the dead is easy. Staying alive after you’ve come back from the dead, now that’s the trick! So far, even after a huge 21st celebration the basementcast is still alive, and it doesn’t even need an ICU. So hook yourself up to a heart monitor and press play and see which of these 24 tracks makes your heart flutter the most.

Butterglory – Waiting on the Guns (Merge)
Omi Palone – Void (Faux Discx)
Sauna Youth – Try to Leave (Upset the Rhythm)

Thelma Jones – The House That Jack Built (Ace)
Leon Bridges – Smooth Sailin’ (Columbia)
The Impressions – They Don’t Know (Curtom)

Vision Fortune – Cleanliness (All Tomorrow’s Parties)
Tauchsieder – Herd The Shadows (Castles in Space)
Outfit – New Air (Memphis Industries)
THEESatisfaction – Planet For Sale (Sub Pop)

Flesh World – Strawberry Bomber (Iron Lung)
Downtown Boys – Monstro (Don Giovanni)
Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) (Slumberland)

No Ditching – Song for Shelley (Art For Blind)
The Ventures – Walk, Don’t Run ’64 (Rhino)
Girl One And The Grease Guns – The Shatterproof Man (Squirrel Records)

Listen Lady – Rain it Down (Self-released)
Mammoth Penguins – When I Was Your Age (Fortuna Pop)

Wildhoney – Owe You Nothing (Deranged / Forward)
Death and Vanilla – California Owls (Fire)
Del Shannon – It’s My Feeling (EMI)

Robert Forster – Let Me Imagine You (Tapete)
The Cathys – Rebble (Self-Released)
Redspencer – Ride It Out (Deaf Ambitions)

Ragin’ Full On

July 8, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Music, Punk Rock, Seattle | Leave a comment
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Downtown Boys at Black Lodge, Seattle | 7 July 2015

downtownboys

Providence, Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys rolled through town last night with their white hot dual saxophone hardcore. This band has a two pronged agenda and it is to bring their political message and to get down and make some noise. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge hardcore fan. I was intrigued when Fucked Up covered twee pop songs and teenage me owned a Cro-Mags cassette, but that’s about it. Two things set Downtown Boys apart from rest of the hardcore masses. Two saxophones that recall Dexy’s Geno but sometimes feel like they could venture into Coletrane’s Meditations and front woman Victoria Ruiz who is both a teacher and a rager.

Live, each song has a prologue in which she passionately teaches and informs about social injustice, police brutality, misogyny and racism.   Previously I had wondered why they covered Bruce Springsteen‘s Dancing In the Dark besides the obvious saxophone connection. Last night, in a matter of 60 seconds she redefined that song on her terms talking about how the word dark is equated to evil, bad and mal-intentioned in so much of today’s journalism and literature and how difficult it is to overcome those kinds of connotations of when you are dark skinned.

The room was packed and sweaty and Downtown Boys were on fire which of course increased the temperature of the room. The saxophone players Adrienne Berry and Emmett Fitzgerald stoked the fires continuously during the set. Both wielding their big tenor saxophones like weapons of peace and justice. Future Police raged bigger and louder than the recorded version and Monstro was anthemic, but the highlight of the set was Poder Eligir. Ruiz sang in Spanish while the band created a cacophony that surged and surged and continued to surge. It was fucking amazing! It was one of those out of body moments when you feel like the whole room is on the same existential plane and all is right with the world. And it was for one brief moment.

Downtown Boys debut album Full Communism is out now on Don Giovanni Records.

Beat Happening’s Ten Best

July 5, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Lists, Music, Ten Best | Leave a comment
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beathappening

Beat Happening probably didn’t invent indiepop and twee, but they may as well have. The landscape past and present is littered with references to this band from Olympia, Washington which says a lot about their long lasting influence. Looking at their songs, it’s kind of astounding how many bands have covered them named themselves after their songs, certainly more than those that have named themselves for Velvet Underground songs. Not bad for a band that confessed to writing songs mostly about sex and food. The band never officially broke up, but retired soon after the release of 1992’s opus You Turn Me On. Front guy Calvin still runs K Records and has found other outlets for his unique take on pop in Dub Narcotic, Halo Benders and solo albums. The band never released a best of album, so they seem ripe for a best of list. Here are my top 10 Beat Happening songs, and probably not what would show up on a best of list, but who knows?

10. Other Side (Black Candy 1989) – Beat Happening were a lot of things. They could rock out like the Cramps, be wayward mavericks a la Lee Hazlewood, and of course sound like 60’s beatniks. Other Side comes from Black Candy which is probably considered their weakest album, but they always started their records with a splash and this duet between Calvin and Heather is full of wistful beauty.

9. Tiger Trap (You Turn Me On 1992) – This song starts off Beat Happening’s final album You Turn Me On. Right from the start you know this record is going to be different than the others because they’d never started off a record with ballad and they’d never recorded a seven minute song (Godsend is nearly 10 minutes). Recorded by Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants the droning pastoral jangle of Tiger Trap hypnotizes and soothes you like a babbling brook through a meadow.

8. Not a Care In the World (Sassy Single 1992)  – This one was also recorded by Moxham during the You Turn Me On sessions, but it didn’t make the cut and was relegated to a single released by Sassy Magazine (anyone remember their Cute Band Alert?). This one has Moxham’s fingerprints all over it, I would be surprised if he didn’t play guitar on this. Heather usually sang only a couple of songs per record, but they were always highlights and this would have been a great 10th song on Your Turn Me On and hints at what might have been if they had recorded a follow up to their final album.

7. Indian Summer (Jamboree 1988) – Indian Summer may be Beat Happening’s best known song thanks to Luna, REM and Ben Gibbard who have all covered it. This song demonstrates what Beat Happening did so well, it’s so minimal yet paints such a vivid picture. You only hear sparse guitar and drums accompany Calvin’s voice yet it evokes autumnal colors, long shadows and the end of something special.

6. Nancy Sin (Dreamy 1991) – Beat Happening weren’t all campfires and s’mores, Calvin sang about sex a lot and this song is dripping with it. This one has a noir feel to its lust. Probably because Nancy always made me think of Nancy Drew and Calvin wanting to get it on with here. And what red blooded adolescent kid wouldn’t want to get it on with Nancy Drew?

5. Our Secret (Beat Happening 1985) – This was Beat Happening’s first single. Often bands never do better than their first single and Beat Happening set the bar pretty high. They barely knew how to play at this point, but they knew what a great pop song should sound like. Ever the gentleman, Calvin is going to run away with a girl, but first he’s going to have dinner with her family, I assume to tell them of their plans. What a punk.

4. Fortune Cookie Prize (Dreamy 1991) –  Heather sings this wistful song evoking the happenstance of love. Sometimes you find it when you least expect it, but the other half doesn’t quite know it. The best love song the band ever wrote.

3. Sleepy Head (You Turn Me On 1992) –  You’ve been up for hours, but your partner likes to sleep in. Now the complication comes in. Is this song about letting your lover sleep in, or is it about anxiety and depression about not being able to sleep? Heather’s gentle voice keeps you guessing.

2. This Many Boyfriends Club (Jamboree 1985) – There are some amazing stories of when Beat Happening toured the west coast with Fugazi. Punks there to see Fugazi at the Los Angeles show just didn’t get Beat Happening. One story is of Calvin getting hit in the nose by someone throwing an ashtray at him. He didn’t miss a beat and quoted Darby Crash of the Germs back to the audience, “Somebody broke my nose. Dump the whole balcony.” I don’t know what song they played after that, but I like to think it was this one. All guitar squall and feedback with Calvin doing spoken word that sounds improvised. This Many Boyfriends Club demands your attention and keeps it until mic hits the floor with a thud and a girl screams at the top of her lungs. This is punk!

1. Tales of Brave Aphrodite (Beat Happening / Screaming Trees 1988) – Tales of Brave Aphrodite comes from the four song EP that Beat Happening recorded with Screaming Trees. Calvin went to grade school with Trees singer Mark Lannegan and Lannegan had helped record Jamboree. Beat Happening have said that they felt  like Screaming Trees cast off songs were better than their best stuff. Aphrodite really soars thanks to the additional power of collaboration and a swirling organ riff. Even if they didn’t team up with the Trees, this song features some of Calvin’s best lyrics and one of his best melodies. “Silver Aphrodite in her chocolate nightie, Says she wants to try me, she won’t bite me”combines the food and sex theme of Beat Happening into a single line.

 

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 | 1 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 | 1 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.

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