Feature

May 14, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Punks | Leave a comment
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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

May 4, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Posted in Albums, Music | Leave a comment
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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.

UV-TV

March 31, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Posted in Albums, Music | 1 Comment
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uvtv

Gainsville, Florida’s UV-TV obviously have great taste. Side one of their debut LP Glass bounds from Shop Assistants to Primitives and Black Tambourine. It doesn’t let up from the gas pedal once forcing its blissed-out sonic assault down your throat. Singer Rose Vastola has a saccharine sweet voice that easily breaks through the shards of noise put down by guitarist Ian Bernacett. Every song is a heart attack.

Side two stretches their pallet beyond the saccharine noise pop of side one. The songs are longer, more brooding and go for a different pop jugular. The Chameleons, Spacemen 3 and the Gun Club all pop into the frame of reference. No matter how you like getting your pop fetish tickled, I highly recommend tuning into this record!

Glass is out on Deranged Records, the same label that released Wildhoney‘s Sleep Through It.

No Cruise Required to Appreciate These Glaciers

March 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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glaciersHere’s to the folks who scour the internet for hidden beauties like this album from Melbourne, Australia’s Glaciers! Living Right is a fine piece of jangly goodness that deserves a wider audience. It came out last year on bandcamp, but has recently been released on vinyl by new Spanish label Meritorio Records.

The eleven songs on Living Right evoke the Railway Children and early records by their fellow countrymen the Church. The songs have an easy, mellow vibe that is slightly melancholy but brilliant and breezy. With only one record, these youngsters have plunked themselves right into the long lineage of shimmering jangle pop bands, many of which are long forgotten by most folks. Thankfully there are bands in far off corners of the world who still make this beautifully sublime kind of thing and others who feel it necessary to press it onto vinyl.

Buy a download or record of the Glaciers’ Living Right from Meritorio Records.

Heading Down Main Street with Talbot Adams

March 12, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Vinyl | 1 Comment
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talbotI have been a bad blogger lately, neglecting this page even more than usual. I got the new Talbot Adams album sometime last year, played it a bunch, loved it, and then buried beneath a bunch of other records. In my attempt to organize, I was filing records this weekend and was reminded of my remiss when Community/Recession Era popped up from behind a stack of LP’s sitting on the floor. I immediately pulled out the orange disc and played it.

The album is a low key affair, consisting of Adams and his guitar (mostly acoustic with a handful of electric ones), but it has this subtle psychedelic quality to it that gives you something to keep coming back. It’s a little Doug Tuttle, Bert Jansch and Richard Davies.  Adams’s songs provide a grounded perspective to life in general and seem like an open book into his tender soul. In the hands of a lesser artist it could become a mundane trudge, but Talbot Adams is a tower of song that demands to be heard.

Community/Recession Era came out on German label Secret Identity Records, but you can pick up a copy in the US on Space Case.

Belated List of 2016 Seattle LP’s

January 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Albums, Lists, Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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Is it too late for a list of my favorite hometown albums from last year? Probably, so go ahead and send a letter to the editor if you are feeling list fatigue. Otherwise continue reading and I promise this is the last one till next year.

erikblood
1. Erik Blood – Lost In Slow Motion (Home Skillet)
Blood was involved in a lot of records this year, including recording two others on this list (Tacocat & Hotels). For his third album Erik Blood is still a solo act, but it’s mostly in name alone. Irene Barber provides additional guitar and singing throughout while it is book-ended by guest vocal appearances from Ismael Butler and OCnotes. He transcends any shoegaze pigeonhole he may have had and broadens his horizons to wide screen cinematic pop.

exquisites
2. The Exquisits – Home (Asian Man)
The Exquisits have a sweaty punk sound that brings to mind Van Morrisson, the Hold Steady and Buffalo Tom. I also love the way they deftly incorporate horns into their powerful pop making it even more exciting.

tacocat
3. Tacocat – Lost Time (Hardly Art)
Album number three finds Tacocat with no shortage of inspiration, Seattle, working on the weekend, X-Files and dealing with idiots on the internet. It is immediate and bright and speaks to you whether you are 14 or 40.

versing
4. Versing – Nude Descending (Youth Riot)
Reason number 99 for why I don’t own a record label: When I first saw Versing they played with the then unsigned So Pitted. A few months later So Pitted signed to Sub Pop and released record. Versing put their dissonant Pavement meets Swell Maps record out about a year later on the tiny Tacoma label Youth Riot.

vats
5. Vats – Green Glass Room (End of Time)
On the radio station that plays in my head, any song from this record would be played in a set that included Gang of Four, Lithics, A Frames and the Pheromoans. With its bony elbows, Green Glass Room  makes its own space in the dissonant,/angular/punk  room.

sloucher
6. Sloucher – Certainty (Swoon)
Sloucher’s Heatmiser meets Sebadoh takes you back to the 90’s heyday of Seattle rock history.

crater
7. Crater – Talk To Me So I Can Fall Asleep (Help Yourself)
This electronic duo due make dark and moody songs that are just light and breezy enough to dance too.

hotels
8. Hotels – Night Showers (Self-released)
Hotels have been knocking around Seattle for years, and have released a number of albums and singles but none as good as their latest. Enhancing their atmospheric guitar based songs with luscious doses of horns and strings makes Night Showers really pop!

lisaprank
9. Lisa Prank – Adult Teen (Father/Daughter)
Colorado transplant Lisa Prank writes bedroom punk rock similar to Colleen Green, like if the Ramones were in your bedroom and preferred a drum machine.

gazebos
10. Gazebos – Die Alone (Hardly Art)
Recorded by former Fastbacks guitarist Kurt Bloch and fronted by a couple Seattle indierock linchpins – T.V. Coahran who runs Gorgonzola  Records and Shannon Perry formerly of Butts and Katharine Hepburn’s Voice. This record  feels like it was made by a band of roving minstrels who found some wagons full of amplifiers. It’s loud with a slightly unhinged feel that keeps you on your toes .

Albums of 2016

December 27, 2016 at 7:00 am | Posted in Albums, Lists, Music | 2 Comments
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bentcousin2016
1. Bentcousin – Bentcousin (Team Love)
I was genuinely surprised this record did not get more recognition, but maybe the world no longer pines for wonderful pop records? The Orange Juice meets St. Etienne album had it all, including a dynamite Dino Jr cover.

chook
2. Chook Race – Around the House (Tenth Court/Trouble In Mind)
A lot of people still worship at the alter of Flying Nun. If you are one of those folk then I’m sure you were bowing down to this record all year. Best jangle pop album since the Bats’ Fear of God.

whyteh
3. Whyte Horses – Pop Or Not (CRC)
Another record that seems to have flown under the mass media radar. Shame, because it is classic sounding stuff that shares a love of Stone Roses, Broadcast and Free Design.

cityy
4. The City Yelps – Half Hour (Odd Box / Emotional Response)
A noisy little thing full of piss and vinegar that had the lo-fi sensibilities of a Boyracer album and great story telling of Animials that Swim.

fieldmusic
5. Field Music – Commontime (Memphis Industries)
The Brewis brothers released their best record yet, heck even Prince liked it.

terrymalt
6. Terry Malts – Lost at the Party (Slumberland)
The Bay area’s Terry Malts struck pop-punk gold on album number three where they combine old school punk like 7 Seconds with post punk wonder of the Chameleons. Every song is a killer sing-along anthem.

woods
7. Woods – City Sun Eater In the River of Light (Woodsist)
Sometimes you lose track of a band after they release LP after LP of similar sounding music. On Sun City Eater the band incorporate African influences to brighten their sound and make a stand out record.

goon
8. The Goon Sax – Up To Anything (Chapter)
Brisbane teen band who count Louis Forster the son of the Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster as a member got a lot of attention for that mere fact. Due to the album contained top quality indie pop akin to Beat Happening and the Pastels the attention kept coming all year.

coldp
9. Cold Pumas – The Hanging Valley (Faux Discx)
Moody post-punk that was a perfect soundtrack to this year of the winter of our lives.

monomyth
10. Monomyth – Happy Pop Family (Mint)
Velvet Underground, the Byrds and fellow countrymen Sloan all figure into the recipe for this sublime and understated album.

kikagaku
11. Kikagaku Moyo – House in the Tall Grass (Guruguru Brain)
These Japanese renaissance men paint from a pallet of folk, psych and prog that meanders into dark fantastic places and then blasts out them into dry canyons on the California coast.

lithics
12. Lithics – Borrowed Floors (Water Wing)
This Portland band’s tightly wound, minimalist songs on Borrowed Floors always find their groove and then shatter floor.

witching
13. Witching Waves – Crystal Cafe (Soft Power/HHBTM)
The sophomore album is chock full of swirling, jagged songs with ambient interludes. A perfect combination of rough and smooch.

pooches
14. The Pooches – The Pooches (Lame-O)
I love bands that write songs about obsessing about records and the Pooches Heart Attack is perfect in that regard. Combine that with a lazy southern jangle that reminded me of REM and you have a great album.

finks
15. The Finks – Middling (Milk)
If you combine the easy going erudite nature of the Lucksmiths with the down home comfort of label mate Courtney Barnett you have this wonderful record from Melbourne’s Minks.

realnumbers
16. Real Numbers – Wordless Wonder (Slumberland)
Minneapolis’ Real Numbers finally release a full length album and their Television Personalities meets Buddy Holly inspired DIY pop is more then enough to fill two sides.

terry
17. Terry – Terry HQ (Upset the Rhythm)
Terry and the Shifters (they shared a split cassette release a few years ago) carry the Fall torch down under. Terry are the hippy-Pavement side of the coin and dial up just the right amount of dissonant yawp on their debut LP.

lionsden
18. Lion’s Den – Lion’s Den (Lazy Octopus)
Lion’s Den take their innate Swedish pop sensibilities and dirty them up with their brand of idiosyncratic garage rock, sounding sort of like the Intelligence meets Neil Armstrong.

asondas
19. As Ondas – Mares (Jigsaw)
Shopping spin off band mine some early New Order veins and insert some Young Marble Giants to create a beautifully understated record.

snails
20. Snails – Safe in Silence (Self-Released)
I’m not going out on a limb by drawing a family tree that shows Snails at the tip of the Beatles, Kinks, Kevin Ayers, Kate Le Bon family tree.

radiodept
21. Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love (Labrador)
These guys work at a slow pace so every record feels like an event. With barely a guitar in the mix this event was their mellowest outing to date, but no less arousing or compelling.

protoidio
22. Proto Idiot – For Dummies (Bad Paintings)
I’m a sucker for any Television Personalities influenced band and these guys had me plunking down some cash for their smart UK garage punk.

omni
23. Omni – Delux (Trouble In Mind)
Delux caught me off guard with its tightly wound and spiraling guitars that reminded me of Joseph K and Magazine, yet there is a slick 80’s quality to their sound that also evokes mainstream bands like Flock of Seagulls and Thomas Dolby.

hisclancy
24. His Clancyness – Isolation Culture (Maple Death)
A Classic Education’s Jonathan Clancy other band is a tour into a darker side of things. Book-ended by two excellent motorik tracks and stuffed with exquisite downtrodden pop reminiscent of East River Pipe and the Shins.

tyvek
25. Tyvek – Origin of What (In the Red)
Origin of What is not quite the tour de force that 2012’s On Tripple Beams was, but Kevin Boyer and crew still deliver. The scope is broader and their social consious punk rock addresses wider topics beyond their native Detroit. Extra points for including Tyvek Chant because every band should have their own chant.

rebelkind
26. Rebel Kind – Just For Fools (Urinal Cake)
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti group excels at jangly harmony filled wonder on their second album, combining influences like the Softies and Look Blue Go Purple.

verner
27. Verner Pantons – First Album (Curly)
The Paisely Underground is long gone, but its influence is lasting as evidenced in Portland’s Verner Pantons. Dusty psychedlia with a slight country tinge will remind many of the Syd Griffin and the Long Ryders.

katejack
28. Kate Jackson – British Road Movie (Hoo Ha)
Former singer of the Long Blonds, Kate Jackson made this album years ago with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and there it sat until this year. Lucky for us that Kate decided to finish it. Jackson has a great voice and Butler’s guitar is a perfect compliment.

savak
29. Savak – Best of Luck In Future Endeavors (Comedy Minus One)
Once a punk always a punk and these punk veterans made one of the best politically aware records of the year. A soundtrack for taking to the streets!

lawarab
30. Lawrence Arabia – Absolute Truth (Flying Nun)
James Milne infuses his Harry Nilsson highly stylized pop with some dance beats and makes his best album yet.

ural
31. Ural Thomas & the Pain – Ural Thomas & the Pain (Mississippi)
Ural Thomas has been a fixture in the underground PNW soul scene going back to the 1950’s. This record hasn’t received the attention that Charles Bradley’s Changes has but it’s just as good if not better.

martha
32. Martha – Blisters In the Pit of Your Heart (Dirtnap)
UK sucre popsters deal in high fructose pop like Joanna Gruesome and Los Campesinos! It sounds better the louder you make it with power chords slapping you to attention and choruses that will make your head explode.

honeyradar
33. Honey Radar – Blank Cartoon (What’s Your Rupture)
If you prefer your pristine pop savaged by distortion and difficulty then Blank Cartoon will put the cobwebs into your clarity.

puberty
34. Puberty – Puberty (Born Bad)
Intelligence side project that sat in moth balls for a couple years. More tongue and cheek than the Intelligence with a decided nod to Tones on Tail, it may never have been said before, but this Puberty is fun.

hooton
35. Hooton Tennis Club – Big Box of Chocolates (Heavenly)
Produced by Edwyn Collins, the sophomore LP from Hooton Tennis Club takes the good parts of Britpop and adds their laid back style for a winning volley that sustains itself into extra sets.

quilt
36. Quilt – Plaza (Mexican Summer)
Quilt continue to hone their psych-pop on their third album and come up with their most consistent and satisfying record yet.

flyying
37. Flyying Colours – Mindfullness (AC30)
Australian shoegazerrs who like extra letters also like extra tremelo. A classic sounding record that sits comfortably next to MBV, Chapterhouse and Slowdive.

jangle
38. The Jangle Band – Edge of a Dream (Pretty Olivia)
Appropriately named Australians descending from the Rainyard and the Palisades, Edge of a Dream is a record you immediately feel comfortable with. Like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, but the conversation picks up like you saw each other yesterday.

prophet
39. The Prophet Hens – the Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys (Fishrider)
Wonderful Shapes was not as immediate as the Prophet Hens’ debut, but it has a lasting power to it. More complex and varied, it continued to delight and surprise me throughout the year.

lakeruth
40. Lake Ruth – Actual Entity (The Great Pop Supplement)
New York City’s Lake Ruth have an elegant baroque sound that feels a little bit like Broadcast meets Left Banke. Actual Entity was their debut album, yet it sounds like they’ve been at since the 60’s. A timeless sounding record with memorable songs.

Life is a Lion’s Den

October 7, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Sweden | Leave a comment
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lions-den

I never thought I would hear a band that combined the spazzy pop bliss of Neil Armstrong with the primal pop eccentricities of the Intelligence. Where would I actually look for something like this? The internet of course. Sweden’s Lion’s Den could more succinctly be described as garage pop but that’s too easy. The  songs on the trio’s self-titled debut LP seem to have a dry take on the mundane and acidic world (“Waking up is the bitter side of life” and “Denial is my therapy”), but they’re so darn catchy that they still make you feel like a 100 bucks.

It’s got some surfy sounding bits, some rockin’ ones,  a few eccentricities and  lots of adrenaline.  And at ten songs in about 20 minutes it’s  a perfect record for these anxiety laden and distraction filled times. Put it on and let it take you for a spin. You’ll be back in 20 minutes, in time for whatever is you didn’t really need to do.

The album is out on Lazy Ocotopus.

No Hand Sanitizer Required In This Honey Bucket

September 16, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Portland | Leave a comment
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honeybucket

If you don’t live on the West Coast a band named Honey Bucket probably won’t have any bad connotations for you. For those of us not so fortunate, well let’s just say that we will just have to try not to touch anything and hold our noses as we listen. Port-a-potty influenced name aside, Portland trio Honey Bucket have just released an excellent debut record that has elements of their pals Woolen Men, the Clean and some Elephant 6 collective in its pop innards.

Recorded to a Tascam, the aesthetic of the album reminds me of the early Elephant 6 records by Beulah, The Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s sort of geeky pop fun at its core with cheap sounding keyboards and some free jazz horns interspersed into its pure pop.

The vinyl version of Honey Bucket’s Magical World is out on See My Friends Records. Downloads are at Bandcamp.

A Weekend of Driving Langorously

September 6, 2016 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Albums, Driving, Music, Singles | Leave a comment
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driving2

It was a three day holiday weekend here in the U.S. and that means one more day of doing whatever it is you prefer occupying your time with on a regular weekend. In my case you might be surprised to hear that it wasn’t listening to records, because frankly who has the time to sit and listen to vinyl during the waning days of summer? I was listening to music though. Being an American raised in the rural hinterlands of the Midwest my preferred method of listening to music is in the car with the windows down and the sun shining if possible.  So here is my past weekend of highlights in the car. Admittedly this post would have been much better if I would have thought to snap photos at random points from the driver’s side, but that kind of thing is illegal and a might bit dangerous. So better off safe and boring from the photo perspective. It’s all I can do to remember a turn signal sometimes when a good song is turned up loud on the car stereo.

I had listened to the new Tyde record (nice Scott Walker reference on the cover!) a few times sitting at a desk doing work and it didn’t really connect except for the single The Curse In Reverse in which Tyde main guy Darren Rademaker is aided by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to startling good results. But as I crossed the Ballard Bridge with the sun hitting me through the windshield Nice To Know You blasted out of my windows and I immediately got it. This record is not supposed be listened to in an office or a basement. It needs sunshine, wind and at least 35 miles per hour. I was doing an errand, but I passed my turn on purpose to keep listening. Luckily the record only has seven songs on it so I didn’t waste too much petrol.

Later that night I had to run to grocery store to gather some food for the grill. It takes about two songs to get to the store which is just about perfect for a 7-inch single. Often when I’m heading to the store I’ll pick something that I’ve just put onto my phone. In this instance it was the new Hozac single from Soft Candy. The Chicago band sound like LA Paisley Underground and must be fans of  the Rain Parade. The rolling psychedelia of Bixarre Luv Pyramids had me in such a daze that I almost rolled through a red light. I screeched to a halt (I was only going about 10 mph) in time to allow an elderly couple to cross Market Street. I Waited for the light to turn green and as it did the wonderful Kinks like piano of Song for Ellie Mae percolated from the speakers and carried me into the parking lot of the store. Damn I forgot my shopping list!

Late morning on our way to a trail head for a hike in the Cascades we are driving east on the I-90. It’s turning into a good day as the sun begins to burn off the clouds. Of course I’m starting to feel guilty about all of this driving. If I lived on a ranch, I’d take a horse and a Bluetooth speaker, but Seattle doesn’t have any ranches so here I am behind the wheel again listening to Portland’s Verner Pantons who continue the Paisley Underground theme of the prior evening’s trip to the grocery store only they subscribe more to the Long Ryders’ slant of psychedelia. It’s sort of dusty sounding and it makes me wonder if cowboys carry Bluetooth speakers with them on their horses these days, because I can’t think of a better way to listen to this record than on a horse somewhere around Winchester, Washington. As it is, songs like Little Boat, Melancholy Girl and Sarah Saturday get us to the hike much faster than NPR’s Weekend Edition could ever hope to.

A long weekend always has a comedown and needs a soundtrack and by this time I had been in the car way too much but it’s the last hurrah of summer and who wants to be inside? Not me. Earlier in the spring I had trimmed the apple tree in my back yard and there was a pile of wood waiting for just the right night. As I said earlier I don’t own a horse, but I do own a Bluetooth speaker and it was in my back yard as the cool nigh air was kept at bay by the snap and crack of the fire pit. What better soundtrack to fire, stars and general serenity than the new Mild High Club LP  Skiptracing? This group of Los Angeles followers of Steely Dan and High Llamas know how to relax, or at least put their listeners into a state of relaxation. How good? So good I could barely bring myself to put another log on the fire as the soothing sounds of Chapel Perilous floated through the air. Luckily I have a kid or two to do the heavy labor and the repeat button close at hand.

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