A New Duke of Uke

dent with uke

At the start of every year I always have a list of records I’m looking forward to, and usually more than half of them end up being disappointments. So you won’t find any posts around here that list out a bunch of records I’m anticipating. Instead let’s talk about what’s in hand. Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele live up their name in both respects. They are a ukulele band and also pretty magnificent. You might think that Dent comes from that London nu-folk scene centered around the Duke of Uke ukulele shop, but in fact he’s from Mississippi. What’s a guy in Mississippi doing playing the ukulele? The same thing as Londoners, writing and playing uke pop songs.

Where the Londoners lean towards folk, Dent is more interested in crooning sunny pop numbers that incorporate 50’s do-wop, tropicalia, and tin pan alley. Dent may not look like the coolest guy around with his thick coke bottle glasses, but he’s got a voice that make the ladies weak in the knees. His songs are all catchy as a center fielder, funny and topical too. God Loves You Michael Chang tells the story of Chang’s victory over Ivan Lendel in the 1989 French Open and College Town Boy berates those people who linger around in their college towns long after graduation with dent singing College town boy get off your ass and do something. He’s also wiser than his years with the knowing You Can’t Force a Dance Party, even when you play all your favorite records. Dent and his ukulele remind me of a lot of people. He’s got a sunny demeanor like the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, or Jonathan Sings era Jonathan Richman, throw in a some Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Poi Dog Pondering, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and, oh yeah, a ukulele.

The story goes that Dent was ‘discovered’ by Animal Collective while they were recording Meriweather Post Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi last year. Though he was likely familiar to ukulele enthusiasts before now and even a few indie kids who attended Pop Fest last summer in New York where he shared the bill with the Cannanes, Hermit Crabs and Cats on Fire. Animal Collective dug him so much they’re putting out his record The Good Feeling Music of Dent May on their own Paw Print label in February. It was recorded with Rusty Santos down in Mississippi in a double-wide trailer, as opposed to just one of thos regular one apparently to accommodate the entire band. I have a feeling if Animal Collective hadn’t been in Mississippi to snatch up Dent and his double wide, a few other labels would be chomping at the bit to put this record out. A.C. Newman must be a fan, since Dent will be opening for all of Newman’s dates in February and March. This should provide the opportunity for a lot more people to get get the full on uke experience.

mp3: Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele – 26 Miles (from The Good Feeling Music of Dent May, out 3 February)

mp3: Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele – When You Were Mine (Prince cover)

2/20 Vancouver, BC The Biltmore Cabaret *

2/21 Seattle, WA Neumos *

2/22 Portland, OR Doug Fir Lounge *

2/24 Sacramento, CA Harlow’s *

2/25 San Diego, CA Casbah *

2/26 Los Angeles, CA Troubadour *

2/27 Santa Barbara, CA SOho Restaurant and Music Club *

2/28 San Francisco, CA The Independent * (Noise Pop)

3/01 Eugene, OR John Henry’s *

3/02 Boise, ID Neurolux

3/05 Minneapolis, MN 400 Bar

3/06 Chicago, IL Schubas

3/07 Pontiac, MI The Pike Room @ The Crofoot

3/08 Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom

3/10 Ithaca, NY Castaways *

3/11 Toronto, ONT Lee’s Palace *

3/12 Montreal, QC Il Motore *

3/13 Providence, RI Club Hell *

3/14 Boston, MA Paradise *

3/15 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom *

* Opening for AC Newman

New New New…and New!

Back in February I got all excited about A Sad Day for Puppets.  Eight months is enough time to cool off and regain my bearings, but I’m still smitten with this Swedish band.  If you haven’t heard their Just Like a Ghost ep yet then you may not know what I’m talking about, but the band are giving you another chance because they’re about to release an album.  It’s beautiful, fragile music that will leave you wanting to move to Sweden, if not only for the chance to see them live and in the flesh.

mp3: A Sad Day for Puppets – Little Light (buy Unknown Colors)

Back in May I was all full of vitamin C and Bricolage was just one of many Orange Juice influenced bands that I was digging.  Well it seems that these Scots have gotten around to putting together an album.  It’s set for release this week on Creeping Bent.  In case you have missed out on their sporadic singles to date, all of them are contained on their self titled album.  I hear rumors that it may even get released in the USA on Slumberland!  In the meantime check out a song that isn’t on the album.  If this is an outtake, the album must be pretty damn good!

mp3: Bricolage – Lucinda Said (pre-order their self title debut album)

With all the excitement and bits being spilled over the Vivian Girls you would think that they were the only all girl band carrying a torch for 60’s girl groups, the Flatmates, or the Shop Assistants.  Well, Liechtenstien are here to tell you that is not the case.  Not only can they play their instruments better, there is less feedback and more Spanish horns!  These Goethenburg ladies have only released two singles to date, but these five songs are enough to get quite a few people excited, myself included.  You can read an interview with the band over at the excellent bog All That Ever Mattered.

mp3: Liechtenstein – Security by Design (by their singles)

Okay, I know you can only take in so much new stuff at one time, but I must include the new Bubblegum Lemonade album that has just been released by the history in the making Matinee record label.  Bubblegum Lemonade are a one man band consisting of Lawrence “Laz” McCluskey who also fronts another band Strawberry Whiplash.  Both bands are certified C-86 with credentials like McCluskey playing a 12 string and his adoration of Tallulah Gosh, Teenage Fanclub and the Razorcuts. After putting out two 4 song eps, he’s just unleashed Doubleplusgood on Matinee records.  It’s a study in the pop rush with hooks and pop goodness washing over you  like a California coastal break.

mp3: Bubblegum Lemonade – Penny Fountain (buy Doubleplusgood)

I was going to stop here, but I can’t.  I’m obsessed with the three minute rush of a classic pop song and the Hi-Life Companion have produced one that is essentially undeniable.  This came out on Cloudberry a little while ago so it’s not really that new but it’s since sold out, so it’s rare (or something). Fear not this Bristol, England band are just about to unleash an album upon the world.  They’re harmonies can recall the Beach Boys at times, but they take it a bit further, latching onto an atonal groove and combining it with a catchy melody at the same time.  They may have stumbled upon the perfect prescription to write their songs into your brain waves, permanently!

mp3: The Hi-Life Companion – Time Table

Join in the Slow Club

It’s weird how you listen to something in one context, and it doesn’t click, but in another context and kablam! it hits you. That is the case with Slow Club. I have this Moshi Moshi Singles Club cd that collects a bunch of singles the label has recently put out, and on it is Slow Club’s Because We’re Dead. I’ve listened to the cd a handful of times but nothing has really stood out, even the Wave Pictures‘ We Dress Up Like Snowmen failed to grab me. So the other day I came across the video for Because We’re Dead and for some reason, it totally hits home. Maybe because it was out of the context of the all over the place Moshi Moshi sampler and in it’s own little place, maybe it was because the sun has been shining for days and I’m in the mood for bounce around happy music, or maybe it was the chair dancing choreography in the video. Who knows?

Whatever the case, this duo (Charles and Rebecca) have such an upbeat sound that at first I thought they were Australians. Charles’ voice has a lot in common with Darren Hanlon, and their stripped down folk sound and dexterous lyrics remind me a little of the Lucksmiths. It turns out they’re not Australians at all, but the north of England. Sheffield to be exact. The vocal interplay, the harmonies and the big shouted choruses of their two singles currently available form Moshi Moshi will make you weak in the knees if you are a Los Campesinos or a Talking with the Taxman era Billy Bragg fan. I am really looking forward to the album this duo have in store and ready for release later this summer.

mp3: Slow Club – Because We’re Dead

mp3: Slow Club – Summer Shakedown

Both of their singles can be ordered direct from Moshi Moshi. And here’s that video…

Single of the Week: Boat – Topps

BOAT return with a slab of vinyl and it’s just about the perfect thing to start your summer. It’s got songs, baseball cards and bubblegum, and I bet if you buy it from them at one of their shows they’ll autograph it too. When D. Crane sings I’ve got a wife, I’ve got a job, a record store that knows my name, I can’t help but love him. Plus the fact that BOAT are pop geeks that learned to read from Baseball Cards and Comic Books, well it just hits a little too close to home. Are they singing about me? No, they don’t even know me! This is the catchiest BOAT has ever sounded, starting off with echoey keyboard, and ahh-ahhs, and then comes the killer guitar hook that really clinches it. Easy, single of the week!

mp3: BOAT – Topps(buy the record)

You can buy the record from Magic Marker or directly from them on their upcoming tour. It really does come with bubblegum and baseball cards, hand drawn ones at that! I wonder if the gum is hard, crunchy and stale like the sticks that came in packs of baseball cards? And if you want autographs, they’ll be making their way across the country to a town near you. Here are the dates for the ‘We Jam Super Econo and a Bit Cramped’ Tour:

July 5th–Showbox w/ Long Winters and Cops–Seattle, WA
July 12th–Sunset Tavern w/Tullycraft and Fishboy–Seattle, WA
July 13th–Club POW–Sacramento, CA
July 14th–Sue’s Java Lounge–Redding, CA
July 15th–The Knockout–San Francisco, CA
July 16th–Mr. T’s Bowl–Los Angeles, CA
July 18th–Biko’s Garage (All Ages)–Santa Barbara, CA
July 19th–TBA–Oakland, CA
July 20th–The Someday Lounge–Portland, OR
July 31st–Neumo’s–Seattle, WA
August 15th–Johnny Brenda’s–Philadelphia, PA
August 17th–The Cake Shop–Brooklyn, NY
August 18th–PA’s Lounge–Boston, MA
August 20th–Union Hall–New York, NY
August 21st–The Lantern–Blacksburg, VA
August 22nd–TBA–Pittsburgh, PA
August 23rd–TBA–Chicago, IL

Summer Day

photo from shinobu

There’s something about the aftermath of a hot summer day and the Radio Dept. that go together. It’s like perfect come down music to the hot sun. The chill sounds of the new Radio Dept. single Freddie and the Trojan Horse with the icy guitar and the sleepy vocals have been getting a lot of play tonight. Today was just about perfect here in Seattle with 88 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer and on a Saturday to boot! Things are finally cooling down a little and the Radio Dept seem to be the perfect thing right about now. The new single isn’t much of a departure for the band but it does remind me more of their first album rather than the soundtrack-like second one. They even throw in a nice Talk Talk synthesized guitar in the middle just to keep you on your toes. But really, if you’ve spent the entire day in the sun like me this will take the edge off kind of like a popsicle in the shade.

mp3: The Radio Dept. – Freddie and the Trojan Horse (single out 4 June, album in September on Labrador)

Pelle and Sebastian

Pelle Carlberg is hard at work recording his follow up to last year’s number one album (#1 around here anyway), In a Nutshell. To show the fruits of his labor, he’s posted one of his favorite new songs over on his web page. 1983 is like one of the stories that you read on the sleeve of a Belle & Sebastian record. He and his friend Sebastian buy new jeans, are aked for smokes and subseqenlty get spooked and give their last $5 away. He’s always gotten comparisons to Belle and Sebastian, so either he’s decided to take the piss out of those comparisons or just decided not to fight it. Either way, he certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humor nor his pop sensibilities

mp3: Pelle Carlberg – 1983 (Pelle & Sebastian)

The Main Attraction: Northern Portrait

Three Guys from Copenhagen
If you are a Trashcan Sinatras fan, then you probably were pretty psyched when they came out of hiding a few years ago with an excellent new album and a tour of the States. Well it’s been a while and if you’re like me you are probably growing impatient for the next Trashcan Sinatras album. I think Northern Portrait got tired of waiting and formed their band with a sound that is very reminiscent of that Scottish band. When I first heard Northern Portrait, I was caught by how jangly and catchy their first song Crazy was. It had the jangle of the Smiths‘ this Charming Man or Cemetry Gates, with vocals that had a bit of Morrissey in them. But being a Trashcan Sinatras fan, I can’t get over the similarities of these two bands, right down to their clever lyrics.

Northern Portrait are pretty new, they got together last summer and are based in Copenhagen, Denmark. All three guys were previously in other bands, but from the sounds of it they’ve really gelled as a trio, and have already written a bunch of really catchy songs. Besides that they’ve gone and gotten signed to Matinee Records, home of the Lucksmiths and Math and Physics Club among others. If you are fan of jangly pop songs, these guys will put a smile on your face. Matinee is releasing a four song ep this month, but I sure hope that they have a album up their sleeves, because I don’t know how long four songs will last me. Jangly pop like this is like candy and I find myself lapping it all up in one sitting only to look for more as soon as the sugar rush wares off. Four songs should last me, but I’ll be anxiously looking for that album. According to their myspace, they are currently recording songs for an album, so the wait may not be that long.

mp3: Northern Portrait – Crazy (from The Fallen Aristocracy)

mp3: Northern Portrait – I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me

buy: Northern Portrait – The Fallen Aristocracy

A few from the Trashcan Sinatras, who buy the way are finishing recording their follow up to 2004’s Weightlifting. With any luck it’ll be out this year. Buy some Trashcan Sinatras albums here.

mp3: Trashcan Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks (from Cake)

mp3: Trashcan Sinatras – Twisted and Bent (from A Happy Pocket)

And one more song from Swedes Popundret, who had a Smiths/TCS thing going on way back in 1996.
mp3: Popundret – Life Can Be So Hard (from Montmartre 15 40)

Alone Again Or

Robert Forster as the Evangelist
Go-Between, Robert Forster is back with his fifth solo album, though not by choice. He and Grant McLennan were working on the follow up to the Go-Between’s Oceans Apart when McLennan suddenly and shockingly died in his sleep. I still remember the last time I saw the Go-Betweens, they were touring for Ocean’s Apart and stopped in Seattle for a beautiful show at the Triple Door. They were both so alive with their band, Grant and Robert on guitar, Adele Pickvance on bass and Glenn Thompson on drums. They sounded so good. Mixing new songs with the old just made me buzz with anticipation of what these guys were still capable of next. It is so rare for a band that gets back together after breaking up ever getting close to past glories. Well I would argue that the Go-betweens met them and surpassed a lot of those old glories.

Thankfully Robert Forster has seen fit to carry on without his other half, because it sounded like he wasn’t sure he was going to carry on with music. His doubts were allayed when apparently the record just came together over the summer, it sounds like it was kind of a meant to be thing. It’s called The Evangelist and contains three song he wrote with the late McLennan. He also has his former Go-betweens Pickvance and Thompson back as his rhythm section and he’s even employed Mark Wallis and Dave Ruffy (who produced Oceans Apart), for production duties. The record itself is not a far cry from Oceans Apart. It starts out with some organ leading into a surfy guitar riff that makes you feel like you’re on the beach at sunset. I thought Forster wrote some of the best songs on Oceans Apart, he seemed to have hit a vein of gold in his writing. The new album shows he’s still mining that vein, even incorporating some country influence that was so prevalent on his his early solo albums. There are also some beautiful string arrangements courtesy of Audrey Riley as well as lovely female backing vocals evident in the haunting last song From Ghost Town. This is indeed a Robert Forster solo record and easily rivals Calling from a Country Phone (my favorite of his solo records), but the ghost of his songwriting partner emanates throughout it, in the lyrics, the guitar and just how when you hear a Forster song, you expect to hear a McLennan on right after. I for one am grateful that he decided to carry on without his friend and give us this ‘solo’ album.

mp3: Robert Forster – Pandanus (from The Evangelist)

buy: Robert Forster – Evangelist (pre-order, out 29 April)

A few more from Forster’s other solo albums:

mp3: Robert Forster – Dear Black Dream (from Danger in the Past)

mp3: Robert Forster – The Circle ( from Calling from a Country Phone)

mp3: Robert Forster – 2541 (from I Had a New York Girlfriend) a Grant Hart cover

Pirates of the Thames

I will not put in a lame pirate-speak phrase here, repeat I will not….

With a name like Pete and the Pirates, you would think that they’d be from some sea faring town on the coast, but no they’re from Reading? Sounding a little like Adam and the Ants with the bouncing bass lines and Tommy Sanders’ kind of whooping vocals. To be fair, I’ve also seen them compared to the Undertones and the Pixies which I can totally see. But the Adam Ant thing is more fun, because didn’t Adam and the Ants dress up like pirates? Those big boots, funny face painting and Napoleon jackets were a gas. I don’t think Pete and the Pirates dress in pirate getup, I suppose that’s not acceptable nowadays.

Dressing as swashbucklers or not, Pete and the Pirates certainly know how to rock it with their short sharp and jagged guitars and the multi-tracked vocals sounding like the whole band is singing at once. A lot of the excellent guitar on this record reminds me of Pete Solowka’s work from George Best era Wedding Present. It jangles a bit, and chugs a lot, with a post punk ringing, angular feel, but it crunches in a Pixies, Sonic Youth way in all the right places.

This little album that could has been in constant rotation for a good month with me, it’s songs are so short and catchy that when it’s over I find myself reaching to put it back on. Most of the songs clock in around or under 3 minutes, and I love an economical band that wraps a tight melody, some great guitar licks into a two minute and thirty three second pop song. the songs don’t wear out their welcome and it keeps you coming back for more. Little Death, the first great English album of 2008? The more I listen to it the more I’m a believer, pirate costumes or not.

mp3: Pete and the Pirates – Lost In the Wood (from Little Death)

buy it: Pete and the Pirates – Little Death

mp3: The Wedding Present – What Did Your Last Servant Die Of? (from George Best)

Sad Day for Puppets, Happy Day for Me

Sad Puppets

How do you find new music on the cacophonous internet? Do you sit back a wait for it to come to you from a few select sources, do you have a complex RSS reader to feed you, or are you just well connected and know the right people? Maybe it’s a little of all those and some others. Me, I just wonder aimlessly around reading a lot, listening to a lot, wasting a lot of time essentially. Yesterday I was doing what I do, reading other blogs, It’s a Trap specifically and came across new Swedish band Sad Day for Puppets. It was the shoegaze tag that initially caught my eye, I’m a sucker for that tag. After listening to them, I wouldn’t really say they’re shoegaze, but more of a Mazzy Star, Mojave 3 or Concretes kind of vibe with their slightly country sound and the precious vocals of Anna and Annika Eklund.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information about the band, but when you’re new I guess you don’t have much of a history. Judging from the picture I’d guess that Anna and Annika are identical twins, or they’re just sisters with the same haircut. I can tell you that their debut EP is called Just Like a Ghost and is slated for release in April on Swedish label HaHa Fonogram home of Radio LXMBRG (not to be confused with Welsh group Radio Luxembourg). For now you can head on over to their MySpace page and check out four fine songs with very strong pop sensibilities and start counting down the days to their April release.

myspace: Sad Day for Puppets