Jangly Good Times with Twerps at the Sunset


I remember seeing the Lucksmiths eight or nine years ago at the Sunset in Ballard and getting into a conversation with someone at the show about how strange it was for a band to travel half way around the world just to play this tiny bygone place in Ballard where the bar was right in front of the stage. A lot has changed in Ballard since then, including the Sunset. It has recently been remodeled so that there is a front room called Betty’s Room that is open to non-ticket holders and then there is a separate back room where you need to pay a cover to get in to see the bands. It’s very similar to places like Piano’s and the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. They may moved the bar away from the stage, but they left the giant support beam that cuts across the stage make a substantial obstacle for tall bass players who like to jump around. I guess you could say it adds some character to the place. All things considered the remodel is a major improvement.

Now it feels like a destination for bands traveling half way around the world, like the Twerps from Melbourne, Australia. Three years ago when they were in Seattle, they played at Chop Suey to a score of people. This time it was sold out. The Twerps at their core are Marty Frawley and Julia McFarlane, both sing and play guitar. Helping them out this tour is the rhythm section from the Stevens who also share a record label, Chapter Music in Australia. The Twerps new album Range Anxiety features much better production than their debut and quite a few fairly obvious nods to the Go-Betweens. Live the band seemed loose and in good spirits despite a late night drive to make it to Seattle in time for a session at KEXP earlier that day. Marty has a cheeky sense of humor, at one point in the set declaring his preference for Portland over Seattle. He seemed to relish playing to a full room. A couple highlights from the set for me included Jules’s Raft from the Underlay EP. This song doesn’t really sound like a Twerps song, but was pretty great nonetheless sounding part Bats and part Lovelife era Lush. Another highlight was Simple Feelings which really took an Feelies vibe with its swirling guitar and manic beat. The set was packed full of gems like like Dreamin’, Work It Out, I Don’t Mind and Back to You. With  two albums and a handful of EP’s the band had bounty of riches to choose from and they chose wisely, making it a jangly good time for everyone.

Range Anxiety by Twerps is out now on Merge Records.

Zebra Hunt who opened for the Twerps at Chop Suey three years ago also opened Saturday evening. I can’t think of a better match of bands for a bill. If you haven’t checked out Zebra Hunt’s album yet and dig the Twerps, I can guarantee that you will love it.

The Captain of Her Heart

The first thing you notice about Geoffrey O’Connor‘s new song Her Name On Every Tongue is that he steps it down an octave. In his band Crayon Fields and on his first solo record he employed his falsetto much of the time. I almost didn’t recognize him the first time I heard the song. I like it though. The lower octave provides more gravitas.

Her Name On Every Tongue has hints of Heartbeat City by the Cars, as well as some nice refined euro smoothness a la Roxy Music and Double. It also has similarities with Trevor Dickson‘s Summer Legs from last year. It glides like a bead of water down the side of your perspiring cocktail as you lounge in the shade of a palm tree somewhere on the Riviera.

stream: Geoffrey O’Connor – Her Name on Every Tongue (from Fan Fiction on August 8 on Chapter Music).

Midway and Buried in Records – Part 5

Part five of five of the mid 2013 album round-up is finally here. A little late as the this year’s National IPA day took precedence yesterday to actually putting this final installment online. Rest assured though, I was of very sober mind when considering all of these records.

Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)

“Blue, laid-back, playful and breezy. They will make your heart ache. In fact, they could have put a sticker on the cover stating: Warning. May cause slight bouts of melancholia.” Feeling this bad never felt so good.

stream: Dick Diver – Calendar Days

The Shivas – Whiteout (K)

The Shivas can stretch from Thee Oh Sees style romps to shimmering surf rides to Freakwater style country numbers. Whiteout is a wonderfully varied and accomplished album from a group of young Pacific Northwest punks.

stream: The Shivas – Thrill Yr Idols

Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living (Great Pop Supplement/Rocket Girl)

Every now and then I like to put on a record that makes me feel like I am floating in space. Ladies and gentlemen, this record creates zero gravity with its motorik grooves that you will put it on repeat to avoid re-entry.

stream: Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living

Useless Eaters – Hypertension (Jeffery Drag)

Seth Sutton finally decides to stop recording into a boombox and the results are more than satisfying. It’s not just sound quality, he’s also upped his songwriting. Hypertension a huge leap in quality and already a classic punk record in my book.

stream: Useless Eaters – Hypertension

Woolen Men – Woolen Men (Woodsist)

Portland’s Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock.  Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and dB’s.

stream: Woolen Men – Mayonnaise


Paul Messis – Case Closed (State)

Paul Messis is an obvious fan of the Dovers, West Coast Experimental Pop Art Band, the Who and the Squires, but instead of doing covers, he’s creating his own future classics.

stream: Paul Messis – Nickels And Dimes

Wimps – Repeat (End of Time)

“Wimps songs  adhere to the  three chords and a cloud of dust rule. They’re raw, immediate, self-deprecating and fun. And who doesn’t need humorous odes to naps, intoxication, bad jobs, and the general banality of life to crank up when you need to forget about your sucky life?”

stream: Wimps – Slept In Late

Sea Breezes and Comet Scars

Wild Nothing‘s Nowhere single from last year was an obvious tribute to the Go-Betweens. Australia’s Dick Diver have done one better. An entire album that could be construed as a tribute to that great band. The Melbourne quartet is the primary band of Rupert Edwards and Al McKay. They get help from the moonlighting Steph Hughs (Boomgates) and Al Montfort (Lower Plenty, The UV Race, Total Control and Straightjacket Nation). All four members contribute songs to the record which provides some variety, but for the most part they are all on the same chapter in the same book. Calendar Days their second album, came out in March to a quiet reception over hear in the US mostly because they don’t have a record label here.

They have been described by some as Australian strummy music. I’m not sure if it was meant as a compliment or not but it captures their sound in a nutshell. Doesn’t everyone love a good strum once in a while? What does strummy actually mean? In the case of Dick Diver: blue, laid-back, playful and breezy. They will make your heart ache. In fact, they could have put a sticker on the cover stating: Warning. May cause slight bouts of melancholia. There is nothing wrong with being blue though. Sometimes you need a little dose of the blues to make you appreciate the better times and this record seems to tug you into reflection with its easy melodies. Many bands worry about a sophomore slump, but Dick Diver sound like they really know what they’re doing the second time around.

Dick-Diver cover
stream: Dick Diver – Lime Green Shirt (from Calendar Days out on Chapter Music in Australia)

The Stevens Moving Into the Fast Lane

Even Stevens

Pop lovers who love melodic dissonance (aka jangle-pop) on vinyl rejoice. The fine folks at the Melbourne based Chapter Music are set to release the Stevens eponymous six song EP. In case you missed last year’s Finest-Kiss-Melbourne-Extravaganza, the Stevens are pure pop brilliance smack dab in the middle of that current brilliant Melbourne pop scene.

The band self-released the EP last year on on homemade cassettes, CD’s and downloads, but now it’s about to get released as a seven-inch single. That’s not all, the band are putting the finishing touches on an album they are recording with the ubiquitous Mickey Young which they hope to have out before the end of the year.

If you’re a Stevens freak (like I am) be sure to pick up  a copy of the the Vacant Valley compilation Rough End of the Stick which contains an additional Stevens song Turpin Falls.

Stream: The Stevens – I Look Back (The EP is available now from bandcamp and in April on vinyl from Chapter Music)

Pleasures of the Crayon Fields

I just read a tweet from the Vaselines where they called Belle & Sebastian pure showbiz.  I think they meant it as a compliment, but I took it as a put down.  I’ve been down on Belle & Sebastian since seeing them on the Dear Catastrophe Waitress tour.  While I liked that record, live they just got a little bit too full of themselves and then the cringingly bad Life Pursuit and its live show demonstrated that the band seemed to be quite content to be mired in MOR quicksand (Word to the wise, don’t torture yourself with their new record, especially the Nora Jones duet). What was great about those early B&S albums was the DIY spirit, the  tension they could conjure and the bare bones approach to orchestral pop.  What’s a guy to do when a favorite band goes astray?  Go find another favorite band of course.  The Crayon Fields are the perfect replacement.  Their latest album All the Pleasures of the World was an unheralded orchestral pop gem. They share the same influences with Belle & Sebastian in  the Go-Betweens, Zombies, Bee Gees and the Left Banke, and they remind me of B&S circa If You’re Feeling Sinister, a little awkward in front of an audience, but able to deliver the goods in an anxious, taught way.  You won’t get a string section at Benaroya Hall, but you will get a feeling of the delicate and the sublime from songs like Disappear and Mirrorball, or an inkling of the exotic from How Loved Are You.

The Crayon Fields are no strangers to these pages, but they are just about to embark on a rare set of US dates which is the impetus of this post.  The band have released an EP in preparation for their US landing over on Bandcamp.  It includes a live version of Graceless, a cover of Roxette‘s It Must Have Been Love and a new song,and  the afore mentioned How Loved Are You.  If that’s not enough new stuff for you, Crayon Fields main dude Geoffrey O’Connor has his second solo album (his first was under the moniker Sly Hats) ready for release.  It will be out soon on Chapter Music, the same label as the Crayon Fields and label has graciously shared up a song to preview its release.

mp3: Crayon Fields – How Love You Are

mp3: Geoffrey O’Connor – Now and Then

Catch the Crayon Fields in the flesh if you live near one of these places:
Oct 11 – Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
Oct 13 – Muddy Waters W/ The Spires and Watercolor Paintings – Santa Barbara, CA
Oct 14 – Rickshaw Stop w/ Magic Bullets  – San Francisco, CA
Oct 16 – Northern w/Karl Blau – Olympia, WA
Oct 17 – Mississippi Studios w/Karl Blau  – Portland, OR
Oct 18 – Tractor Tavern w/Karl Blau  – Seattle, WA
Oct 21 – Glasslands Gallery – (CMJ) – New York, NY
Oct 22 – Rockwood Music Hall (CMJ) – New York, NY
Oct 24 – Black Cat Backstage w/ Family Portrait – Washington, DC
Oct 26 – The Fire w/Air Waves – Philadelphia, PA
Oct 27 – TT The Bears w/Air Waves – Boston, MA
Oct 29 – Hotel Cafe – Los Angeles, CA

Psych Pop Week: The Crayon Fields

All the pleasures of fields of crayons
photo from the Crayon Fields MySpace

Welcome to psych pop week here at the Finest Kiss.  No we won’t be going down memory lane talking about bands like the Zombies, The Bee Gees, Free Design, the Elephant 6 Collective, or Witch Hazel.  Instead we’ll be covering some new records that dip their feet into the psychedelic ink jar.

Today we take a look at the excellent new record from Austalia’s Crayon Fields.   All the Pleasures  of the World is the follow up to Animal Bells which came out in 2006.  Animal Bells was a fine debut but didn’t seem to get much attention, mostly because it didn’t get released outside of Austrailia.  All the Pleasures of the World currently is relegated to same fate, but is such a leap in sonic quality that it can’t be for long.  Pleasures ups the lusciousness factor with a set of songs that will slip inside your consciousness.  It’s like a drug, after hearing this record a few times you’ll find yourself  needing a fix from it on a regular basis.

mp3: The Crayon Fields – Disappear (buy All the Pleasures of the World)

Wait! There’s more, the video for Mirror Ball, one of two singles already released from the record.