Devon Williams brought his Euphoria tour to the Comet Tavern last night. His new album (his second) just out on Slumberland is full of intricate and lushly textured songs. The guy obviously is a student of the 80’s. Euphoria is an understated winner that I recommend heartily to fans of the Church, Modern English, East River Pipe and the Icicle Works. It’s an easy record to like combining Williams’ big sounding songs with his plaintive delivery that strips them of any pretentiousness.
As I was standing in the somewhat redesigned Comet (the place actually has a stage with space for an entire band can stand) watching them play, a couple things came to mind. I liked the extra muscularity that his five piece band brought to the songs even though some of the instrumental flourishes, had to be given up in the live versions of the songs. The second was how much they reminded me of Prefab Sprout. Not that Mr. Williams sings like Paddy McAloon, but his songs have this undeniable sense of hope and optimism while at that same time sounding sad. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a great trick if you can pull it off as a songwriter and Devon Williams did exactly that last night. He and his band played a for about half an hour and seemed to enjoy every minute of it and the handful of us in the audience did as well.
It’s been a busy few weeks out here in the upper left-hand corner of the United States. The singles have been coming in at a relentless pace. It was a long holiday weekend, so what better thing to do than to get caught up on listening to them. Here’s the low-down on the batch that were burning up my turntable this weekend.
Toronto’s Persian Rugs make up one of two singles from Cloudberry in this round-up. The A-side Always All has been swimming around the internet for a while. It has a seafaring keyboard intro that gives way to a simple guitar rif and a catchy chorus which of course, all singles should have. Though they don’t exactly sound like Ivy, that New York band does comes to mind here. The B-side is a slightly more country tinged affair but good as well. Buying the single gets you a download containing a total of five songs, three more than on the record itself.
Caucus come from Japan, but you wouldn’t know it from hearing them as there is no detectable accent and they sound a little like early Pains of Being Pure at Heart or if you’re old like me, Poole who were on SpinArt back in the 90’s. Wondering Ones has breathy vocals and fuzzy guitars. Proving their appreciation and knowledge of their lineage, they choose to cover Rocketship‘s Love You Like the Way That I Used To Do on the B-side.
The first three singles from the Odd Box Singles Club arrived a couple weeks ago and they were worth the wait. Each single is a split between two bands. Blanche HudsonWeekend and Horowitz share the first one with their noisier, guitar drenched sounds. Single number two gives us the bratpunk sounds of the Give It Ups. The first song is shouted versus traded with sung choruses. The second asks the question, what kind of guy dates a girl named Knives? The Santa Monica Swim and Dive Club on the flip is a spin-off project of Saturday Looks Good To Me. False Start, My Heart is ok, but maybe a little to middle of the road indiepop for my tastes. My favorite of the first three goes to the Humms/One Fathom Down split. One Fathom Down do rowdy-surf inspired instrumentals. Nothing new, but both their songs shred. The Humms’ Jupiter is a perfect slice of acoustic British invasion pop. I believe that you can still subscribe to the singles club, just click on the link above.
Speaking of the Rocketship, the Zebras evoke the Sacramento band’s sound a little on their split with the Motifs. The Zebras are from Australia and have released a couple albums on Lost and Lonesome. Desert Island shows them to be in fine form and making me hope for album number three from them. Sharing this tiny slab of wax is fellow Melbourne band, the Motifs. Words is a sugared up two minute hyper swirling pop song. No caffeine needed here. Can’t decide which side is better…
Los Angeles songsmith Devon Williams is about to release his second album, but before that he’s got this 7″ single for you. Your Sympathy starts out with a big sounding Icicle Works Whisper To a Scream sounding intro. Williams doesn’t let it get out of hand though as he has a way of putting you at ease with his heart-aching voice which has this tendency to remind me of East River Pipe.
Another Brooklyn band? Shrug. Caged Animals‘ song Girls on Medication made me sit up instead of shrug. Lazy, druggy dreampop with a killer hook. The B-side and the other songs they have on bandcamp are more electronic and less enticing, leading me to believe that this is either a fluke or a new direction for them. Hoping it’s the later.
Grass Widow have been quiet for a little while. The silence is ended with this self-released single. First off, I love the art on the sleeve. It looks like a the doodles of a clothing designer who likes guitars. The songs live up to the cover. Milo Minute may be the catchiest song Grass Widow have written to date and it benefits from having its volume turned way up. The flip side serves up two covers, one from the Neo Boys and the other being Wire‘s Mannequin. Mannequin is probably the second most covered Wire song (the first has to be Outdoor Miner). It’s no reinvention, but it differs with it’s harmonies and echoed vocals. Worthwhile!
Bill over at Sound Bites had the Tony Castles EP on one of his year end lists last year, describing it as Prefab Sprout-esque. Those two words are all I needed. This new single from the Brooklyn band has more of a post-rock sound to it evoking Field Music a little. Juice has a funky 80’s vibe and is quite good, but I think I like the pillowy downbeat B-side Heart In the Pipes better.
The last time at the drive-thru we were sorted for e’s and wiz listening to McDonalds‘s debut single. Single number two is upon us and without he help of Factory or Martin Hannett. Amazing. This nderachiever, ramshackle rock is for fans of German Measles who like to dance.
Anyone familiar with F.M. Corong’s East River Pipe knows what kind of beautiful melancholy that can pour out of a life-long east coaster. I always thought that the stereotypical laid-back west coaster wasn’t capable of creating something sounding anything like an East River Pipe. Of course my assumption is wrong, tales of heartache and depression are universal. Devon Williams who comes from La-La-Los Angeles reiterates that point with his solitary and suffering songs. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of this dour fellow, you may recognize him from Lavender Diamond, Champagne Socialists (now called Neverever), or heard his album Carefree from last year that came out on Ba Da Bing. Just as Sarah Records snapped up East River Pipe, Slumberland has nabbed Mr. Williams and the first fruits of this destined marriage is a 7 inch single with a an album coming sometime in the near future.