A Weekend of Driving Langorously

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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.

So Much Water So Close To Home

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After a couple singles, Zebra Hunt, the Pacific Northwest’s foremost purveyors of the Dunnedin sound have released an album. City Sighs has obviously been influenced by the classic Flying Nun sound of the early 80’s made famous by the Clean, the Verlaines and the Chills, but it also incorporates some distinctly American sounds to create a fresh variation on a well worn style.

City Sighs seems to be an album full of jangle, longing and discovery. It’s full of pop songs that are instantly likable and easy to remember. Deleware starts the record and opines for a lost friend who’s up and moved back to the first state in the Union. Singer Robert Mercer sings just enough (and leaves even more unsaid) to get you wondering why this person left. It has an air of mystery to it like a Raymond Carver story. The American influences aren’t just literary. Call It Off is a dusty rocker that has Long Ryders feel to it and Isle of Song and Always both owe a little something to Galaxy 500. The band also rightfully resurrect Half Right and Beaches of LA, two of their best songs that originally appeared on their first single that came out on the now defunct Manic Pop label.

The last song Haze Of Youth may be my favorite song on the album. Starting out as pop and then transitioning into a long jam, it out real estates Real Estate. City Sighs is being released by the tiny Tenorio Cotobade label in Madrid, Spain, so you probably won’t see this record at your local shop unless you live in Seattle, but it deserves as much exposure and recognition as like minded records (on much larger labels) by the Twerps and Real Estate.

Vinyl & Download available from Tenorio Cotobade.
Download available from Zebra Hunt’s bandcamp.

If you’re near Seattle this weekend, don’t miss Zebra Hunt Saturday at Hilliard’s in Ballard.

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Paisley Boys Go for the Velocity Girl

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Los Angeles’ Dream Boys remind me of time not long ago when the first Tyde album came out. I was surprised how a band from Los Angles were able to sound like direct descendants of Felt. Back then when record stores were the only place you could buy music there was what’s called an import section and a certain American record buyers would search that section out because that was where all the best jangly pop stuff came from.

I doubt that Dream Boys peruse the import section of their local record store. Is there a record store these days that even has an import section? In fact you could argue that they don’t need an import section for their influences. Their own back yard is overflowing with potential inspirations. The Paisley Underground scene of the 80’s and of course the ground zero of everything that is jangle the Byrds. Dream Boys have two songwriters one favoring the UK flavor, the other seems to prefer the LA flavor. So you get the best of both worlds here.

Whether you dig the sounds of the Tyde, Bif Bang Pow, Long Ryders, the Bluebells, Close Lobsters, Felt, the Three O’clock or the Byrds there is something for you on this album. It will remind you of any of the above, or it may make you search out some of those bands to find out how Dream Boys got here. No matter the direction of your approach, this exceptional album will satisfy. Guaranteed!

stream: Dream Boys – Sworn (from the self-titled album out on Art Fag)
You can stream the entire album at Art Fag’s soundcloud page and check out the video for the song Born Yesterday below.

Looking For Lewis and Clark

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The cover of Indian Wars‘ second album Songs from the North features a wooden duck on a bed of wilting parsley set amid some fine silverware.  On the back cover there is a photo of a garage with a photo of Dylan on the door and a torch stake with a doll’s dismembered head and foot attached to it. I know why Dylan is on the door, but what does the wooden duck mean and why is there a dismembered baby doll on a torch? Either it is some great symbolism or an inside joke. There isn’t a lame duck among the 10 songs on the record. They are rollicking, familiar, and  engaging “songs from the south sung from a Northerner’s point of view.”

The second album from this Vancouver, British Columbia band sees them pining for the land south of the border. It drips with American place names and sounds. It wants to sail the muddy waters of the Mississippi and wander the deserts high on Mescaline, and walk through swinging doors knock some back and get into brawls. And it does all of that!  Songs from the North improves on Indian Wars debut with better songs, better fidelity and more even pacing. Indian Wars walk the walk and talk the talk, even if the walk and talk are ones you may have heard before. It’s a worthwhile record whether you are floating down the Mississippi, lost in the desert or just in your local bar.

Songs from the North is available on vinyl from Bachelor Records.

Stream: Indian Wars – Songs from the North

Indian Wars or How the West Was Won

When we last visited the Vancouver, BC garage scene the Dead Ghosts had just released their self-titled debut album that hinted at country and rockabilly but was mostly straight ahead garage. Indian Wars have just released their own debut and have upped the ante in the country garage sweepstakes. Sounding like a less paisley, more cactus and tumbleweeds Long Ryders these cowboys from British Columbia gallop through 13 songs on their debut entitled Walk Around the Park. It’s a dusty stampede of a record that will either have you replacing your garage door with swinging ones or just wholesale trading in your garage for a stable. Hee-haw!!!! Hope these guys ride down to Seattle one of these days, border crossings and barbed wire be damned, because when I saw them here last year at the Funhouse they proved they could bring it live as well.

mp3: Indian Wars – 8 Feet High (from Walk Around the Park)

In related news the Long Ryders just had their first album Native Sons re-issued and is well worth checking out, especially side one which doesn’t let up.

In geographically related news, another Vancouver band Manic Attracts which have ties to Dead Ghosts, Shimmering Stars, Time Copz and Chains Of Love have just released their first album Eyes Wide Shut and is recommended if you dug that Myelin Sheaths record from last year.

The Purrs Are Back (In Paisley)

A Paisely Popsicle
Last week while I was listening to Kevin Cole on KEXP he played a song from Purrs‘ new album followed by the Dream Syndicate‘s Tell Me When It’s Over which reminded me of a couple things.  One, how much I love Kevin Cole’s kid in a candy store approach to his daily show (you never know what he might grab off the shelf) and two: how much the Purrs seem to be influenced by the Paisley Underground.  About a year ago when I saw them across the street from the Green Pajamas, I made the connection, and now with the new record (as well as Kevin Coles’s playlist) that Paisley Underground connection has been reaffirmed.

Back in the early 80’s the Paisley Underground scene was a somewhat unheralded movement that produced a lot of great albums that to this day seem to go unnoticed and unheralded as the great works that they were. The Bangles are probably the best known (Prince penned Manic Monday or the goofy Walk Like an Egyptian anyone?) band to emerge from the scene, and also Rain Parade‘s David Roback went on to form Mazzy Star, but bands like The Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, The Long Ryders and the Three O’clock put out a a whole bunch of druggy, jangly, 60’s tinged, psychedelia inducing albums that hold a special place in my heart. A few years back Magnet magazine featured the Paisley Underground on the cover of their magazine, which I thought was one of the coolest things an American music magazine has done in the last ten years. Finally, a scene that created such great songs was got some recognition. Well that was nearly 10 years ago, back when magazines were still semi-relevant. So since then who has been carrying the torch of the Paisley Underground you may ask? Well look no further than Seattle and the Purrs (note to self, must do another blog post on Seattle’s godfathers of psychedelia, the Green Pajamas).

Yes, the Purrs are back with the follow-up to 2007’s The Chemistry That Keeps Us Together, an album that  just didn’t get old for me, with it’s strong pop back-bone and it’s spacey vibe. Their new album Amused, Confused and More Bad News, just released last week, carries on that same vibe  while adding an extra layer of psychedelic haze that makes you work just a little bit harder at pulling out he pop hook. Bassist and vocalist Jima has essentially upped the ante with this set of songs making them less immediate but in the end more gratifying.   The first couple listens of the new record, had me looking for songs as immediate as She’s Got Chemicals and Drive and coming up empty. It wasn’t until third and fourth that I realized that Purrs were making me work for it, and songs like Stay With Me, Baby I Want You Back, A Century of Rain and The Outpost began to reveal themselves.  The guitars still sound like they were played somewhere in outer space and sent back to the studio on some kind of sub-warp frequency giving the songs an extraterrestrial vibe, but with this new batch of songs Jima’s disaffected vocals are less in your face catchy and more intertwined into the songs as a whole.  The band leave a trail of bread crumbs with the  more immediate Fear of Flying and they momentarily doff the paisley and go for the pop jugular with the Verve/Oasis style sounding Feeling Fine. A song I bet Oasis wish that they could still write in. The real payoff comes with patience as this album is the kind that reveals something new with every listen.  It’s an album that holds its own with anything that got released by anyPaisley Underground band back in the early 80’s as well as the high standards already set by the Purrs themselves on their previous records.

The CD release party is 29 August at the Sunset Tavern with Black Nite Crash and Blood Red Dancers.

mp3: The Purrs – Stay Here With Me (buy the new record Amused, Confused & More Bad News)

After the click, a bunch of songs from the Paisley Underground Read More