Tags: Curly Cassettes, High Llamas, HoZac, Long Ryders, Mild High Club, Rain Parade, Soft Candy, Steely Dan, Stones Throw, Suede, The Tyde, Verner Pantons
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.
Tags: Aarght!, Cherry Red, Daughn Gibson, Girls Names, House of Love, Jacco Gardner, Little Black Cloud, Myron & E, Ooga Boogas, Slumberland, Stones Throw, Sub Pop, Trouble In Mind, Universe People
Welcome to day two of the half year round-up. Giddy-up! Here are the next set of seven records from the first half of this year that I think deserve your attention. It’s kind of an eclectic bunch but in at least one warped world they go quite well together.
Myron & E – Broadway (Stones Throw)
It seems like it’s been ages since those first couple Myron & E singles came out. I had nearly lost hope of them ever releasing an album, but the wait was worth it. Broadway is more than worth the wait, evoking Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On which is no easy feat. The Motor city may be bankrupt, but its soul legacy keeps paying dividends. Top notch stuff.
stream: Myron & E – They Don’t Know
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan (Sub Pop)
Part of Me Moan sounds like Gibson grew up with the Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgway song Don’t Box Me In on repeat. The other part sees Gibson reading from the same book as Dan Bejar was on Destroyer’s Kaputt. Both parts consist of lush and sweeping 80’s inspired pop from a unique voice.
Stream: Daughn Gibson – The Pisgee Nest
Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)
Descending from the Intelligence family tree, this Seattle trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin. This very sharp record deserves way more attention than it has received, because it’s pretty damn brilliant and would look fine next to your Intelligence, Fall and Dolly Mixture records.
stream: Universe People – Druids
Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
The new life sounds like dark era Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography) without being too obvious. It didn’t immediately grab me, but its hypnotic bass and vocals has made gradually overcome my conscious and now The New Life is my go-to record when the need often comes to zone out into the horizon which is quite often.
Stream: Girls Names – Drawing Lines
Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (Aarght!)
Ooga Boogas have not left their garage roots, but the garage has been remodeled or converted rather. The record walks the line between ECSR and Total Control and sidesteps into Velvet Underground, Tubeway Army, the Fall, Modern Lovers and the Soft Boys territories.
stream: Ooga Boogas – A Night to Remember
House of Love – She Paints Words In Red (Cherry Red)
House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers acrimoniously left the band during the recording of the band’s second album. Since then he mad ammends with HOL frontman Guy Chadwich and they made a reunion record Days Run Away back in 2005. It was ok. Eight years later they’ve record a follow up that is immediate, elegant and while not quite reaching the heights of their debut it feels like they’ve recaptured the fire that blazed in their creative partnership.
stream: House of Love – Holy River
Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
Dutch wunderkind pulls out all the psychedelic stops on his debut album. Amazing harmonies done to the backing of exquisite chamber pop backing. If you ever thought that the Left Bank sounded too effeminate and that Syd Barrett was too zany Gardner strikes just right balance.
stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King
Tags: Anika, Beak, Geoff Barrow, Stones Throw
Anika played the Crocodile Sunday night. She looked and sounded like Nico fronting Metal Box era Public Image Limited. Actually she was fronting BEAK>,Geoff Barrow of Portishead‘s other band. His body double was behind the drums somehow making them sound as if they were being recorded by Martin Hannett.
Anika has the stage presence of an icicle, but it works. The songs have a steely isolating feel to them and her icy demeanor perfectly compliments them. When listening to desolate, dark dub music, I don’t want jokes and “Hello Seattle” in between songs. I want to feel on edge and slightly uncomfortable and that is what I felt as she awkwardly looked at the floor and moved her mic stand from one side of the stage to the other between songs, not speaking a word.
The set was heavy on the covers, but with a band that has such a strong aesthetic, they could cover just about anything and make it interesting and their own. The set included covers of Twinkle‘s Terry, Dylan‘s Masters of War, the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep, and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang all of which appeared on the Stones Throw album. There were new ones too. The Crystals‘ He Hit Me and the Chromatics‘ In the City were both highlights. The set ended with a version of the Talking Heads‘ Once In a Lifetime which seemed so new to them that Anika pulled out a little black book for the lyrics. The setlist had one more song on it that they didn’t play, another cover, He Needs Me from the Popeye soundtrack. I’m sure it would have been sublimely weird, but Anika turned and left the stage after Once In a Lifetime with nary a goodbye.
Tags: Anika, Beak, Geoff Barrow, Stones Throw
One record that would have made my list for last year had I heard it prior to the last week of December is Anika‘s self-titled debut on Stones Throw. Bill over at Sound Bites was more astute than I and smartly included it on his list which is how I found out about it. Anika was a political journalist who somehow met former Portishead maestro Geoff Barrow in Berlin and bonded over dub, punk and girl groups. That sounds like a match made in heaven if you ask me. Barrow was actually looking for a singer for his new band Beak>, somehow over recording the record live, raw and strictly no over dubs in a mere twelve days it no longer was a Beak record but an Anika one.
Anika sounds more than a little like Nico. She sings a little flat and off key and with little emotion. On paper this shouldn’t work, but oh how it does. Barrow and Beak create a sparse dub soundtrack and while the majority of the nine songs on the record are covers they sound so different from the originals that you easily forget about them being covers. The record starts out with a cover of Twinkle‘s Terry (You may remember Twinkle’s Golden Lights as covered by the Smiths). Terry has similarities to the Shangri-Las‘ Leader of the Pack, and this rendition with its Speak and Spell synths and grand piano makes it sound so desolate, bleak and weird. It’s delivered as if by the Grim Reaper herself, and you know Terry is doomed. From there the bombs drop and this dub record sounds like a war zone. The air raid sirens sound and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang hits and soon thereafter a reinvention of Dylan‘s Masters of War and the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep which takes on an Eno-esque quality. There are two originals Officer Officer and No One’s There both with big Jah Wobble bass lines that hold their own. This is one stark record and some amazing slight of hand by all involved making this record sound as cohesive as it does from it’s seemingly incompatible pieces to create an uncomfortable warmth that makes it impossible to put down.
Tags: Mayer Hawthorne, Stones Throw
photo from Foto Schiko
Late last year the excellent blog Fire Escape Talking wrote about this heart shaped record by Mayer Hawthorne that harked back to the days of Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. The record came out on the venerable Stones Throw, so you kinda knew that it wasn’t a fluke. The first pressing quickly sold out for good reason, a red heart-shaped record with a killer A and B side was a no-brainer to get rid of ten hard earned dollars.
That record has been on my turntable quit a bit the last six months as a welcome respite from all the garage, punk and indie records that seem to monopolize my listening most of time. So Mr. Hawthorne, to prove that that beautiful red piece of wax wasn’t a fluke, has an entire record in the offing, hard proof this guy is no one hit wonder. Peanut Butter Wolf, Stones Throw mogul signed him to his label after hearing only two songs, and his gamble apparently is now paying off. The record is twelve songs that will take you back to a different time when you called your girl baby, there was slow dancing without any grinding and the bridges of songs always required hand claps. Mayer Hawthorne’s A Strange Arrangement comes out 8 September, so line up and get ready to get transported back to a different time, from which you probably won’t want to leave. Oh, and if you can’t believe that a 29 year old white guy from Ann Arbor, Michigan is the man behind this soul revival then catch him on tour this fall to become a believer, dates below.
mp3: Mayer Hawthorn -The Ills
Sep 05: Seattle, WA at Bumbershoot Festival
Sep 10: Los Angeles at The Roxy
Sep 13: San Luis Obispo at Downtown Brew
Sep 15: San Francisco at Rickshaw Stop
Sep 16: Santa Cruz at Catalyst (Atrium)
Sep 18: Portland at MusicFest NW
Sep 19: Eugene at WOW Hall
Sep 21: Salt Lake City at Kilby Court
Sep 23: Denver at Larimer Lounge
Sep 24: Omaha at The Waiting Room
Sep 25: Chicago at Dark Room
Sep 26: Ann Arbor at Blind Pig
Sep 27: Toronto at Drake Hotel
Sep 29: Boston at Great Scott
Sep 30: Philadelphia at Johnny Brendas
Oct 01: Brooklyn at The Knitting Factory
Oct 02: New York at Mercury Lounge
Oct 04: Washington DC at DC9
Oct 05: Chapel Hill at Local 506
Oct 06: Atlanta at Druken Unicorn
Oct 07: Orlando at The Social
Oct 09: New Orleans at Parish, HOB
Oct 10: Austin at Red 7
Oct 14: Scottsdale, AZ at Chasers
Oct 15: San Diego at Canes