Monomyth Go 2 the Pop Place

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With climate change you gotta wonder if there some Laurel Canyons blooming with succulents and bougainvillea up there in the formerly great whit north. For record number two Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Monomyth swap out their rhythm section, keep the psychedelic pop hooks and come up sporting their best paisley. The songwriting duo of Seamus Dalton and Josh Saltzer continue to split the vocal duties and their admiration of local heroes like Sloan, Superfriendz and Thrush Hermit while adding from Teenage Fanclub  harmonies and the erudite pop sensibilities of the Weather Prophets.

Happy Pop Family is a wonderful tour de force and one of the best pure pop records of the year. The cool and beautiful Palpitations features a pristine melody interrupted by grungy heart attack chords. Aloha with its airy Teenage Fanclub harmony that kicks off the record isn’t even the best song here. That honor goes to the infinitely catchy Re:lease life (Place 2 Go) which plays like a travel log and has an off the cuff feel to it that reminds me of the Go-Betweens’ Darlinghurst Nights. Did I overdo it there? No, it’s that good!

Stream and buy the record at Mint Records Bandcamp page or get the vinyl from Mint Records directly.

Leon

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SmartGuy records, the ones who brought you singles by Total Control, the Boomgates and Rat Columns have a new single. Leon Stackpole of Ooga Booga‘s fame using just plain old Leon has just released a four song 7-inch.

The Ooga Booga’s were some weird combination of garage, kraut and disco, but here Leon strikes out down a more pastoral introspective road. Where the Ooga Booga’s sounded like a party band, Leon’s new four song EP is like the comedown. He gets some help on guitar from Ooga Booga’s cohort Mickey Young. All four songs have a Velvet Underground feel to them. Angry Again is dissonant VU, Sentimental Stranger is the sleepy Sunday morning country VU and Eat Sleep and Spy is the pop single buried in the rough. Quality stuff!

 

Instant Gratification with Ultimate Painting

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Remember when Ride lost the plot after Going Blank Again and tried to morph their sound into some neo-psychedlic 60s blend of the Byrds, Velvet Underground and Buffalo Springfield but ended up sounding like the Black Crowes? Tuesday night at Chop Suey the UK’s Ultimate Painting demonstrated the tangent that Ride should have taken. Their set brimmed with paisley tinged psychedelia that trod the fine line of subtle melodic turns, buzzy droning and all out jams.

The group’s self-titled album came out last year on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind. The record has a subdued sound to that features major nods to the Velvet Underground’s prettier side, but live they crank up the danger levels into White Light / White Heat territory. Talking Central Park Blues was a great example of this, with Jack Cooper taking the lead on this New York narrative that is their sister Ray making it sound a lot more energized than the recorded version.  Cooper also plays in Mazes. In Ultimate Painting he shares guitar and vocal duties with James Hoar from Veronica Falls and Proper Ornaments. It seems like a true collaboration, with both contributing to the songs. Cooper may take a lead vocal, while Hoar takes the lead guitar part, and both contributing harmonies to the other’s vocals.

They also included a couple new songs from an album that they said would be coming out in August. One of them showcased the influence of the Grateful Dead (Casey Jones) that I hadn’t noticed before, but is fairly obvious given the group’s twitter icon. The set closed with with Ten Street which they turned into an extended jam. The rhythm section provided a great stage for Cooper and Hoar to get a little crazy playing off of one another, going into a few rabbit holes of guitar goodness. It lasted for about 10 minutes but it could have gone on for 20 and no one would have complained.  Live Ultimate Painting seem to have an innate sense of when to head off on a tangent extending their solid album into something better and much more interesting.

Ultimate Painting’s self-titled album is out on Trouble In Mind.

Ultimate Painting at Chop Suey

Seattle’s Universe People opened the show playing songs from their two albums as well as new one. They were solid as usual. They’re jerky angular songs keep you on your toes. The Modern Girl, Chemistry, Druids and Vampire Prison were all present in their set and demonstrated how great this band is.

universe people at chop suey

Dial S for Slum of Legs

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You may remember Brighton’s Slum of Legs from their demo last year. I certainly do! The six piece avant indiepop group have just released their first single on Tuff Enuff records. The record has elements of the Velvet Underground’s Lady Godiva’s Operation and the Fall’s Sing Harpy. Like both of those bands, Slum of Legs ably combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew. I especially love how they feature the violin in both songs. It gives a cathartic tension and melancholy not often found in strictly guitar, bass and drum bands. Begin to Dissolve slithers and stabs at once. It’s downright Hitchcockian in the way it builds up tension that culminates in a bloodbath of noise at the end.  The flip side Razorblade the Tape starts with a warm jangle that morphs into a near-anthem with the huge refrain of the band chanting “I won’t let you get away!”  Don’t let this single get away!

stream & buy: Slum of Legs – Begin to Dissolve

Bittersweet Pocket Symphonies

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The Proper Ornaments have finally released a proper debut album. After last summer’s download only download only release on Lo which compiled their previous EP on No Pain in Pop,their debut single on Make a Mess, and some odds and ends the duo of James Hoare and Max Claps have employed Slumberland Records to issue their album Wooden Head. James Hoare who’s main band is Veronica Falls and also moonlights in the Ultimate Painting is a busy guy these days. For the Proper Ornaments he’s teamed up with Argentinian and one-time Andrew Loog Oldham protege Max Claps.

The duo met in a shop that Hoare was working at while Claps’s girlfriend attempted to steal a pair of boots.  It’s amazing what a shared love of the Velvet Underground can overcome. Named after a Free Deign Song, they get a lot of comparisons to the  Beach Boys, the Left Banke and Love. But if you ask my I think they sound like the Chills.

Wooden Head is nearly as good as their No Pain In Pop EP, but I don’t know if I think that because the EP had five astonishingly good good with no filler. It was easy to take in while Wooden Head is bigger and requires more time to consume.  The record is astonishingly good, it just  requires more time to your head around. Hoare and Claps sing in unison on nearly every song. Their melancholy, sparse psychedelic songs have a sing-song quality that makes them both comfortable and haunting at once. Each unassuming song buzzes into your ears to create endorphin rushes, but music being like a drug it takes more to recreate that initial high each time.

stream: The Proper Ornaments – Magazine (Wooden Head is out on Slumberland Records)

First Floor Hookah Lounge

Liminanas et la musique d'ascenseur
In French, the ground floor of a building is not the first floor it’s the rez-de-chaussée. The first floor is the second floor and so on.So if you’re on the third floor in France, you’d be on the fourth floor in the US. The Limiñanas have just released their third album. It really is their third album, the French don’t count albums like the floors of buildings.

The Limiñanas are not quite classic french pop. More like classic french pop through a haze of hashish wafting from a dark room filled with strange characters smoking from hookahs. Walk out for a breather and the brightness temporarily blinds you as you squint to adjust to the undulation of the sea breaking on the beach. The Limiñanas record in their Mediterranean cocoon and take in the unique sights and sounds of their surroundings and mix them better known quantities like Velvet Underground, Serge Gainsbourg and Ravi Shankar to make records that sound partly like the place they live and partly of some made up world that only exists in their imaginations. Costa Blanka is an album with a unique sense of place. Put it on and be transported to that place, rez-de-chaussée…premier étage…étage supérieur.

stream: The Limiñanas – My Black Sabbath (from the Limiñanas third album Costa Blanka, available from Trouble in Mind Records)

Dark Things

Crystal Stilts at Barboza, Seattle | 15 October 2013

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Crystal Stilts played to a dark room with blurry images projected onto a white sheet at the back of the stage last Tuesday night at Barboza. They seem like a band of recluses and would probably prefer to perform in complete darkness. Front man Brad Hargett still seems a bit awkward as the center of attention and guitarist JB Townsend still likes to lurk in the shadows, but there was just enough darkness and just enough light in their performance to make it great one.

They lunged into their set with Spirit in Front of Me the first song on their new album Nature Noir. It owes more than a little to Velvet Undergrounds‘s I’ll Be Your Mirror and All Tomorrow’s Parties. In fact, Crystal Stilts sound one Nico short of becoming the VU. I doubt Hargett would take it as a compliment, but his monotone is closer than I thought to Nico’s , so maybe all they need is banana.

The new album doesn’t have any obvious singles, but it is their most accomplished and varied record yet. It sees them deftly using strings on a few songs making it reminiscent of the Bunnymen‘s Ocean Rain in parts which is new for them. Of course they didn’t have a string section this night being so far away from home, but they didn’t really need one. The band were in a zone. With the lights off and the focus on the music, the band were shadows on the stage and they liked it that way. The set mixed favorites like Crippled Croon, Sycamore Tree, and Love is Wave in with the new slower more confident sounding songs like Star Crawl, Future Folklore and Worlds Gone Weird. This night was by far the best I have ever seen the Stilts play.

The band still come off as tenuously comfortable on stage, but this time the awkward tension was softened by the dark and intimate confines of the venue. Some bands wither with age the Crystal Stilts continue to lurch into new dark psych corners and scramble new cloudy nebulous heights both on record and in person.

stream: Crystal stilts – Future Folklore (from Nature Noir out on Sacred Bones)