Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Early Review Of The Awesome New Connections Album (And A Spin Of Their New Video Too!)

These dudes are great. Connections are here with their brand new long-player. Called Into Sixes, this slab of indie rock genius drops on August 19 via Anyway Records and I urge you to get it.

Throwing a curveball by having the record open with the decidedly gentle -- in spirit, at least -- "Ayliah", the boys in Connections are back to doing what they do best quickly after that -- check out "Cruise Control" below for evidence of what I'm talking about.

"Beat The Sky" roars by like a rocket but it's the following tune -- "Calm Down" -- that surprises. Sounding weirdly like Robert Pollard dismantling something off of side 2 of Reckoning, "Calm Down" shows a new aspect of this band. The cut, simple and direct, is one of the highlights of Into Sixes for me.

"Scanners" -- named after the exploding head flick from Cronenberg? -- is fuzzed out guitars and Sister-era Sonic Youth-isms. "Home By The Sea" is a slow-build grinder with the same title as a Genesis song, I think.

Out come the Dinosaur Jr. references for "You Won't Forget It" and its hard-charging riffs. The delightfully named "Minister of Ah Ah Ah" is Mott the Hoople channeled through early Smashing Pumpkins. Hooky, catchy, and with a big-big chorus, the cut is exhilarating.

There's early Superchunk on the speedy "Brothers and Sisters", and more melody on "Angie, but it's "Awesome Beach" that closes out Into Sixes in fine fashion. Part Neil Young, part Teenage Fanclub, part Paul Westerberg, "Awesome Beach" is wistful and gently romantic.

These Columbus cats in Connections are on the right path with this record (and their previous ones). This is solid, incredibly tuneful indie rock done without a lot of pretense. And that is something to be applauded. Back in the day, The Grifters hinted at music like this but Connections have beat those Sub Pop guys at their own game. This is lo fi enough to appeal to the Pitchfork.com types but also consistent, catchy, and unassuming enough to charm an old curmudgeon like me.

Connections are doing it right. So far, I've liked every single thing these prolific dudes have released and I urge you to get on the bandwagon and grab Into Sixes as soon as you can. It drops on August 19.

Follow Connections on their official Facebook page.

And you should also check out Anyway Records for details on their albums.

And play the new video for "Cruise Control" below.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I've Waited More Than Two Years To Post This: My Review Of The Debut Album From Childhood

I've been waiting so long to write this post. It's not that I heard the debut album from Childhood so long ago -- I got my promo copy in July -- but that I knew how great it was going to be from the first time I ever heard this band. I've been blogging about this Nottingham-formed group for more than 2-and-a-half years -- as confirmed by this blog post from February 2012 -- and in that time the wait for the debut album was comparable to that long waits for the debuts from The Stone Roses and The Sundays in 1989 and 1990, respectively.

And while Childhood sound nothing like Reading's The Sundays, they do, at a few key moments, recall those Manc legends The Stone Roses. For that reason I feel safe in saying that they, like John Squire and Ian Brown and crew, have indeed delivered one of the great debut records in British rock.

Now on to the glorious bliss of Lacuna by Childhood.

The album opens, as it musts, with "Blue Velvet", all blissed out A.R. Kane hooks and Bernie Sumner guitar licks. The track has been apparently re-recorded but fear not: it's still a rapturous ride. Ben Romans-Hopcraft's vocals are clearer here and a bit forward in the mix. What was shoegazing before is now precise and anthemic.

I envy people hearing this song for the first time. I envy those who hear this pumping through earphones for the first time and feel themselves transported by this fantastic single.

"You Could Be Different" is hooky and catchy -- a natural follow-up single with it's fuzzed out guitar washes.

"As I Am" is the soft waves lapping the shore where the other cuts are the roar of the surf. Again, there's a hint of A.R. Kane and bands from the heyday of 4AD. That hint grows more obvious on "Right Beneath Me" where Romans-Hopcraft's voice nearly reaches Liz Fraser heights and Leo Dobsen strums and plucks his axe like Robin Guthrie trying out a new crate of fx pedals. But, to paraphrase an A.R. Kane song title, this is indeed a "A Love Song From Outer Space" and it's pure audio delight.

"Falls Away" is more direct, this century's "Waterfall" but with a sinister undercurrent. "Sweeter Preacher" is crashing cymbals courtesy of Jonny Williams and more splashes of guitar color each time Romans-Hopcraft sings/snarls "...wonderful..."

"Tides" is futuristic funk, all slowed down after hours glide with Daniel Salamons' bass popping under the vocals and percolating keyboard.

And then come the big hooks.

"Solemn Skies" opens with the same sort of martial strut that anchored "Blue Velvet" but it positively soars on that chorus. Think early U2 turning Echo and the Bunnymen's Heaven Up Here cuts into hopeful anthems. The rhythm section -- Daniel Salamons and Jonny Williams -- gets to shine a bit here as they ground the track while Dobsen's guitar and Romans-Hopcraft's voice do the sky-high bits. Love that final Cure-esque freakout.

Next comes the jazzy "Chiliad". The guys pull back the effects and overdubs and relax a bit. Williams uses a light touch on the kit while Dobsen gently plucks. A hint of Durutti Column here but louder.

"Pay for Cool" ups the angst and provides the album's one moment of near-punky tension. Opening like early Cure -- "Primary" or "Killing an Arab" maybe -- the song turns into a race between Romans-Hopcraft's vocals and the rhythm section, Dobsen either channeling Buzzcocks' Diggle on the hook or Robert Smith on the unfurling solo.

Album closer "When You Rise" is rough like "Spellbound"-era Siouxsie and the Banshees mixed with My Bloody Valentine circa "Soon". The song, a near-duel between guitars and a shuffling, almost dance-y, melody line, roars a bit to finish Lacuna. The album opened in bliss. It ends in a whirlpool of trippy anxiety.

Lacuna is the hands-down winner for best debut album of 2014. There was really no competition, was there?

It's also supremely self-assured. While reviewers such as myself may stress the trippy bits on Lacuna, or mention the guitars' echoes of Cocteau Twins or John Squire, the record is focused. There's not a lot wasted. Other bands would have taken these cuts and let them expand unnecessarily. Childhood masterfully keep things in control while indulging themselves only in spots.

The real test for music like this is to ask yourself what it would sound like if stripped down and played on acoustic instruments. Well, Childhood have the hooks, the melodies, and chops to make these tunes work even without the excellent production and amazing guitar effects. I admire that, really.

It takes remarkable skill and restraint to make music this blissful while keeping things grounded. Lacuna is a near-flawless album and if I have any criticism it's only this:

"Guys, where the heck is Haltija!?!"

Buy Lacuna and become a fan of Childhood. One spin of "Solemn Skies" and "Blue Velvet" ought to do the trick.

Follow Childhood on their Facebook page.

More details on Childhood via Marathon Artists.

Lacuna is available in the U.S. via iTunes.

Elsewhere, you can get the album via multiple outlets including Rough Trade.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Advice? Crank Up Stitches By Bloody Knees As Loud As You Possibly Can!

These cats from the U.K. -- don't even know where -- are doing the whole Nirvana thing so well that for once I don't begrudge a band for being influencing by those Seattle legends.

The NME mentioned "Stitches" and I checked it out based on that. The cut is ferocious, unrelenting, and strangely joyous -- an animal howl into the abyss with riffs roaring like a bunch of tanker-trucks crashing on a frozen highway. Think Nirvana trying to cover MBV and stripping those noise-niks down to the bare essentials.

"Daydream", all early Teenage Fanclub hooks and Melvins-size pummeling slabs of noise, is also quite good.

Both tracks are out soon -- or are already out? -- on Dog Knights Productions.

Follow Bloody Knees on their Facebook page.

Dot Dash Cut In New Juliette Lewis Film And Here's A Free MP3 To Celebrate!

I'm thrilled for the guys in Dot Dash -- Terry Banks, Hunter Bennett, Steve Hansgen, and Danny Ingram -- that they have a tune on the soundtrack of an upcoming film. And it's important to note that this cut was recorded with original guitarist Bill Crandall.

"Faraway", the lead track from from the band's superb 2nd album Winter Garden Light (TheBeautifulMusic.com), is going to be in the new movie Kelly and Cal starring Juliette Lewis and Cybil Shepherd.

And you can get a leg up on grabbing the soundtrack to this rock-centered film by downloading "Faraway" below. Play the song and then go here to get the free download.

It will be cool to hear this song in a movie. Every time I play the song I still think of playing Winter Garden Light for the first time on my iPod as I rode the ferry from Lamma Island into Hong Kong in September 2014. I busily penned my epic review of the album shortly thereafter.

I guess what I'm saying is that this tune already feels like part of my own personal soundtrack.

More details about the film Kelly and Cal (2014) are here and here.

Follow Dot Dash on their Facebook page and on their home label TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Adam Leonard Begins Wildly Ambitious OCTOPUS Project

Adam Leonard has begun a really cool project. Starting on August 8, he will be releasing 8 albums of 8 tracks each over the course of the next 8 months. Called Octopus, the albums will collect Adam's rarities and past gems.

Octopus Part 1 is out August 8, 2014 via Adam Leonard's Bandcamp page, and here's a look at some of the highlights.

"Halo", all Robert Wyatt-meets-English Settlement-era-XTC, is sublime. Originally appearing on Adam Leonard's "proper" debut How Music Sounds (2014), the track is a real gem.

This set also includes Adam's rendition of one of my favorite Beatles songs. His cover of "Lovely Rita" is aces. He makes that McCartney-penned classic sound like a Roy Wood tune from The Move. That's a work of mad genius, frankly.

"UFO Over Bidston", from 2003's Ship Of Nothing EP, is lo-fi, classic-era Guided by Voices but with a sharp, nearly folk melody.

Another treasure on Octopus Part 1 is the demo version of "Lillian, I Love You" from Adam's essential Nature Recordings, an album I reviewed a few years back.

The droning pastoral psychedelia of "Song of the Woodlice" recalls the heyday of British folk rock, while album closer "I'm Gonna Sleep With Myself (Tonight)" is a perfect approximation of I Often Dream of Trains-era Robyn Hitchcock.

Whether it's his past in The Owl Service, his side gigs with Invaderband or Echoes in Rows, or his collaborations with Ash Cooke from Pulco/Derrero, or just his magnificent solo work, there are plenty of Adam Leonard projects to admire. And now, with the Octopus series, there's a way to catch up on his music and enjoy some rarities in the process.

You can get Octopus Part 1 on Adam Leonard's Bandcamp page.

Follow Adam Leonard on his website:
http://themessagetapes.wordpress.com/

Here's a little preview of the Octopus series from Adam Leonard.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Quick Review Of The New Bear In Heaven Record

It was during the marvelously propulsive "They Dream" that I saw the glory of Bear in Heaven. You see, I had been a casual fan of the band before that moment.

That track, from their new record Time Is Over One Day Old, out now on Dead Oceans, is all sleek lines and surging rhythms but it's Jon Philpot's vocals that give the song its charm. And it was those vocals that made me realize what a great band this is.

From the Talk Talk-like near-melancholia of "Autumn" to the China Crisis-echoing "Memory Heart", Philpot and bandmates Adam Wills and Jason Nazary have produced a sublime record. It's an album full of texture and experimentation but one that is full of human emotion. Like Wild Beasts, Bear in Heaven use a range of synthesizers and samples to push boundaries but at the center of the music remains a divine voice.

Still, there are moments here that are darker -- the weird Depeche Mode/Coil-isms of "Demon", for instance -- and ones that are lighter -- the ethereal "Dissolve the Walls", for example, that nearly dissolves itself as the vocals get more and more remote.

Bear in Heaven have produced an album that sounds fully-formed. Time Is Over One Day Old mixes a range of electronic soundscapes with Philpot's heavenly vocals. Somehow organic, the record is also futuristic in a truly visionary way. Where bands in the past would toss in a cheesy synth riff to signal that they were new wave, the lads in Bear in Heaven have found a way to seamlessly integrate those synthesizers and other instruments with real instruments and real vocals in a unique fashion. If I can compare Bear in Heaven to anyone it's Wild Beasts, or Talk Talk. And like late period Talk Talk, the tracks here unfurl and expand in surprisingly and illuminating ways.

Treat yourself and grab Time Is Over One Day Old from Bear in Heaven. It's out now on Dead Oceans.

Follow the band on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Trippy Video From Spain's Deers

My first thought upon watching the new video for "Trippy Gum" from Spain's Deers was: "I want a piece of pepperoni pizza!"

And then I thought how wonderful Deers are. While it's early in their career, the gals have attracted a lot of attention from the NME and influential music blogs...and my lowly music blog.

I love these tunes and I can't wait to hear more.

In the meantime, follow Deers on their official Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/deers

And you can buy "Trippy Gum" on iTunes here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

David Kilgour Brings Us Guitar Glory In End Times Undone: A Review Of The New Record

It's been a long time since that last wonderful David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights record and now David and his crew are back with the even better End Times Undone, out August 5 on Merge.

Where the last album was dour, or so it seemed, End Times Undone is expansive -- those soaring guitar runs on the previously released "Christopher Columbus", for example. And while David Kilgour continues to indulge his love of The Byrds -- opener "Like Rain" -- he also nods more than once in the direction of The Clean -- "Lose Myself In Sound", for instance.

While The Clean are going on tour in the U.S. this summer -- (I'm tremendously bummed that I'll miss their Baltimore gig in mid-August as I'm still in Hong Kong with my wife until very late August!) -- David Kilgour takes a few musical risks here that pay off and take him in new directions from his previous work. Still, somehow Kilgour and The Heavy Eights manage to provide a few hints of The Clean even in the course of hopping around in a few different genres and noisy styles. There are times on End Times Undone where it feels as if -- more than ever before -- Kilgour has one foot in the Sixties. There's the magnificently sinister "Crow", for example. All mean riffs like Velvet Underground scoring Easy Rider, the track explicitly recalls Nuggets-era greats.

That all-too-short tune segues into "Dropper" which sounds like The Band and The Clean simultaneously, the guitar riffs coming down like sheets of heavy rain. As Kilgour squalls like classic Neil Young, the band keeps things percolating behind him in a near-jazzy frenzy. Aces!

"Comin' On" may be the most obvious acknowledgement of The Clean on this record. Part early R.E.M., it's still all Clean-y, to coin a new adjective. The cut is like a slowed down "Getting Older", more surefooted middle-aged reflection than twentysomething angst. A downright glorious Dylan-meets-Peter Buck bridge carries the song towards its conclusion. A real highlight of this record.

My praise of Mr. Kilgour is not meant to slight the solid players on End Times Undone. The Heavy Eights -- guitarist Tony de Raad, bassist Tom Bell, and drummer Taane Tokona -- anchor these cuts and provide Kilgour room to soar. That's not to say that these cats don't soar as well; the jazz-influenced contributions from the rhythm section and the extra guitar layer are fantastic additions to the already many charms of End Times Undone.

David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights have crafted a great record here. Somehow he's expanded his signature sound while offering bits that should please diehard fans of the New Zealand sound. And that simultaneous risk-taking and acknowledgement of his past is no mean feat. I think fans of The Clean will be pleased as this record feels lighter and more open than the last one from Kilgour and his Heavy Eights -- if that makes any sense -- and so it feels more familiar like Kilgour's past classic stuff. At the same time, his guitar playing here is amazing -- whether channeling Richard Thompson, Neil Young, or even Robert Fripp, David Kilgour unfurls solo after solo, riff after riff. Listen to the noise he unleashes on "Down The Tubes". The song is trippy but anchored by the supporting players even as it sounds like Kilgour's world is ending.

The chiming closer "Some Things You Don't Get Back" ends the record as it began: in a flurry of Byrds riffs with Clean hooks.

The wonderful End Times Undone by David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights is out on August 5 via Merge Records. Get it now and see David Kilgour on tour this summer either with this band or in The Clean.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What Unholy Racket Is This? Dub Thompson Drop 9 Songs!

I had this in my inbox and sort of slept on it until I saw something in the NME that got me curious. How could I have been so stupid as to wait? Dub Thompson's 9 Songs rocks like a mad beast being whipped on the way to the slaughterhouse!

Part Stooges, part MGMT, part Rites of Spring, part Birthday Party, Dub Thompson are doing everything right here. Clanking and riotous, the 8 -- 'natch -- songs on 9 Songs are the stuff of exhilarating nightmares. The record is out now via Dead Oceans and the band is on tour too.

From the Krautrock storm of opener "Hayward!" to the claustrophobic dub of "No Time" and onward to the funky Fall-isms of "Dograces", Matt Pulos and Evan Laffer -- the 2 cats that make up Dub Thompson -- create one monstrous racket. Styles are pillaged and genres hopped as these two lads cram things together, turn up the amps, and race onward.

"Mono" is early D.C. hardcore colliding with Pere Ubu, while "Ash Wednesday" slinks along like some unnatural collaboration between Tones on Tail and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds. That cut is a sinister-but-sweet strut that signals another direction these cats could go in. And on album closer "Pterodactyls" they go in yet another direction. Part-Loop and part-Nuggets-era garage rock, the cut clanks and bangs yet it still soars -- like a car tooling down the highway as parts of the engine drop off along the way, pavement sparking, the two mad-men in the front seat still peering down the road.

This album is the best kind of trainwreck: loud, boisterous, ill-tempered, rough, punk-y, and invigorating. Well done Dub Thompson.

9 Songs by Dub Thompson is out now on Dead Oceans.

Follow the band on their Facebook page.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stream Classic Jason Falkner Track Here

Back in 2000, Jason Falkner and Roger Manning Jr., from the legendary Jellyfish, and Brian Reitzell, soundtrack wiz and one-time member of Redd Kross, with Justin Meldal-Johnsen from Medicine and a slew of other bands, put out a soundtrack to an imaginary sequel to the "classic" film Logan's Run (1976).

I put "classic" in quotes 'cause it certainly seemed like a classic in that last pre-Star Wars (1977) summer. But time has not been kind to the film.

Still, it's got Jenny Agutter in it and the film had enough charm to inspire these guys to create the awesome Logan's Sanctuary (2000). The largely instrumental album does have one magnificent Jason Falkner vocal track on it and that's "Search for Tomorrow" which you can play below.

The album is out-of-print (OOP) but the CDs are out there in secondhand shops.