Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Few Words About The New Steve Gunn Record

Steve Gunn's new record, Way Out Weather, is a hard thing to describe. The album, out now on Paradise of Bachelors, should please fans of bands as disparate as Dire Straits and Television. But, hey, there's a link there, isn't there? If you guessed virtuosic guitar playing you'd be right.

Gunn here keeps things largely down-tempo but he lets his guitar set the mood. Whether it's a blues-y hook, or a snarling riff, the guitar is the star of this record. And that's not to downplay Gunn's strengths as a vocalist.

"Tommy's Congo" calls to mind Tom Verlaine and Steve Kilbey. Sinister in spots, a cut like this insinuates itself with a listener in terms of both the playing and the vocal delivery.

The title cut and "Wildwood" sound a bit like Led Zeppelin III-era Jimmy Page while the awesome "Milly's Garden" is like some weird mix of Thurston Moore and Richard Thompson. It's affecting, vaguely rooted in the blues tradition, but wholly something else.

The splendid "Drifter" is Americana with a sort of Nick Cave edge to it. On this cut it seems as if Gunn's vocals are every bit as affecting as his guitar.

There are not many albums I can recommend to fans of both Nick Cave and Bert Jansch. And there are not many albums I can say that will appeal to fans of both Fairport Convention and Robert Quine.

But Way Out Weather by Steve Gunn is one such record. An unexpected delight, the record is a moving collection of subtle tracks. I urge you to grab it now.

Way Out Weather by Steve Gunn is out now on Paradise of Bachelors.

Follow Steve Gunn on his official website.

A Look At The Reissue Of Pound For Pound From Royal Trux

Nearing the end of their time together as a real band, Royal Trux dropped Pound for Pound in 2000. And, as has been the case for a few years now, Drag City has re-issued the album in all its glory.

More a Neil Hagerty record than a Jennifer Herrema one, Pound for Pound runs with that Rolling Stones thing and Neil indulges his full-on Sticky Fingers obsession to fantastic effect. A more expansive version of the same template that Primal Scream toyed with in the mid-1990s, the tracks on this Royal Trux record are simultaneously derivative but also wildly unique.

Opener "Call Out The Lions" is ominous but melodic, all boiling tension. That tension spills over and erupts in the catchy "Fire Hill" which is quite possibly one of the finest bits of rock this band ever produced.

If it seems like Hagerty is calling the shots on this album, that's not to slight Herrema's contributions. One listen to the interplay on "Accelerator (The Original)" convinces a listener that this is just as much her jam as it is Hagerty's.

The delightfully named "Sunshine and Grease" provides a near-skanking rhythm underneath the vocal bits from both Hagerty and Herrema. It's a snarling, nasty bit of business but it's also oddly tender and touching. The love song a Keith Richards groupie would have written in 1969.

The groove continues throughout Pound for Pound, from the wah-wah guitar of "Small Thief" to the hard-edged hooks of "Teenage Murder Mystery" and its insistent riffage.

All in all, Pound for Pound may just be the perfect Royal Trux record. Clean production and nasty guitar work combine and the result is a mess of a record. It's a fantastic and supremely tuneful mess. Think classic Stones only dirtier and being played by guys who've listened to a lot of Nick Cave records too.

Pound for Pound is being re-issued by Drag City on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quick Review of The New Foxygen Album

Foxygen's new record, ...And Star Power, dropped recently on Jagjaguwar and it's a monster of a double album. It's almost too much. But if things get briefly off the rails at least these cats are ambitious.

And in these bleak days, sometimes ambition is enough.

This record is sort of a concept album but I am not quite sure if that matters. ...And Star Power succeeds in large part because these guys throw a lot of things together. "Cosmic Vibrations" mixes trippy noise rock with nods in the direction of space-y stuff like Yes.

And yet there's direct and tuneful stuff here that isn't quite so out there. "Mattress Warehouse" is catchy and gentle. "Cannibal Holocaust" -- named after the film? -- is similarly lyrical but then something like "Cold Winter/Freedom" arrives and things descend into the maelstrom again -- all fuzzy feedback bursts and warped vocals.

"Can't Contextualize My Mind" is early Neil Young-inspired strummy folk rock while "Brooklyn Police Station" is like the more psychedelic bits of the Stones when Brian Jones was alive.

"Everybody Needs Love" is a singalong jam that charms and warms the heart while other bits on the double-record bludgeon the eardrums.

If ...And Star Power is not a complete masterpiece at least it is shooting for the stars. I applaud Foxygen for trying music this big and when they succeed, things are delightful and glorious.

Follow Foxygen on their official website. ...And Star Power is out now on Jagjaguwar.

A Few Words About The Awesome New Album By Meatbodies

The self-titled debut full-length album by Meatbodies is out this week and it's a monster. Really, it makes perfect sense that Ty Segall is on this 'cause it's just as gloriously unhinged as his stuff can be. Meatbodies by Meatbodies is out now on In The Red Records and I urge you to grab it.

"Moutain" surges like Ty while "Disorder" throws in a few hooks worthy of Never Say Die-era Sabbath and that's only the start of the record. For 41 awesome minutes, Meatbodies ply their craft...and create an unholy -- but supremely tuneful -- racket.

"HIM" is Nuggets-era goodness -- all harmonies and fuzzy-wuzzy feedback colliding in spectacularly catchy fashion. "Tremors" is trippy Iron Butterfly-esque noise-making. Grow your hair out long just so you can nod along with this banger.

"Plank" adds a bit of the Byrds here -- it's very much a cousin of "Eight Miles High" in both style and tone -- while "Gold" is a fantastic roar of garage rock and early Sonic Youth (but far more tuneful).

"Wahoo" mixes a vibe of scuzzy-but-fast rock with bits of early Dinosaur Jr. while "Two" continues the band's fascination with late 1960s stuff by channeling both Neil Young and Iommi in equal amounts during the tasty guitar squalls in the song's second half.

"Off" and "Dark Road" continue the blissfully trippy noise-rock of this Meatbodies album while closer "The Master" soars like Ride -- oddly -- covering Styx. Make no mistake: it's still a bludgeoning-but-happily-catchy jam. But's it's also a spacious riff-rocker.

I am converted. I am now a disciple of Meatbodies. These cats know their way around some hooks and a few distortion pedals. There's nothing wasted here and it's a very pleasurable 41 minutes of RAWK.

Meatbodies are playing D.C. at the awesome Comet Ping Pong and you can get details on the November 1 gig here. If you go you will probably see me rocking out like a maniac.

Follow Meatbodies on their Facebook page. Their self-titled debut album is out now on In The Red Records.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review Of The New Il Sogno Del Marinaio (Mike Watt) Album

Almost inexplicably, I became a big fan of the first Il Sogno Del Marinaio album. I say "inexplicably" because it's music outside my normal areas of interest. But I listened and was immediately a fan.

Well, now Il Sogno Del Marinaio -- Mike Watt, Stefano Pilia, and Andrea Belfi -- are back with Canto Secondo on Clenched Wrench and it's every bit as good as their first record.

"Animal Farm Tango", with some spoken word bits by Watt, rides in on a martial beat by Belfi and some evocative slide work by Pilia. Watt's bass oozes in like warm liquid running over a road. The track soars when Watt makes it funky, and Belfi rides the cymbals, and Pilia finally cuts loose with some squalls of feedback near the end.

"Alain" is all bluesy menace and early Soundgarden riffage. Not so loud as those guys but certainly of a mood with their early, slower tracks. If that sounds odd, spin this one and see what I mean. The unholy love child of Sub Pop -- or, in Mike Watt's case and to make a better comparison, SST Records -- and jazz? You be the judge. I dug it.

"Nanos' Waltz" is jagged edges and melody with some excellent percussive effects by Belfi. Recalling Pere Ubu in some weird way -- Watt's near-whispered vocals called to mind a less manic David Thomas for me -- the song is gentle and affecting despite a near fusion-y coda.

"Skinny Cat" rolls in like distant thunder and turns into a nice showcase for both Belfi and Pilia in separate passages.

"Mountain Top" marries some near-bluegrass-style picking from Pilia with Belfi's rippling drums. Watt holds things together as the other two trade lines.

The positively funky "Il Sogno Del Finile" -- the "final song"? Is that a good translation? -- is like late-period Hendrix stuff with all 3 players here firing on all cylinders. Watt snarls the lyrics and the drums and guitar rattle around him. A highlight of Canto Secondo for me.

"Auslander" starts with a near-Mick Karn-ish hook from Watt. Pilia adds in some guitar figures that are very nearly Fripp-like but Belfi's cymbals and drums keep things focused and the cut stays jazzy. The interplay by Watt's bass and Belfi's percussion is a charmer here and Pilia soars in spots (again).

"Stucazz?!!" is nearly like a Zappa cut. What sounds like a throwaway quickly coalesces into a strutting and slow-burning number. Silly but with some sharp work from Pilia's slashing guitar here along with hard beats by Belfi and Watt's sassy bass.

"Sailor Blues" is the longest song on this record and it's still shorter than the longer tracks on Il Sogno Del Marinaio's first record. It opens with some scorching riffs and sinewy bass-lines. Things slow down and the guitar plucks continue as the drums roll and the cymbals crash -- Watt walking up the bass slowly now. Things roar back to life with some transcendent guitar riffs by Stefano Pilia. Just glorious flashes of brilliance here as the guitar slices in supple lines and bursts of intensity.

"Us in Their Land" is hard and Belfi is Buddy Miles-like in his playing here. A hard rocker in spots, it's another highlight of this album for me. Pilia's guitar climbs and Watt's bass ties things down. The mood gets quiet and then the record ends as it must -- with a glorious series of guitar squalls and lines from Pilia.

Il Sogno Del Marinaio have again produced a splendid record that hurdles over genre labels with ease. Musicians will relish these performances while fans of Mike Watt's should also marvel at this new venture for the veteran rocker.

And in a sign of true magnanimity, Watt has let guitarist Stefano Pilia and drummer Andrea Belfi truly shine here. While the Mike Watt connection might sell more copies of this album, and get fans outside this style of music -- like me -- to pick up the record, play it, and love it, the former Minuteman has offered up a real showcase of these musicians here. Canto Secondo by Il Sogno Del Marinaio is a triumph for the virtuosic guitar playing of Stefano Pilia and the subtle and powerful drumming of Andrea Belfi.

Find out more details about Canto Secondo by Il Sogno Del Marinaio on Mike Watt's official website or on their official Facebook page.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dot Dash Rocked WMUC (And Here Are A Few Photos)

Dot Dash are about to go into the studio to record album number 4 with Mitch Easter -- yes indeed, Mitch Easter! -- but they took time out of their busy schedules to lay down a full half-hour of mainly new tracks.

I got there a few minutes late but I think I only missed one song at most.

Here's the playlist but things changed mid-show and two classic songs -- "The Color and the Sound" from 2011's Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash and "Bloom/Decay" from the downright superb Half-Remembered Dream, both available on TheBeautifulMusic.com -- were introduced into the set.

I can say that there's one new cut that just blew me away...despite the fact that I'm not quite sure what the title was/will be. The cut opens with slashing guitars from both Steve Hansgen (ex-Minor Threat) and Terry Banks that sounded like Swervedriver, a band that drummer Danny Ingram was in for a spell. The other new songs were punchy and punk-y but still enormously tuneful. Dot Dash lose nothing with volume. With Hunter Bennett doing his best Simonon on bass, the other cats are channeling the Buzzcocks. Now that might sound like a mis-match but it works beautifully, especially in a live setting. This is loud postpunk of the very best kind.

I cannot wait to see what Mitch Easter does with these guys. The results will be great, I'm sure, if his recent work with Mary Timony's Ex Hex is any indication -- and that's to say nothing of his past production wizardry.

Go to the WMUC website and then make your way to this page to find the link for Sunday's Third Rail Radio show on MP3. Dot Dash go on at about the 1:26:10 mark on the podcast.

Buy Dot Dash CDs via TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Follow Dot Dash on their official Facebook page.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Some Kind Words About The New Sly Stone Compilation On Light In The Attic

On paper it might seem like a brief period to cover but in reality the Stone Flower label recordings of Sly Stone represented an important transition point in the man's amazing early career.

The result of a masterful job by Light in the Attic, I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 is an essential purchase for anyone with more than a passing interest in the musical genius that was Sly Stone.

People need to remember that Sly was a successful producer before he was an international pop star. Working with groups as unlike the Family Stone as the Beau Brummels, he had become a studio whiz ages prior to "Dance with the Music" climbing the charts. I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 makes the case that the few releases on the Stone Flower imprint reflected a turning point in Sly's career.

From the insightful liner notes from Alec Palao:

The Stone Flower Productions of Little Sister, Joe Hicks, and 6ix are completely in Sly’s image, and on many levels the contents of this anthology could really be considered a Sly Stone solo project. This is not the traditional story of a label or producer, but rather a disparate yet oddly cohesive collection of flashes from a musically febrile mind in a most fascinating phase. Stone Flower as such was not really an experiment, but it was certainly experimental.

And those same liner notes make the case that Sly's use of the Rhythm King drum machine prototype marked a stylistic leap in the man's output. The use of the machine freed up Sly to concentrate on other parts of the music and gave him even more control in the studio.

First up is 6IX. There's a version of "I'm Just Like You" here that's billed to the band but which is, essentially, all Sly. It's a funky and percolating jam that sounds like the best stuff on There's A Riot Goin' On (1971). The band is also represented by a few other cuts including the full band of the previously mentioned tune along with "You Can, We Can" which adds a hint of Chicago blues to what is essentially a typically Sly and the Family Stone-sounding tune. It's a rough and slightly hard jam that hints at the band's other strengths.

The obvious highlight of this set is "Home Sweet Home (Part 2)" by Joe Hicks. Sounding like James Brown doing a Wilson Pickett cut to death, the song is fabulous with familiar flashes of the Sly sound on the guitar and organ riffs. The horn-filled bridge takes the song into another glorious direction. A revelation!

Joe Hicks is represented by just 2 others cuts with my favorite being the Otis Redding-aping "I'm Goin' Home (Part 1)". It's a horn-heavy, hook-filled stomper and another delight of I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70. Sly's input can be heard in the bridge and chorus and the production. The pleasures of the cut come from the bits that sound unlike Sly's work brushing up against the bits that do. Dig it.

The coolest tracks on this compilation are probably those from Little Sister, featuring Sly's sister "Vet" Stewart. The girl group ups the funk on what are essentially strutting near-Motown-styled pop songs. In some perfect world, these would have been bigger radio hits, though "You're The One (Parts 1 & 2)" did nearly reach the Top 20 in the USA.

"Somebody's Watching You" sounds the most like a Sly Stone production, especially since it was a remake of a cut from the Stand! album. Featuring production that echoes Sly's best work, the alternately soulful and soaring vocals give the song new shades of meaning and emotion. It's both a familiar Sly joint and something more.

I'm not going to try to compete with the excellent liner notes for this record by Alec Palao so let me just end this here. If you are any kind of fan of the genius that is Sly Stone, run and get I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 from Light in the Attic for a fascinating peak into the man's most fertile creative period.

Free Tunes From J Xaverre (ex-Kenickie)!

One-time drummer for Kenickie, Pete Gofton has had a varied career after that. He was in Frankie and the Heartstrings, he produced some cool stuff for Sky Larkin -- remember them? -- and worked with the guys in Field Music, and he kept making music too -- that George Washington Brown EP was really nice.

And now he's back in his J Xaverre persona to gift us two lovely tunes and you can get them for free...but you should pay for them if you can.

News About A Magnificent Project From Cerys Matthews (Catatonia)

When I was 17 I got a copy of a book of poems by Dylan Thomas. The result of thrilling to those words was me peppering my family about questions about my Welsh ancestry. Perhaps I am 4 or 5 generations removed from Wales. And perhaps it is only from my mother's father's part of the family. And maybe I've only been to Wales once for barely a day but reading Dylan Thomas always makes me giddily proud that there's a bit of Welsh blood running around in me somewhere.

Which is a suitably poetic way to share the news to you today that Cerys Matthews, singer from one of my favorite Welsh bands, Catatonia, is releasing a double album of Dylan Thomas poems set to music.

Having heard the set, I can say that hearing Cerys' voice read these poems adds another layer of beauty to the already overwhelming beauty of the words. Let her explain it herself:

Dylan Thomas was always present in my life - we shared the same view of the crescent shaped Swansea bay, and my uncle Colin Edwards amassed the largest amount of interviews on him, starting in the years following Dylanʼs tragic death in New York City...Reading his work aloud, feeling those syllables roll around your mouth with the rhythms finding their own ebb and flow is one of life's greatest pleasures. In Welsh (and similarly in Somali) there is only one word to cover both music and poetry – the powerful, transformative qualities of each have always lead me to treat them both with a similar approach. I often hear music when I read great writing, especially Dylanʼs, which is so infused with melody and rhythm, and so the idea for this project was born.

Working with arranger and composer Mason Neely from Nashville, Cerys has done a remarkable thing here. Quite a few years ago, John Cale set some Dylan Thomas poems to music and the results were the profound Words for the Dying. But by focusing on the poems and arranging the music around them in a subtle fashion, Cerys and her crew -- Catrin Finch on harp, Alice Neary on cello, and David Adams on violin -- have turned the focus back to those glorious words themselves.

You can order A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs here.

Find more details on the official Cerys Matthews website.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tomorrows Tulips Drop When Today: A Quick Few Words About Their Awesome New Album

Tomorrows Tulips are here with their new album When, out today on Burger Records, and I highly recommend grabbing it.

The title tune hints at why I dig these guys. Sounding like early Nirvana covering George Harrison, the song is immediately memorable. As When chugs forward, the Sonic Youth-aping "Favorite Episode" oozes laconic charm.

The beautiful "Down Turned Self Pity" marries a Robert Fripp-like guitar line with a morose ditty akin to Beck's best stuff. There's a hint of Girls here too.

"Glued to You" rumbles like Pixies during the "quiet" parts of their best albums. Throw in a nod in the direction of Young Marble Giants and the cut stands out as one of the highlights of When.

Tomorrows Tulips are not exactly re-inventing the wheel here but they are doing a fantastic job at cherry-picking the "cool" bits of their (worthy) influences and making something fresh. I guarantee you that if any one of these cuts popped up on your indie mix that you'd be asking: "Whoa, what band is that? Who are those guys?"

This is affecting, sometimes discordant music of the best sort. Fans of Girls, Nirvana, or The Vaselines should dig this as much as I did.

When by Tomorrows Tulips is out today on Burger Records. Grab it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Karen Haglof (ex-Band of Susans) Drops Western Holiday

I got into Band of Susans in 1988. Somehow, because I had just purchased a CD player and was combing Tower for anything cool, imported, or new, I bought some Swans and Band of Susans largely on a whim 'cause of some write-ups in Option magazine.

While other female-fronted bands like Throwing Muses got (deserved) critical acclaim, it seemed as if Band of Susans were not quite as highly respected here as they were on the other side of the Atlantic.

Carrying on that guitar-noise tradition, and adding some new layers, one-time Band of Susans guitarist Karen Haglof has released her album Western Holiday.

From the opening PJ Harvey-strut of the title cut, to the piano-led blues swagger of "Righteous Anger", to "Musician's Girlfriend Blues", the album starts off impressively. The cuts have a sort of raunchy appeal but remain good showcases for Hagloff's riffs. Part Jimmy Page circa the first Zep album, part John Hiatt -- hey, the guy is more than just a great songwriter! -- Hagloff unwinds some tasty licks and long lines of passionate playing.

Aided by Steve Almaas on bass and C.P. Roth on drums and piano, Hagloff conjures up a mood closer to Nick Cave and Anita Lane than Band of Susans. I should also mention the backing vocals from the late Faye Hunter on one cut and her Let's Active mate Mitch Easter's slide guitar on another.

Western Holiday is a very fine collection of solid playing and mean-and-nasty blues-y hooks. Haglof's playing is a revelation. First-time listeners will be asking: "Who the hell is this guitarist and why haven't I heard of her before now?"

Well some of us -- aging Band of Susans fans -- have heard of her before and we're happy to enjoy her new venture.

Follow Karen Haglof on her official website.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Play Fabulous New Foxygen Video Here! Band Plays D.C. Sunday

Foxygen are touring their new record ...And Star Power, out in a few weeks on Jagjaguwar, and the band are bringing their show to D.C. this Sunday with openers Dub Thompson (and their record is aces too).

In the meantime, I urge you to get in on the goodness by spinning the "How Can You Really?" video below.

I'm Playing DJ On Little Records Radio Thursday Afternoon UPDATED

I got handed the reins of Little Records Radio for an hour and you can hear the results Thursday, October 2, at 2:00 PM EST and again at 10:00 EST.

Going against my first impulses, I didn't load the playlist up with D.C. acts. But I was very tempted to. So the surprises will not be nuggets from Dot Dash or Velocity Girl or Youth Brigade.

However, the D.C. area is represented by one cut (featuring a singer I sorta know) and the rest of the playlist is an attempt to recreate some of my favorite car mix-tapes from years past -- the cassettes I wore out with the cuts I always played.

And here's what I played (along with a video of one of the tracks).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Play Wonderful New Ultimate Painting (Mazes/Veronica Falls) Track Here!

New Ultimate Painting track? Is it any good? Of course it is.

Ultimate Painting is James Hoare from Veronica Falls and Jack Cooper from Mazes. Cooper's Mazes just released a fantastic album called Wooden Aquarium too. Like that band, Ultimate Painting manage to take some spot-on influences and create wonderful new tunes.

Case in point: "Ten Street" which echoes both "Foggy Notion" by Velvet Underground as well as about a dozen Feelies cuts.

But it's a splendid concoction and I thoroughly dig it. I urge you to play it now. The band will release their debut album in October on Trouble in Mind Records. In the meantime, they will be heading out on a brief tour of the USA.

Follow Ultimate Painting on their Tumblr site.