Monday, April 27, 2015

Want To Make It Sound Like Summer? Crank Up The Excellent New One From Peach Kelli Pop As Loud As You Can!

There comes a point where the best music is the simplest music. And sometimes it takes really smart people (those fellas in The Ramones) to make music that remains basic without being...crappy Top 40 tune-age. Which is to say that the new album from Peach Kelli Pop seems so effortless constructed that one could think that it was just tossed off quickly. After all, 10 songs in under 21 minutes is not exactly Tales from Topographic Oceans. However, those 10 cuts are full of sunshine and pep. And they are gonna warm your heart.

Called III, and out now on Burger Records, the new album from Peach Kelli Pop is a blast of hope on a rainy day. The sound of summer throbs out of every one of these songs and for that reason I suspect I'll be playing these tunes a lot in my car the next few months.

Channeling Helen Love and bis in the one-two opening punch of "Princess Castle 1987" and "Shampoo", III kicks off with a bang. And one can only hope that "Shampoo" is named after the UK band and not the product.

"Heart Eyes" multi-tracks the vocals to glorious effect -- think early Lush -- while "Bat Wing" offers up more of the sort of thing that The Flatmates did so well so long ago. "Big Man" may add a tiny bit of semi-snarling menace to things but Peach Kelli Pop are best at the sort of cooing indie pop heard on "New Moon" and all throughout III. Things here wind down a tiny bit on album closer "Please Come Home" but the band never abandon their pop sense. If the earlier songs on III owe a huge debt to stuff like bis, this one is a bit more like something from The Primitives' second album. I realize that that doesn't sound like a huge leap but in the context of III it is.

Still, make no mistake, this is one of the most joyous records I've heard in some time. Every song here makes me happy and that's no small compliment in an era of affected indie rock. Call it twee if you like, but Peach Kelli Pop's music is something wonderful indeed.

Follow Peach Kelli Pop on their official Facebook page.

III is out now via Burger Records.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Quick Review Of The Sublime New Album From Turn To Crime

It took one listen to the title track from the new Turn to Crime album, Actions, to make me a fan of the band. The cut, purring like post-millennium New Order, is a supple bit of business. It's insinuating and accessible in ways that some of the other cuts on this record are not. That's not to slight Actions, out Tuesday on Mugg and Bopp, but to highlight the rough edges of this band that keep them from being too polished. The bits that are smooth here are smooth but there's a hint of something bad about to erupt. Consider "Prince of Slackers" which recalls Lou Reed at his best but with the hard drumming of early post-punk acts like Wire. It's a piece of work indeed.

Actions is quite hard to easily pin down and for that reason I sort of feel unequipped to write about it. It's like these cats have been doing something great over in Detroit while I've been clueless about their music all along until now.

"Light" echoes the best stuff from Iggy Pop's sojourn under the shadow of the Berlin-obsessed Bowie. Add in some wicked axe-work behind the vocals and you've got another winner.

A song like "Impatience" shows the influence of Frank Tovey and Fad Gadget while "Without a Care" owes a debt to Bowie's Lodger. But to compare the tracks here on Actions to such worthy forefathers is not to label Turn to Crime as genre-jumpers but, rather, to place them in great company. Lots of acts have admirable influences but few can integrate those influences so perfectly as Turn to Crime. Actions is, so far, the pleasant surprise of the year for me as a listener. I knew nothing about this band before now and after listening to their latest record I want to know everything. It's that good.

Actions is out Tuesday on Mugg and Bopp.

Follow Turn to Crime on their official Facebook page.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Quick Review Of The Super New EP From Spain's The Yellow Melodies

Spain's The Yellow Melodies are a really superb band and pretty much every cut I've heard from them so far has hit the sweet spot for me.

Having previously tried their hand at a Television Personalities tribute EP, the band are now back to offer up 6 slabs of tunefulness as a tribute to the sometimes unfortunately neglected BMX Bandits. Called Students of Life: A Tribute to BMX Bandits, the EP is out this week via TheBeautifulMusic.com and I urge you to grab it.

"Extraordinary" positively oozes cool and it seems to burrow its way further into my brain with each listen. "Girl at the Bus Stop" adds a Swingin' Sixties vibe to the track to offer up something that nods in the direction of The Move. "Your Class", a track that was previously featured on the highly recommended A Brilliant Escape compilation, charms with its catchy chorus.

These 6 cuts are superb examples of how to do upbeat indie pop whether or not you count yourself a BMX Bandits fan or not. Delicious harmonies? Check. Guitar hooks? Check. Nothing wasted in the creation of good music? Check. Grab Students of Life: A Tribute to BMX Bandits as soon as you can.

Follow The Yellow Melodies on their official Facebook page or on their official website.

Students of Life: A Tribute to BMX Bandits is out in a few days on TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Second Of 2 Free Dot Dash Tracks Is Here In Advance Of Their Record Release Show In D.C. This Week!

That pic is from when Dot Dash rocked out at the University of Maryland's radio station, WMUC in October. Pictures from that night, most taken by my wife, are making the rounds in a few other online pieces about the band which is cool since the band are deservedly getting much more attention now. During that night's WMUC set, the band premiered a few new songs from their excellent new Mitch Easter-produced masterpiece Earthquakes and Tidal Waves, including a rather loud version of "The Winter of Discontent", the album opener. The cut recalls stuff from the band's Eric Tischler (of The Jet Age)-produced debut Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash.

"The Winter of Discontent" seems similar to something like "That Was Now, This is Then" but now the guitars seem louder and angrier, maybe thanks to the presence of Steve Hansgen (Minor Threat, Emma Peel) in the band. It's not that Hansgen is an angry dude but that he comes from a punk-ier tradition than original guitarist Bill Crandall. And while Hansgen has been in the band for some radio sessions and stuff, this first track on the new record is his official debut as the band's main axe-man.

You want to hear Hansgen and the lads in some radio sessions, you say? Head over to TheBeautifulMusic.com and grab Earthquakes and Tidal Waves -- if you somehow have not already done so already -- and Wally might just give you a free bonus disc of Dot Dash rarities when you order the new album.

While supplies last, of course!

This Friday, Dot Dash are playing Comet Ping Pong in D.C. for a record release show for Earthquakes and Tidal Waves. It's gonna be a gas, so see ya there!

In the meantime, grab the track, buy Earthquakes and Tidal Waves via TheBeautifulMusic.com and enjoy!

(And remember you might get a free bonus disc with your copy when you order!)

Follow Dot Dash on their official Facebook page.

Free download of "The Winter of Discontent" here!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Absolutely Essential Purchase For Record Store Day (UK) Is Firestation Towers (Fire Records) From Close Lobsters

Collected with a simple, singular sense of purpose, Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 (Fire Records) collects the 2 studio albums (1987's Foxheads Stalk This Land and 1989's Headache Rhetoric) and 1 singles compilation (2009's Forever Until Victory) from Scotland's Close Lobsters. To say that I love these albums is an understatement. Every time I play something from the Close Lobsters, I think: "Gee, that sounds even better now than it did 26 years ago!" The music here was never truly fully appreciated enough back then but now it seems as if there is a groundswell of awareness of just how flat-out great this band was. The band is finally getting the critical attention they always deserved and Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 is the perfect way to get all of their stuff (nearly) in one wonderful set. You want a crash course in Close Lobsters 101? Then this is it, kid!

I bought Foxheads Stalk This Land (1987) on cassette in very late 1987, before I got a CD player, when the band was being distributed by Enigma Records in the USA. I got some other Enigma things that same day -- Wednesday Week, maybe? -- but I bought the Lobsters' tape mainly 'cause I liked the song titles -- "I Kiss The Flowers in Bloom", what's not to love about that one? Luckily the music lived up to my mental hype. From the crackin' pop of "Just Too Bloody Stupid" to the glorious beauty unleashed on "A Prophecy", this was then a treasure of a record. The very sort of thing you had to talk about with the right people. If someone got certain other acts, then you'd ask if they knew this band. If they didn't, you'd spin "In Spite of These Times" and watch the person's face and, hopefully, they'd smile and nod. This album contains music I hold as dear as the tunes of The Go-Betweens and The Chills. Foxheads Stalk This Land remains a record that I rank higher the more I play it.

Headache Rhetoric dropped in 1989 and I can remember being a tiny bit disappointed with it at the time. Listening to it now it seems a lot better than I remembered. "Lovely Little Swan" is a magnificent single while "Knee Trembler" trades on the chiming pop of the first record to offer something more accessible and catchy. And the album contains one of the band's best tracks too ("Nature Thing").

The fantastic singles compilation Forever Until Victory saw release in 2009. It didn't get a lot of attention at the time -- I heard about it only after seeing something on Amazon.com -- but I think over time it did get more notice. It's a nearly perfect compilation that showcases yet another set of strengths of this band. "Going to Heaven to See If It Rains" is the textbook example of the glory of jangle rock, for lack of a better word. Far too robust to be twee this is the sort of song that still makes you long for the glory days of the late Eighties. Just a blast of pure fun. And then there are another 18 (!) songs to go on Forever Until Victory. This one's got "Let's Make Some Plans" on it and for that reason alone it's worth your money. What a transcendent song! Until I got this comp. in 2009, I probably hadn't heard this one in a good 20 years. I put it on and had to sit down and just enjoy the tune. It's just sublime, affecting, and tuneful. The only other band that made music like this then was The Chills. When I compare a band to The Chills, you know I must hold them in the very highest esteem.

The wonderfully titled "What is There to Smile About" follows and it rattles along mightily in the style of "Just Too Bloody Stupid" but with more wit and a bridge to die for. "In Spite of These Times" offers up guitars that sound like those on early Cocteau Twins records only here the hooks are sharp and direct and not all woozy-woozy. This is another masterpiece from Close Lobsters and the tune positively crackles with life. A catchy, should-have-been-a-hit anthem. "Don't let it slip through your hands!" goes the refrain. Don't let this slip away either.

Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 is 3 albums, all great, and you need this set now in your life. Your life will be better for owning these records. I promise you that.

Follow the Close Lobsters on their official Facebook page.

Get the full lowdown on Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 via Fire Records or the UK's Record Store Day page.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The First Of 2 Free Dot Dash Tracks Is Here In Advance Of Their Record Release Show In D.C. Next Week!

That pic is from the final night of what I call "Salad Days Weekend" when Dot Dash opened for Soul Side. The band premiered a few new tracks from their superb new Mitch Easter-produced masterpiece Earthquakes and Tidal Waves but "Rainclouds" wasn't one of them that night. The cut, a snarling VU-inspired rocker, shows off some new colors in the Dot Dash paint-box and you can get it for free via the link below.

Next week, Dot Dash are playing Comet Ping Pong in D.C. for a record release show for Earthquakes and Tidal Waves. I urge you to be there 'cause it's a great venue to see a band in, though it seems odd to me to think that I've not seen Dot Dash there yet. So, I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, grab the track, buy Earthquakes and Tidal Waves -- if you haven't already done so -- via TheBeautifulMusic.com and enjoy!

(And -- p.s. -- you might get a free bonus disc with your copy when you order!)

Follow Dot Dash on their official Facebook page.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Jasmine Minks Are (Thankfully) Back And Busy Loading Up Their Bandcamp Page

Remember those cats in that black-and-white snap? Well it's time you refreshed your memory on what a great indie pop outfit this band was...is, 'cause -- psst! -- they are making new tunes even as we speak.

The Jasmine Minks have been busy lately loading up their Bandcamp page. Primarily thought of as a Creation Records band, The Jasmine Minks actually recorded on a few other labels including the influential The Bus Stop Label. And a label called Oatcake on which they released their wonderful Poppy White EP.

Recorded in 1992, the Poppy White EP saw release much later but the songs are timeless and span a few eras in terms of style. The title track positively chimes. It's a rush of joy on a bright spring day, frankly. The song adds a faint hint of twang to offer what remains a gem of Byrdsian leanings. "Distraction" is a jaunty number that combines a sharp hook on the chorus with some truly sublime harmonies throughout. "Dead and Gone" recalls Orange Juice in spots but the fuzzy guitar lurking in the cut makes this another standout. "Rain" is not the Beatles classic but it is a similarly trippy epic. Part chiming beat era throwback, the soulful vocals and call-and-response in the rave-up make this the highlight of the Poppy White EP. The guitar-work on this one is exceptional too.

Poppy White is another probably overlooked treasure from The Jasmine Minks. Now, thanks to the Internet, fans can get it, perhaps for the first time.

Follow The Jasmine Minks on their official Facebook page and be sure to head over to their Bandcamp page to load up on some other fine releases.

Monday, April 13, 2015

So That's What They Look Like When They Rock Out? D.C.'s Awesome Mittenfields Unveil New Video

In advance of their upcoming new album, Optimists -- which is, confidentially speaking, fantastic but it's a bit too early to officially review it so you didn't hear that from me -- comes the single of the same name and its sparkling new video.

Coming on like The Arcade Fire covering an old Big Dipper tune, Mittenfields have mastered that loud/quiet/loud thing and a whole lot more. A majestic, monstrous jam, "Optimists" is a shot of adrenalin. Quite simply, these cats are redefining what D.C. rock sounds like. They are pushing the throttle down and aiming for the future.

Follow Mittenfields on their official Facebook page.

And play this snow-capped vid a few times in anticipation of Optimists being released soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Quick Review Of The Splendid SLUG (Field Music) Record

It seems like an eternity since SLUG gifted us with a magnificent early single but the full-length debut from the group is nearly here. RIPE drops early next week via Memphis Industries. It's a head-scratcher and a foot-stomper and a thorough blast for any fan of music whose tastes run a bit deeper than average. SLUG is really the project of one Ian Black but the presence of the Brewis brothers from Field Music on this record is sure to get the album a lot of well-deserved attention.

From the Zappa-meets-XTC weird new wave stomp of "Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic", to the piano-based instrumental "Peng Peng", and on to the Steely Dan-on-acid noise of "Eggs and Eyes", the cuts here surprise by pulling from a deep well of (worthy) influences. There's both clever invention here as well as a bit of an attitude. The delightfully named "Greasy Mind" recalls nothing so much as a Colin Moulding-led XTC rummaging through the 10cc back catalog. If that sounds like a cool thing, then you're going to like a lot of RIPE...a lot.

Over the course of these 11 spry cuts, Black and the Brewis boys trot out every trick in the studio. If anything, the album is a marvel at sounding too busy. While that could be a knock on another album, here in terms of RIPE it's an acknowledgement of how inventive this project is. "Shake Your Loose Teeth" sounds like China Crisis and even Blue Nile (a bit) before exploding into a big burst of proggy noise. I mention that song as it's a pretty good example of how things progress on this record. Equally catchy and experimental, the musicians behind this record manage to make music that borders on wild pretension without succumbing to any unnecessary nonsense. I evoked Zappa earlier -- and it's an apt comparison in spots -- but there's none of Zappa's poor humor or muso bluster here, for example. Better points of comparison may be Sparks and (again) 10cc.

Fans of Adrian Belew, King Crimson, and XTC (obviously), should be sure to grab RIPE by SLUG as soon as it's released by Memphis Industries next week.

More details on the official SLUG Facebook page.

Getting The Word Out Early About The Awesome Debut From Hard Left

From what must surely have started as a bit of a goof has sprung one of the best records of the first quarter of 2015. Hard Left, featuring members of Boyracer, Black Tambourine, and Lunchbox, are about to drop the appropriately named We Are Hard Left and it's a blistering-yet-hummable slab of 14 leftist anthems. Lest that scare you aware, I should also add that there are riffs here every bit as catchy as those on Minor Threat records from the early 1980s.

"Hard Left Rules OK" is a shouty jam -- and it's got whistling in it too! -- that rides a truly infectious lick around the block. One imagines a band of workers marching behind this. Or just folks who long for the glory days of oi rock.

"Chant No. 1" employs a nearly-glam stomp to segue into the sublime "Hand in Hand" which manages to recall the boot-steps of "Holidays in the Sun" even as it rouses the workers from their slumber.

Amid the rush of 14 songs in little under a half of an hour, there are a few gems that already seem like familiar classics ("Kicking It Off") and a few that fly past almost too quickly ("Exhortation No. 1") but each song here rises above its origin as perhaps a sort of tribute to earlier punk rock legends. If Hard Left were trying to pay tribute to that first flush of DIY spirit in the UK, they've done an amazing job. These 14 tunes, by and large, feel like classics. It's as if you found a "singles compilation" from an obscure punk group in the bin. You might not know every cut but the songs quickly find their way into heavy rotation in your life. That's sort of what happens after you play We Are Hard Left.

Get this one as soon as it's released on the format of your choice, spin it at least twice, and then realize that "We're All Hard Left", as the final cut proclaims in its punk-Devo-esque manner.

Follow Hard Left on their official Facebook page.