Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Look At Lost In The Dream From The War On Drugs

Like some weird mix of Daniel Lanois and FM Cornog of East River Pipe, Adam Granduciel, better known as the man behind The War on Drugs, channels and chronicles the lonely spaces of the American continent. This is music best appreciated on a car stereo, late at night, driving down a highway in search of somewhere to pull off and get coffee. The music on Lost in the Dream, out now on Secretly Canadian, is affecting and haunting.

On this new record, Granduciel has refined the approach he used on 2011's masterful Slave Ambient. The tunes now seem more holistic, of a similar mind, with less clutter. "Suffering" echoes 1980s Zimmerman tunes with Lanois-esque touches throughout. I'd even go so far as to say there's a hint of Van the Man here. "Disappearing", like a few cuts here, has nods in the direction of U2's The Unforgettable Fire record -- those rolling, gentle drumbeats like Larry Mullen's brushwork on "A Sort of Homecoming" in spots. Tunes like "The Haunting Idle" expand, with the guitar noise rippling out like Robert Fripp on a David Sylvian cut. Even opener "Under The Pressure", even with its somewhat odd hint of David Byrne's vocal delivery over the percussive beat, is more Dylan, Lanois, and even Tom Petty than anything else.

Still, those things being said, Granduciel has found some strange alchemy where he's managed to force-weld Radiohead with Tom Petty. To some that would sound like the stuff of nightmares but when he reins the songs back, Granduciel controls this beast and the effect is borderline sublime. It's forward-looking but with a certain noble sense of songcraft that harks back to those classic rock forefathers.

Let me put it this way: I might not put Lost in the Dream on the boombox for a day at the beach but, when the right mood hits, this record is gonna sound as good as Kid A or side 2 of The Joshua Tree.

Spin "Red Eyes" and catch the Tunnel of Love-era Bruce-isms and you'll see what I mean. Songs can't all be crowd-stirrers. Even the Boss stopped to pen stuff like "I'm on Fire".

Follow The War on Drugs via their website:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Manics Hint At Futorology With Free Live EP (UPDATED!)

Well they haven't identified a release date yet for Futurology, the follow-up to last year's sublime Rewind The Film, but they have new press shots that seem to signal a "new look" for the upcoming album -- all sleek and futuristic ('natch) where the last one was all rustic and natural.

Or something like that.

In the meantime, you can download a free EP from the Welsh geniuses via their website:

The EP is "Faster", "Kevin Carter", "Motown Junk", and "Slash N Burn", all recorded live at the 02 Arena in December 2011.

Here's the visuals to go along with the first cut on this EP.

UPDATE: The Manics unveiled some new tunes at their gig in Leeds last night (March 28, UK time). Here's a taste of the title tune from the upcoming record and another track.

Big "thanks!" to the user who shot and posted these clips!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Play New (And Fresh) Cut From The Fresh And Onlys Here!

What I love is how that wicked fuzz in the background makes it almost sound like your headphones are broken.

It's as if Merzbow was in the studio next door to these boys and somehow his bleeding-eardrum noise got caught on the other band's tape from a distance.

But, seriously, it's the new single from The Fresh And Onlys and it's a taste of the new album, House Of Spirits, which is out on June 10 via Mexican Summer.

Working with Phil Manley from Trans Am, the band have, no doubt, produced something magical if this tune is any indication. This cut, "Bells Of Paonia" is a worthy taste of the unique mix of clear, uplifting vocals and shoegazing riffs that the band is capable of producing. The mix is -- dare I say it? -- fresh.

Follow along on their Facebook page.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dig Some Fantastic Tunes From Philadelphia's Literature

Philadelphia's Literature are doing it right.

Proudly cranking tunes that echo bands like The Wedding Present and C86 era mainstays like The Shop Assistants, Literature are a pleasant surprise. I just bought everything that they had up on and I'd urge you to do the same.

Dig the Feelies-meets-Rocketship vibe of "Tie Dye (Your Life)". It's a glorious song and when those backing vocals kicked in, I hit the "buy" links.

Follow the band on their Facebook page:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stream Great Recent Vic Goddard Single Here

I'm about a year late but whatever.

Apparently this was a very limited release timed to coincide with Record Store Day 2013. It's a really catchy tune. Limited release or not, it's up on U.S. iTunes so you can still buy it.

I recommend that you do.

The single was produced by Edwyn Collins (of Orange Juice). More details on the AED website.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Storming New EP Out Now From Manchester's Hey Bulldog

Remember back when I posted about this awesome track by Hey Bulldog? Well, the band are back with that tune and 4 others on their new EP and it's pretty much awesome.

The 5 tracks here ooze intent and they all snarl in appropriate ways with a wicked rock sneer. The bluesy drawl of "Oh My Soul" morphs into that familiar Loop-meets-Jesus and Mary Chain menace of "Numb".

But it's "Let It Go" that most impresses here, even if it's got a song title that's the same as a tune from that Disney film. This cut is like some scuzzy and wonderful lost garage rock anthem -- think The Standells -- being covered by The Cult before they hooked up with Rick Rubin (no offense to Rick's talents). It's the pound-and-fury of Loop as channeled into another direction -- less Hawkwind and more Motorhead. And that guitar solo on this tune flat-out rawks!

The remaining two cuts -- "I'm Going Down" and "This Is Better" -- likewise do not disappoint.

What I most like about Hey Bulldog is that for a new band they've done a pretty remarkable job at carving out a unique sound. Sure, there are traces of other bands here, most notably The Jesus and Mary Chain, I guess, but the overall sound is cleverly more than just a bunch of references to other bands. If you remember that Creation band One Lady Owner you might know what I'm talking about here with Hey Bulldog. This is catchy music but it's also brutal music. But it's brutal in a refreshing way.

It's like those dudes in Loop found a Nuggets comp. in their attic and challenged themselves to do their own loud versions of those short tunes, the space-rock freakouts ratcheted down to manageable lengths, the fuzzy feedback in the service of melody and not just epic bouts of shoegazing.

Follow Hey Bulldog on their Facebook page:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Download Rare Demo From Husker Du Here

I count myself lucky that I got to see Husker Du play live at least once.

I got Candy Apple Grey when it was released in 1986 and then spent the rest of that summer going back and getting most of their other stuff...on cassette.

The trio had rage, power, and melody. That combination seemed as invigorating and inspiring as The Who, and I had -- like other suburban teenage boys -- been a huge Who fan when I was 15 or 16. In 1986, I was 19 and listening to a lot of pretentious 4AD stuff -- and probably the first Blue Nile album -- and Husker Du made me get back into American rock again after a few months away. They were the antithesis of that British stuff and I got into the Replacements because of Husker Du -- some review mentioned both bands or something.

This track is an outtake from 1985's New Day Rising. I'm sure if you look, you can find other rarities from these guys out there on the web.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Little Look Back At D.C. Legends The Now

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I was worst kind of record store snob in 1989 or so. Buying mainly CDs on the 4AD and Creation labels from the import bins at D.C.'s Tower and Olsson's, I'd only listen to other stuff at work at the University of Maryland Record Co-Op, or in the car. I was even buying a lot of classical CDs for goodness' sake!!!

It's not an exaggeration to say that Rich Carlson, my coworker at the Record Co-Op, significantly broadened my musical horizons in one moment. Rich was a great guy to work with and he certainly made that last year of the Record Co-Op's existence more enjoyable. Rich was the keyboard player in D.C. band The Now. Of course, I had heard of The Now but I was a decided snob about local bands, especially in the era we're talking about, when D.C. was known mainly for Dischord stuff and a few years before those College Park kids put the area on the map for bands that would end up on the Slumberland Records label.

So one Saturday, Rich and I are holding down the fort, staring out at an empty store and shooting the shit, when I start to explain my avoidance of the harDCore scene in D.C. and Rich finds a copy of the first Fugazi 12 inch in the bins -- this was before the Co-Op liquidated all the vinyl and those aforementioned College Park, pre-Slumberland Records kids bought up all the good, cool records at markdown prices -- and he put on "Waiting Room". I knew the tune somehow -- from going to the 9:30 Club and hearing a DJ like Lamont Prince spin it? -- and recognized those hooks and riffs.

I hung my head in shame. "Alright. You win. That is awesome."

Rich added, "I think there's a copy of 7 Songs on tape over there on the shelf."

(I think this was before Dischord ever released a CD.)

I raced to the rack. My weekend -- and many more -- was soundtracked by that tape blaring out of my boombox in the car (I didn't have an in-dash stereo).

As for Rich? I paid a lot more attention to what he said about music the next year we worked together.

Here's another Now connection. That dude on the left, Fluffy Hays Centner, I would see at the (old) 9:30 Club all the time. I was getting into a lot of shows thanks to working for a record store and having label connections and I even briefly reached a point when I can remember Fluff not even checking the guestlist when I showed up in line once or twice. Fluffy would visit the Co-Op to see Rich and then I learned that he was doing sound for The Now.

Gene Hawkins, the other guy in that pic, died far too young. I'm not going to opine on that 'cause I'm not a person qualified to do that. But he's missed by loads of fans. I can tell you that. Anyway, in 1988, I walked off the job at the College Park Record and Tape Exchange. I go back to the store a week or so later and see this stylish and cool dude sitting at the counter. That dude was Gene. I think he's the lucky/unlucky fellow who got my job there. This would have been in late summer 1988 or so, right before I went to the Record Co-Op and probably before I ever heard of The Now.

Fluff, in an awesome hat and shirt combo, doing sound for The Now. And The Now in live action at The Bayou...

And later in that era I learned that Bruce Levin, former Record Co-Op employee and the one customer whose love of pretentious stuff like Dead Can Dance and David Sylvian was equal to my own, had inexplicably been in the "ska" band The Now.

Gene is rocking white socks with that ensemble. When I do that people think I'm an idiot but he looks like the perfect ska/mod frontman here...

I recently asked Rich some questions about the rise of The Now and here are his thoughts.

Before The Now, I was just a bum working at Penguin Feather. I had moved to D.C. for work after high school in Michigan in 1985 [and the band started] in 1987....The band arose from all of us hanging out at Posuers and Back Alley...and in our druken haze, [we] said "Let's start a Band!"...We didn't start out as a ska evolved that way. It started out as more of a Mod-Alternative thing in the vein of The Jam, of mid-career Damned -- think Strawberries era -- or The Clash. The ska label only came later, and even then only about 1/3 of the set was ska. Thus, the ska scene never really embraced us...We liked to think we created our own scene...he [Gene Hawkins] left 'cause some in the band didn't like the fact that he joined Lucy Brown, and was devoting time to both...basically Darby said pick one, and he chose the one he thought could get signed first...After Gene left, we brought on Michael [Bland] and Tony [Rogers] (our drummer Juan left when Gene did, and Tony took his place)...After The Now broke up, I finished my B.S. in Anthropology at the University of Maryland and moved to Michigan in '94 to get my PhD in Anthropology at Michigan State. That why I'm now called 'Dr. Dick,' and that will be my stage-name in my future punkabilly band.

And, while many remember The Now for all their opening gigs on the East Coast -- though, as Rich was proud of telling me at the time, The Ocean Blue opened for them! -- many folks might have forgotten about Skatley Crue. Featuring some Now dudes, plus 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz on drums, and D.C. legend Kenny Inouye from Marginal Man, Skatley Crue had a fair measure of success in the D.C. area and they opened up for The Fleshtones, Dread Zeppelin, Black Market Baby, and The Skatalites, as well as a version of The English Beat with Ranking Roger.

An enormous thanks to Rich Carlson for sharing his memories of The Now. And I stole all these pics from The Now Facebook page so I urge you to visit that:

Here's a live cut with some really nice vocals from Gene...

Post-Gene Hawkins single produced by Earl Hudson of Bad Brains...

And for reference: the legend that was Skatley Crue...ripping Priest a new one...

A look at some of the more memorable gigs that The Now were a part of...

I can remember Rich talking about this one. What a line-up!

A gig with Dot Dash's Danny Ingram when he was in Strange Boutique...

I'm pretty sure that I was at this gig. The dude from The Skunks used to come into the University of Maryland Record Co-Op to talk to Rich a lot. At the time of this show, I was probably unaware of much of the legacy of Government Issue. Weatherhead was a project of G.I.'s John Stabb and he'd later branch out again in the excellent Emma Peel...

I didn't go to this one but I remember hearing about it. I can attest that Ziggy Marley was surprisingly popular for a spell. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I remember selling more Ziggy tapes than Pixies CDs in 1989 but I don't want to burst any bubbles...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rockin' Split Tape Project From Fruit Tones And Deathcats!

This is a pleasant surprise.

Yet another band to follow from Manchester! God Bless The North! Anyway, Fruit Tones are from that city and they have worked with fellow Mancs Temple Songs before. For that reason alone they are worth listening to.

But, hey, guess what? They have a similar sound.

Spin the awesomely awkwardly named "Will My Life Live Without Me" and revel in the vibe. It's part Allah-Las, part Temple Songs, part early Beefheart, and all kinds of awesome.

I dig it!

Follow Fruit Tones on their Facebook page:

Glasgow's Deathcats are doing something else entirely. On "Dreamz" they sound like O.M.D. as covered by a very young Pavement. It's a mind-warp, really...but it's a delightful one.

Follow Deathcats on their Facebook page:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Back Door To Heaven: 1983 Live Concert From Aztec Camera

The best Christmas present I ever received that wasn't a toy was High Land, Hard Rain by Aztec Camera -- on cassette! -- in 1983. I also got Rock 'n Soul Part 1 and some Springsteen that Xmas but it was the Aztec Camera that has firmly held its place in my heart.

I haven't gotten the 30th (!) anniversary edition reissue of High Land, Hard Rain yet but it's on my radar.

I'm also lucky that I got to see Aztec Camera in D.C. in early 1985 along with Guadalcanal Diary and D.C. legend Tommy Keene opening up.

This concert is from December 1983 and it's still staggering how good Roddy Frame and his boys were. He was then a prodigious talent and not even 20 yet. There's no "The Boy Wonders" but the set-list is a good one and Roddy is on fine form here.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Temple Songs Continue To Amaze: Stream Wicked New Single Here

I've been blogging about these Mancs since late 2012. And I was lucky enough to start when they had so much free music up on their Bandcamp site.

(Nope. Not anymore. Don't bother looking for it there.)

They do, however, have another awesome single coming out. "Point Of Origin" will be dropping soon on RIP Records but you can stream it here.

It's another backwards-looking-but-forward-thinking slice of rock from these guys. Like Guided By Voices, if Bob Pollard had been born the sort of Brit he always dreamed of being in his Who-aping dreams, and if he had nothing but old beat era 45s up in his dream attic in Manchester.

Follow these guys on their Facebook page.

Getting Back In Touch With The Avengers

Remember when I used to blog about comics? Me neither. No, seriously, I did, and do, but there seems little point when so many others are doing it better than I can.

After living in Hong Kong for two years, I finally found 2 shops with trade paperbacks (TPB) of current stuff I like. There's the excellent-if-cluttered Clark's Comics and then a few doors down there's the more spartan interior of Metro Comics. Go to the first for collectible stuff and go to the second for current issues and a few current TPBs.

Being sick at home a few days recently gave me a chance to catch up on the stuff I bought at those two stores so here goes.

First up we have Jonathan Hickman writing The Avengers. This TPB collects the first 6 issues of Hickman's run when he took over after Brian Michael Bendis' phenomenal overhaul of the Avengers universe and, by extension, the entire Marvel universe.

The issues are thin on plot -- it's a very cinematic take on things here -- but Jerome Opena's art in the first few issues is fantastic. If not much happens -- and it really doesn't -- then it's okay 'cause the settings are familiar and it's like revisiting a few friends you hadn't talked to in ages.

This sequence where Tony Stark (Iron Man) brings Steve Rogers (Captain America) on-board with his plans for a world of Avengers is a really nice one. It's better than some scenes in the first Avengers film, in some ways.

I liked Hickman's writing on the Fantastic Four so I'll try to keep up with his work here, even if they use other artists apart from the wonderful Jerome Opena.

Next up was this TPB collecting the first 5 issues of Uncanny Avengers. Written by Rick Remender and drawn by John Cassaday, the issues move fast and have a sort of retro vibe to them. I was a bit confused about where things stood as this took place presumably after the big Avengers vs. X-Men throwdown but I figured out things quickly. The characters look fantastic and the interplay between Captain America and X-Man Havok is really well done.

I liked Cassaday's artwork on another Captain America run so I'll be sure to follow this series too. For now, check out this exchange between Cap and Thor as they attempt to get Havok to go get coffee with them.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Play New Skytone Video And Single Here!

Sounding like those great 1980s acts that more people need to remember -- stuff like The Plimsouls, anything associated with Chris Stamey, maybe -- Ottawa's Skytone are here with their new single "Paris" and you can play it and its accompanying video below.

It's expertly played and produced pop. Just a fantastic single.

More details on the Skytone website:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Download Awesome Troggs Cover From Popstrangers

New Zealand's Popstrangers have done a fantastic job with this cover of "With A Girl Like You" by The Troggs and you can play and download it below.

For more details on Popstrangers, check out their Facebook page. They are on Carpark Records.

I should confess that I can't hear any version of this song without thinking of the dance scene in the 1991 film Flirting where it was used to such memorable effect. The movie is really something special and it deserves to be sought out and not just because it's got Nicole Kidman, Noah Taylor, Naomi Watts, and Thandie Newton in it early in their careers.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stream Wicked New Tune From Hunck Here!

In 1992, Nirvana and Teenage Fanclub were booming out of the hip kids' stereos on both sides of the Atlantic. Nirvana, a bunch of Americans, were drawing inspiration from U.K. bands like The Raincoats and The Vaselines. Teenage Fanclub, a bunch of Scots, were drawing inspiration from American legends Big Star and Neil Young.

If somehow those two acts had pooled their resources and influences, the glorious result would be this cut by Hunck.

Not to confused with the fantastic band from the 1990s (HUNK), this Hunck is a sort of side project. Frederik Tyson-Brown is in MT. Thomas Wykes is in Parakeet (a side project of guys from Yuck and The History of Apple Pie).

This is "Toy Trucks" and it's alternately lovely and noisy. I like it quite a bit, especially on my headphones.

Follow Hunck on their official Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Download Awesome New La Sera Song Here!

Following on from her fantastic last album, 2012's Sees The Light, Katy Goodman, AKA La Sera, is back and readying a new record. Hour Of The Dawn will drop in May from Hardly Art but you can enjoy this new cut today.

"Losing To The Dark" is like the unholy-but-catchy tune-spawn of The Pixies and The Primitives. Two cool kids pull up to a stoplight in 1988 and one's car stereo is blaring Surfer Rosa and the other's is rocking Lovely. Yep. It's like that.

Follow La Sera on her official website or on her Facebook page.

Play And Download Black Checker Remix Here!

Those boys in D.C.'s Black Checker have gone and got themselves remixed!!!

Their thoroughly excellent cut "Bagel Girl", from their thoroughly excellent EP Fast, has been put through the wringer by Bad Domes and you can get the fruits of that effort at your own price via that Bandcamp link below.

For more details on the D.C.-area trio, check out the official Facebook page for Black Checker.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Quick Review Of Present Tense From Wild Beasts

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 3 years since the excellent Smother but Wild Beasts are back with the equally wonderful and wondrous Present Tense.

I should admit that I've had a review copy of this for almost a month and somehow I didn't get around to it until the NME spread on the band. I feel ashamed of myself now because Present Tense is a lovely and affecting record full of warm textures. Wild Beasts have expanded their sound and those reviews that compare them to Talk Talk now seem right on the money. "Wanderlust" and "Mecca" recall not only Talk Talk but other bands of an earlier era who used synths to create human music.

Tunes like "Sweet Spot" bring to mind The Blue Nile and even Japan. The record, centered around lead singer Hayden Thorpe's croon -- is there any other word for his voice? -- is holistically a thing of beauty. If there is not a huge variety of styles here at least Wild Beasts are the master of the ones they have tried their hands at. Of a piece, Present Tense coos and throbs and fills the ears with lushness.

For that, it's to be cherished and praised.

Follow Wild Beasts on their official website:

Happy 103rd Birthday Jean Harlow!

Jean Harlow was born on March 3, 1911. So here's my customary "birthday post" to my favorite actress ever and the lady who graces my blog header.

I haven't watched any of her films lately. I've watched a few clips from her films on YouTube but that's about it. I didn't bring any of her films on DVD with me.

Still, her work as an actress is stuff I go back to over and over again. She was tough, and funny, and vulnerable, and brass, and cynical, and sweet.

As I sit here and push the curtain back and look out the window of my apartment here on Lamma Island, I can almost see the South China Sea so it only seems fitting that I post a clip from her wonderful 1935 film China Seas.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

New Playboy Spaceman (Bridget Cross) Album Is Out Now

I'm sure that on some level it's unfair to label this post with her maiden name since Bridget Kuhar is now making music with her husband George Kuhar in the band Playboy Spaceman. But, then again, I can't fight Google. It seems I get at least a handful of hits a month from people looking up the new musical exploits of D.C. area legend Bridget Cross. And those Googlers are, like me, people who loved her work in Unrest, Air Miami, and Maybe It's Reno.

Playboy Spaceman is a project from Bridget and George Kuhar and now, on their first full-length album, they've turned into a full band with the addition of Simon Taylor on bass and Jason Messing and Nickolas Wagner on drums. One Heart Army is a strong release and the tunes have hooks and heft.

"Teach Me How To Love" roars like Arcade Fire doing a cover of The Long Ryders while "Right In Front Of You" adds in the warm, layered, and lush keyboards from Bridget to create something pitched between Eno-produced U2 and Beulah.

These songs are all uniformly strong and direct. Stuff like "Everything I Was (Or Ever Will Be)" deserves to reach wider audiences.

The addition of those other players has made the music of Playboy Spaceman more robust and weightier. I'm sure that those of you in Alaska will count yourselves lucky to see the band play these songs live.

Follow Playboy Spaceman on their Facebook page.

Buy One Heart Army on

Play Cover Of Depeche Mode By The Family Rain Here

Dipping my toes into the tunes of Bath, England's The Family Rain. This is nearly histrionic stuff but there are some moments here that are grabbing me by the short hairs. The sound, both heavy and desperate in spots, is like some weird beast that's the child of both My Life Story -- remember them? -- and Oasis mixed with a hint of early Manics in spots.

The tune that got me interested is this slightly over-the-top cover of the classic "Enjoy The Silence" by Depeche Mode.

Follow The Family Rain on their Facebook page Facebook page for more details.

Play Wrestle Yu To Husker Du By The Dirty Nil Here!

Winning enormous points for the song title alone, The Dirty Nil are here to bludgeon you into submission with "Wrestle Yu To Husker Du". Bass riffs heavier than Derek Smalls on "Big Bottom" and guitar skronk like something out of an Albini-produced bad dream, Ontario's The Dirty Nil are making music of heavy riffs and bad attitude.

And I dig that about them.

Follow them on their Bandcamp page where you can buy the tunes and check out their Facebook page for more details.