Friday, January 31, 2014

Where Did This Captain America: The Winter Soldier Poster Come From?

I spotted this in Hong Kong, Causeway Bay to be exact, and had to get a picture of it.

Of course I've been scouring the fanboy websites and keeping up-to-date on all developments related to the new Captain America film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and I'm sure I've never seen this poster design yet.

Is it a thing for Asia or what?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Personal Take On The New Throwing Muses Record

She would put the "Purgatory" part of the equation first, wouldn't she?

The Purgatory/Paradise album from Throwing Muses found its way to Kowloon. And then I took it home with me even farther out, to Lamma Island.

(Where I perched it on that balcony railing one sunny morning and tried to get that pic with the South China Sea off in the distance.)

This new release from Throwing Muses is at once a book and a CD, as well as a link to downloads of more goodies (commentary and instrumental tracks). Put out via Harper Collins, I suppose you could say that it leans towards the book side of that equation but there are tunes on a shiny disc inside. A lot of tunes, actually.

I can now see why Kristin's label/publisher told me, after I attempted to get a download of this for my review, that the release was best appreciated in its entirety. You have to get the whole package.

(An enormous "Thank You!" to Cicely Aspinall at The Friday Project at Harper Collins for getting this album to me all the way here in Hong Kong!)

What to make of this record?

All the reviews out there on the Internet are harping on about the fact that this is the first Throwing Muses album in 10 years -- and, for the record, all the band pics in this review are from when I saw Throwing Muses in D.C. in late 2011; they weren't making Muses albums but they were sure busy making music in those 10 years -- and it is significant that Kristin Hersh has broken out the Throwing Muses name to create music so unlike the last time she made music as one of the Muses.

Purgatory/Paradise is so different than that last record. It's a set of slices -- 32 of them, to be precise -- that ripple, ebb and flow, nag and soothe, and then do it all over again. Songs start and stop where you least expect them to and nothing overstays its welcome.

In some weird way, it's as radical a release as that first Muses record however many decades ago that was. If Kristin's pipes can't let her vocally shred like she did on "Hate My Way" anymore, she can at least thrill and amaze us in other ways. In subdue and subversive ways on the 32 cuts of Purgatory/Paradise.

And right when it might seem as if the book/CD package was too heavy, too very-nearly-precious, you can download the bonus commentary and listen to her and heroic drummer David Narcizo ramble around and nearly avoid talking about the songs.

The songs are the work. It's significant to anyone that's ever tried to create something that Kristin doesn't pepper that commentary with Sting-like shit about being inspired by the rain forest or helping to preserve the dodo.

You want the meaning? Check the tunes. The very seriousness of Kristin and Dave as musicians is evident by how unserious they are on the commentary track. I dig that.

And I didn't mention stalwart Bernie Georges on bass 'cause the cat ain't on the commentary. But his bass is all over this record. He's the anchor more than ever.

"Morning Birds 1" is all snake-y bass-lines, crazy marching band drums, and Fripp-in-the-West guitar snarl. It's not the first track on the record but it's the first full-bodied one, I think.

You have to listen to Purgatory/Paradise in a different way. It's a lotta music. It's 32 cuts and more than an hour of tunes.

It's like a soundtrack to a fantastic film that Kristin found and sang over.

Perhaps the worst way to review this record -- (does it even all fit onto a vinyl LP?) -- would be to go track-by-track and give my thoughts. That would be way stupid.

The best I can do is grab something in the bag of songs and highlight it: "Sleepwalking 2" comes before "Sleepwalking 1" -- it's that kind of album -- and both punch you in the eardrums. The early-coming reprise is all menace and the "real" song is all strut and Gang of Four-guitar toned down a bit.

"Lazy Eye" is side two of Hunkpapa but older, wiser, and jazzed up and out. It's Hendrix-y in spots even...but like the trippy bits, not the guitar-wail bits from Jimi.

"Slippershell" hits back at the lyrical concerns about islands and beach-y stuff. It's a great song and catchy in an odd way, the way that Kristin Hersh and her Throwing Muses can only be.

Stopping myself from meandering all through the 32 songs on the record and boring you senseless with my words when you could be listening to the record, I should mention something about the book. The hardback book -- (printed in China, of course! As I'm typing this looking at the South China Sea, that seems funny to me) -- is nicely designed and contains the lyrics to the songs, track details, and Kristin's written bits on each tune. Some of the stories are fantastic. I haven't tried to read these stories of Texas raving hippies and glitter t-shirts and blood all together with the tunes playing in the background but I think it might work.

I think Kristin Hersh has made personal music again. She has a very rare ability to make the sort of personal music that connects deeply with people and yet you can't quite explain that music to another person. If they aren't on this wavelength or don't react in some way to these sounds, then your words ain't gonna help much either.

I've lived in New Orleans (Pearl River, Louisiana, to be exact) and I live on an island (Lamma Island) off the coast of another island (Hong Kong Island) and I work on a peninsula (Kowloon) so I certainly felt a connection to this talk of water, oceans, and shells.

There's no way I couldn't react so personally to this record since I unwrapped the set as I rode a ferry home to Lamma. I'm sitting there reading Kristin's words about living on an island while I was riding home to mine. So I was primed to connect with Purgatory/Paradise even before I played it.

So I guess what I'm saying is that there was no way I was capable of writing a detached, newspaper-like review of this record. Throwing Muses stuff just don't work for me like that. I've been listening to this band for more than a quarter of a century now and they just hit a nerve at the right time of my life and their tunes keep on hitting that nerve. Maybe the sort of stuff that rocked me at 19 -- "Hate My Way" -- is now the stuff of an older and wiser -- (hate that term) -- person. Or maybe Kristin Hersh has progressed from that white-hot intensity to something more in her own control...I don't know.

I do know that Purgatory/Paradise works for me. Get the whole package. "Buy the book, see the film!" and all that jazz. It's a rare treat from one of America's truly gifted artists.

When I heard the first Throwing Muses album sometime back in 1987, it went right up there on a mental shelf for me next to Patti Smith's Easter. And I'm pretty sure that some day more people will see things that way.

For now, it's the ever-expanding Cult of Kristin. We've been touched. We've drunk her Kool-Aid.

But, guess what? Purgatory/Paradise is sneakily subversive. Play it all at once or in bits and pieces or while reading the book. It's perhaps the most impressive and substantial whole piece of work from Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses in ages and, for that reason, it should be cherished, whether you bought your copy at a cool mom-and-pop record store -- (are there any other kinds left?) -- or if you got it sent in the mail to you all the way in Hong Kong.

Obviously, check out the website for details:
www.throwingmuses.com

(All pics are mine and the Throwing Muses shots are from their 2011 set at D.C.'s Black Cat.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Play Another New (And Fantastic) Withered Hand Song Here!

What a corker!

Another slice of lovely, plaintive yearning is here from Withered Hand ahead of the February release of the new LP, New Gods. The record will drop on the thoroughly excellent Slumberland Records in the U.S. and on Fortuna POP! in Europe and thereabouts.

"Horseshoe" is like Robert Forster singing the catchiest Grant McLennan tune you could ever imagine. It's J Mascis trying to be Neil Young covering Jeff Lynne.

This is an absolutely charming and immediately catchy tune.

Like the equally awesome "Black Tambourine", this one has Pam Berry from Black Tambourine and Glo-Worm on backing vocals.

Follow the exploits of Withered Hand on his Facebook page here or his official website:
http://witheredhand.com/.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Connections Share Their Stuff On Bandcamp: Rock Out With These Tunes Now

How come I always look like a BrooklynVegan.com ambulance chaser? No sooner had I read that Columbus, Ohio's Connections were going to be touring with Mary Timony's new band, Ex Hex, then I go to investigate the group and see that that other site has already posted something about the band.

No worries. I'll gladly join the chorus in those championing these guys as the tunes are aces.

As others have mentioned, there's a hint of Guided by Voices but also something else. I'm thinking The Grifters but the tunes here are punchier and more concise where those guys let things unravel quite a bit more.

Connections meet several of my criteria at once: spike-y tunes with strong hooks; song titles that actually make you want to hear what the song sounds like; and very few songs that are longer than 3 minutes.

Well done fellas.

What did I say about song titles that make you want to hear the tunes? Play "1980 Called" and "Summer Creeps" -- a nod to Pavement's "Summer Babe [Winter Version]"? -- and you'll see what I mean. Then play some more jams. And then go buy the albums and get tickets to see these dudes on the Mary Timony tour with Ex Hex.

Connections are on Facebook here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Michael A Grammar Deliver Uplifting Masterpiece Of A Tune: The Day I Come Alive

Named after a Broadcast song, Brighton's Michael A Grammar deliver tunes of sweep, grandeur, and windswept beauty. Think I'm laying it on a bit thick? Spin "The Day I Come Alive" and then check back in with me.

A monsturously grand single, the tune is the first cut on the new EP, Random Vision, out next week on Melodic Records.

To use a lazy old Spin magazine convention: Take Doves + Embrace (the U.K. band, not the Dischord legends!) then add in a hint of Spiritualized and you've got Michael A Grammar.

Follow along on the adventures of Michael A Grammar on their Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/michaelagrammarband

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cakekitchen Albums Are All Available On Bandcamp

New Zealand's The Cakekitchen are an interesting lot. It seems their style changed a bit between albums. In the pre-Internet daze, my best friend and I would find Cakekitchen albums and remark upon the stylistic differences as we tried to piece together the sequence of the band's discography.

Their early stuff, like this cut from 1991's Time Flowing Backwards, has similarities to other New Zealand bands like The 3D's and The Clean.

Graeme Jefferies and his crew have also been producing new music and you can find details about that on their official website.

If you want to get your Cakekitchen fix and get some of their albums back in your collection for a reasonable price, head over to their page on Bandcamp

Monday, January 20, 2014

Brien Stewart's Avail Recordings Up On Bandcamp...For Free

That pic is from when Brien Stewart brought his band the Key Figures to Alexandria a few years ago. As you can see from the pic, it was a rockin' gig and the guy is an energetic frontman.

Researching some details about his past exploits, I was having a hard time finding online information on his time as singer for D.C. area band Avail. But, in case you forgot, he was the originial frontman of that band.

Now you can download -- for free -- the band's early recordings courtesy of Brien Stewart.

Be sure to keep an eye out for gigs from Brien's current band, Basic Skills Review.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Best Thing I've Heard This Week? New Zealand's Trick Mammoth

Really fantastic stuff here. Bits of Velocity Girl and all the bands that influenced those guys. A hint of Frente! and a dash of The Primitives and you've got New Zealand's Trick Mammoth.

This is the sound of sunshine and springtime. Good thing they like flowers -- as you can see from the picture. The tunes are strong here -- hooks a-plenty folks -- and Adrian Ng, Millie Lovelock, and Sam Valentine bring the summery goodness. The tunes are like the best bits of C86 mixed with stuff like Black Tambourine and Pam Berry's Glo-Worm.

Follow on the official Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/TrickMammoth

And here's a song about a place near my home in Maryland from a band in New Zealand owing a debt to a seminal Maryland band (Black Tambourine) who themselves owed a debt to earlier NZ bands...

New Song From Versus (Video From Philippines Benefit Gig in NYC)

Jeez, how old is that promo picture?

Well, I've been listening to these guys (and gal) for 20 years now so we're all getting older.

Big thanks to YouTube user Therese Jamora-Garceau who posted this video from the recent Philippines benefit gig in New York City.

Versus debuted some new tunes and this one, called "Mummified", is a winner.

After playing this, check out the official Versus Facebook page here to keep track of the band's activities.

Effloresce And Deliquesce: Play Rare Peel Session Track From The Chills Here

If I could only count on one hand the people who knew Creation Records in 1988 -- and most of those people went on to form bands, some of which you've heard of -- I didn't know anyone who knew Flying Nun in 1988. I went from reading a review in Option magazine to buying Brave Words on cassette since Homestead Records did a pretty good job of getting that Chills record into stores in the U.S. It took me another year or so before I found people who knew this stuff.

By early 1990, it seemed as if The Chills were finally going to break big; I heard "Heavenly Pop Hit" on an advance cassette from Sire and told everyone in the record store that the band was going to be huge. Not quite. R.E.M.-levels of U.S. fame did not come their way any more than it came for The House Of Love; "I Don't Know Why I Love You" did indeed get played on DC101 in D.C. but that was about it. I was almost right on that one.

This is from a 1988 Peel Session and the tune is -- for me -- one of the standouts on 1990's Submarine Bells from New Zealand's The Chills.

Smart but not pretentious, the band is up there with the greats for me. If anything they -- like The Go-Betweens -- seem even better to me now than they did when I was 22.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Play Rare Live Cut From Rites Of Spring Here!

I spent far, far too much time buying British import CDs in the 1980s than I should have.

How did I work at 3 record stores in a college town and ignore/miss or downright turn up my nose at the Dischord revolution occurring around me?

In those days, there was almost too much talk of Dischord in D.C., to the point that it seemed like the only bands in D.C. were those bands.

It was only near the end of the 1980s that I finally loosened up and got into Fugazi, a band which contained 2 members of the seminal Rites of Spring.

This cut -- with its early U2-ish guitar intro -- is from a concert at the University of Maryland's radio station, WMUC, and you can find and download the whole concert elsewhere on the web.

I'm just going to share this one with you today.

Check out the Salad Days Facebook page for details on the film documentary on the D.C. scene.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Download Sarah Records-Inspired Joy From London's Joyous

What a pleasant surprise. These cuts have been up on Soundcloud for a few months but this band deserves a lot of attention. I have a bad feeling that they are no longer active -- but that can be determined later; these are great songs.

London-based but from hailing from the West Midlands, Joyous make music they claim is a mix of Aztec Camera and The Cure. I don't hear the Robert Smith here but the Roddy Frame is a good one. There's also bits of Sarah Records, Orange Juice and -- for anyone who favorably remembers them -- touches of bands like Danny Wilson and The Bible here.

These tunes are really fantastic and full of song-craft and hooks. That I can't quite pin them down to one influence impresses me greatly.

I urge you to download "Sunday" and then try the other cuts.

Follow on the Facebook page for Joyous here.

Childhood Release Another Lovely Tune/Video But Where's The Full Length Already?

It's become a familiar pattern for almost 2 years now -- I first posted about these guys starting in February 2012! -- Childhood release another splendid song/video and the bloggers -- like me -- start yelling "Where's the full length debut record?"

Heck, I've been asking that question for more than a year now. "Blue Velvet" has been on my iPod for what seems like ages.

Shot on tour with Palma Violets, this is the video for "Pinballs" and it's aces. Everything I've heard from these guys has been great...I just wish that they'd hurry up already and drop a full-length record.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Play Lovely Single From Gwenno (The Pipettes) Here

This quietly slipped past me. Gwenno, of The Pipettes, has released another Welsh language tune and it's a thing of beauty. Equal parts Cerys Matthews and Bjork, it's forward-looking pop that's quite a bit different from The Pipettes...the only constant being Gwenno's lovely voice. Read my 2012 interview with Gwenno for more on her new musical activities.

For more details, check out the official Gwenno Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/Gwennomusic.

Or the Peski Records page:
http://www.peski.co.uk/cy.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Free MP3 From Dot Dash: Grab Shopworn Excuse Now!

What more can I say? These guys are great and their latest record, Half-Remembered Dream, is a thing of post-punk power-pop perfection.

The Dot Dash boys have graciously made another tune available for free from that record. "Shopworn Excuse" hints back to both the glory days of early R.E.M., as well as those bands on Sarah Records in the U.K.

(Terry Banks was an American in a Sarah Records band at one time, don't you know?)

Check out Dot Dash's page on Facebook for more details:
www.facebook.com/dotdashdc

Dot Dash are on TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Download "Shopworn Excuse"!

[Photo: Michael Lynch]

Versus To Headline Philippines Benefit In NYC This Saturday

I kept wondering when/if Versus was going to do a benefit for the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda and now they are. According to Brooklyn Vegan, they are planning a big gig at Shea Stadium in NYC this Saturday (January 11, 2014).

Versus are a fantastic live band. I saw them at the old Black Cat in D.C. a bunch of times and they were consistently one of the best acts I've ever seen. Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups and the rest of Versus have a solid back catalog of tunes -- and maybe some new stuff? -- and I wish I was back in America to see this gig on Saturday.

Details on the concert are here.

Versus has a Facebook page and it's here.

There's a Facebook page for the concert and it's here.

And here's a reminder of how much you love Versus.

Here's an amazing live cover of a classic from The Pretenders as done by Versus with special guest Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. This rocks!

Tattoed Love Boyz (featuring Ira Kaplan) from VERSUS on Myspace.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Download Phil Wilson (June Brides) Cover Of Grant McLennan Tune Here

It's almost a Go-Betweens cover and that's okay by me.

The one-time Creation Records legend, full-time June Brides leader, and current excellent solo artist tackles a Grant McLennan tune from Grant's first solo album...and the results are lovely. Phil's voice suits this song perfectly.

Until Phil Wilson puts out another record, follow along on Slumberland Records and the official June Brides Facebook page.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Play Ex Hex (Mary Timony) Cover Of Slant 6 Here!

People outside D.C. probably forget that Mary Timony was in Autoclave before Helium and Wild Flag. That Dischord stint was before her time in those other bands.

(And she's had a great solo career too. After seeing her live in Helium at the Black Cat a few times, and probably at least once as a solo artist, I saw her live in D.C. a few years ago with her other band, Soft Power, opening up for a reformed Versus!)

This is Mary covering her former Autoclave bandmate's tune. This is Ex Hex doing "What Kind Of Monster Are You?" from Slant 6 (Chrstina Billotte's band after Autoclave).

It looks like Wild Flag is no mas so you other Mary Timony fans get on-board with Ex Hex.

More details here, on the official website for Ex Hex:
www.exhexband.com.

Veterans Of Disorder: Another Royal Trux Reissue From Drag City

How many of these have I reviewed? It seems like only a week ago that I was throwing my words behind the reissue of 1998's Accelerator and now here I am in a new year bringing it down around 1999's Veterans Of Disorder, out now on Drag City.

Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty -- Royal Trux, don't you know? -- kick open the doors and get serious with some Stones-y riffs and some wigged out scuzz rock on this record.

And you can thank the good folks at Drag City for -- once again -- doing a masterful job at reissuing these records.

"Waterpark" sees Neil and Jennifer indulge in some decidely Hanoi Rocks-ish riffage, more Axl and Slash than Axl and Slash. This tune is -- let's face it -- near-metal folks and I don't mean that in a bad way; there's a thin line between Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore.

"Stop" is pure 1970s acid rock -- the kind of thing stoners would nod along with in the neighborhood "head shop" -- it's a pastiche of classic rock but with a punk rock sneer behind it.

"Second Skin" is the bastard spawn of Thurston Moore and grunge -- it's an unholy but catchy racket. The guitar noise here is just glorious -- I'm sure Neil wore out the effects pedals on this one.

Hagerty gets mellow -- a bit -- on "The Exception" and "Witch's Tit" but it's an uneasy sort of mellow full of menace.

"Lunch Money" cranks along fast and kicks thing into a new direction -- still rockin' and still conventional in structure -- then things get weird.

The final three longer cuts on Veterans Of Disorder look back to the edgier moments on the first Royal Trux record from 1988.

"Sickazz Dog" sees Jennifer go all Patti Smith-meets-Mick-and-Keef but it's still a long, fuzzy stomper. But the closer, "Blue Is The Frequency" is longer and more abrasive. It's a risky move but Veterans Of Disorder works 'cause of the 2 halves of the record blending together -- short riff-rockers and longer trippy expansions.

If 1998's Accelerator was the "breakthrough" for Royal Trux, 1999's Veterans Of Disorder was the moment when the band took chances, playing to both their blues-y riff-heavy strengths as well as to their noise-nik experimenter tendencies.

More details on this reissue and all the other Royal Trux reissues on the Drag City website.

WATERPARK from Royal Trux on Myspace.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Download Lovely Ditty From Cian Ciaran From Super Furry Animals

I love the Super Furry Animals. I've seen them live a few times, most notably a fantastic gig in Wolverhampton with Clinic opening up in April 1999.

It pained me and my best friend to no end that the openers from that evening gained traction quicker in the States than SFA did. Oh well.

Yeah, it took a few years but I'm heartened that the Furries now have loads of loyal followers outside of Wales and the United Kingdom.

This track is from keyboard player Cian Ciaran's first (?) solo LP, Outside In, which came out on Strangetown Records.

It's a trippy nod in the direction of ELO and Bowie -- side 2 of Low, maybe -- and I urge you to download it via the Soundcloud link below and then buy the album on Amazon.