Monday, June 29, 2015

Spin Delightful Tune From The Foetals (Temple Songs/Pink Teens) Here!

I guess we're in that building a buzz-stage with The Foetals right now.

The band, led by Jolan Lewis of Temple Songs and The Pink Teens, creates off-kilter pop music that is remarkably catchy and infectious. There's something wickedly awesome about everything this cat touches and his indie is as instantly recognizable as anything that Robert Pollard produces here in the U.S.A. and, like Bob, Lewis has both a sense of how to push boundaries and a good grasp of writing a killer hook.

Until there's a full-length album, follow The Foetals on their official Facebook page.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Here's My Review Of Brain Cream, The Rocking New One From Jaill

Look, let's get to the heart of this review. Brain Cream by Jaill, out Tuesday on Burger Records, is a set of 13 tunes, all ace, and very nearly one of the catchiest damn things to be released so far in 2015.

"Getaway" coasts in on a near-surf wave of hooks like Vampire Weekend covering a Pavement tune and it instantly bores itself into your brain.

See what I mean?

Well, look, it's all like that here on Brain Cream. These cats are not rewriting the pop playbook but in a sense they are. With the nearest point of comparison being Twin Peaks, the band and not the show, the lads in Jaill are making a damn good case for the current rise of American indie, and I say that as a dude who always looks to England for the latest kicks. And only a few short years ago a term like American indie would have indicated an entirely different sort of music -- something dour, maybe? -- but now it means peppy pop like this and for that I heartily approve.

"Got an F" drops in a near-hint of something like a Sonic Youth-y attitude even if the tune rocks like early Feelies and late Pixies all spinning together in a blender.

There's a wonderful effect (keyboard or guitar pedal?) in "Slides and Slips" that varies the band's sound a bit, while "Symptoms" harkens back to a day when bands like The Rubinoos ruled imaginary playlists for all the power pop girls and boys.

By album's mid-point we've got the ska skank of "Change Reaction" which, even with its shuffle, is more Arctic Monkeys than Specials. "Little Messages" uses a layered keyboard to simultaneously channel both Gary Numan and Split Enz, while "Chocolate Poison Time" seems like the only real misstep on the album. Despite it's pleasant melody, it's overlong, frankly.

Still, things are back on track with "Look at You" and its No Wave NYC herky-jerky rhythms. If the keyboards sound like Modern English, the guitar lick and vocals echo Richard Hell. It's a helluva mix but it works.

Brain Cream is damn near a great record. It feels petty to even criticize it in any way when it's so loaded with hooks. There is something infectious here that I want to celebrate. And, let's just get this out there: this is largely happy music that makes me happy when I'm cranking it in the car. That doesn't make this Mahler but it makes it the sort of music that I hold on a pretty high pedestal.

Brain Cream by Jaill is out now via Burger Records.

Follow Jaill on their official website.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Few Kind Words About Rise Of The Super Furry Animals By Ric Rawlins

I'm here to raise a glass to author Ric Rawlins for writing the definitive Super Furry Animals bio that the world never knew it needed. Rise of the Super Furry Animals is a concise, eminently readable, and always fun crash-course in the genius of these Welsh geniuses. It distills what makes them tick, or what made them tick so well for so long, with such ease that I was almost sorry to finish the book.

The title, out now via The Friday Project, breezes through the life of this group in a style that is sure to please fans of this band as well as those who haven't been listening to them for 20 years.

Opening with a hysterical account of the band inside their runaway tank as it careens towards a folk festival, Rise of The Super Furry Animals then shifts to the formation of the group along with a little bit of background on each member of the band.

As the book gains momentum, the narrative becomes the actual joyous account of the band's success promised in the title. Without getting bogged down in the old Britpop story, the book manages to hit on a few truths about that era without trying too hard to do it. One key quote, from the section on the making of 1997's fantastic Radiator, leapt out at me:

"The Furries had noticed a recent trend for bleak-sounding indie bands complaining about their rock-star existences, and they wanted no part of it. Here were five close friends, signed to a great label, recording an album at a time of unprecedented popularity for independent bands; to moan about it would have seemed outrageous."

And that seems to get at why I so love this band and why this quote from this book so expertly captures their appeal. It's not that I don't like Radiohead -- and Rawlins is probably referring a bit to the band in that passage, especially as it coincides with the OK Computer record -- but there doesn't have to be so much work in making music that pushes the form forward.

Rise of The Super Furry Animals takes that angle and opens a window on how these records were made without being boring about it. Never once descending into muso worship of these rock gods, Rawlins instead offers peaks at the practical aspects of making a record the SFA-way.

My first trip to the U.K. was designed around a series of concerts in April 1999, the last of which was Super Furry Animals and Clinic in Wolverhampton. My best friend and I stayed at an oddly shaped, and decrepit, hotel in the heart of the city. It was drab and dire but we were only in town to see the Furries again, having seen them in D.C. already the year or so before. The concert was spectacular as the band were trotting out songs from the upcoming Guerrilla. I think I had grabbed a promo of "Northern Lites" from some shop in Camden already so it was a blast seeing the band on the cusp of further Furry greatness.

What's so remarkable even now is how great that concert sounded. As we stumbled out of the venue to get kebabs on the street from some vendor, my friend kept babbling about the sound system in the gig. Maybe it was the beers talking, as they say, but in his ravings there was some truth about what the band were doing. And now, having read in Rise of The Super Furry Animals about the band's experiments with sound systems via keyboardist Cian Ciaran, it makes more sense to me in retrospect how great that show sounded. It wasn't a fluke of the hall; it was the result of some tinkering on the part of these Welsh wizards.

It is those sorts of details on the recording process of this act, along with all the fun bits, that make Rise of The Super Furry Animals such a joy to read. The book manages to cover a lot of territory and those of us who became fans of this band in 1996 to 1998 will be rewarded when reading these pages. They serve to offer up some gentle nostalgia of the era while simultaneously making the strong case that this band was far, far better than any of their peers in that era; there's a reason that Rawlins rarely mentions any other contemporaries of SFA from those days.

I owe another enormous "Thank you!" to Cicely Aspinall at the The Friday Project for getting me a copy of this book. The last time I was thanking her it was in relation to the new book/CD endeavor from another of my favorite bands.

Rise of The Super Furry Animals by Ric Rawlins is out now. The book is a pleasure to read and an example of exactly how to write about a bunch of pop geniuses. While I may disagree with a few choices on Rawlins' "SFA Mixtape" in the back of the book, I can say that I have played "Demons" and "The Turning Tide" more this week than I have in months. Even though the Furries are busy with individual projects -- click those tags at the edge of this post -- this weekend's concert activities in the U.K. and the events described in this book make a strong case for them being at their best when they are together.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This New Cairo Gang Album Is A Fabulous Masterpiece

I got sent this album today by one of my reliable promo contacts and saw that Emmet Kelly of The Cairo Gang had worked with Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

"Hmm," I thought. "I'll listen to that later then."

But something -- the fact that it's on Ty Segall's God? Records imprint (via Drag City)? -- got me curious.

So I sat down and spun Goes Missing and was blown away. This is wonderfully melodic music that manages to cover a lot of territory. While "Be What You Are" sounds like Phil Keaggy when he's doing a McCartney impression, "She Don't Want You" mixes in a touch of American AM Gold staples with the crunchy riffs.

Emmett Kelly has an ear for a hook and somehow makes this sort of genre-hopping sound sincere. The closest comparison I could make would be to Young Guv's instant classic Ripe 4 Luv. Like that record, Goes Missing crosses a sort of indie sensibility with a real sense of pop craft.

The wonderfully titled "Gangsters Holding Hands" weaves in a New Order-style bass throb with a vocal line like an old Death Cab for Cutie cut. The combination of those elements, along with a spirited guitar figure, makes this one of the standout tracks on Goes Missing.

For all the references to the worthy power pop precursors, there's also the neo-retro strut of the Hooded Fang-esque "A Heart Like Yours" and the gentle folk of "Some Other Time" in all its Nick Drake-recalling beauty.

What I haven't mentioned yet is that Emmett Kelly's voice makes him sound a bit like Steve Kilbey of The Church on some of these tunes but nowhere more obviously than on the chiming "Ice Fishing" with its Byrds-chords and layered vocals.

Somehow Goes Missing, an album that sounds in spots a bit like the polished record Sebadoh could have made had they wanted to, is the surest throwback to an era of earlier power pop blockbusters as much as it's a lo-fi masterpiece. It's that bridging of so many styles that makes what The Cairo Gang and Emmett Kelly have done here so remarkable. Never once sounding forced, or arched, or too self-aware, the 11 tracks on this LP are all self-contained gems. Big swaths of gloriously catchy choruses rub up against polished bits of studio wizardry and the overall effect is as if Todd Rundgren had somehow fronted classic era Let's Active for a spell.

I'm out of ways to describe this sort of thing so I urge you to get on board with The Cairo Gang as soon as you can.

Goes Missing by The Cairo Gang is out now on God? Records via Drag City.

Follow The Cairo Gang on their official Facebook page.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Heads Up About The Sublime Charms Of The New Album From Last Days Of April

There was something sad for me about the wonderful new album from Sweden's Last Days of April. The aura of sadness was the realization that I hadn't heard of this band until very recently. Which means that in addition to Sea of Clouds, out now, there's a whole lot of other stuff to dive into.

You see, Sea of Clouds is so damn good that I feel the need to hear everything this band has done but first let's talk about the new record.

Opener "The Artist" unfurls like the best stuff from Teenage Fanclub as they delved further into the back-pages of Neil Young and The Byrds while "Oh Well" uses an understated melody and a slide guitar to quietly affect a listener.

"The Thunder and the Storm" recalls the best songs from the Pernice Brothers while the title cut on Sea of Clouds is positively one of the most beautiful things I've heard in ages. One thinks of disparate influences like Harry Nilsson and Nick Drake here even as Karl Larsson personalizes those sort of inspirations into something wholly his own.

By the time we get to the end of the record, we've got "Someone for Everyone" with its bright, upbeat melody and the quiet closer of "Get You" with its mandolin and spirited tunefulness.

Sea of Clouds by Last Days of April is one of the gems of this season of music. Charming, understated, wildly catchy, and expertly written and played, this record is as good as the best albums from Teenage Fanclub and the Pernice Brothers. Fans of both of those acts will love this one as much as I did.

You can order Sea of Clouds and read more about Last Days of April on the band's official website. You can also order the record via Tapete Records.

Little Hearts: A Look At This Wonderful Reissue Of The First Able Tasmans Album

It's hard to explain to people now just how radically wonderful the Flying Nun bands sounded in 1987 or so. I mean, here was indie music -- then called "alternative" -- that didn't fit into any clean definition of genre and which was being made with a certain degree of brainy wit. And yet these bands never became too arch or self-aware. And there were dozens of these bands, all operating at their respective peaks for a few years. A glorious time soundtracked by glorious music.

One listen now to "Little Hearts" from the reissue of the debut album from Able Tasmans should convince you of how special this scene was. The cut, the second track on A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down (1987), sounds like early Talking Heads covering The Monkees and then it morphs into something with a decided chamber pop bent. The enormously catchy ditty segues into the piano miniature of "And Relax" which itself goes into the guitar-rock of "Rainbow", a longer, more expansive jam.

It's that battle between the out there moments on noisier tracks and the reflective moments on others that makes A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down such an important record. As "And We Swam The Magic Bay" spools out via a lovely piano figure, with violins joining, in you may be surprised again if you haven't heard this record in some time just how special the Able Tasmans were. Poised somewhere between the intellectual/emotional pop of The Chills and the chamber rock that The Verlaines would eventually master, these tunes are sublime constructions full of subtle touches -- the flute in "Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa" -- that make this memorable music.

Speaking of The Chills, Graeme Humphreys of the Able Tasmans seems to have taken some inspiration from Martin Phillipps and his crew on "Sour Queen" as the organ becomes such an integral part of this band's sound on this cut at least. The tune, one of the highlights on A Cuppa Tie and a Lie Down (1987), is a soaring and simultaneously understated gem and the very sort of thing that only Flying Nun bands could do in that era.

If I draw too much attention to the diversity of styles here on this debut I may make it sound as if the band were not quite sure of what style to stick with but that's really not the case at all. Rather, what the Able Tasmans are doing here is refining the Dunedin Sound to suit themselves. Building on the work of the first wave of Flying Nun bands, Able Tasmans were creating something fresh and still familiar here.

And if this reissue wasn't special enough, we get the tracks from 1985's The Tired Sun EP to round things out. Lead cut "Patrick's Mother" nearly snarls in a blast of organ-driven angst. The brief "Rain in Tulsa" shows a certain bit of wit and inventiveness in just 2 minutes.

The swirling organ figures that open "Snow White Chook" give way to the piano bits that sound like classic Squeeze cuts. The tune, supremely catchy, is a sort of crash-course on the appeal of the Able Tasmans. There's more inventiveness here than in just about any other non-Flying Nun band from this era and it makes me regret that I didn't listen to even more of this stuff back in the late 1980s.

This reissue of A Cuppa Tie and a Lie Down is an essential purchase for anyone interested in this scene. I think that one could make a great case that the Able Tasmans never got the attention they deserved on these shores which is sad 'cause there is so much to love here. Fans of Brave Words and Bird Dog are going to find themselves instant fans of this band's stuff too. Released in the same year as those records by The Chills and The Verlaines, A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down is, in many ways, their equal. Effortlessly blending wildly melodic pop with detours into more straightforward rock numbers, the Able Tasmans mastered what made the music on this label so magical and perfect.

A Cuppa Tie and a Lie Down from Able Tasmans is out now via Flying Nun. You can order the album and get full details on this reissue here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Some People Just Don't Realize What Devotion Is: A Look At These Two Seminal Mission Of Burma Reissues Now Up For Pre-Ordering Via Fire Records

It's hard to remember an era when music this affecting and important was out-of-print. God forbid you wanted the classic Mission of Burma stuff on CD back in the day too!

Well, no worries anymore 'cause not only are these 2 releases back in print, they are back in print in fine, fine remastered fashion thanks to the saviors at Fire Records.

I'm gonna sit down and re-assess these 2 albums from Mission of Burma in advance of the band's upcoming D.C. show with John Stabb's History Repeated. Details on that gig with the perpetual Government Issue legend are here.

Now let's dive into the glory of 1981's Signals, Calls, and Marches and 1982's "Vs.", both up for pre-order via Fire Records.

It goes without saying that there is absolutely nothing "dated" about this record. If anything, Signals, Calls, and Marches sounds more vital now than it possibly did 30+ years ago. Shadowing in parallel the sort of angular post-punk that was birthing harDCore in Washington, D.C. in 1981, the music of Boston's Mission of Burma was something organic and entirely at odds with current Top 40 radio -- no kidding, right? -- as well as the bubbling new wave that was reaching these shores from a Human League-overrun United Kingdom. One listen to "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" should have convinced you of that. Listen again and you'll see what I mean.

From the angular No Wave NYC-noise of "Outlaw" to the fervent and impassioned punk of "Devotion" the cuts on this EP practically jump out of the speakers, or headphones, to throttle you. "Fame and Fortune" remains the template for everything that Bob Mould and Grant Hart were trying to do separately, in tandem, and at odds, in the pre-Sire Records Husker Du, while "Academy Fight Song" shows a glorious sense of power in an age when everyone else was reaching for a cheesy synth.

Still, in an era when lines and genres were drawn so clearly, something that bridged punk and fusion like EP closer "All World Cowboy Romance" must have seemed a bitter pill to swallow in 1981. Predating the kind of stuff that Sonic Youth would do at their peak, the near-instrumental serves as a fitting showcase for the power of this band in their early days.

Transcendent, really.

By the time that Mission of Burma recorded their debut full-length record, you'd think that things would have calmed down a bit but as soon as "Secrets" kicks off, you know that that's not the case. Sounding a bit like an American version of the very early Joy Division stuff, or what Rites of Spring would do later in D.C., something like "Secrets" is positively illuminating. That music like this was made in 1982, when Duran Duran were on the rise, is an astonishing thing on some level. That Mission of Burma made this sort of thing without being quite tagged a hardcore band is another revelation to a listener.

"Trem Too" expands in a style that vaguely seems to recall Pere Ubu at their more subdued. The cut veers a bit into something approaching free jazz before ending.

"New Nails" rattles close to the edge of collapse while "Dead Pool" offers a few moments of clarity among the sharp, angular lines of the music.

Rather than refine their sound, Mission of Burma seemed to have loosened up by the time they made "Vs." as tracks like "Mica" indicate. Equal parts punk and what we'd later term post-punk, the cut flails and slashes and coalesces into something loose yet primal. There was really no one making music like this in 1982 besides Mission of Burma.

"The Ballad of Johnny Burma" is pure American punk of the sort that X and only a few others could make in the Eighties while "Einstein's Day" -- the longest cut on this album -- offers the sort of textures that bands like Superchunk would pursue about a decade after this. Very nearly a lovely tune, this one still packs a coiled fury.

The wonderfully named "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" combines a real sense of melody with rage to produce what can only be called now "Proto Fugazi", for lack of a better descriptor. The cut seems so much a template for everything good on the Dischord label during Fugazi's reign that any other term couldn't effectively describe the track. But, hey, hindsight is 20/20. God knows how they wrote about this back in 1982 or so.

Quite simply, these are 2 absolutely essential albums you must have in your collection. To understand the course of postpunk, particularly in America, you have to hear the songs contained on Signals, Calls, and Marches and to marvel again at how adventurous a band could be in the wasteland of the early Eighties, spin "Vs." again. Both records sound fabulous and both are released via Fire Records in a matter of weeks.

You can and should pre-order both now, frankly.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fire Records Announce Monumentally Awesome Upcoming Pere Ubu Box Set!

The good folks at Fire Records deserve medals for this one.

Coming in late August is the Pere Ubu box set Elitism for the People 1975 - 1978 which contains The Modern Dance (1978), Dub Housing (1978), The Hearpen Singles (1975-1978), and a live set from Manhattan in 1977.

This is vital, life-changing music that any self-respecting fan should be rushing to (pre-)order right now.

More details via Fire Records.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The River Of Dreams: A Quick Review Of The Charming New Album From Part Time

On some level, this is a crazy record produced by a guy who may be mad. On some other level, it's a work of genius, full of fresh, loopy tunes. Virgo's Maze by Part Time drops on Burger Records on Tuesday. It is, by turns, invigorating and perplexing. I simply do not have the vocabulary to describe what David Loca is doing here but I thank God that he's doing it, you know?

With a range of cuts on this double record that span genres, Loca has concocted what sounds like a friend's mix-tape of bands you never heard of from 3 decades ago. There are tunes here -- "The Cost of Living" -- that sound like those no-name one-off new wave bands that littered the soundtracks of John Hughes' competitors' films in the Eighties, and those that sound like earlier Yellow Pills-era power pop jams -- "Fallin' 4 U" -- put through a blender. Quite simply, this is (gloriously) schizophrenic music.

If "Honey Lips" is like Taco doing a leftover from the Bugsy Malone (1976) soundtrack, then "I Saw Her Standing There" sounds like Klaus Nomi rockin' out with Devo when they were still a punk band. Is that the Beatles song that Part Time is doing here? God only knows. It's a racket and I love it but I'm still not entirely sure if he has to pay royalties to McCartney for something so far removed from its source material.

"Strangest Eyes" is more straightforward and nods in the direction of both Hall and Oates and Human League. "Real Connection" adds in some seriously gorgeous keyboard washes -- think "Your Silent Face"-era New Order -- in the service of a sort of knock-off of the New Romantics.

Part Time -- really, David Loca -- runs the risk of alienating listeners with such an approach since one hardly has time to wrap one's head around a song before the style changes and things go in a new direction 3 minutes later. That said, this is also one of the most adventurous records I've heard in ages. If Young Guv had a bit more success updating some of these similar genres on his exemplary Ripe 4 Luv, Loca at least gets points for trying out more styles in rapid succession.

On a certain level, I think he's "taking the piss", as the Brits say. Still, that's okay. Loca may be having a goof but he's doing it with a great deal of musical wit. Virgo's Maze manages to be a set of 20 cuts that all seem like bastard versions of stuff you already heard as a teenager but it's also a set of 20 cuts that sound unlike anything else you're probably listening to at the moment.

In an altogether different genre, Warren Defever took a similar approach to various off-shoots of the 4AD sound to crank out a lot of short, concise pieces of affecting music. Loca here is a similar cannibal of genres and he breezes through each without getting mired down in the specifics of any.

I am, frankly, not too sure how many times Loca can pull off this feat but, for now, once is enough 'cause Virgo's Maze by Part Time is clearly one of the bravest, funnest records you'll hear in 2015.

Get it now cats and kittens via Burger Records.

Follow Part Time via the band's official Facebook page.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Spin Terriffic New Track From The Jet Age Here!

Am I to believe from the spiffy new promo pic of the 3 dudes in The Jet Age riding large in a convertible that the new Jet Age album will be "cruisin' music", to paraphrase The Raspberries? Well, yeah, pretty intense "cruising music." Having heard Destroy.Rebuild already, I am happy to begin the hype for the record by sharing a track.

The Jet Age -- Eric Tischler, Greg Bennett, and Pete Nuwayser -- open up "The World Is Bigger Than My Two Hands" with a melding of the guitar-style of one-time touring mates The Wedding Presnet with a rhythm section workout that recalls Zep in spots. Tischler's vocals on this new one are superb. He sounds relaxed and confident here and as "The World Is Bigger Than My Two Hands" erupts in a squall of guitar-noise and drum-rolls, the tune washes over a listener like the shoegaze template expansions of Swervedriver.

There's a sense of real progression to be found on this new track. If this one sounds nothing like a lot of what was on the excellent Jukebox Memoir (2014) that's okay 'cause, once again, The Jet Age are pushing some boundaries and expanding their trademark sound in some exciting ways.

Dig it!

Follow The Jet Age on their official Facebook page or via their official website.

Destroy.Rebuild will be out in August. Details via the link below.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Peter Cat: I Knew Nothing About This Band 5 Minutes Ago And Now I'm A Huge Fan

They followed me on Twitter. I said "Who the hell are this lot?" (or words to that effect in my own American vernacular) and then listened to "Keeping Up With Jacob" and was hooked.

Hearing obvious echoes of The Divine Comedy, and some less obvious ones of Prefab Sprout, I played more and more.

I still don't know much about Peter Cat but I'm now a fan. I urge you to play these tunes and then follow them on their official Facebook page or via their official website.

Peter Cat are here and I'm happy for that.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Heads Up About Cool Sansyou/Lanterna Show In D.C. Friday Night!

In what's sure to be an interesting gig, D.C.'s Sansyou are joining Lanterna for an intimate show at D.C.'s Studio 1469 tomorrow (Friday) night. Details on that are here.

And it's worth noting that you should RSVP if you are planning on attending.

Sansyou, with Lorelei drummer Davis White in the fold, make music that is by turns haunting, playful, and wildly affecting.

Follow them on their official website or their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Kevin Kerr]

New Tunes From Bel Etage (Feat. Pam Berry Of Black Tambourine)

Pam Berry doesn't record as much as she used to but when she does she makes it count; her work on the Withered Hand album was exemplary.

The one-time Black Tambourine singer is back to help out Lupe Nunez-Fernandez of Amor de Dias on this lovely split single on the popular WIAIWYA -- (and I'm not going to spell it out!) -- label.

"Quiet Town" has a more sauntering vibe while "Lonesome Heartache Constellation" recalls Pam's work in Glo-Worm as the lively melody works it way around her crystalline vocals. Very much a nod in the direction of Magnetic Fields here in some ways.

Buy both. Buy the single.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Prepare To Have Your Mind Blown: Spin New Gardens And Villa Single Here!

A few hours ago I was minding my own business and now I'm scouring the inter-webs for more (legally available) music to hear from Gardens and Villa.

This new track from the band is absurdly awesome -- think early Roxy mixed with Sparks mixed with Jellyfish. Just stupendously fresh.

"Fixations" is from the upcoming Music For Dogs which drops via Secretly Canadian in August. Until that date arrives, follow Gardens and Villa on their official Facebook page.

Getting The Word Out Early On This Superb Linden Record

There's still a huge swatch of folks who think that Slumberland Records is the home only to bands who want to be the next Black Tambourine. And there'd be nothing wrong with that idea if it were true -- the world could use more bands these days like those D.C. area pioneers -- but the truth is that Slumberland Records is putting out fantastic music that doesn't owe a huge debt to MBV and their disciples. The first great Slumberland Records album of 2015 was Ripe 4 Luv by Young Guv, the second was the recent EP from Expert Alterations, and now the third fantastic Slumberland Records release of 2015 arrives next week in the form of Rest and Be Thankful from Linden (sometimes written as "_Linden").

This is sublime and affecting music that effortlessly bridges genres without breaking a sweat. Doubt me? Spin the opening duo of "I See" and "Window Pane" which, respectively, bear worthy comparisons to Nick Drake and The Byrds. The title cut is a catchy epic in the form of late period Pernice Brothers, while "Short Worm" adds some nice backwards guitars to the mix for a vaguely Paisley Underground vibe.

"Pull Me Round Again" offers a nod in the direction of the sort of country music one can reference without feeling ashamed about it. "Dream Dream" is a beautiful melding of the sort of thing Michael Head does so well in his various projects with a hint of Paddy McAloon at his most intimate and under-produced. A highlight of Rest and Be Thankful, this one.

"Lost and Found" adds in a more pronounced hint of Joe Pernice with some excellent guitar playing, while the aching "Take My Hand" recalls that 2nd album from The Lilac Time but with more natural sounding production. Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice was involved with this record and one must tip one's hat to the work he's done here as the presumed producer of Rest and Be Thankful.

"Yesterday Rewind" is a contemplative number that, again, earns favorable comparisons to Michael Head's Shack while album closer "Broken Glass" oddly recalls McLinden's time in Britpop act Superstar. The climbing guitar line, the Bacharach keyboards, and yearning vocals made me think of nothing so much as "Going Nowhere", an Oasis flip-side that showed the real talents of song-writer Noel Gallagher better than most of the band's hits did. McLinden's not aiming for the stadiums here but the song is no less catchy for his modesty. The tune, like many here, is easy to get lodged in your head without a great deal of work.

Rest and Be Thankful is gonna earn a lot of comparisons to the Pernice Brothers' stuff, and rightfully so. However, it's worth noting that Joe McLinden seems to have done a better job of incorporating his influences in a more concise manner. There's no fluff on this record and the tunes unfurl at a perfect pace. I admire songwriters who can craft music like this with such apparent ease. Much like his buddies in Teenage Fanclub, Joe Linden is adept at drawing in some really good bits of Americana in the production of a decidedly non-American sounding record. McLinden's one-time Boy Hairdressers bandmate Norman Blake expertly works these same American influences into his own band's songs but here McLinden has jettisoned the feedback-tinged dross and kept only the shiny center of such music. If the guys in Teenage Fanclub sometimes strayed into the noisier sounds in Neil Young's back catalogue, updating them as they went for audiences in a grunge era, McLinden on Rest and Be Thankful has stuck to the understated, vaguely country-tinged rock of the sort found on Harvest.

But, hey, that's sort of an awkward way to describe in words what this record sounds like. Fans of Neil Young, The Byrds, Chris Bell, Nick Drake, Michael Head, and The Lilac Time are going to love this record as much as I do.

It's also worth noting that Rest and Be Thankful features Stuard Kidd of BMX Bandits, The Wellgreen, and Poundstore Riot (with Ash Cooke from Derrero and Pulco). His drumming here is understated and affecting and I draw attention to it to highlight what connects this beautiful album to other efforts in the genre.

Rest and Be Thankful is out next week via Slumberland Records in these parts.

Follow Linden on his official Facebook page.

Monday, June 8, 2015

White Reaper Rock Like Beasts On Fab New Single

This isn't an official review ('cause it's to early for that), but let me just say that what I've heard of the new White Reaper album, White Reaper Does It Again (out soon on Polyvinyl), indicates that this is gonna be one of the best albums of 2015.

(Aw shucks. Who'm I kiddin'? I've heard the whole record and it is magnificent!)

Coming on like the band early Supergrass wanted to be, "Make Me Wanna Die" is supremely catchy, delightfully noisy RAWK. Not since Fu Manchu or The Muffs has an American band so expertly bridged the legacies of The Stooges and The Ramones.

While you're waiting for White Reaper Does It Again to drop in July on Polyvinyl, play this about a dozen times, bang your head, thrash your mane -- whatever -- just rock brothers and sistas!

Follow White Reaper on their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Andy Morell]


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Spin Fab New Single From Royal Headache Here

It seems like a lifetime ago that Sydney's Royal Headache dropped their self-titled debut. That one spawned quite a few massive cuts that I still spin on a regular basis.

Well, the new Royal Headache is almost here. Called High, the album will drop in late August from What's Your Rupture?. In the wait for that one, you can spin the title cut below.

"High" is a punchy little number full of melody and energy that recalls both Guided by Voices and late period UK punk like The Rick Kids. Aces and wildly catchy! I cannot wait for the full-length record!

Follow Royal Headache on their official Facebook page.

High will be out via What's Your Rupture? in August.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Shopping Are Playing A Dangerous Game (But Winning It): A Quick Review Of Their New One

There's a part of me that wanted to hate U.K. trio Shopping. I mean, who are they to create music so indebted to the pioneering sounds of The Slits and The Raincoats? That they adopt that worthy template and succeed so well when doing it speaks volumes to the talents of Billy Easter, Andrew Milk, and Rachel Aggs.

Consumer Complaints, out now on Fat-Cat Records, is a flawlessly assembled blending of those early post-punk legends with some nods in the direction of Le Tigre and the earlier riot grrl wave. But there's a certain lightness of touch in stuff like "In Other Words" that makes this music so infectious and so easy to enjoy. That's not to say anything about the intentions of Shopping but, rather, to say that the music never once comes across as strident, or too much of a tribute to earlier acts. It's safe to say that when you listen to Shopping you may be fooled into thinking that you are actually hearing a lost classic from 1979.

The wonderfully-titled "Moyet's Voice" rides in like a hopped up Young Marble Giants with vocals straight out of the Ari Up playbook. But it's not all Slits here as "Long Way Home" uses a rhythm that Gang of Four would have found wonderful.

Look, Shopping are not going to win any prizes for originality but that's okay 'cause this is music full of energy, pep, and vigor. Consumer Complaints doesn't waste anything and the tunes consistently charm. I can't say the same for very many new acts' debuts these days.

Consumer Complaints is out now. Follow Shopping on their official Facebook page.