Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our Way Free: My Review Of The Superb Solo Album From Mac McCaughan Of Superchunk

There was a brief moment in late 1993 when the repeated closing refrain of "The First Part" seemed to be the product of a certain Manchester legend. Listening to that astonishing track from Superchunk's Foolish, I heard then, and still hear now, the echo of the everyday lyrics of one Bernard Sumner of New Order. And surely I'm not the first person to think that "One good minute could last me a whole year!" sounds a lot like -- has the same sense of the revelation of the commonplace as -- a line from "Regret" -- or a similar tune -- from New Order. While the musicians might have been oceans apart in 1993, their styles worlds apart too, there was for me something similar in both tracks in 1993. Both seemed to hit at some sharp awareness of things that was less pretension and more an acute sense of being alive in the moment. That those 2 singles from the year I graduated college remain so dear to me shouldn't be a surprise, or chalked up to the effects of nostalgia.

Borderline anthems both, those 2 cuts are ones that have thrilled me ever since I heard them 22 years ago. While New Order's fortunes were on a decided downward spiral after that single, Superchunk's were only rising. The band became more and more popular and they went from being a noise outfit in the early 1990's to alt-rock survivors and indie label pioneers.

Which is a very heavy sort of reminder of the shadow of Superchunk that is gonna hang over anything this cat touches. Mac McCaughan, founder of Merge Records, main-man behind Superchunk and Portastatic, has done what really didn't need to be done...but what seems like a brilliant idea now that I've heard the record. Yep, he's recorded a solo album.

Non-Believers, out May 4 worldwide on Merge Records is, ostensibly, Mac McCaughan's first solo record. That it sounds like both Superchunk and Portastatic and quite a bit unlike either one is a testament to this guy's talents as a musician and songwriter; he's managed to simultaneously please long-time fans of his bands and go in some entirely new directions on this one.

What it comes down to here, on Non-Believers more than anywhere else, is that McCaughan, like Sumner, is one of the best lyricists in rock simply by virtue of knowing how to write what suits his own voice so well. And there I'll try to dispense with the New Order references.

First single "Lost Again" manages to make weariness sound like something that deserves to be sung about with near-joy. A sort of subdued anthem -- there's that word again -- the cut follows the keyboard-heavy opener "Your Hologram" which seems to sort of lay the template for what's to come on Non-Believers.

If the Yoda-quoting "Only Do" recalls the Boss on certain Tunnel of Love tracks, there's still more youth in Mac's voice here than old Bruce-y ever had after he hit the big time. "Mystery Flu" adds a sadness reminiscent of East River Pipe to the mood of the album while tricking out the track in late Blur electro effects. "Our Way Free" pairs one of the best choruses Mac McCaughan's ever written to keyboard noises somewhere between "Good Vibrations" and mid-period Gary Numan. If that sounds like a mess, it's not. Mac's managed to make this all sound remarkably natural and he's integrated electronic textures better than perhaps anyone this side of the fellas in Radiohead. And his concerns are decidedly more relate-able, I'd venture to say.

On the marvelous "Box Batteries", Mac sounds like he's covering himself -- think Portastatic tracks mixed with the coiled fury of Superchunk at their best. The song, with its backwards looking lyrics, is a rollicking celebration of youthful adventures every bit as affecting as Springsteen cuts. And if that comparison seems forced, it shouldn't as both Mac and Bruce are concerned with "Growing Up" in America, to paraphrase a certain song title. What's remarkable here about "Box Batteries" is that you can hear in your head how this song would have worked perfectly for any of McCaughan's other projects. That he chose to use it on this solo debut speaks to his awareness as a songwriter.

"Smile kid until you know real darkness" Mac warns on "Real Darkness" and if the results are not suitably dour it's due to the warmth he brings to his vocal performance here. Decades of screaming "Slack Motherfucker" have done apparently little damage to this guy's pipes and thank the indie gods for that.

"Barely There" keeps things down tempo, but catchy, while "Wet Leaves" offers up O.M.D.-style sweetness in the sort of track that never would have flown on most Superchunk records. To his credit, McCaughan has broadened his style here considerably and this song is a pretty great example of what he's done so well this time out. And on a record where Mac did pretty much everything, it's worth mentioning how great Annie Hayden's backing vocals are on this one.

Non-Believers closes on "Come Upstairs" which marries a Kraftwerk-inspired set of keyboard lines with some nearly-Fripp-like guitar work to great effect. McCaughan uses those disparate elements to make something very personal and the track, like many here, is wildly catchy on first listen.

On his first solo album, Superchunk's MacMcCaughan has surprised even this long-time fan. Never expecting a release this -- dare I say it? -- soulful, I find myself marvelously surprised at what he's crafted here. If this had been another guitar rave-up, it would have been Superchunk Junior, and if something too lo-fi it would have seemed too much like Portastatic. Pushing himself in new, quieter, directions has liberated McCaughan as a songwriter and he sounds more on fire here than he has in a few years. If that fire is, essentially, a slow-burn, then that's okay too. Simultaneously remarkably restrained and gleefully nostalgic, the 10 tracks on Non-Believers are the sort of things only a guy Mac's age could have possibly penned. That they come off as neither pretentious nor precious says volumes about this guy's skill as a performer.

Apparently knowing when to pull back has been Mac McCaughan's secret all along. A few decades of listening to Superchunk had me convinced that the point was the noise when, in reality, it was really the tension and the winding up. If the best 'Chunk tracks sound like the moment when things are released, the 10 cuts here are largely the build ups. Affecting, touching, and hook-y in a way that nostalgic music usually is not, the tunes on Non-Believers are stunning and the perfect progression for a guy who's written so much stuff that's given me so much pleasure as a listener for so very long.

Non-Believers by Mac McCaughan is out on Monday via Merge Records.

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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Quick Review Of The Splendid New Sneaky Feelings Reissue on Flying Nun/Captured Tracks

For all the deserved attention that bands like The Chills and The Verlaines justifiably receive, there are a few Flying Nun bands who never get the same deserved attention. One of those bands was Able Tasmans and the other was, clearly, Sneaky Feelings.

One of the band's featured on the legendary Dunedin Double EP, along with The Chills, The Verlaines, and The Stones, themselves the subject of another fine reissue from Captured Tracks, Sneaky Feelings were an act with a decided pop sense. They crafted easy-to-digest rock that seems now more like Crowded House than it does The Clean, for example.

In another impressive reissue, Caputured Tracks have now brought us an expanded version of the first Sneaky Feelings album. Send You has recently been re-released in splendid fashion with 7 bonus cuts. This is a marvelous release and an essential purchase for anyone into the New Zealand scene. Considering how many albums I've heard and own from The Clean, The Chills, and The Verlaines, I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I only had 2 other Sneaky Feelings albums in my collection prior to getting this set.

There are tracks here that will feel familiar to Chills fans ("Throwing Stones"), or Verlaines fans ("Strangers Again"), as well as tracks that seem more chiming than a lot of acts on the Flying Nun label in the early days. "Someone Else's Eyes", for example, charms in the style of early R.E.M. Of the 9 album tracks here on Send You most seem to find the band determining its own sound as they juggle those styles. That they do so usually successfully adds to the feeling a listener is sure to have that Sneaky Feelings should have been much more popular. As the album closes on the splendid "Everything I Want", there's a hint of The Clean here but with something sharper. The focus is refined and there's less interest in guitar-based explorations of tone and mood.

The truth is that Sneaky Feelings were a pop band which is nothing to be ashamed of. They remain a pretty good example of why people like me got so heavily into the acts on Flying Nun way back when precisely because the label managed to put out bands that were smart and not shy about writing Beatles-inspired guitar-based rock.

Of the bonus tracks on this edition of Send You, there are a bunch that are of note. There is "Be My Friend" from the single of the same name, then there are the 3 tracks of the "Husband House" EP, including the marvelously catchy title track, and then there are another 3 bonus cuts recorded at a later date, including the Verlaines-like "Maybe You Need To Come Back" with keyboards from The Verlaines' own Graeme Downes. The cut closes this reissue in a perfect manner and seems to act as a sort of sonic bridge between this band and the more famous acts from that era of Flying Nun Records.

Send You from Sneaky Feelings is out now via a partnership between Captured Tracks and Flying Nun Records. I urge you to get it now and expand your knowledge of the initial boom of the seminal Flying Nun label from New Zealand.

(Picture of Sneaky Feelings from this site.)

Fire Records Poised To Reissue Everything (!) From New Zealand's The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience!

In case you didn't read this news already somewhere else, the good folks at Fire Records are going to release everything from New Zealand legends The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience. Called I Like Rain: The Story of The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, the release will pull together...a LOT of stuff from these guys -- pretty much all of their studio recordings.

Let's let the label's press materials explain the release clearly:

'Coming later in 2015, I Like Rain: The Story of The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience will feature all of the band's studio recordings, with the Love Songs album combining the first two EPs and 45, the extended US-version of Size of Food and their final album Bleeding Star, along with bonus tracks that go as far as back as their first cassette release, that originally came packaged in a dog food tin. All audio is re-mastered and the extensive liner notes include an entertaining oral history of the band.'

Excited yet? Follow Fire Records for the details on this upcoming monumental reissue project.

A Few Kind Words About The Sublime New Record From Damon And Naomi

There comes a point on the new Damon and Naomi record where you realize how quiet it is. Fortune could very well be the most mellow album yet from these two and that's saying something 'cause they were in Galaxie 500.

I joke a bit there in the opening paragraph 'cause I know, from having met them in 2011, how unpretentious they are as people. That they manage to make music like this is a sort of miracle. And I say that because, in all seriousness, Fortune, out now from Damon and Naomi, is a sublime and beautiful record. It is an album that serves as a collection of tunes and as a soundtrack to a film by Naomi Yang herself. Following on from their last studio album proper, 2011's False Beats and True Hearts, the duo has turned things down and looked even more inwards. Introspective and contemplative, the 10 songs here are some of the most affecting ever recorded by this band.

But, more importantly, the record started as a film soundtrack. It's easier to explain its first purpose by offering a quote from the press material on the album from the band's website:

"The pair's latest project, Fortune, is an LP released in tandem with Naomi Yang's video piece of the same name. She refers to the work as 'a silent movie,' though the visuals are so bound up in the music (and vice versa) that it's more of a long-form music video, a visual poem set to the metronome of a textural score. She conceived of the piece to explore conflicting feelings surrounding her father's recent passing; Yang was suddenly burdened with a massive archive of his artistic work (her father was a photographer), as well as the ongoing aftermath of flawed parenting. Her use of the term "fortune," then, is tinged with sardonicism but also with nostalgia—portraits from the 1940s and '50s painted by protagonist Norman von Holtzendorff's father (also recently deceased, and who also left his archive in Norman's hands) feature prominently. An ongoing tarot card motif ties in another facet of the suddenly slippery term 'fortune,' using Damon and Naomi's now familiar brand of close, acoustic warmth to explore the past's bearing on the future..."

Well, okay then, but what of the songs? "Amnesia" features Damon's Nick Drake-like delivery and a fine, fine melody, while "It's Over" is a superb showcase of Naomi's clear soprano. Sounding more direct than at times in the past, this tune, and her delivery of it, are affecting. Rather than, as in the past, attempt to create a sort of mood, Damon and Naomi here seem to be seeing how little they can use to achieve so much. There are only a few pieces to the song -- simple elements of harmony and acoustic guitar patterns -- but the cut works perfectly and it is, clearly, one of the highlights of Fortune.

"Sky Memories" further plays with those elements to offer up something vaguely like an old Pentangle song, all near-classical figures and unadorned moments of clear, precise tunefulness. It is one of the finest songs the 2 have produced in quite some time.

There are many songs like that here on Fortune but special mention must be made of album closer "Time Won't Own Me" which, as its title would suggest, offers up an upbeat, uphill battle against the ravages of time. Paired with what we know about Naomi's film, it seems clear that it is meant to be a rejection of getting older, of age creeping up on you. Catchy, with excellent harmonies, the song expands upon what these 2 have done so well in the past as a duo and in Galaxie 500 and offers up -- however subtly -- something like a gentle anthem. Contrasted with the other 9 songs on Fortune, "Time Won't Own Me" stands out a bit.

Fortune is, in many ways, a throwback to the band's earlier stuff. It is deceptively simple, deeply touching, and quiet in a lot of places. It is also clear and direct. This is, like everything these 2 produce, something serious without a lot of pretense. With a minimum of artifice, Damon and Naomi have made some of their best music here.

Fortune, by Damon and Naomi, is out now and you can get more details via the band's official website.