Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Word Or Two About New Doc Danny Says, Out Tomorrow

See that guy up there? I mean, the geeky non-Ramone guy. That's Danny Fields and he more or less invented punk rock. And he's the subject of a fab new documentary called Danny Says and it's out tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

Now, of course you know Danny from the Ramones song "Danny Says" from 1980's classic End of the Century (1980) album. But you might not know Danny Fields' role in discovering and promoting so many of the acts you love (The Doors, The Stooges, Nico). Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, The Ramones are not the central focus of this new film from director Brandon Toller. Rather, Toller tells Fields' life-story by letting Danny tell it himself as only he could. A master story-teller, Fields is a born raconteur as every story, from his days as a gay young man at an Ivy League school decades ago to his shepherding a drunk-and-high Jim Morrison at an industry party in the Sixties, charms and induces laughs. While Fields' worked for Elektra Records, among other positions in the music industry, the film -- thankfully -- touches on all of Fields' famous friends and not just the ones on that famous label.

My only criticism of Danny Says (2016) is that there doesn't seem to be enough detail on whatever Danny's been doing after The Ramones wrote that song about him. To its credit, Toller's film builds on the knowledge of that famous punk cut so that a viewer is sort of waiting to hear that story and when it arrives, the story feels like the climax of the film, in a sense. And while there are artists here that are not as important to viewers as Patti Smith and The Ramones might be, Fields' brand of anecdote-relating is so pleasant that anyone watching Danny Says (2016) is surely captivated enough to stick with the film through its modest running time.

A barrel of laughs, a man of tremendous enthusiasm and laconic wit, Danny Fields has probably deserved a documentary for decades. Now he's got it and the results are pretty darn good and a whole lot of fun. Catch Danny Says in select theaters or on-demand where available starting tomorrow.

More details on Danny Says (2016) via the film's official website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Single From Young Romance Plays Here!

I am positively thrilled that London duo Young Romance are finally set to release a full-length album. After blogging about each morsel of fuzzy indie that these 2 have dropped in the last few years, I'm eager to hear so much more. In the meantime, as the release date of that LP draws closer, the band have offered up a new track.

"Disappear" is less near-shoegaze and more post-punk, Claire's vocals here more subdued and less ecstatic. There are traces on this one of bands as disparate as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cranes, and Elastica but the overall effect is unique in the way that each cut from Young Romance has been previously. Paolo works up a nice bit of racket behind her vocals and the overall effect is vaguely like something by The White Stripes, minus the blues-y bits.

This is another gem from this band and while Young Romance have released precious few cuts in the last 3 years, each has been superb. Not since Childhood has a band gotten me so hooked as a listener so early. Luckily, the wait is nearly over as the full-length debut will be out this Autumn.

Follow Young Romance via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Young Romance Facebook page, uncredited]

A Quick Review Of The New One From LoveyDove (Azalia Snail)

Azalia Snail has been making delicious indie for longer than this sort of music has really been called indie. She is a legend on her own terms so any new project involving her is something to take notice of. She is now in a band with her partner Dan West and it's called LoveyDove. The newest record is Showstopper and it's a fun blast of spirited near-glam rock. Read on!

If standout "Crown Dancer" offers up bright pop then "Main Course" leans more in the direction of pseudo-disco with a great deal of effectiveness. A spirited cover of Todd Rundgren's "I Saw The Light" (featuring Cellars) serves up the sort fun that, sadly, so much of contemporary indie-pop seems to be lacking. The superb "Top Shop" features John S. Hall of King Missile for a tune that sounds a whole lot like an American spin on the sleek dance-y offerings of early Saint Etienne. Elsewhere, "Instant Joy" and "Enuf Days" crank up something approaching a kind of smart take on disco. That Azalia Snail sounds a tiny bit like Kylie Minogue on these cuts is a big compliment as far as I'm concerned and a reminder that the lines between indie and pop needn't be so far apart. The trippy "Lift Off" takes that vibe and runs with it in the service of something more expansive.

Showstopper by LoveyDove is a whole lot of fun and this set of bright, largely-bouncy indie boppers is a pleasant surprise. That it's further confirmation of the brilliant pop sense of Azalia Snail is yet one more notch in the "plus" column for this one.

You can grab Showstopper by LoveyDove now via the Bandcamp link below. Follow LoveyDove via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: LoveyDove Facebook page, uncredited]

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lead The Way: A Review Of Dusk, Album Number 3 From Ultimate Painting

Like Luna and Yo La Tengo before them, the members of Ultimate Painting have taken an obvious love of the music of The Velvet Underground and used that affection to help them craft something unique. Over the course of their first 2 albums it seemed as if Ultimate Painting -- Jack Cooper (Mazes) and James Hoare (Veronica Falls) -- were content to let that big influence in their listening lives cast such a huge shadow on their output that there really wasn't anywhere else to go.

Well, this time out, on album 3, Dusk, out Friday on Trouble in Mind Records, Ultimate Painting have added a third player, drummer Melissa Rigby, and the results are noticeably looser. There's a new direction being pursued here. If this doesn't quite signal a The Bends-to-Kid A-kind of leap in style, it at least makes abundantly clear that there are still more places for this act to go. Yeah, the VU vibe is still all over this album but things have progressed in some small-but-important ways. And for a band so expert at perfecting those little moments in indie-pop, the overall effect of Dusk is pleasantly striking and a great example of the skills of this group.

If opener "Bills" makes clear that subtle shift -- all Luke Haines-style whispered vocals -- then "Song for Brian Jones" nods in the direction of Saucerful of Secrets-era Floyd even as its title name-checks the late Stone. The superb "Lead The Way" reveals a slightly Beatlesque melody behind a stately near-march. On some level, this is one of the best songs this band has committed to tape so far and long-time listeners of this band will find the shift in tone a subtle, yet strong, one. "Monday Morning, Somewhere Central" recalls nothing so much as a Blur cut stripped back to its very most basic elements. That's not to say that this act has cast its lot in with the last vestiges of Britpop but, rather, that they've found a way to tap into that same rich vein of English song-craft that helped Albarn crib from Davies. "Who Is Your Next Target?" sounds like Yo La Tengo if only that NJ crew had been born in the U.K., while the nearly-epic closer, "I Can't Run Anymore", uses washes of guitar and near-jazzy drum runs to marvelous effect as the melody unfurls in a dream-like haze.

Sure, there's lots here that will be familiar to fans of the first 2 albums from Ultimate Painting, but for those of us who have been listening carefully, the achievements here are tremendous. For a duo who had been making carefully-crafted indie-pop of the very best kind, the addition of Rigby on drums seems to have subtly but significantly expanded the palette of sounds at the disposal of Hoare and Cooper. Put it another way, it will be a bit more unlikely that a writer like myself will lean so heavily on those Velvet Underground references in descriptions of this act's sound in the future. No, now, the influence list is broader, the sound brighter, and the mood sunnier, even if only by a trifle.

Perhaps their best album yet, Dusk from Ultimate Painting is out on Friday via Trouble in Mind Records. Follow the band via their official website.

Monday, September 26, 2016

This New Luxury Death Single Is Your Jam Of The Week!

This new cut from Manchester's Luxury Death proves 2 things indisputably: 1) that city has produced, and continues to produce, more interesting bands than perhaps any other place in the United Kingdom, and, 2) PNKSLM continues to offer up some of the best indie-pop being created anywhere these days. Would it be too much to say that anything from Manchester and anything on PNKSLM was worth a listen? Probably not a stretch to say that, right?

Luxury Death is Ben Thompson and Meg Williams and they're joined in live settings by Tommy Stewart on bass and Luke Rowland on drums. The duo make tunes that recall the great Ultra Vivid Scene along with those early My Bloody Valentine recordings prior to the arrival of so much feedback. The songs from this pair are strong and one can only hope that they're recording more as we groove on this new single.

"I Feel Your Pain" is out now and you can buy it via the link below. Follow the band via their official Facebook page, and be sure to check in with PNKSLM for more news on Luxury Death and similarly great indie-pop.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Big Song: My Review Of The Essential New Blonde Redhead Box From Numero Group

In what could be surely counted as one of the most significant reissues of this year, the Numero Group is offering up a Blonde Redhead box set of rare, early material. The collection, called Masculin Feminin, drops this Friday. It contains the band's first 2 albums (Blonde Redhead and La Mia Vita Violenta, both from 1995), as well as a whole bunch of singles and demos and stuff. That this is essential is without question.

On the earliest tracks, the band is finding its way around the legacies of both No New York and Sonic Youth, fitting since Steve Shelley put out these early long-players on his label. As Kazu Makino wails, brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace thrash out a righteous noise behind her, equal parts Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Elephants Memory. On stuff like "Astro Boy", it's hard not to hear a bunch of kids who'd played "Star Power" a whole lotta times. Still, the music is fresh and peppered with moments that elevate this to something special on its own terms. "Mama Cita" works up a furious jazzy fury that seems to prefigure quite a few of the textures one would hear on later Blonde Redhead records. But, yeah, there's far more shrieking here than on those more recent releases and Kazu Makino's vocal work on these earliest cuts adds a truly experimental edge to the recordings that makes them overall a little riskier than a lot of what Sonic Youth was doing in the same era. On the superb "Swing Pool", for instance, the band seem to have finally hit on that push-pull vibe that they'd perfect later. Portions of the cut are wildly catchy even if other bits mark this as clearly noise rock, not shoegaze.

The band's first single is here and while A-side "Amescream" doesn't inspire as it must have in 1993, B-side "Big Song" rocks with the sort of Neu-esque abandon one can hear on the very best Th' Faith Healers sides. The number features bassist Tada Hirano whose work anchors the swirl of this one. The "Vague" single puts the band back in noise rock territory with flip "Jet Star" offering up something truly abrasive and beautiful, complete with lyrics by Arto Lindsay.

The second half of Masculin Feminin kicks off with the exhilarating "(I Am Taking Out My Eurotrash) I Still Get Rocks Off" which showcases each member of this band to great effect. Seemingly harnessed now, Kazu Makino's vocals here seem to be what the song is centered around and not an additional element as it seemed on earlier tracks. The drums and guitars work up a stomp that's nearly Bad Seeds worthy at times but the sound here is now, firmly, the band's own. On other La Mia Vita Violenta cuts like "Harmony" and "Down Under", the trio tone down the glorious noise of the early releases for something more complex as traces of post-punk and free jazz brush up against each other throughout the cuts from the second LP proper. As far as albums go, this second release is a bit more expansive than the first and one can hear here, on tracks like "10 Feet High", the band trying to redefine, and own, the sort of music that inspired them in the first place.

This half of Masculin Feminin is rounded out with single cuts like the lovely and eerie "Jewel", and the trippy "Valentine" which nearly dissolves into a fit of Kazu Makino's laughter. "Flying Douglas" seems altogether catchier than anything on the band's first 2 records even as it flirts a bit with a shoegaze-y sense of feedback in spots. Elsewhere, there's a pair of radio sessions that highlight the adeptness of Blonde Redhead at pulling this all off live, while demo "It Was All So Sudden" offers a hint at the sort of direction this band's material would follow much later on the superb Misery is a Butterfly (2004), an album produced by D.C. legend Guy Picciotto (Rites of Spring, Fugazi).

Blonde Redhead have never compromised. If I stressed the fact that they were operating under the shadow of Sonic Youth early on, so be it; what indie musician wasn't in this country in 1995? That the band managed to expand upon that template so well and so distinctively is what makes the recordings on Masculin Feminin so important. Believe me, there were loads of bands cribbing the noise from the Youth without half a bit of sense about anything else. Blonde Redhead got it. They got it, man. And they ran with the formula and kicked at the edges until they had their own sound. What Masculin Feminin does so well is illustrate how damn quickly this group arrived at something that was uniquely their own. Within the space of just 2 albums, a clutch of singles, and some demo recordings, the art of Blonde Redhead takes shape for a listener all over again. That so much of this is so vital and fiery speaks to how expertly this NYC crew internalized the process of making music that sometimes got overshadowed by the scene-making of other acolytes of the whole No New York thang. There's 37 cuts here and not one is unnecessary. The first 10 years' of stuff from Blonde Redhead is some of the most essential post-punk music this country has offered up. That so much of that vitality can be heard here, on a collection that chronicles just the band's first few formative years, tells you that you need to get this set. Revelatory and inspiring, this is brave work that reminds a listener why Blonde Redhead deserve so much more attention than they sometimes get.

Masculin Feminin will be out on Friday via the Numero Group. Follow Blonde Redhead via the band's official website, or via their official Facebook page.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

High Flying Faith: My Review Of The New Album From EZTV

It was always gonna be darn hard to top their last album, wasn't it? Reviewed by me here, Calling Out showcased the nimble indie-pop chops of EZTV. The new one, High in Place, out on Friday via Captured Tracks, is more of the same, only better in some spots. Read on, kids.

Opener "High Flying Faith" is the best Teenage Fanclub song never written and performed by Teenage Fanclub, while stuff like "Reason to Ruin" and "Racing Country" offer up similarly Big Star-tinged examples of the very best kind of indie-pop on offer in 2016. If "States of Confusion" boasts a hook too close to an Eagles riff for my liking, EZTV win me back with the superb "Hammock", all bright moments from a dozen C86 releases crammed into one fine cut. There's not a huge amount of variety here but EZTV play to their strengths and that's something to be celebrated. If tracks like "Still" do try to offer a darker vibe, then album closer "Goodbye Morning" ups the ante by dealing a spiraling riff that signals an attempt to at least expand upon the band's formula.

If EZTV are not entirely breaking new ground on High in Places they are, at least, setting a new standard in consistency as each of these songs is a textbook example of what indie-pop is capable of being when a premium is placed on the art of songwriting. The band excel at this sort of thing and one can forgive them for not being too adventurous this time out when they have hit their stride with such confidence. The results please and it would be churlish to demand more, frankly.

High in Place by EZTV is out on Friday via Captured Tracks. Follow the band on their official website.

[Photo: Daniel Topete]

Gorgeous Day: My Review Of The Lovely New One From The Cleaners From Venus (Martin Newell)

A new record from Martin Newell is a thing to be celebrated. And, yes, it is indeed a "Gorgeous Day" when one of his albums is playing (even if it's overcast and cool here outside of Washington, D.C. this September day in a way that makes me think of England). The new release, The Last Boy in the Locarno may be billed to The Cleaners From Venus but, make no mistake, most of this is the work of one Martin Newell. The album, out Tuesday via Soft Bodies Records, is another in a long string of releases from this pop wizard and the perfect thing to soundtrack a lazy Autumn day.

I've already mentioned the gentle charms of "Gorgeous Day" which arrives directly after the sublime "The Crystals and Ronettes", an ode to another era that seems one of Newell's best recent compositions. On the expert "Time Star", Newell layers the cut with some crude psychedelic effects but the song isn't meant to be part of that genre as much as it's meant to sound like something from mid-Sixties Kinks long-players. That it compares so favorably to the work of Mr. Davies says so much about both Newell's influences as it does his skill-set.

Elsewhere, Newell draws on Fifties sounds for the fun "Eight O'Clock Angel" which segues nicely into the wistful "Pearl of the Palais", all nostalgia wrapped up in crunchy chords and electronic textures. On stuff like "Voodoo Watusi" and the positively-buoyant "Victorian Doll", Newell seems to be willing to push at the boundaries of his usual arsenal of tricks as the two cuts roil and bounce with a genuine sense of the new. The superb "My Life in Film" recalls solo material from both George Harrison and John Lennon and I can think of no higher compliment than that. "How the West Was Won" closes The Last Boy in the Locarno in fine fashion, a bit of looking back with some fiery moments from Newell on the axe sprinkled throughout.

One knows what one's going to get with a Martin Newell record and that's one of the things in this world that still warms my heart. As a fan of this sort of thing, I was won over to Newell's side ages ago and, yet, I can say that perhaps newer acolytes to the Newell flame would find The Last Boy in the Locarno as wildly inviting as I do. Joined by Sis Lea on drums and Val Wollard on sax, Martin Newell has made another fine, fine record here, one that furthers his unique brand of very English indie in some small ways. Not a dud in the mix, The Last Boy in the Locarno is a set of tunes supremely listenable and effortlessly enjoyable. Dig it, kids!

The Last Boy in the Locarno is out Tuesday via Soft Bodies Records. You can follow the adventures of The Cleaners from Venus and Martin Newell via the official website for Martin.

[Photos and artwork: Hilary Lazell]

Touch The Flame: A Look At The New One From Fatal Jamz

The new one from Fatal Jamz is an interesting proposition to be sure. Far too campy to be taken seriously -- it's called Pussy and Fame, after all -- and far too heartfelt to be entirely dismissed as a spoof of an earlier era's tune-age, this is an odd record and one that rewards listeners even as it confounds expectations of what indie-pop ought to be.

On stuff like "Coverboy" Fatal Jamz main-man Marion Belle approximates the appeal of Eighties radio hits pretty well, even if the effect is more successful when those influences are tempered a bit, like on "In Your Car". On tracks like "Lead Singer" and "Nikki Sixx", Belle seems to be wanting to harness the energy of hair metal which he does in a sense. But to what end? This sort of blending of glam and alternative only worked a bit for Gene Loves Jezebel and it's probably a stretch to think that Belle is going to be more successful at making this anything more than an ironic exercise in the appropriation of earlier styles. Still, his heart seems to be in it and in final cut, "Touch The Flame", he seems to have made something that's both in debt to O.M.D. and Nik Kershaw and still a touch affecting and original.

This new Fatal Jamz album is a goof in many ways but there's heart here too. The question for a listener is how prepared are you to listen to so many disparate Eighties touches throw together so busily? Pussy and Fame, out Friday on Lolipop Records, is an interesting proposition even if the ambition of Fatal Jamz sometimes exceeds what's actually heard on the record.

[Photo: Abigail Briley Bean]

A Kind Word About The New La Sera EP

Katy Goodman has been extremely busy this year. First, there was the Ryan Adams-produced La Sera album, Music For Listening To Music To which showcased a slightly new spin on the band's formula thanks to the more prominent role given to Katy Goodman's new husband, Todd Wisenbaker. Then, more recently, came the punk and new wave covers collection with Greta Morgan of Springtime Carnivore, somewhat favorably reviewed by me here. And now comes the new EP, Queens, out on Friday via Polyvinyl Records.

The EP has up 5 tracks, including 2 reworkings of tunes from Music For Listening To Music To (2016), 2 new songs, and a surprisingly tight Led Zeppelin cover ("Whole Lotta Love"). In "Queens", the band offers up a rollicking near-twangy burst of indie-pop that owes as much to Belle and Sebastian as it does to X. A fine cut, this number reveals that Katy's marriage to Todd may be the start of a whole new period of artistic fruitfulness for an artist who was pretty damn fruitful when single. "Magic In Your Eyes" is lyrical and reminiscent of the sort of thing found on earlier La Sera records only without so much fuzz or roaring guitars. "Shadow Of Your Love (Slight Return)" and "I Really Need An Angel" offer up variations on those fine Music For Listening To Music To cuts, while a robust cover of "Whole Lotta Love" closes out this release.

Essential for those you who, like me, are eagerly following La Sera's indie-pop trajectory, Queens is a fine release as the band bides its time before the next full-length record. You can follow La Sera and get details on their Autumn tour via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website. Queens EP is out on Friday via Polyvinyl Records.

[Photo from band's Facebook page, uncredited]

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Something To Say: My Interview With Doug MacMillan Of The Connells

Readers of this site know that I was thrilled to review the first-ever 'best of' from The Connells recently and now I'm equally excited to present my brief interview with Connells front-man Doug MacMillan. I won't bore you (again) with my story of how much the music of this band from North Carolina meant to me during my years working in record stores in College Park, Maryland, 1987 to 1990. That story is told in the introduction to my review of the compilation. For now, let's just hear from the man himself, the guy whose distinctive voice made the tunes of The Connells so memorable and so special to so many of us.

Glenn, kenixfan: How did the Connells come together?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: The short version... Mike Connell, David Connell, and my childhood and (still) friend John Schultz (drummer at the time), were rehearsing, [just] working up songs Spring of 1984 -- they didn't have a singer -- a few people had tried out, but no one seemed to work. I was in school two hours away in Greenville, and for some reason I thought I could sing, and auditioned -- The first time not very successfully, the second time, after learning the songs, went much better. We spent that summer practicing...things did not work out with John as drummer. Peele joined as a drummer in September 1984. George joined A few months after that.

Glenn, kenixfan: When you look back now, do you feel like you achieved what you set out to do as a band? Opportunities missed or expectations exceeded?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: Yes and no. We were very fortunate in that things started to move fairly quickly for us in the beginning -- especially when we begin to play out on a fairly regular basis. We were fortunate to have friends in other bands (UV Prom, The Bad Checks -- esp. Cliff Mann [of] Johnny Quest, for whom Peele was drumming, etc.) [since] they would let us open. Plus we took advantage of the opportunities afforded us and other local groups to play fraternity/sorority parties and other campus and university-sponsored events. Fortunately, they let us perform our original material (keep in mind that we were performing maybe 10 or 12 songs total, but contracted to play three sets).

I was still taking a few classes at NCSU and coaching swimming at the YMCA. Mike and our manager at the time -- Tom Carter -- were both in their final year of UNC Law school... I think David and George were finished -- were just about finished burning [through] their degrees (the band also doubled as a painting crew -- thank goodness for the music because the painting did not pan out). It was around this time that I thought to myself it would be really cool if playing in this band could be my job at least for a little while. That aspiration came to be and for much longer than I ever would have expected. We are still considered to be a group that should have been a lot bigger. I don't know - there are just so many other acts, songwriters, etc. whose lack of widespread notoriety and radio play is downright criminal.

Glenn, kenixfan: Did you feel part of any scene? Who did you see as your peers?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: Yes. [Those] bands listed above [plus] Right Profile, Dillon Fence, 8 or 9 Feet, Satellite Boyfriend, etc.

Glenn, kenixfan: Why didn't you sign to a major label like Sire, for example?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: The only real interest came from TVT. We definitely had our problems with them but I know of a lot of bands that got signed to a major label and then lost in the shuffle after their A&R person left for greener pastures, or was sacked.

Glenn, kenixfan: You came of age in a pre-grunge era, how did the success of Nirvana make things different for "alternative" bands like the Connells?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: I feel like there has always been a place -- a slot or niche -- for bands like us who write and perform pop -- power-pop -- melody-driven songs. Personally, I never felt threatened or overwhelmed by grunge. Cobain had an uncanny melodic sense, and he was a wildly gifted lyricist. I hear Lennon on Nevermind and In Utero. But he wasn't really lifting [from Lennon]; he just seemed to have the same sensibilities. To me, part of that is a pop sensibility. However, in the same way that a band like Big Star's first record came out during a time when music was heavier, I could see how a movement like grunge could overshadow more poppy, melody-driven music of the same era.

Glenn, kenixfan: So, now the band is back together now and planning to tour?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: Uhhhh... Yes -- sort of. Not really "touring", per se.

Glenn, kenixfan: How did you decide on the track selection on the new "best of" collection?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: As I understand it, the criteria was songs that were released as singles.

Glenn, kenixfan: When you look back at those years touring as a college rock act, what are the memorable gigs, and favorite touring acts?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: "College Rock" is one of the terms that seemed to stick when they (Radio? Record labels?) came up with ideas to identify Alternative or Modern Rock. When we started it was called "New Music". And there was a brief period of time when it was referred to as "Progressive".

We played Monday/Tuesday-night progressive/new music nights in the early days... One night in Little Rock, Arkansas, we were playing on a Tuesday new music night and all the sudden a guy jumps on the stage with a harmonica holster like an ammo belt, yelling out "What key? What key?" It turns out that Monday night is open mic night and he was confused.

We toured with 10,000 Maniacs, The Replacements.

Glenn, kenixfan: Was your late success in Europe a strange experience? How did it feel to have such a big hit there even if in the States you guys were still thought of as a college rock act?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: That entire experience was bizarre... and a real shot in the arm. However, we lost a good deal of traction in the U.S. because we did spend a lot of time touring in Europe. Around that time, I was visiting friends in Charleston, and I saw an old friend and he said "I heard you guys broke up" [and] I think my response was, "Actually things are going better than ever, just not around here."

Glenn, kenixfan: What's next for the band?

Doug MacMillan, The Connells: Play some shows to promote the release of this "best of" -- A full-blown tour would be hard to pull off.

We started recording some new material in July at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium studio -- hope to get back to you on that soon.

Many, many thanks to Doug MacMillan of The Connells for taking the time to answer these questions. Also thanks to Cary Baker at Conqueroo for arranging the whole thing.

Stone Cold Yesterday: Best Of The Connells is out now via Concord Music Group.

Follow The Connells via the band's official Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Disgusting Video From Picturebox Premieres Here!

Well, the video's not disgusting, you know? Rather, we're talking about the song called "Disgusting" from Picturebox, and the video is quite fab, actually. I'm happy to premiere it here today and very pleased to remind readers how fine the music of this outfit is.

Taken from the band's latest album, the sublime Songs Of Joy, out now via Gare Du Nord Records, the cut closes out that record in a whimsical fashion. The video, made by the folks at Young Al Production, features leader Robert Halcrow working up a psychedelic -- or is it C86? -- sort of vibe. The song and video sound and look like some lost gem from an earlier era of fantastic British indie and I say that as the highest sort of compliment. There's something very classic about the material of Picturebox and fans of Blur, Martin Newell, Close Lobsters, and The Wild Swans should groove on this one as much as I did.

You can buy Songs Of Joy via the song-link below, or from Gare Du Nord Records. For details on the exploits of Picturebox, including details on their upcoming gig in Brixton, check out the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Twitter feed of Picturebox, uncredited]

Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm Here To Get You Psyched For Next Week's Kid Congo Powers And The Pink Monkey Birds Gig In D.C. (While Offering Up My Quick Review Of Their Fab Latest Album)

You know, I have zero freakin' excuses to offer up as to why I'm so late to the party with the most recent album from Kid Congo Powers and The Pink Monkey Birds. Called La Arana Es La Vida, it dropped on In The Red Records a few months ago and it's a stomper that expands the Kid Congo Powers sound, and that's a considerable bit of praise considering this guy's background: The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Congo Norvell, and on and on. Given my familiarity with those acts, as well as his appearances on stuff like the Die Haut project, I'm kinda embarrassed that I didn't get on-board with this one when it dropped. I have now, the record rocks, and I'm gonna tell you why ahead of next week's gig in D.C. at Comet Ping Pong.

La Arana Es La Vida offers up a new line-up of the Pink Monkey Birds with local harDCore Renaissance man Mark Cisneros on guitar this time out. The Medications/Deathfix musician brings some fiery licks to these compositions and he sounds like he's having a blast on stuff like "Coyote Conundrum", his axe offering crunchy hooks behind Kid's Mark E. Smith-like delivery. The scorching "Magic Machine" churns like some lost gem from a Nuggets comp. mixed with traces of the sort of Bad Seeds mayhem Powers unleashed on staples like "Deanna" from 1988's Tender Prey. The bass of Kiki Solis and drums of Ron Miller anchor the downright evil "Ricky Ticky Tocky" which purrs with coiled menace. The wonderfully-titled "Karate Monkey" segues nicely into the title cut which is all Os Mutantes weirdness wrapped around an oddly lovely melody. If "Psychic Future" and "Coyote Conundrum", both dirty rockers, do indeed hark back to Powers' years in Nick Cave's group, the twang-y "Chicano Studies" puts an armful of sounds from the West Coast of this country in the service of something that bubbles and swirls behind Kid's Wolfman Jack-style vocal delivery.

Given that La Arana Es La Vida offers up familiar Kid Congo Powers pleasures, it's a must purchase for any fan of this cat, or the bands he contributed to over the last few decades. For newer fans, it's a fiery sampling of the sort of garage funk-punk that the Pink Monkey Birds can work up so easily. For folks in D.C., fans of the Dischord legacy, it offers up a chance to hear a local whiz-kid branch out and explore the sounds of multiple genres outside of a lot of those that gained favor in this city. Cisneros' brings a loose-yet-precise set of guitar moves to this one and this record is, probably, gonna be seen in hindsight as a new chapter in the Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds' story thanks in part to the addition of the Deathfix musician.

Speaking of this fine city, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds will be rocking our own Comet Ping Pong next Tuesday, September 27. My fellow D.C. music scene aficionados will want to catch this gig for another reason: Ian Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Chain and the Gang) will be DJ-ing as only he can as Escape-ism.

La Arana Es La Vida by Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds is out now on In The Red Records. Follow the band via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: The band's Facebook page, uncredited]

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Here It Is Tomorrow: A Look At Omnivore's Reissue Of The Big Shot Chronicles From Game Theory

For whatever reason, the third superb full-length record from Game Theory, 1986's The Big Shot Chronicles, is getting reissued by Omnivore Recordings after the label has already out the fourth record from the band, 1987's Lolita Nation. Okay, whatever. I don't care why it's coming out out of order 'cause, you know what? It's an awesome record. As the liner notes hint, there's a whole bunch of folks who think this record is better than the band's much-praised fourth album and I might be one of those people. This is pure power pop heaven, guys, and now it's been augmented with 13 bonus cuts, including 9 which have never been released before now.

Stuff like "Here It Is Tomorrow" and the all-too-brief "I've Tried Subtlety" crunch in all the right ways, the Mitch Easter production bringing out every single little hook the late Scott Miller poured into these cuts. "Erica's Word" is similarly chiming, and a sort of odd alt-rock standard from an era when this sort of music was called college rock more often than not. And, really, who would appreciate the chirpy pop of something like "Make Any Vow" more than a brainy college kid? The chords just flow on this record and The Big Shot Chronicles is an album that just doesn't stop as lyrical and musical ideas collide and explode in each track. There's little wasted here as even the quiet moments -- "The Book Of Millionaires", for example, and the absolutely essential "Like A Girl Jesus" -- shine like those tracks on side 2 of Murmur or side 2 of Reckoning. If Miller seemed more comfortable writing big hooks, he was of a same mindset as those more famous cats in the Mitch Easter-produced R.E.M. when it came to the slower numbers, favoring mood over literal meaning at times.

Sure, some of this remains inscrutable -- the lovely "Regenisraen", right? -- but so much of it just punches a listener in the gut with wonderfulness. Generations of bands since this release have tried to replicate this sort of power-pop with some success -- The Pursuit Of Happiness, Fountains of Wayne, The Posies, Matthew Sweet, Tommy Keene -- but very few of those artists had an intellect like Scott Miller at the helm of the endeavor. Miller brought a real sense of of wit to things that put him on par with Elvis Costello in some ways. Perhaps not as direct in his songwriting as Mr. MacManus, Miller, instead, put a high premium on being clever for clever's sake but he never seemed to be annoying while doing it. And he always -- always -- wrapped the wit inside a big, big hook.

Of the bonus cuts on this edition of The Big Shot Chronicles (1986) out Friday via Omnivore Recordings, the notable numbers are the covers more so than the demo recordings. If the world didn't need another cover of "Sweet Jane" even in 1986, then at least Miller made the song sound like one he might have written, his delivery being that inspired. Elsewhere, there's a fun take on "Linus And Lucy" from those "Peanuts" TV specials which sits nicely next to a fine stab at "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" from Todd Rundgren. A live run at Roxy Music's "Re-Make/Re-Model" is fun if not essential and a live take of "Friend Of The Family" from 1985's Real Nighttime serves to showcase what a great band Game Theory was in this era. Scott Miller, Gil Ray, Shelley LaFreniere, and Suzi Ziegler were really at the top of their game here.

Look, 1987's Lolita Nation gets all the attention -- double album and all -- but the truth is this record is every bit as good, if not better, in some ways. More concise, the music here just surges and soars without a single dead moment. The folks at Omnivore Recordings have done a great job again with yet another Game Theory reissue and this time out the liner notes seem to reveal a bit more details on the band with the interview with drummer Gil Ray being particularly revealing in terms of sharing how the magic happened. For those reasons, I'd urge any fan of Scott Miller and Game Theory to grab this version of the band's most essential release, if I can be so bold as to even term it that.

The Big Shot Chronicles from Game Theory will be out on Friday via Omnivore Recordings.

[Photo: Robert Toren]

Friday, September 16, 2016

Heads Up About This New Mekons Tribute On Drag City With Angel Olsen And Bonnie "Prince" Billy

On paper, it sounds a bit daft: assemble a select crew of indie greats and try to replicate the magic of The Mekons. Who would try such a thing? Bonnie "Prince" Billy, for one. Angel Olsen for another. Emmett Kelly from The Cairo Gang for another. And on and on. The results from this lot, aided by Ben Boye and Van Campbell, are pretty wonderful and as of today they are out on a release from Drag City called Fanatic Voyage.

From the bristling "The Curse" and on to the Angel Olsen-fronted "Love Letter", Fanatic Voyage gets off to a great start. "(Sometimes I Feel Like) Fletcher Christian" sounds like something The Mekons would approve of, and "I Am Crazy" from the criminally-underrated The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll (1989) record is as lyrical as the original cut. Elsewhere, "Last Dance" sounds so full of life that a listener can almost figure out on his or her own that this record was indeed recorded live and mixed in the studio to edit out the crowd noise later. On the nimble "Chivalry", Bonnie "Prince" Billy owns the song as if he wrote it even while still doing service to the Mekons original with his performance.

Fanatic Voyage is not going to make you forget the 10 Mekons classics covered here but it will make you smile. Fans of The Mekons should love this record and take it to heart as much as I did. Even if you are not a huge fan of the band, you should enjoy this. Fanatic Voyage educates a newcomer to The Mekons and provides familiar pleasures for fans of Angel Olsen and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, as well as the other fine musicians on this superb release.

Out today on Drag City, Fanatic Voyage by Chivalrous Amoekons is something special and a real highlight of this autumn's release schedule.

[Photo: Ashley Stinson]

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Look At The Fine New Reissue Of The First Peter Case Album From Omnivore

I was going to think up some clever title for this blog post but that impetus to be too clever seemed to run counter to everything that made this album so directly appealing in the first place in 1986. The first Peter Case solo record, called appropriately enough Peter Case, dropped on Geffen in 1986. The long-player has now been reissued in a fine, fine package from Omnivore Recordings complete with bonus cuts. And I'm so happy I was able to get familiar with this one again.

The one-time frontman of genuine New Wave legends The Nerves and The Plimsouls virtually created music that bridged that gap from the skinny tie era to an age when bands like R.E.M. and Let's Active got their music called college rock. For someone like me, it's not an understatement to say that seeing Nic Cage in Valley Girl (1983) driving around while "A Million Miles Away" cranked on the soundtrack informed so much of what 16-year-old me thought the cool kids should be. I had graduated from Devo to The Plimsouls, from something intellectual and satirical to something heartfelt and genuine, but something that was still outside the mainstream.

That sense of the genuine is something Peter Case brought to his first solo record. Recorded with T. Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom, the album has traces of the big 'ole Eighties all over it -- those Linn drums! -- but it is also a set of material from a unique talent in American rock as "authentic" as anything Dylan or Petty were dropping in that era. And listened to now, the album is every bit as good as the college rock that perhaps got a bit more attention at the time.

"Echo Wars" rings with players who'd been on bigger Peter Gabriel releases bringing an understated sense of percussion to the backing behind Case's voice and guitar. If "Steel Strings" is the peak of this record -- and it might be -- then the Van Dyke Parks-orchestrated "Small Town Spree" is the hidden gem, seeing as how it combines a presentation of Case's voice and guitar that is nothing if not immediate even as the strings lurk and percolate with lush menace in the background. It is, 30 years later, the biggest surprise of this release, placing Case and his songs at a level perhaps more serious than those of some of his cow-punk peers from 1986. Sure, I still love The Long Ryders and Lone Justice, but this cut is something very special, something that resonates for more than its obvious folkie and near-country elements.

Elsewhere, "Satellite Beach" and "Old Blue Car" are every bit as good as you probably remember them being and they wrap things up on the record proper in fine fashion. The additional material kicks in and a listener is treated on this Omnivore Recordings reissue to 7 bonus cuts with the rough acoustic version of "I Shook His Hand" being my favorite. Another winner is the well-produced "Toughest Gang in Town" which sounds like the best thing The BoDeans never got around to recording.

Look, if you didn't know and love this album in 1986, you need to grab it now. It's every bit as essential as the other big records of that year even if it somehow escapes the waves of nostalgia that still greet those bigger releases. If you loved it then, you're gonna love it now as it sounds absolutely superb. While there are production elements here that sound like 1986 stuff, they remain understated and place this record next to Paul Simon's Graceland from the same year as a pretty good example of something that sounds of its era but which doesn't sound entirely dated. I can't really say the same about Invisible Touch, you know what I mean?

Peter Case by Peter Case is a wonderful showcase for one of America's best singer-songwriters and a piece of uniquely timeless Americana that holds its own next to any release from Los Lobos or The Del Fuegos, for example. On this one, Case took his place as one of our best musicians and one can only hope that this reissue of Peter Case earns him renewed respect for his craft and the insights he brought to listeners in an era of big hair. This is authentic and simple music that listeners would be wise to get re-acquainted with. That it's never sounded so good is yet another reason to rejoice.

This reissue of 1986's Peter Case is out Friday via Omnivore Recordings. Follow Peter Case via his official website.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Know Why: A Quick Review Of The New One From Cyrus Gengras

Look, I'll admit that I hadn't heard of Cyrus Gengras until recently but you can bet that I'm going to keep following him from here forward. Ahead of Friday's drop of Fuckin' Up My Name on Death Records, I'm here to hip you a little bit to the superb indie of this cat.

The album features contributions from one member of The Babies, and Jessica Pratt, and others, but it's all Cyrus that makes this such a winner. Combining elements of artists as disparate as Tom Waits, Elliott Smith, and Badly Drawn Boy, Gengras makes affecting music that shines with a kind of quiet beauty, like on the Durutti Column-echoing "Don't Know Why". On the slightly folkier "It's About Time", there is a hint of Paul Westerberg about things proving the press material right to name-drop The Replacements. On the lyrical "Other Side", one can hear the trace of early Death Cab For Cutie, while lusher stuff like "Tiny Increments" has something about it that sounds like Nilsson to this listener. Elsewhere, on the downright catchy "Lover's Curse", Gengras seems to be simply stripping back a very classic sort of pop music to its basic elements. Fans of Bon Iver and Iron and Wine will probably dig this too but, frankly, it's not that kind of authenticity that Gengras is going for. On stuff like "Bad Dream Baby" and the peppy "Quite Alright", Cyrus seems to be aiming for the sort of skewed pop that bands like Gardens and Villas and The Cairo Gang have perfected lately. The legacy of stuff like Syd Barrett and Chris Bell is all over this album too but, really, Fuckin' Up My Name is purely the work of one wonderful musician despite the contributions on this record, and despite the shadow of some significant influences.

Cyrus Gengras has produced something distinctive and haunting here but he's done it without being too heavy about the whole thing. Fuckin' Up My Name by Cyrus Gengras offers highly melodic indie pop that charms on simple terms. That the melodies are so strong throughout this album helps to elevate this sort of thing above other releases in similar genres. Not a moment is wasted here and I can only wait to hear more from Cyrus Gengras.

Fuckin' Up My Name by Cyrus Genras is out Friday via Death Records. Follow Cyrus Gengras via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Shola Lawson]

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Look At Warm Sun, Another Devin Ocampo Band Ahead Of The Group's Tuesday Gig With Super! Silver! Haze! (Brendan Canty From Fugazi)

Devin Ocampo just don't quit, do he? The dude has been in a string of superb Dischord bands (Smart Went Crazy, Faraquet, Beauty Pill, Deathfix, Medications), and he was in The Effects, and now he's got another excellent project going. Called Warm Sun, this new band makes the sort of near-psychedelic rock that one heard emanating from the West Coast in the Eighties. Comparisons here should include Opal, The Dream Syndicate, and even Rain Parade in spots. The band is playing a show with Super! Silver! Haze! (a new gig from Fugazi's Brendan Canty) this Tuesday at the Black Cat and I'm here to mainly talk about the tunes of Warm Sun this time out.

There are about 6 cuts up on Bandcamp from Warm Sun as of now. Those numbers include the fairly recent release "In A Moment" and "Seven Sisters", and both of those bop along in a nice sort of mix of Jefferson Airplane and X riffs. The other tracks are also uniformly interesting, notably the pounding "Damaged" and the sinister "Pikes Peak Is Gone". The cut that gave the band its name, "Warm Sun", is a near-epic rumination that recalls early Jayhawks and Wilco numbers as much as it does the fine neo-psych rockers on the first, less wispy Mazzy Star record. Overall, favorable comparisons to the louder, more adventurous moments on early Yo La Tengo albums would not be out of place when describing any of these 3 double-cut releases.

Warm Sun -- Devin Ocampo (guitar, vocals), Basla Andolsun (bass), Jason Hutto (keyboards), and Renata Ocampo (drums) -- are making music that surprises and reaches far beyond even the bold AOR-hooks Devin worked up with Brendan Canty in the exceptional Deathfix.

Speaking of Brendan Canty, the Fugazi legend's new project is called Super! Silver! Haze! and while I've yet to see the band live I'm pretty sure that the act is going to be a far cry from any of the Dischord acts he was in. There's not much out at the moment to link to but the video clip below from a recent NYC gig ought to get you intrigued.

Warm Sun and Super! Silver! Haze! play Black Cat on Tuesday.

More details on Warm Sun via the band's official Facebook page. Similarly, more details on Super! Silver! Haze! available on that band's official Facebook page.

Heads Up About This New Tim Presley (White Fence) Record On Drag City!

And here I was thinking that that Drinks record he did with Cate LeBon was weird! Tim Presley, the guy behind White Fence to most of you, is preparing to drop a new record, The Wink, on Drag City, this Friday. It's a somewhat more accessible affair than that collaboration with Cate LeBon but, make no mistake, it's still a bit odd.

If the title cut is beautiful like a Nilsson track, "Can You Blame" is closer in spirit to The Normal trying to cover a Lennon solo cut. Unlike anything else you're likely to hear this year, this is affecting stuff. Elsewhere, on "Goldfish Wheelchair", Presley hits at something like the early material from Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians, while choppy "Long Bow" hits at the peak years of Wire with a certain affection. If "Kerouac" and "Aura Aura" recall the riskier moments on the first few releases from any number of New Zealand bands -- Chris Knox, mostly -- they also resonate with a listener as sort of updates on the skewed pop that Syd Barrett tried his hand at, or even the darker moments on Big Star's Third album.

Tim Presley is taking a lot of chances on this one and for the most part he succeeds. The Wink is wildly inventive within the narrow confines of what he's attempting to do here and his remains a distinctive voice in the indie world. Fans of all the acts I've mentioned in attempting to describe this record, will probably enjoy The Wink from Tim Presley when it drops on Drag City this Friday.

[Photo: Cate LeBon]

Play Wonderful New Video From Orchestra Of Spheres Here

New Zealand's Orchestra of Spheres make music that's equal parts Super Furry Animals and early B-52's. It's percussive, original, and nearly psychedelic, all traits apparent in this new track.

"Trapdoors" is taken from the superb recent release from the band, Brothers And Sisters Of The Black Lagoon, out now on Fire Records. The cut is a bubbling, trippy affair and the video is even odder. Dig it below and get with the program!

For more details on Brothers And Sisters Of The Black Lagoon from Orchestra of Spheres, head over to Fire Records.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Don't Want To Be Anything: A Look At This Superb New Kingface Live Album That Just Dropped

I've written many times about how stupid I was in my record store days in the mid- to late Eighties, about what a snob I was for no reason, and how I shunned what was really a D.C. scene at its absolute peak even as I was too busy seeking out some (usually) lame import 4AD CD at Tower or Olsson's. And while I worked with Rich from The Now eventually at the Record Co-Op and he did get me to broaden my mind a bit, before that I was pretty much stuck in a rut.

One rare exception was the period in 1987 when I was going semi-regularly to D.C.'s Back Alley Cafe with my buddy Wolfgang. I was just coming off a really really bad relationship and in desperate need of getting back to normal and hanging out with Wolfgang at this place did the trick. I mean, where else in this city was some wannabe-Eurotrash-Goth chick gonna excitedly grab my hand and pull me to the dance floor when "Collapsing New People" by Frank Tovey got played by the DJ?

Now, all that being said, Kingface were only marginally a "Dischord band"; they're only on one official release from the label (1989's charity comp., State Of Our Union), and, listened to now, their music seems a huge middle finger at that whole straight edge crew. Ironic then that they are now lumped in with that stuff when, at the time, Kingface were really on the outer boundaries of all that. So I guess even though I sort of missed out on a lot of the great music being created in this city up until my "awakening" in 1989, when I at least tried to listen to local stuff for a change, I was lucky enough to have seen Kingface at the Back Alley Cafe in 1987. In fact, it could very well have been that same gig from which that pic up there was taken (from the band's official Facebook page). All I remember was that maybe my friend Wolfgang, or one of his friends, described Kingface by lumping them in with a local set of artists that included Peach of Immortality, an act that intrigued me and whose singer was dating a friend of ours who looked just like Danielle Dax. My memory fades a bit but I just remember thinking that at least Kingface was a local band I had actually heard of in 1987, even if I knew nothing beyond the name.

But enough of all that. I'm here to reminisce in order to highlight a superb new live release, recorded in 1988 at the 9:30 Club, of Kingface at the absolute peak moment of their power. Charging and unapologetic hot-blooded rawk permeates this new vinyl release, Kingface Live at the 9:30 Club, out now via Not Like You Records.

Kingface -- sometimes written King Face -- was Mark Sullivan on vocals, Patrick Bobst on guitar, Andy Rapoport on bass, and Larry Colbert on drums -- and they rocked. Look, no one is gonna listen to this now and mistake ANY of it for something resembling the Dischord sound. Sure, there are moments on "I Don't Want To Be Anything" or "Life Keeps Getting Longer" that echo contemporary tracks from Scream, or the sort of funky punk that Soul-Side would pursue but, really, in all honesty, what we're hearing here is closer to Jane's Addiction -- the early stuff, when they seemed a bit more unhinged -- or even the first few singles from Soundgarden or Mudhoney. Now, don't you dare say that word -- ("Grunge!") -- 'cause this set is far tighter than the sludge-y nonsense that the Northwest would soon unleash on a suffering college rock fan-base in 1988 or so. Still, "Crawl Into Tomorrow" does have a sort of swagger to it that makes it totally unlike a lot of what Dischord was putting out in 1988, and "Words Taste Good" is downright sinister and closer to early Kiss than anything else, complete with blistering hard rock guitar solo here from Bobst. I suspect that Kingface were contrarians all along and, like peers in 9353 and Black Market Baby, recoiling from the strict guidelines it seemed that the whole post-Straight Edge generation was still grappling with.

Looked at now, the scene then was far more diverse than perhaps a lot of outsiders understood. The superb 2014 documentary from Scott Crawford, Salad Days, had a passage of two that got at this diversity. And, maybe things were rougher for the bands operating in the shadows of the big guns on the Dischord label, but harDCore was a far more open-minded community than a lot of people realize. For a spell at least, it seemed as if Kingface were going to break out and be this area's answer to Alice in Chains. But thank Christ they did not, right?

Collected here on this wonderfully-sounding set from 1988, the band's live show was a super-tight-like-James-Brown's-band-review of the very best sort of hard rock that didn't indulge in pyrotechnics, though all the players here shine as musicians, nor did it bludgeon a listen with any kind of strident message. Partly-party music dressed up as punk rock, the tracks on Kingface Live at the 9:30 Club make up an essential piece of documentation of the D.C. scene at a very crucial moment, when the straight edge shackles were coming off, and bands like Kingface, Rites of Spring, Scream, and Soul-Side were redefining what harDCore could be.

For a pretty thorough history of Kingface, check out this site. For other news on the band, check in on the official Facebook page for the group.

Kingface Live at the 9:30 Club is out now via Not Like You Records.

[Photos: Kingface Facebook page and Not Like You Records]

Friday, September 9, 2016

Best Thing You're Gonna Hear This Week Is Probably This New Split Single Track!

Really, you can't knock the credentials of this cat, can you? Touring bassist for Superchunk, member of Bob Mould's band -- Jason Narducy is an indie Renaissance man, ain't he? And now he's back with his own band, Split Single, and a teaser track ahead of the November release of the band's new album.

"Leave My Mind" is part late-period Superchunk -- Jon Wurster plays drums on this, after all -- and part Wilco -- that band's John Stirrett handles the bass here -- but, in the end, all Narducy. His voice brings this a sort of polish that a lot of indie lacks and one can approach this as a sort of more reflective spin on the sort of one-man-band power-pop that guys like Jason Falkner did so well so long ago. Contemplative and punchy, "Leave My Mind" offers a distinctive sort of alt-rock that makes one long for more cuts of this kind. The new full-length record, Metal Frames, will be out in November.

So, listeners, for now follow Jason Narducy and Split Single on the official Split Single band website, or on the official Facebook page for Split Single.

[Photo: Marina Chavez]

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Few Words About The Fearless Sounds On The New Fresh Snow Record

I first decided to play this 'cause the word "psych" was used somewhere in some marketing piece. It's not psychedelic at all. It's weird. And wild. And pretty wonderful. I'm talking about the new one from Fresh Snow. ONE, out tomorrow on Hand Drawn Dracula, is a set of odd, near-avant-garde tunes played with the sort of fearlessness not heard in indie realms since the glory days of Sonic Youth and No New York.

On ONE, the four-piece unveils some far-ranging bits of noise, from the driving "January Skies" to the near-Cabaret Voltaire electronica of the wonderfully-titled "Mass Graves / Dance Caves" and onward. On "I Can't Die" the band works up a simmering riff-rocker that recalls the quieter moments from D.C.'s own Tone, while "Three-Way Mirror" buzzes with a sort of odd, quiet energy. On the excellent "I Am Smitten With Your Wrath", Fresh Snow cultivate a sort of sound not unlike the more extreme moments of quiet techno, or the darkest reaches of something like a Non track. Near the end of the album, the elegiac and mournful "Anytime Minutes" segues nicely into the quiet-loud bits of the near-shoegaze epic "Flat White".

Fresh Snow make music far outside any easy genre label. This is bold, brave stuff that doesn't necessarily equate volume with power. There are unsettling bits here, and beautiful ones, but the overall effect of ONE is one that recalls the very best era of risk-taking in alternative music.

ONE by Fresh Snow will be out tomorrow via Hand Drawn Dracula. Follow Fresh Snow via the band's official website, or their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Bella Gwendolyn Giovannini]

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Holding On: A Few Brief Words About The New Butterfly Child EP (And A Very Belated Review Of The Last Album)

The music of Butterfly Child (one Joe Cassidy, basically) lends itself to adjectives. That those adjectives are sometimes "ethereal" and "transcendent" is okay. That set of terms says a lot about this music and one could be forgiven for lazily lumping this music in with shoegaze stuff.

But, really, that would be too easy. Just like the music of A.R. Kane, an act Cassidy worked with, lent itself to the same terms, the same lazy categorization, the reality is that sometimes writers just don't know what the hell they're talking about, especially when hearing something new that brushes beyond genre boundaries. More than shoegaze, the tunes of Butterfly Child, an act now returned from somewhere, are closer in spirit to the more expansive moments on late period Boo Radleys records, or Seefeel tracks with more focus, more purpose. If you've been away from his music, an easy entry-point is the A Shot In The Dark EP, out Friday. But first, let me get us caught up.

It is absolutely inexplicable to me that I didn't know about Futures (2015) until recently. I say that not 'cause the music is great -- it is -- but because I am so late to the party with this one. Scratching my head here and trying to figure out how, given the sorts of things I listen to for pleasure, and the number of PR firms that submit things to me for coverage on this site, I was just not aware of Futures (2015) when it first dropped last year. The return of Butterfly Child from oblivion is something to be trumpeted by anyone who followed his earlier releases in the Nineties. And on Futures that music has progressed significantly. Leaping completely the tired confines of shoegaze and the rote formalties of ambient, Cassidy has, more or less, staked out a new genre here. Lush, strikingly beautiful pieces like "Blind Me So I May See" and "Our Delays" seem of a piece with the recent progressions of Cassidy's peer Kevin Shields. If things are earth-shackled at all on a few moments on Futures, that's a plus as the song structures let a listener know that this is pop (of a sort) despite the feeling that at any moment the music may be at risk of simply floating away like a kite.

Still, for all that kind of talk, this stuff remains concise and lovely, like the simple "Holding On". This is precisely the sort of music that The Verve always seemed on the cusp of making but never quite could, the sort of big music that Mike Scott once sang about, an ego-less kind of expansion of moments on Eno-produced U2 albums -- all these things. On the slightly sharper riffs of "The Only Sound", Cassidy seems to be channeling a sun-dappled Robert Smith as the cut sounds, to me at least, a little like the best bits on the best Cure album (1989's Disintegration, 'natch) infused with something soulful and brave. On the lyrical "Still Learning To Crawl", or on the spry "Playfair Steps", Joe Cassidy has managed to make music every bit as "futuristic" and forward-thinking as any overhyped Radiohead long-player, and without so much affectation either. A record of profound beauty and simple and precise presentation, Futures (2015) places the music of Butterfly Child far closer to the early masterpieces from Talk Talk and The Blue Nile than it does to any shoegaze revivalist set. Superb and luminous throughout.

On the new A Shot In The Dark EP, out Friday, Butterfly Child offers up a few alternate takes along with a handful of new songs. First up, producer Stephen Hague remixes "A Shot In The Dark" to reveal the O.M.D. single that was seemingly lurking underneath the surface. In this new iteration, the track is light and effortlessly pop in the very best sense of that word. If Prefab Sprout had ever pursued more electronic textures, the result might have sounded just like this. Elsewhere, on "Holding On (Orchestral Version)", a listener hears a hint of Britpop singles like those early Embrace (U.K.) cuts, or a seminal release like "Higher Than The Sun" from Primal Scream. Direct and affecting, I prefer this version to the one on Futures (2015), if the truth were known. The most memorable cut of the 5 on this EP is surely "Caught In Between The Middle" which unfurls like the most sublime bit of business those cats in Boo Radleys ever released. This song retains a directness that a lot of the so-called shoegaze music could never muster. More Moose, or A.R. Kane, than anything else, the track distills the whole appeal of the music of Butterfly Child down into one 2-and-a-half-minute cut.

What remains so striking about the music of Butterfly Child when a listener spins either Futures (2015) or the A Shot In The Dark EP is how succinct Joe Cassidy can be. For music this expansive, and this expressive, it's downright remarkable how unpretentious the results remain. Cassidy writes big moments -- and both releases are full of crescendos, and waves of sound leading to crescendos -- but what makes this such affecting material is that Joe Cassidy knows exactly what to leave out, what spaces to leave in the songs, and how not to overdo anything. Simultaneously subtle and rapturous, the music here demands attention and rewards listeners, along with fans like me who are so happy to know that this guy is back.

Futures (2015) is out now while A Shot In The Dark EP will be out as of Friday. More details on the official Butterfly Child website, or via the official Butterfly Child Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Suspended: A Look At The New Daniel Lanois Album

There's a risk in trying to write about an instrumental album. There's always a risk that you're gonna run off at the mouth in trying to describe the wonderfully ephemeral. Or that you're gonna try to put into words for others what really can't be adequately described if you haven't heard it yet, ironic considering that this new album is called Goodbye To Language. But a writer can only try and, in trying, draw some attention to one of the most interesting musicians and producers of the post-punk era.

Daniel Lanois is releasing his new record, Goodbye To Language, on Friday via Anti- Records. The instrumental set, recorded with collaborator Rocco DeLuca, has that typical Lanois vibe that even his vocal albums have. It's a sort of sound that he brought to his work with U2, for example, and even a casual fan of this guy knows what I'm talking about. And it permeates all of Goodbye To Language.

On "Time On" and "Falling Stanley", Lanois and DeLuca use expanding keyboard figures behind what sounds like a slide guitar. The effect is not entirely unlike moments on Lanois' superb work with Eno on Apollo: Atmospheres And Landscapes (1983). Elsewhere, on "Deconstruction", there's something vaguely sinister percolating underneath the main textures. There's the barest hint of a blues idea rumbling around in "Later That Night", thanks to that slide guitar, and that track segues nicely into the brief "Suspended", all warm tones.

Goodbye To Language is a modest, unassuming instrumental record of the sort that only a few people in this world seem capable of making. Here, Lanois easily joins the ranks of Eno and Harold Budd in evoking a lot of emotion from such ethereal pieces. Rocco DeLuca and Lanois have produced something warm and affecting here. The overall effect of the pieces when taken as a whole is something marvelous and this work harks back to an earlier era, when music like this was deemed "ambient" and not "new age", and "serious" musicians could crank out records like this and make the end results seem less highbrow than they would in other hands.

Goodbye To Language is out on Friday via Anti- Records. Follow Daniel Lanois on his official website.

[Photo: Marthe Vannebo]