Sunday, July 31, 2016

Heads Up About The Retro Pleasures Of This New Wyatt Blair Album

A decided throwback to the wonderful Eighties, Wyatt Blair's new album, Point Of No Return, out Friday via Lolipop Records and Burger Records, is a decidedly retro affair, one which unashamedly embraces all that was catchy and fun about that earlier decade's radio pop.

The second album from the guy who formed Lolipop Records, Point Of No Return plays like a Rick Springfield album re-imagined by a bunch of fans of early Depeche Mode singles. It's a chirpy, peppy affair and one which largely succeeds despite some songs overstaying their welcome in terms of length. "Dancing On A Dream" mines a similar vein of power pop as that found by Young Guv on his 2015 album, while the wonderfully-titled "Young Hearts Unite" owes as much to Helen Love singles as it does to Hooters ones. It's the sound of early New Wave filtered through a radio-friendly lens, if that makes any sense. "So You Wanna Break My Heart" is nearly a Cheap Trick single, while "No Surrender" made me think of the first Poison album in the best possible way. Elsewhere, the more subdued "Cherry Pie" subtly blends a certain Ariel Pink-style approach with all the trappings of a Night Ranger hit.

Look, originality is not the point here. On its own terms, Wyatt Blair's Point Of No Return succeeds admirably at taking these styles from 3 decades ago and jazzing them up a bit. Expertly produced, this is a fine set of sometimes chiming and always chirping pop jams. Fans of both The Rezillos and Quiet Riot should find much to admire here, if you get my meaning.

Point Of No Return by Wyatt Blair is out on Friday via Lolipop Records with Burger Records. Dig it!

This New Mercury Girls Song Is All Kinds Of Awesome!

This new cut from Philadelphia's Mercury Girls is getting all kinds of press already so a little more won't hurt, will it?

A taster from the upcoming 8-song split between Slumberland Records and Fortuna POP!, "Holly" is a burst of fuzzy indie from a group that desperately needs to crank out a full-length album already! Until that day, we'll have to content ourselves with what the band has put out so far, "Holly" being a pretty good summation of the Philly act's expert distillation of a few generations' worth of shoegaze and C86 tropes into something succinct and good.

The split compilation in question is called Continental Drift and it will feature Mercury Girls, Wildhoney from Baltimore, The Spook School from Edinburgh, and Tigercats from London. It's gonna be a helluva release and it's probably not too early to pre-order this.

Follow Mercury Girls via the band's official Facebook page, or their Bandcamp page.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Members Of The New Lines, Lake Ruth, And Lorelei Deliver Gem Of A New Release: Taiwanese Folk Style By James Chen

Hewson Chen is a busy man. Besides playing guitar in the very excellent The New Lines, he has recently been earning high praise for the new Lake Ruth album, reviewed by me here, and now he's got yet another new project. Teaming up with some-time New Lines drummer (and Lorelei legend) Davis White, Hewson has released a very unique set of tunes this time around. Called Taiwanese Folk Style and credited to his father James Chen, the songs here represent not only a few different cultures but a few different generations as well.

The superb "Summer in Taiwan" kicks things off, all pulsing early Sterolab-style beats and wild little guitar licks behind James Chen's straightforward vocals. "By the Sea" takes a more gentle approach while "Chat Salon" bears traces of Taiwanese pop music from generations ago as well as a hint of the Durutti Column mixed throughout. If "Grass Mountain" continues the nods to what must have been a fairly mainstream style in Taiwan a few decades ago, "Don't Be Discouraged" adds a very post-punk rhythmic base under James' vocals. The effect on that cut is decidedly modern and one can't help but recall Broadcast and even Hewson's own Lake Ruth, both bands ones that blend a sort of retro-futuristic set of riffs with modern instrumentation.

Elsewhere, "Love at First Sight" continues that approach while the energetic "Going Home" reveals the strongest melody on this release. Taiwanese Folk Style closes with the lilting "Autumn Nostalgia", all folk hooks and jazzy beats. Like most of the subtle charms on Taiwanese Folk Style, the pleasures for a listener here involve a very astute mingling of styles and cultures. That this is a highly personal project for Hewson Chen only adds to the appeal of this release. Delightfully modest in approach and yet wholly perfect in the way it seamlessly blends the father's interpretations of material from his youth with nimble performances from guitarist Chen and drummer White, Taiwanese Folk Style from James Chen is a truly pleasant surprise and one which I enjoyed immensely.

Out now via Moon Glyph Records, Taiwanese Folk Style from James Chen is sure to delight the fans of the bands behind these players (The New Lines, Lake Ruth, and Lorelei).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

In Which I Interview Cian Ciaran Of Super Furry Animals Before The Band Proceeds To Blow The Roof Off The 9:30 Club

Over the past few years I've reviewed a few things on Strangetown Records, the label run by Cian Ciaran from Super Furry Animals, so naturally I jumped at the chance to interview the multi-instrumentalist when the band stopped in Washington, D.C. this week on their semi-reunion tour.

I got there early, met Gruff Rhys walking into the club after his stroll around D.C. in the 100 degree heat, and then settled in the downstairs bar with Cian to discuss both his projects and the history of the Super Furry Animals.

When asked if the release of the "Bing Bong" single this year and this tour were signs that Super Furry Animals were back for good, seeing as how the band had never even officially gone on hiatus, Cian replied that "they hadn't really talked about it much" but that the activities in 2015 gave the band a "boost" and they had "done twice as much" as they had intended. Just concentrating on the live shows to see "where it takes us", the group wanted to see where things went before committing to any new project as a band, nor could he see the individual members ever stopping the solo projects that are well underway. "We have been working together" but "just not as a band," he said, referring to his work with Guto, and Daf's work with him on his projects on Strangetown Records, including an upcoming new album from FFUG, another band with the brothers Daf and Cian.

Other projects from the prolific Cian on his still-rising label include an upcoming new album from Baby Queens which features Cian's wife (also in Zefur Wolves with Cian), and perhaps a new release from The Earth at some point in the near-future.

"It's not something I sit down and go 'I'm going to do this today' but usually it's a collection of songs I've had," Cian explained about his solo albums and side projects, including an upcoming orchestral work due for a debut later this year with a live performance. "I haven't gone to press yet... but it's about an hour-long piece, with full orchestra, so it's 84 players, performed by the BBC Wales orchestra. The music's based on an old Welsh tragic love story... it's quite a dark story." Trying to work out a way to document the "initial performance in November" 2016, Cian seems excited to be entering what he said "was a whole new world for me" with the composition. While the piece may not end up being "avant garde" or "groundbreaking" Cian explained that he "didn't set out to be" and that "I just set out to make beautiful music" with an orchestra, and the result will be something "quite filmic" since he likes the work of John Barry, Morricone, as well as classical artists like Bizet even.

"It's different for me," he said, and that "the band has always had a love for different music," which led to their work with Sean O'Hagan (High Llamas) on string arrangements [on 2005's Love Kraft, for instance], which in turn led to a desire to work with even more string players, he joked. Now it seems he's got his wish as he finishes up work on this piece for the November premiere.


Recalling the band's revolutionary live sound system, something I heard first-hand back in 1999 in Wolverhampton, Cian said that there had been bands who had done "quad" sound live, like Pink Floyd, but that the Furries "wanted a piece of that" and the experiments with live "surround sound" pointed the way toward "the first surround album" ever, 2001's Rings Around The World.

The band's sonic adventures and experiments with live sound are detailed at length in the fab 2015 book, Rise Of The Super Furry Animals, reviewed by me here, and so obviously I had to ask what the band thought of the book. Not officially "endorsed by the band" but approved in a sense, Cian's face brightened up as he perhaps thought about some of the SFA antics in the tome and he said "I don't remember half the things that happened" in that era. "I remember the moments but not so much the detail," he joked, a big grin on his face.


When asked about the band's days on Creation, and how the Super Furry Animals had once been a "Creation band", Cian seemed content with what the association had brought them back in the Nineties. "They had the money," and that money led to freedom for the Furries who benefited tremendously from the generosity of spirit of Alan McGee. Perhaps lumped in with the wave of post-Oasis acts that hit these shores from the label, Super Furry Animals literally began their rise thanks to that Britpop boom despite going beyond the label later, to sign on to Sony and elsewhere. "We were happy to be part of that label, that family. We liked all the bands prior to Oasis so it kinda made sense to us," to join that roster of acts in 1995 or so. "They let us do what we wanted... didn't put any reins on us [in the studio] and that's what we wanted." And having the cash on the back of the success of Oasis, the label was then "willing to invest" and that's "something labels don't do these days," he explained. "We were lucky to be in the right time and place" and that basis on Creation Records "gave us the foundation" to go on for another 10 or more years.

It's going on 20 years now for Super Furry Animals and they show no sign of slowing down. With each member of the act pursuing side projects, there's little real reason for the members to come together again except for the fact that these 5 fellows love working together and the results are usually spectacular. Offering up absolutely no hint of further new music from the band, Cian Ciaran's comments seemed to indicate that this tour was simply a celebration for the group, a way to perform old favorites for appreciative fans on both sides of the Atlantic. "We're still enjoying it," he said, outside of getting "bogged down" in the old cycle of new album and tour every 18 months. That audiences are so appreciative only makes things even better for the 5 members of Super Furry Animals.

After our conversation that spanned both his current side projects and all the way back to those Creation Records days, Cian headed up to the soundcheck for the evening's gig. My wife and I watched from the side as the band ran through "Bing Bong", "Ice Hockey Hair", "Run Christian Run", "Slow Life", and "Juxtapozed With U" all cuts that would sound tremendous later in the evening.


The sound cranked up, the bass reverberating through your solar plexus, the Super Furry Animals took the stage about 10:15 last night to run through a whole set of tunes from their voluminous back-catalog that were familiar to most fans in the audience. As well as the tracks mentioned above, they did "The International Language of Screaming", a silly but fun "Receptacle For The Respectable" (complete with carrot and celery in homage to Paul McCartney's credited contributions to the album version of the cut), a rousing "(Drawing) Rings Around The World", and a nearly-punk-y stab at "Golden Retriever" near the end of the set. All this was before finishing up with "The Man Don't Give A Fuck" while dressed as Sasquatches.








A big, big note of thanks to Cian Ciaran for taking the time to sit down with me for an interview. And thanks to Joe Puleo too for arranging the opportunity. It was a helluva night and now I can say that I have met all of the Super Furry Animals too, having met Guto Pryce in D.C. nearly 2 decades ago and the other 4 Furries last night at the 9:30 Club. It was also great to hang out a bit with D.C.'s own Nalinee Darmrong last night and see her in action as the 9:30 Club's house photographer. Her own book of her photographs of The Smiths, reviewed by me here, is out now. Check out the link up above on this page.

Follow the adventures of Super Furry Animals via the band's official website. And, for now, follow Strangetown Records for news on Cian's side projects.

Friday, July 22, 2016

New Moles Single Drops Ahead Of Release Of Tonight's Music In August!

There's a palpable sense of excitement brewing among a certain swath of indie fandom due to the prospect of new music from The Moles in a matter of a few mere weeks. Now, some of us have heard the album, called Tonight's Music, already but it's way too early to comment on it, right? Right. The folks at Fire Records wouldn't dig that.

So, for now, enjoy "Dreamland" and get your mind ready for more music from The Moles. Hey, you can pre-order this one now via a multitude of links, like this one.

More details on The Moles via Fire Records.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Heads Up About This Seminal Pylon Live Set From 1983 Now In Print!

Pylon were one of those bands I probably read about more than actually heard back in the day. By the time that R.E.M. released a cover of "Crazy", the seminal Athens, Georgia band that actually wrote that song had been overshadowed by that Stipe-led crew. Still, there's a growing appreciation of the band nowadays and this new release of Pylon Live from 1983 should generate a lot of interest in the group.

On this set, released here as a double-vinyl release, CD, or download via the Bandcamp links below, Pylon -- the late Randall Bewley, Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Curtis Crowe, and Michael Lachowski -- showcase the unique mix of rhythmic rock and new wave that made this band so important so early on, back before anyone ever thought of coming up with a term like college rock. Recorded December 1, 1983, at the Mad Hatter in Athens, Georgia, this set offers up ample evidence of what was probably one of the very best live bands in this country at the time. On stuff like "No Clocks" we're hearing the early days of post-punk in the U.K. filtered through the sensibilities of these American kids. If nothing else, Pylon sound like they are attempting to "Americanize" the tunes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, or the Gang of Four. Closer in tone to those bands than the arty sounds of Talking Heads, Pylon are superb as a unit and each cut here positively bursts with youthful energy of the sort that few bands exhibit these days. The snarling "Danger" virtually throbs with attitude, while "Feast On My Heart" rocks with a bit of a garage rock vibe. Elsewhere, there's a hint of Joy Division on something like "M Train", and a similar mood to famous B-52s singles on "Weather Radio", Pylon removing the kitsch appeal of the music of their Athens compatriots.

Obviously, place is important to remember when one listens to this collection. The band is playing in its hometown and that counts for a lot of the thrills on finally hearing this thought-lost set, brought out thanks in part to Jeff Calder of The Swimming Pool Q's. If one is more familiar with the music of R.E.M., or Fred Schneider's outfit, hearing Pylon cuts like "Crazy" -- covered by Buck and cohorts and released on the Dead Letter Office (1987) compilation -- and "Cool", one can't help but think that the songs sound like material that surely informed that of those other, more famous Athens bands. And that's not to fault what's here but, rather, to add a layer of possible appeal to this Pylon Live release. Serving as a good, basic introduction to the work of this band, it's also a good introduction into the sound that perhaps informed other U.S. acts of the era.

All that being said, Pylon Live delivers more than an hour of some of the best American independent music from an age when stuff like Duran Duran was dominating far too many so-called alternative outlets in this country. This is, literally, the birth of American indie in some way. Fans of stuff like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Vampire Weekend, or even Pavement should be able to hear traces here that perhaps influenced the art of those other acts.

Pylon Live is out on Friday via Chunklet Industries. You can get more details via the band's official website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Weird Summer: A Word Or Two About This New Velvet Crush Compilation On Omnivore Recordings

One of those records that seems to have instantly garnered a cult following, 1994's Teenage Symphonies to God by Velvet Crush was a blast of energy in the early years of Britpop. Touring with Oasis in the States in 1995 -- I saw the bands together at what is now the (new) 9:30 Club in D.C. in 1995 -- Velvet Crush offered up power pop inspired by both The Byrds and Big Star. The record was nearly perfect and it only left a listener wanting more. Well, now there's more: Pre-Teen Symphonies, out Friday via Omnivore Recordings, is a set of demos and live cuts from the era that, taken together, solidify this band's place as one of the best acts of this sort in the last few decades of pop.

Ric Menck, Jeffrey Underhill, and Paul Chastain made up Velvet Crush but there are appearances here by Tommy Keene who toured with them that year, as well as producer Mitch Easter. Pre-Teen Symphonies offers up some of the best work these players have ever done and the split here -- half demos, half live cuts -- showcases both this band's place as power pop legends and their status as a formidable live act. "Weird Summer" chimes, for instance, like both The Byrds and The Beatles, while "This Life Is Killing Me" rocks even harder in its demo form, an amplified echo of acts like Teenage Fanclub and even Husker Du. The early version of "Time Wraps Around You" foreshadows the sort of thing that bands like Wilco and The Jayhawks would do later, while "Not Standing Down" shines, even in its demo form, as a roaring bit of business that's a distant cousin to late-period Replacements jams and, oddly, sort of similar to the faster cuts on the first Oasis long-player.

As for the live half of Pre-Teen Symphonies, highlights include a Faces-like romp through "My Blank Pages" and a fab stroll through "Hold Me Up", all power chord crunch turned up to 11. A rocketing live cover of "Remember The Lightning" by pioneers 20/20 further solidifies this band's power pop credentials. The band here is, to use a cliche, on fire and the live tracks blaze past with the sort of alt-rock fury that few bands these days seem to muster. Both a reminder of how great indie was and the fickleness of a public that should have made this band even more successful, Pre-Teen Symphonies is an absolutely necessary addition to the Velvet Crush canon.

Pre-Teen Symphonies by Velvet Crush is out Friday via Omnivore Recordings.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In Which I Get On The Bandwagon Early For This New Close Lobsters EP On Shelflife Records

How many times can I state how important this band was at a certain formative point in my life as an active music listener? Late 1987, deep in the throes of serious attachments to both the "rousing rock" of U2 and the "dream-pop" of the Cocteau Twins, I desperately needed an out. Neither of those fandom fevers were going to serve me well over time, were they? I needed a reminder of all that smart pop could be. Enter Foxheads Stalk This Land (1987). I knew virtually nothing about the band when I picked up the cassette -- this was mere months before I made the leap to the compact disc -- except that the band was distributed in America via Enigma Records. The unbridled tunefulness within the cuts, and the inexplicable lyrics in spots, captivated me instantly and I've been a fan of the Close Lobsters since, so we're talking nearly 3 decades now.

The band has made appearances here and there since 1987 -- they put out another album, and an EP or two, but were sort of through by the early Nineties -- but now they are back with a new EP, out soon on Shelflife Records. The release is called the Desire and Signs EP and it's 2 epic-length shout-outs to all that is good and great about indie-pop. "Under London Skies", blabbed about earlier by me here, is a near-anthem that namechecks the glory of London as seen by this Scottish set of legends. A distant cousin to "Mother Of God" from the first record, this is a declaration and a statement of intent with all the wisdom of the last 30 years wrapped up here in Andrew Burnett's lyrics. "Wander Epic Part II" is the best Grant McLennan song never written by the late Go-Between. Soaring and elegiac in spots, the lengthy track unfurls with the sort of lyrical deliberateness that one recalls from something like "A Prophercy" from Foxheads Stalk This Land (1987).

Both tracks here are, in some ways, bolder and more expansive than earlier efforts by this band but they are -- and you realize this as soon as Burnett starts singing on each -- undoubtedly Close Lobsters track and, as such, things to be welcomed intensely by fans of good music. I can only hope that this band is going to record more and very soon please.

Desire and Signs EP by Close Lobsters is out soon via Shelflife Records. If you go ahead and order the vinyl -- limited edition, 'natch -- you get a download code for a few bonus remixes. Same goes if you buy the digital download itself.

Follow the Close Lobsters via their official Facebook page.

This New Skytone Single Is Superb!

This new single from Skytone is superb. Flat-out gorgeous, really. With a guitar-keyboard hook that's like something off Knife from Aztec Camera, and a melody every bit as jaunty as a Housemartins single, "Second Hand Shops" is blissful indie of the very best kind. Fans of earlier releases by this band will surely dig this as much as I did and, obviously, this may be the perfect entry point into the band's stuff for new fans.

More details via TheBeautifulMusic.com, or via the Bandcamp link below. Follow Skytone via the band's official Facebook page.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Most Of Summer: A Review Of The Fantastic New Connections Album

There is something decidedly perfect about the AOR-meets-indie approach of Columbus, Ohio's Connections. I've reviewed many of their releases before and new album, Midnight Run, out Friday, is yet another set of reasons for me to get excited about this band. Midnight Run is, like earlier records, concise in its presentation and yet perfect in its overall effect.

The band -- singers Andy Hampel and Kevin Elliott, guitarist Dave Capaldi, bassist Phillip Kim, and new drummer Michael O'Shaughnessy -- offers up something so seemingly simple that it surely can't work and yet it invariably does. On something like "Keepers" for instance, the music roars in the manner of early Husker Du and the yet the hook is even more catchy than those in some of those groundbreaking Mould or Hart cuts. Connections, frequently namechecked -- even by me -- alongside Guided by Voices in terms of sound, here branch out a bit and try their hand at more obvious ballads (the lighters-aloft "All In All", for example), or the buzzing "ABCDED", all throwaway Britpop-style riffs tied up underneath an All-American Rock-covering. The superb "Lisa" serves up early New Wave elements -- Kim's bassline which is worthy of an early Jam single, the near-Cars-like appeal of the main hook -- inside of a grime-y indie wrapper. Gloriously American in approach, this is music as good as anything from the peak years of any band on Merge Records, for instance, if you get what I'm trying to explain about the band's appeal.

Elsewhere, "John From Cincinnati" rides in on what could be a Neil Young hook even as bassist Kim seems to be channeling early New Order in his bass-work. The song unwinds and quickly descends into chaos around the main riff. Entirely catchy, the players here never lose sight of the goal of making wonderfully accessible-yet-abrasive alt-rock. On "Raise Awareness", Connections take something that sounds vaguely like a chord figure from "Jessie's Girl" and put it in the service of noisy tune-age that wouldn't have been entirely out of place on Sonic Youth's Sister album. And when the deliriously-tuneful "Kate And Everyone Else" breezes in, you're gonna want to grab your keys and run outside to hit the highways with this blaring in the ride of your choice. When a Connections cut like this comes on, you feel like you're hearing a selection from the most awesome mix-tape ever made and you almost instinctively reach for the volume to crank the music up even louder.

By no means does Midnight Run tamper with the Connections template. This is a concise set of to-the-point indie that wastes little time or effort in working on a listener. Whether something punchy, or the rare near-ballad, the tracks here charm on the back of basic hooks and a very smart style. Entirely unpretentious but seriously offered, the songs of Connections shine with a Pavement-like sense of unfettered, shambolic glee, even as they sometimes -- usually -- rawk like singles from earlier pioneers Superchunk or Guided By Voices.

Midnight Run by Connections is out Friday via the usual outlets. You can order it via the Bandcamp link too.

Follow Connections via their Tumblr site, or on their official Facebook page.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Heads Up About The New Joanna Gruesome Single!

There's a new Joanna Gruesome single out now, more details on the release here, and it's safe to say that it's gonna blow your socks off as soon as you spin it in the format of your choice.

Called "Pretty F***king Sick (Of It All)" -- asterisks mine -- the cut roars in on a blast of guitar-noise that duels with the vocals of new vocalists Kate Stonestreet and Roxy Brennan. The single, a follow-up of sorts to the band's excellent 2015 album, Peanut Butter, is also a declaration of intent. As the press materials indicate rather cryptically about this cut and the flip, "Occult Bookshop":

“This song is about being pursued by intelligence operatives and is partly set in the Welsh village of Llangrannog. It is influenced by our recent U.S tour, during which the CIA took a special interest in the group’s movements. ["Occult Bookshop"] is an origin story, detailing the first meeting of the group. It is also about using astrological means to strengthen, receive and administer crushes."

Get with the weirdness now, Joanna Gruesome fans. This is surely gonna be your hit of the summer. Order here, and get more details on the band's previous releases via Slumberland Records.

A Few Words About The New Heliotropes Album

The new album from Heliotropes, Over There That Way, out today via The End Records, is the sort of record that deserves attention firstly for offering up something that blurs the lines between genres. Thanks in no small part to leader Jessica Numsuwankijkul's vocals, the cuts here alternately swirl and rage with a great deal of emotion and subtlety.

If opener "Normandy" offers up something that's a tiny bit like a single from a band on Slumberland Records -- maybe early Veronica Falls? -- it's the expansive playing of the other musicians here -- drummer Gregg Giuffré, bassist Richard Thomas, and guitarist Ricci Swift -- that makes the music so compelling and unique. At times, like on the sultry "Easy", the music here reminded me nothing so much as that of the criminally-underrated Elysian Fields, Jessica Numsuwankijul's singing recalling Jennifer Charles' delivery a bit. Still, for all that, "Over There That Way" adds some fiery guitar-work to the mix to give a nod to Sixties pioneers as well as stuff like Los Angeles legends X. Here, as on much of Over There That Way, the music pulls together so many things so effortlessly that a listener can be forgiven for just grooving to this stuff without stopping to recall just how remarkable the presentation is.

On the lovely "I Can't Remember", the tune-age takes a decided turn into Mazzy Star territory, while "My Only Friend" rides in like a classic Mojave 3 or Slowdive cut with some flashes of bright guitar runs from Ricci Swift carrying it forward into a sort of blissed-out pop that's skirting the edges of shoegaze. That these two cuts are so far removed stylistically from earlier tracks on Over There That Way is more a sign of the band's skill at multiple genres than it is an indication of unease at staying in any one corner of the indie world.

Over There That Way by Heliotropes, out today on The End Records, is a pleasant surprise and something fresh in many ways. It's not simply that Jessica Numsuwankijkul is such an appealing prospect as a lead singer as the other players surely deserve an equal amount of the credit for this melodic melange of styles. Tuneful, affecting, and full of warm moments, Over There That Way deserves a lot of attention now.

Follow Heliotropes via the band's official Facebook page.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Some Pics And Video From Tonight's Wussy/Dot Dash Show At Black Cat D.C.!

Fresh from paying tribute to the late John Stabb (Government Issue, Emma Peel, The Factory Incident, etc.) at Fort Reno on Monday night, the boys in Dot Dash brought their big punk-pop sound to D.C.'s Black Cat tonight in a support set with Wussy. The new one from Dot Dash, the excellent Searchlights, is out now on TheBeautifulMusic.com and it's a helluva record. Playing lots of cuts from that one, the band were on fire tonight as my video below shows. More details on Dot Dash via the official Dot Dash Facebook page.

Wussy delivered an impressive set of American indie of the sort not heard so much these days. Singer Lisa Walker may have been rockin' a Ramones tee but it's bassist Mark Masserly who gets the extra credit for wearing a vintage Superchunk shirt during the gig.

Forever Sounds by Wussy is out now on Shake It Records. Follow the band via their official website, or their official Facebook page.

Let's Talk About How Great This New Angelic Milk EP On PNKSLM Is!

I don't want to overstate how much I love Angelic Milk but, dammit, if this Russian group doesn't fill me with the same sort of joy I felt the first time I heard "Never Understand" by The Jesus and Mary Chain. If not as revolutionary, the music of this new band is at least as exhilarating as that of the Reid Brothers and if you doubt me then you need to give a listen to the new EP, Teenage Movie Soundtrack, out tomorrow via the excellent PNKSLM label.

"Tie Me Up" roars in with a sort of sassy girl group tunefulness underneath a punk snarl, equal parts The Shirelles and Siouxsie, while "Ripped Jeans" is closer to the aforementioned JAMC even if the vocals coo like those in a Curve or Primitives song. I wrote about "Rebel Black" in May and -- guess what? -- I'm still playing it at full volume a few times a week as I throttle down an American highway. Easily one of the best things I've heard all year, the single made me a big, big fan of this band instantly. The Teenage Movie Soundtrack EP closes on the near-glam of "Some Boys Are Beautiful Girls", all big hooks in the spirit of early Manic Street Preachers cuts. If the cut has the rawk spirit of a Placebo single, it's a good deal more melodic and another perfect showcase for this group's brand of appeal.

Look, I've loved everything I've heard on this label so far but, truthfully, few bands have thrilled me recently as much as Angelic Milk has. There's just something glorious here that skirts the edges of about 5 different genres and does it with a good deal of brash joy. This is thrilling Pop, folks. Get with the program now so that a few years from now you can tell your hip friends that you were an Angelic Milk fan early on.

Teenage Movie Soundtrack is out tomorrow on PNKSLM. More details on Angelic Milk via the band's official Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Few Words About The New Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 Compilation

The big takeaway from a listen to Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985, out now from Cherry Red Records, is the sheer breadth of what made up UK indie in an era -- a few, actually -- that gave birth to the sounds that still shape music today. Starting from the post-punk period and going up to the year before C86 reshaped the sonic landscape of more than one continent, Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 offers up 40+ female-fronted acts that, much like the awesome Dolly Mixture (pictured up above), defy genre and invent new ones.

Sure, there's stuff here you may be somewhat familiar with (Marine Girls with Tracey Thorn, Strawberry Switchblade, The Mo-Dettes) but there's also stuff that will genuinely surprise you: the Ian Dury-associated "The Jam Jar Song" by Ingrid, or the absolutely superb girl group touches of "If That's What You Want" by Mari Wilson and the Imaginations, or even the Top 40 proto Kylie-isms of "Jump Back" by Dee Walker (pictured below).

Elsewhere, there's a glimpse of stuff that should have been more popular at the time: "The Boy Hairdresser" by Style Council-associated Tracie, or "I Could Have Been Your Girlfriend" by Dolly Mixture spin-off Coming Up Roses. Even the rare cut on this set that borders on what would be termed twee later -- "Summer Blues" by Sarah Goes Shopping -- strays closer to early Altered Images and Clare Grogan territory than it really does to anything else.

There are also cuts here that serve as templates for generations of DIY stuff in the 3 decades after 1985: the excellent "I Hate Being In Love" by Amy and The Angels (pictured below), and proto-riot grrl hooks of "Normal" by The Petticoats. At no point is one bored here as styles fly by in a blur of wonderful inventiveness. If nothing else, Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 reminds how easily genre labels can be smudged, and boundaries -- both stylistic and gender-based -- can be crossed.

Out now via Cherry Red Records, Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 is a remarkable achievement in chronicling the years we call the post-punk era -- when experimentation was cherished among the Peel acolytes who make up a lot of this set's performers -- and all the way up to the pre-C86 era. Spanning pseudo-ska, to punk, to well-produced alternative, the 40+ cuts here all charm and bring a lot of spirit and life to what we thing of as, frankly, the lean years between other, so-called better eras in British rock history. Maybe now, with a listen to Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985, one can get a sense of the greatness of U.K. indie outside the obvious bursts of creativity -- the peaks in 1977 or 1986 -- that we celebrate so often otherwise. Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 showcases not only a few dozen female-fronted bands that deserve more attention now, but also a much wider range of stylistic invention than one realized was occurring back then. In fact, a listener could argue that Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 is, by setting up its goal-posts in those 2 years and surveying what's inbetween, defining another distinct era in U.K. indie that now will -- maybe -- get as much attention as the cuts from all those fine C86 bands, for example.

Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 is out now via Cherry Red Records.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Quick Review Of The New Album From Omni

Atlanta band Omni are playing a risky game of ransacking the past for the cool bits in order to make modern music. In other hands, this would be a recipe for disaster. However, here, in the hands of these young musicians, things seem fresh and vibrant and the result is the fine album Deluxe, out now via Trouble in Mind Records.

On opener "Afterlife" Omni present the same sort of bristly post-punk that Field Music frequently offer up. Still, the big difference here is that whereas those Brits looked to early XTC for inspiration, Omni seem to be looking instead to Television and early Talking Heads for theirs. The jerky "Wire" serves up a whole bunch of No Wave styles in a very compact package. On the more melodic "Earrings" Omni's craft seems to fall in line with the sort of thing that current acts like EZTV are currently perfecting. Still, despite the fact that there are similarities, Omni insist making things a bit more abrasive and jarring. "Jungle Jenny" and "Eyes On The Floor" seem to be more angst-y takes on what David Byrne crafted with his band-mates in the formative years of the Talking Heads, the rhythmic bits replaced here with guitar hooks. There is a certain lyricism in something like "Plane" and the song had some real resonance for me with the line that goes "...blow it off for that job in Hong Kong", or at least I think that's what it was. Having quit a job here to move to Hong Kong to start a new life (only to move back after 3 years to start a new one here with my new wife), that piece of the cut certainly made me even more of a fan of this fine new band.

Deluxe by Omni, out now on Trouble in Mind Records, is a superb package of sometimes jangle-y, sometimes angular post-punk. Remarkably concise, this collection of tunes showcases what could very well be one of the best new bands in America. Presented with a great degree of confidence, Omni's songs are all little bursts of cleverness that update familiar models of what predated New Wave in this country.

Follow Omni on their official Facebook page.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Quick Look At The New One From Wussy Ahead Of The Band's D.C. Gig Next Week With Dot Dash

One could be forgiven for taking a listen to the new one from Wussy, Forever Sounds, out now on Shake It Records, and thinking it was 1994. (And that's not a slam 'cause I really think that that may have been one of the last great moments in American rock.) That is not at all to say that Wussy is simply a newer version of Chuck Cleaver's college radio-era mainstays Ass Ponys but, rather, to say that Cleaver and his crew know their way around a big, big guitar hook. Doubt me? Spin "She's Killed Hundreds", all "Gigantic"-style Pixies riffs that roar into your eardrums. On other songs, when Lisa Walker takes over on vocal duties, like on the sinewy "Dropping Houses", the effect is a more subtle one.

And that sort of interplay is the key to what makes Forever Sounds such a successful record. There's both a sense of how to translate what would in other hands be amorphous alt-rock into something catchy ("Hello, I'm A Ghost") and of how to turn around and offer up the sort of languid, Mazzy Star-meets-Yo La Tengo explorations of "Better Days". On "Hand Of God" and "Donny's Death Scene" things reflect the heritage of American indie from Cleaver's own Ass Ponys, and back to early Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth sides. Elsewhere, on stuff like "Sidewalk Sale", Cleaver's vocals might recall late period Warren Zevon but his excellent guitar-work makes a listener think of classic Neil Young cuts.

And what makes this sixth long-player from Wussy such a winning proposition is that range of influences behind Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker and the other musicians -- Mark Messerly, Joe Klug, and John Erhardt -- on Forever Sounds. Bold, brash guitar hooks brush up against more melodic moments throughout this record and Wussy successfully weld both aspects without ever once losing sight of what makes a great hook and a great song.

Forever Sounds by Wussy is out now on Shake It Records. Follow the band via their official website, or their official Facebook page.

Wussy will be playing D.C.'s Black Cat next week with D.C. rockers Dot Dash. The boys in that band will be promoting their superb new one, Searchlights, out now on TheBeautifulMusic.com. More details on the official Dot Dash Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Few Words About The Fine Debut EP From Sweden's Hater

Continuing a truly remarkable string of fantastic releases of late, Sweden's PNKSLM label is set to drop the debut EP from fellow countrymen (and women) Hater later this week. The EP, entitled Radius, showcases the rich indie stylings of this relatively new four-piece.

Opener "First Time" purrs and unwinds like some strange hybrid of Mazzy Star and Bettie Serveert, while the peppier "Plain Clothes Darling" adds a hint of a Pavement-like shuffle to things even as the vocals of Caroline Landahl soar and trill. The final cut on this EP, the title song "Radius", uses a jaunty guitar figure to counter Caroline's vocals for an effect not unlike early Breeders cuts, or those Pixies numbers where Kim Deal took over on the singing. The band adds a new shade to the sonic palette of the PNKSLM label and it's a beautiful and affecting one.

Radius is an all-too-brief taste of the music of Hater. Caroline Lindahl, Måns Leonartsson, Adam Agace, and Lukas Thomasson formed this band this year and if they are this good already, I can only imagine what the debut full-length record, being recorded now, will sound like when it's released.

Follow Hater via the band's official Facebook page and, as always, check in on the official PNKSLM website for more on Hater and the other fine bands on the label's roster.