Saturday, April 29, 2017

Shake That Dream: A Word Or Two About The New Album From Mr. Husband

The new album from Mr. Husband, Plaid On Plaid, is a special record. It's the sort of thing that deserves far more attention than it's liable to get. I'm here to add my voice to the (hopefully) growing chorus of people writing (and raving) about this release which drops on Yellow K Records on Friday.

Mr. Husband is Kenny Tompkins. He makes music that is, for lack of an easy comparison, similar to what's been done by acts like Plush and Mild High Club. However, that said, the tunes here are remarkably sharp and all quite beautiful. If "Cookie Pie" saunters by like a weird, lost Left Banke number, the sublime "Only A Fool" imagines a sort of more Lennon-besotted solo Lindsey Buckingham solo release. "Shake That Dream" works up to a faster rhythm, even as the gentle "Champagne Bossernova" charms like some weird mix of early Aztec Camera and Kevin Ayers, perhaps. The very best material here, like the lead track "Riding A Lightning Bolt", is so simple and yet so refreshingly tuneful and melodic that I instantly became a fan of this band. Less direct and poppy than the early Badly Drawn Boy stuff, for example, the cuts here seem casual and easily tossed off even as they remain sharply composed little gems. There's something disarmingly simple here that recalls, in some eerie-but-delightful way, Chris Bell solo songs ("Love Don't Worry"), or even classics from the Elliott Smith back catalog ("Can't Sleep").

Unaffected, charming, and wildly melodic, Plaid On Plaid is one of this Spring's best releases and it surely deserves all the critical praise it's likely to receive with time. The album is out on Friday via Yellow K Records, and you can get more details on Mr. Husband there too.

[Photo: Uncredited label photo]

Easy Does It: A Look At The New Album From Nightlands (Dave Hartley From The War On Drugs)

Nightlands is the project of Dave Hartley. He's the bassist from The War On Drugs but he's also the leader of this band. Nightlands last released a full-length album in 2013. That one, the cosmic Oak Island, was reviewed by me here. I liked that record but I like the new one even more. It's called I Can Feel The Night Around Me and it's out on Friday via Western Vinyl.

Opener "Lost Moon" vaguely recalls Seventies-era Neil Young, while "Easy Does It" offers up a spry-yet-understated melody that is catchy too. The lovely "Only You Know" rides a vibe that's simultaneously close to an old Fifties ballad and a fairly-recent Flaming Lips number, while "Love's In Love" is a bit like a Spiritualized side condensed to its pure essence, blissed out balladry of the very best sort. "Moonbathing" and closer "Human Hearts" similarly refine the formula of the earlier Nightlands material to great effect, the band now nearly a minimalist act.

I think the highest praise a listener could give I Can Feel The Night Around Me is that Hartley seems more in command of the material this time around. Things seem more at ease on this one, the cuts more naturally inhabiting a certain kind of groove. There's not a lot of variety here but, frankly, I didn't mind as the tunes are lovely and expertly produced and performed.

I Can Feel The Night Around Me by Nightlands is out on Friday via Western Vinyl. Follow Nightlands via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Dustin Condren]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Thing: A Look At The New Sneetches Compilation From Omnivore Recordings

I first got into The Sneetches because the CD I was holding in my hand in the record store so many years ago was on spinART Records and The Apples in Stereo were on spinART. That The Sneetches sounded nothing like The Apples in Stereo was, at first, a small shock. And, I reckon, my story is similar to how a lot of other indie fans ended up listening to a band who had far, far more in common with The Beau Brummels than they did with The Apples in Stereo, Swirlies, or Pavement, or any other band dropping hip platters in the very early years of the Clinton administration.

If you haven't listened to The Sneetches in ages, or if you've never listened to The Sneetches, the band's new compilation, Form Of Play: A Retrospective, out Friday on Omnivore Recordings, is a gift from the heavens. The collection offers up a full 22 tracks that, when taken together in total, make a good case for The Sneetches being one of the very best bands of the Nineties.

One listen to the single mix of "And I'm Thinking", from the classic Blow Out The Sun album, reveals a band that, clearly, owed a huge debt to Sixties stuff like The Left Banke or The Zombies but whose music, in a way, paralleled that made by U.K. bands like Cast and The Boo Radleys. Still, the thing with The Sneetches was that the retro sense of mannered pop was pretty strong and it sometimes obscured the songwriting chops of these players. It was occasionally a case of a listener getting lost while marveling at the band's craft. The elegant "What I Know", for example, shows a refinement and consolidation of the band's approach and one thinks now that it's almost shocking that this wasn't more popular 20-some years ago. There's an economy here that suggests the fellows knew that this sort of material had a timeless appeal, and that they, unlike, say, some acts in the Paisley Underground movement, for example, were not going to get caught up in Sixties trappings too many times, nor were they likely to be pigeonholed as a neo-psychedelic outfit. Still, despite that economy of effort, The Sneetches were never very hip in the way that other bands who looked to the past were; The Sneetches, more in debt to The Cyrkle than The Beatles, just didn't quite get the critical or commercial attention they deserved and yet their skills at this kind of material were so sharp that it remains sad that they weren't the subjects of more praise back then in the post-grunge years.

Elsewhere, "Only For A Moment" charms in the manner of an old, less manic Boyce and Hart number, while "What's In Your Mind" positively crackles with a sense of bright pop business. The members of The Sneetches -- Mike Levy, Matt Carges, Alec Palao, and Daniel Swan -- all seemed to share an affection for that wave of bands both here and on the other side of the Atlantic who rose up in the wake of The Beatles, an affection that, now, makes the music of The Sneetches seem like the imagined back catalog of The Wonders, if you catch my meaning. While "Take My Hand", for example, has a slight psychedelic feel, The Sneetches, like so many of those Sixties (and Sixties-looking) acts, had their sights set more on hitting the Top 40 than any kind of astral plane. "Looking For Something", for example, bounces forward like so many Nuggets-era one-hit wonders and yet it's so perfectly crafted that to compare it to stuff that was, at one point, branded disposable is to do the music a small disservice. And, clearly, what The Sneetches ultimately understood so well is that the pop song is a wonderful form of art. And a great pop song, like "A Good Thing", can be a thing of exquisite beauty and craftsmanship.

That cut, one of the clear highlights here on Form Of Play: A Retrospective, is so good that one wonders why this band never quite got the attention that, say, Jellyfish got. Was it that The Sneetches were more twerp-y and bands like Jellyfish -- funny hats and all -- retained a sense of being rockier? Was it the label hopping? Was it the era? A little hard to compete with Bush and the ghost of Cobain when you're cranking out material that, like "A Good Thing", sounds closer to The Left Banke than anything else.

There are a few songs that I wish had made the cut but my slight disappointment as a long-time Sneetches fan is diminished by my joy at the rarities that are here, and the care that was taken in preparing this overall package. Form Of Play: A Retrospective is the easiest way to dive into this band's history, or rediscover it if you were a lapsed fan. This set reveals, more than I perhaps remembered, that this band was clearly one of the best chamber pop, and power pop, acts from an era that sorely needed some reminders at how pop music was supposed to work. And, thanks to the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings, the legacy of The Sneetches has been restored. Here's hoping that the label reissues even more of this band's fantastic music.

Form Of Play: A Retrospective by The Sneetches is out on Friday from Omnivore Recordings.

[Photo: Erik Auerbach]

Monday, April 24, 2017

Whisper To Stop: A Few Words About The New Album From Imaginary People

The most appealing thing about the music of Imaginary People is the extraordinary voice of lead singer Dylan Von Wagner. That statement is not meant to knock the other players here -- Mark Roth (guitar), Justin Repasky (keys), Kolby Wade (drums), and Bryan Percivall (bass) -- but to stress what an odd instrument Von Wagner's voice is. And it's that instrument that anchors the band's new album, October Alice, out Friday on Five Five Diamonds.

At times, like on opener "Snapshot", Von Wagner croons atop what sounds like a lost Suede instrumental track. At other times, like on the languid "Long For The Rue", Dylan pours his soul into a song in the manner of the late Jeff Buckley. Elsewhere, "Whisper To Stop" roars with a genuine sense of abandon, all early Joy Division-by-way-of-Interpol riffs, while "Half Step" kicks loose around a near-jig that favorably recalls both early Smiths sides and mid-period Woodentops singles. Riskier moves are found on cuts like "Mr. Hesitance" which seem poised between a real Birthday Party-like sense of upheaval and a more mannered sort of art rock akin to what Byrne and crew pulled off in Talking Heads.

Most of October Alice was a pleasant surprise for me. I want to go find the band's first album now as I enjoyed this one so much. And part of me wants to end this brief review by mentioning that lots of this reminded me of Longpigs but I'm not sure how many people remember that band anymore, or how many remember them as fondly as I do.

October Alice by Imaginary People is out on Friday via Five Five Diamonds. More details via the official Facebook page for Imaginary People.

[Photo: Rina Khadivi]

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Is In The Air: A Quick Look At The New Woods EP

It was the song "Spring Is In The Air" that made me love the new Woods EP so immediately. The cut, one of 6 new songs from the band, is part of Love Is Love, the new EP that drops today on Woodsist.

The tunes here are all superb, of course, with the standouts being the previously-mentioned "Spring Is In The Air" and the Sixties-tinged title cut. Equally impressive is the horn-assisted "Bleeding Blue" which recalls Orange Juice, and perhaps a few C86 bands. It is expertly arranged and played but it doesn't, of course, seem too mannered. Front-man Jeremy Earl has a real knack for tossing this sort of material off and making it look effortless. The excellent "Lost In A Crowd" sounds a bit like a classic from The Clientele, while the woozy "Hit That Drum" unfurls with more than a bit of a neo-psychedelic vibe to it.

As a stop-gap to the next full-length Woods album, Love Is Love is a fine addition to the Woods catalog. And as a stand-alone release, this EP is equally essential.

Love Is Love by Woods is out today via Woodsist.

[Photo: Chiara V. Donati]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Quick Look At Early Recordings From Priests, Out Tomorrow For Record Store Day 2017

Before they were earning raves for their full-length debut, Nothing Feels Natural, raved about by me here, D.C.'s own Priests were crafting idiosyncratic and abrasive stabs of post-punk, the results poised somewhere between the earliest, roughest bits of harDCore and maybe those first Wire records.

That comparison is an awkward one but I think if you listen to Early Recordings, out tomorrow on Tough Love Records, you'll get what I mean. The release, timed for Record Store Day 2017, collects the first bits of this band's sound ever committed to tape. That not all of it is accessible shouldn't be a surprise as the group, from the word "go", was an uncompromising lot.

From the somewhat strident, decidedly political "Diet Coke" and "USA", and on to the more poised, even Joy Division-ish, riffs of the down-tempo "Talking", the material compiled here reveals a band -- even in its earliest version of just a few years ago -- in command of its unique musical vocabulary. "Cobra" and "Say No" bridge the early scratchings of the Dischord pioneers with the sort of shouty punk that burst out of England in the late Seventies. The 2 most revealing cuts on Early Recordings are, perhaps, "Leave Me Alone", all Peter Hook-riffs ridden into a dark place, and "Lillian Hellman", a more direct form of punk closer to what bands like Fugazi and (even) Shudder To Think once unveiled here in this city.

What's apparent from a quick listen to Early Recordings is that Priests were, from the outset, combining a series of disparate influences from both the rich heritages of this city (D.C.) and that of the U.K. with the result equaling a significant advancement of both harDCore as well as American post-punk in general.

Early Recordings by Priests is out tomorrow via Tough Love Records. Follow Priests here.

[Photo: me, at 03/11/17 Priests show at Black Cat D.C.]

"We Tried To Realize The Spirit Of The Songs": Chris Stamey Shares Some Insights Into The Creation Of New Big Star Tribute Film "Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third...And More"

The most important music release of this week is a film. Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More is both a movie and a 2-CD set. The extraordinary DVD (or Blu-Ray) captures a recent concert organized by Chris Stamey of The dB's to honor the artistry of Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel -- Big Star -- and, more specifically, imagine the songs on the "difficult" third Big Star record as ones that could be performed and fleshed out (in a sense) in a live setting. That so much of this succeeds so well is a testament to both the enduring strength of these compositions, and the musical acumen of Stamey as a sort of project ring-leader for a concert that, on this night, involved names like Jeff Tweedy, Robyn Hitchcock, Dan Wilson, Ira Kaplan, Jody Stephens, Mitch Easter, Skylar Gudasz, and many others.

Chris Stamey was, of course, a member of The dB's, but he remains a fine solo artist, as I explained in my rave review of his last album, and he was, of course, tied up in the power-pop and New Wave scenes in the late Seventies, both in Chilton's band at one point, and as a member of the seminal Sneakers, subject of a recent fine reissue, along with Mitch Easter.

And, frankly, what better time for this film about Third than now, just a few months after Omnivore Recording's amazing reissue of the record? I reviewed that release here a few months ago and I remain impressed by how wonderfully it presented the genius of Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, and the associated players.

The concert project centered on Big Star's Third album, captured on Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More, began in North Carolina, the home of both Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter. And as Stamey explained to me in an interview about Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More:

"There are a lot of well-known music scenes around the country, but I remember when I was playing with Alex [Chilton] in the late Seventies, I was very unimpressed with the level of musicianship around the CBGB scene, and I told Alex and he said: 'You know Chris, good things come from the provinces.' I do think that North Carolina is a province that has a high degree of musicality, especially now." Stamey further revealed the central place that the Cat's Cradle venue played in getting this started and hosting early versions of what is here in the film.

Soon after that, Stamey got the original scores for Big Star's Third from Carl Marsh and then it became a task of "trying to perform it live, or attempt to perform a version of it live." Still, there were some scores that were lost but "John Fry at Ardent gave us the multitrack tapes to work off of" and "We tried to realize the spirit of the songs."

And a viewer finds while watching Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More, it is the songs, not the guest vocalists, that are the stars here. As Stamey says, "this was different than a 'tribute' show since we were trying to learn what was there in order to, in some ways, depart from it." The influence of the approach of composers like Mingus was a touchstone for many of the players and Stamey behind the scenes, and the end results offered very different versions of Big Star, even as the tunes remained perennial tributes to the enduring genius of Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel, and Jody Stephens. And, most importantly to Stamey, the concert version offered here in Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More was a unique form of tribute to those performers and it was "very meaningful to hear the songs in a big room."

But the mechanics of how this was put together were probably daunting, not the least being how to pair up the right performer with the right track. As Stamey explains, "I thought of this as if we were making a stage version of a movie" with the performers "coming up with different solutions than they had on the record" but the chosen performers were, ultimately, trying to get across the same thing, including the "juxtaposition of elements" that makes Third such an odd, touching, and affecting record. Still, Stamey says, it was like "casting" as to who would sing which track: "I would go through and figure out ranges based on other things they've recorded" and adapt the arrangements for the performers. "So the ranges are high on some songs," Stamey explains. "But in the end it was a matter of not only range but also 'Who has the gravitas for this?'" That was the method that guided the process of pairing up a performer with a Big Star song for the project, Chris adding that in "every case it was done very carefully."

One of the highlights of Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More is the inclusion of Chris Bell's solo song, "I Am The Cosmos", sung by Stamey in the film, the guy who released the original single so many decades ago. On singing such an untouchable track, Stamey says, "Sometimes it's overwhelming, overwhelmingly emotional as there's a lot that goes on with that song" but in "I Am The Cosmos" in the end "I was just just trying to hit the notes" as it was the end of the concert and a fairly poignant peak in the set. "It's always a point in the concert where we can get lost in the moment and get swept up in the emotions."

But ultimately the release of Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More should serve, for newer fans, as a sort of introduction to Alex Chilton, an artist who evolved, certainly, beyond the 3 main Big Star records.

Chris Stamey referenced Picasso when thinking of that changeability of Chilton: "I think about someone like Picasso who was very changeable and that impulse to evolve and take it further was something that was once very valued" by listeners, but "if Picasso got asked about those sad clowns all the time and then but 'What are all these cubes?' even Picasso would have been ticked off." Stamey says that he thinks, "Alex would have been sad that people weren't paying more attention to his solo records." And, he adds, "I do hope that, if bands are a gateway drug to other Big Star records, I do hope that the movie will lead people to investigate other parts of Alex's catalog".

While Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More remains an amazing CD and DVD release, Stamey retains a tiny bit of doubt if it was the perfect representation of that concert experience: "It was definitely on that night and we really got lucky" and "I am very happy, but 'definitive?' I don't know. But I am really happy with it."

Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live...And More is out on Friday via the Concord Music Group.

To keep track of Chris Stamey's other endeavors, including the Occasional Shivers series of performances, follow on his official Facebook page, or via his official website.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Guess The Good Parts: A Review Of The Fine New EP From The Darling Buds

I am thrilled to report that not only are The Darling Buds back but they are back in support of a thoroughly excellent release. The new EP, Evergreen, out on Friday via Odd Box Records, is so good, so effortlessly tuneful that a listener wants to immediately go and fall in love with this group's back-catalog all over again.

The group this time out -- original singer Andrea Lewis-Jarvis, bassist Chris McDonagh, guitarists Paul 'Chaz' Watkins and Matt Gray, and drummer Erik Stams -- gel remarkably well, so well, in fact, that one might forget that the 2 guitarists are from different eras of the band's past (Watkins from the Crawdaddy line-up and Gray from the Erotica one). Opener "Evergreen" positively soars, Andrea's vocals sounding more or less as they have for 30 years now, the anchor in the group's rockier take on the sort of Sixties styles that inspired so many in the C86-C87 generations. "Guess The Good Parts" roars past on the back of a killer hook and an assured performance from Lewis-Jarvis, with the results being the sort of tune that begs to be cranked up as one cruises the highway in a car with the windows down. "Complicated" achieves the same kind of thing, the overall effect here being a good deal similar to those magnificent early Catatonia singles, that Welsh band surely owing a huge debt to this Welsh band. Evergreen ends with the more down-tempo "Twenty-One Aches", a number that wouldn't have sounded out-of-place on Erotica, though the mood here is one achieved with more guitars than keyboards this time around.

It seems hard to believe that this is the first new Darling Buds music to be released in 25 years. It really doesn't seem that long ago that I was putting "Sure Thing" on mix-tapes in my final year of college. And it doesn't seem like 26 years ago that I saw the band do a wonderful cover of "Temptation" by New Order when they played D.C. on the Crawdaddy tour, nor does it seem like it's been 28 years since I worked in a college record store and played "Let's Go Round There" off Pop Said... at a dangerously loud volume in the shop. So, believe this fan when I say that Evergreen is not only a set of 4 great Darling Buds songs, it's one of the very rare cases where a comeback release deserves to sit right next to a group's earlier records. There's nothing here in the grooves of Evergreen to suggest that the band have been away or anything like that. The Darling Buds sound, if possible, even a bit more invigorated here than they did on some of their major label albums. And for that reason, I can only hope that Evergreen is just the first in a string of new Darling Buds releases as, surely, a full-length record is the next logical step for these genuine Welsh legends.

Evergreen by The Darling Buds is out on Friday via Odd Box Records. Follow The Darling Buds via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Look At The Fab New Single From The Chills For Record Store Day 2017

Thank God for The Chills, really. Martin Phillipps, Chills front-man, is currently in the midst of one of his most fertile periods as an artist and long-time fans are being rewarded again and again by this group's excellent brand of indie-pop. This latest run started with 2015's excellent Silver Bullets, and it continues here this year with this superb new single, "Rocket Science / Lost In Space", also on Fire Records, for Record Store Day 2017.

Phillipps remains one of the very few artists who can write about important matters without the resulting songs sounding like lessons. His best songs possess a lightness of touch that allows him to easily slip in some big ideas without hectoring listeners. And, as he told me in a 2015 interview when discussing the build-up to the release of Silver Bullets: "I realised I needed to address some of the difficult issues that have been bothering me about the state of our world." That sort of need is surely what inspired Phillipps to write the punchy "Rocket Science", a song that frankly addresses the risks of silence when living in a world with horrible figures like Trump in power. Sonically, it is a cousin to "The Male Monster From The Id" from 1992's Soft Bomb, and, as I tried to explain abovr, it shares a similar serious-yet-peppy vibe.

The flip this time out is "Lost In Space", a composition that Phillipps can trace back to his earliest years with this act. Unrecorded until now, the tune does indeed sound a bit like some of what ended up on Brave Words, for instance, even as the new(er) members of The Chills imbue this with a good deal of modern heft. The personal to the political of "Rocket Science", "Lost In Space" is a worthy flip-side for this Record Store Day 2017 single and a pretty good showcase for Phillipps' talents as a fine guitarist.

Released on Friday via Fire Records, "Rocket Science" / "Lost In Space" is, hopefully, a bright harbinger of new music to come from The Chills. As a standalone single, the 2-sided release works remarkably well. I think "Rocket Science" is every bit as strong as any cut on Silver Bullets, and I can only hope that Phillipps and his crew are busy at work on the full-length follow-up to that superb album.

"Rocket Science / "Lost In Space" is out on Friday on Fire Records for Record Store Day 2017.

[Photos: Jon Thom Moodie Tuesday]

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

They Walk Among Us: A Word About The Fine New EP From Barry Adamson

Barry Adamson remains the sort of artist that one sits up and takes notice of. There's nothing in this gentlemen's back catalog -- and I'm counting recordings done both as a prodigious solo artist and as a member of Magazine and then Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds -- that doesn't drip with invention and the sort of big, bold, brave music-making that far, far too few musicians dare risk anymore. The new EP, Love Sick Dick, out Friday, is no exception.

Rolling in like he's starring in his own spy flick, Adamson starts the release off with the swagger of "I Got Clothes" which segues nicely into the jazzy "Sweet Misery", all smooth edges and hard beats. "People Like Us" ought to be a huge hit. It is the sort of thing that bands like Primal Scream and Spiritualized tried to pull off so many times at the turn of the 21st century but Barry, as one would expect, can do this sort of thing with his eyes closed. Effortlessly cool, the cut is a dash of the Swingin' Sixties wrapped up in a sleek, modern package. "On Golden Square" is more traditional in its supple electro-pop attack, while "They Walk Among Us" recalls the best bits from Barry's early solo recordings, the cut a soundtrack to Adamson's own dreams, or yours. "One Hot Mess" ends the EP with a nod in the direction of stuff like The Wolfgang Press, or even Fad Gadget, acts who, one realizes now, probably cribbed a trick or two from the Adamson play-book some decades ago. This final cut on Love Sick Dick manages to rides a big hook in a song that feels rather intimate in its presentation. Adamson has always had a knack for pulling this sort of thing off and so many of his compositions share this similar rare trait of being accessible but personal and introspective.

I suppose that one could call some of what Barry's produced post-modern soul as it would be an easier way to describe this sort of material, the 6 songs on Love Sick Dick included, seeing as how so much of what he's done as an artist doesn't fit nicely into any one musical category. If anything, Barry Adamson's solo career has been one spent assimilating styles and then releasing material that effectively blurred genres with a great deal of ease. The 6 cuts here are worthy additions to that back-catalog, and further bits of proofs of the man's enduring musical genius.

Love Sick Dick by Barry Adamson is out on Friday. More details via the official Barry Adamson website, or via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited Facebook picture]

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

This Is Not Communication: Another Superb Single From Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie)

It wasn't too many weeks ago that I was bringing you news of the first solo single from Dave Depper of Death Cab For Cutie. That single, "Do You Want Love?", drew favorable comparisons to the music of The Associates around these parts and this new cut, "Communication", is just as good, and just as worthy of similar comparisons to the material of other electro-pop pioneers.

Depper is doing something interesting here on this second taster from his upcoming solo album, Emotional Freedom Technique. That album, out in June on Tender Loving Empire, promises to be one of Summer's best releases and I'm starting to get a bit hyped for it. Much like Death Cab mate Ben Gibbard did with The Postal Service, Depper here is melding about a dozen different New Wave touchstones into something new, something fresh. "Communication" is similar to more understated Depeche Mode cuts from the turn of the Nineties, or a China Crisis ballad mixed with a dash of The Blue Nile circa their second album. It is, like the earlier Depper solo single, really lovely and quite subtle in spots as it builds and then unfurls in a bright instrumental pattern.

For now, you can follow Dave Depper on his official website in the run-up to the release of his upcoming solo album, Emotional Freedom Technique on Tender Loving Empire in June.

[Photo: Jaclyn Campanaro]

Monday, April 10, 2017

Daydream: A Quick Review Of The New Album From So Many Wizards

It would be easy to label the new album from So Many Wizards a neo-psychedelic release. The record, Heavy Vision, out Friday on Lolipop Records, is full of bright, chiming indie numbers that positively drip with homages to earlier pioneers like Syd Barrett and The Byrds. That said, the band manages to imbue a great deal of this with the sort of fresh approach that renders this record more than just a simple tribute album to the Sixties.

Opener "Sic Boys" rings with a hint of paisley-era pop, while the rollicking "Swimming Pool" rocks in a more traditional fashion much like recent album tracks from up-and-coming band Twin Peaks. Elsewhere, "Daydream" bounces along with the sort of mid-tempo vibe found on early Blur records, while the lovely "Modern Way" recalls some stuff from Temples. At their best, So Many Wizards seem to be capable of blending together a whole lotta things at once. The perky "Just Poison" rides a hook like something from a C86 band, while "Hash" and "No One Cares" showcase a more mellow side of this band's output, the vibe a strongly-melodic one.

So Many Wizards are not re-inventing the wheel here but they are bringing a great many influences together in the service of their own very winsome indie-pop. Fans of stuff like Twin Peaks, and Wowee Zowee-era Pavement should find a lot to love here.

Heavy Vision from So Many Wizards drops Friday on Lolipop Records. Find more details on the band via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: James Juarez]

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Let It Drop: A Few Words About The New Buttercup Record

San Antonio, Texas is not the place you might expect an art rock band to hail from but Buttercup counts the place as its hometown. The band is set to drop their new album, Battle Of Flowers, on Friday via Bedlamb Records, and I'm here to tell you about why you should be interested in this fine record.

Album opener "Let It Drop" pops and crackles with a kind of wit, while the lovely "Acting Through Music" travels territory once occupied by artists as disparate as Todd Rundgren and Jellyfish. "How To Think More About Sex" recalls both Big Dipper a bit even as the title and POV nod in the direction of The Embarrassment, while the languid-but-beautiful "Vicious Rewind" made me think of Beulah and Camper Van Beethoven. The ghost of Eighties college rock rises again on the peppy "Henry B. Gonzalez" and the catchy "68 Playmate", both numbers that seem comparable to a lot of the best stuff cranked out by King Missile and Too Much Joy in an earlier decade.

If the music of Buttercup is hard to describe, that's a sign that the band is doing something right. Battle Of Flowers bridges a few genres with ease while offering up something fresh and full of spark. Witty without being too silly, melodic without being sappy, the tunes here from Buttercup are uniformly well-crafted and infectious and that's a pretty good reason to seek out Battle Of Flowers when you can.

Battle Of Flowers by Buttercup is out on Friday via Bedlamb Records. More details on Buttercup via the band's official website.

[Photo: Mark Greenberg]

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pinch The Dream: In Which I Explain How This New CFM Record Rocks

To say that the new album from CFM, Dichotomy Desaturated, out tomorrow on In The Red Records, rocks is to state the obvious. Given that this is Charles Moothart, he of Fuzz and Ty Segall's band, it shouldn't be any surprise that this is full of similarly unhinged acid rock head-bangers.

There are numbers here that are clearly heirs to the Segall lineage ("Lethal Look"), and others ("Voyeurs", "Desaturated") that echo material further back from rock history, namely stuff like Syd Barrett and Marc Bolan catalog selections. Elsewhere, tracks like "Pinch The Dream" and "Rise And Fall" burn with a sort of Blue Cheer-like vibe similar to what Segall employed so successfully earlier in his career. The late Sixties/early Seventies were certainly a fertile ground for this sort of thing and Moothart, like Ty Segall before him, is wise to mine it carefully. That some of this even transcends its obvious points of inspiration is something to be applauded too, Moothart having produced something that is more than just one long homage to an earlier era. Much of Dichotomy Desaturated is exactly what you'd expect from a Ty Segall band-mate but it's still a blast and a whole lot of fun. There's no need to get too heavy about this, nor try to analyze it too deeply. For the most part, CFM is just rocking out, even as a rare cut or two here tries to do more (the longer "Dead Weight", or the lovely-but-trippy "Message From The Mirror").

Dichotomy Desaturated by CFM is out tomorrow via In The Red Records.

[Photo: Denee Segall]

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Overloaded: My Review Of The New Double Album From Guided By Voices

Taking the idea of being prolific to ridiculous levels, Robert Pollard is here this week to lead his cronies in Guided by Voices through their rock paces in what is both a double album and Bob's 100th release. August By Cake, out Friday, is a grab-bag of all the things that have made various versions of this act so great for so long. It is, also, full of songs -- 32 of them, to be exact -- that bristle and churn with the usual Pollard-penned brilliance. Look, if he wanted to stop while he was ahead, he could slow the train here. But, let's hope he doesn't as most of this is so good that it made me a firm fan of this band all over again.

August By Cake doesn't re-invent the GBV formula, obviously, but it serves as a sort of joyous reminder of what that formula's been all along. "When We All Hold Hands At The End Of The World", for instance, recalls "I Am A Scientist" a tiny bit, while the direct "Overloaded" brings the rock vibe of "Motor Away" back. And that is, really, a lazy way to describe this stuff 'cause, yeah, it sounds like Guided By Voices with little deviation from the sort of template Pollard's been following for 30 years now, roughly.

Still, there are tiny bits here that hint at the frontman's desire to push things in new directions: "West Coast Company Man" echoes Kinks and Stones Sixties sides more obviously than a lot of what Guided By Voices released in the past, while the bright power pop of "Cheap Buttons" seems a whole lot like early Supergrass. The line-up here -- Robert Pollard (vocals), Kevin March (drums), Doug Gillard (guitar), Bobby Bare Jr. (guitar), and Mark Shue (bass) -- gel perfectly on August By Cake and seem to bring a fairly high level of energy to lots of this record. If marvelously-titled lead single "Dr. Feelgood Falls Off The Ocean" chimes with a dash of XTC within its grooves, the fuzzy "Goodbye Note" very nearly stumbles into early Oasis territory with a blurry, woozy sense of pub rock creeping through the riffs. Like the majority of this guy's best compositions, most of what he writes is in some way a homage to early Beatles singles, or glam rock 45's, or classic Kinks rockers.

And, as always, Pollard doesn't just crank out the riff-heavy hits over and over again; he does, certainly, try to change up things throughout parts of the 32-track landscape of this double-album. And so, remarkably, even the mid-tempo numbers on August By Cake seem memorable on early listens: "High Five Hall Of Famers" lurches down those Alien Lanes, while the lovely "The Possible Edge" brings a Fifties-style stroll to the usual Pollard-brand to great effect. All that being said, it's the stompers here, like closer "Escape To Phoenix", that should please long-time fans so much. 'Cause, let's face it: no one has ever so mastered the art of writing the perfect pop song as expertly as Pollard, except perhaps for the boys in The Ramones.

Like most of the very best Guided By Voices releases, August By Cake is full of big tunes wrapped in small indie-pop packages. There's little wasted here and, if anything, Pollard has probably gotten ahead of himself here by releasing a double album this time out. The wildly-prolific god of American alt-rock has hit some kind of peak with this one. What could possibly come next after Robert Pollard's 100th release? Is the next Guided By Voices slab going to be a triple-album, for instance? Whatever Pollard and his army do after this, it's safe to say that August By Cake is yet another Guided By Voices release worth getting wildly excited about. You want the songs that are going to soundtrack your Spring and Summer? Start here.

August By Cake by Guided By Voices is out on Friday. More details via GBV.com, or on the official GBV Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Out Of My Head: A Look At The New Album From Tashaki Miyaki

There are too many shoegaze bands in this world. Far, far too many. I say that as someone who loved the genre 25 years ago and got sick of the label being overused as every band with a budget for effects pedals tried to replicate Loveless. So when I saw new(er) band Tashaki Miyaki labelled a shoegaze act, I recoiled a bit. Then I listened to the new album, The Dream, out Friday on Metropolis Records, and was happily surprised at how fully-formed this material is. Traces of shoegaze stuff remain here but the tunes are all superb and, if anything, the band's songs resemble those of Mazzy Star more than anything else.

The lush "City" channels a bit of that Hope Sandoval-fronted act, while the languid "Girls on TV" recalls Mojave 3 a bit. "Out Of My Head" charts similar territory, while the breathy "Cool Runnings" purrs past in a nice melding of chamber rock and -- dare I say it? -- shoegaze. Elsewhere, "Facts Of Life" nods in the direction of The Dream Syndicate, and "Keep Me In Mind" adds a hint of Sixties folk rock to the mix.

Serving as the band's full-length debut, The Dream is a pretty good showcase for the sort of dream pop offered up by Tashaki Miyaki. The duo has made something here that is far, far better than one would expect from something so easily compared to certain other acts, acts whose tunes are far easier to take inspiration from than equal. And, yeah, as a release, The Dream is consistent and tuneful and affecting in just the right ways.

Out Friday on Metropolis Records, The Dream by Tashaki Miyaki is an album that demands your attention. Follow Tashaki Miyaki via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo pic]

Don't Touch: A Few Words About The New Cold Beat Record

It's been 2 years since the last Cold Beat record and astute readers of this site will remember that I counted that one a pleasant surprise in my review. Going into a listen to the band's new album, Chaos By Invitation, out Friday on Crime On The Moon, I was pretty much sure what I would find within. And, happily, my suspicions were confirmed as this album was just as fine a release as the last one.

If glacial opener "In Motion" recalls certain moments from the peak years of Goldfrapp, the pulsing "Thin Ice" edges closer to territory previously occupied by The Long Blondes on their second album. This is not exactly guitar-based U.K. indie but it is certainly more than music intent on channeling the best years of the New Wave. Elsewhere, "Don't Touch" offers up a taste of Cabaret Voltaire underneath its shiny surfaces, all sinister intent made catchy and pleasant, while the absolutely superb "62 Moons" chimes like The Human League or O.M.D. Similarly, "Strawberry Moon" adds in a hint of The Head On The Door-era Cure alt-rock pop-sense.

At their very best, Cold Beat manage to bridge a few disparate genres rather easily. The majority of the tunes here on Chaos By Invitation are rather simple, yet they are also infectious and affecting. A fairly significant improvement on their already-excellent last album, Cold Beat's Chaos By Invitation is a release well worth your attention this week.

Chaos By Invitation is out on Friday via Crime On The Moon. You can follow Cold Beat via their official Tumblr, or via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Abby Blanks]