Thursday, August 16, 2018

Warmer Sun: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Mikey Collins

You'd hardly know from listening to Hoick, the debut record from Mikey Collins, out tomorrow on Fika Recordings, that the cat was a drummer, a drummer for Allo Darlin' more specifically. It's not that the release is amazingly tuneful and invigorating, it's just that I can't think of many drummers who have this sort of ease with a hook.

The buoyant "Warmer Sun" sounds like The Supernaturals and The Divine Comedy, while the propulsive "Anchor in the Sea" made me think of Prefab Sprout and Ooberman, of all things. The cut is faintly electronic, but it's more like a Paul McCartney single from the Eighties, when Macca was trying to be modern, so that sort of modern. That snark is not meant to be seen as a dig at Mikey Collins but, rather, an acknowledgement of the quaint, easy, retro charms here on this selection, and many others on Hoick. To pursue that point a bit more, I'd add that lots and lots of this sounds like that Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie) solo record I raved about so much last year. Really, that is the closer comparison point to stuff like "Falling" and other numbers here. Elsewhere, the superb "Home Bird" breezes past like something from Mull Historical Society, while the percolating "West Coast" soars, all early Nineties New Order grafted onto a Human League beat and wrapped up and presented in the style of a surprisingly sunny Pulp single. Collins is aided here by the presence of Laura Kovic of Tigercats on vocals and other instruments, along with drummer Ian Button and Tom Parkinson. Kovic adds a lightness to the tracks on Hoick that suits the material, rendering it in step with the best in contemporary indie-pop even as the washes of keyboards and layered instrumentation suggest an album with firmer debts to earlier eras' musicians.

Hoick is out on Friday via Fika Recordings.

More details on Mikey Collins via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Blessing Or Curse: A Brief Word Or Two About The New Album From D.C.'s Own Saturday Night

The superb new record from D.C. band Saturday Night, called, appropriately-enough, Saturday Night, out on Gentle Reminder, is a joy. It is the sort of brief, seamlessly fun release that makes a listener feel a blast of youthful energy virtually leap out of the headphones.

Now, while some of this -- namely "Fish in the Pond", or "$400" -- sounds like Ex Hex stuff, or even Priests, lots more -- the bright "Curse or Blessing", or the simple "Iceberg Baby" -- echoes offerings from the C86 generation, and even those in this area who once took their inspiration from that stuff too (I'm thinking early Velocity Girl or Unrest here). The four players in this group -- Luke Reddick, Nora Button, Cash Langdon, and Jesse Sattler -- have been involved with other projects in D.C. but this feels like the vehicle that's going to (hopefully) get a lot of attention drawn the musicians' way. If "Picking Up Glass" made me think of Kissing is a Crime, and "Push Pull" pointed my mind towards recent offerings from The Spook School, that's the highest compliment I could add in this review.

And while lots of this brief record feels familiar, there's so much here in the way the pieces are put together that make this wildly likable and infectious. Saturday Night by Saturday Night is out on Friday via Gentle Reminder Records.

[Photo: Sami Cola]

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Back Of My Mind: A Quick Review Of The New Album From The Brazen Youth

The Connecticut trio The Brazen Youth makes music that owes huge debts to their worthy (and, frankly, clear-as-day) inspiration points. And if a listener can think that some of this sounds like Elliott Smith stuff, or a classic from The Lilac Time, that's fine as I'm sure that this young group will eventually produce something as good as the numbers from those acts and others. The band's new record, Primitive Initiative, is out this Friday and it's sure to draw further such comparisons from other reviewers.

"Back of My Mind" rides a riff that sounds like Alex Turner solo stuff to easy success, while the more languid "You Could Not Provoke Me To" is all winsome charm and simple melodic bliss. These young players have an ease with a hook that suggests artists twice their age, and, as a result, things never feel forced. "Birds Inside My Attic" is folk-y goodness, while the riper "So Young Then" ought to make many astute listeners think of U.K. bands like I Am Kloot and Clearlake. The Brazen Youth rarely work up a sweat here on Primitive Initiative, and while that makes things easy to appreciate, it rarely reveals any fire in the playing. Brazen but not bold, The Brazen Youth are content to ply their (somewhat) gentle trade here to lots of success, reminders of the glory days of American indie abounding throughout this record.

Primitive Initiative is out on Friday.

More details on The Brazen Youth via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Tobias Broucke]

Monday, August 13, 2018

Happy Shoppers: A Brief Review Of The New Wolfhounds Peel Sessions Compilation On Slumberland Records

Hands In The Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions by The Wolfhounds, out this Friday on Slumberland Records here in the States, is the sort of release one didn't know one needed. A useful reminder of the power of this lot, and a welcomed set of souvenirs from earlier eras, this compilation is full of crucial music.

Front-man and founder Dave Callahan launched this group in 1985 and the band, of course, gained some degree of fame thanks to being on the original C86 cassette from NME magazine. Still, for a movement that got pegged as being the fire that fueled a thousand jangle-pop groups, the movement let The Wolfhounds take their place in subsequent years as a brave, lyrically-astute lot, and one interested in commenting on things as much as finding a good hook.

Hands In The Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions by The Wolfhounds offers up the band's Peel sessions from that era and slightly after with standouts being the classic "Anti-Midas Touch", the simmering "Rule of Thumb", and the sharp "Happy Shopper", one of the band's best songs. Elsewhere, the plaintive "Non-Specific Song" feels like a cousin to lots of what The Wedding Present crafted in those years, even if Dave Callahan has a smoother voice than Gedge, while the fevered "Whale on the Beach" threatens to spin off the rails, shades of early Woodentops appearing here too. To reference those other bands is not meant to be read as a slight on the talents of The Wolfhounds, but it is, instead, meant to highlight how great this band was, and how unfairly their genius has been neglected even as other, similar bands have achieved more attention over the years.

The Wolfhounds are, of course, still making great music, but it's worth buying Hands In The Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions when it drops on Friday as it's both an essential document of a vital era, and a solid compilation of some of the best guitar-based indie one is likely to find.

Hands in The Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions will be out this week via Slumberland Records in the USA.

More details on The Wolfhounds via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Vision Control: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ)

The new album from Pete Donnelly, Phases Of The Moon, out now, is an odd, but sometimes exhilarating, ride through the worlds of indie and jazz. At times, this record from the Figgs member is even a neat blend of both genres at once.

A great deal of what's here will be easy to embrace for fans of this guy, with stuff like "Out of Wits" coasting by on a lot of charm and some big hooks, while other numbers, like the languid "Vision Control", suggest the sort of thing that Van Morrison once pursued. And if Donnelly is decidedly more concise in his approach than Van the Man, he's also just as concerned with the ways jazz lends itself to adaptation, with fairly decent versions of a few Thelonious Monk numbers popping up here, including a spry "Crepuscule with Nellie", and others. Elsewhere, Donnelly rides "Another Hundred Miles" into territory that sounds very Westerbergian, while the supple title cut recalls the best kind of power-pop made by Jon Brion and his brethren.

Phases Of The Moon is an ambitious record but Donnelly's smooth appeal with this sort of thing renders it an easy pill to take. Rather than burden things down with some forced marriage of jazz and rock, Donnelly just simply juggles both, with tracks from each style alternating throughout this record. The overall result is a pleasant one and Phases Of The Moon retains a lot of appeal for not only fans of The Figgs, but listeners who appreciate a little risk-taking in their rock.

Phases Of The Moon is out now. More details on Pete Donnelly via his official website, or his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Dorthe Externest]

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Sun Has Died: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Swoone (ex-Mono, Violet Indiana)

The music of Swoone seems lost in time. It is, frankly, similar to lots of what front-woman Siobhan de Mare brought to her previous bands Mono and Violet Indiana, but it is also richly-rewarding stuff. Created with band-mate Gary Bruce, the tunes here on the debut from Swoone, Handcuffed Heart, out on Friday via Saint Marie Records, ache with emotion, and glide past on washes of evocative keyboard figures.

I suppose an easier way to review Handcuffed Heart would be to simply say that, yes, it does sound enough like Mono and Violet Indiana to please long-time fans of Siobhan de Mare. But that would be reductive. "This Bullet Never Kills" also sounds remarkably like Portishead, nods in the direction of soundtrack music abounding here. The title cut edges even closer to that sort of thing, while the far better "The Sun Has Died" sees that kind of music enlivened by real emotion in Siobhan's vocals. It's an odd effect here, one that owes as much to, say, Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder as it does to Shirley Manson and Butch Vig, and one could imagine this track being a Top 40 hit in another world, another era. Elsewhere, there are faint hints of soul music anchoring the lovely "Run" and the plaintive "Set Me Free", while the eerie "Strange Love" conjures up echoes of Shirley Bassey and John Barry. Lots of Handcuffed Heart is like that, and if one could fault the record for having too much of one thing in its grooves, at least it's a wildly-intoxicating brand of music that's being offered here.

There is lots to love on Handcuffed Heart and fans of the singer will surely love this record as much as I did, if not more. A worthy successor to the music of Violent Indiana, Swoone's Handcuffed Heart will be out on Friday via Saint Marie Records.

More details on Swoone via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo photo]

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Happy Unhappy: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Beths

The Beths are from New Zealand but their new album, the spry Future Me Hates Me, is being released on the D.C.-based Carpark Records label. I wish I could think of some clever way to link up that fact with the rich musical heritage of this city, but I'm not sure that's possible.

While lots of this record has punch, lots more is awash with melody. From the buzzing "Great No One" and on to the title cut, the music of The Beths here is deft indie-pop of the sort that would have reached great acclaim in the Nineties, when young audiences seemed more receptive to guitar-based rock. And to say that is not to knock what the four players -- Elizabeth Stokes (vocals, guitar), Jonathan Pearce (guitar, vocals), Benjamin Sinclair (bass, vocals), and Ivan Luketina-Johnston (drums, vocals) -- are doing here, but is, instead, meant to place their superb way with a tune in line with past greats like Veruca Salt, Belly, and The Juliana Hatfield Three. On the ramshackle "Whatever", a holdover from the band's earlier Warm Blood EP, Stokes sings with a mix of vulnerability and bravado that is instantly interesting. Her vocals on many of the tracks here will draw favorable comparisons to bands from that earlier college rock era, but her clearest contemporaries seem to be singers like Alex Lahey and Courtney Barnett. On the darn-near-perfect "Happy Unhappy", Stokes offers up witty lyrics over the top of the sort of robust hook that a band like Bettie Serveert would have once killed for. It is just a great song and typical of so much here on Future Me Hates Me, an album that seems like it's full of hits.

Future Me Hates Me is the sort of thing that you want to play again as soon as you've played it the first time. Hints of the sort of thing Fountains of Wayne or Crowded House once touched at on certain singles peeks through here, but The Beths keep things (thankfully) less polished, such that the whole enterprise has the feel of stumbling into a band practice where Stokes is showing off her pop wizardry and the band's racing to punch things up all around her. Given the part of the world she's from, I'm sure there will be further lazy comparisons to Courtney Barnett made. And while some of that may fly, Stokes seems like she's burning (more than Barnett) to write a Big Pop Single, even if it's wrapped up in indie trappings. And as far as this writer is concerned, that's an awesome life-goal.

Future Me Hates Me is out on Friday via Carpark Records.

More details on The Beths via the band's official Facebook page, or their official website.

[Photo: Amanda Cheng]

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fire Ghost: A Few Words About The Fine New Album From Emma Tricca

I'm late to this album but I'm now ready to tell everyone how special it is. St. Peter by Emma Tricca, out now via Light In The Attic, is a fine showcase for the stunning voice of Emma Tricca, a performer whose work here recalls both old releases from Sandy Denny and more contemporary offerings like those of Emma Pollock and Cat Power.

"Fire Ghost" builds on the back of a light neo-folk sense of instrumentation, while the truly beguiling "Julian's Wings" suggests something more mysterious, like the quieter moments on early Kate Bush records. Elsewhere, the memorably-titled "Mars is Asleep" sees Emma wrap her voice around a faint and haunting lullaby, while on the more robust "Salt", Emma veers closer to the kind of territory once occupied by Kendra Smith on her first post-Dream Syndicate album. Tricca has a knack for producing material that seems richer and more complex than it might appear on first listen. What sounds like a simple folk-y number -- take "Green Box", for instance -- is revealed on subsequent listens to be a layered affair, instruments gently nudging into each other under Emma's warm vocals. And it's probably worth noting at this point the production, and guitar parts, from current Dream Syndicate member Jason Victor on St. Peter, and the other contributions here from Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) and drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth). Those folks buttress the assured performances of Emma throughout and render St. Peter such a compelling and engrossing record.

St. Peter is out now via Light In The Attic.

More details on Emma Tricca via her official website.

[Photo: Keith Van Loen]

Monday, August 6, 2018

Betting On The Sun: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Bird Streets (Feat. Jason Falkner)

The new album from Bird Streets, out Friday on Omnivore Recordings, is the sort of power-pop stunner that makes you sorta want to run out and tell all your friends about it once you've played it for the first time. And, if I was a betting man, I'd say that those friends were, like me, probably huge fans of Jason Falkner. And that's significant since the one-time Jellyfish member joins John Brodeur here on Bird Streets, with the result being an album's worth of really wonderful music from this new (yet seasoned) duo.

Big single "Betting on the Sun" has a huge hook, the sort of thing Falkner used to reach for routinely, even as it's wrapped up in a melody that Joe Pernice would kill for, while the spry "Thanks for Calling" suggests a lost Wilbury number. Elsewhere, the down-tempo "Direction" sees Brodeur channel his inner Jackson Browne for an offering that floats past on easy, unhurried charm, while the epic "Stop To Breathe" is a Lynne-style melody that also echoes early ballads from Cheap Trick. The material here reveals Brodeur as some sort of genius as lots and lots of Bird Streets pleases like the kind of stuff that Jon Brion and Bleu once put out, with a listener left to just wonder where this Brodeur guy's been all this time? And to review Brodeur's efforts on Bird Streets by dropping those names would seem unseemly were it not for the presence of Jason Falkner here. Jason's work sits well with John's comfortable vocals, such that stuff like "Until the Crown" seems a bit more distinctive than it would have in other hands. These two musicians have put a lot into this record and it's safe to say that there's little dross on Bird Streets, as even slighter numbers like "Heal" or "Bullets" feel at least as good as, say, Tom Petty's Eighties hits.

Bird Streets is out on Friday via Omnivore Recordings. It is, clearly, this week's most listenable release, and one that is sure to surprise a lot of folks who weren't looking for this sort of album to drop in the dog-days of August.

More details on Bird Streets via the band's official website.

[Photo: David Doobinin]

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Bitter Strings: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Robert Poss (Band Of Susans)

I was a huge Band of Susans fan. The group seemed to blend the brittle-and-sharp kind of guitar attack found on Gang of Four records with a sense of the avant-garde that placed the Band well within reach of NYC contemporaries Sonic Youth. That said, I've not followed leader Robert Poss' solo career as closely as I should have but I will from here on out because his new solo record, Frozen Flowers Curse The Day, out today via Trace Elements, is excellent.

The largely instrumental release sees Poss unfurl guitar-lines that echo those of Robert Fripp (the linear "Partial Clearing"), as well as others that bear traces of Thurston Moore's best work, like on "The Test Pattern Setting", all rough edges atop a heavy beat. Elsewhere, Poss uses vocals on "The Sixth Sense Betrayed" and the effect is as if Robert Quine had fronted a band -- that's a compliment, by the way -- while on "More Frozen Flowers" Robert uses layers of effects and undulating chord structures to hit at something that has some of the looping precision of a John Adams piece.

At his best here on Frozen Flowers Curse The Day, Robert Poss does offer up stuff that sounds a lot like peak-Hope Against Hope Band of Susans (the spry "You'll Curse The Day"), and while that number pleased me as a long-time fan, I found myself drawn more to the more challenging offerings here, like "Ribbon Candy Colors" with its waves of sound that made me think of Harold Budd a bit. Poss has, if one couldn't tell from this review, one foot in the rock world and one in the new music world. And that's great, as his material shines with flashes of wild invention, and sparks of dangerous fire.

Frozen Flowers Curse The Day is out today. More details on this release and others from Robert Poss via his official website.

Monday, July 30, 2018

This New Peel Dream Magazine Track On Slumberland Records Is My Song Of The Week!

I bought my first Stereolab album at Phantasmagoria in Wheaton, Maryland in 1993. That's significant considering that I used to see Slumberland Records head honcho at Vinyl Ink there back in that era, and his label was the one that graced listeners with the first real Stereolab album on these shores (the absolutely essential Switched On from 1992).

That story is shared because Slumberland Records is going to be putting out the debut album from Peel Dream Magazine, a band whose newest single, the delightfully-titled "Qi Velocity", sounds a lot like those early Stereolab singles. Still, it also sounds like Ultra Vivid Scene and Unrest too. Look, it's a great track and hopefully the band forgives aging indie-rockers like me (and loads more) reaching for the same reference points when talking about this track.

The band's debut full-length record, Modern Meta Psychic, will be out in September via Slumberland, and, in the mean-time, you can read more about Peel Dream Magazine on the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Migs Govea]

Friday, July 27, 2018

An Inside Track On An Outside Chance: A Review Of Album Number 6 From Dot Dash

It always makes for a good story when a band revamps in the wake of some upheaval of members. And while one may wish that Dot Dash's perseverance as a three-piece had the sort of drama behind it like that of when the Manics carried on following the disappearance of Richey Edwards, the simple reality is that Steve's gone. The group's core is now singer and guitarist Terry Banks, bassist Hunter Bennett, and drummer Danny Ingram. And while one can momentarily wonder about what happened, it almost doesn't matter at all given how wonderfully natural the power-pop sounds here on this, the sixth album from Dot Dash.

Proto Retro, out now via, is effortlessly enjoyable, and perhaps the clearest proof yet that Terry Banks is one of the unsung heroes of modern American power-pop. Each selection here positively crackles with melodic ideas, and while I suppose there are some fans out there who may mourn the absence of the loud guitars found on 2016's Searchlights, I think that far more followers of this group will be thankful that melody, not just volume, is driving things this time out. With production from Geoff Sanoff, it's also almost fair to say that this is the best the band's sounded on record since 2011's Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, the debut produced by Eric Tischler of The Jet Age.

From the "Pilgrimage"-like opening of the elegant "Tamed a Wild Beast" and on to the Foo Fighters-ish slow-punch of "Triple Rainbow", there seems to be a new zest to Banks' compositions here, the result being more numbers that don't simply sprint past in a flash of smart-and-sharp chord changes. Sure, the purposefully goofy "TV/Radio" nods in the direction of the early waves of American punk rock -- those Alan Vega lyrics! -- but it's also a pretty good showcase for the renewed vigor of the rhythm section here, with Bennett's bass-hooks all sinewy things aside Ingram's throwback harDCore smacks on the kit. Similarly, the superb "Parachute Powerline" succeeds in some large measure also thanks to that rhythm section, even as Banks peppers the cut with bits and pieces that faintly echo "Secondary Modern", "King Horse", and other classic Costello numbers.

And while "Fast Parade" and opener "Unfair Weather" have a lot of punch, like numbers from a Bob Mould solo record, it's the easy-and-catchy "Gray Blue Green" that stands out as a real highlight here. Tuneful in a familiar way, like something off an old Beau Brummels record, it's elemental American power-pop, even more so than the fine "World's Last Payphone" with its bright blasts of concise, Pollard-style alt-pop. On an album where so many tracks seem like classics, these 2 jump out as neat summations of the strengths of this trio.

Assured but not overdone, riff-heavy but not loud, Proto Retro is a largely excellent collection of masterful power-pop. Fans of The dB's, Matthew Sweet, The Posies, and Fountains of Wayne, will find this set a record that's easy to love. An album that places Dot Dash within an arm's reach of releases from the great rock trios (The Jam, Husker Du, Supergrass), Proto Retro is a veritable hook-farm, and perhaps the best record that Terry Banks, Hunter Bennett, and Danny Ingram have ever played on, and considering the bands these cats have been in (Youth Brigade, Julie Ocean, Swervedriver, The Saturday People, Glo-Worm, St. Christopher, Weatherhead, Strange Boutique), that's saying something, ain't it?

Proto Retro is out now via

More details on Dot Dash via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photos: me]

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Metal Carnage: A Very Quick Review Of The New Album From Deaf Wish

The new album from Deaf Wish, Lithium Zion, out on Friday via Sub Pop, is a pummeling assault on the senses. It is also, thankfully, a reminder that the label that changed the alternative rock universe can still release truly brutal music.

Opener "Easy" and the wonderfully-named "Metal Carnage" are rough and unsubtle, while "The Rat is Back" and "Ox" succeed as slow-burners. At their best, like on numbers like "Smoke", Deaf Wish manage to somehow blend the sounds of early Sonic Youth with elements of stuff like Loop's longer riff-attacks. The effect on these slower numbers is somehow more sinister than that on the compositions that rely mainly on volume for their power. Deaf Wish may be playing with just a few instruments from the sonic toolbox, but the machine they are creating here is a beast, a rampaging gargoyle of proto-grunge and garage rock.

Lithium Zion is out from Sub Pop on Friday.

More details on Deaf Wish via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Ela Stiles]

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Afraid To Go Outside: A Brief Review Of The New Tony Molina Album On Slumberland Records

Tony Molina has a knack for finding the perfect hook and highlighting it as succinctly as possible. Having gone in the direction of chamber pop, every offering from the West Bay artist is something worth cherishing. Kill The Lights, out on Friday via Slumberland Records, is yet another in a string of richly-rewarding releases, and one that provides more musical invention than albums twice its length.

From the buoyant "Jasper's Theme", with its echoes of "Mellow Doubt"-era Teenage Fanclub, and on to the Brian Wilson-recalling "Afraid To Go Outside", there's a real sense of cultivated perfection percolating in these grooves. With each cut here, it's apparent that Molina has spent a lot of time refining his pop attack, and refining it so sharply that a brief number like "Nothing I Can Say" chimes like an early track from The Posies or Velvet Crush, even as the sharply observant "Wrong Town" eases into the kind of quiet power-pop that one found in the Chris Bell solo stuff.

Admittedly concise, Kill The Lights nonetheless contains so much goodness that it seems churlish to wish that the songs were twice as long. Tony Molina, much like Robert Pollard before him, zeroes in on the chord change or riff that says everything to a listener. Molina does this sort of thing better than almost anyone has since those guys in Cardinal way back when, and here's hoping that he keeps cranking out records like this one.

Out on Friday from Slumberland Records, Kill The Lights is this week's best new release.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Friday, July 20, 2018

Precious Things: A Brief Review Of The New Album From We Are Muffy (Ex-The Lilac Time)

Nick Duffy (The Lilac Time, Bait) and Angeline Morrison (The Mighty Sceptres, The Ambassadors of Sorrow) are We Are Muffy. It's an odd name for a band, admittedly, but the music is easier to appreciate. Sardonic, laconic, and lovely, the faux-folk of the duo on The Charcoal Pool, out today via Tapete Records, is decidedly memorable.

On numbers like "Precious Things", "Milk Bar", or the title cut, We Are Muffy engage in a modern spin on the sort of things Sandy Denny and the Incredible String Band did years ago. Elsewhere, on the buoyant "Frosted Candy", things get a bit more jaunty but, really, the strengths of this band lie in the sort of music that very nearly creeps up on you as a listener. The too-clever-by-half-title of "Jacobean Reggae" hangs upon a song that's a bit like that Althea and Donna cover that Black Box Recorder barely got away with 20 years ago. Still, Angeline Morrison's voice is good, and the effect is an intoxicating one, admittedly.

Lots of what's here is haunting in an easy way, and that's to be commended. I can see how this sort of material could easily have become something too precious but, admirably, We Are Muffy hold back a bit, enough to allow material like "Strange Admixture" and "Coloured Pencils" to shine as truly beautiful compositions. And so much on this release is similarly lovely.

The Charcoal Pool by We Are Muffy is out today via Tapete Records.

[Photo: Barry Cooper]

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Shadow In Twilight: A Review Of The New Pram Album

The band Pram never got a fair shake. Either overlooked in the years when Stereolab were seen as champs of this sort of thing, or compared to that outfit or Broadcast. Such comparisons were, of course, apt, if a bit unfair; Pram always seemed the most inscrutable of the lot, pieces of soundtrack music and krautrock mingled up with...calypso figures, near-baroque bits, and traces of post-punk. The band's been away for 11 years but they are, thankfully, back with the fine Across The Meridian, out tomorrow on Domino.

Lead single "Shimmer and Disappear" glides in on the back of a hook that's pure Raymond Scott, big band horns blaring off in the distance, while the lighter "Footprints Towards Zero" hints at a debt owed to Martin Denny's material. Elsewhere, the Birmingham band ease things into a slower tempo with the elegant "Shadow in Twilight" and the stately "Electra", numbers that suggest that the group are content to stake out new territory outside their previous familiar goal-posts. The peppy "Sailing Stones" segues into the wonderfully-titled "Where The Sea Stops Moving", the sound the one that Tim Burton characters hear in the trees at night. If there's some faint-jazz here (flashes of Mingus-inspired whimsy peeking through "Ladder to the Moon"), it remains the haunting numbers, like "Doll's Eyes", that linger in the memory, and provide reassurance that this band remain as great as you'd remembered.

Out tomorrow on Domino, Across The Meridian is a superb record, one that blends risky, downright edgy music, with the welcomed beats and throbs that this band rode to some level of indie popularity a few years ago. Delightfully familiar, and wonderfully strange, the music of Pram remains fantastic and entirely unique.

More details on Pram via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from band's official Facebook page]

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Feelings: A Brief Review Of A Pair Of Soul Asylum Reissues From Omnivore Recordings

I will admit that I picked up my first Soul Asylum record, 1986's Made To Be Broken, back in 1986 simply because it was produced by Bob Mould. At the time, I thought I could detect a faint hint of Husker Du in the tunes of Soul Asylum. Though, when listened to now, this record more than stands on its own. Reissued this Friday with 1984's Say What You Will... Anything Can Happen thanks to the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings, the first 2 Soul Asylum releases sound fresh and vibrant, further proof that the mid-Eighties was an era when genuinely punchy and edgy offerings could be found in the domain of college rock

And while the specter of the woolly-haired Dave Pirner miming to "Runaway Train" lingers, an MTV-ghost from the days when it was a big deal when an alt-rock band broke through thanks to Cobain and co. paving the way first, it's worth remembering that Soul Asylum were legitimate players long before grunge crossed over. Rising in the Midwest in the shadow of Husker Du (a band they borrowed some punch from) and The Replacements (a band they borrowed drunken tunefulness from), Soul Asylum hit the ground running on Say What You Will... Anything Can Happen. Produced by Bob Mould, this debut feels surprisingly ramshackle, the loose "Voodoo Doll" crashing past in a rush, the woozy "Sick of That Song" revealing a debt owed to Westerberg. Elsewhere here, there are a clutch of songs from Loud Fast Rules, the predecessor band to Soul Asylum featuring members Dave Pirner, Dan Murphy, and Karl Mueller. The tracks are of their era, traces of hardcore showing through the seams of "Your Clock", even as an X influence rears its head in "Nowhere to Go", a rough cow-punk attempt. Rounded out by a fun stab at CCR's "Bad Moon Rising", this reissue of Say What You Want... Anything Can Happen re-establishes the punk credentials of this lot.

In the Spring of 1986, I got Candy Apple Grey on cassette. I loved the album so much that I sought out any Husker Du release, straying so far from the band itself that I bought Made to Be Broken by Soul Asylum simply because Bob Mould produced the record. To my surprise, the release was a neat blend of the things I loved about Husker Du, with large doses of the sort of ragged melodicism I dug about Replacements releases. Lots of what was Side 1 still carries an impressive level of heft, from the country-honk hooks of "Ship of Fools", to the rough alt-country traces peaking through the edges of the title song, but it's the harder selections on what was Side 2 of this release that still pack a huge punch. "Whoa!" is still, gloriously, abrasive, the sound Mould would have made fronting Westerberg's band, while "New Feelings" and "Lone Rider" suggest the lingering influence of earlier American punk bands on the sound here. The rarities and unreleased tracks on this Omnivore Recordings reissue suggest an even rougher iteration of Pirner and crew, numbers like "Song of the Terrorist" and "20 Year Itch" positively brutal, indications that the influence of labels like SST and Dischord was reaching the middle of America.

Say What You Will... Anything Can Happen and Made to Be Broken hold up fairly well and kudos to the folks at Omnivore Recordings for reissuing both of these in such fine editions. A band that was sorely in need of a re-evaluation, these recordings re-affirm the greatness of Soul Asylum, a band so much more than a bunch of one-hit wonders from the Clinton years.

Say What You Will... Anything Can Happen (1984) and Made To Be Broken (1986) are both out this Friday from Omnivore Recordings.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional images from label]

Saturday, July 14, 2018

I'll Keep You Right Here: In Which I Recall Meeting The Go-Betweens

I frequently say how the only time I ever cried (nearly) when meeting a celeb was when I stood in line to get an autograph from, and picture with, Ray Harryhausen. The rush of emotions at seeing the man who made so many creatures come to life in so many films from my formative years was just too much. I looked at Harryhausen's hands, busily signing autographs for appreciative fans, and marveled at how those digits had moved the heads of hydra in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), for example.

But, the truth is, that I very nearly welled up with emotion when I met Grant McLennan and Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens in D.C. in 1999. It's a memory I've been repeating in my head a lot lately, as I make my way through the superb Grant and I by Robert Forster. And as I devour that wonderful book, I've been on a quest to find my autographed Go-Betweens poster. See, I rarely got things autographed back in my record store days, and I didn't even get John Cale to sign anything when I met him or was corresponding with him some years back -- that's another story -- but when I saw The Go-Betweens in 1999 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., I figured I better get some tangible evidence (for future reminiscences) of the event. It was an especially important mission given that this was in the era before cellphone pictures were a routine thing. The poster that Robert and Grant signed was one I gave to my buddy Mike (for safe-keeping) when I sold off all my stuff and moved to Hong Kong in 2011. I didn't want to sell it, and it wouldn't have been easy to fit a poster into either of the 2 suitcases I took with me to the former British colony, the 2 suitcases carrying (nearly) every remaining possession I had.

I haven't been able to find any copy of the show listing, but I'm pretty sure that the mid-week event was billed as a Go-Betweens gig, and not a Robert Forster and Grant McLennan show. And this would make sense, given that this was about a year before the official Go-Betweens reunion in 2000 when the band released The Friends of Rachel Worth. There was a newspaper preview of the show, and the remarkable thing here is a reminder that the concert was only $10, which was a ridiculous bargain, even for 19 years ago.

The year earlier I had met John Cale at the 9:30 Club when he played there with The Creatures (Siouxsie and Budgie of Siouxsie and the Banshees), and so I knew that if I stood upstairs where the backstage doors were, I just might see a glimpse of Grant or Robert, or even get to say something to them -- something like how their music had filled my life with so much joy for so many years.

So, sure enough, there was a small line forming back there -- the concert wasn't a sell-out show, an amazing thing to consider now -- and it seemed as if the duo was going to graciously let fans come back and say hello. My friend Mike and I had snagged 2 promo posters from the walls of the club, posters promoting the recent release of Bellavista Terrace: Best of The Go-Betweens, a fairly decent compilation of the band's work, and the poster from the label was two-sided, a fact that would be significant later.

We get back and there are Grant and Robert. There was some kind of bunk-bed in the room, a bed that hadn't been there when I met Cale (just a long set of benches), and my memory says that the taller Robert was standing and Grant was laying on the top bunk so that their heads were nearly parallel when a fan approached. I approached. The songwriting geniuses were gracious and kind, very much the way I'd hoped they'd be. And as Mike and I asked them questions and expressed our love of their music, they seemed genuinely touched that there were fans like us in America.

When it came time to sign the poster, in a fitting, poetic bit of business, Robert signed one side, Grant the other. Robert signed in a flamboyant flourish, what one would expect of the guy who danced like Prince in the video for "Head Full of Steam", while Grant signed the flip with an admonition to "Hang in there", a phrase given extra poignancy by Grant's death at the young age of 48 only 7 years later.

The concert wasn't so memorable -- I barely recall much of that -- but meeting them was magical. For an indie-rock fan who'd met quite a few bands over the years -- and even had John Cale call him at work a few times -- chatting with Grant McLennan and Robert Forster seemed the sort of thing that would be hard to top. Ever.

And thank goodness my buddy found my poster. Memory jogged, tunes re-played, and Forster book clutched in my hand, I am content.

Oh, and I framed it Grant side up.

Robert Forster's signature...

And Grant McLennan's.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Waiting For Summer: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Smokescreens On Slumberland Records

The new album from Smokescreens is so good and so perfectly realized that one only hopes that it reaches as many ears as possible. Blending elements of jangle-rock and power-pop with a real debt owed to pioneers of the C86 era, as well as legends from the Flying Nun label, Used To Yesterday positively chimes. Out on Friday on the seminal Slumberland Records label, it is another in a long line of fabulous releases from Mike and his crew, as well as further indication that with this, and recent offerings from Bent Shapes and Young Guv, the Slumberland team's knack for finding this sort of music is still as strong as ever.

If "Someone New" opens the record with a real bit of intent, all Flatmates fuzz amped around a big hook, then the title cut here signals a debt owed to Shoes or The Records, power-pop genius for sure. Similarly, the sublime "Waiting For Summer" blends a Byrd-riff with the kind of tune The Clean once routinely cranked out. Focused, ringing with promise, and catchy, this is sure to be an anthem of this season for lots of indie-heads like me. Elsewhere, the propulsive "The Lost Song" carries a faint whiff of early Go-Betweens about it, even if the guitars are decidedly louder, while "Jolly Jane" chimes in the tradition of loads of bands on Slumberland Records, think early releases from Veronica Falls or The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. And, to their credit, Smokescreens lose none of their appeal on slower-tempo songs like "Buddy" and "It's Not Right" where things take a turn towards the sort of soundscapes found on early Yo La Tengo and Galaxie 500 sides.

Superbly performed and effortlessly tuneful, Used To Yesterday is pure listening pleasure. Make sure you buy it when it drops on Slumberland Records this Friday.

More details on Smokescreens via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Night Signs: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Ophelias

The new record from The Ophelias, Almost, out Friday from Joyful Noise Recordings, is a lovely thing, full of the textures of neo-classical music, as well as a genuinely infectious indie sensibility. The release from the Ohio four-piece caught me by surprise.

From the Suzanne Vega-like coos of "Lover's Creep" and on to the baroque arrangement of "Night Signs", the music of The Ophelias remains the sort of thing that defies very easy description. Sure, "Lunar Rover" purrs with the kind of precision one found on old Jane Siberry recordings, even as the more deliberate "Zero" suggests debts owed to, say, Philip Glass, or even John Adams. Still, this remains indie-rock, even as something like the waltz-like "Moon Like Sour Candy" harks back offerings from those years when artists like the previously-mentioned Vega and Siberry could redefine what alt-rock was capable of.

Almost is a really special record and one which deserves a lot of attention from attentive listeners. Tuneful, and full of rich harmonies, these songs are haunting and oddly fun.

Almost is out on Friday via Joyful Noise Recordings.

More details on The Ophelias via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Katerina Voegtle]

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Cool And Collected: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Let's Eat Grandma

The new album from British duo Let's Eat Grandma, I'm All Ears, out now on Transgressive, is the sort of release that's nearly impossible to categorize. Blending elements of indie with electro-pop, the tunes on the record from the oddly-named act are haunting and playful at the same time.

The first big song on I'm All Ears, "Hot Pink" bursts out a big chorus after bits of percussive New Wave, while the expansive "Falling Into Me" adds the kind of instrumentation that recalls older singles from O.M.D.. Elsewhere, the lovely "I Will Be Waiting" sees the singers coo and croon over the top of a track that successively recalls classic solo recordings from Bjork, even as the lengthy "Cool and Collected" adds near-symphonic textures to the approach of Let's Eat Grandma. So much of this release shines on purely instrumental terms that it would be easy to neglect praising the vocals of Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth. As performers, they allow this material to be served, rather than simply smother it with vocals and effects, even while they do allow themselves moments to shine as fine vocalists. Similarly, the haunting "Donnie Darko" closes I'm All Ears in epic fashion, equal parts electro-pop and the soundtrack to an as-yet-unmade film.

I'm All Ears is out now on Transgressive.

More details on Let's Eat Grandma via the band's official Facebook page, or the band's official website.

[Photo: Charlotte Pattmore]

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Golden Boy: A Quick Review Of The New Simon Love Album

The new album from Simon Love is the sort of thing that should charm that swatch of the indie community who cherish both Momus and The Monkees. Sincerely, S. Love x, out Friday on Tapete Records, is delightful and archly funny. That the record succeeds at being both emotionally fulfilling and ironically effete is no mean feat, really.

The too clever by half "God Bless The Dick Who Let You Go" is a blast, while the lush "Joey Ramone" imagines a world where Brian Wilson is off writing odes to the front-man of that seminal punk band. Elsewhere, "I Fucking Love You" soars, equal parts The Divine Comedy and Jellyfish, while "Golden Boy" is pure-Dukes of The Stratosphear goodness. At his very best, like on the lovely "All This Dicking Around (Is Bringing Me Down)", Simon Love manages to pen a song that compares favorably to stuff from the peak years of the Britpop boom, nods to both Oasis and Blur apparent here. Still, for all that's a bit silly here lyrically, there are lush moments that reference the best compositions from earlier legends. And that Simon Love makes this work without seeming like he's just an arched eyebrow goof is impressive. The material here is so good that the funny bits don't really distract a listener.

Fans of Martin Newell, Damon Albarn, Bowie, and Supergrass will dig lots of Sincerely, S. Love x as much as I did. A favorable bit of Britpop and power-pop, this album charmed me immensely.

Sincerely, Simon Love x is out on Friday via Tapete Records.

[Photo: Rose Stone]

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Plum: A Quick Few Words About The New EP From Fred Abong (Throwing Muses)

Fred Abong played bass in The Real Ramona-era Throwing Muses, as well as on the first slate of releases from Tanya Donelly's Belly. He's now a solo artist as his debut EP, Homeless, dropped last Friday. The record is a fine, introspective offering and I'm here to recommend it highly.

Opener "Plum" and the title cut here percolate with slow intensity, while the spry "Rattler" shocases Fred's fine guitar playing. Elsewhere, "Equinox" alternates between a kind of quiet intensity and a gentler rhythmic energy.

Homeless is a brief taste of Fred Abong's talents but it's full of music that is both memorable and affecting. Fans of Throwing Muses, particularly the sort of releases Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly once offered up as solo artists, should find a lot to love here.

Homeless is out now via the link below. More details on Fred Abong via Fred's official website.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Few Pics From Last Night's Des Demonas / Algiers Concert In D.C.

D.C.'s own Des Demonas took to the stage at Black Cat last night to showcase songs from their fiery self-titled debut LP, out now on In The Red Records (and reviewed by me here), as well as premiere at least one new song.

Crammed together on the back-stage, the 5 members of Des Demonas revealed (yet again) that they collectively make up one of the most powerful acts in this city at the moment. The combined strength of these players, most notably leader Jacky Abok and guitarist Mark Cisneros, is formidable. And when the rhythmic attack of organist Paul Vivari, bassist Joe Halladay, and drummer Ryan Hicks gathers steam, it drives this five-piece into the void, the stark-and-sharp lyrical insights of "There Are No Vampires In Africa" made ever clearer, and the riotous "The South Will Never Rise Again" shown to be an anthem for these desperate times.

Still, for all that, and for all the love that singer Jacky Abok has for The Fall, and for the band's obvious nods to the Nuggets era, it was new song, working title "Immigration", that revealed some growth in the band's approach. The cut, all early Gary Numan mixed with some faint Movement-era New Order moments, was a real stunner last night, and an indication that album number 2 from Des Demonas will be something special.

Des Demonas by Des Demonas is out now via In The Red Records. More details on Des Demonas via the band's official Facebook page.

Algiers -- vocalist Franklin James Fisher, bassist Ryan Mahan, guitarist Lee Tesche, and drummer Matt Tong -- brought the kind of energy that that stage at Black Cat could barely contain. Part revival show, part punk hoedown, the set from the Atlanta band was borderline revolutionary, at least in spots. Singer Fisher delivered the songs from the band's 2 records on Matador with the kind of fervor very few performers bring to their art these days. The other 3 players behind him followed him to the brink of chaos as he exhorted the crowd. These were numbers that promised as much as, say, the early numbers of Nation of Ulysses or Priests did. That the selections delivered so much, and that the band performed them with the kind of fire those other acts exhibited routinely, says a lot about why Algiers is one of the best bands in America today.

The Underside of Power is out now via Matador Records.

More details on Algiers via the band's official Facebook page, or the band's official website.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Brushes With Sadness: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Wave Pictures

The new album from The Wave Pictures is called Brushes With Happiness, but there's really nothing "happy" about what's here on this record, out as of yesterday via Moshi Moshi. That said, the tunes here have a certain morose charm.

If numbers like "The Red Suitcase" and "Rise Up" recall Tindersticks and Crime and The City Solution, the lighter "The Little Window" offers a more expansive, poetic vision. On this one, at least, front-man Dave Tattersall paints a picture of London that is enticing, the near-spoken word bits drawing a listener slowly in. Elsewhere, "The Burnt Match" is a bit hypnotic, very nearly reminiscent of slower numbers from Hefner from decades ago.

So much of Brushes With Happiness is contemplative that it's hard to work up a full head of steam when recommending this record. However, there's enough here that rewards a careful listen, that I think this new album from The Wave Pictures is the sort of thing that deserves some attention.

Brushes With Happiness is out now via Moshi Moshi.

More details via the band's official Facebook page, or their official website.

[Photo: James Loveday]

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sidetracked: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Hamish Kilgour (The Clean, The Mad Scene)

On Friday, Hamish Kilgour of The Clean is set to release his second solo record. Called Finklestein, and out on Ba Da Bing Records, the album from the founding member of those New Zealand legends is a set of ruminative and quietly-adventurous indie-rock numbers. "Opening (Welcome to Finklestein)" chugs along with noisy passages and a rough, unfinished sense of performance, while "Strange Angels" is lovely neo-folk, echoes of Nick Drake and Kevin Ayers popping up amidst the familiar sound of this New Zealand musical pioneer. Elsewhere, "Hayride" churns with quiet precision, while "Sidetracked" feels familiar, twang-y guitar figures mingling up against a melody that is vaguely reminiscent of something from Neil Young. The long "Whistle Stop" stands as a highlight here on Finklestein, even as the song threatens to float away in spots, the instruments circling in and out over a faint drum-beat. Kilgour has gone for mood here on this track, and others on this second solo album, and one must commend him for taking some risks and pushing his sound in new directions, not just ones that followed a trail back to the best Clean records. While "Gold" nods in the direction of early recordings from the Kilgour brothers, it also echoes Obscured by Clouds-era Floyd, even as the odd "Brasilia 666" offers up a kind of tropicalia that owes as much to Os Mutantes as it does, say, to the more expansive numbers on classic Clean long-players.

Finklestein stands as a pretty strong testament to the talents of Hamish Kilgour. Bravely iconoclastic, Kilgour takes a lot of chances here, even as he offers up some rather lovely numbers, and some bits of understated psychedelia. Long-time listeners of The Clean will find lots to love here, even as casual fans of the band will be able to easily embrace what's here on this second solo album from Hamish Kilgour.

Finklestein is out on Friday via Ba Da Bing Records.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Jazz Oppression: A Quick Review Of The New Album From The Young Mothers

Following on from that Henry Kaiser project earlier this year, bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten is back with another super-group of jazz musicians. Called The Young Mothers, the outfit is set to unleash the corrosive Morose on Self Sabotage Records on Friday. The album features music that blurs the lines between many genres, the players here positively on fire throughout.

"Attica Black" is a free jazz-attack, corrosive horns and pummeling drums carrying things into the stratosphere, while the more insinuating "Black Tar Caviar" works its magic through a slightly more traditional approach. The musicians here -- Jawwaad Taylor (vocals), Jonathan F. Horne (guitars), Jason Jackson (sax), Stefen Gonzalez (drums, percussion), Francisco Rosaly (drums), and the previously-mentioned Flaten (bass) -- dive into this material with a fury that is astonishing in spots, like on the near-industrial tones of "Jazz Oppression", one of the more concise numbers on Morose. Elsewhere, "Osaka" swings like an old hard bop number from the Sixties, while "Shanghai" alternates lush instrumental passages with Taylor's rap verses, the effect a hypnotic one. So much of Morose sees a similar bridging of genres that it's nearly unfair to call this a jazz record, though I suppose it is. The Young Mothers play with the kind of precision and sense of liberation one can hear in recordings from the fusion pioneers of earlier decades, even as parts of this are as loud and unforgiving as anything from the post-punk years.

That rare sort of release that defies easy categorization, and which demands a listener's full attention, Morose is both blistering and blissful. As such, it stands as one of the bravest releases of 2018 and the year's not even half over.

Morose is out on Friday via Self Sabotage Records.

More details on The Young Mothers via the band's official website, or via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo pic from label]

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Same Face In A Different Mirror: A Brief Review Of The New Protomartyr EP

If anyone thought that the presence of Kelley Deal (The Breeders) on a few cuts was gonna somehow soften the attack of Protomartyr, they were so wrong. The band's sound, even on this new EP featuring the R. Ring leader, is still a punch in the solar-plexus, an unforgiving shove into a jagged realm. The EP, Consolation, dropped on Domino, on Friday, and it's a reliably-stark offering from this crew.

"Wait" rolls on like an unearthed gem from Gang of Four that's been ginned up with a more precise rhythmic focus, while the nicely-titled "Same Face in a Different Mirror" is elegantly understated, all coiled tension stretched into new melodic shapes for this lot. When Kelley Deal joins the group for the remaining 2 cuts on this Consolation EP, things take a nice turn, if not a radical one. The lengthy, and ragged "Wheel of Fortune" charts landscapes once occupied by the Bad Seeds, or Crime and the City Solution, while the more concise "You Win Again" offers similarly woozy charms, more sounds of a few folks at their desolate end.

Consolation is out now via Domino.

More details on Protomartyr via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Daniel Topete]

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Talking Straight: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

I've had Hope Downs by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever for a few weeks and, even though the record is dropping on Sub Pop on Friday, the release feels like something I've been listening to for years, the Australian's five-piece's brand of indie-pop being that easy to embrace. The band have offered up some pretty impressive tracks before, but this new record is nearly flawless, and fans of stuff like The Go-Betweens or Television will find so much to love here.

This, the group's first full-length album proper, kicks off with the sharp, precise power-pop of "An Air-Conditioned Man", before the slightly-harder "Talking Straight" nods in the direction of old records from acts like The Verlaines, or even Tom Verlaine. The hook here, like so many on Hope Downs, is a huge one and it anchors, like on so many of the tracks on this Sub Pop release, a composition that harks back to an era when bands like The Chills or The Go-Betweens could make alt-rock that fed the brain as much as the heart. I mean, I'm not quite entirely sure what "Mainland" is going on about, but I do know that it has that literate pop-quality that one found on so many of the best selections from Forster and McLennan, for example. The rougher, twangier "Sister's Jeans" nods further back to stuff from Lou Reed or Verlaine for inspiration, the guitar-attack here an angular one behind the lyrics, while the bright "Cappucino City" sparkles and chimes, all easy "Streets Of Your Town"-charms wrapped around a lovely vocal performance.

So much of this, even harder stuff like "Exclusive Grave" and "The Hammer", places the music of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever within reach of a favorable comparison to the classic releases from The Feelies, Pavement, and The dB's that we grew up with. The sound of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is a familiar one, but that's not to say that all of Hope Downs is simply derivative. Whatever they have learned from past bands, the boys in Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have poured into their material here, as every song on Hope Downs feels like something you've loved for ages, or something you're gonna spin for a long time in the future over and over again.

Hope Downs is out on Friday via Sub Pop.

More details on Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Warwick Baker]

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

You Make My Dreams: A Few Pictures From The Hall And Oates / Train Show in D.C. Last Night

Hall and Oates brought their current tour to Washington, D.C. last night and the crowd at Capital One Arena were richly rewarded with a whole lot of great American rock-'n'-soul, to use a phrase fans might recognize.

Openers Train did a pretty good job at warming up the crowd, such that even non-fans like me were starting to enjoy the band's set, loaded with numbers like "Drops of Jupiter" and other radio hits.

Still, it was Hall and Oates the arena wanted to see and the crowd erupted as Daryl and John and their 6-piece band took the stage to a bright, peppy run through "Maneater", the first big hit of the night. As things moved on to a punchy "Out of Touch", and a soulful "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", it was easy to sit back and marvel at how good these 2 are at this sort of thing. "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" got a spacious workout, the players in the band getting chances to explore the tune's near-jazzy spaces, while a heartfelt "Sara Smile", and a tight "She's Gone" pleased long-time fans like me immensely.

As Hall and Oates marched through "Kiss On My List", "Private Eyes", and "Is It A Star?", the crowd got hit with some of the best pop-rock this country has produced in the last half-century. Even new single with Train, "Philly Forget Me Not" felt like a classic in the making, Pat Monahan joining Daryl Hall on the mic for this one and for "Wait for Me", an unexpected surprise.

Still, by the time the show ended with a rousing "You Make My Dreams", it's safe to say that an entire auditorium wanted even more. While Hall and Oates have taken their show further on up the road, fans outside this town still have a chance to catch the duo. Tour dates are on the band's official website,

[Photos: Me or my wife]