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, HallandOates.com.

[Photos: Me or my wife]

Friday, June 8, 2018

Be Released: A Brief Review Of The New Virginia Wing Album

Manchester duo Virginia Wing mine the same sort of electro-infused indie that proplled Goldfrapp and Ladytron to wide acclaim. However, on their newest record, the sleek Ecstatic Arrow, out today on Fire Records, the band have tempered their previous risk-taking with a real awareness of how to made material that's both accessible and bravely adventurous. As such, Ecstatic Arrow is clearly the best Virginia Wing release to date.

Virginia Wing -- Alice Merida Richards (vocals, synths, organ) and Samuel Pillay (synths, guitar, noises, bass) -- imbue stuff like "Be Released" with a bright sort of percussive fury, the song harking back to the first flourishing of post-punk some decades ago, even as "Glorious Idea" charts similar territory in a slightly more accessible fashion. Elsewhere, on slower numbers like "For Every Window There's A Curtain", the duo seem to be lining up next to forebears like Stereolab and Broadcast, Alice's vocals purring with precision next to Pillay's synths. The effect is a stately, Art-with-a-capital-"A"-kind of thing, even as there's not any real pretension here. One can, on this one and others like the smart "Seasons Reversed", trace a line back to those early Ladytron records, Richard's icy vocals imbuing this with a seriousness that is infectious.

Filled with the sort of music we'd once have called Art Rock, Ecstatic Arrow certainly owes debts to previous artists like Toyah, or The Human League, even as it refines the approach of this Manchester-London duo. What's here on Ecstatic Arrow is largely seamless electronica of the sort that should appeal to fans of everything from Black Box Recorder to Anne Clark.

Ecstatic Arrow is out today via Fire Records.

[Photo: Uncredited Bandcamp pic]

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Negative Vibes: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals)

Gruff Rhys, the distinctive front-man for Super Furry Animals, has returned from whatever unique realm he inhabits to grace us with a new record. Called Babelsberg, and out on Friday via Rough Trade, the album blends the lush with the lyrical, the lovely, sweeping tunes within serving to anchor some of Gruff's best, most aware compositions.

From the easy-and-catchy "Limited Edition Heart" and on to the friendly "Take That Call", Gruff sounds in command here, less concerned with defining himself as a solo artist anymore, and more content to serve the music itself, in these cases a kind of modern indie that nods as much in the direction of previous Furries albums as it does old Van Dyke Parks ones. The elegant "Drones In the City" allows Gruff to sing about drones -- presumably, the non-violent kind -- while the music echoes that of Aaron Copland underneath him. The cut is one of the best things he's served up outside the Furries, and one marvels at how easily he and the assorted players here -- Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips, drums), Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo, multiple instruments) and Osian Gwynedd (multiple instruments) -- pull off this sort of chamber pop. Similarly, "Negative Vibes" soars. A faint cousin to "Fragile Happiness" from SFA so many years ago, the track finds Rhys reassuring himself (and us) that things may be falling apart, but they're not that bad after all. There is, like in so many of his best compositions, something starry-eyed here, but Gruff Rhys, like Lennon and Davies before him, manages to earn his sentimentality. Nothing about this one feels too easy or too pat, you know? And with Swansea composer Stephen McNeff and the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales behind the tunes, it's hard for this selection, and so many here, not to sound majestic in every way.

Elsewhere, "Same Old Song" unfurls with the same sort of deliberate stride as found on opener "Frontier Man", while "Oh Dear!" mourns the sorry state of things even as Gruff purrs his trenchant lyrics over top of the Jimmy Webb-style music. Rhys speaks more directly about the work of the deranged politicians controlling our discourse, especially the madman in Washington, on the sleek "Architecture of Amnesia", the words flowing as easy as honey as Rhys delivers one of his loveliest performances as a singer in quite some time. As the record closes on a duet with Lily Cole, one gets a sense that "Selfies in the Sunset" is Gruff's bemusedly down-tempo take on the apocalypse, the seriousness of the lyrics undercut not at all by the lite-as-air, near-country twang of the tune.

And I think, rather than hit us with a mallet, Gruff Rhys has wisely decided to ease himself into our souls here on Babelsberg. The moments in the lyrics that strike us as indications of just how real the world's collapse seems on every level are made more vivid because they are set against music that is so beautiful and fragile.

Babelsberg will be out on Friday via Rough Trade.

More details on Gruff Rhys via www.gruffrhys.com, or his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Alain Bib]

Punching Up: A Review Of The Debut Full-Length Record From D.C.'s Flasher

It's almost a shame that so much attention will be paid to where the 3 members of Flasher come from. Sure, it bears some attention that Taylor Mulitz is from Priests, and that Daniel Saperstein is from Bless, and drummer Emma Barker is from Big Hush. But, really, the music on Flasher's debut full-length record, Constant Image, out Friday on Domino, is so fresh that it seems better to approach this material without any preconceived ideas of what one's going to find here, or how this is gonna fit in with the grand tradition of this city's rich musical history.

Opening cuts "Go" and "Pressure" offer up the sort of throbbing electro-rock one typically seeks out on records from British bands from some 4 decades ago, while the bright lead single "Skim Milk" soars on a similar wash of percussion and keyboards even as the thrust of the tune suggests the propulsive work of D.C.-area forebears like Q And Not U, or Romania. The slower "Harsh Light" is elegant, equal parts old O.M.D. and "Behind The Wheel"-era Depeche Mode, while "Punching Up" recalls the brand of sinister electronica pioneers like Gary Numan once made their life's work. If the soundscapes on these more deliberate numbers make these tracks on Constant Image more slow-burners, they remain proof of the talents of these 3 players, the moods here modulated via fuzzy bass-work, or cavernous drumming, or the sharp sparks of a guitar hook, or washes of keyboards, or -- in the case of the sinister strut of "Business Unusual" -- the squawk of a saxophone, this time played here by D.C. music legend Mark Cisneros (Des Demonas, Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds, Deathfix).

One would be correct in finding parallels here on Constant Image to those early New Order records, when the band was defining a new music, and perhaps unconsciously bridging 2 musical eras, as it seems as if Flasher is nearly doing the same, wedding up the current electro-clash-style of punk with earlier forms from the capital's musical past. And yet, so much of Constant Image is so good that one remains a bit startled at how vital this sounds, and how it seems as if Flasher just appeared out of the blue, without any connection, or debt owed, to any musical forebear here. Of course, those of us in the D.C. area know that Flasher has been gigging a lot over the course of the last few years, so the sound here on Constant Image is the refinement of the band's attack, a modern, thoroughly American spin on the template crafted by a bunch of moody misfits in Manchester some half-century ago, bursts of Magazine, or Joy Division, or Buzzcocks bobbing to the surface here in the sea of hooks on this record.

Constant Image will be out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Flasher via the link below, or via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Jen Dessinger]

Sunlight From Another Life: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Billy And Dolly

I was barely 30 seconds in on the first track on the new album from Billy and Dolly, "Sunlight From Another Life", when I knew I was hearing something unique. From the Glitter Band-stomp to the faint hints of recent Blonde Redhead records, the tune here was unearthly and thoroughly unsettling. The cut, the first on the band's newest release, Five Suns, out on Friday via Shit Krystal, is, like so much here, music that draws from the past -- Zep hooks, proggy flourishes, etc. -- to make selections that sound like something from the future.

If the gentler "Please" suggests a debt owed to the Swingin' Sixties, and "Everything is Off" one owed to Tom Petty, lots else here indicates the influence of late-period Primal Scream ("Just Wrong"), or any number of proto-shoegaze acts ("Marooned"). Similarly, "Bobby" is eerie electro-pop with flashes of "No Quarter" sprinkled throughout its grooves, while "Setting Sun" chugs with enough force to earn favorable comparisons to early numbers from The Cult, of all things. Still, the parts I liked the most on Five Suns were the glammy bits, when San Francisco duo Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez sounded like they were on the same wavelength as Luke Haines on some of his recent releases.

If this San Francisco duo seem to be channeling lots here on Five Suns, they are doing it with ease and making the results sound entirely natural. As such, while Five Suns echoes worthy forebears from the past, it remains a record of stunning originality, and odd beauty.

More details on Billy and Dolly via the band's official Facebook page. Five Suns will be out via Shit Krystal on Friday.

[Photo: Andres Ramirez]

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Now I Feel It: A Quick Review Of The New Sam Evian Album

The new record from Sam Evian, You, Forever out Friday via Saddle Creek, is the sort of album that is so full of easy hooks, and buoyant charm, that a listener can't but help and fall in love with it. The release from Evian is the newest project from Sam Owens, along with Brian Betancourt (bass), Austin Vaughn (drums), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Hannah Cohen (backup vocals), and the release is marvelously appealing.

"Where Did You Go?" purrs and coos, a faint hint of Nineties Yo La Tengo creeping through the groove, while the rougher "Health Machine" crunches with dashes of glam-stomp and solo Lennon. Elsewhere, the lyrical "Summer Day" offers up the kind of vulnerable loveliness that the late Elliott Smith was the master of producing, while "Now I Feel It" twangs like solo George, all All Things Must Pass-style hooks pushed in new directions for appreciative indie-pop listeners in this century. The peppy "IDGAF" is obviously catchy, while the more languid "Next To You" is quiet and sublime, an aching beauty at work here, whiffs of Prince and Bolan seeping through the melodic hooks on this one.

You, Forever is an album that seems to exist outside of any easy genre categorizations even as it dabbles a tiny bit in many. While gentle nods in the direction of worthy forebears can be heard here, Owens and his team have offered up music that is heartfelt, light-as-a-feather, and catchy here on this new record. It's nearly impossible to find fault with much here.

You, Forever will be out on Friday via Saddle Creek.

More details on Sam Evian via the official website.

[Photo: Josh Goleman]

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Should Be: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Deeper

Chicago's Deeper make music that recalls in some obvious ways that of peers EZTV and Omni. That said, there's a robustness at work on the band's self-titled debut record, out on Friday via Fire Talk, that suggests a firmly emotional engagement with this sort of material, rather than just a perhaps ironic dabbling in the forms of forebears like Television and Talking Heads.

Opener "Pink Showers" twists and turns like stuff from Field Music, while the more forceful "Should Be" suggests some odd pairing of a young, yelping David Byrne with the instrumentation of The Voidoids behind him. The comlex "Transmogrified" offers up a spry XTC-like interplay between guitars and bass and vocals that is positively exhilarating, even as the down-tempo "Message Erased" made me think of both Slanted-era Pavement as much as it did Nineties Fall stuff. Still, for all that talk of those comparison points, there's a real sense of heart here as the song swells that brings a certain lushness to what would otherwise be a too brainy brand of art-rock. The players here -- Nic Gohl (guitar and vocals), Michael Clawson (guitar), Drew McBride (bass), and Shiraz Bhatti (drums) -- attack this material with a real sense of mathematical purpose even as flashes of sweetness, or a warm melodic hook, pop up throughout the post-rock found here on Deeper.

Deeper is out on Friday via Fire Talk.

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

[Alexa Viscius]

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Gift: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Wand

Wand have certainly not been getting enough attention over the last few years. The band have released a string of interesting, challenging records that straddle the sort of new psychedelic that Ty Segall is perfecting on a seemingly daily basis, as well as the more traditional breed of chamber pop that front-man Cory Hanson pursued on his superb solo album nearly 2 years ago. The L.A. collective's newest record, Perfume, out Friday on Drag City, is perhaps their most seamless yet.

If obvious single "Pure Romance" sees Hanson offer up the sort of lush lyricism he's known for, even as the chorus charges, Segall-like, towards the heavens, many other tracks here seem intent on breaking the mold of what this group's achieved previously. Elsewhere, the more complex "The Gift" made me think of old Flaming Lips, or Super Furry Animals, numbers, the rhythmic track an insinuating offering here on Perfurme, even as the title cut serves up an epic-length, percussive attack. The rough "Town Meeting" is countered by the gentle "I Will Keep You Up", all Bolan-isms churning with a dash of VU.

Wand make music that really stands so far apart from what other contemporaries are crafting in today's indie environment, even as one can, clearly, hear a hint of Ty Segall about things here on Perfume. Still, don't let that be seen as a knock on Hanson's skills as he is truly one of the real visionaries in rock today.

Perfume by Wand will be out on Friday via Drag City. More details on Wand via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Abby Banks]

Friday, May 18, 2018

Holding: A Quick Review Of The New All India Radio Album

The new album from All India Radio, Space, out next week, is the sort of release that straddles a line between ambient and dream-pop, all while explicitly harking back to the glory days of Pink Floyd. The album is spacious and full of soundscapes that enlarge a listener's sense of the cosmic. No mean feat that.

Opener "Vega" and follow-up "Monsters" nod in the direction of Floyd circa Dark Side, even as the more supple "Heirs of Ineptune" pulses and throbs with bits of Can and Kraftwerk pieces being referenced by the musicians here, as does the spry "Holding". Elsewhere, "Eurydice in Scarlet" recalls bits from The Church, especially so since Steve Kilbey makes an appearance here for a spoken word passage, while "Anja's Eternal Light" is equal parts Eno and late Cocteau Twins, soothing stretches punctuated by electronic bits that embellish the song with subtle flashes of emotion.

Space is a more lyrical release than earlier offerings by All India Radio, even as the lyricism is of a stretched out and blissful nature. Martin Kennedy and his crew have imbued this with enough touches that suggest the early Seventies that heads from the era should love this as much as younger fans of newer ambient releases.

Space by All India Radio is out next week. More details on All India Radio via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Get Back Down: A Few Words About The New Modern Studies Album

The new record from Scotland's Modern Studies, Welcome Strangers, out tomorrow via Fire Records, is chamber pop of the highest order. Expanding the band's palette from earlier releases, Modern Studies have here offered up affecting music that uses strings to add emotion and shades of meaning to the superb indie-rock on offer this time out.

Opener "Get Back Down" churns a bit, tension uncoiling, while the smoother "Mud and Flame" sees the vocals from Emily Scott and Rob St. John suggesting any number of classics from that other great chamber pop band from Scotland (The Delgados). "It's Winter" is elegiac and yearning, while the supple "Young Sun" has a faint whiff of The Go-Betweens about it, the highest praise I could give something like this. Elsewhere, "Fast As Flows" builds up a significant momentum, while the epic closer "Phosphene Dream" made me think of both Crime and the City Solution and The Triffids, even as emotions are kept closer to the vest here.

Welcome Strangers is a remarkably good record, and one that offers up expertly-realized chamber pop that sounds utterly unlike anything else you're going to encounter out there in mid-2018. Ambitious and yet grounded, the music of Modern Studies is a special thing. Grab Welcome Strangers on the format of your choice tomorrow when it drops via Fire Records.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Almost Had To Start A Fight: A Brief Word About The New Parquet Courts Record

They've hooked up with producer Danger Mouse, and have artwork and band photos in a new, Eighties-style color scheme so, yeah, Parquet Courts have entered that dangerous phase of wanting to do a band reinvention. I suppose that's good; far too many comparisons to Pavement in reviews of earlier records from this crew, and, obviously, no one is going to compare Wide Awake!, out Friday on Rough Trade, to a release from Malkmus and the boys.

Yes, "Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience" bristles with a kind of infectious energy, and it's the sort of refinement of this band's approach that suggests a need to set things moving in a new direction. If anything, Danger Mouse has made things clearer in the group's sonic attack, the vocals and instruments perfectly separated in the headphones to offer up a listener a burst of jittery pleasures. Opener "Total Football" seems to me to be one of the band's very best songs to date, A. Savage's Richard Hell-like performance on the mic brushing up against a backing band that's part Fall circa "Hit The North", even as the chorus recalls that big hit from The Godfathers back in the dawn of college rock. It is, frankly, the sort of track that screams "bid for a wider audience", even as it plays to the considerable, and familiar strengths of this band. Elsewhere, "Freebird II" sees a smart-ass title wedded to a rather lovely melody, while "Death Will Bring Change" is art-rock by way of Ray Davies, an imagined run at an early Roxy tune by a bunch of Muswell Hillbillies. If the title track of Wide Awake! largely failed for me -- too much Remain In Light without the musical chops to back it up -- lots of this album works in small doses, even if it's not nearly the sea change this band believes it to be.

Wide Awake! is an okay record. I didn't love it, nor did I hate it, but I suppose it's going to get highly rated by critics who see it as a rather bold stylistic change for this post-punk crew. In offering up the best production this band has ever had, Danger Mouse may have inadvertently highlighted the relative paucity of real hooks in the Parquet Courts quiver. There's a lot of busyness on Wide Awake, but don't mistake that for progress.

Wide Awake! is out on Friday via Rough Trade.

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

[Photo: Ebru Yiliz]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Solid Silk: A Brief Review Of The New Stephen Malkmus Album

The new record by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Sparkle Hard, out Friday on Matador, is yet another notch in the former Pavement front-man's belt. Alternately playful and precise, the album sees the indie hero entirely at ease as a performer, maybe more than he's been in the nearly 2 decades since his other band called it a day.

Now, it goes without saying that despite having had a longer career post-Pavement than he had with them, Malkmus efforts are automatically-if-unfairly judged by the yardstick of that other act. And, frankly, there are parts of Sparkle Hard that do favorably compare to Pavement songs, if that sort of thing is important to you. The bouncy "Shiggy" charms on the back of a fuzzy guitar hook, while the lighter "Middle America" sees Malkmus refine the sort of loose twang he first offered up on "Range Life" in the Clinton years. Importantly, Malkmus has not neglected to bring a lot of hooks with him here on Sparkle Hard, and the record has more melodic treasures within its grooves than some, much-earlier Jicks releases had. And yet, even as the slowly-insistent melody of "Solid Silk" segues nicely into the brighter "Bike Lane", the later song, however, very nearly confirms fears that Malkmus is a cynical hipster a-hole.

Now, I say that because "Bike Lane" is about Freddie Gray and one wonders why we should view the rare appearance of a real world concern in a Malkmus song with anything less than skepticism, given the tone of his past compositions. The jaunty tune doesn't help ease our worries here, but let's give Malkmus the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is, like Mark E. Smith before him, juxtaposing the music against the concerns of the lyrics. One can't possibly believe that Malkmus would turn the senseless death of the young man from Baltimore into an indie-pop song, so one must remember that beneath the smart-assedry, Malkmus is still calling our attention as listeners to the tragedy of Gray's demise at the hands of the cops. Elsewhere, a duet with Kim Gordon nudges parts of Sparkle Hard into real Glimmer Twins territory, "Refute" having a decided grime about it that is indeed infectious. For all that's catchy here throughout the record, Sparkle Hard sees Stephen Malkmus indulge himself a bit on the longer cuts here, "Kite" and "Difficulties / Let Them Eat Vowels" re-affirming his real skill as a guitarist, with the riffs coming loose and fiery on both.

Sparkle Hard sounds enough like Pavement classics that long-time fans should be as happy as I am with this record. The album also fits neatly in with the most recent releases from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks in offering up a pretty good -- superb in spots, really -- showcase for the talents of Malkmus as a singer, composer, and guitarist.

Sparkle Hard by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks will be out on Friday via Matador Records.

More details on Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks via the band's official Facebook page, or official website.

[Photo: Leah Nash]

Monday, May 14, 2018

Affirmation: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Red Hare

For those of you who still listen to a lot of classic harDCore tunes only to lament, "They don't make stuff like this anymore", I'm here to tell ya: they do make stuff like that now. One listen to the superb new record from Red Hare, Little Acts of Destruction, out now via the band's own Hellfire label and Dischord, is enough to convince even the most jaded of aging rockers, that this form has a lotta life in it yet. Of course, it helps immeasurably to have Shawn Brown on the mic, as the cat was the original vocalist for the seminal Dag Nasty. He's joined here by band-mates Dave Eight and Jason Farrell (from Swiz, along with Shawn), and Joe Gorelick, and the D.C.-based four-piece make thunderously-good rock-and-roll.

Recorded and mixed by J. Robbins of Jawbox and Channels, Little Acts of Destruction bristles with life, from brief opener "Distractor", and on to the affirmations of..."Affirmation", and on into "Binary", a train full of dangerous cargo roaring down the tracks. Lots of this, like the pulsing "Surrogate", positively burns in the fashion of any number of acts Brown's been associated with in the past, but it's on slower numbers, like the tense "Live Wire", that the other players get chances to shine, the rhythm section of Eight and Gorelick keeping things moving under Farrell's prickly guitar-lines. Similarly, the nicely-titled "When My Stars Sleep, It's Forever" offers up some sort of journey through a tense landscape, while the surging "Panic Training Session" seems on the verge of lift-off even as the players keep things coiled and edgy throughout. While so much of this feels like a punch in the solar-plexus, there's more texture and interplay in stuff like "That's Not The Same" than one might expect, as these players from the first few waves of harDCore explore the edges of what's possible in this genre in the 21st century.

Red Hare are not re-inventing the wheel here, even as they push down the pedal as the car goes off the highway. Little Acts of Destruction is focused chaos, the sound of rage barely being contained, and the sort of record that delightfully recalls late-period Bad Brains stuff, when the punk was leavened with blasts of the ole' metallic K.O.. A record that deserves to be played at deafening volume, gleefully, Little Acts of Destruction is out now via Dischord.

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

Red Hare are playing Black Cat D.C. for a record release show in a few weeks.

[Photo: Uncredited promo shot from band's Bandcamp page]

Saturday, May 12, 2018

New For You: A Few Pics From Last Night's Hinds Concert In D.C.

Spain's Hinds took the stage in D.C. last night to a rapturously-responsive audience. Having played here a few times already, the band's infectious live show was a known quantity, and the audience seemed to receive the newer songs, like "The Club", with as much affection as they did the older numbers, like "Bamboo" from way back in 2014.

I reviewed I Don't Run back in April, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the new songs that Ana, Carlotta, Amber, and Ada performed with such energy last night.

I Don't Run is out now via Mom + Pop Music, and folks can catch up on the adventures of Hinds via the band's official Facebook page, or via their official website.

[All photos here were taken by either myself or my wife, except for the one of us with the band which was shot by some dude walking up U Street after the show.]

Thursday, May 10, 2018

End Of Time: A Quick Review Of The New Boys Album

The debut full-length album from Sweden's Boys is the sort of thing that one would expect the PNKSLM label to release. And that's another way of saying that Rest In Peace, out tomorrow, is an excellent, haunting record brimming with hooks and otherworldly melodies.

Nora Karlsson, the main driving force behind Boys, uses tracks like "Hemtjansten" to positively haunt a listener, the tune echoing classic tracks from the likes of Julie Cruise and Cranes. "Rabbits" is brighter, some big, catchy chords here carrying this one into the sort of territory once inhabited by old Dusty Springfield singles, while "Love Isn't On My Mind" is more direct still, dashes of Broadcast and early Stereolab popping up here liberally. Karlsson succeeds in preventing lots of this from being too ethereal or precious, and the grounding of the material is in her sharp pop-sense. For all the parts of "End Of Time" that sound breathy and fragile, the underlying riffs are precise, a sharp march into new pop lands, while the epic "What If You Would Die?" sounds like Lesley Gore being remade by the Cocteau Twins. Utterly unlike anything else on the market these days, these tunes from Boys here on Rest In Peace are exquisitely lovely, and perfect cures for the cynicism jaded listeners of indie-pop may feel from time to time.

Nora Karlsson, working here with Hannes Ferm from label-mates and some-time band-mates Holy, has crafted a record in Rest In Peace that straddles a fine line between what some would call dream-pop and what others would call classic songwriting, the tunes wrapped up in effects even as they retain rather traditional, classic forms. Lots and lots of Rest In Peace is breathtaking and, of course, it's yet another PNKSLM release that stands head and shoulders above so much of what passes for indie these days.

Rest In Peace will be out tomorrow via PNKSLM.

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

[Photo: Anna Rauhala]

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dark Spring: A Quick Review Of The New Beach House Album

Beach House make music that lends itself to lazy categorizations. The truth is, to reduce this sort of stuff to dream-pop or shoegaze would be both wrong and far too simplistic. The reality is that this duo, from Baltimore originally, craft sonic landscapes that blend elements of those genres with bits and pieces of other things -- soundtracks, Brill Building pop, ambient -- in the process of making their brand of sublime, totally unique American indie.

The new album from Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally is called 7 and it's the 7th Beach House album proper, and a set of tunes that marks the 77th songs the 2 have released together, according to the press materials. All that suggests a band that might be on the verge of running out of ideas but, with 7 producer Sonic Boom in tow, Beach House have brought forth something special here. The album, out on Friday via Sub Pop, kicks off with the pulsing otherworldly charms of "Dark Spring", a cut that is still grounded in traditional pop-craft. "Drunk in LA" and "Black Car" are breathy explorations of the space between trip-pop and drone-rock, the production by Sonic Boom surely seen here by astute listeners as the progression from the sort of tunes he was pursuing in Spacemen 3 and, later, Spectrum. Elsewhere, the more direct "Lose Your Smile" suggests a debt owed to West Coast pop of the past, think faint hints of Jimmy Webb and Neil Young here. If "Girl of the Year" sees Legrand coo in the fashion of Liz on a Cocteau Twins record circa 1990, then album closer "Last Ride" is a near-epic rumination that's closer to Seefeel, or a Ride ballad, than anything else.

And to name-check other artists is, perhaps, to do a disservice here as the music of Beach House remains indelibly one of a kind. The duo manage to imbue their explorations in these genres with a freshness that the offerings of any number of new, proto-shoegaze, or dream-pop wannabes will never possess. So, name-dropping in a review like this is only meant to place this fine material in a sort of context for newer fans of this duo. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have made a record here in 7 that envelopes, and rewards a careful listener. Effortlessly easy to embrace, 7 is something to seek out when it drops on Sub Pop on Friday.

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

[Photo: Shawn Brackbill]

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Walking Into The Sun: A Review Of The New La Luz Record

The new record from La Luz, Floating Features, out on Friday from Hardly Art, feels like a reward. For those of us who were late to discover the joys of the band's music, or who came in on the release of Weirdo Shrine in 2015, it's been quite a wait for new La Luz music. And now, with Finally Floating, it feels as if the band has hit the sort of artistic peak that rewards our patience over the last 3 long years.

The epic "Cicada" sets the tone with a mix of surf and soundtrack hooks mixing up in a blast of tune-age that's damn hard to describe in writing. The excellent video for the song nearly threatens to eclipse the significant charms of the cut itself, but the offering is a nice sample of what's going on here on Floating Features. La Luz blend a lot of stuff up in the pursuit of some real pop pleasures, like on the roiling "California Finally", or the very lovely "Mean Dream", all Margo Gruyan-tinged, sun-dappled dreaminess. Elsewhere, the epic "Loose Teeth" nods in the direction of both early Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds as well as Los Lobos, while the sinister "The Creature" builds tension through the use of some throwback vibes and eerie riffs. The deliberate "Walking Into The Sun" is a standout too, as is unsettling closer "Don't Leave Me On The Earth" which marries a near-C86-style bit of vocal business with the band's usual guitar attack.

The real problem with La Luz is that the band's music is likely to get labeled dream-pop -- a label that's seen frequently if defined far more infrequently -- or as surf rock. And while I can understand that need to put this music somewhere, it's far easier to say that it's simply damn near impossible to really describe what makes this stuff magical. The players here -- singer/guitarist Shana Cleveland, drummer Marian Li Pino, keyboardist Alice Sandahl, and bassist Lena Simon -- have used Floating Features to reveal the sort of musicianship that modern indie bands rarely possess. All the pieces fit here, even if a listener can't quite describe the infectious symmetry being heard brought to life. The soundtrack to the David Lynchian imaginings in your head, Floating Features is vitally enjoyable.

Floating Features is out on Friday via Hardly Art.

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

[Photo: Chona Kasinger]

Monday, May 7, 2018

Dream Away: A Quick Review Of The New Connections Album

I've been a fan of Connections for a few years now. At first, the Columbus band's stuff provided an easy fix for me in a world with no more new music from The Grifters, and in the spaces between Robert Pollard-associated releases. Now, with the new album, Foreign Affairs, out on the fine Trouble In Mind label on Friday, it feels like Connections have finally found their own style, which is a roundabout way of saying that Foreign Affairs is likely going to be seen as the band's best record to date.

Sure, there's stuff here that nods in the direction of familiar indie-rock touchstones -- the faint hints of The Replacements in the revved-up "Low Low Low", the ramshackle Pavement touches in "Isle Insane", the power-pop of "Ballad of Big" -- but there's lots here that suggests that Connections have progressed, and refined their approach in some substantial ways here on Foreign Affairs. The languid "Misunderstanding" blends a neo-psychedelic-sense of melody with the sort of DIY approach that has always charmed about this lot's brand of American alt-rock. Elsewhere, the lovely "Cynthia Ann" suggests both early Foo Fighters and late-period Pixies, no mean feat that. The players here have a knack for not overpowering this material, allowing some of this to ease by with a real lazy grace that one once found in lots of American indie, but which has been replaced by ironic detachment ever since Malkmus took up a guitar. Wisely, these guys in Connections are not trying to be too clever, instead focusing on riding the mid-tempo "Short Line" through a series of punchy hooks, or letting the bright "Dream Away" burst forth in a little energetic mini-riot.

I suppose it's still fair to say that if you like Guided By Voices, you'll probably love Connections, but it's increasingly unfair to compare the bands so easily when you hear the melodies here on Foreign Affairs. Where Pollard is prolific to the point of being an obsessive, Connections are more content to bring a near-classic rock sense of how a tune works to the world of American indie, where ambition is never very clearly expressed. Foreign Affairs is simultaneously a record with an easier air about it than earlier, punchier Connections releases, even as it's one that's full of the rough edges that made the group's sound so appealing in the first place.

In a season of big releases, Foreign Affairs, out Friday on Trouble In Mind Records, is, perhaps, one that's remarkably easy to love. Connections have sacrificed none of their charm in the pursuit of these sharper, and more composed selections, and the leap to a new label has evidently served these musicians well. The tunes here are spacious and full of warm hooks, and one realizes again how Connections are one of the most underrated bands in America today.

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

[Photo: Seth Moses Miller]

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Unfair Weather: A Few Pics From Tonight's Dot Dash And Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Gig

Dot Dash opened up for Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever tonight at DC9 and they used the occasion to preview a lot of songs from upcoming, and as-yet-untitled album number 6, due to be released on TheBeautifulMusic.com this summer.

Highlights for me were the roaring "TV/Radio", the R.E.M.-ish "Tamed A Wild Beast", and the superb and punchy "Unfair Weather", all numbers that play to the strengths of these three musicians. If the band is now morphing into a decidedly-Jammy affair, it's The Jam of "Running On The Spot" that seems to have inspired front-man Terry Banks, and versatile bassist Hunter Bennett, even while D.C. punk legend Danny Ingram is probably channeling Rick Buckler's fills on "In The City" as he attacks the kit with his substantial skills.

Keep an ear out for news of the upcoming record via the band's official Facebook page.

Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are set to drop their debut full-length album on Sub Pop in June. And while Hope Downs isn't out yet, the band managed to fill up the club tonight largely on the strength of advance hype for that record, and lingering goodwill for the band's last superb release.

The 5-piece throttled through a tight hour-long set with the standout tracks for me being "Mainland" from the new record, the chiming "Julie's Place", a real crowd-pleaser, and "Wither With You", an earlier number which recalls The Go-Betweens quite a bit.

More details on Hope Downs via Sub Pop and the band's official Facebook page.

[Photos: me or my wife]

We Could Do It: A Brief Review Of The New Luke Haines Album

One wonders what drives Luke Haines. What makes him get up in the morning, you know? A few years ago, I'd have said it was his (lingering) rage at the never-ending legacy of Britpop. Still, he is capable of surprises as 2015's risky British Nuclear Bunkers showed. And now, after a career retrospective, he's back with yet another concept album. I Sometimes Dream Of Glue, out this Friday on Cherry Red Records, is perhaps his wildest one yet. It's a record that begs re-upping the official synopsis of the concept:

Just off the Westway, in the motorway sidings, you can see a small sign. Actually you probably can't see the sign as it is the size of a child's fingernail clipping. The sign says 'Glue Town.' The name of a village. There is little or no documentation of Glue Town. You will not find any information about it on the 21st Century internet. Gluetown is a rural settlement born out of mutation. Of the estimated 500 or so dwellers, no one is thought to be over 2 1⁄2 inches tall. The citizens of Glue Town exist on a diet of solvent abuse and perpetual horniness. The residents only leave to carry out daring night-time 'glue raids' on Shepherds Bush newsagent shops. On a tiny screen in the town centre, an old Betamax cassette of 'Michael Bentine’s Pottytime' plays on a loop all day and all night. The reduced size villagers go about their daily business pondering whether the lessons of Pottytime can show them a way out of their drudge lives of sexual abandonment and human sacrifice…

Okay then. Whatever the hell that's about, the next question is, how's the music here?

There is a certain fierceness at play on this one, the kind of quiet resentment set to music that Luke's a master of. Stuff like "She Was Ripe As A Meadow" and "The Subbuteo Lads" see Haines pursue his singular concept with a decided braveness that counts for a lot in today's moribund musical environment. "Everybody's Coming Together For The Summer" very nearly jumps off of I Sometimes Dream Of Glue as an obvious single, while the title cut here purrs with the sort of sinister charm long-time fans of this guy's long career will easily recognize. And sure, "We Could Do It" is also nearly accessible, but this remains a radically out there record conceptually.

Look, there's no easy way to describe I Sometimes Dream Of Glue as the record is an odd release from a guy who's released plenty of difficult records. Still, there are joys here, and for long-time fans of Luke Haines, there's going to be a lot to enjoy here as the artist pursues his singular vision.

I Sometimes Dream Of Glue is out on Friday via Cherry Red Records. More details via Luke's Twitter feed, or his official Facebook page.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Catch It: A Brief Review Of The New Iceage Album

The new album from Iceage, Beyondless, out tomorrow via Matador Records, is the sort of record for people who'd normally reach for an Interpol one, or, better still, a Joy Division LP. The album, the Danish band's fourth, is a release that's at times easier to admire than it is to love. Still, there's something here that catches fire, and the band at least suggests an approach near something marginally dangerous in certain moments.

A track like "Catch It" brims with the sort of lugubriousness that one once found on Crime and the City Solution offerings, while the more successful "The Day The Music Dies" blends a dash of early Birthday Party with the sort of modern indie-pop that bands like Editors and Interpol once rode into the sun. If Iceage are better at making this sound a tiny bit unhinged, I would say that that's a good thing. The players here, wisely, pour their souls into lots of this, and numbers like "Take It All" and "Plead The Fifth" make one think of stuff from The Gun Club updated for a new century, the messy edges now smooth as the vocals lead us to the edge of a cliff. Elsewhere, the excellent "Pain Killer" pushes the throttle into the red, and adds vocals from Sky Ferreira to the chaotic and careening sound of the band. The effect is very nearly hypnotic and one finds a new reserve of tolerance for this sort of very emotional, very disheveled brand of throb-rock. Hearing bits of this, a listener could be forgiven for thinking that it was 1990 again, or even 1995, and while that sounds like a backhanded compliment, at least this lot cares enough to pour some passion into their pop.

Beyondless is out tomorrow via Matador Records. More details on Iceage via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Steve Gullick]

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Losing Myself: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Sugar Candy Mountain

Sugar Candy Mountain make music that draws from a range of disparate influences and which seems the sort of thing that's sure to appeal to anyone who likes, say, Stereolab as well as The Andrea True Connection. The band's new album, Do Right, is out on Friday and it's a fab listen.

If a number like "This Time Around" seems to be looking to stuff from the disco era in some ways, the more precise "Crystalline" marries a Beach Boys-like hook with the sort of presentation found on Beach House records. It's a fantastic track, and one which lingers in the ear long after the song is over. Elsewhere, the lovely "Losing Myself" nods in the direction of Julie Cruise recordings, while the bright "Mar-A-Lago" sees Sugar Candy Mountain looking to Broadcast and Gainsbourg for inspiration. At times here, like on the more accessible "Split In Two", the music of Sugar Candy Mountain seems to be approaching the sort of blissed-out vibe of late-period Cocteau Twins releases, or even the more mellower moments on a My Bloody Valentine offering. Still, what's here is consistently inventive and the band's grasp of songwriting indicates that the players understand how to compose near-shoegaze material with indie-pop that has real melodic heft.

Do Right is a resounding success, and the players here -- Ash Reiter (vocals and guitar), Will Halsey (vocals and drums), Sean Olmstead (guitars and synths), and Jeff Moller (bass) -- have managed to make a record like this, full of music like this, that stands as more than just another offering in an already-crowded near-shoegaze scene. By melding in bits of Gilberto, and High Llamas, and Boo Radleys, the musicians in Sugar Candy Mountain have crafted one of the best releases of Spring 2018 here in Do Right.

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

[Photo: Yasamine June]

Sunday, April 29, 2018

How It Can Be: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Cut Worms

The new album from Cut Worms, Hollow Ground, out on Friday via Jagjaguwar, is as fine a collection of indie-pop as 2018 is likely to see. Song after song charms and quietly amazes here, with main-man Max Clarke revealing himself to be a substantial talent on this record. But we sort of knew that already, didn't we?

Opener "How It Can Be" sounds like something from The Beau Brummels, while numbers like "Coward's Confidence" signify a considerable debt owed to Phil and Don. Elsewhere, "It Won't Be Long" suggest the influence of The Kinks in their Muswell Hillbilly-phase, while "Till Tomorrow Goes Away" is bright, chippy music hall-stuff, the sound of a Yank sifting through a dozen or so worthy influences from the British music scene some decades ago. The longer "Like Going Down Sideways" didn't work as much for me, but when Max keeps things concise, like on the peppy "Think I Might Be In Love", Clarke hits at a sort of timelessness that imbues these cuts with a weird familiarity, such that a listener can grasp at pieces that sound like bands you're in love with already.

There's so much here to love that Hollow Ground seems like one of the more significant records of 2018 and we're only 4 months in. Max Clarke as Cut Worms has crafted a set of tunes here that all charm. Fans of chamber-pop, and the Nuggets-era stuff, should love this record, and so should anyone who's looking for well-crafted indie-pop.

Hollow Ground by Cut Worms will be out on Friday via Jagjaguwar.

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

[Photo: Joyce Lee]

Stars Align: A Few Words About The New Belly Album (Yes, I Said The New Belly Album)

I don't think anyone was losing sleep waiting for a Belly reunion. Sure, some of us positively loved Star in 1993 and King in 1995, but it's doubtful that there seemed a need for the band to return, especially considering Tanya Donelly's consistent career as a solo artist.

Still, there's reason to rejoice as the band -- Donelly, Thomas Gorman on guitars, Gail Greenwood on bass, and Chris Gorman on drums -- have reconvened to present us with the surprisingly melodic Dove, due for release next Friday. If the record doesn't quite punch with the intermittent ferocity found on those earlier 2 releases, it at least succeeds remarkably well as a showcase for the talents of Tanya Donelly, one of the most formidable band-leaders from the heyday of alt-rock.

The lyrical "Stars Align" finds Donelly offering up that familiar mixture of vulnerability and bravado found in her best vocal performances, as the band revs up comfortably behind her, while the easy-to-love "Girl" features a hook to die for. Elsewhere, the mid-tempo "Artifact" sounds a tiny bit like something from The Pretenders, while the more expansive "Human Child" takes more risks musically than one might expect to find on a Belly record. Some of this ("Suffer the Fools", "Quicksand") is going to sound very familiar to anyone who's been following Tanya Donelly's solo career, but stuff like "Army of Clay" has a kick that echoes those earlier, great Belly recordings, and suggests that these players are still capable of firing on all cylinders when the material's right.

A record full of of modest successes, Dove sees Belly offer up an album that's not only an extension of the sound of the band's earlier releases, but also a set of many reminders of what a fantastic singer Tanya Donelly is, and how much joy her voice can continue to bring listeners.

More details on Dove via the official Belly website.

[Photo: Uncredited promo picture from the band's website]

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What's Your Secret? A Quick Review Of The New Bart And The Bedazzled Album

Bart Davenport is a guy who knows exactly how to craft a pop song. In that regard, he's the sort of natural at songwriting that places him within range of favorable comparisons to Michael Head and Paddy McAloon. The new record from Bart and the Bedazzled, Blue Motel, drops on Friday and it's a sublime affair, full of the sort of melodies and hooks that echo old Associates singles and more recent Divine Comedy offerings.

The band is made up of Davenport, bassist Jessica Espeleta, guitarist Wayne Faler, and drummer Andres Renteria, and the players here make this material positively soar. The title cut chimes, while the even-lighter "What's Your Secret (Cleo)?" nods in the direction of both Aztec Camera and The Pale Fountains. Elsewhere, the lovely "The House That Built Itself" made me think of stuff from The Wild Swans and, oddly, Squeeze, while the superb "Grownups" is the sort of thing that Roddy Frame once perfected, all smart lyrics over rippling guitars. There aren't any serious missteps here, though the laconic jazz of "The Amateurs" suggests weaker album cuts from Everything But The Girl. Still, for the most part, Blue Hotel is rapturously beautiful in the fashion of old Pearlfishers albums, or even that first great Danny Wilson release.

Blue Motel will be out on Friday. More details below, or via the links on the band's Bandcamp page.

More details on Bart Davenport and Bart and the Bedazzled via Bart's official website.

[Photo: Carlie Kinnear]