Friday, August 17, 2018

Tantalize: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Davey Woodward And The Winter Orphans (ex-The Brilliant Corners)

Davey Woodward made memorable music in The Brilliant Corners and now he's back again with a new band, Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans. The group's latest self-titled record is out today via Tapete Records, and it's a largely invigorating listen.

Stuff like "Build a Boat" has a nice ramshackle charm, while the superb "Caroline" sounds as much like mid-period Velvet Underground as the law will probably allow. Elsewhere, "Tantalise" and "Home" suggest both Wreckless Eric and The Lilac Time, both worthy comparison points, even as the slower and more languid numbers here ("Tangerine Dream", "Black Lipstick") echo, however faintly, works from Bob Dylan and Luke Haines, among many others. Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans is a far more successful record when things bounce a bit and I found some of these slower songs not as enjoyable as others may find them, despite the effort that went into their creation. Woodward is prodigiously talented, and a track like "Dylan's Poster" sounds enough like a solo Robert Forster number that one wishes there was more material like this on this record.

Despite my nitpicking, Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans is a fine album and fans of The Brilliant Corners are likely to welcome back this songwriter with arms wide open.

More details on Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans, the album and the band, via Tapete Records.

[Photo: Jon Kent]

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 in such a way as to suggest something not dependent on rhythms (though it is), 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.