Monday, October 20, 2014

REVIEW: Mark Martyre - Red Letters

Eight tracks of poetic folk and Americana (or is it Canadiana?) comprise Red Letters, the new album from Toronto poet and singer songwriter Mark Martyre.  The themes are personal and reflective and the tone is warm.  The minimal instrumental accompaniment of guitar, bass, violin, piano and, at times, accordion allows focus to center on the true stars of the songs, Mark's words, and his gravelly voice.  Most of the tracks are downtempo, but Mark ups the pace for personal favorite "I Wasn't Born to Lose You" and the piano romp of "My Baby's Gone A Flyin'".

My personal reaction to Martyre's album is that, at its most basic level, it is about textures.  Certainly and most obviously, those textures include layers of various instruments and Mark's voice.  But the most lasting impact is the emotional textures created by Mark's words, aided by his inflection, and use of space and timing to underscore the emotions.  True artistry is the ability to use restraint to emphasize the depth of feeling, and that ability is quietly loud on Red Letters.

Red Letters was released on October 14, and is available as a digital download or CD at the Bandcamp link below.


R.I.P. reggae legend John Holt

John Holt, one of the giants of Reggae's golden years, died yesterday in a London hospital at age 67.  A famed vocalist and successful songwriter, his career spanned his entry in talent shows when he was in the mid-'50s to his last album release in 2003.  As a vocalist, he enjoyed success as a solo artist, in duets, and in the group The Paragons.  Some may recall that The Paragons recorded the original version of "The Tide Is High", which later was a hit for Blondie.  While he recorded socially conscious and Rastafarian related material, he probably was best known for his romantic, "lovers rock" recordings.  To remind you of his talent, I've included clips of his Rocksteady hit for the Treasure Isle label, "Ali Baba", his lovers rock hit for Studio One "I Want A Love I Can Feel", and the original version of "The Tide Is High".

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Shine A Light" from Sampology, feat. Daniel Merriweather

Brisbane's Sam Poggioli is a breath of fresh air on the music scene.  As Sampology, he creates joy-infused dance music that pleases your ears and ignites your feet.   And he also creates wonderful visual accompaniment.  It seems that a US album is due in June of 2015, but Sam and two other collaborators are in the US now to play live shows, including several at CMJ.  The remaining dates are at the bottom of this post.  For an introduction to Sam's audio-visual talents, enjoy the video below for "Shine A Light", featuring Daniel Merriweather and Sam's visual creations.

Remaining Shows on Tour
Wed 10/22 | Sampology Ft. Tom Thum | CMJ x Beat Pie @ Santos Party House | 12:10 AM - 12:35 AM | NYC
Sat 10/25 | Sampology (DJ Set) | Aussie BBQ w/ Dune Rats, Gossling, Bad//Dreems and More@ the Delancey NYC | 12 AM - 2 AM | NYC

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rolling Stones Friday: The Last Time

"The Last Time" is officially credited as the first UK single by the Stones written by Jagger-Richards. The song was recorded in Hollywood, CA in January 1965 and went to no. 1 on the UK charts just a few months later.

Keith Richards much later admitted however, that "The Last Time" was lifted from a 1955 Staples Singers song called "This May Be The Last Time".

Here is the Stones version:

And the Staple Singers:

Larceny notwithstanding, Brian Jones' guitar riff in the Stones' version is one of the most distinctive of its era and a great moment in Stones history. It's a terrific single, one of my favorites.

And almost 50 years later, the Stones are still playing this song. Here's a recent live version from a 2013 show in Los Angeles:

"The Last Time" has been covered by many, including Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, The Who and Bobby Bare (Sr.). But the band most associated with the song, other than the Stones, is the Grateful Dead who frequently covered it, including this slow building, excellent version from 1992: 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

REVIEW: Fair Maiden - Fair Maiden

The name Fair Maiden may not spark recognition in the portion of your brain that stores facts about music, but I suggest that listening to opening track "India", with Ellen Carey's ghostly vocals over a ominous tom beat will be enough to get you interested in the self-titled debut from this Australian band.  And the delights offered by the following seven tracks are varied indeed.  "Lord" is a dark, bluegrassy sing-a-long ("Lord, Lord summon me/bring charges to me now") in which Carey creates a narrator so certain of her hopeless state that it brings a smile; "Wait for You" is a sweet country love song, perfect for the hayride.  "Poison" is an atmospheric, slow-tempo cautionary tale.  The folk lament "Sad Song" features sparse instrumentation and otherworldly female vocals. "Blue Moon" and "Darlin" are re-imagined '60s pop, and if you are like me, "Darlin" will draw a few hits on the replay button.  The closer, "Lady of Fortune" is a chugging folk rock song that showcases the powerful harmonies of Carey and female collaborators.

The project started way back in 2008, with Ellen Carey, a veteran of several other bands, working on some songs.  They've incubated over time, and attracted other musicians -- Ellen's brother Joel Carey and Liam Kenny in the past, Steph Crase, Hamish Baird and Noah Renolds in the present.  The album's influences can be found in the folk and pop of the '60s, but Carey's eclectic songwriting, thematic choices and dark sense of humor result in a timeless and thoroughly enjoyable album.  Buy it, play it, it will make you happy.

Fair Maiden is out now via Bedroom Suck Records, and via Fire Records by arrangement with BSR in the Northern Hemisphere.  You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Bedroom Suck Records page for the album
Fire Records

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Back to You" from Twerps, new LP in January

In late January Melbourne's Twerps will release Range Anxiety, their first full length with North American label Merge.  In Australia and New Zealand, the album will be available via the band's Melbourne label Chapter Music.  To give fans a hint of the treats that await them, album track "Back to You" will be available as a single in early November.  This is classic stuff - a not particularly happy theme swathed in a breezy tune - and it is done with Twerps' usual fine style.  We expect excellence from this gang, and we get it.

Merge Records
Chapter Music pre-order page

REVIEW: Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place

We have good news for fans of Aussie/Anglo foursome Allo Darlin':  On We Come From The Same Place, the band's new LP, the band delivers 11 tracks of melodic indie pop just as it has on its two previous albums.  And I think that is just fine and, in fact, the way it should be.  There is no reason to change an approach that results in the kind of songs that are perfect for a fall afternoon, kicking through leaves with the sun in your face and a hint of chill in the breeze.  The instrumentation is thoughtful and intricate pop, with a clean sound, but the centerpiece remains Elizabeth Morris' vocals.  With a tone similar to Natalie Merchant (10,000 Manics) and Wendy Pickles (The Popguns), a seemingly effortless delivery, and a natural melancholy, it is one of those voices that I'd love to have tell me stories all day.  In fact, telling stories about life and its little journeys in clear-eyed and unstinting terms is the songwriting specialty of Allo Darlin'.  There is humor and pain, and some rear-view mirror reflection, but the style is breezy and natural, so the overall effect is uplifting.

Your favorite song may reflect a thematic choice, or a preference between for the slower tempo songs such as "History Lessons" or the more buoyant tracks such as "Bright Eyes" and "Half Heart Necklace".  I'll just give you three representative tracks to sample, as in my opinion you can't go wrong with any of them.  If this band isn't on your radar, it should be.  And if this album isn't on your list, you should consider adding it.

Fans should note that Allo Darlin' is touring the US this October and has scheduled a UK tour for November.

Allo Darlin' is Elizabeth Morris (songwriter, vocals, uke), Paul Rains (guitar, lapsteel, vocals), Bill Botting (bass, vocals), and Mikey Collins (drums, vocals).  We Come From The Same Place is out now via Slumberland Records in the North America and Fortuna POP! in Europe.

Slumberland Records
Fortuna POP!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"The Prayer" from Jonny Telafone

Jonny Telafone creates his own brand of doom R&B, infused with haze, sex and impending its-all-going-to hell perspective.  His most recent major release was a 2012 four track 7" with and accompanying 20-track CD for Chapter Music (stream of CD available here).  His new LP, Romeo Must Cry, will be released via Chapter Music in 2015.  The first song available from the album is "The Prayer", which serves as a good introduction to Telafone's unique art.  We have both the video and the Soundcloud stream for you below.  If you want the track, it is available for $1 at the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for "The Prayer"
Chapter Music
Jonny Telafone's Soundcloud page

REVIEW: Sea Pinks - Dreaming Tracks

I cannot predict where I will find one of my favorite albums of the year.  Sometimes it is an eagerly anticipated release from a long favorite band.  Sometimes it is a new and exciting talent that hits the scene to broad critical acclaim.  And sometimes, as it the case with Dreaming Tracks, it is an album from a solo-project-turned-full-band.  Neil Brogan has been the drummer for Belfast's Girls Names.  But it turns out that Neil also has a way with the guitar, a knack for songwriting and some things he wants to express.  Of course, none of this is a complete secret, as he has prior Sea Pinks releases to his credit, including the fine Freak Waves of several years ago.  However, to my ears Dreaming Tracks represents a clear step up in writing, scope of expression, performance, and I dare say, ambition.

From the initial cello notes of the opening track "Dream Happening" (radio edit below without the cello opening), to the buoyant indie rock of "Art Imitating Life", to the hints of sophisticated '60 guitar pop of "Meat & Drink", to the taut, driving "Waiting for You (to Go)", to the 'big room' alternative rock psychedelia of "Magpies Eyes", to the dusty country rock of "Not Belonging" and "Wasted On You", Neil and his compatriots demonstrate a complete mastery of songs and and astutely blended styles. The guitar tones in particular are an absolute highlight: Resonant, gut-thumping chords; snaking leads; and authoritative bass.  Those who fell in love with Sea Pinks will find less fuzz and even a little less jangle than some prior recordings, but the trade off is a more mature expression of indie rock that should place this Belfast, Northern Ireland project alongside Allah Las in the conversation regarding the best current bands playing West Coast guitar rock.  If you only have time for one example to evaluate the truth of that statement, check out "Pacific Standard Time" below.

Writing about current music means I live with an album for some weeks, listening multiple times, writing up the album, and then moving on.  Time is short, so it is the rare album that continues to get regular play after I publish the post.  But Dreaming Tracks is one of those rare albums.  In fact, if writing about it meant I couldn't listen to it any more, you wouldn't be reading this because I'd still be "evaluating" the record.  Their Facebook page offers that the band is inspired by sea glass, bleached grass and ghost guitars.  I don't claim to know what that means, but paraphrasing Abe Lincoln addressing the issue of General Grant's excessive consumption of whiskey, if sea glass, bleached grass and ghost guitars inspire music like Dreaming Tracks, sent a shipment to all of the bands.

You can stream the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

In addition to Brogan (guitar and vocals), Sea Pinks on this album are Davey Agnew (drums), Steven Henry (bass), Jonny Agnew (cello on six tracks).  Dreaming Tracks is available via CF Records, a small label in Belfast with a tasteful roster.  You can purchase a digital download or physical via the Bandcamp link as well.

CF Records

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kane Strang's "Winded" video

In August we featured (link hereTemporary album from Fishrider Records covering Dunedin, New Zealand's current music scene.  One of the tracks, Kane Strang's "Winded", is the subject of a recent video.  I like the song very much, and I'm happy for any excuse to again bring Temporary to our readers' minds.  And to remind to, the entire album can be streamed at the Bandcamp link below, which also is the link for New Zealand and Australian fans.  North American fans can use the Ba Da Bing link, and European fans should use the Occultation link.

Bandcamp for Temporary
Fishrider Records
Ba Da Bing Records order page

Free tracks on Hand Games mix #23

Hand Games is a Sydney, Australia outfit that does parties, tours, bookings, and, once a month, a downloadable mix of emerging Australian artists.  We've decided to feature their latest mix to give those artists, and Hand Games, a bit of exposure.  This mix has 13 tracks and I think a lot of them are quite good.

Hand Games on Facebook
Hand Games' website