Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Jack + Eliza - No Wonders EP

In general, American college kids are pretty predictable -- sleep, classes, parties, hook-ups, beer, football games.  They can live their lives that way because that's what college kids do, and no one can criticize them because, well, that's what college kids do.  However, every now and then someone comes along to raise the curve.  And today's someone-raising-the-curve actually is two someones, namely Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan.  Jack is a sophomore double major in history and political science at New York University, and Eliza is a sophomore double major in visual arts and English literature at Columbia University.  But that isn't enough for this duo.  They also write and perform music as Jack + Eliza, have signed to Yebo Music (which also released the latest album by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and have just released No Wonders EP, their debut record.  And while some may be tempted to resent these over-achieving New Yorkers, I'm not.   You see, the No Wonders EP is melodic, nostalgic, sunny and almost indescribably cute.  The vocal harmonies recall The Mamas and Papas and the Beatles.  The jangling guitars underscore the '60s vibe.  And the delivery is cool and unaffected.  As I said, it is cute; and cute is good in this case.

The first of the EP's five tracks is the standout "Secrets" (video below).  With gorgeous harmonies and twanging and jangling guitar accompaniment, it should be irresistible for any pop fan.  The dreamy "Hold the Line" (stream below) cements the duo's jangle pop credentials, and features a delightful call and response vocal.  "So Open" is a heart-on-the-sleeve '60s nugget.  The penultimate track, "Floodlights", initially competes with "Secrets" as the track which most recalls The Mamas and Papas, but shows a more modern face as it unspools.  In the closing track, "Heading West", Jack and Eliza recall the best work of She & Him, or the first album from Seattle's The Young Evils.

It is over fast, but you'll be all two happy to replay it multiple times.  Jack + Eliza focus on songwriting (Eliza won the John Lennon songwriting contest at age 15) and vocal interplay.  There isn't much of that around these days, and I suggest we all treasure it.

Yebo Music

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

REVIEW: Martyr Privates - Martyr Privates

Martyr Privates' new self-titled debut album is not the shy, retiring type.  Make no mistake, it isn't a friendly puppy dog, either.  But this records growls, stomps and swaggers through your cranium like it owns the place.  And fortunately, the invasion is likely to leave you happy and satisfied.  It is the kind of psychedelic rock that dwells in noise, chunky drone and expertly curated grime -- more The 13th Floor Elevators filtered through '80s-'90s alt rock than the acoustic side of Jefferson Airplane.  You know, hammers instead of scalpels and all that.  But from the opening chug of album opener "Someone's Head", I was impressed with this band's clear-eyed and unfussy vision of rock and roll.  The sound is full, but there is nothing extraneous.  There also is nothing to tie you to current trends in music. No synths, samples, or guests, and certainly nothing you'll hear on mainstream radio or by a contestant in a blind audition for the voice.  And that is one more thing to treasure about Martyr Privates -- it is our album and we don't have to share it with pre-teens and Madison Avenue ad agencies.

Martyr Privates is a Brisbane trio consisting of Ashleigh Shipton (bass), ex-Slug Guts member Cameron Hawes (vocals and guitar), and Sam Dixon (drums).  Martyr Privates is available now in digital and vinyl formats from Bedroom Suck in Australia and New Zealand, and Fire Records elsewhere.  And as an aside, I'll observe that the partnership between Bedroom Suck and Fire Records is an incredible boon to indie music fans.  Bedroom Suck is one of the finer little labels around, with their finger on the pulse of vital underground Australian music.  Fire Records comes to the table with a distribution and support reach that labels the size of Bedroom Suck cannot generate, couples with Fire's proven excellent taste in music.

Fire Records
Bedroom Suck Records

Monday, September 29, 2014

"And It Grows" from Cool Ghouls

It is always a happy event to learn that San Francisco's Cool Ghouls is about to release new music.  As we announced a few weeks ago when we previewed album track "The Mile" (link), the band will release A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye on November 11 via Empty Cellar Records.  A second song, "And It Grows" has just been made available.  It proves that Pat Thomas, Ryan Wong, Pat McDonald, and Alex Fleshman make some of the best psychedelic garage rock on today's scene.

Empty Cellar Records

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Introducing: American Wrestlers

I'd love to tell you more about American Wrestlers, but other than they are from St. Louis, they have this excellent track named "I Can Do No Wrong" floating around the web and available on Bandcamp for 'name your price', and they recorded a cassette which presumably is available, I don't know anything.  But if you enjoy the song, download it and send them a dollar so they can make more music.

Bandcamp for "I Can Do No Wrong"

Friday, September 26, 2014

REVIEW: Sister Flo - Tragician's Hat

You may never have heard of Sister Flo.  While they sang in English, they never earned a significant following outside the borders of Finland.  However, the beauty of their 2004 debut LP,  Tragician's Hat, endures.  It contains some of the most beautiful songs I've heard -- all dreamy acoustic and electric guitars and synths, horns, gentle vocals with hints of yearning and melancholy, and inventive pop.  One listen and you can endorse the comparisons to Belle and Sebastian and Stereolab, although the music is sufficiently unique that one couldn't easily fit Sister Flo into any other group's box.  And the reason we are writing about it now is that Helsinki label Soliti has released Tragician's Hat, remastered and with additional outtakes, rare and unreleased tracks, songs from an EP, a radio spot and two live performances.  The album is available on vinyl (only 300 copies), double CD (500 copies) and digital download, containing 22 tracks and the original artwork.  Note that the bonus tracks are only available on the CD version.

The music varies from the straightforward to the inscrutable, but always pleases.  The songs have a sense of strength, not by virtue of volume but rather sincerity and immaculate construction.  You can find music everywhere these days, but you can rarely find music like this.  Here is your second chance -- don't blow it.

And here is a track that was left off of the compilation in error, so Soliti is offering it as a free download:

Sister Flo was Janne Lastumäki, Antti Kaistinen, Samae Koskinen, Mikko Salonen, and Jarno Alho.

Soliti Music

Rolling Stones Friday: When the Whip Comes Down

In looking for a song for this week, I had to find one that truly rocked. And few Stones songs rock harder than "When the Whip Comes Down" from Some Girls. Recorded in 1977 in Paris, the song tells the story of a young gay man who leaves LA for New York City and ends up walking the streets, and some have interpreted the lyrics as suggesting him also possibly holding a day job as a garbage man (though I tend to interpret the garbage language as oblique references to life as a gay hustler).

Yeah I go to 53rd Street and they spit in my face
But I'm learning the ropes, yeah, I'm learning a trade
The East River truckers is churning with trash
I've got so much money but I spend it so fast.

Yeah, some call me garbage when I'm sweeping up the street
But I never roll and I never cheat
And I'm filling a need, yeah, I'm plugging a hole
My mama's so glad I ain't on the dole.

Pretty edgy stuff for 1978 even by the Stones standards. Though for me the glory of the song is the full on punk-inspired rock and Charlie Watts' relentless beat.

They have preformed this one live regularly through the years with many great versions out there including some recent ones. Here's a particularly blistering vintage version from 1978, three guitars blazing, demonstrating why they earned the title "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band":

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"So We Know" from DMA's

Johnny Took, Matt Mason, and Tommy O'Dell -- three friends from Newtown, Australia -- comprise DMA's.  Their residence may be in the southern hemisphere, but their sound seems to be an Australian version of '90s Britpop.  The band previously released a self-titled EP (which is available on iTunes).  Tracks "Laced" and "So We Know" will be released in physical form in November, but "So We Know" has been released digitally this week via Mermaid Avenue and Mom+Pop in the US, and Partisan in Europe.  The band also will be touring Europe and the US in October and November, and making an appearance at CMJ in New Your.  Lend your ears, this may be the Next Big Thing.  But even if they don't hit that level, this is a very nice song.


"Heaven Ain't High" from Little Shoes Big Voice

In late August we introduced London duo Little Shoes Big Voice via their tracks "Blue Veins" and "Nightfall" (link).  And while we haven't done any due diligence on the size of anyone's shoes, we can endorse Jack Durtnall's production skills and the size of Emily Harvey's voice. Their latest track is the dramatic slow-burner "Heaven Ain't High".  I particularly like how they infuse the song with emotion without relying on excess production touches.  Enjoy --


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Copper Girl" 7" from The Grand Rapids

Pssst, here's a deal: Two tracks of psychedelic rock for $1 (Australian) from Melbourne's Grand Rapids on their Copper Girl 7".  Grand Rapids are Sasha L. Smith (vocals/guitar), Daniel Hallpike (guitar), Deon Slaviero (bass), and Keith Ratnan (drums).  The 7" is released by Psyche Ward, which also released the bands October 2013 full length album.  The music tends toward the thicker, heavier, droning end of the psychedelic spectrum, and if that is your thing, this is a group to investigate.

Psyche Ward

"Shalala" from Moses Gunn Collective

A relatively new psychedelic rock and to keep your eye on is Moses Gun Collective, from Brisbane.  They can be dreamy, and they can hit the big riffs.  Try them out on new single "Shalala" and watch for their EP later this year.

Moses Gun Collective is Aidan Moore (vocals/guitar), Samuel Sargent (drums), Alex Mitchell (bass),  and Lewis Stephenson (guitar).