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Wednesday 19 October 2016

Earwig - Pause For The Jets

Lizard McGee's Earwig have been around for well over two decades and I've followed them intently, often bemused and confused, but always happily. They aren't always the easiest listen, but they are always interesting. There's lots of explanations behind the songs, which interests me less, to be honest I find it twaddle at times. Those songs, however, are spot on.

Explained away at times as Sci-Fi Rock, I'd disagree, I always file them with angular pop and it's the sort of thing that the ASH group love. Be that XTC, They Might Be Giants, The Sugarplastic or even Cotton Mather. All those apply as comparisons, but Earwig are a far noisier version.

There's lots of guitar and it's gripping, at times it can get psych (High Wasps), but it can also be straight ahead catchy rock (Holy Ghost Letter), the album is never less than interesting. Wasted On You is pure Power Pop. All My Sins Are Blotted Out is a grunge anthem, a great song spoilt a little by the extended first minute intro.

The riff on Shine is a cracker and the closing track is wonderfully melancholic, you could imagine it on an 80's IRS compilation. All in all, Earwig have provided their most accessible music to date.

It's a play loud album and something I've listened to a lot over the past week. It's certainly destined for the Top 10 albums of my year and the standard is really high after the past couple of month's releases. It may take you a bit of time to get it, but when you do, it will stick hard.

You can listen to and buy the album on Earwig's Bandcamp site here. Pause For The Jets can also be bought on CD and Limited Edition Vinyl here

Skinny Lister - The Devil The Heart And The Fight

Skinny Lister are virtually inventing a genre themselves, Folk Punk or certainly New Wave Folk. If this is the future of Folk, then sign me up. The Six Piece are coming to the end of a sell out UK Tour and then it's onwards to the States and you Yanks are in for a treat.

The opener is like The Clash with Fiddles. A great rollicking singalong.

Geordie Lad doesn't let up, it's got a killer guitar riff, almost Power Pop. Tragedy In A Minor is reminiscent of The Fratellis. There will be comparisons with The Pogues, particularly on Injuries, but Skinny Lister are for more melodic pop led.

The folk isn't forgotten though, especially when Lorna Thomas gets involved in the vocals, note the charm of the ballad, Reunion and Devil In Me.

Beat It From The Chest could revitalise the Pub singalong and the days when people actually talked to one another. A few pints and a good old terrace sing song. Hamburg Drunk reminds me of Kirsty MacColl, Charlie could be Elvis Costello, Fair Winds And Following Seas could be Dexys.

The anthemic closer, Carry is almost Runrig. You can gather by the comparisons here that there's great variety on The Devil The Heart And The Fight. It's a grand old stomper of an album and you can imagine them live and what a joy that would be. I'm a bit pissed off that I've missed my chance on this tour.

You can buy the album all over the place, full details are on the band's website here. You can also find details of the US Tour and I'd urge you Stateside people to get out and see them.

What a corking album this is!

The Jangle Band - Edge Of A Dream

Event though I'm a Brit, I often get defensive of Australia's part in the history of Power and Indie Pop. In the battle between the UK and the States over who influences it most, Oz Pop is usually forgotten. People forget how influential Friday On My Mind was, what a burgeoning Indie scene came out of Australia from the late 70's onward and how now it seems to be on a one country battle to save the guitar.

The Jangle Band are proof of this. Jeff Baker was in The Rainyard. the late 80's Perth band that deserved far more recognition. Ian Freeman was in Header, the 90's band that had a brand of Oz Brit Pop that should have been far more successful. Joe Algeri is well familiar to us as a Power Popper of great influence, most notably in The JAC..

The opener, Edge Of A Dream, is a great Summer Pop song, all singalong swagger with a brass solo. But Fear not, The Jangle Band jangle big time. Edge Of A Dream is very much Rickenbacker 12 String heaven in The Byrds and Teenage Fanclub territory. Love You Too is a great example of this, so 1968 Byrds.

Kill The Lovers ramps up that feel even more, for every jingle, there's a jangle, Perth is much moodier, the lyrics emphasising this feel, acoustic and keyboard led.  It Won't Break is so TFC, it could be them.

Let Me Breathe is a 60's double vocal, could be Simon And Garfunkel with added accordion and a Psych Pop guitar. Harmonica and Pedal Steel enhance the album closer, Exile On Murray Street, the atmosphere aided by some great vocal melody.

As a whole, the album works wonderfully. There's more than enough to please the Rickenbacker lovers, but there's plenty of variety. Teenage Fanclub fans in particular will love this album, but there's plenty here to make Edge Of A Dream a worthwhile addition to everyone's collection. I hear a lot compared to TFC, so much that is not in the same league, this is.

You can listen to the album here and then buy it. The CD release adds 5 Bonus Tracks and I know many of us prefer physical product.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Nick Piunti - Beyond The Static (Sugarbush Vinyl)

Nick Piunti is currently on the crest of a wave with his new album, Trust Your Instincts. It's the crossover album that should break him everywhere. Many do not see the journey to this point. Trust Your Instincts is the third in a trio of albums leading to this success.

13 In My Head kicked it all off with a straight ahead Power Pop album, all chiming chords and chorus hooks, one of the great Power Pop records of 2013. 2015's Beyond The Static moved that on a pace. The riffs were still there, but there was a more laid back feel at times. Reminiscent of Mike Viola and Cheap Trick at times. Things like the Pedal Steel on Six Bands ensured this wasn't a sophomore album.

There's a great melodic feel to the album, aided by having the excellent Chris Richards on Backing Vocals on Head In The Clouds and Seven Days A week. The former being a 70's Pop Rock stomp, the latter a 60's Jangle singalong. Certainly some Legal Matters vocal fairy dust on both. Something's Wrong is certainly more edgy, helped by the fast emerging Ryan Allen on additional guitar.

The added fairy dust by the guests shouldn't take away the fact that this is very much a Nick Piunti album. It keeps everyone who admired 13 In My Head on board, but moves the variance on. It steps out of Power Pop and into a far more encompassing Melodic Pop. The album was highly placed in most critics Top 10 Power Pop albums of the year and rightly so.

Not only did it pave the way for what the Trust Your Instincts to explode into uncharted territory, but it also stands up on it's own as a splendid album. Heart Stops Beating is more familiar Piunti territory and that's a great place to live,

Talking of album trilogies, Sugarbush goes from strength to strength and their recent threesome of their own with this release, Pugwash's Almanac and Dom Mariani's Homespun Blues And Greens has enhanced their reputation as the pest vinyl label out there.

You can buy the vinyl edition of Beyond The Static here.

The Garden Of Earthly Delights

Busman's Holiday - Popular Cycles

Busman's Holiday are brothers, Lewis and Addison Rodgers from Bloomington Indiana. Backed by a 21 piece orchestra, they've come up with a charming album, very different to what I've been listening to lately.

It's very acoustic 12 string, but the orchestral arrangements expand the songs beautifully. The vocals are like a cross between Brandon Flowers and Rufus Wainwright, more reminiscent of the latter. The stand out song is Make Believe, which as an addictive charm.

Lyrically excellent, the album reminded me at times of They Might Be Giant, I couldn't explain why, but have a listen to it and you'll see what I mean. Popular Cycles is an enhancing way to spend 40 minutes and a great listen. You can listen to and buy the album here.

Tinnarose - My Pleasure Has Returned

I've been listening to Tinnarose's second album a lot and it's great. Devon McDermott's voice is a fine thing indeed and My Pleasure Has Returned shows how adaptable that fine voice is. Strong arrangements including strings and brass provide depth and variety across all 10 songs,

Continual Praise should be given to the band for the variance, it would be easy to just rest in the Folk Pop world, but there's far more ambition. You should get beyond McDermott's voice but it's really hard. She can be Sandy Denny, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Linda Thompson or Annie Haslam, but she can rock like a good 'un on the likes of Cherry Blossom Time.

I really don't want to make this just about the vocals, because it's not. As the album progresses, it becomes more Steely Dan or Fleetwood Mac like, but it's not derivative and it's also lyrically excellent. 

This is a fine album. You should listen to and then buy it here

Namesake - Borders And Fences

Atlanta's Namesake had their debut album re-released earlier this year as a Deluxe Edition and I'm still gobsmacked that it isn't better. This is territory that I'm more at home in these days, but I do get irritated by the Pop Punk label in general. The Punk half of that label just puts people off.

This is just great Power Pop. Riffs galore, the album just doesn't let go. and you don't want it to. They remind me a lot at times of a rockier version of Everything Else and The Downtown Fiction.

I don't see many around in the field producing better albums than this. Here's hoping for new material soon.  You can find out more about the band here. The Deluxe Edition of Borders And Fences is available from the likes of Amazon and Apple Music.

Gurr - In My Head

Gurr are sisters Andreya and Laura Lee from Berlin and they've managed to come up with a more than interesting debut album. Riot Girl in it's feel, it compares well to the likes of The Slits, but also the J Pop of Shonen Knife.

Lo-Fi garage rock that's a really refreshing listen, not many are attempting this sort of thing at the moment and In My Head is a refreshing listen because of that. Amongst all the girl with guitar stuff, there are some great pop moments, demonstrated well by Moby Dick.

This is great girl pop with a touch of attitude. You can listen to and buy the album here.

Monday 17 October 2016

The Clang Group - Practice

Most people may know Clive Langer as one half of Langer And Winstanley, producers of note and not just Madness. People forget Morrissey's Bona Drag, Costello's Goodbye Cruel World, Dexy's Too-Rye-Ay. They Might Be Giants and my own favourites, Dogs Die In Hot Cars.

More importantly at ASH Towers, he's also the guitarist and songwriter in the magnificent Deaf School. Their revival has been one of the joys of recent times. Langer is worth the admission alone for co-writing Shipbuilding.

The Clang Group are a five piece that includes Langer and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music fame. I'm pleased to say that in these days when Indie seems to mean Psych Pop meandering or electronic nothingness, The Clang Group have come up with a splendid Indie album, left field, almost experimental.

Great lyrics that appear at first to be stream of consciousness, but have hidden depth. Unexpected hooks, at times it feels jazzy, largely due to Andy Mackay, at other times keyboard driven, but all held together by Gregg Braden's drums.

Langer's lazy drawl adds to the enjoyment and it's great to hear him on guitar again. All 10 songs play their part but the 60's organ led Concertina and Picture Postcard Paradise stand out. Knock Me Off is my fave though, it's 70's New Wave at it's best.There's also a guest vocal from Suggs on a revival of Clive Langer And The Boxes' 1980 gem, Had A Nice Night. Practice is one of the more pleasant surprises of this year.

Highly recommended! The album can be bought on CD or Vinyl here. It can also be bought for download in all the usual online emporiums.

The Tubes - The Musikladen Concert 1981

There's a spate of Live CDs  being released at the moment. A lot of it has to do with copyright control and feature Radio Broadcasts, primarily from the 70's. German TV's Rockpalast shows have always appeared and Musikladen now appears to be following the trend after previously relying on dvd compilations. This may be a good sign as there are some great shows in the archive, Blondie and Bowie to name two.

The problem with the Radio Bremen Studio shows can be two fold. They were made to be broadcast on Analogue TV and it depended on the studio engineer at the time. The problem for me as a massive Tubes fan is that I have never liked the Completion Backward Principle album.

The Tubes were garnering quite a reputation for their live show, but had not released a killer album to match it. 1979's Remote Control was that album. Todd Rundgren got hold of them and focused the commercial strength of their music. It meant him re-working the songs they came up with and it worked.

Fee Waybill wasn't over fond of this, the single, Prime Time, was intended to be a solo vocal by Re Styles. Waybill nixed this and it became a duet and the running battle between him and Styles, meant that she became history.

The TV themed album was a corker and should've took the band on to greater things. However the follow up, Suffer For Sound was rejected by A and M and off the band went to Capitol.

Completion Backward Principle marked a change of image, Men In Suits and a mickey take of Corporate Life, but it didn't seem the same band. The album was all shine and gleam with no real depth. America finally got the band, but it largely lost the UK market.

The live show seemed to forget all about the Remote Control album, only TV Is King is present here, but the theatricals were as great as ever. In fact there's a lot to be said for buying the dvd instead, a Tubes live show is not just about sound.

I realise that I look at this from a UK perspective, sorry. that's where I'm from. States readers may have a different view. The good news is that the Outside Inside album that followed recovered the band's mojo. Some of the shows from that tour are outstanding both visually and audio wise.

There's not much around from this period of The Tubes. A better show is the Live At The Greek video from the Remote Control Tour, but that's tape only. However if you are a Tubes fan, this is well worth the £12. A better bet though may be to buy the dvd and rip the audio from that.

Saturday 8 October 2016

I Do Hear A Single

The Zags - Dada Plan

Dada Plan has already appeared on Wayne's excellent Flavour Of The Month compilation and I'm loving the song so much that the album is going to get a thorough listen and most likely a review.The Portland Oregon band provide a real slice of late 70's UK New Wave, a little Undertones, a little Summer Pop. It's a cracking listen.

You can buy the song as a Name Your Price here and the whole album is dirt cheap at 5 dollars.

The Optic Nerve - Penelope Tuesday

The excellent State Records is a label that is admired in these parts, particularly for the dedication to 60's Beat and Psych. This 7 Inch Single from New York's The Optic Nerve continues the excellence. A "groovy feeling" akin to Herman's Hermits going a bit psychy, akin to The Orgone Box. 

You can buy the single here, stocks are limited. You can find out more about State Records here.

The Bopp - Why Didn't You Say

Bordeaux's The Bopp specialise in a mixture of 60's Pop and 70's laid back Pop Rock. It's really pleasant harmonic beat driven pop and this single is available on Bandcamp as a Name Your Price. What have you got to lose?

You can listen and buy here.

Timothy Hay - Time Has A Way

Time Has A Way is released on FDR, the same label as Somerdale's magnificent Shake It Like Maggie album.  Hailing from Chesterfield New Jersey offers up a great laid back single, sounding countryish at first, it develops into a Rolling Stones like vibe. A really good listen and you can buy the single on a Name Your Price. 

You can listen to and buy the single here.

Friday 7 October 2016

Motel Beds - Mind Glitter

I've been a fan of Dayton Ohio's Motel Beds since the splendid Feelings album and it's cracking opener, Mr. Salad Days. Incidentally, you can download that album for free here and I suggest you do.

Glitter came out this time last year and as I wasn't in Public View, Blog wise, then, I think it's fair to extol it's virtues now.

We all have those bands that we think should be bigger. I call them people's XTC's. Bands that you just cannot understand why the whole world doesn't adore them. Motel Beds are mine.

Great Pop, loads of variation. Beach Boys harmonies ? Here's Queen For The Summer. Creation Indie Pop? Here's Open Ocean. Brit Pop Rebellion ? Here's A.O.O. Glam with a Steely Dan Rhythm Track? Here's the title track.

Thirst Veterans sounds like something Gregg Alexander would write, you can imagine it on the New Radicals album. 4AM is prime time Jellyfish. Paper Trees is late 60's San Francisco harmony. Live City is Guided By Voices.

The problem may be that Motel Beds are just too versatile. I love variety on albums and each of these 11 songs could be a different band. The whole album is a fine fine listen and worth opening that wallet for.

My personal favourite is Queen For The Summer, but I know everyone will have a different favourite. It's that good an album.  If you root around the band's Bandcamp site, there are free downloads of  earlier great stuff. You can listen to and buy Mind Glitter here. You won't regret it.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

The Legal Matters - Conrad

Detroit's The Legal Matters' self titled debut album was rightly celebrated by many as one of the best albums of 2014, if not THE best album and rightly so. It was refreshing to hear an album that majored so much on vocal harmony and melody.

It wasn't a major surprise considering the trio's past record, but it was still heart warming. Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith were well known around the Power Pop scene and if you get chance, you should dig out some of their individual albums. My vinyl version of Chris Richards And The Subtractions' A Smattering Of Mystery And Sound, released by Sugarbush Records, ages the needle considerably.

I was hoping for sophomore for their second release, Conrad and there is some of that. However, I've been fortunate to have the album for a fortnight or more and that's allowed greater familiarity and assessment. Normally, there wouldn't be that lead up to a review, but it's allowed me to realise the progression of the band. The Vocal harmonies are amazing, what appears simplistic isn't, the complex vocals have been lovingly crafted with great depth and every listen improves that aural experience.

Two years on and the band's trio have tripled the impact of their solo work. It is a big advancement on the debut album. The Vocals are richer and more complex, the arrangements have greater presence and feel fully formed as though you couldn't get one more improvement to each song. The songwriting and vocals are split, but the album is very much the sum of it's parts.

Ably aided by Donny Brown and Andy Dalton on Drums, the instruments are far more pronounced and it certainly feels like Guitar has been brought much more to the forefront. The album is less mellow than the debut and they show they can rock a little. The greatest example of this is Andy Reed's Short Term Memory. Everyone will have a different fave across the album, but this is mine. It's an absolute crackerjack of a song. Worth the admission alone.

There's so much to admire on Conrad. My one wish is that Lull And Bye was longer, one minute and ten seconds doesn't do justice to the wonderful harmonies. Any one of these 11 songs hit the mark and it's a little unfair to pick any out in particular. But, special mention has to go to Better Days and the aching, Pull My String. More Birds Less Bees is also a gem.

It's been a year when three albums have been waited for and in all three cases, I worried that these albums wouldn't live up to expectations. Nick Piunti and Greg Pope have already released their finest albums yet. The Legal Matters have made that a trio, this is a vocal masterpiece. It's released on 28 October and you should count down the days.

My hope is that Omnivore get behind the release big time because if ever an album deserved to break out, it's this one. Special mention should be made of the Vinyl Release. This is simply because there is a bonus download with that version which features the vocals only version of the album. That's something, I, in particular, are fascinated to hear.

You can pre-order the album here in all formats. You can find out more about the band on their website here.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Pamphleteers - The Ghost That Follows

After listening to so much mediocre Psych Pop and Nada Surf wannabes this week, this album is an absolute breath of fresh air. It's a 41 minute joyous romp through late 70's UK New Wave with hints of The Go-Go's.

Imagine Siouxsie fronting a great Power / Psych Pop band or even a noisier version of  Kim Shattuck with less lyrical wit than The Muffs but with much more guitar.

It's riveting riff after riff gripping you and making you want to smash the state. In fact Jonathan Ben-Isvy's guitar is just wonderful. The riffing solo in the middle of title track is spookily wonderful. The album definitely conjures up New Wave, but the music plays around with Psych, Goth and Noise Pop.

 There's also a smidgen at times of early Blondie, but Pamphleteers can play better than they ever could. The three of them are a real power trio and I'll mention the riffs again because they are ace. I can imagine them being shock and awe live. Chicago mustn't know what's hit it.

Normally I'd say go to the Bandcamp site and listen to the album before you buy. Just go there and buy it. This is an album that should be heard on vinyl and for five dollars more you can get the vintl and download. You can buy The Ghost That Follows here.

Natural Child - Okey Dokey


Natural Child are from Nashville and usually when I cover Nashville, it's Power Pop. Well Natural Child aren't Power Pop, in fact they are hard to label, there is the odd country influence, at times there's a touch of The Allman Brothers and a dash of a chilled Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The album was recorded in Memphis and Chicago and that doesn't necessarily hint at it's direction.
They are not the sum of their influences, they just offer laid back guitar driven grooves. The opener, Sure Is Nice, emphasises that groove, it has a Stephen Bishop like vocal.

NSA Blues reminds me of Boz Scaggs, Out Of Sight features Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac guitar, Now And Then could be The Black Crowes. Okey Dokey is a 2 minute instrumental Jam. Juanita feels like Country Rock Byrds. Self Centred Blues is classic Americana Blues with a gripping dash of Organ. In fact, I hear The Black Crowes at times throughout the album.

The closing two six minute plus tracks are both instrumentals. Benny's Here is very much Jam Band territory, but there's far more to It's A Shame My Store Isn't Open. Albatross like in it's early feel, it transcends into Psych and at times Jazz Rock. It's like a theme to an imaginary western.

Having told you that Natural Child are hard to label, I've gone ahead and tried to label the songs. It's only to give you an indication of my thoughts on the album. It's a great "sit right down" album and you should draw your own conclusions by listening to it here. You can then buy the album for download or on vinyl.

One From The Archive : The Church - A Psychedelic Symphony

This Blog is very much about what's around now. As many of you know, it was a reaction to people who moaned about everything new being rubbish. It isn't and I think we are proving that. However, I thought it would be nice to post about something I'm listening to a lot at present. This may not be readily be available to buy, but is well worth digging around for.

I love The Church, I did from the first moment that I heard the opening bars of Unguarded Moment. It doesn't feel the same without Marty Willson-Piper, but there have been some tremendous albums over their 30 years.

To celebrate the band's 30th Anniversary, the band played with The George Ellis Orchestra at Sydney Opera House and what a show it was. You can hear above how Unguarded Moment was transformed from jangly Psych Pop to a ballad of sorts.

That's the beauty of the show, orchestrating a band as electric as The Church. The excellence of the songs are shown in a way that an Acoustic show never could. It's as though the Space Rock never happened. You get a bit of Peter Koppes's E-Bow on Under The Milky Way, but most of it is like a symphony.

The concert was released on CD and DVD. You can buy it as a Digital Download, CD or DVD from The Church's website here.

Fake Palms - Heavy Paranoid EP

Toronto's Fake Palms come with excellent Noise Pop recommendations. To be honest, there appears little of that here except for the paint stripping last few minutes of Snowblind which is Noise Pop at it's best.

What you do have is some of the best Psych I have heard this year, melodic, intriguing and yet baffling, it's wonderful. When the band hits a groove they hammer it and it's bewitching stuff.

From the shoegazing of Collar Bone to the dreamy Psych Pop of Holiday, this is a band that can hook you. They are best though is when the EP gets well and truly into Psych, they excel on Curtains and Frequencies.

This 5 Track EP is just an indicator of what is to come. They seem prolific as three more EP's are due in the coming weeks. If these upcoming releases are half as good as this, we are in for a right treat.

You can listen to and buy the EP here. You can also pre-order the EP's that are to come.

Tom Baxendale - In The City A Short Time Ago

Tom Baxendale is the ex leader of Rainy Day Club and the current lead guitarist in The Payroll Union. He's from Sheffield, although you wouldn't know this from his excellent solo debut album. Most people still think of Sheffield as a city of Don't You Want Me Baby, Hip Hip Hooray and Jarvis.

In The City A Short Time Ago is more at home in the Alt Folk of Americana. It's not an English album at all and why should it be?

It's very much a storytellers album, largely about broken romances, but there's a jaunt about it. At times, Tom appears to be a happier Nick Cave, but there is a swagger about the songs that shows far more experience than you'd expect. There's also an adept use of lyrics to keep you more than involved with the songs.

An Old Hand is very much in Richard Hawley territory.

This is a really accomplished debut album that deserves a wider audience. It's compelling, short enough to listen to all the way through and then want more. The arrangements aren't obvious and the genre is certainly overlooked these days. There's plenty of pop influences in those arrangements to allow a much wider appeal.  I'd recommend it to all.

You can listen to and buy the album here. Refreshingly, you can also buy the CD there.