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Friday, 30 October 2020

I Don't Hear A Single Audio Extravaganza Volume 104

 



So it's time for Number 104 of the Extravaganza. 21 songs in 67 minutes. Unusually, this tracks the IDHAS Blog more closely due to the 31 Reviews in 31 Days. With so many reviews in October, you'll be able to read about and listen to many of the artists on I Don't Hear A Single. 

There is currently work afoot to do an alternate version of this for other sites, including a download option. The alternate version may even be a chatty affair for those who like to hear more about the songs played. The playlist will remain the same. 

IDHAS isn't about liking and favouriting, I find it all a bit tawdry. However, if you so, like the Mixcloud version, liking it gives the artists wider listening potential. The Audio Extravaganza features regularly in the Mixcloud Global Indie Charts. 

A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of modern day mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day. If you use the Mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays. The playlist itself is also as the first comment on the Mixcloud Episode page.

You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.

Here are the contents of Volume 104 :


01 The Persian Leaps - Spoon-Fed
02 The Melancholy Kings - Niomiah
03 Professor And The Madman - Time Machine (Radio Edit)
04 The Happy Fits - Hold Me Down
05 Girl Skin - Forever & Always
06 The Feels - She's Probably Not Thinkin' Of Me
07 A Perfect Day - Give It Away
08 The Overtures - Watching The Grass Grow
09 The Boy Least Likely To - It Could've Been Me (Pop String Version)
10 Parsonsfield - Til I Die
11 The Szuters - Good Thing
12 Lady Legs - Idle Hands
13 Whelligan - Anyone Who Never Had A Heart
14 Wicketkeeper - Modest Breakfast
15 Out Of My Hair - When The Last Wind Blows
16 Coupons - Moz Disco
17 Paul Molloy - Salad Days
18 Amber Run - No One Gets Out Alive
19 Early Humans - Tentacles
20 Mom - Don't Leave With My Heart
21 Trolley - Two Tickets To The Moon



IDHAS Audio Extravaganza Volume 104 Mixcloud Link 



Or Click Below







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Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update




Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release and the purchase link.

Further purchase details and links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik This Week.


Kurt Baker - After Party (Wicked Cool Records) 2020      $13 





                            

What began as raucous noise in a Maine basement is poised to be the soundtrack to many a socially distanced soiree as Kurt Baker gets back to his roots.   “After Party” marks a return to primo power pop form under Kurt’s own name, backed by his five-piece American band.  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Blank Pages - Is This Real? (FDR Records) 2020      $10    





                                     

The world is a heavy place right now and “Is This Real?” (Blank Page’s sixth offering) is a record for these crazy times.  As the title implies, There's a state of disbelief wondering what’s real and what’s fake. Blank Pages songwriter Greg Potter explores these questions through the lens of indie pop, balancing his signature melodic sound with weighty ideas. 

 

Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Van Duren - Idiot Optimism (Omnivore Records)  2020       $15       





                                

From late 1978 until 1980, after the release of “ Are You Serious?” , Van Duren immediately returned to the studio - recording 14 tracks (one being a medley of two songs) that rivalled his tremendous debut.   “Idiot Optimism” was shelved, eventually being released in Japan without his involvement some 20 years later. Now, at long last, “Idiot Optimism” returns as Van originally intended it to look and sound. 

   

Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


Van Duren - Are You Serious? (Omnivore Records)  2020      $15  





       

A Memphis pop icon, Van Duren was not only a contemporary of Big Star, he played with both Chris Bell and Jody Stephens in The Baker Street Regulars.  Managed by Andrew Loog Oldham, his 1978 debut album, “Are You Serious?" Duren plays everything but drums on most tracks and at a time when Beatles influenced pop was a rare commodity, this album was a breath of fresh air for the few who ran across it.  

                                   

Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


FaB - This Wicked Pantomime (2CD) (Kool Kat Musik) 2020      $16        





                      

Every once in a while, Kool Kat like to push the boundaries of the scope of pop music that it releases..  FaB (Fitzsimon and Brogan) are one such example. In the 90’s, as members of the band Pretty Blue Gun who were signed to Cavell Records, an indie label licensed to Sony, they released two critically-acclaimed albums.  David Bowie’s drummer from The Spiders from Mars, Woody Woodmansey and Elvis Costello’s drummer, Pete Thomas both guest on the album.

 

Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Supercrush - SODO Pop (Don Giovanni Records) 2020        $14            




  

Supercrush vacate the territory right bang in the middle of The Posies and Teenage Fanclub without ever really sounding like one or the other. The sonic results demonstrate the type of attention to detail that comes only from countless years of combined experience and devotion to the craft of making great records.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Andrew Taylor - The Lockdown Session – October 2020 (Self Released) 2020      $13         





                                                                 

Still stuck at home during the pandemic, Dropkick’s Andrew Taylor wrote and recorded these 10 songs (playing all of the instruments) for the fourth instalment of his “Lockdown Session”


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


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Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Giant Eagles - Second Landing

 



Rotterdam's Giant Eagles' second album is wonderful 80's Pop Rock. It's awash with harmonies and riffs with more than a side order of synths. All the more surprising is that the band are a Dutch Supergroup of sorts and the members are known largely known for Pop Punk. 

Second Landing is a cross between 80's Blue Oyster Cult and Secret Messages era ELO. The production is huge, the synths are a wall of sound, think The Motors' Tenement Steps album and the songs have choruses that catch you hook line and sinker.



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All this might sound a bit cheesy, but I can't remember hearing this type of Rock being done so well, since it was all the rage. This was Pop Rock that adorned US Teen Movies and sold in bucket loads. It became unfairly unfashionable. Great Pop is Great Pop and this is just that.

There are hints of Pop Punk at times in the Verse Rhythm Guitar, but the riffs and the solos, as well as the choruses are, if anything, more Power Pop. The album is great foot tapping fun, a real much needed chirp up for 2020.





Everything is so damn infectious and Evil Robot Nation could easily be a Time album outtake. I Don't Love Nobody is UK New Wave and Anaconda is very Go-Go's-ish. Spellbound could easily be on Fire Of Unknown Origin. 

Second Landing is an album to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously. The songs never outstay their welcome, 12 in 33 minutes. You'll be surprised at how easily you get hooked. I loved it and can't wait for more.



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You can listen to and buy the album here.



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2 a.m. Orchestra - Trading Graves

 



2 a.m. Orchestra are not what you would expect to come out of New Zealand, a country that has a reputation, somewhat unfairly for Gentle Pop. Nor are they an orchestra. They are largely a solo project from Auckland's David Kelley and this is only the fourth album in almost two decades. 

They've toured as a band and with Kelley solo, but now this is essentially a studio project with String additions from Nick Jones. There have been comparisons with ELO, which I don't see at all. This isn't even Jeff Lynne when it's raining. 





The songs are dark without ever being miserable. Choruses are incredibly catchy and at times there's a real twang. The album is also beautifully produced. At times, I'm reminded a little of a non shouty Thom Yorke, at other times, a band like Keane, although the arrangements are much more in depth than the latter. 

Earlier albums concentrate more on the Pop, that isn't lost on Trading Graves, it just feels like a more mature, perhaps more varied album. A song like End Of Summer could be Rufus Wainwright and at times Chris Isaak. 





Home is wonderful McCartney Piano Pop, whilst Wake The World enters the territory of Doves. Sweet Pea has a Roy Orbison twang .The stand out, Seeds And Skulls, is when Kelley stretches out, bordering on Rock with a chorus that reminds me of The Killer's debut.

Arrangements are tight and varied. The violin and viola are used sparingly, only when they add to a song. This is a splendid Pop Rock album, moody yet magnificent. I hope that we don't have to wait another 7 years for the next one.



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You can listen to and buy the album here



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Monday, 26 October 2020

mylittlebrother - Howl

 


It has been six long years since If We Never Came Down and I've been waiting anxiously for the delayed follow up and now here it is. mylittlebrother also become the latest addition to the Big Stir stable. Well the band are West Coast after all. 

The Cumbrian quartet don't disappoint, although this is a darker album and that makes the band even harder to pigeonhole. Will Harris's songs appear far more personal, almost like the song writing has been a release, an unburdening of the soul.

Although this makes the album reflective in tone, it doesn't mean that the songs are dour, far from it. Harris's vocal is plain, but incredibly effective. How do you describe a band that sounds like Lindisfarne one minute and The Beautiful South the next? 







There are hints of Country, Folk, Americana and West Coast Rock, but essentially it is Pop that holds it all together. Songs have unexpected twists. Chicago is three songs in one and The Start begins as a singer songwriter piano ballad and ends as an anthem.

Responsibility is pure pop, whilst Janey is haunting West Coast Psych Pop with a country tinge. Howl is an awesome song, great 70's Pop Rock. Goldmine even has a disco riff, it's a bit like The Eagles doing Saturday Night Fever until the chorus just throws words at you in a melody fest.

Howl isn't the normal thing you expect to hear from a UK band. The album is a triumph, but may take a little more time than usual to fully hook you. Beautifully played and arranged with unexpected twists. There are only two songs available to stream until Friday's release date, so I'll add Chicago over the weekend as that is a song that you must hear.






You can buy the album from Big Stir's site here and on Bandcamp from here or here.


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Silver Sun - Switzerland

 


There were plenty of splendid Pop Rock bands in the 90's, particularly during Brit Pop and after. Most were at the edges whilst the Jarvis / Gallagher / Albarn attention seeking made all the noise. I can think of few great UK Power Pop bands from that time. Bands may have dabbled with the odd song, but, for me, Silver Sun were the nazz. With the exception of Ash, who you suspected wanted to be pop metal, the band were the main challengers to what was going on in the States.

Those first two Silver Sun albums stand up against any Power album of the time. Only Tsar's debut comes close. Those albums produced two of my favourite singles ever, Golden Skin and I'll See You Around. There are also two inspired covers from that time. Too Much Too Little Too Late got a lot of attention and the cover of Rush's Xanadu, condensed into 4 minutes is inspired.






There have been two albums since the self titled debut and Neo Wave, one was recorded by James Broad alone, the other was by the band. We've also had The Bullets. However, Switzerland feels like the third album proper, it is certainly just as good as those opening offerings. The original band play on Earth Girls Are Easy and Original Girl, the rest is Broad solo. This wasn't the plan. After the 2017 Reunion, supporting Sleeper, a band album was planned. But eventually Broad recorded the rest alone.

It really is like Silver Sun have never been away. Massive choruses, killer riffs and solos and wall to wall melody are packed into 30 minutes. Original Girl is most like the early days, but any of these songs wouldn't be out of place on their early albums. Needle In The Ball Pit has a Chucklevision-ish chorus, but the song reminds you how great Silver Sun were at pace.






Love That Body crashes into Ash Territory and God Room is The Ramones go Power Pop. You can imagine the latter being a Theme Tune for a Kids TV Show. Chain Of Command is pure UK New Wave and Over Me At All is a killer sing along joy. 

Switzerland reminds me a lot of that first Tsar album with its hooks and pace. There is a rare coming up for air on Photograph, a slowed down wonderful song that fully demonstrates Broad's melodic strength. Switzerland is the best Power Pop album that you will hear this year, it may very well be the best album of any genre.






You can listen to the album here (plus all the other streaming sites) and buy it from everywhere. You really should!


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Sunday, 25 October 2020

The Persian Leaps - Smiling Lessons


The Persian Leaps return with a 7 song mini album that is as chipper as ever. Drew Forsberg remains one of the great Pop Rock songwriters of recent times and Smiling Lessons only enhances that reputation. This is a splendid listen.

The band has always inhabited a riff led world, residing somewhere between Tommy Keene and Cotton Mather. What marks Fosberg above many peers is the lyrical depth of songs combined with the unusual varied subjects.





The Guitar is suitably upfront, the vocals are easy on the ear and the songs remain melodic, built on killer hooks. Every release adds a couple of absolutely killer potential singles to the band's back catalogue and here is no exception.

Lost Cause is a superb slice of 60's UK Beat with Psych Pop overtones, whilst Spoon-Fed is the stand out offering with an absolutely addictive chorus. The latter reminds me of a much poppier Diesel Park West. It could very well be one of the best songs of the year.





Chamberlain is much more up and at 'em, much looser than the rest of the album and Patience is top notch Psych Pop. The Entertainer crashes in like a song by The Motors, yet the feel is more second half of the 80's UK Indie. There are even hints of early Teenage Fanclub.

Smiling Lessons is an exceptional affair. My only regret is that I wish it was longer. It has often been said that if The Persian Leaps had been releasing albums three or four decades ago, they would be living on Tropical Islands now. That's no reason to ignore them now. Essential Listening!





You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Wicketkeeper - Shonk

 



When I was thinking about making October a 31 Reviews in 31 Days affair, I thought it would be a big commitment and it has been. I didn't want it to be here's a Pop Rock album and here's another. As well as providing variety, I also hoped to be reinvigorated by the things that I reviewed and that amongst the unearthed treasures, I desperately wanted to see the UK Music scene get out of the doldrums and become something like Brooklyn is at the moment.

All of these things haven't been achieved thus far, but there have been some cracking albums through the month and now here are a UK trio to add further delight. Shonk is a wonderful fuzz laden DIY album, very Pavement like. 





Wicketkeeper are a trio consisting of brothers Simon and Alex Morley joined by Ryan Oxley. This is  wonderful basement noise. Don't expect kitchen sink production or too many choruses, the album has more in common with a punk ethic. 

But the band can also surprise you. There's a killer pop riff and killer bass on the superb, Modest Breakfast and Bodies is UK jaunty UK New Wave. Welcome is another joyous romp and OK is very Glasgow C86.





Spin is like The Jesus And Mary Chain doing a Teenage Fanclub cover and I Can't Believe has a fuzzed up riff that just grips you. Although Shonk is really hypnotic stuff, there is far more thought gone into these songs than you'd imagine at first.

Comparisons will be made with Guided By Voices, simply because of the way this album is recorded. Wicketkeeper are far more earthy than that, much more street. I can imagine gigs having the same effect as Dr Feelgood had in the second half of the 70's. This isn't singalong fayre, but it is a great album. 





You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Saturday, 24 October 2020

Mom - Pleasure Island

 


Swedish trio, Mom offer up a debut album of great Guitar Pop. For a band so young to be so 1979 and yet so refreshing and endearing is no mean feat. The feel is definitely turn of the 70's US New Wave and it is done incredibly well.

The hooks are everywhere. The choruses are big. The songs are one long sing along. There's nothing complicated here, just well written songs from a trio who are obviously enjoying themselves.. Off the top of my head, I can only think of The Speedways currently in the same territory.





All those Power Pop Facebook Groups now have something to listen to and all members should give this album a whirl. True, it may sound like someone else that they know, but what doesn't these days? Is there really any new sound to invent?

To say this is an album of 11 singles is no overstatement. From the Glitter Stomp of Waste My Time to  High Demand, which could be The Plimsouls or The Beat, this is a joyous affair. Ordinary Girl is all Pop Attitude with it's Noo Yawk feel. 



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My personal favourite is Don't Leave With My Heart when the band sound looser without ever losing the hooks of the accompanying songs. The closer, Talk To Me, is a jangling joy and a rare moment that Mom come up for air.

 Pleasure Island is superb at what it does. It may not be hi fi, but it's not meant to be. It is admirable and wonderful to hear such a refreshingly acconplished debut. I love any opportunity to have a sing along and there's plenty here that provides that.



 


You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Friday, 23 October 2020

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update




Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release and the purchase link.

Further purchase details and links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik This Week.


Ashley Park - Secretariat Motor Hotel (Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records) 2003    $13 



                             

During his musical career, Terry Miles has undergone a few chameleon-like changes. From his GBV-influenced days in Saturnhead, to the gentler days of Ashley Park, it is sometimes hard to believe that the same person is involved. "Laid back, trippy and as sweet as grandma’s apple pie!” 


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


The Asteroid No. 4 - Northern Songs  (Cardinal Records) 2020    $12   



                                     

The Asteroid No. 4 take you on two simultaneous journeys on this outing; one is high octane and otherworldly, the other walks through English music history.  Early (Syd Barrett period) Pink Floyd is a good reference point. 


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


El Goodo - Zombie (Strangetown Records UK) 2020      $15           



                                

An incomparable world of bug-eyed, harmony-rich folk-pop-psych-alt-country-rock lies in wait for intrepid listeners as El Goodo return with only their fourth album in their 20 year career.  


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


The Midnight Callers - Red Letter Glow (JEM Records) 2020              $14    



       

Debut album from the New York Quartet. Guitar Heavy Pop Rock at it's very best.      

                             

Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


Pacific Range - High Upon The Mountain (Curation Records) 2020       $15         



                         

The album takes listeners on a sonic tour of West Coast sound, the array of landscapes and sensations California offers mirrored by the band’s broad scope of sounds and influences.  


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


Painted Doll - How To Draw Fire (Tee Pee Records) 2020             $13                



  

The sophomore outing by Painted Doll, the unstoppable rock band formed by heavy metal legend Chris Reifert (Autopsy, Death) and comedian/guitar shredder Dave Hill (Valley Lodge, Witch Taint).  The Pop hooks are bigger, the scary parts are scarier.


Kool Kat Link


Bandcamp Link


Tony Valentino - A Suitcase Full Of Dreams – Living On Laurel Canyon         $12          



  

                                                               

Solo effort from one of the founding members of 60’s garage rockers The Standells. A really versatile album that never forgets Valentino's Garage roots.


Kool Kat Link


Apple Music Link


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Thursday, 22 October 2020

Parsonsfield - Happy Hour On The Floor



On first listen, I was very confused. Boston's Parsonsfield were purveyors of a jaunty Alt Folk, so what was happening with all these synths and drum machines? I'd heard Till I Die before the album release and it is a cracking song. I just thought that the accompanying beats were an experimental one off.

The album revealed that this wasn't the exception but the rule. As someone who doesn't get that excited about processed sounds and having a particular aversion to drum machines, it took me a while to get into the album, but I'm glad I did. 





Previous followers have to ignore what has gone before and maybe even treat this album as by someone else. This is a fantastic Indie Pop affair and although there may be a few casualties fan wise, far more will come along to see the new building. 

Happy Hour On The Floor is a far more contemplative album, but the songs are splendidly written and the arrangements unusual, but enthralling. Till I Die is still wonderful with its Simon And Garfunkel fragile vocal, but there is much here to equal it. 





River Town is built around a kind of toy piano riff with a killer chorus and Oh My Man has an almost oriental theme and compares to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk era. Emery almost aches, but compare that to the synth pop of Now That You're Gone and they reveal that there's plenty of variety here. 

Reykjavik Connection is great mainstream pop and Paper Floor is a broody opener that threatens to break out but never does. Throughout the album, there is Dream Pop vibe. This isn't music that you can jig to, but you can certainly dance. The album is a brave move that deserves great applause. 





You can listen to and buy the album here.


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A Perfect Day - With Eyes Wide Open

 



Something a bit different for IDHAS, but just as wonderful to these ears. A Perfect Day's third album is released tomorrow and I am adoring it. The quartet are Italian, not that you'd think that listening to this and are lumped in with Hard Rock. But don't run off because this is top notch stuff.

Reading European Reviews, I realise that it isn't only Pop Rock that has a problem with cut and paste reviews. All that you read is word for word PR, although you can see it in various languages. This album is described as Hard Rock and Blues Rock, it is neither really, although it does edge in parts to the former.

This is much nearer Melodic Rock. I've been a bit Bowie like in search of his Jeff Beck, since Rush ended. Whilst this lot are not Rush, there are plenty of hints in the chord changes and some of the instrumentation. Marco Baruffetti's vocal even hints at Geddy Lee's latter day voice. There's also a similarity to Coheed And Cambria without the comic book nonsense. 





With Eyes Wide Open feels far more Alt Rock, very American. The beauty of the songs is that they have great choruses and solos aren't over the top. The Twin Guitar works beautifully. The band do come up for air, but it's briefly. They want to Rock you with no cliches. 

The opening pair of songs tell you all you need to know. Unexpected chord changes, high on melody making you want to shake your fist, but in a safe manner of course. Pull Me Out and Give It Away are storming and although the rest of the album doesn't quite match them, they come pretty close. 

Starlight really has the feel of a latter day Rush album and The Roots is more straight ahead with a killer riff. This album wipes the floor with the competition in the genre. A genre that suffers far too much from template songs. A Perfect Day had variety to what can be a staid field.

You can buy the CD directly from the label here. Alternatively downloads can be bought from the likes of Amazon here. Streaming Sites will all have it from tomorrow.


J.P. Cregan - Twenty (Name Your Price)

 



The third album from Los Angeles's J.P. Cregan is an auto-biographical affair celebrating his 20th Wedding Anniversary. Now if that sounds a bit twee, it's because it is, but affectionately so. What Twenty is is a great solo Power Pop album released in a year when there haven't been too many.

I'm not sure if Power Pop's internal arguments have caused this. I certainly am guilty of calling out the all new power pop is crap brigade and there's still an element around of they are no Badfinger / Raspberries are they? So it is particularly refreshing to listen to an album like this.





There are no crashing guitars or big riffs present here, just well written and arranged songs. All have hooks that come from different directions and most importantly everything sounds so wonderfully chipper. The world seems a bit happier after you listen to Twenty and isn't that what music should be about?

Cregan's vocal is very reminiscent of Mental As Anything. The choruses aren't as big, but the content is far superior and the songs have a much more lasting hold. There is also a real strength in the arrangements. Melody is at the forefront and hooks and solos are never longer than they need to be.





Without ever seeking lyrical depth or wanting to, you are drawn in because the songs are just so damn great. "Love, Supplied" is a cracker, led by a sort of Pub Piano and with a Gilbert O'Sullivan feel. It is the album's big number and crams tons into four and a half minutes. 

History Of Man is a stomper with a killer hook and In California is my personal favourite, Pop at the core with a country ballad bursting to get out. You'll hear this on a future Audio Extravaganza. There really is so much here to recommend. A real feel good album. Highly Recommended!



 



You can feel even better because Twent is available at Name Your Price on Bandcamp. You can listen to and buy the album here.


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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Kool Kat Musik

 


I'm sure that you are aware that I Don't Hear A Single handles physical distribution for both Big Stir Records and Kool Kat Musik in the UK and Europe. We have been working on a website in relation to this, but the combination of html inexperience and how much time that the I Don't Hear A Single Blog takes up has led to a different plan.

We initially wanted to separate the Blog from the distribution mainly to avoid accusations of nepotism. But with IDHAS getting approaching 250 emails a day and the fact that our side is not transactional, it made sense to incorporate both here. I think people understand that IDHAS would never give any album a positive review that we didn't love and we only publish positive reviews. In our fifth year, the amount of hits that the Blog gets, considering we supposedly specialise on less popular genres, leads us to believe that you trust us.

Remember that the distribution is non profit making and was only set up to counter the high postage costs from America to the UK and Europe. All orders are placed and paid for on the Kool Kat or Big Stir Sites. We also handle the promo CDs for Big Stir in Europe. So every FRIDAY, we will post details of the Kool Kat New Releases with brief Kool Kat notes and a link to purchase. This, with a direct link to Kool Kat on the Right Hand Side of the Blog. The Big Stir plan will run along similar lines. More details will follow at the weekend. 


Details of how to order from Kool Kat can be found here.


The direct section Links to browse and purchase are as follows :


Power Pop / Alt Country Online Store Home Page


Kool Kat Label Releases


New Releases


New CDs (Entire Catalogue excluding Used CDs)


Compilation CDs


Used CDs



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Monday, 19 October 2020

Mick Dillingham Interviews : The Black Watch

 



Since the late eighties, songwriter and musician John Andrew Frederick has been the one constant creative entity behind the superb The Black Watch who have just released their 18th and 19th albums within a few months of each other.  Both records, like nearly everything that has gone before, are lovely things to behold and enjoy. Like Gregory Curvey, Robert Pollard and David Lowery, Frederick is a rare and welcome force of nature, always up to creative stuff. 

A seemingly unstoppable powerhouse, constantly bringing something new and special into our reality in numerous ways. His is an unmistakably individual voice aided and abetted by great songwriting abundant craft, inventive musicianship and a literate and intelligent approach, That makes his considerable back catalogue a treasure-trove of wonder to explore and cherish.  


Let’s have a word shall we?

 "I grew up in Santa Barbara, California at a time when there were scads of orange groves and avocado orchards, lots of colour television sets (I think Goleta, the main suburb, had the dubious distinction of most tellys per family in the nation), a collective mania for going to the beach, going surfing and getting kids into those big-three American sports: baseball, football, and basketball. 

My mum and dad would love to tell the story of how, one evening when we'd returned from seeing a film at the drive-in, The Beatles' I Wanna Hold Your Hand came on the AM radio and I, they giggled, just stood up on the back seat and started dancing, going mental.  Mental for The Beatles ever since.  And their ilk.  Of which there's none, really.  They really are the nonpareil.  For me, that is.  

There was a great record store within biking distance, so I'd use the money I got each week from cutting the lawn, digging out the weeds, doing whatever chores (very Puritan work ethic, my parents were as well), to buy 7" records, and, when possible, an LP by Hendrix or Creedence. On rainy days at school we'd put on Monkees records--as an entire class, mind you--and pretend to be the band, strumming brooms and things, air guitar, pounding on the desks, singing away in choirboy-and-girl voices. 

It was a frightfully quaint and innocent time, despite Vietnam and student riots, one quite famously taking place about a mile and a half away at UCSB.  I often joke that I had such an idyllic childhood that I don't think I'll ever recover from it!  I really did have lessons in everything, anything I fancied.  My mother chauffeured me to tennis, fencing (fencing!), German, French, sailing, the lot. and of course guitar.  

I took lessons for a few years from some really pretty hippie chick who taught me to pick like Donovan and Joni Mitchell, and who made me strum--without a pick--various strums with thumb and Spanishy-classical fingers.  I was a good, obedient, happy kid, encouraged to do well in school, get recognition from that and to go to church each Sunday and sing every hymn. I really hated going to church--'twas very fire and brimstone, as I remember it--which my parents denied all the time, which was weird."


Which music artists made you sit up and take notice back then?

 "Of course The Beatles.  I was thinking about this the other day--how there was so much mystery about bands back then, so little information.  A silly survey here, a tidbit of information on upbringing or relationships there--all of it gleaned from Tiger Beat and those sorts of 'zines which of course I bought up and devoured.  The Beatles cartoon show was a total must; you couldn't miss it or you'd be so bummed.  

I loved The Rolling Stones as well.  Like anybody, one would just stare at, say, Their Satanic Majesties, for hours on end, even when the record wasn't on!  Harmless, charming so-called activity.  I loved Donovan too.  He knew The Beatles! Hahaha.  Jimi Hendrix was a giant as well.  Smash Hits--gosh, I'm sure I wore out a copy or two of that on our crude sort of stereo."

 

When did you start playing an instrument and why?

"I think I was nine or ten when I took up guitar.  Beatles songs were nigh-on impossible . Why? Well, later on, we learned that good old Sir George had the songs sped up or slowed down half steps and all. Plus, of course, many had way too many chords and barre chords at that--which I didn't know, being a folky sort of player as a tike.  

When I was ten I broke my leg so badly (football) that I had to spend a year in bed.  Utter torture, especially as the parents didn't let me watch more than an hour of telly a day.  So I read heaps of history and kiddie novels like The Hardy Boys. I started writing songs, propping my Silvertone on my vast cast and banging out all manner of strummy, sub-Beatles imitations and all.  I think I peaked when I was eleven or so.  

I had all the time in the world to woodshed. It's really boring if you're a very sportif kid and can't go shoot around with your friends or chuck a football or play wiffleball.  Hearing their gleeful, suburban cries in the street made for some melancholia, let me tell you.  All of this has gone, not-coincidentally, into making me the person/artist I am today: obsessive-compulsive, a keen reader (very addicted--often read six books at a time) and rather insanely over productive, in terms of songwriting.  That whole Puritan thing at work, as it were, once again."




 

 How did The Black Watch begin?

 "I was teaching at UCSB after finishing my Ph.D.and I had a class that had a kid who just kept giving me tapes of stuff like REM and The Cure and Chameleons and The Smiths.  He drummed and rowed Crew.  Great kid.  I knew a guy who played bass and had been an undergrad for around ten years--living in fear of graduating haha.  Guy called Kenny who was an American Indian.  Then I got a metalhead surfer to play lead.  

This line-up did some gigs, but the first LP was made with some even younger kids who all went on to do great things after I left SB and moved to LA.  Thom Flowers (guitar) is a bigshot producer now; Mick Flowers (drums) has a studio in Austin, and Danny Rowe, the bassist, played for years in The Motels.  

We put the record out on vinyl and cassette and got some reviews comparing us to bands we'd never heard!  So we went out and bought LPs by those bands--American Music Club, The March Violets, Lloyd Cole.  I knew very early on that it would be crucial to try and mask influences as best we could.  

For some reviewers, I daresay, the disguise wasn't quite as sophisticated as we'd like.  One guy snarkily called us The California Cure.  I can laugh now. At the time it stung a tad.  I knew I was under the shadow, as it were, of Robert Smith, and The Smiths haha.  I really worked (there's that motif again) to sun, so to speak that shadow, to try and bleach it musically. 

 When I moved to LA, I met J'Anna Jacoby 'cause she was the drummer's roommate in this big Victorian house with lots of people and stuff.  She had never been in a rock band, so it was very exciting.  Even more so to have a romantic partner in your band, which everyone, for good reason, tells you is a no-no.  So many good times and good gigs and good reviews and things came out of it.  A lot of heartbreak as well.  

Every songwriter needs a foil and J'Anna was brilliant at that and at guitar ,as well as the instrument she's a virtuoso on, violin.  She would make the weirdest chords and not know what she was doing.  We listened to a lot of Sonic Youth and would marvel and try and do stuff that echoed that sort of twin guitar attack, but without distortion and with twin Roland JC20's.  Which everyone played through back then.

I have always written with only one person in mind: John Lennon…kidding.  It's John myself, actually.  The Black Watch is the only band I've ever been in.  I'm not a joiner. I didn't want to be a front guy, oddly.  But it was a job only I could conceive giving myself, rather than a so-called singer.  Had I just been the guitar guy and main songwriter, I'd have the burden of teaching someone all the inflections I hear and that would have been to onerous.

I think though the songs I wrote when J'Anna Jacoby was in the band, well, she was so intuitive and artistic that it was kind of cinchy.  For a while we had some managers who wanted to make J'Anna the front person on account of her prettiness and all.   was fine with that, it was a relief of sorts.  But it wasn't a long lasting thing.  She wasn't a natural front person.  

The first gig we had in Santa Barbara was supporting Toad the Wet Sprocket, faux-friends they were.  We were monstrously nervous.  After the show, my psychologist at the time (marital probs, you know) came up and said:  "Well, those kids [Toad] are going to be stars, but you, John, are going to be an artist."  It was a great moment.  I've never loved playing live. There have been many brilliant moments, but mostly I find myself faking my way through it.  

I love the studio.  I like practising with the band much more than gigs.  I like the first time a song comes together, so to speak.  Nothing better than that!  Where there was nothing now there's something! The label Dr Dream saw us play (we did put on a good show--the boys went crazy for J'Anna's sexiness and pulchritude) and signed us, thinking that the song Terrific would be a big hit.  It was.  But they never took it further.  

Too stoned, they were. Too complacent.  Never believed in us as a band--an album band.  So we ended up unsigned once again and we didn't care on account of there was always some A & R guy promising us a major label deal.  Which only happened in a minor way, eventually, with the mini-major Zero Hour--another nightmare."




 

Do you ever record the live shows?

"Thank God there are no live recordings that I know of.  That'd be most unpleasant.  The 90s were great days of college/university noon shows.  Wonderful to play colleges, do the interview at the local station afterwards, start in on the pints and shots by 3 pm.  Ha ha!  We met so many nice people at those gigs and sold so many CDs.  It was key for us to sell t-shirts and CDs and singles, we had to fund the band fund and keep going.  

I never wanted to be a star, get laid, dress up and I've managed that admirably, I'd say. Ha ha! Someone said "I saw you in a Lacoste shirt doing a gig 20 years ago."  And I said:  "It's probably the same polo!"  Ha ha! I can't stand rock cliches and bands that dress up in costumes. When MBV played the Club Lingerie to twelve people they came out in drab t-shirts and dirty jeans and boots. Ah, my kinda band!

 Well, we had a lot of people trying to influence us.  A producer, labels, managers.  We had serious loyalties and fears.  Trying to make everybody happy.  Which of course made us miserable.  Zero Hour were insanely dictatorial--be careful what you wish for!  

Touring was so much fun and so much work.  I booked two national tours myself.  Incredible in the days before the internet.  I spent a lot of time on the phone.  Despite all the setbacks, I never gave up.  Never will.  Can't do it.  I'm a fool for rock, really.  Live for it."

 

The King of Good Intentions Good, released on Not Lame, was the album that made you known to a wider audience by dint of being on the label.

 It was easily one of the most loose recordings--great job by Scott Campbell and drummer Jim Goodall whom I borrowed from Medicine.  My kid still thinks that that's the best LP.  He likes raw stuff.  KCRW played it a bit--which was gratifying.  

And J'Anna, having quit, came back for that and for Jiggery-Pokery, before she left again and joined the Rod Stewart circus.  Where she always belonged, you know, she was never meant to be an indie chick.  I'm happy for her-and losing her pushed me to try and write differently and not rely on her astonishing musicianship.  

Even she came to dislike the violin on our songs and would often rather utilise her Telecaster. The Rod Stewart gig gave her stability, a house in LA and in London, a gig that wasn't an office job, a chance to travel the world and hobnob with a bunch of.... people.  Good on her."

 

You sign to Stonegarden for the next few albums.

"Stonegarden gave me licence to do whatever I wished, a mobile phone, a retainer and a record contract that lasted four LPs I think?  I was sad for a long long time. I missed my girlfriend terribly (we split up as a couple. I hated the Stewartworld she loved); but I got through it by making records and writing and reading and listening to Dylan (a serious rabbit hole)."

 

Some important new collaborators get on board.

"Yes.  Scott Taylor, Gary Sullivan, and most importantly Tim Boland.  It has always been my goal to be the worst musician in my band- and that line-up helped to achieve that. Ha ha ha!  Those chaps are incredible musicians.  I'm only really very good at strumming and picking and fashioning weird tunings.  Plus a lyric or two. Ha ha! 

Lyrics come from reading T.S. Eliot, Shelley, Gerard Manly Hopkins, French poems in French and not from other people's lyrics.  Most lyrics are just rubbish.  I like bands that are sort of sans lyrics:  MBV, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive.  I hate cleverness, unless it's done really cleverly, a la The Jazz Butcher."



 


In 2013 you sign to Pop Culture and the release dates narrow with an album coming every year…we are entering a very creative time for you. How have things changed for you?

 "I am a guitar maniac.  I have a mess of Epiphone Casinos and Jazzmasters and twelve-strings, so I think that each guitar brings new songs, new vibes, new cadences and tempos.  I write every day, not religiously; I just enjoy it.  Same thing with reading…I think I would go mental without novels and poems.  

I structure my very narrow life around making LPs, I am very blessed with heaps of friends who have studios here in LA.  I despise most LA bands and hate the scene, but love the fact that there are so many talented, like-minded engineers and producers of my close acquaintance if not fast friendship.  Scott Campbell, Rob Campanella, Tim Boland, and of late, Andy Creighton have contributed untold good things to the Black Watch.  Can't say enough good things about them." 

 

Two years ago you sign to Atom and you’re on a roll…four great albums in a row 

"Thank you.  Each record, by the by, is a reaction against/to the one that precedes it.  So if you didn't like Witches! maybe you'll dig Magic Johnson. Same writer, but way way different vibe.  Songs pour out of me; I can't stop them.  Or stop."

 

Last year you compiled two archive collections…how was all that revisiting?  Some artists cannot bear listening to their own past output…others are fine…which camp do you fall into?

 

"Well, Rob Campanella and I often talk about how silly it is not to listen to your own stuff.  Robert Smith said that when he wants to hear a great record, he makes a great record.  I'm with Smith. I do revisit the past; but mostly I am so busy shaping new songs that there's no time for that sort of aural nostalgia.  

I never want to re-do stuff a la John Lennon, who said he'd wanna re-record the canon.  That's not for me. I love my own band--why be in a band otherwise?  I love what my collaborators/bandmates do,:  they inspire me as well.  I can't wait to make another record.  I'm hoping to do some more stuff with Scott Campbell soon."

 

How does the recording process work for you?

"Usually I just record acoustic or electric guitar to a click track and then build the track from there.  I like to work fast and I hate talking in the studio.  I am there to work, not socialize.  Not that it isn't fun.  I don't do a whole lotta takes, save with vocals. Which I don't love doing on account of I like spontaneity.  I like to play on the hurry-up.  

It makes some producers like Rob a bit cheesed off-at how I like to hustle things along.  It's a product of not having big budgets and all and something of a challenge.  As much as I admire very perfect LPs like XTC's Skylarking or much of Radiohead, I don't wanna make such records, I don't think.  

I am a Virgo, but not one of the painstakingly meticulous ones.  My sensibilities are with the messy ones.  We make messy LPs and that is how I like it. Recordings should, to my way of thinking, showcase the human elements.  And how! Ha ha ha!

 

You have two new albums out. When do decide its time for a new album?

 

When it's a Tuesday? Ha ha!  I reckon it's when I have ten or twelve songs that are finished in a notebook and ready to be taking in to the studio. I think that the two albums from this year "answer" one another in a way. Quite different yet of a piece, you might say.  The next one, whenever it comes, will be a reaction against both. "

 

What drives you forward? 


"I've always been a very ambitious person and a curious one.  I just wanna see what I will come up with.  That's terribly exciting.  Isn't that what art is all about?  I'm amazed by making.  I wouldn't have done nineteen LPs and published five books without a bit of wonder.  It's all wonder, Mick.  I wonder what I'll do next!!!  It makes for a rather suspenseful existence, don't you think?"








You can listen to and but The Black Watch back catalogue here. Don will be posting the review of the latest album, Fromthing Somethat, in the very near future. 

 

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Ryan Allen (Extra Arms) - Song Snacks Vol. 1



I got into a bit of trouble with my outspoken views on Lockdown Acoustic Sets. Some, including fellow writers felt that I was being really unfair and asked what are musicians supposed to do in these strange times. My statements were never against musicians, but on what the results were, even with the circumstances as they were / are. 

It was the supposed soulfulness of the sets, rooted in covers and the new songs were all about the lockdown. I just yearned for artists to plug their guitar in and write songs like they did pre Covid. Fortunately people like Ryan Allen had had similar ideas.. He learned how to learn some recording software on the fly, plugged in offered up this DIY gem.










In some ways it would have been a return to his solo beginnings. In the days of Ryan Allen And His Extra Arms, he played everything himself before the expansion into a group. But now, he was stuck at home, with no in studio expertise. However with the creative spark thriving, he had to get these songs down.

The result is very much in Guided By Voices territory. In sing your song and get off mode, these 20 songs last 35 minutes. Some feel fully fledged, others more sketches, but without exception, all work. Allen has always been able to provide riff after riff and developed solo wise from a noisier Nick Piunti to a much harder band sound. He's always been able to flit through both, so there's no surprise that there is a fair amount of genre hopping. 











The gentleness of Here Comes The Rain contrasts with the pure noise of Throw Your Shit In The Shoot. There are also moments of real reflective joy in the Lennon Pop of the likes of I'm A Wizard Now. Metal Youth is real 90's Indie College Rock and Alone In The Sick is splendid Psych Pop. Predict The Future is lo-fi New York Power Pop and Luke Warm has one of Allen's trademark killer riffs.

Two songs especially stand out for me. For all the variety, Inventive Sports is more like a trademark Ryan Allen song, wonderfully so. Airbrush The World is absolutely Top Notch with an extended wig out to close. Remember there is a reason why the album is titled Song Snacks. The album is like a buffet and demonstrates what Allen can do. Highly Recommended!










You can listen to and buy the album here


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