Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Milky Chance - Sadnecessary

I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical about a style of music described as folktronic, but Sadnecessary, the album from Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch, the German duo known as Milky Chance, is full of compelling songs that just make me feel good.  The set up is a laptop loaded with the electronic component and wielded by Philipp, and a guitar (sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric) in the hands of singer/songwriter Clemens. The DJ's grooves are substantial and infectious, and the vocal performances warm and sincere.  Unsurprisingly, I found myself liking some songs better than others; for my ears, Milky Chance's music is best on the songs with a faster tempo.  But fortunately the 14 song set includes many of such nuggets and all of the songs are worthy.  And the contemplative "Loveland" is a treasure.

Of course, the best introduction to the album is the group's solid gold hit, "Stolen Dance".  Enjoy it below and then check out two other strong tracks, "Flashed Junk Mind" and "Down by the River".  Sadnecessary is out now.  If you are an online shopper it is available at Amazon and iTunes.  Milky Chance will be touring North America in 2015.  The dates and venues are at the bottom of this post.


Milky Chance 2015 Tour Dates 
March 20         Dallas, TX                   South Side Music Hall
March 21         Houston, TX                Warehouse Live
March 23           Charlotte, NC             Amos’ Southend
March 24         Raleigh, NC                 Lincoln Theatre
March 25         Washington, D.C.        9:30 Club
March 27         Philadelphia, PA          Trocadero Theatre
March 28         Brooklyn, NY                Music Hall of Williamsburg
March 29         Boston, MA                  House of Blues
March 31         New York, NY              Webster Hall
April 3              Montreal, QC               Metropolis
April 4              Toronto, ONT               Phoenix Concert Theater
April 7              Kansas City, MO          Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
April 14            San Francisco, CA       The Regency Ballroom
April 21            Salt Lake City, UT        The Depot
April 22            Denver, CO                  Ogden Theatre
April 24            Chicago, IL                  The Vic Theatre
April 26            Indianapolis, IN            Deluxe at Old National Center
April 28            Royal Oak, MI              Royal Oak Theatre
April 29            Columbus, OH             Newport Music Hall
April 30            Pittsburgh, PA              Stage AE
May 1              Richmond, VA              National Theatre
May 5              Charleston, SC            Music Farm
May 6              Nashville, TN               The Cannery Ballroom
May 11            Louisville, KY               Headliners Music Hall
May 1              St. Louis, MO              The Pageant
May 14            Milwaukee, WI             Turner Hall Ballroom
May 15            Minneapolis, MN          Mill City Nights
May 17            Winnipeg, MB              Garrick Centre
May 19            Edmonton, AB             Union Hall
May 20            Calgary, AB                  Flames Central
May 22            Vancouver, BC             Commodore Ballroom

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

alansmithee, featuring Marklar - Checking Out

Four young men based in Livingston, Scotland comprise alansmithee, a band that has featured here several times.  It seems that they are still evolving, but their sweet spot is woozy, frayed pop with psychedelic leanings.  Depending on their muse of the moment, added ingredients may be blues, shoegaze or something else.  For their latest edition, the two-track Checking Out, the band teams up with Marklar for a delightfully foggy and layered psychedelic pop record.  The single was just released by Glasgow label Flowers In The Dustbin.  Tune in and drop out -- but hit the play button first.

alansmithee is Ryan Macpherson (bass), Andrew Burns (guitar/vocals), Ruaridh Macpherson (guitar/vocals), and Joe White (drums).

Facebook for AlanSmithee
AlanSmithee's Bandcamp
Bandcamp for Flowers in the Dustbin
Twitter for Alansmithee
Facebook for Flowers In The Dustbin
Twitter for Flowers In The Dustbin

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Katie Sue" from Thee Gold Blooms

Thee Gold Blooms are a garage rock quartet with surf rock tendencies.  The Perth boys have their roots in the '60s, but smear it enough to keep it fresh and fun.  Their latest effort is the jangling, rootsy jam "Katie Sue", which will be released by Pavement Records in early December.  I'll warn you that you may be tempted to sing along,  It happened to me, but I took mercy on my neighbors and closed my office door first.

An earlier garage rock nugget titled "Alana" is below, and their Soundcloud page includes a third track called "My Girlfriend".

Thee Gold Blooms are Dylan (guitar/vocals), Jase (guitar/vocals), Goldy (bass/vocals), and Sean (drums).


Sunday, November 23, 2014

REVIEW: The Solicitors - Blank Check

The Solicitors are the sound of Friday night.  Get out of work, head straight to a smart bar with desirable romantic options.  Dance, drink, and try your luck.  On stage are four sharply dressed guys (maybe they just left work too) laying down an end of the work week soundtrack that is a perfect mix of new wave and power pop.  You aren't sure, but they seem perfectly in tune with what's happening around you: Found love, lost love, laughter and tears.  How the hell to they do that anyway?

Their debut LP, Blank Check, races through ten songs in a little over a half an hour.  With one exception, the tempo is high and adrenaline-charged.  The instruments pull no tricks -- there is a rock-solid and straightforward rhythm section, a guitar driving the hooks and a call-and-response approach with the lead and backing vocals.  The lyrics can have a bite, but no worries -- you are young and it is a  Friday night.  Let some other band carry the load on date night, the work week is over and lust is in the air -- find The Solicitors.

The Solicitors were formed in Melbourne by English songwriter Lee Jones and American guitarist Laf Zucallerello.  James Manning (bass and vocals) and Max Sterling (drums) complete the quartet.  There is a bit of Elvis Costello, The Knack and Joe Jackson here, but the garage rock energy and power pop arrangements bring it all up to date.  These guys are too good to be a pub band, but if you were filming a movie and wanted a top drawer band that could play the part of a pub band, only be really, really good, these guys should be at the casting call.  Of course, that probably is why Popbboomerang Records snapped them up soon after their birth.  Blank Check is available at the Bandcamp site, and you have a few more days to get ready for Friday.

The Solicitors - If You Let Me Hold You from The Solicitors on Vimeo.

The Solicitors on Facebook
Bandcamp for Blank Check
Popboomerang Records

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Ghost of Jack Nance - My Heart Sings EP

What will you find on My Heart Sings EP, from The Ghost of Jack Nance?  My take is that you'll find five fine pop songs re-imagined by a collaboration of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Beat Happening.  In other words, Glasgow shoegaze noir and Olympia dark folk-punk meet in Helsinki for gloomy fun.  Oh, and I should add that it is quite good.

The EP begins with "Summerday", a baritone vocal swathed in distortion and feedback, but with a nice melody and infectious bass-driven groove.  The drums get bigger on "Don't Talk", a track that could be described as the Beat Happening in an echo chamber.  "You Never Come Around Anymore" suggests Joy Division singing a sassy '60s girl group taunt.  The Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons come to the fore with the glorious "Sandman", which boasts the jauntiest bass line of the set, and the closing "Strange Inception".  I love this record, and if you crave a fresh twist on TJ&MC approach, I expect you will as well.

The Ghost of Jack Nance is Eetu (drums/percussion), Ekku (bass), and Lari (guitar/vocals).  My Heart Sings will be released by Helsinki's Soliti Music on November 28.

Soliti Music link for record

Soul Corner RIP: Jimmy Ruffin 1936-2014

It probably wasn't easy being Jimmy Ruffin. Despite recording one of the greatest songs in Motown history in 1966, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted", his career sputtered and he eventually had to relocate to the UK where riding the Northern Soul wave, he at least enjoyed enough popularity to earn a living.

But Jimmy Ruffin will always be best known for being David Ruffin's brother. The comparisons started early and cruelly as Jimmy got pegged to join Motown's most popular male group The Temptations until Berry Gordy heard his younger brother David sing and at the last second gave David the slot instead, the rest of course being history ("My Girl", "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", "(I Know I'm) Losing You", "Beauty is Only Skin Deep" etc.).

But while David Ruffin may have been the best vocalist Motown produced, not even he ever turned in a vocal performance more memorable than that of his big brother Jimmy's on "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted":  

Following his giant hit, now one of the fabled Motown's catalogues most beloved songs, Jimmy Ruffin only had one other top 10 single, "Hold On (To My Love)" (1980) written by Robin Gibb. However, I am far more fond of his two highly underrated follow up singles to Brokenhearted, "I've Passed This Way Before" (1966) and "Gonna Give Her All the Love I've Got" (1967):

Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) was such a big fan of Jimmy Ruffin's that he enlisted him to sing on "Soul Deep", a 1984 single benefitting striking UK coal miners:  

Ruffin was an Army veteran and a father of 6 children. Following his brother David's death from a drug overdose in 199l, Jimmy became an anti-drug advocate.

Jimmy Ruffin is on my list of all-time underrated vocalists and I was sorry to hear he passed away this week in Las Vegas where he was residing.

We'll leave you with the great Jimmy Ruffin signing his signature song "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" live in the mid-1970's on a British TV show:

Rolling Stones Friday: Sweet Black Angel

The Rolling Stones, while heavily influenced by and certainly adept at capturing the tumult of the late 1960's, were not an overtly political band. They tended to delve in the personal and avoid sweeping political statements.

This context makes "Sweet Black Angel", recorded in various forms during 1970-72 and finally released on Exile on Main Street in 1972, all the more remarkable. It is a tribute to American civil rights activist Angela Davis (photo above), a university professor who was charged with murder and conspiracy in the 1970 armed take-over of a Marin County California courtroom in which four persons died.

I love the feel and vibe of this song, especially the marimba and percussions played by Charlie Watts, producer Jimmy Miller and Richard "Didymus" Washington.

The lyrics of "Sweet Black Angel", garbled by Jagger with an exaggerated Southern twang, include:

For a judge's murder
In a judge's court
Now de judge he gonna judge her
For all dat he's worth

Well the gal in danger
The gal in chains
But she keep on pushin'
Would you do the same?

She countin' up the minutes
She countin' up the days
She's a sweet black angel
Not a gun toting teacher

Not a red lovin' school Mom
Ain't someone gonna free her?
Free the sweet black slave
Free the sweet black slave

Here's the song:

Angela Davis went on to become a professor at UC Santa Cruz, publish books, lecture all over the world on various social justice issues, and be an outspoken advocate against what she refers to as the "prison-industrial complex." The Rolling Stones went on to record "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and "Fool to Cry".  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Stranger" by MOTHXR

Brooklyn's MOTHXR are Jimmy Giannopoulos,  Darren Will, Penn Badgley and Simon Oscroft.  I don't know whether they aim to rule the world, but I'm quite happy to let them boss my ears for the three minutes and fifteen seconds of "Stranger".  And then I'll let them do it again.  I'm a bit easy that way.  "Stranger" is their fourth single, and follows five shows at CMJ and a European tour.  These guys are masters with the groove and earworm hook, and I want to hear a lot more from them.


"Cheap Extensions" from Sonny & the Sunsets

Next February will bring Talent Night at the Ashram, a new album from Sonny & the Sunsets.  That should sweep out any post holiday blues I'm feeling at that point.  Do you want a little hint about the contests?  Of course you do.  Here is the video for album track "Cheap Extensions".

Polyvinyl Records

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

REVIEW: The Young Evils - False Starts EP

The Young Evils are on an interesting musical journey, from founding members Troy Nelson and Mackenzie Mercer meeting at Seattle's Easy Street Records and starting the band, to their debut garage folk rock LP Enchanted Chapel, to their darker Foreign Spells EP, to the latest record, the six song False Starts EP.  And as you may guess from the title, there is a lot more between the points on the bare timeline I provided.  For example, Troy and Mackenzie became a couple early in the band's history, and now are married.  For another, their career arc took them on an overseas tour, and appearance at SxSW, and a deal with the arm of a major label.  Said arc also led to the mutual realization that the big label platform wasn't going to work for The Young Evils.  So armed with tracks recorded at Sound City Studios in LA and The Kill Room in Seattle, they begin again - a fresh start after a false start, if you will.  But one thing that has remained true through the journey, and the style changes from The Vaselines-flavored male-female band to The Ravonettes-inspired dark guitar pop to the current indie rock, is the emphasis on good songwriting and sincere performances.

The line-up now includes Michael Lee on guitar, and brothers Brendon and Scott Helgason as the rhythm section.  The songs are energetic, for the most part noisy, and packed with vivid imagery.  Opening track "Renegades" begins with buzzing guitar, pounding drums and driving bass, with Troy and Mac singing over the top.  The song builds, and Lee assaults your ears with slashing riffs.  If you only knew of The Young Evils from Enchanted Chapel, your expectations have been reset.  This is a rock band.

The following "Get Your Guns" features Mac's vocals over a percussive rhythm.  "Twisted Heart" is very nearly a pop song, riding a snaky beat and muscular guitar, and reminds me a bit of Fleetwood Mac just as they were beginning to take off.  On "It Happens All the Time", The Young Evils knocks out what may become your favorite new driving song featuring notable alternating vocals from Mac and Troy.  "Another Tragedy" sees Troy and Mac singing in unison.  With a well conceived melody, it may be the most accessible song of a strong set.  The closing track, "House of Lies", stands out in a couple of respects.  First, it is the only truly slow song on the record.  Second, while Mac is a rock vocalist rather than a balladeer (at least in my opinion), I think that her performance outside of her comfort zone is exceptionally affecting and completely charming, and the duet portions with Troy and Velvet Underground inspired backing from the band make it well worth your time.

False Starts EP is available on iTunes, but you can stream and buy it from the band on Bandcamp, which is linked below.


Review: Immigrant Union "Anyway"

What the heck do they put in the water in Australia that produces such exquisite pop bands? Immigrant Union hail from Melbourne though one of the band's two singer-songwriters is an American ex-pat, Brent DeBoer from the Dandy Warhols. DeBoer and Bob Harrow have written a terrific batch of songs on Immigrant Union's second album Anyway, the band's first since the departure of Courtney Barnett.

I won't waste any more time talking here because I want to take you straight to "I Can't Return", my favorite song on Anyway, and one of my favorite songs of 2014:
Here's "Shameless", the lead track on the CD, another sublime psych pop song:

If this reminds you of The Bats or The Chills, you would be right. And we can't get enough of that sort of stuff here at WYMA, but rarely is it done this well.

The songs on Anyway do stylistically vary and contain some nice surprises, such as the haunting album closer, the Velvets-influenced "The End Has Come" (featuring Courtney Barnett on lead vocals). And there's also this country hoe down, "War is Peace", whose fun sound belies its biting satire about America's recent military interventions:

This CD is strong from beginning to end, a true gem.

Artist web page:
Twitter: @ImmigrantUnion
Facebook Immigrant Union