Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hermit Crabs - In My Flat

Every being has its nature.  Hermit crabs stay out of sight much of the time, and then scuttle into view in all of their cute glory.  They thrill for a while -- especially other beings who like to consume them -- and then they are gone until the next fortunate sighting.  Such is the case with Glasgow's land-based version, The Hermit Crabs.  Melanie Whittle formed the band in 2003.  Since then, there have been one LP and several EPs, with various additional temporary crabs supporting Mel.  True, not a massive output, but what do you expect from hermit crabs?

Happily, the band has emerged into the sunlight again with In My Flat, which I think is the band's best work yet.  Recorded in Idaho with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of The Very Most (with whom Mel collaborates as Baffin Island), it comprises eight songs pop songs featuring Whittle's delicate and pristine voice, appealing melodies, and uncomplicated but interesting instrumentation.  And as always is the case with a recording from The Hermit Crabs, Whittle's compositions are a star of the proceedings.  Personal, intimate, revealing, feisty and witty, she paints evocative little portraits of life in a manner reminiscent of Scottish indie pop peers Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura.  This record does what good indie pop should do -- make you sigh, may you smile, and prompt you to tap your foot or even dance around the room.  If mixtapes still are a thing you do, a few of these may end up in the hands of your special friends.  The Hermits Crabs are back in the sunlight, get yourself some.

In My Flat is available in CD or digital formats via Matinee Recordings.

Matinee Recordings page for In My Flat

Monday, November 30, 2015

"When The Poor Can Reach The Moon" by The Chills

Closely following their triumphant release of Silver Bullets (our feature here), their first album of new material in nearly two decades, on December 11 The Chills will release another single from the LP.  Most would consider it among the best songs on the album, and undeniably one of the catchiest, "When The Poor Can Reach The Moon" is suffused with hope for the less fortunate.  Have a listen via the charming video.  The single will be available via Fire Records.

The Deadline Shakes - Zealots

Glasgow's The Deadline Shakes have been burnishing their reputation as one of Scotland's most promising young bands single by single for the past few years.  Content to patiently work on their sound and sharpen their writing, they now have presented Zealots, their debut album, for fans to decide whether they have delivered on the promise.  And as someone who has followed the band from their first releases, my one word summary is "congratulations".

Initially a band whose first impression was hook-filled scrappiness, albeit one with a knack for a well-crafted musical story, The Deadline Shakes as of late 2015 is now a much more complete outfit.  The compositions are more ambitious, the sound fuller, the instrumentation more robust and detailed.  The various faces the band presents include a familiar jangle, a sharp edge, changes of pace, and a romantic or yearning sigh.  Moreover, as these faces often share space in the same tune, the songs unspool as a series of mini epics.Yet the band has retained their ability to present pop tunes that are emotionally accessible and unafraid of vulnerability.  There is a good dose of polish in the production, but it never feels too slick or over stuffed.  Three of my favorites are available to stream below, but you can listen to the entire album at the Bandcamp link below.

Zealots is out now in digital and CD formats via Flowers In The Dustbin.  The Deadline Shakes are Greg Dingwall (vocals/guitar), Iain McKinstry (vocals/guitar), Martin McLeod (bass), Thomas Booth (drums), Michael Muir (violin/banjo), Kiera Pollock (vocals/guitar), and Sam Clark.

Bandcamp for Zealots
Flowers In The Dustbin

"Pull My Arm" by Flowers

London three-piece Flowers is a favorite around WYMA headquarters, so we were thrilled to learn that their next album, Everyone's Dying To Meet You, will be released via Fortuna POP! on February 12.  Test out the goods with opening track and first single "Pull My Arm".  The purity of Rachel's vocals, teamed with the energetic arrangement and sweet hooks are a winning combination.

Flowers is Sam Ayres, Rachel Kenedy and Jordan Hockley.

Fortuna POP!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stutter Steps - Stutter Steps

Ben Harrison's regular job is as a curator at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh where, among other things, he is responsible for booking musicians to perform at the venue.  To do a job like that well, one needs to have good taste, and a good sense of what fits.  It appears that Mr. Harrison has those traits.  But in addition, Harrison is himself a musician.  He played in a band years ago, and has continued to write songs while working and raising two children with his wife.  And he now has made the commitment to step up a level, and record and release his songs under the name Stutter Steps.

The self-titled album, in my opinion, is one of the better debut releases this year.  Our curator/musician has drawn from his bands like Yo Ya Tengo, Velvet Underground, Luna, The Bats, and Bill Callahan to make an album of evocative melodies and satisfying guitar textures.  But Harrison isn't just making a patchwork quilt of worthy influences.  He is blending them together to make his own statement via a warm and instantly familiar set of songs.  Sometimes sounding recalling New Zealand post-punk, sometimes The Feelies or Galaxie 500, and sometimes a bit of dusty Americana.  And then, there are the vocals.  Ben has a gravelly but melodic baritone that brings to mind DIY godfather Calvin Johnson.  When paired with the female vocals from Cindy Yogmas, the result is magic.  You don't have to have been a fan of Beat Happening to celebrate this pairing, but it will make your appreciation that much greater.

In addition to Yogmas, Harrison fleshed out the songs with Jeff Baron (Essex Green/Ladybug Transistor) on guitar.  Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean and Britta) also contributed guitar for the recording.  The recording band included Sean Finn (drums), David Horn (bass), who with Harrison, Yogmas and Phil Jacoby (guitar), form the band for live shows.

Stutter Steps is released via Pittsburgh label Wild Kindness Records.

Wild Kindness Records

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Boyfriend" by The Goon Sax

As teenage Brisbane trio The Goon Sax inch towards the release of their debut LP,  Up To Anything, which will be released in April 2016, they had provided another song from the album.  On "Boyfriend" Riley Jones, Louis Forster and James Harrison  address young love, teenage crushes  and heartache, with self-deprecatory wit and plenty of pop smarts.  The single is available from Chapter Music, which also will release the album

And for those hoping that the meaning of "goon sax" would be smutty and outrageous, be advised that the term is slang for the shiny plastic bag inside cask wine.  Although I suspect that its mention could still get you slapped in some places with the right inflection.

Chapter Music page for "Boyfriend"
Bandcamp for "Boyfriend"

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cherri Fosphate - We Didn't Come Here To Say Goodbye

Over two years ago we featured (link) a little EP from a Scottish band named Cherri Fosphate, suggesting that they were a band to watch for the future.  However, since we know what lazy slackers you all are, I expect that most of you haven't really been watching.  Well, that's your mistake, because the band has released their debut full length, We Didn't Come Here To Say Goodbye, and it is even better than I would have predicted based on that fine earlier record.  With vocals that recall Frightened Rabbit and a bit of Maximo Park and The Futureheads (if the latter two had been from a bit further north and west), guitars that evoke The Strokes in their prime, and pace and energy that recall Dogs Die In Hot Cars, this is a bundle of melody and muscular energy with a heavy Scots accent.  The band proves more than adept in a few songs with a more relaxed tempo, but if you are like me it is the up-tempo songs that will keep a smile on your face and We Didn't Come Here To Say Goodbye on your playlist for quite some time.

Bandcamp for album

"Depth of Field" by Sea Pinks

I count myself as a firm fan of Belfast's Sea Pinks, so I'm pleased to report that their new album, Soft Days, will be available in early 2016.  The first release from the album is the melodic and dreamy "Depth of Field".  The video and audio streams are below.  I think Sea Pinks is one of the finest guitar bands around, and I'm expecting Soft Days to brighten an otherwise dreary and wet January.

Sea Pinks is Neil Brogan, Davey Agnew, and Steven Henry.  Soft Days will be released by the Brogan's own CF Records.

Bandcamp link for digital order of "Depth of Field"
Bandcamp link for pre-order of Soft Days
CF Records

Monday, November 23, 2015

Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Men Too

While refining my list of notable albums for end of the year awards, I discovered that one of the albums in my likely top 20 list had not been featured.  I suspect the reason is that I received my copy while recovering from an accident, but I nevertheless feel that the omission should be corrected, so here it the belated feature for White Men Are Black Men Too, by Young Fathers.

With a wide scope concept of pop music, versatile compositions, tons of ability and an insistence on delivering their art on their own terms Young Fathers are, in my opinion, one of the more exciting bands indie music.  Previously, the Edinburgh trio released two EPs (Tape One and Tape Two) and an LP, Dead, which won the Mercury Prize.  White Men Are Black Men Too finds the band continuing to tighten their musical expression while testing boundaries, both musical and thematic.  The lyrics are clear-eyed and direct.  The breadth of possible musical cousins, if not influences, such as TV On The Radio, Arcade Fire, Dirigible Planets, R&B and neo-soul illustrate why Young Fathers confound those who would put them in a genre box and try to explain their music from a single perspective.  It seems to me that all one can do is let the music wash over you and tell the world what you hear.

And what you hear are strong pop melodies, aggressive bass and percussion and plenty of frills filling in at the higher register.  Each song is like unwrapping a present, unraveling at its own pace and in its own unique way.  As a whole, it is a big sound born of big ambition teamed with breathtaking talent.  The best pop music is made by having something to say, and then saying it well.  Based on this album, Young Fathers are near the head of the class in pop music.

For those unfamiliar with the band, they call themselves Young Fathers because each of them is named after his father.  Based in Edinburgh, Graham 'G' Hastings was born in that city, while Alloysious Massaquoi is from Liberia via Ghana, and Kayus Bankole grew up in the United States, but his parents were from Nigerian.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Joey Kneiser - The Wildness

There is a chance you missed it, but the southern rock album of the year was released today.  The artist is Tennessee singer-songwriter Joey Kneiser, who has released solo work as well as being a major engine of The Glossary, a country rock band with a tendency towards soul.  Joey's new album is The Wildness -- ten songs consisting of pacey southern rock and gentle, slow burners, and released by This Is American Music.  Joey's vocals are in fine form, and I caught myself wondering whether this is how Van Morrison would have sounded if he'd been raised in east Tennessee.  But the real star is the songwriting.  This is classic American rock and roll composition, packed with sharp observations and poignant reflections, and then played with energy, conviction and love.  This is what put Springsteen, Petty and The Band high in America's musical consciousness, and The Wildness earns Joey a listen as well.  Just start at the beginning with the adrenaline rush of "Run Like Hell", followed by the mid-tempo country rock of the title track (A 'callous on my heart'? Preach it, Joey!).  You want more, don't you?  You can spin the whole thing at the Bandcamp link, which also makes it easy to buy.  You also can find the album on iTunes and Spotify.

The Wildness is an album made by a man who loves rock and roll, for listeners who love rock and roll.  What more do you need?

Bandcamp for The Wildness
This Is American Music