Thursday, July 2, 2015

Talking Bush - Ordinary Unusual


Ordinary Unusual is a wonderfully tasty little nugget to embrace going into the weekend.  Four diverse synth pop tracks from St. Petersburg's Talking Bush.  It also is a bit of a dual threat -- a lovely release in its own right, it also serves as an introduction to the music Nikita Bushmanov will offer on his 2016 debut album.  But 2016 is a long way away, and thinking about it reminds us of another dire United States election cycle, so let's focus on the here and now.

The EP begins with the throbbing beats of instrumental track "Hear It", which soars to a big finish via bright synth strains.  "Overgrow" (see video below) is an urgent post punk song with a bit of a New Order vibe.  Talking Bush show an adept hand with dream pop on my favorite song on the EP, the wistful "There Is Now".  I think the Lightning Seeds would have been proud of those hooks.  The closer, "Tell Me" blends dream pop and post punk to good effect.

If you only have time for one sample, check out "There Is Now".  I recommend streaming all four tracks, of course.  The EP is out now as a digital download via Shelflife Records.  See the link at the bottom of the post.







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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fraser A. Gorman - Slow Gum

Melbourne's Fraser Gorman possesses an aw shucks kind of charisma that makes it easy to like him.  He seems open, friendly and without pretense.  It appears he loves animals and his mother.  He also looks a bit like a young Dylan, whose work admittedly informs his own, but he is quite upfront and comfortable with the comparison.  By day, Fraser is a carpenter, and its seems that constructing things is in his blood, because his debut album,  Slow Gum, demonstrates that with a guitar, pen and a head full of melodies and images, he is a hell of a songwriter.

Gorman's style is country-inflected folk and folk rock, and as is typical with the best work in those genres, the core of his songs are engaging stories, entertainingly told.  My first exposure was via "Book of Love", which remains one of my favorites of the past few years (I've included the Soundcloud clip, which has a button for download, but the video as well because it is a great video), although "Never Gonna Hold You (Like I Do)" from Slow Gum is overtaking it fast.  I eagerly consumed his next singles, "Broken Hands" and the noisier "Shiny Gun", and awaited his album with great anticipation.  The ten-song collection has a warm, homey feel with unassuming but infectious melodies, clever earworms and an atmosphere that spans two continents and a couple of eras.  In addition to his home country artists such as Paul Kelly and friend and label boss Courtney Barnett, his work carries strains of Nashville Skyline and '60s-'70s California singer songwriters and would comfortably fit in the American section of your collection.  Gorman loves and is knowledgeable about country music, but he certainly isn't, or at least isn't solely, a country artist.  Both his songwriting sweet spot and his performance style lend themselves well to robust arrangements.

Our bottom line is that Fraser Gorman is a pop storyteller with a well stocked toolbox, and Slow Gum will make all your chill moments of the summer much, much better.









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Marathon Artists

Monday, June 29, 2015

Linden - Rest and Be Thankful


At one point Joe McAlinden made a fair bit of noise.  His Superstar was signed to Creation Records and was known for its sun-kissed power pop.  His also lent his talents to Groovy Little Numbers, Boy Hairdressers, BMX Bandit, Edwyn Collins, Big Star, Alex Chilton and Matthew Sweet, among others.  He then left the music business and, among other things, became a restaurateur.  But apparently an accomplished musician and son of a music teacher just can't quit for good, and he has resumed blessing us with the fruits of his songwriting skills, albeit in a quieter vein.   His 2012 release, Bleached Highlights, earned deep praise in the UK.  In my view, Rest and Be Thankful, manages to succeed in the formidable task of topping the previous album.  Recorded in home territory in Argyll, western Scotland, in a fisherman's hut on the shores of Lock Fyne with the members of his live band -- Stuart Kidd, Eric Lindsay, Marco Rea, James Walbourne, and Paul Cook, and with finishing studio touches from Edwyn Collins himself, the album is peaceful, emotional and completely accessible.

Rest and Be Thankful succeeds for a myriad of reasons.  The songwriting is mature without looking backward, and intimate without being uncomfortably confessional.  The arrangements are lush without being fussy.  And one cannot overlook the value of timing.  It is late June and summer is upon us.  What better time for self-described 'pastoral pop' with weathered vocals, clever guitar lines and hooks at every turn?  Open the sun roof and head for the coast with your Ray Bans in place and Linden providing the perfect soundtrack.  But it seems to me that the pop perfection on the surface is just one part of the genius here.  Just as a good chef triumphs when he or she takes quality ingredients and combines them in complimentary fashion, with certain elements to the fore and the others evident but in support, McAlinden's songwriting deserves the songwriting equivalent of top Michelin Stars.  Each song is a dish, plated to perfection, with no element too dominant, no sadness or regret offered without a sunny hook or encouraging melody.

For my tastes, the best songs are "Window Pane", "Rest and Be Thankful", "Short Worm", and "Broken Glass".  By the way, the title of the album is taken from words inscribed on a stone at a rest stop at the end of a steep climb out of Glen Coe in Western Scotland.  The view from the spot is replicated in the album's artwork.






Rest and Be Thankful is out now on vinyl, CD and as a digital download via Slumberland Records in North America and AED Records in the UK.


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AED Records

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Midnight World Pop Scout

Another installment of our not always reliable weekend feature of new music of note.  These aren't reviews -- just alerts to music you may find interesting.
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We start in out in London with a house collaboration between Shift K3y (Lewis Jankel) and Born Dirty for Dim Mak Records.  The thumping rhythms of "Misbehave" should get your night off to a good start.  The single is available as of June 29.




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Next is Melbourne, Australia electro-pop duo Alta.  Consisting of Hannah Lesser and Julius Dowson, they releases a five-track EP Awake For Days last Friday.  We think it is very interesting.



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And now for a more straightforward pop song, "I Won't Cry", from young Australian Mia Milan.



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Our stop in Brooklyn is to feature "City Lights" by synth pop trio DF3.  If you like this, note that their eight-song album After A While will be out later this year.



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Silicon is Kody Nielson, an islander -- from Hawaii, and now in New Zealand.  His LP Personal Computer will be out in late August via Weird World Record Co.  You can sample it via track "Burning Sugar" below.



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Finally, we are in Los Angeles for alt rock trio Raw Fabrics.  Ahead of their release of EP Plastic Joy they have unveiled record track "Move Over".  The band is Jack Franco, Jon Fredrik and Justus Dixon.



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Friday, June 26, 2015

"Voyeur Guy" from Andrew R Burns and The Tropicanas


Sometimes our Friday posts are dreamy, and sometimes they are sloppy.  Today, we have a post that is dreamslop.  Yes, dreamslop is the term that Andrew R Burns and The Tropicanas apply to their brand of guitar pop.  We featured their debut single last month (link here), and heaped upon it the sort of praise that reflects true admiration or a fair amount of under the table payola.  The lads have a new one out, and it hits the spot again.  "Voyeur Guy" is woozy, with lots of reverb over a retro-sounding pop tune.  By the way, the Soundcloud link below offers downloads of several tracks from the lads.



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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bob Collins and the Full Nelson - Telescopic Victory Kiss


Today is Bob Collins Appreciation Day.  For what are we appreciative?  Most generally, for Telescopic Victory Kiss by Bob Collins and the Full Nelson.  Specifically, we love the weathered by rich vocals, the songwriting that is personal and direct enough to have the lyrics stand for something, and the performance that passionately delivers the lyrics.  But most of all, we are thankful for an album that is all about guitar pop, with no pretense to be anything else.  The opening ringing guitar and rolling drums of opener "Sunshine Of Your Soul" sets the bar high, and the band achieves the standard for the remainder of the album.  "Your Star Is Fading" and "Emily" follow the same approach of full-blooded arrangements with muscular rhythms and crunchy riffs.  A few, such as "Espionage", "Golddust", and "Holy Man" showcase the band's ability to dial it back for a more reflective approach, and songs like "Seven Lives" display a mastery of power pop.  "Shaking Down The Secrets" has a breezy, country feel.  If you love guitar pop like we love guitar pop, we recommend this album.  The band has decades of experience, but the result is fresh and vital.

By way of background, Bob Collins was a member of the loved and defunct The Dentists.  In the years since that band dissolved, Bob has continued to write and perform as a solo artist and with a couple of other musicians as The Full Nelson.  Telescopic Victory Kiss presents his recent songwriting via a fully plugged in band.

Astute readers may have noted that this is Bob's second appearance on this blog this month, as he played with fellow alum Mark Matthews on the Matthew's The Treasures of Mexico project (review here).









Bob Collins and the The Full Nelson are Bob Collins (guitar/vocals), Rob Grigg (drums) and Mark Aitken (bass).  Telescopic Victory Kiss is available via Jigsaw Records as a digital download or CD; see the links below.

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Bandcamp page for Telescopic Victory Kiss
Jigsaw Records page for release


"Phonecalls In The Bath" from The Deadline Shakes


A series of singles from a young band over a few years is like a set of photographs of your nephew at various stages over the same time span.  In each of the pictures the young nipper is cute as a button and you are happy to look, but the kid looks pretty similar in each.  Then, at some point, there is a photo in which your nephew appears to have grown quite a bit.  He's still your nephew, but has clearly hit a new stage of development.

That all seems relevant to me today because we have been enjoying singles from The Deadline Shakes for a couple of years now.  Each of them has been an exciting pop nugget, worthy of carrying on the Glasgow tradition of fine indie guitar rock.  But with the new single "Phonecalls In The Bath",  we find fresh dynamics to the arrangement, more adventuresome instrumentation and, it seems to me, increased confidence.  The song begins slowly with minimal instrumentation, then explodes into a racing pop tune, then dials down again before building to a wall of sound finish.  The spaces are filled with harmonies, and there are just enough ragged edges to the instrumentation to avoid excessive polish.  "Phonecalls In The Bath" is the sound of our little 'nephews (and neice)' growing up.  And it pleases our ears.



"Phonecalls In The Bath" is out new week via Flowers In The Dustbin.  You can pre-order now.

The Deadline Shakes are Greg Dingwall (lead vocals/guitars/banjo/brass), Iain McKinstry (guitars/vocals), Martin McLeod (bass/ukelele), Thomas Booth (drums/percussion), Michael Muir (violin/tenor banjo), and Kiera Pollock (guitars/vocals).

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Label's order page for "Phonecalls In The Bath"

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Beach" from Will Joseph Cook


We generally don't cover artists covered to major labels here.  In fact, if we've covered you before and then stop, you've either hit it big or you've really turned to shit (ignoring for the moment the possibility that we are drunk again and lost your files).  But I'm making a little exception for the talented 18-year old Will Joseph Cook.  With only one EP under his belt, his forthcoming four-song sophomore EP Proof Enough will be released by on August 11 by Atlantic.   The young man has a songwriting gift, and an engaging crooner's voice.  "Beach" gives us our first glimpse of the new EP.  Will deftly combines a shimmering summery guitar with skittering beats and a breezy vocal, and it seems a perfect summer song.



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Night Dials - "I've Done More Things"/"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"

"I've Done More Things"/"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" swaggers into your head with the kind of leather-jacketed strut and 'what are you looking at' attitude that brings to mind The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Velvet Underground.  Did the Night Dials' confidence in their abilities precede or follow the execution?  I can't claim to know.  But I've heard a lot of rock music in my life, and "I've Done More Things" is a jangling, buzzing, hook-filled calling card that ranks among the best in the business.  The second track on this double A-side, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", is a paisley underground nugget that dials back the slashing rock and suggests an intriguing depth.

On this two-track introduction the band skillfully blends pop smarts, energy, reverb, focused noise, a dash of danger, and generous measure of who-gives-a-fuck.  And they wisely leave the package of "pop preciousness" unopened.  The single is out now via Ciao Ketchup Recordings, and you can stream/buy the vinyl or digital at the Bandcamp link below.  iTunes has it as well, if you are an iTunes kind of person.





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Ciao Ketchup Recordings page for the release