Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens

Last year I was sent an EP by a Welsh-born Londoner named Kelly Lee Owens.  I was impressed, but very busy and didn't get around to writing about it.  But I made a mental note to pay attention to her future solo work, so I dutifully listened to her self-titled debut album this week.  The verdict, for those of you who don't like to wait for the bottom line, is that Kelly Lee Owens likely is the most adventuresome yet fully accessible electronic album you'll hear this year.  Oh, sure, its only the end of March, but the album really is that good.  In fact, I thing that I could broaden my statement to last year and next year  and have a decent chance of not being wrong.

The songs are based in techno, but transcend to broader dance modes, electro pop, electronic, dreampop and experimental pop.  At times it is airy and subtle (but never shy), other times sensual and stylish, and yet others pulsing and throbbing.  But it always has a purposeful and very forward drive.  As an artist, Owens is bold and clever, but also very sincere.  She is on the voyage with her audience, trying to please others by pleasing herself, and willing to take risks to do so.  I'd like to think she is a big fan of this album, and given her talent, that is good news for all of us.

Kelly Lee Owens is out now.  See the Bandcamp link below for details.






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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bardo Pond - Under The Pines

With six songs and in a bit over 40 minutes, Under The Pines stands as a perfect statement of the essence of Bardo Pond.  Heavy, throbbing riffs, experimental static, distortion and fuzz, reverb and drone, strings ethereal vocals riding the storm, and moments of delicacy bracketed by the sonic wall, it is all on display.  The Philadelphia band manages to be weighty, but avoids brutality with streaks of light and air.  And while this might sound like some stoner's dream band, and for all I know many stoners consider it their dream band, the delights aren't just for those ingesting substances.  Under The Pines is serious music, and seriously good music, for the times  when you want the rock to roll.

Bardo Pond are Michael Gibbons (guitar), John Gibbons (guitar), Isobel Sollenberger (flute and vocals), Clint Takeda (bass guitar) and Jason Kourkounis (drums).  Under The Pines is out now in digital, CD and vinyl formats via Fire Records.




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Bandcamp for Under The Pines
Fire Records' page for Under the Pines



Imaginary Tricks - Skommel

I'm a busy guy, so sometimes I attempt to multitask.  Multitasking supposedly is doing several things at once, but as the daughter of a friend said, multitasking is doing two or more things badly at the same time.  But the point is that I was at the office, trying to get some work done, and I streamed this new album titled Skommel through my earphones.  The theory was that I would evaluate the album while working, but usually that leads to the music becoming background and at the end of the album I have little idea about the album.  But the music on Skommel doesn't stay in the background.  It wiggles through your brain and takes it over like a science fiction alien taking over the inhabitants of a space station -- except that this take over is very, very welcome.

Skommel is the creation of Imaginary Tricks, who stitched together ten songs of found hooks, rhythms, and beats, and then glazed with their own inspired concoctions of keys, drums, bass and guitar, and a great feel for a good melody.  The results often may remind you of pieces of other songs, but that flash of partial recognition is part of the addictive allure of this album.  Imaginary Tricks may construct their songs of echoes of other songs, but they have the impeccable taste to only echo the best sounds -- glam riffs, R&B vocals, disco rhythms, and surf pop harmonies.  And more importantly, they have the ability to smear it with their own special sauce.  The result is an album that is joy to hear, and your smile will grow broader with each repeated listen.

Imaginary Tricks is Mike Visser and Harlan Muir.  Skommel is out now via Friendship Fever Records.





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Monday, March 27, 2017

The State Broadcasters - A Different Past

We don't do one-word features here.  Not that we aren't tempted, but even for us slackers at WYMA headquarters it seems just too obviously lazy to type "good", or "loud", or some other semi-descriptive terms and press 'post'.  But if we were to post just one word for A Different Past, the new album from Glasgow's The State Broadcasters, it would be "sunshine".  And that word wouldn't be chosen because all of the themes embodied in the songs of this album are sunny, but because pop this sparkling suggests sunshine regardless of lyrical content.  A Different Past is sophisticated without being slick, sweet without being cloying, and immediate while being carefully crafted.  Their third album may have been four years in the making, but the results demonstrate time well spent.

The band has a wide sweet spot, with indie rock tracks such as "Feelin' Alive" living harmoniously with Americana gems such as "Cycle Home Drunk" piano-driven indie pop such as opener "Break My Fall" and the lovely "Folding", ballads such as "Braced Against The Cold" and "Let The Wolves Roam", and delicate folk such as closer "Ribbons".  In addition to thoughtful and incisive songwriting, The State Broadcasters benefit from multiple vocalists and an instrumental palate that encompasses brass, accordion, double bass and strings, as well as more traditional pop/rock tools of the trade.  The result is vibrant music with every track sounding fresh and distinct.  Yes, indeed, there is pretty strong wattage to this sunshine.

A Different Past is out on March 24 on vinyl, CD and Digital formats via Glasgow label Olive Grove Records.  See the Bandcamp link for details.  The State Broadcasters are Pete MacDonald (piano/trombone/vocals), Gillian Fleetwood (harp/accordion/vocals), Cameron Maxwell (double bass/trombone/electric bass/vocals), David McGinty (guitar/vocals), and Susan Appelbe (cello/vocals).





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Bandcamp for A Different Past
Olive Grove Records

Friday, March 24, 2017

Secret Meadow - Same Old Fear EP

You probably have been wondering lately about whether there are any good guitar bands in Indonesia.  That's understandable -- I'm sure that it is a question on many minds.  Well, we can take some stress out of your life and advise you that Secret Meadow from Jakarta does, indeed, deserve your attention.  The good tastemakers at Jigsaw Records have just released the Same Old Fear, a five-song EP of jangling shoegaze.  The melodies soar, and the gentle vocals weave in and out of the mix while the swirling guitars and synths take center stage.  Really good stuff, folks.

We weren't able to discover much information about the band, but we can tell you that Secret Meadow are Ricardo Taufano (Guitar/Vocal), Jaro Petang (Guitar/Synth), Arief RWijaya (Bass), and Mulyana A. Viqry (Drums).



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Bandcampfor Same Old Fear EP

Delay Trees - Let Go

It seems to us that Finnish band Delay Trees have some things to celebrate.  They have been together for a decade, and they are releasing Let Go, their fourth album, certainly achievements to note.  But it seems to us that there is even more to celebrate, as in our opinion the new album is a nice step forward for an already very good band.  In past recordings, the foursome displayed a deft touch in creating swirling dreampop.  However, from the opening notes of the majestic opener, "Black Ice", Delay Trees cut through the mist with direct, melodic rock with purpose, drive and subtlety.

Let Go speaks to endings, beginnings, survival and hope.  And it does so with wide-scape guitar pop that soars and inspires.  The styles range from the Teenage Fanclub-esque "It's Not Who You Are", "Black Ice", "Best Things" and "Phases", to the more pop oriented "Sound of Darkness" and "Hum", to the rumbling indie rock of "Blame It On The Snow" and "It's Not Who You Are", to the  a bit of dreampop of "Hope".  We've been living with this album over the past month or so, and if we have been posting less it partially is due to reaching for Let Go rather than another record on the stack waiting for attention.  My current favorites are "Black Ice", "Phases", "Best Things", and "Pale July", but such a list is subject to change with my moods, and there are many worthy contenders on this album.  If you go to the Bandcamp link you can stream the entire album, and it will be time well spent.

Delay Trees are Rami Vierula (vocals/guitar/keys), Lauri Järvinen (guitars/keys/backing vocals), Sami Korhonen (bass), and Onni Oikari (drums/percussion/guitars/backing vocals (lead on "Hum")).  Let Go is released today via Helsinki's Soliti Music







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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Èlan Vital - Shadow Self

Put on your earphones and surf the darkwave dreams of Dunedin, New Zealand's Èlan Vital on their debut LP Shadow Self.  Synths groan and drone, rise and fall, lasers shoot, but all with a sly dance-able undercurrent, veins of analog warmth, and a human touch with the female vocals.  The overall effect is as if the band threw their dreams and nightmares in a big pot and cooked it to trance/dance soundscape.  Oh, and we should mention that it is highly addictive and, like all addictive substances, becomes more so with prolonged exposure.

The album commences with a Gothic tone and static fog, but as it unspools we are treated to increased dynamics (e.g. the spacey, funky "Space") and lighter moments, such as on "Janina", break through like rays of sunshine.  Èlan Vital seem to have a strong sense of what they want to do, and the ability to execute their ideas.  Impressively, they stay within their desired groove while keeping the compositions accessible to the listener.  I chose a few representative tracks below, but I recommend the final stream, which will give you the full album.  To my ears, the songs on the last half of the record are especially recommended, but it is all good.

If we understand correctly, the genesis of the band was in Berlin, where two of its members resided.  A following stop was Auckland, on New Zealand's north island, and then a relocation to Dunedin.  The band's current rehearsal space is the None Gallery which, before it became an artist-run creative space served time as a pharmaceutical factory and then a strip club.

Èlan Vital is Renee Barrance (keyboards, vocals), Danny Brady (synths, drum machines, effects, vocals) and Nikolai Sim (bass).  Shadow Self is released on vinyl, CD and digital formats via Fishrider Records on March 24, and by Occultation Recordings in UK/Europe on May 12.










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Fishrider Records
Occultation Recordings


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bunch - Forever My Sparring Partner

We here at WYMA are a lot like the rest of you.  After all, we put on our pants one day at at time -- at least on the days we wear pants.  One difference, however, is that when we learn of great new music our first instinct is to write about it here so you can enjoy it as well.  It is, after all, why we exist, not the trappings of the glamorous lifestyle of pop music journalists with a $3 annual expense account (no questions asked!) and as many paper clips as our hearts desire.

So today we bring you Forever My Sparring Partner by Alabama band Bunch.  Founded by ex El Cantador Heath Underwood, this is guitar-oriented rock that is earthy and soulful -- elements which characterize our favorite southern rock.  More specifically, the album is a collection of gospels of red dirt, full blooded lives, travails, lessons, persistence and triumphs, told with a keen eye, a poet's tongue and an artist's flair.  The performances are tight, and fully do justice to the material.  And don't read too much into the "southern" tag.  The music is un-mistakenly regional, but is in no way country.

You may note at the Bandcamp link below that Forever My Sparring Partner was released in mid-November, and we are just getting around to writing about it.  News travels slowly to us in the North, and other events in November had captured our bandwidth for a while.  Check out some tracks below, and if they hit the spot, go to the Bandcamp link and play the entire album.  You will note that the lyrics are available, and I suggest displaying them while listening.  Then buy the record like good little boys and girls.

All songs on Forever My Sparring Partner were written and arranged by Heath Underwood, who also provided the vocals, as well as guitars, pedals and effects, and vibe-bells.  Additional players and vocalists were Paul Kimsal, Joe Dickey, Allan Castleberry, Simon Roper, Matt Prince, Maria Kowalski, Bruce Bouton, Lesley Jones-Smith, Amanda Smolinski, Victoria Noll, and Samantha Harlow.










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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Copenhagen" by First Hate


Danish duo First Hate will be dropping their debut album A Prayer For The Unemployed on May 12, and you can get your first listen of the electro pop excellence via "Copenhagen".  The album will be released by Copenhagen label Escho.



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Escho

Emotional - The Band

Brian Wakefield is Emotional.  Not that he is weepy or has anger management issues.  He just is, well, Emotional.  I think that when Brian originally became Emotional, the project was just Brian and a crowded bedroom as a side project to Melted Toys and his other side projects.  But over time the project seems to have become his main focus.  And that causes happiness here at WYMA, because Brian's brand on psychedelic garage pop is a particular favorite.  For his new album, his second full-length, he seems to have gathered a band.  So, of course, the album is named The Band.  After all, you have to take care of the people who take care of you.

It is rare to hear an album that suggests influences as varied as Syd Barrett, Big Star, Gram Parsons.  And even rarer, I suspect, would be an album that shares that influences by nevertheless presents a coherent style.  But The Band is such an album, presenting nine varied songs of smeared psychedelic pop that delights from open to close.  We've provided a few tracks below, but we urge you to hit the Bandcamp link and listen to the entire album.

The Band is released on Brian's own Long Live Death Records, and Emotional are in the midst of a US tour.  We've provided dates and venues below (although we personally believe that if you don't come to Seattle, you aren't trying very hard).  In creating the album, Wakefield received contributions from Alex Brettin, Danny James, Sarah Bethe Nelson, Simi Sohota, Emmet Moskowitz, Geoff Morris, Ole Haarstad and Joel Robinow.







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Bandcamp for The Band
Death Records' page for The Band

EMOTIONAL on TOUR
Mar. 21 — Nashville, TN @ Blackbird Tattoo*$
Mar. 22 — Lexington, KY @ Best Friend Bar *
Mar. 23 — Washington, DC @ Smash! Records *
Mar. 24 — Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs *$
Mar. 25 — New York, NY @ Baby’s All Right *$
Mar. 26 — Burlington, VT @ TBD *
Mar. 27 — New York, NY @ Berlin ^#
Mar. 28 — Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Upstairs ^
Mar. 29 — Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog *
Mar. 30 — Indianapolis, IN @ SST *
Mar. 31 — Milwaukee, WI @ Company Brewing *
Apr. 1 — Chicago, IL @ Cole’s Bar *
Apr. 2 — Minneapolis, MN @ TBD *
Apr. 3 — Kansas City, MO @ Blind Tiger *
Apr. 4 — Denver, CO @ Hi Dive*
Apr. 5 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
Apr. 6 — Las Vegas, NV @ The Griffin *
Apr. 7 — Joshua Tree
* = w/ The Memories
% = w/ Death Valley Girls, Death Hymn No. 9
$ = w/ Colleen Green
# = w/ Cosmonauts