Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Radio Dept. - Running Out of Love

I have been a fan of the perfectly crafted indie pop of Sweden's The Radio Dept. since hearing their debut album, Lesser Matters, in 2003.  While the band has gone through several line-ups, and now is down to long-term core members Johan Duncanson and Martin Carlberg, it has consistently turned out melodic, dreamy pop tunes marked by their bittersweet tones and consistent high quality.  We have had a long wait for a new album after the deservedly praised 2010 release Clinging To A Scheme, but the wait is over with last week's arrival of Running Out Of Love.

For those that recall The Radio Dept. as a guitar-oriented dream pop band focusing on personal themes, Running Out Of Love contains a few surprises.  First, the instrumentation here is largely electronic  -- not in the EDM vein, but more in the New Order/Pet Shop Boys channel, with touches of Detroit house and some baggy beats.  Of course, a great song is a great song, regardless of the existence of guitars, and the band's knack for melody and sophisticated song dynamics, and Duncanson's softly accessible vocals, remain welcome constants in the mix.  The second surprise is that the album is pointedly topical.  Addressing politics, rising racism and fascism, xenophobia, and social disaffection, the album paints a darkly dystopian picture of the modern world.  In "Occupied" they even turn aim their glare at their record label, due to a contract dispute (a relationship since patched up, I believe).  I expect I share a lot of the duo's politics, but whether you do or do not, I repeat: A great song is a great song.  And this album is comprised of ten great songs.  If you miss the idea of guitars, I'll note that it is very likely that The Radio Dept. has a thick catalog of draft guitar tunes that may reach your ears in the future.  But in the meantime, enjoy one of their finest and most consistent efforts -- Running Out Of Love.  I suspect that you won't miss the guitars at all.

Running Out of Love is out now via Stockholm's Labrador Records.

Labrador Records

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ravenna Woods - Alleyways & Animals

Seattle's Ravenna Woods brew an intoxicating set of songs on Alleyways & Animals, their new EP.  The band has long had a talent for combining acoustically oriented folk rock and art rock, with a sheen of intensity that make other bands seem like pretenders.   The lead track for this record, "Alleyways", adds a dose of new wave electronics to great effect, resulting in an anthem that makes sticking around for the rest of the songs inevitable.  And the listener won't be disappointed to spend the time.  This is a band that infuses every song with an immediacy and sense of importance that commands your attention, locking you in to the surging dynamics, layers of sound and harmonies.

Ravenna Woods are Chris Cunningham (guitar/vocals), Matt Badger (drums), Brantley Duke (keys), Nicolas Danielson (multi-instrumentalist), and Reed LV (bass).  Alleyways & Animals is out now.  Stream it below and buy it at the Bandcamp link below.

Bandcamp for EP

Catch Prichard - Eskota

For me, Eskota is one of the most evocative musical experiences of the year.  The vocals and instrumentation paint a picture of skewed memories, fractured dreams, searching for a sense of place, and the lure and illusion of home.  The five songs are the work of Sawyer Gebauer, performing as Catch Prichard.  Sawyer recorded the album in an abandoned grocery store in a Texas ghost town called Eskota, and now resides in Oakland.  But the emotional content likely was formed in Sawyer's years traveling to and from Europe while fronting Brittsommar, a band he formed in Sweden.

Eskota features Gebauer's warm, sandy baritone and simple arrangements dominated by pedal steel, guitar and drums, with occasional synths.  And as enchanting as that all is, the magic here for me is found in the questions raised about where your home is, how to find it, and how to experience it.  Perhaps it is just my stage in life combined with recent events, but this is an album I want right now.  It is an album I need.  From one Wisconsin native to another, thanks, Sawyer.

Eskota is out now on Devise Records.

Devise Records

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Holiday Crowd - The Holiday Crowd

Please welcome one of our favorite indie pop bands from Canada, the one and only The Holiday Crowd.  In a marketplace not short of guitar bands, what makes this Toronto outfit special?  For us, it is a fresh approach to '80s-early '90s British guitar pop that combines some of the jangle and sensibilities of The Smiths with a danceable low register groove, a lot more pep and a sunnier outlook.  We first featured The Holiday Crowd about four years ago (link).  We were impressed with them then, and we think this album is a terrific showcase for their evolution.  If you only have time to check out one track, stream "Anything Anything" below.

The Holiday Crowd is Imran Haniff, Colin Bowers, Alex Roberts, and John Coman.  The Holiday Crowd is out now via Shelflife Records.

Shelflife Records page for album

Hooton Tennis Club - Big Box Of Chocolates

If you are like me, you wake up some mornings thinking only of pumping up with some tunes from Liverpool's Hooton Tennis Club, and scoring some chocolate.  Well, today is our lucky day because Hooton Tennis Club is releasing a Big Box Of Chocolates.  Satisfaction of two cravings in one tasty package.  What a great world this is!

Big Box Of Chocolates is comprised to 12 expertly performed songs that still manage to sound effortless, spontaneous and sincere.  It is direct, accessible and loads of fun.  The band is known for their up tempo style, but songs such as "Sit Like Ravi" reveal the gentler side of foursome.  Thematically, the album ranges over life in their part of the world, enriched by colorfully sketched real and imaginary characters.  Both melodically and lyrically, the album is clever without being showy, and provides an energetic, friendly, and melodic brand of rock to which many bands aspire, and few attain.  Give this one a chance to get under your skin, and you'll be playing it a long time -- maybe until Hooton Tennis Club releases their next album.

Hooton Tennis Club are Ryan Murphy (vocals/guitar), James Madden (vocals/guitar), Callum McFadden (bass) and Harry Chalmers (drums).  Big Box Of Chocolates was recorded by the great Edwyn Collins, and is out now via Heavenly Recordings.

Heavenly Recordings

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Kellies - Friends & Lovers

For their third album, the recently released Friends & Lovers, Argentina's Las Kellies are down one Kelly (former bassist Betty), but Silvina Costa (drums) and Cecilia Kelly (guitar) continue to rock on with their own special brand of garage and psychedelic rock with a bit of dubby new wave, along with new bassist Manuela Ducatenzeiler.  There is less of the latter on this album, but Las Kellies' proficiency and growing confidence make for a satisfying listen in the garage/psychedelic rock groove as well.

The band doesn't move to a new plane with this album, but they already were very good, so that would have been a high bar.  Long time fans will be pleased, and prospective fans should find a lot to like.  If Las Kellies have a special sauce, it is that they understand that the kids want to dance. And the band wants the kids that want to dance to be able to dance.  As an example, check out "I'm On Fire" below.

Friends & Lovers is out now via Fire Records.

Bandcamp for Friends and Lovers
Fire Records

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Milk Skin - Syrupy / Space Race

Allow me drop this one into your Autumn listening line-up.  The record is the two song single Syrupy/Space Race by the UK's Milk Skin.  The band is comprised of Laura of Tigercats and Tom of Owl & Mouse, with able assistance from Johnny of Wave Pictures, Paul of Allo Darlin.  "Syrupy" is a gauzy mix of a sneakily infectious krautrock  groove and a tribal form of dream pop, all with a sneaky groove.  In its turn, "Space Race" begins as a hazy bit of fuzz folk and then dives into a long Beta Band-style finish.  Syrupy/Space Race is available in vinyl and digital formats -- see the Bandcamp link at the bottom of the post.

Records like this are one of the reasons we are enthusiastic fans if London lable wiaiwya ("where its at is where you are").  The music scene is awash with singles, many of them quite good, but the wiaiwya-7777777 singles club is the premier boutique purveyor of singles, due to the rarity of the releases, the unique combination of artists, the devotion to the format, and most of all, the freshess and quality of the recordings.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jack River - Highway Songs No.2

Young Australian Holly Rankin has adopted a childhood nickname -- Jack River -- and launched a recording career.  We suggest that you make a note of it.  Her debut EP, Highway Songs No.2, is modest in length, only seven tracks including an Intro and Outro, but it bursts with talent and wide scope inspiration.  Rankin is a rocker on "Palo Alto", a dreamy folky on "Head To Stars", a synth pop star on "Talk Like That" and travels into psychedelia with "Nothing's Going To Hurt You Baby".  The songwriting is razor sharp throughout, and Holly is a convincing vocalist in every genre.

Highway Songs No.2 is out now via I Oh You in Australia and Hopeless Utopian Records in the United States.


Virgin of the Birds - Secret Kids

The easy observation regarding the music of Jon Rooney, the main man behind Seattle's Virgin of the Birds, is that he is an accomplished tunesmith.  And I suppose that alone might be enough to help Jon sell a few copies of his new album.  But like many good things in life, there is so much more complexity to this gift to our ears, brain and heart that Jon has named Secret Kids.  Jon writes music with layers, and you can take as much or as little as you choose.  The initial impression, of course, comes from the melodies.  Then you appreciate the adornments -- hooks, a chiming riff, a rock god run, an unleashed bass, a smile inducing bridge -- and those other things that separate an accomplished rock/pop band from your favorite garage band at 2am Saturday morning.

Of course, you need time for the lyrics.  The clever phrases grab you first, as they are meant to do.  One of the best is the title of the standout single "Spooky, Stony, Barely Over Thirty".  Beyond the quick rush of those phrases, your focus eventually is drawn to the stories themselves.  Jon has a keen eye, and a memorable way of taking the past, perhaps giving it a bit of a twist, and wrapping it up in verses that burn into the listener's memory.  You know the stories are someone else's, but Jon has a way of making them accessible.  For example, I've never had a lover tell me she wasn't in Spain even though I saw her there, but when I listen to "Spanish Accusations" and its delicious retro chord progressions, it reminds me of a few situations with past lovers.  And these lines from "Spooky, Stony, Barely Over Thirty" may tickle the memories of many of us for whom youth is in the rear view mirror:
We were wasted, we were warned 
We were vague and poorly formed 
We were soft, don't rub it in 
Almost lost, don't rub it in 


She was spooky, stony, barely over 30 
She allowed herself to dream of the crusade 
To lay waste to the city streets, and collapse every county seat 
And depart from the apartments of the easily laid
The songs on Secret Kids that impressed me most the first few listens were the up-temp songs "Cardinal Points", "Spooky, Stony, Barely Over Thirty", "Spanish Accusations", "Queen of Sweden", and "Summer Palace" (all of which are on my current, go-to playlist).  However, while the charms of the lovely "I Am A Bad Dreamer" or the withering "Victor Bockris" may show themselves more slowly, they are fully formed gems waiting your discovery.  How can anyone who has loved not connect with this line from "I Am A Bad Dreamer"?
I was dreaming of your love, I guess 
You were groping me, you were getting dressed 
I was carnal, I was careful 
When you came to me and gave to me my evils 
This album is a treasure not to be missed, dear readers.

Virgin Of The Birds is out now via Abandoned Love Records in North America and Song By Toad Records in the UK/Europe.

Virgin of the Birds' Bandcamp
Song By Toad Records' Bandcamp

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Wait and See" by The Echo Session

Flowers In The Dustbin, the Glasgow label that urges us all to demand genius, is offering another single from The Echo Session.  The single is set for a November 25 digital release, which is a long time in the future.  But we see no reason not to let you stream its wistful, '60s-shaded delights starting now.  We have included a video as well, so you can enjoy a multi-sensory experience.  And speaking of the future, the band's album, also titled Wait and See, is expected in 2017.

Bandcamp for "Wait and See"
Flowers In The Dustbin