Wednesday 16 December 2015

2015 - one year in an hour

Yes, time for the annual compilation that I give to friends who quite rightly have better things to do than find music made by people whose efforts would, if they enjoyed greater exposure, increase public demand for the return of military conscription.

Every year around April I wonder 'will there be enough nuggets for a compilation at this rate?' I should never worry. There are always too many. And some absolute belters have been left off this year thanks to computer problems, or perhaps my problems with computers.

So a truer reflection of the year's stand outs would include Degustation by Point Being and I Want To Want You by Breakfast Muff and Fan The Flames by Sheer Mag. But what would they replace? Just know that there's a lot of brilliant stuff out there still to discover.

This is pretty much all new acts. You know that Robert Forster's album is amazing, that you must buy The Leaf Library's Daylight Versions and that Jonathan Richman's first new material in 5 years is essential? You're smart people. You did know that.

Noteable themes of 2015:

  • the UK DIY scene is on fire. I can't wait to hear what comes next, very possibly some 16-year-olds inspired by what's knocked them out this year
  • Melbourne's gone a bit quiet, but Sydney and Brisbane have taken charge, so Australia is still the window to watch. 
  • it's a girl's world - this compilation could have been 100% women. As it is, two-thirds of the songs are by women or all-women bands, or bands with a distaff element. 
  • and so much brilliant new soul revival music. Yeah, if you're into the very cutting-edge of dance music, you'll dismiss it as 'Dusty Groove soul', but you could easily dismiss much of this compilation as '90s indie revival'. I can live with that.

This is the new stuff that I love. Take your pick. I hope you find something you love.

  1. Rebble - The Cathys
  2. Ferris Wheel - Frozy
  3. Melbourne - Shit Present

Sunday 13 December 2015

Dee Dee Warwick - You Tore My Wall Down

Last year's 35-track Dee Dee Warwick compilation of early 70s Atco recordings was a revelation. Not least for its 12 previously unreleased songs and most of all for You Tore My Wall Down.

It was inevitable this string-swept northern belter would get a 7" issue. Its punch, adrenaline and bruised emotional delivery demand it. It reminds me of Eloise Laws' Love Factory.

You Tore My Wall Down was written by Ed Townsend. This is, next to Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and Theola Kilgore's The Love Of My Man, my very favourite of his songs.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Whyte Horses - Pop or Not

What if Broadcast were influenced by Sesame Street instead of Czech fairy tales?

What if Adventures in Stereo's compact soundtracks were covered by Stereolab?

What if Vashti Bunyan travels by horse and cart had led her not to the Hebrides but continental Europe?

What if Lee Hazlewood's Cowboy In Sweden had been recorded in France?

All of these things and more - Bee Gees psych-pop, Gainsbourg breathy noir, Ellie Greenwich melodrama - make Pop or Not a modern classic ensemble album in the same vintage as Wasps' Nests by The 6ths and Maintenant by Gigi.

Maybe when it's reissued next year (it has to be) in a run greater than 300, it'll hit the headlines and top all the year-end lists.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Christmas indiepop songs

Alasdair MacLean, Elizabeth Morris, Julian Henry and Shirley Lee talk about the Christmas hits they penned.

The Clientele
For London’s poet laureate of precipitation, Alasdair MacLean, it always seems to be raining. Once though, long ago, he let it snow.

“In 1997 I wrote a song called 'Saturday' which was consciously aimed at the Xmas no. 1 spot. We even had the video worked out - the band strolling down Embankment Walk under festive lights, the Thames flowing enigmatically in the background.

“The British public were unmoved, though to be fair, it was never released as a single in the UK (only in the US, in August). Since then, sadly, I've become indifferent to the festivities and rites of passage I once hoped to soundtrack for my generation.”

Allo Darlin’
There wasn’t snow in Australia at Christmas time for the young Elizabeth Morris, but she didn’t let that stop her from dreaming of the northern winter’s romance.

“Everybody loves Christmas songs, and I'd written one once before that I liked, called Silver Swans in NYC that I'd only ever played live once or twice at Christmas time. At my parents' house by the beach in Queensland one September, I was starting to think about Christmas songs - I can't really remember why. I ended up writing a bunch of Christmas songs and self-releasing them on CDR as the first Allo Darlin' recordings. I think my favourite on that collection is Will You Please Spend New Years Eve With Me, although I much prefer the version that's the b-side to the Polaroid Song 7".”

The Hit Parade
“Thank God for the rain, what a metaphor” trilled the young Julian Henry of teen pop sensations The Hit Parade. The miserable sod then turned his attentions to Christmas Tears and corralled Amelia Fletcher to sing about being lonely this and every bloody Christmas to a disco beat. The sunshine never lasts, does it, Jules?

“Christmas Tears is our manly attempt to follow Wizzard and Mud into the pop history books by writing a timeless yuletide hit. There's so much rubbish to deal with at Xmas; stupid Santa, people you hate coming round for supper and nothing to do but get drunk...but the idea of 'hoping for a Christmas card from someone who once broke your heart' appeals to me, probably cos it's just the simple old notion of wishing you could be with someone that you love at a time of year when the temperatures are dropping to sub-zero levels.

“Our band specialise in failure so this song made absolutely no impression on the chart despite having the amazing Amelia Fletcher sing lead vocal. Shocking really. Interestingly though the love affair that Xmas Tears was written to mark still seems to flicker to life each time I hear the record, and I'm glad to have named checked the road Orchehill Avenue in the song, as that's the street where I was born.”

In 1999, Spearmint made a brilliant album of soul-infused pop [citation not needed] and then went ding dong merrily on high with a yuletide concept album. Do you dream of Christmas songs, Shirley Lee?

“My absolute favourite is the Phil Spector album - that gets played at home loads during December (never before the 1st!). I also love the albums Sinatra, Elvis, Doris Day, and Motown artists made. The only frustrating thing is they all sing the same 20 songs; there aren't enough real classics.

“We always knew Spearmint would make a Christmas album. "Oklahoma!" partially scratched the itch, as it's set at Christmas. We released it in summer because we couldn't wait until winter! I suspect we'll do more Christmas songs at some point...”
(I wrote this article 5 years ago for a club night's one-off fanzine, so in the unlikely event you read it then, please contact the Did Not Chart customer complaints bureau for a refund.)

Monday 23 November 2015

Sutter Steps

This album is gloriously crisp and sweetly melodic. It’s got Big Star’s jangling desperation (every last song), Quasi’s quirky keyboard stylings (Backyard Charm), and country-rock melancholy (Go On).

Stutter Steps jangle incessantly with, you know, proper guitar solos right through this album like only The Bats can do. They trade in neat psychedelic tricks (Jeff Baron of Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor is on board, so really what did you expect) and intense romance. And they kick out the jams on Maple Leaf just because they can. 

Dean Wareham plays on Fog because it’s anthemic and ringing. And because you would if you were asked to.  

Sunday 22 November 2015

Otis Brown and the Delights: Southside Chicago

Otis Brown's tribute to sweet soul Chicago matches the best of the city's vocal group signature sound it celebrates. It's that good.

Southside Chicago got a new lease of life as the theme music to Bob Abrahamian's brilliant Sitting In The Park radio show.

Bob died last year, way too young. He was a generous, incredibly knowledgeable and personable presenter. You can listen to his many shows. And you should. You'll find gold.

This reissue is vocal group heaven two times over because b-side I've Got Another is just as tender. It's on Numero - get it from Honest Jon's in the UK.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Dominique Durand's treasured albums

Ivy's Get Enough would be one of the first names on the team sheet if I was making a best 90s singles compilation. Shortly after its 1994 release, I asked singer Dominique Durand what albums meant the most to her when she left home.

She replied by fax. This was the 90s. She explained she'd left France for New York with 16 Lovers Lane, Forever Changes and Doolittle. I liked her even more.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Fuck Marry Kill - Daddy Issues

If Spice World had Daddy Issue's Glue Sniffer as its soundtrack then it would have been as big as Grease. 

What a song! It kicks some guy's sorry butt ("he's a snake! a cheater too! a liar and a loser and a rick of bamboo") with call and response vocals, a classic riff (just like the New York Dolls used to hijack Bowie or Richards) and a 10 cent punk guitar solo.

This (digital only) album is good time, gutsy rock'n'roll with a side order of snake-hipped balladry (Wild Thing), garage rock noise and surf guitar solos. 

It's the best thing Daddy Issues have done. They leave on a high, because this is their final bow. Better to burn out than to fade away.

Monday 9 November 2015

Dirtygirl - Junk Food

Dirtygirl are manically melodic like Bruising, petulantly spiteful like Colour Me Wednesday and sharply punk like No Ditching.

They say they're "just catchy pop punk tunes" but there's more going on here. Songs about bloody sheets (Seaside), negative body issues (most of the songs) and a guy with a tiny dick who'll never see the cute, sexy girl in her new underwear (Fat Girl) suggest Dirtygirl are, with Dog Legs, the riot grrrl wing of the UK's vibrant DIY scene.

There's even a song that has that Shop Assistants revival sound bands like Vivian Girls were doing a few years ago. Well, they do have "girl" in their band name. It used to be compulsory. It was seldom this good. Here, listen:

Monday 2 November 2015

Eerie Summer

Feeling nostalgic for 2010? Get right on Eerie Summer’s 7(!) track 7-inch because it belongs next to Best Coast’s Sun Was High (So Was I) and It’ll Come Around by All Saints Day.

Everything drags just right, like slow motion footage of a couple breaking up. The sound may go even back further to Ultra Vivid Scene’s art rock and Mazzy Star’s spectral atmosphere and the Marine Girls’ whispered intimacy.

Wherever it comes from [St Petersburg, literally] please don’t call it shoegaze, because then I really don’t know what that genre means. Let’s just call it a modern classic, seven times over.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Odd Hope: Brave and Olde/I'll Follow You Soon

How to create classic psychedelic pop:

  • rummage through a box of musical toys like the TVPs
  • nod to The Lovin' Spoonful's You Didn't Have To Be So Nice
  • listen to The Pastels' 1984 Peel session with Joe Foster
  • write an unforgivingly catchy three-note hook and spin it out as a minute-long coda
  • make an analogue recording

Then release it on 7" on Fruits & Flowers, the label that's done everything right for 18 months.

Shall we just agree that everything on Fruits & Flowers is worth buying? That it's the best new label? And that Odd Hope's single is a 10 out of 10?

Just buy everything on the label automatically, then I can stop doing blog posts and they can retire, rich, to the hills and ingest whatever mind-altering substances they like at their leisure.

Friday 30 October 2015

Foley! - Ascot Vale

Ascot Vale is an album about being in your early 20s and getting drunk and falling in love and getting dumped.

Foley! aren't doing anything radically new and they know it on Feeding Egos: "I’ve been writing all these songs and they all sound the fucking same." But knowing their limitations means they stick to what they do best: smash and grab punk pop that takes hold first time.

Sure, you and I have both heard this sort of thing a thousand times before, but every time you hear it afresh you can easily wonder why every band doesn't do this sort of thing. But you know most bands can't do this and Foley!'s new bite, extra venom and pure passion make this album a real treat.

Ascot Vale (the album, not the Melbourne suburb) came out earlier this year. It's on blue vinyl and yours for $AU20.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

The Moonlight

When Flying Nun restarted I hoped it would release bands like The Moonlight. Bands with songs that have The Verlaines' intense poise (Into The Water), The Chills' extraordinary drama (Last Goodbye) and the Straitjacket Fits' fire and brimstone (Sunset Inside).

There are great New Zealand labels like Fishrider and Melted Ice Cream who are putting out essential new bands. They do a lot, but they can only do so much. So wouldn't it be nice if The Moonlight were on Flying Nun and if Flying Nun spent more time releasing new New Zealand bands than reissuing their back catalogue?

I'm not suggesting The Moonlight are only influenced by older Flying Nun bands. There's been 25 years between this Moonlight album and those FN bands. They've filtered those sounds in different ways just like any number of bands on hip new labels such as Trouble In Mind and Captured Tracks.

Flying Nun is a great brand (it's one of the greatest ever labels, for christ's sake) - putting out this album would mean more people heard The Moonlight. It probably wouldn't pay off FN's debts, but it'd be a great way to start securing a new legacy.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Ardivan Walks

US psych pop on cassette for the next Nuggets generation. This is a one-man (Jake Hannon) band that tips its hat to The Twerps, Miracle Legion and The Apples in Stereo.

I don't know how many bands like this there are out there, but it's always a joy to find one. Added bonus: it had me reaching for The Caroline Know's lost classic Nail/Orphaned Too for the first time in way too long.

5 songs, all fizzing with great ideas and just-right turns, for $3 on one tape. You can't argue with that.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Smudge - Manilow tribute album

Manilow is 19 songs over one record. It's some gift to write this many short songs with so much punch, pop and depth that still sound fresh 21 years later.

Evan Dando co-wrote two of them, but Smudge's Tom Morgan wrote many more than that with Evan for the Lemonheads' It's A Shame About Ray and Come On Feel albums.

And Manilow is at least the equal of either of those albums. It's a slacker masterclass with a punk backbone and an easy way with simple hooks. It hits the spot every time.

That Lemonheads connection is still the claim to fame, but this misses just how vital the Sydney scene was in the early 90s. Nic Dalton's label Half A Cow showcased many of them, including Smudge and his own Godstar.

Nic was playing with Sydney band The Hummingbirds, supporting the Lemonheads in 1991. After that, Nic and Tom joined the Lemonheads.

I came to the Lemonheads through Godstar's Kitchen because a girlfriend knew it as a Lemonheads song. So I went to the Lemonheads' It's A Shame About Ray album that way. Yeah, it's got all the production smarts and the hit singles but you know that doesn't mean it's better.

Manilow should have been a hit, but you also know the world doesn't work that way. A new generation (and Evan Dando) of musician fans has made a Manilow tribute album. I haven't heard it, but Courtney Barnett's Divan cover should be a knockout on the basis of this live version:

I haven't ordered the album yet. They're signed by Smudge. Do you think they'd not sign one if I asked nicely? Yeah, I prefer record sleeves that people haven't written on. What? If you're the type of person who's been buying these sort of records for decades you've got to have at least one (and, in my case, only one) quirk.

Alison Galloway anecdote
Alison was, and sometimes still is, Smudge's drummer. She's the subject of Alison's Starting To Happen. She took a break from rock'n'roll and Australia from 1999-2002.

During that time, my friend Tali from The Lucksmiths was living in London and fulfilling his ambition of using his teaching qualification instead of touring the world penniless and sleeping on floors.

On his first day at a south London school, a colleague said, "There's another Australian here. You probably know her."

Tali told me that this happens all the time. Everyone in Britain thinks there are only about 1,000 Australians and they all know each other.

You're ahead of me here, I can tell. That other Australian teacher was Alison Galloway. She'd interviewed The Lucksmiths for Australian MTV. "The indie mafia is teaching your children," Tali claimed.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Breakfast Muff: I Want To Want To

Bobby Gillespie was once asked why the super short Velocity Girl ended when it did: "Because it's finished."

Breakfast Muff play I Want To Want To like their guitars are spray-painted with YOU CAN DIE ANYTIME. They race for the prize, win and then fuck off because the song's finished. It's brilliant.

Listen to it if you're homesick for Velocity Girl (the band), the first few Crystal Stilts records and the entire Narodnik label.

There are 25 copies of this on an Art Is Hard lathe cut release. They went as quickly as this song lasts.

Monday 12 October 2015

Transistors - Cuppa Jarra Brossa

This tape is bookended by Ramones ramalama punk. In between there are 3 songs that suggest the Transistors grew up on Weezer before finding Husker Du.

It's pop and punk like The Undertones, it's got new wave moves like The Paley Brothers, it's fun like mid-80s Jonathan Richman and there's no reason I can find not to love it.

The tapes are almost gone. Act fast.

Friday 2 October 2015

Frozy: Lesser Pop

Lesser Pop shows that Frozy know less is more. The songs are short and sharply effective. They're all raw minimalism like Beat Happening. They're pop music that's rough around the edges like the first Best Coast album.

Sometimes they stumble like The Pastels and sometimes they're all fall-apart fragility. You know how the Mary Chain found a way of navigating 60s girl group pop and DIY noise? Well, Frozy have found another way. And it fucking works.

Stop what you're doing and listen to Lesser Pop.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Grace Love & the True Loves

Yeah, I know I keep saying 2015 is a vintage year for soul revival sounds. There are 4 more reasons over 2 7" singles from this Seattle 9-piece to nail classic status to contemporary soul - all low-slung funk, dirty grooves, snaking guitars and polyrhythmic sass.

The album's out soon. All 4 songs from the (very limited) singles are on it. From what I've heard, this is going to be the soul record of the year. And that's beating some class competition.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Salad Boys: Metalmania

Remember four years ago when Real Estate and The Twerps went on tour and released pretty much the same albums? Salad Boys have in Metalmania picked up that template of drowsy folk-rock and lazy psychedelia and added more bite.

Metalmania is in part what Real Estate's and The Twerps' follow-up albums, Atlas and Range Anxiety, might have been. Which is a way of saying I instantly hold Metalmania closer to my heart.

There are two parts to this album that make it one step away from magic:
  • melodic and experimental inspiration from The Byrds 1967 - 1970 (pristine pop, countrified tenderness, fried minds)
  • the fire and fury of Snapper's krautrock: pummelling rhythms, waves of noise, insistently engaging

Friday 18 September 2015

Terry: Talk About Terry

Another 7" by members of various Melbourne bands? Bring it on!

Terry is four people. I'll name half of them, Al Montfort (Dick Diver et al) and Amy Hill (Constant Mongrel et al) not because they're a couple but because they both sang on Bitch Prefect's Adelaide.

Because Talk About Terry sounds like a Bitch Prefect song.

You know, the really good Bitch Prefect songs (what?! I prefer the first album) - spare, trebly, tinny, rough, jangly. Like it's Olympia or Glasgow in 1985. And off-key vocals. But not as off-key as Bitch Prefect (no one else is quite that wayward vocally).

Listen to Talk About Terry 

Monday 14 September 2015

Nancy Sin

Again and Again balances lightness with a hook-heavy riff. It's as if in 1990 Ride decided to play a song in the style of Teenage Fanclub's Everything Flows.

Room For Rent is explosive jangle pop, fast and furious like Gold-Bears. It's dispatched in 85 seconds because all its work is done.

There are just these two songs, both demos. I expect record companies the world over are opening their cheque books right now.

I suppose they're called Nancy Sin after the Beat Happening song, even though they don't sound like Beat Happening. Or maybe they were going to call themselves Nancy Sinatra but realised after a Google search there was already an act with that name. Wise. More new bands should check they're not using another band's name.

Friday 11 September 2015

Shit Present

They call it "period doom" but you can easily tag this excellent 5-track 12" with punk-pop or powerpop.

Evaporate features a guitar solo straight and direct from the punk class of 77 on top of huge, thundering Pixies-style noise.

Anxious Type can be seen as what happens next to the narrator in Martha's 1997, Passing in the Hallway. She's "still haunted by the girls from school" but historians will note that the yearbook didn't show that she sang a great song about her classmates who won't be cool enough to hear this.

There's even a ballad (sort of), Melbourne. It's about hating small talk, not the city's great music scene, because this is a record that fits in with the new British punk DIY scene like Pinact, No Ditching and Dog Legs.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Center Negative: Emotion Is Cringey

Usually this type of oblique noise and no-expense-spent recording reveals itself in Texas, but this fucked-up cassette of DIY psych-punk was recorded in a room without windows in Auckland. 

The opening track In (yes, I see what they did there) is a manifesto: "This album covers obvious truths in an accessible style to ensure that a gullible public will like it. Yet despite all its crafty licks and soaring pop  choruses it's actually quite good."

I like it partly because of those soaring pop choruses. But I'm a gullible type who enjoys budget anthems called Change Is The Most Sincere Kind Of Apology.

I also like it because it's a political album with barbed swipes at barbaric government, religious and business traditions.

Large parts of this tape, though, are unlikely to realise the manifesto's ambition of "scoring Micheal McClelland some kind of girlfriend". Unless, of course, NZ has fair maidens likely to be seduced by songs called Fuck You and Existential Arrogance. 

Emotion Is Cringey is uneven - a few songs sound either hurried or were recorded under the influence of something a bit more mind-altering than 2 cans of Speights - but this is a very strong tape that you could easily imagine being on Xpressway.

Looks like blogger isn't embedding streams. So listen to Change Is The Most Sincere Kind Of Apology on bandcamp

Friday 4 September 2015

Tacoma Radar

They were the Scottish Galaxie 500: songs like unsolved puzzles played precisely with a distinct mood.

There were just 2 singles in 2000-2001 and then a wait - Tacoma Radar were never in much of a hurry - until 2004 for the No One Waved Goodbye album.

Songs like Falling Dead Stars and Who's Gonna Hold The Line capture the outsider's alienation and mystique. Vocals are half-whispered, murmured guitars rise into loud surges before burrowing home again.

Maybe if they were American they'd have been part of the slowcore scene and there'd be a deluxe reissue. What was it they said? Loneliness Comes Without A Sound.

Tacoma Radar had a low profile. They were on Andmoresound, who didn't put a foot wrong. Labelmates Camera Obscura's first two singles were (wrongly) either ignored or dismissed as a band for Belle and Sebastian fans who thought Belle and Sebastian weren't indie enough any more.

Mac Meda's cut'n'paste sonic adventures over 2 singles got a bit more attention. Rightly so, because they were ace. Andmoresound was quite a label. Nothing fitted together - there was no label sound, just a mark of high quality. I wish they'd found more bands.

If you haven't found Tacoma Radar before, you're in for a treat. No One Waved Goodbye is a lost classic.

Monday 31 August 2015

The Goon Sax: Sometimes Accidentally

Let's get this out of the way now - Louis Forster, son of Robert, is one third of The Goon Sax. But The Go-Betweens' similarities are superficial (two young men on guitar, a woman drumming).

The Goon Sax are three high school friends fired up by Australia's underground boom rather than its rock royalty. Dick Diver's suburban melancholy and Lower Plenty's deadpan romance are the obvious touchstones for Sometimes Accidentally.

There is something of Look Blue Go Purple's I Don't Want You Anyway about this, only slowed down. There's an album early next year on Chapter. We'll know more then.

Based on this one song, The Goon Sax are a window to watch.

Friday 28 August 2015

hMAS: Fear God Honour The King

It's Hobart, Tasmania. It's the 1990s. Two amateur punks are looking for a drummer who's young and insane. They abuse an old drum machine until it breaks. They play annoyingly loud songs about swearing and Mexico.

They record an album in 1997. Almost 20 years later <s>there's a bidding war</s> Homeless fight RIP Society in a pub car park over who can release it. Homeless win.

hMAS sound like the Buzzcocks songs that never made it to 7". They sound like Bailter Space trying to make sense of heavy metal. They sound like Hawkwind with Kim Deal on bass. And they sound like Wire setting fire to an art school.

No one else was making batshit insane music this good in 1997. Look through Homeless's or Hozac's catalogue for who's making this sort of noise now.

Listen to Extravert because blogspot's not embedding links

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Monday 24 August 2015

Sleuth: Out of the Blue Period

The simple response to this richly melodic indiepop is: this is what happens when people grow up on The Smiths' literate jangle and fall in love with The Sundays' enveloping atmosphere.

Yes, there's Morrissey-style distressed cries and teen ennui, but look beyond and there's much more. Like the intuitive punk-funk of A Finely Tuned Machine, like the way they freshen up The Feelies' drone with some sparkle (did someone say Allo Darlin?) and their way with swirling vintage keyboards like The Cardigans' Life.

Sleuth have been releasing music for 4 years. This is their first album. They've absorbed some great music and come up with something intelligent and dramatic and entrancing of their own.

The romantic in me - they'll bring out the romantic in you as well - will want them to get the same attention as their heroes. I probably thought the same thing about The Siddeleys and Walker Kong years ago, but I know I still listen to and love those bands.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators: One In A Million

What's already a brilliant, uplifting year for new soul just got better. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators' second new single in 2015 is the business.

They've found the sweet spot between the Detroit motorbeat of their first album and the deep sounds of second album Tortured Soul. One In A Million is a mid-tempo floater, all skinny funk guitar and gently stabbing horns.

It's not the Maxine Brown song of the same name (nothing is) but you can play this next to Gerald Sims' You'll Never Be Sorry and Bettye Swann's When The Game Is Played On You and it'll fit right in.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Beef Jerk: Tragic

In which Melbourne jangle migrates to Sydney for a brilliant record of garage rock snarl and gleaming pop hooks. Tragic clocks in at 15 songs and doesn't waste your time for a second.

There's 90s American slacker rock and DIY pop - Pavement and Guided By Voices - next to their Australian kindred spirits, Boomgates, Bitch Prefect, Chook Race, Camperdown & Out.

This album came out a few months ago. What this tells me is that there are still amazing new Australian records turning up if you keep digging.

Friday 7 August 2015

Wireheads: Big Issues

Big Issues was recorded on two-inch tape from the 70s and mixed to quarter inch tape. Calvin Johnson engineered the album. But it's still a very contemporary Australian album.

Because it's got Eddy Current Suppression Ring punk, Constant Mongrel volume (but swap The Stooges obsession for the Velvets' jangle and drone) and Per Purpose post-punk. Okay, there's Fall guitars and ranting here, too.

Big Issues is on Tenth Court. I checked it out because everything on Tenth Court is worth checking out (not least Thigh Master and Mope City). But Wireheads sound like they could easily be on SST in the mid-80s. There's a decent amount of this feral garage punk knocking about. When it's this good, there'll be no complaints.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Camera Shy album

Let's Get Out Of This Country, Warmer Corners and High Land, Hard Rain. I hear bands that love those records but kneel at their feet instead of rubbing shoulders with them. Now Camera Shy have made an album that's got parts of those and stands tall on its own.

They're featherweight and atmospheric enough to recall Sarah Records bands like Brighter and St Christoper, only with more petrol in their engine. So think of the Dream Boys' sugar-spun paisley pop and Web of Sunsets' glassy beauty and you're somewhere close.

This album is 8 songs long. No doubt you'll want more. There's a single, Crystal Clear, and an ep, Jack-o-Lantern, that'll scratch that itch.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Adult Mom: Momentary Lapse Of Happily

Firstly, these song titles are gold. Try these for size: What's Another Lipstick Mark, Sorry I Was Sorry, Meg Ryan.

Secondly, the lyrics are by turns confessional and whip smart black comedy. Coming out song Told Ya So presses all the right buttons: "It's okay to feel the world/It is okay to kiss...girls"

If there is a scene (alternative, rough and tumble, folky, distaff) then the Crutchfield sisters are its godmothers. I'm not sure there is a scene, though. I think it's more likely we're lucky enough to be enjoying a range of DIY pop that hisses and spits and glows bright, and much of the really good stuff is done by women.

Anyhow, Adult Mom's sound reaches as far back to the beautiful misery of X, the dramatic drive of The Raincoats, and Patti Smith's fire and fury.

Maybe there's a link between - off the of top of my head - Girlpool and Two White Cranes and Rebel Kind and Frankie Cosmos (pick your own - there are loads more). Or maybe a lot of great new music is made by women and it's a pattern that's been missed by major festival bookers.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Your record isn't worth that much

The first rule of record value is rarity. The second is condition. Ebay has introduced a new rule: competition.

A record is worth what 2 people are prepared to fight it out for. That particular record on that day. Not all copies of that record ever.

This week I bought on ebay a copy of Dee Walker's 1984 mod revival gem Jump Back! for £19. 4 years ago it sold for £111. What that means is 4 years ago one person thought it was worth £110 and another was prepared to pay £111. 3 weeks after that first sale, a copy sold for £56, probably to the buyer who lost out with the £110 bid on the previous listing.

In the last year, Jump Back! has sold on ebay for between £19 and £30. Once the very few people who really want a record have it, the long-term value settles.

I used to work in a second-hand record shop buying records from the public. Sellers would often bargain with, "But it's worth £50 on ebay." The correct answer to that is: "Sell it on ebay, then. Remember ebay charge you to do that and you've got to take it to the post office. Would you like to buy a record mailer or have you got some at home? You need to clean it as well. It's not in great condition. You should buy some lighter fluid and an anti-static cloth. I can sell you the cloth for £6."

Dee Walker? She was a 22-year-old building society employee from Kent. Dance Network label boss Paul Bultitude said: “We can call her Dee. The mod scene needs a Cilla or a Sandy.”

Paul Bevoir wrote Jump Back! “a groovy dance song along the lines of The Locomotion.”

Two White Cranes: Radisson Blue

You'll likely know Roxy Brennan's voice from Trust Fund's No One's Coming For Us album this year or her eponymous debut album last year. You'll likely hear her again since she's joined Joanna Gruesome.

You'll definitely play her even more again if you buy Radisson Blue. It's at least as good as No One's Coming For Us and it's better still than her debut.

This is a coming-of-age record (okay, it's a tape). We Grew Up is like Emma Kupa's Home Cinema - life getting more complex as you get older. Diaries is about trying to hold on to old friendships (see also: Allo Darlin's Tallulah). It's brittle DIY folk toughened up - imagine if Rozi Plain had some Blake Babies records.

There's a song named after Raymond Carver's So Much Water So Close To Home. Paul Kelly was inspired by the same story to write If I Could Start Today Again. Roxy takes a different but no less effective approach. I can think of no higher praise.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Teaser Pony: Champion Pony

This is what happens when Melbourne's dolewave pioneers Dick Diver become too successful for the tag. One of them, Al McKay, makes a 7" ep. It's very, very good.

Teaser Pony's storytelling folk and new wave bite are another sign of Paul Kelly (finally) getting his due among young Australian musicians. The first sign I noticed was Darren Hanlon 15 years ago. No one seemed to follow that lead. Fast forward to 2013 and it's obvious that Scott & Charlene's Wedding's brilliant Any Port In A Storm wouldn't exist without Paul Kelly's Post as its foundation.

Then there's Courtney Barnett. Now there's Teaser Pony.

Speak to most Australians of Darren Hanlon's age and they're likely to describe Kelly as daggy. But a younger Australian generation is picking up on Kelly's 1980s albums for a rich domestic influence.

Of course, Al McKay might think Paul Kelly is a dag. But it doesn't sound like he does.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Gerry Loves split EP

Scottish pop, I fucking love you. Most of all, I love No Way, José by Poor Things and Everybody Says by Pinact.

Poor Things' vinyl debut reminds me of Kid Canaveral's debut Smash Hits: massive guitars, harmonies, sludge and sunshine. There's even a simple and brutally effective guitar solo.

Pinact you probably know all about, but you might not know this side of them. Everybody Says is bubblegum punk that sounds like a top 10 hit. Just like Teenage Fanclub's Star Sign and The Delgados' Under Canvas, Under Wraps.

And that's just side 1 of this 7". Side 2 is SHARPTOOTH (tribal drums, Life Without Buildings shrieks, Fall rumble) and Halfafrican (The Cramps' menace, frantic rockabilly, drunken guitars).


Thursday 25 June 2015

Belle Adair: Muddy River

How did a song this good, patterned by gentle soft-pop and hazy psychedelia, end up on the other side of a charmless Southern boogie jam?

Possibly because it's the side that's more obviously from the same band that made The Brave and the Blue album 2 years ago. But Muddy River is better than every song on that. It's at least as good as anything on Woods' brilliant Sun and Shade album or Stephen Steinbrink's Arranged Waves. It breathes the same rarefied air.

If their second album is like this (ie heart-stopping, beautiful) then the bookies may as well stop taking bets on 2015's best album.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

The Cathys: Hysterical Monument

Great things this (great) 7" ep remind me of:

Lawrence - singer Sam Giddey shares his deadpan, deadbeat delivery. It's far more likely to come from the 70s NYC proto-punk style of Richard Hell or the scene's daddy, Lou Reed.

Whirlpool Vision Of Shame - come on, Rebble sounds like that Felt classic, no? The Cathys may never have heard of Felt so let's say Scott & Charlene's Wedding and The Strokes and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain were all on The Cathys' stereo at some point.

The Verlaines - bassist Julia Wylie's backing vocals remind me of The Verlaines' Jane Dodd. I'm thinking New Kinda Hero especially.

Marquee Moon - how the darkness doubled, how lightning struck itself.

These 4 songs all range from 82 seconds to an epic 2 minutes and 16 seconds. I've got no idea how they've packed so much scope and power and drama in such a short space.

Sunday 21 June 2015

The Reds, Pinks & Purples

The clever money's on the band name coming from The Sorrows' psych-beat classic Pink Purple Yellow And Red. That's a good start. Better still, they're mining the same rich seam as primetime Television Personalities of fragile pop and shoestring psychedelia that captures the broken-down descent when everything falls apart.

They number an Art Museums alumnus, a band I never quite got (but everyone else did). The Reds, Pinks & Purples are similar only with a more distinct sense of self. Their songs stand up on their own as comfortably as they do next to, say, the TVPs' If That's What Love Is.

They have 4 songs on a tape, each one a modern classic. Piano Movers and Michael O also have 4 songs each on A Fruits & Flowers Three-Way Split Cassette. Regular readers (who am I kidding) will know already how good they are. The Reds, Pinks & Purples make this tape a sweetly taken hat trick.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Dan Treacy interview, 1990, Melody Maker

"We played a 14-minute set supporting Felt in Greenock last year...All these tearful teenage girls getting souvenirs because Felt was splitting up. You know Lawrence hardly ever smiles? He was killing himself laughing, I was scrawling my name over all these girls' Felt albums."

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Dignan Porch

Dignan Porch's rapid ascent seems anachronistic now - signed by America's hottest indie, Captured Tracks, after being discovered on myspace(!). They matched The Only Ones' venomous poise with XTC's Top 40 psychedelia. Their second album Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen is one of the best British albums of the past 5 years. It was their last for Captured Tracks.

They needed luck and several American tours to break through. They had neither. They're a DIY band with such perfectionism that their gigs are often stalled by 15 minutes of tuning up. This wouldn't happen if they were a headline band in a big venue. They should be both things. When they get going, there are very few live bands who come close.

There was a third album, Observatory, last year - less immediate but just as intensely rewarding as previously. There's still life in this band, like a bee in a box. This latest single Out of the Picture is a psych-pop peach.

There was a tape a month or so back. It sounds great. Great like this:

Monday 8 June 2015

The Soul Surfers feat Myron & E: You Can Run (But You Can't Hide) From My Love

Myron & E have made some of the greatest modern soul classics with Finland's The Soul Investigators. Their earlier collaborations like Cold Game and On Broadway remain among my very favourite singles of the past 7 years, but more recent singles haven't quite hit those heights.

So Myron & E have headed further east to Russia to work with The Soul Surfers. You Can Run (But You Can't Hide) From My Love recaptures their urgency: stabbing staccato guitar and sharp blasting horns meet gritty funk with club soul's sophisticated charm. You can keep your Mark Ronson records, thanks very much. This is where it matters.

Sunday 7 June 2015

No Ditching: Inseparable

Irrepressible, more like. This 3-track 7" blasts through a hymn to friendship with added surf guitar (Song For Shelley), tears some waste of space a new arsehole in just 64 seconds (Dickhead) and has the best punk-pop song about cats since Angelica's Why Did You Let My Kitten Die? (If_you_hate_cats_you_die). It's a record full of fun and hate. I *think* they're having a great time ripping through these songs. And you will, too, listening to them.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Sharon Henderson: Inside of Me

My showbiz pal Brogues was rightly excited about Sweet Pearl's 1981 soul gem You Mean Everything To Me. He, or someone else, was wondering about other 1980s soul classics. My instinct was to reach for Sharon Henderson's Inside of Me. Crossover classic, soul stepping magic, 1981 vintage. It sounds even better on warm summer days.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Head Full Of Steam by The Go-Betweens

In 1964 George "Shadow" Morton entered the Brill Building with a demo of Remember (Walking In The Sand) he'd made with 4 young ladies, The Shangri-Las, and played it to Jerry Leiber.

Leiber recalled: "It was a very strange sounding thing. It had this kind of 'swim' in the sound, that kind of tension that was very attractive."

I imagine that 21 years later in a London recording studio, Robert Forster asked his producer to put that strange swim in Head Full Of Steam. It matches the suggestive, cryptic lyric - "she never had a nickname but then nor have I" and "her mother works in exports, but that's of no importance at all" - and the way Forster raises the madness of love's ignition to mythical status.

On Man O'Sand To Girl O'Sea Forster sang with complete certainty, "I feel so sure of our love, I write a song about us breaking up"; on Head Full Of Steam he's chasing a fool's dream. It's as captivating and baroque and ambiguous as love. It is, I think, his greatest song.

It's on the best side (2) of The Go-Betweens' greatest album (Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express). Then there's this Whistle Test performance with the classic line-up. The band are on fire. Lindy's clearly the world's greatest drummer. Forster knows exactly what he's doing and where the camera is at all times. I can see why people enjoy Morrissey and Julian Cope from the same period. I can't see why Forster's not at least as highly regarded.

Why this song, why now? Because respected international blog Finest Kiss wrote about Forster's 10 best songs. I called out blog supremo Toby for omitting Head Full Of Steam. He suggested I start my own blog. So I did. Yes, there have been posts previous to this, but no one read them.

Saturday 30 May 2015

Michael O: Really?

The bad pun Michael O's given his debut album belies the scrappy romance and tender twists of Really? The obvious touchstone is Jonathan Richman's Back In Your Life (spare, simple pop songs) and I'm So Confused (delicate with barely restrained sentimentality).

My first thought was 'US indie folk that City Slang was putting out about 15 years ago, Wheat and Kingsbury Manx'. But these miniature masterpieces suggest Michael O's been listening to The Church's cavernous anthems and working out a way to strip them down to something more human and touchable.

My second thought was 'this is on Fruits & Flowers, the USA's finest new record label, let me at it'. Fruits & Flowers remind me of the Make A Mess label who came racing out of the traps in 2008 with a stream of brilliant releases. F&F put out the Piano Movers 7" last year; they used to be Nodzzz, who were on Make A Mess. There's some sweet coincidence right there.

As long as there are records like Really? and labels like Fruits & Flowers I think everything's going to be alright.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Bel Etage

Bel Etage is French for Pam Berry and Lupe Nunez-Fernandez. This is their first single and it's great.

Pam takes charge for Lonesome Heartache Constellation, all electric guitar, tambourine and tremulous vocals. It's simple and effective like Dolly Mixture and enigmatic like first album Mazzy Star.

Lupe's in control for Quiet Town, a trip through the back streets of 1970s English folk. It's understated and captivating like Mark Fry. There's some Broadcast analogue atmosphere in there as well.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Vinyl isn't a limited edition

Eighteen months ago, this blog warned you that labels will "start pressing 7” singles in runs of 200 or even 100. The basic break-even price on that is about £6. Plus postage." And so it's come to pass.

You know how many copies there are of each Odd Box 100 Club release. One of my favourite singles of the year. Degustation by Point Being, is in a run of 130. The record label, Mystic Olympic, didn't advertise that because it's not a "limited edition". It's a realistic pressing of a debut single.

Any indie label advertising their releases as limited edition is being disingenuous. These 7" singles are products made for a small audience. "Limited edition of 300" for an indie is the same as Atlantic saying "limited edition of 1.5 million" for the next Ed Sheeran album. Both indies and majors press what they think they can sell. The only difference is a major can afford to lose money. Indies need to sell all their stock to pay for the next release.

Art Is Hard started their Hand Cut Record Club this year, making 25 lathe cuts and selling them for £6 each. I've no problem with this. That might be in part because I've been able to buy the releases I wanted. If either of the two I bought had sold out before I got my mitts on a copy, I'd be pretty pissed off. But not as pissed off if the label shut down after losing a shedload of money on pressing too many copies of a record.

I looked into the costs of making lathe cuts. Art Is Hard are making no money from this venture. So why do it? "It might be archaic but we want people to still care about owning music and to treasure and collect it." They said that about their Postcard Club (an MP3 sent to you on a postcard). It holds true for the lathe cuts and their Pizza Club.

A fortnight ago they tweeted after seeing the Sarah Records documentary and Q&A:
"I don't understand why anyone would ever release vinyl in 2015". Thanks to the founder of Sarah Records for a really inspirational Q&A. NOT.

I understand why Art Is Hard (and Odd Box and Mystic Olympic) are releasing vinyl in 2015 and they understand why we're buying it. The year's greatest song is surely Can't You Feel by Bruising. It's on a compilation tape. Art Is Hard did the next best thing and released two new Bruising songs on the 12" vinyl Family Portrait pt II ep. Because it looks great, it sounds even better and it's more real.

All record labels are figuring out ways to sell records without losing (too much) money. I'll keep on buying them. Just don't call them limited editions.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Saun & Starr: Look Closer album

Heartbreak and joy visit Saun & Starr, with one of those emotions staying longer than the other. That's soul music and as long as quality soul music exists its emotional core will always be struck harder by heartbreak.

Look Closer is blindsided by misery and is all the sweeter for it. You might know Saun & Starr when they trade under The Dapettes as the backing vocalists for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. This album, written by the Dap Kings, is suppler than Sharon Jones because it glides instead of sweats.

You can measure its tenor in skinny guitars, softly punching horns and romantic tragedy. If, like me, you've got their two singles, you'll have 4 of these 11 tracks. But how can I feel shortchanged with a record this enriching.