We have been fans of Edinburgh's Young Fathers since we first heard their early EPs, Tape One and Tape Two. In our view they are one of the most consistently innovative and provocative pop groups on our radar, and they never fail to impress. On March 9 the trio will release their new LP, Cocoa Sugar, via Ninja Tune and you can listen to album tracks "In My View" and "Lord" right here, right now. Since the bands visual sense also is remarkable, we have added the videos for both tracks. We think you will want this album.
Young Fathers are Alloysious Massaquoi, Graham 'G' Hastings, and Kayus Bankole.
There are bands that try to mark their spot on the pop music landscape with arty pretense and deep thoughts. And then there are bands such as Shame. The five-piece is comprised of long-time friends who decided to become a rock band rather than accountants, shopkeepers or Tory politicians. And based on the evidence of their new devotional set of music, Songs of Praise, we think they made the right choice. The landscape this lot has chosen is the wilds of young London, where one finds gritty reality, self-depreciating assessments and real-life tales of life for the lucky and the not-so-fortunate. And the musical score is a muscular, angular, and buzzing post-punk that sounds about as vital as anything else you can find on the scene these days. Shame understands that the best rock is a physical experience, and they provide the energy and performance to ensure the listeners get their money's worth. And yeah, it is a bit raw in words and sound, but the only way to deliver this kind of music is raw and breathless.
Our favorites songs are "One Rizla", "The Lick", "Tasteless", "Gold Hole", and "Friction", but the whole album is excellent, and deserves your ears.
Shame are Charlie Steen (vocals), Sean Coyle-Smith (guitar), Eddie Green (guitar), Josh Finerty (bass), and Charlie Forbes (drums). Songs of Praise is out now via Dead Oceans. See the links below.
Stuart Kidd brings a wealth of pop experience to every project. His past credits included BMX Bandits, The Wellgreen, Dr. Cosmo's Tape Club, Jonny, Linden, St Deluxe, and Snowgoose, as well as his own creations as KiDD. His latest solo work is Where Are The Strange People?, and it showcases Kidd's knack for creating winsome pop songs. The hooks are tight and plentiful and the melodies pleasing. Moreover, there is a playfulness and joy of expression that may remind you of the Super Furry Animals that makes the album seem more like a talented friend playing in your living room than electrons over your speakers. In other words, this is the kind of warm, accessible indie pop that makes the winter days much more tolerable.
Where Are the Strange People? is out now. See the Bandcamp link for details.
How about a dinner party in Manchester, UK? Can't make it? No problem, Too Live To Die, the latest menu from Manchester's Dinner Party is available via Icecapades Records. And what fare can you expect? Garage, punk, psychedelic, fuzz rock, and even a bit of some loose-limbed Americana, among other things. And while the meal doesn't come with hot sauce, it is delivered with plenty of "don't give a damn" attitude.
Dinner Party has not been among the most prolific of groups, and Too Live To Die is their first album in three years. But unlike some of us who produce at a slow rate (such as the writers of this blog over the past three weeks), the members of this band have an excuse. Edwin Stephens is a member of Irma Vep, Sex Hands and Klaus Kinski. Nick Ainsworth and Tom Settle are members of Former Bullies, among other projects. But the wait was worth it, because when this trio gets in the kitchen, the results are magic.
One of our local favorites, Unlikely Friends, is helping us all start out the year right with a collection of new songs titled Crooked Numbers. Consisting of 14 songs of crunchy guitar pop that will give you a bit over a half hour of bliss, and then repeated 31-minute reprises because you will be hooked long before the first run is completed, this is the work of pop masters. The principal pop masters, or the most unlikely of the unlikely friends if you will, are Charles Bert (of Math and Physics Club) and D. Crane (of BOAT), with Chris Mac drumming. For this album Unlikely Friends have added Mark McKenzie and Ethan Jones from their other projects, presumably for musical chops as well as the key characteristic of not being likely to be friends, and the additions beef up the sound -- and those delectable harmonies -- to great effect. And this album is more than hooks, harmonies and crunch, as there is plenty of wit and offbeat touches as well. In our view, it all adds up to a great record and a fitting continuation of the strain of Seattle guitar pop typified by The Young Fresh Fellows.
Crooked Numbers is out this Friday, January 12, via Swoon Records. You have your choice of digital, CD or cassette versions.
The Academic is growing up quite nicely, in our opinion. The Band consists of four young men from just outside of the metropolis that is Mullingar, Ireland. Their sweet spot is upbeat guitar pop, and their secret sauce is comprised of innate charm and infectious enthusiasm. You don't need to be told that these four young men love being in a band and creating music, because it as clear as a billboard in each song. Tales From The Back Seat is their sophomore effort, and it is delicious. In fact, I think "effort" is a poor word choice because the melodies and harmonies sound as effortless as the hooks are plentiful. The band evinces much of the playfulness and pop smarts of the late Scottish band Dogs Die in Hot Cars, but with a bit more youthful vigor and rock groove. We chose this album to be our first album of 2018 music to be featured this year, because it evinces the optimism and confidence we still have that 2018 will be a better year than 2017. Want to start the year right? Try some Tales From The Backseat.
The Academic are Craig Fitgerald (vocals/guitar), Matthew Murtagh (guitar), Stephen Murtagh (bass), and Dean Gavin (drums). Tales From The Backseat is out Friday, January 12.
The Granite Shore is one of those musical assemblies that in a former day were often referred to as supergroups. Helmed by Nick Halliwell, head of Occultation Records and member of The Distractions, joined by Phil Wilson (The June Brides), Steve Perrin (The Distractions), Ian Henderson (The Puddle, and head of New Zealand label Fishrider Records), Arash Torabi, and John Howard, their considerable talents mesh together perfectly with no hint of ego, no agenda other than making the music as good as it possibly can be. The result is the eight tracks of Suspended Second -- and what music it is! It is a terrific example of ornate pop, voice in Halliwell's worn but warm vocals. But the real genius of the project is that thematically it focuses on the messy political and social landscape in which we found ourselves in 2016 and 2017, and succeeds in eloquently addressing those themes without sacrificing the goal of elegant pop music.
Suspended Second is serious, intelligent art, but it also is a great listen. It is an anguished cry on all of our behalf, expressed via accessible and memorable songs. The album is available in digital, vinyl (including a deluxe version), and CD via Occultation Records (and Fishrider Records in NZ and Australia).
We work hard to bring you news of recent and upcoming indie music releases all year, and then, if we really have our act together, we will assemble a "favorites" list early in the following year (yes, we are working on it). But we don't catch anywhere near all worthy music in a year, and we freely admit that. So like many of you, we peruse select "best of" lists to see what I missed. Of course there are many such lists, so we need to be selective. This week I took a look at list by Toby at The Finest Kiss (link), because he has reliably great taste. His number one album is A Quality Of Mercy by Melbourne band RVG (also known as the Romy Vager Group). I had heard of the band, and even discovered an unfinished post about them I had started a post about them a few years ago. However, I had missed the 2017 release of their debut album.
Well, folks. There are misses, and there are misses. And this is a big miss. A Quality Of Mercy consists of eight forthright and blunt slices of life, with pain, heartache, hope, resilience and grit. Yeah, it is nothing short of fantastic for our tastes. Great performances with no studio frills -- just two soaring guitars, bass and drums. The focus is on incisive songwriting by a writer who knows what she is writing about and a matching sincere delivery. Fans of the Go-Getweens and The Triffids will love it (and am I alone in finding a bit of Blank Realm in there?), and those unfamiliar would do to check those bands out after securing their own copy of A Quality Of Mercy.
The album is out now via Our Golden Friend. Check the Bandcamp link for details and to stream the entire album.
Long-time indie pop fans certainly are familiar with The June Brides, Aberdeen, and 14 Iced Bears. Albums from all three bands are among our treasured artifacts around WYMA headquarters, and we are always on the lookout for more. So imagine our delight in finding our about Three Wishes: Part Time Punks Sessions. The album features previously unreleased live recordings of four songs by each of the three bands. The recordings took place in 2011 when the bands gathered in Los Angeles to play a a club called Part Time Punks. The bands also had been invited to play for a local radio station, but when the radio session couldn't be scheduled for airplay the bands decamped to The Committee To Keep Music Evil in Hollywood, where Rob Campeanella and John Girgus recorded four songs picked from each band's considerable catalog. For reasons unknown to us, the compilation wasn't released until January 2017, and if it weren't for John Girgus alerting us to its existence, we might have missed it. But now we have it, and want to share it with all of you. Since it was released in 2017, we expect it to be on our best albums list. Dig in, music fans.
Yet another holiday offering to extend your celebrations and be prepared for next year. This lovely EP, titled English Winter, is from the duo Simon and Wendy Pickles. They have thrilled us for years as core members of The Popguns, but this record is from their side project The Perfect English Weather. English Winter consists of four tracks of subtle, perfectly crafted beauty, three originals and a cover of the Go-Between's "Dusty In Here". Take a test drive with the first two tracks below, and stream the entire EP at the Bandcamp link. English Winter is out now in limited CD and digital formats via Matinee Recordings.
Everyone still in the Christmas spirit? I know we are, and not the least because we have a backlog of holiday offerings we neglected while we were sliding down mountains and entertaining young ones. Why holiday music in January (other than the obvious guilt about our own negligence)? Well, firstly because it is good music, and secondly, despite Trump's best/worst efforts, Christmas will come again next year and you'll be ahead of the game. You are welcome!
Laz McCluskey is a man with a love for retro guitar pop, and an undeniable knack for creating his own gems in that genre. He has several projects, one of which is Bubblegum Lemonade, and that is his chosen vehicle for a wonderfully upbeat (except for the lovely, subdued "Sunflower In The Snow") six-song EP of holiday music. The cheeky title is Laz Christmas, which does indeed sound like your inebriated uncle launching into a story about the most recent past Christmas, but with tunes this good we can forgive the pun for a title. Humor, charm and jangle in abundance, and a dashing cover of "Silent Night" all for the taking.
The EP is available in all formats via Matinee Recordings.
Looking at the site today, I realize that my last post was twelve days ago. No, I didn't abandon the blog, there remains quality music to show you, and I really haven't been lazy. But holiday time for me meant time with the family and skiing, and didn't allow for blog posts. However, I'm back in the saddle and intend to make up for lost time.
The first post back is a lovely cover of The Softies' "Charms Around Your Wrist" by ace newcomers Jetstream Pony. And since it is a free download, it is a perfect way to start out the new year.
Jetstream Pony are Beth Arzy, Shaun Charman, Kerry Boettcher, and Sara Boyle