Friday, April 6, 2018

Firestations - The Year Dot

It doesn't take long to welcome The Year Dot, the new album from Firestations, into our hearts.  Opening track "Build A Building" evokes the joy of life, with soaring choruses, pulsating rhythms and dancing guitars and synths.  That song also tells us what we can expect in the following tracks, and reveals the defining characteristic of Firestations.  Starting with well-conceived pop songs, the band then goes to work decorating the bones with layers of delightful sounds, vocal and instrumental, resulting in an exceptionally rich listening experience.  And this assessment doesn't apply only to the upbeat songs.  Even the few songs with a more languid pace benefit from dynamic structures and an arsenal of textures and details.  Lyrically, the band addresses everyday life, but rarely has the mundane, even sharply observed as it is here, been rendered this colorfully.  The Year Dot is like a musical fireworks show, and you won't want to miss it.

The members of Firestations are Mike Cranny, Laura Copsey, Martin Thompson, Giles Littleford, and Tom Hargreaves.  The Year Dot is out now via Lost Map Records.








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Bandcamp for The Year Dot
Lost Map Records page for The Year Dot


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Amen Dunes - Freedom

Damon McMahon, aka Amen Dunes, has proved himself to be a musical shapeshifter over his career to date, as well as an exacting craftsman.  As revealed in his new album, Freedom, his current version is our favorite yet, combining accessible pop tunes and appealing grooves with darkly shaded meditations on life, mortality, masculinity, relationships and human foibles.  The album was three years in the making, but the reward for the listener is perfectly formed songs, combining guitars, synths, and crisp percussion to provide a glimmering, swaggering platform for McMahon's passionate and expressive vocals.  These are songs that are vulnerable yet confident, spiritual yet profane and gritty.  Redemption may be in the sky or in the gutter, or maybe nowhere at all.  But this is the perfect soundtrack to contemplate the possibilities.

I don't know what kind of freedom McMahon is looking for, if any.  Maybe it is just the freedom you grant to yourself to look at the past, remember, judge, and forgive.  Maybe it is the freedom to clean out the corners of the emotional attic and move on with life.  Maybe it will give you a journey to freedom, as well as immediate pleasure.  And you'll dance -- even if you are crying.  McMahon has said that "[y]ou make art to make good art, you don't make art to get accolades."  While we appreciate the sentiment, we believe that good art deserves accolades regardless of expectations, and we suggest that Freedom deserves accolades -- and your ears.  Suggested listening approaches: (1) Earphones; or (2) Driving at night with a good audio system.

Freedom is out now in vinyl, CD and digital formats via Sacred Bones Records.  See the Bandcamp link below.












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Bandcamp for Freedom
Sacred Bones Records

Nathan & Eva - Nathan & Eva EP

Brother-sister duo Nathan & Eva (Nathan and Eva Leach) have built a credible following on You Tube over the last few years, mostly playing covers of other artists.  They now have stepped forward with an EP of their own work, and we think it is worth checking out.  Fans of their previous work are aware of Nathan's solid musicianship and Eva's exceptional vocals.  This self-title record will burnish their reputations in those areas, and add songwriting to their accomplishments -- each of them contributed lyrics for two of the tracks.  So if you are looking for a sweet spot in your day, listen to Nathan & Eva.  You may even want to take it home with you.  And a tip, while all the songs are good, if you only have time for one, listen to "Grocery Boy"; it may have you dancing around the room.



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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Soccer Mommy - Clean

With Soccer Mommy we get a trifecta of goodness.  The crunch and jangle of the guitars perk up our ears, as always, the vocals and the accompanying oohs and aahs make us smile, and the introspective and perceptive lyrics prompt us to nod and mark Sophie Allison as an artist to keep watching.  Clean is her second release since the beginning of 2017, but as the preceding Collection consisted of re-recorded songs from the past few years, it really is her real debut album.

Soccer Mommy rocks out on a few notable tracks, and several more boast a well-constructed loud/soft dynamic.  But this album still has a dominant foot planted in the singer-songwriter universe.  While we personally look forward to further movement into the noisier space in future work, we are by no means complaining.  Allison is an artist that conveys vulnerability and angst with an impressively deft touch, and her chosen arrangements, while often restrained in volume and pace, are richly detailed to make the killer point as sharp as possible.

The players on Clean are Sophie Allison (guitar/vocals/bass), Julian Powell (lead guitar), Nick Brown (drums), and Gabe Wax (keys/bass/guitar/drum programming/percussion).  The album is out now via Fat Possum Records.







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"Dead Connection" by Pictish Trail (video)

We're working hard today and may not post much.  But the inability to reach certain people we needed to reach to complete ongoing projects brought to mind "Dead Connection" from the latest album by Pictish Trail, our favorite musician living on the Scottish island of Eigg.  The song is taken from the 2016 release Future Echoes, but is timely today because it is the subject of the recently released video which you can stream below.  It also is timely because the album is getting a well deserved reissue from Fire Records later this month.  Enjoy!

When not answering to Pictish Trail, the artist also answers to Johnny Lynch (and perhaps other names as well).




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Lost Map Records page for Future Echoes

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Frankie Cosmos - Vessel

Originally a bedroom project of Greta Kline, Frankie Cosmos are unveiled as a full band for Vessel.  We give them a hearty welcome, and offer some advice to our readers:  Don't miss this one!  Full (and by full, we mean 18 songs) of concise, perfectly formed earworms featuring Greta's girlish soprano and her wry lyricism.  The arrangements are dynamic, and with a running time under 34 minutes for the entire album, each song stays long enough to earn your love and then leaves you wanting more.  As was the case with the last effort from Frankie Cosmos, Vessel will be on a number of year-end lists by knowing music writers.  We hope that this time more of you will be able to nod your head and say "oh, we know", rather than "who"?  You've been warned.

Frankie Cosmos are Greta Kline (guitar/vocals/songwriting), David Maine (bass/vocals), Lauren Martin (keys/vocals/guitar), and Luke Pyenson (drums).  Vessel is out now in digital, vinyl, CD and cassette formats via Sup Pop.








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Sub Pop page for Vessel

Mark Martyre - Southern Soul Sessions


We are unabashed fans of the bittersweet tunes by singer/songwriter/poet Mark Martyre, so we are happy to present his little two-song record, Southern Soul Sessions.  The songs were recorded and released to mark the start of Martyre's 2018 tour.  Track 1, "Wait", features Stacey Dowswell, who will be performing with Mark on tour.  "Never Forget You", the second song, features Matt Antaya.

Southern Soul Sessions is available now as a digital download.



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Bandcamp for Southern Souls Session

Monday, April 2, 2018

Baker Island - Always, 1995


Mondays -- how to deal with Mondays is an age-old problem.  I expect that even our cave-dwelling ancestors dreaded the beginning of the work week ("No, woman! Grul is too hungover to hunt wholly mammoth, me must sleep longer." [Citation omitted]).  However, in our struggle to survive, and serve our higher calling, we venture into the week nonetheless.   The secret to such heroic perseverance is external stimulants.  In our case, this Monday morning is brought to you by Baker Island.  The Newcastle upon Tyne noise pop band has gifted us with Always, 1995, a forward pushing blast of well crafted tunes to jump-start the week.  Consisting of the closing song from their most recent LP, Restless Legs, and three new worthies, it is just what our office psychiatrist recommends for beginning the day.

Always, 1995 is out now in cassette and digital formats via Philophobia Music.




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Bandcamp page for Aways, 1995
Philophobia Music