Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Tune For Tuesday: Menomena - Taos

In a regular new section, Tuesday will be the outlet for those immediate tunes that grab the senses and won't let go. Lodged firmly in the synapses from the outset, they need little or no explanation and we'll sit back to let the music do the talking. 

MP3: Menomena - Taos (via Insound)
Taken from the new album Mines, out now

Buy it at Insound!

A pulsating, winding rock song from the Portland mob, Taos is one of the most engaging and accessible cuts from spunky new album Mines. The lyrics bound along with all kinds of instrumental flourishes and tempo changes, making for an addictive listen. 

But the point of this section is to simply serve up the tunes that are stuck on repeat play here and let you decide for yourself just how compelling they are on your ear. 

New Menomena...what say you? 

Monday, 29 November 2010

Divine Inspiration: Daddy Lion Recall US Indie's Finest

I'm currently waist deep in Michael Azerrad's wonderful chronicles of the 80's American indie rock scene, Our Band Could Be Your Life.  Against that backdrop, any current submissions that count influences from that period....The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr et al....are especially likely to receive a favourable ear. Just a wee hint to the musically talented amongst you.

In actual fact, I should have covered Washington D.C.-based Daddy Lion a couple of weeks back as I had promised. Time and tide and holidays wait for no man, however, so here we are, better late than buried in a pile of forgotten e-mails. I digress...

MP3: Daddy Lion - Divine
Taken from the new self titled EP, out now - BUY

Daddy Lion actually evoke more of a Hüsker Dü vibe than any of the aforementioned bands, with perhaps a dash of the Dino Jr thrown in to keep things hazy. Initially I focused on the more laid back tones of Morning and its video journal of stuffed lion ennui (below). Fair enough, a pleasant, slow burn tune with replay value. The real joy, for me at least, lies in the rest of their new self-titled EP, however, so I'm glad I had to come back to remind myself of their sound.

From rollicking opener Divine to the final reflections of Tomorrow, this is a release that ties so many positive influences together into a contemporary form of indie, heavy on the rock. The guitars are awash with the rough, dense sound of the 80's, but often emerge from the ether to shimmer a little before giving way to a more robust stomp. Divine colours outside the lines with an almost rockabilly swagger to both the music and singing. Falling To Pieces (Through With You) is more restrained and the only track over 5 minutes, straying into more psychedelic territory with the drawled vocal and backing synths.

Just Die Young is the closest the band nod to Dinosaur Jr, the languid-yet-driven guitar lines setting a glorious groove on which the rest of the band surf to a satisfyingly immediate high. The solo that closes the track is the icing on the cake and morphs splendidly into the acoustic strum of the previously covered Morning.

Appearance has a vaguely country tinge at the start, something that quickly fades as the recurring Bob Mould-isms of Jeremy Joseph's vocal take centre stage. The worldy quality behind his voice belies his mere 27 years of age and lends added authority to songs that are already oozing gritty integrity. Closer Tomorrow solders a pulsing synth to the underbelly of its acoustic-led reflection, interspersing quieter passages with heavily layered trips to great effect.

The end result here is an addictive, evolving listen that stands up - and positively encourages - return spins. There's much more going on than simply the sum of some (admittedly excellent) influences, with dashes of various styles laced throughout the songs. That they require your repeated listens only adds to the experience, a pleasure rather than a chore.

For anyone becoming jaded with the glo-no-lo-fi-chill waves that make up much of the current indiesphere, bands like Daddy Lion are a refreshing splash of established indie-rock spring water. Fully formed songs played with passion and integrity are the order of the day and this band serves them up confidently on their debut EP. Go grab it today.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Mogwai: Never Die

Boldly striding back into rock action, Scottish post-rock veterans Mogwai are currently offering new track Rano Pano as a free download on their website (or the widget below).

Taken from the splendidly titled new album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, due out next February, this newie combines the fuzz-heavy guitar work of Dinosaur Jr with the that patient, post-rock build that lends most things the band touch an element of the epic. 

From a well grounded meander, it climbs to stratospheric levels by subtly adding new instruments to each passage, maintaining the same basic melody whilst bending and twisting it every which way they can muster. As it fades quickly into the ether to a terse synth pulse, Rano Pano has been a short but exhilarating trip, with the emphasis on the trip. 


Whetting the appetite quite considerably for the full new LP, this is one to spin through the dark winter months and pacify the ear drums. It moves us nicely into the first quarter of 2011 and what should prove to be some high quality early releases. 

MP3: Mogwai - Hunted By A Freak
Taken from the previous album Happy Songs For Happy People, out now 

Buy it at Insound!

Tracklisting for Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
White Noise
Mexican Grand Prix
Rano Pano
Death Rays
San Pedro
Letters To The Metro
George Square Thatcher Death Party
How To Be A Werewolf
Too Raging To Cheers
You're Lionel Richie


Saturday, 27 November 2010

REVIEW: Azure Ray - Drawing Down The Moon

Saddle Creek mainstays Azure Ray had been unobtrusively releasing poignant, beautiful indie-folk around the turn of the century, rarely gaining more than the approving nod 
of a few well-placed critics and those familiar with the label's consistently intriguing output. After a significant hiatus and quite some time in the making, new album Drawing Down the Moon spans the years to bring the band back into the indie consciousness.

Gentle intro Wake Up, Sleepyhead sets the tone for what is to be a contemplative record, easing into the hopeful melancholy of Don't Leave My Mind. Having drawn attention to this release in the first instance a couple of months back, it sounds just as understatedly cathartic here, set alongside similarly genteel moments. In The Fog follows to demonstrate this, a hazier recollection of a special someone with a glitchy static swelling underneath the distant vocal, lending the enveloped quality aimed at in the title. 

MP3: Azure Ray
Don't Leave My Mind
Taken from the new album Drawing Down The Moon, out now - BUY

Buy it at Insound!

Larraine adds no more tempo, resting on a simple acoustic guitar and minimal percussion, with the wistful voices rising in and out of the quiet as the delicate lyrics require. On and On Again resurrects the optimism once more, furtively questioning its subject: "And if I could give this a shot, could you? / A safe to place our trust into". The lyrics line up with the uncertain hope of the light strings and growing confidence of the rippling cymbals, making for a pleasant change of mood within that same delicate, humble demeanour. 

By this point it should be fairly clear that Azure Ray make their point with subtle nudges and nods, not overt gestures and outbursts. Make Your Heart builds patiently as a case in point, adding small guitar flourishes and augmented vocal harmonies little by little yet always moving towards the intended destination. These aren't songs that will sweep you off your feet, but they charm and soothe their way into your conciousness for a memorable listen all the same. 

Not every song on Drawing Down the Moon offers the lingering beauty of its highlights but they do mesh together to form a fully formed, quietly confident sound, over the course of the album. As such, there isn't really any filler here, more passages for reflection, helping contextualise what's come before. Further in, though, the contemplative worry of Signs In the Leaves and  the confused regret to be found within Shouldn't Have Loved's almost Fleetwod Mac-like tones. 

Without blowing listeners out of the water, Drawing Down the Moon entices us into the soulful reflection of the the Fink/Taylor world, examining the buried memories of lost love and the potential for its redemption. Above the hushed indie/country-tinged acoustic guitar, feather light percussion, and the occasional electronic touch, the subtely potent harmonies of the singers inquire and guide in equal measure, to beautiful effect. 

Whatever it might lack in immediate punch, Azure Ray's newest work compensates for in genuinely addictive replay value. It's a grower in the classic sense of long term album favourites, and should inch the band just that little bit further along the dusty road to wider recognition. 

Sometimes it's just as much fun to sit back and take in the scenery. 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Happy Holidays... Get Shopping

It's a holiday time of year in the US especially just now, as Thanksgiving has just passed and we're headlong into the ominously named shopping extravaganza dubbed Black Friday. Europe too was buzzing, with almost open Christmas markets and festive lighting, as I trotted around the streets of Berlin, Birmingham, and Liverpool last week.

So, in the spirit of the season....mass rampant consumerism....here are some online spots to find a few musical bargains today:

  • Amazon MP3 just keeps getting more ridiculous(ly good), with 5 albums a day at $1.99 and today's offering being particularly alluring, including as they do the new Big Boi offering Sir Luscious Leftfoot, the splendid Arcade Fire newie The Suburbs, and even Weezer's Hurley...well, someone might want it for their kids. That's on top of their rotating line up of 100 albums for $5, whose November offerings you still have a few days to snag. 
  • If vinyl is more you thing, the good ship Insound is carrying some treasure with 20% off their top 100 vinyl sellers of the year when you buy a good armful. There are some other holiday deals combined with purchases of turntables too, so find that record lover in your life and blow their socks...well, needles....off.
  • Topshelf Records is offering 25% off everything in their webstore through to Monday, including that spankingly good new Talons album, Hollow Realm. Just a suggestion, you can buy whatever you want. Talons. TalonsTalons.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pre Winter Fires: Agalloch Return

Distinctly Scandinavian sounding - and consistently outstanding - Portland black metallers Agalloch released new album Marrow of the Spirit last week to no great fanfare. 

So little, in fact, that it almost slipped under my holidaying nose......almost.

The most widely available track Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires has a curiously prog edge, segueing eventually into a more familiar raw black metal style. Initial scribblings seem to indicate that the variety on this track continues throughout the release, taking in influences from folk to pure bloody death...oh my word. 

It's a late release but, given some of Agalloch's previous output, it certainly sounds like it could bother some heavier year end charts, including this one right here. Once Thanksgiving is out of the way I'll be scouring the old web for this one. If you have a mind open to the left field heavy stuff, you'd be well advised to do just the same. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ghost Town

As I hinted in my last post, almost two long weeks ago, the preceding week involved trips around Europe. Coupled with a chronic lack of free wi-fi in Berlin, this has been something of a ghost town in the past week.

MP3: Holy Sons - Slow Days (via Insound)
Taken from the new album Survivalist Tales, out now

Buy it at Insound!

Slow days indeed. Still, reviews for Azure Ray, Stars, Jimmy Eat World, and the lovely new Sufjan Stevens release are penned for posting in the coming days, as well as long overdue introductions to DC's Daddy Lion and Brits Vessels, not to mention the inevitable year end lists. 

So peel your eyes back this way, there will be plenty to read and listen to over this holiday period. Assuming you can stay awake after the overwhelming intake of turkey and booze. Mmmmmmmm.......

Photo credit: Snowfalcon

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bound To Break? Say It Ain't So

Gadzooks - that's right, medieval exclamations of surprise are the new what's next - this week is well and truly kicking my arse. Thank goodness, then, for Harper Blynn and the delightful, harmonious reverberations of their newest material.

Okay, I admit I blasted some Ramones to clear the cobwebs too, but mostly the lads formerly known as Pete & J (& Sarab & Whynot...hence the name change I s'pose) have been easing me through an exceptionally busy period ahead of my European jaunt to Berlin next week.

The gents have a new self titled EP out next Tuesday, in support of which plenty of video footage and the odd freebie tune have surfaced.

As a pleasant interlude...and to maintain my sanity...I present some of these to you and advise a prompt download of the new stuff on Tuesday. You'll not regret it and it may help stave off mental breakdowns, which could prove extremely useful with the holiday season just around the corner.   

MP3: Harper Blynn - Every Impulse

"Every impulse that you have tells you to shut down."

Monday, 8 November 2010

Jumping Into Gear, The Wombats Return

Liverpool's biggest recent pop-rock exports The Wombats return early next year with a new album, ahead of which they've been releasing choice new cuts to whet the appetite. Second track Jump Into The Fog is now available via the widget doo dad below.

Staying true to the blueprint that made debut A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation such a widely endearing start to their career, this tune bounds along with the energy and contemporary Brit pop/rock for which they've become so familiar.

And to jump back a few years, here's the video for their break out track Let's Dance To Joy Division. I leave you to decide whether itis actually ironic to cut a rug to Love Will Tear Us Apart. Either way, this is one naggingly insistent pop-rock ditty.

For more info on the new release and touring plans, visit The Wombats website.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Pass The Duchy: The Duke Spirit Back To Reclaim Their Territory

Although it's only really been a couple of years since the release of the charismatic Neptune, it's never too soon to hear new material emerging from London's The Duke Spirit. One of too few bands carrying the pure rock and roll spirit to the very core of their music, listening to their newest material it's clear that this isn't vacating their sound any time soon.

Having marginally failed to catch the band on their whistle stop tour of the US this past week - they played Santos Party House in NYC yesterday, a fine review of which can be found here on A Heart Is A Spade - I was moved to attempt a make up by posting their two newest tunes.

The typically rollicking Everybody's Under Your Spell is destined to quickly become a live favourite if the video below is anything to go by, where as the more contemplative Northbound continues the brooding material found on the past to full lengths. Both showcase the various qualities of The Duke Spirit, with bluesy undertones informing a more traditional rock base. Add a dash of shoe gazing reverb to the guitars, topped off with the sultry vocal of Liela Moss, and there you have a formidable sound.

MP3: The Duke Spirit - Everybody's Under Your Spell
Taken from the forthcoming Kusama EP

Buy it at Insound!


The new Kusama EP is due out early December and the band hit the UK roads with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in support of the release. If I'm lucky the band will decide that they have a taste for these shores and pull a few more East coast shows out early in the New Year. In the meantime, looks like I know what I'm asking for from Father Christmas.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Let the Goodtimes Roll

Some folks have the travels in them, plain and simple. We all know someone who has visited more countries than we were even sure existed, with a tale to tell from each and every one of them. If they can put those stories to music, all the better.

Franc Cinelli is one such someone and Goodtimes Goodtimes is one such musical vehicle.

With a world-wise - though not weary - voice and a reflective guitar tone, Cinelli takes us on his journeys from the comfort of our bedrooms. Born in Rome, a London resident, and a New York City regular, the singer-songwriter is well placed to pass comment on the variations of life and adopts a warm, quietly powerful vocal style to do so on the self-titled Goodtimes Goodtimes album. Lead track Fortune Teller Song displays this as well as anything with a manner that wouldn't sound out of place on a Saddle Creek release.

MP3: Goodtimes Goodtimes - Fortune Teller Song
Taken from the self-titled album, out now - BUY

Elsewhere the singing comes closer to the smooth, experienced harmonies of Greg Dulli, while the instrumentation supports with a habitually optimistic tone. It's accessible but with a sublime honesty that prevents the music becoming cliched of any particular genre.

If a tale is worth telling, music is often the best way to pass on the lesson. Taking some classes with Goodtimes Goodtimes will only make you the wiser for it.