Saturday, October 31, 2015

Marshmallow Coast Hopes Vangelis Rides Again

Despite the exceptionally cheesy cover art for Marshmallow Coast's new album, Vangelis Rides Again is really quite good. This former member (Andy Gonzales) of Of Montreal and Music Tapes has always brought some fantastic stuff to the indie pop table and this album is no different. And while the record looks like some sort of Scooby Doo rejected storyboard art, the music contained inside is pure lo-fi indie pop bliss.

Vangelis Rides Again sits somewhere between an easy-listening record, Fleetwood Mac, Of Montreal and a sad creepy pop record recorded in a basement. It's a fragile record that's loaded with hooks and melodies that while not overly produced or overly jolly does some significant ear worm damage anyway. As if to prove that point, the fact that Andy weaved, “On Broadway,” into an indie pop tune is simply something that has to be heard. It's probably my favorite moment of the record and it shows Marshmallow Coast to be adventurous and fun while sounding like he's broke indie pop down to it's respective elements. Other songs have this ambient and dreamy like texture to them that sound a bit 80's-ish as they wash over you. Just listen to the downtrodden synths of, “Forever,” and you'll hear it for's almost depressingly cool.

Vangelis Rides Again is an intriguing little pop record that feels lo-fi, dreams of more, but knows it never will be. Slightly weird with a hint of sadness Vangelis Rides Again may not be the feel good hit of the summer or fall but it is pretty darn good and shows that Marshmallow Coast still knows how to write a decent record.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Adham Shaikh's Basswalla Is Atmospheric Awesomeness

After scoring soundtracks and producing others work, Basswalla is Adham Shaikh's first new original material in five years and it would seem that he's not lost a step in his time away. The album, despite having a really bad EDM-ish like name to it, is far better then it's name and cover would seem to indicate. Taking South Asian influences and adding a bit of dance floor swagger to them Adham Shaikh has created a record that's a sub-woofer throbbing behemoth of global chill out cool. Basswalla while containing new material also contains several updated versions of songs Shaikh's released over the last thirteen years. Not really a greatest hits record with some new stuff thrown on top, Shaikh actually re-interpreted his older material with a bit of improvisational spice so that everything here sounds new and fresh.

Basswalla resides somewhere between a chill out record straight out of India and a trunk rattling bass exploration that just happens to have a Southern Asian vibe. It's a nice mix between the two and Shaikh has been around the block long enough to know how to craft songs that are not only rich in atmospherics but also have the ability to find a groove. As he says himself the record, “sits squared at the intersection of prayer and dance floor.” It's a serene calming experience that just happens to make you want to dance. His layered atmospherics and mixing of traditional instrumentation with wave after wave of bass creates this experience that's hard to forget. Of the ten songs that make up Basswalla only one falls flat on it's face (“Cultivation”) and it's simply because the rap shouldn't be there. As for the rest of the record it's the sound of modern India via the global bass community and it's just about perfect either as an atmospheric experience or a night on the tiles.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

La Luz Construct A Weirdo Shrine

With their latest album,
Weirdo Shrine, Seattle's La Luz have cemented Link Wray and Ventures legacy as two of the most important guitar centered bands ever. The simple fact is that without them, La Luz would not exist. Featuring riff upon riff of awesome garagey surf rock the album sounds as if it was recorded using Wray's guitars, in Wray's studio, using leftover Wray riffs squeezed into songs by the Ventures. The album is overflowing with twangy and jangly melodic tunes that sound as if the ghosts of Wray and the Ventures silently lent a hand on each one. It's magnificent stuff that reminds me of La Sera records lost in a sweater box underneath her bed or an old album found in a rotting VW Vanagong used during the filming of Endless Summer.

With organs, those guitars, multi-part harmonies, rawness and purity Weirdo Shrine is an honest to goodness rock and roll record steeped in history and tradition. The whole thing and especially those twangy surf rocking guitars, gorgeous melodies and sparkly riffs, is simply amazing. Weirdo Shrine is a fantastic record that's about love, heartbreak, and simply being different; it's nothing complicated and doesn't need to be for you to fall in love with it. It's all a bit quirky and a bit retrotastic but it's a treat to just sit and lose yourself in.

As summer turns into fall, La Luz reminds us of the joys of the sun and sand, summer romances, and days lost to doing nothing in particular. Weirdo Shrine is an awesome record that's in love with the past but retroactively looking forward to the future. With harmonies that seem like they're from a dream, songs that are uncomplicated and catchy, and a sound that reeks of classicism what's there not to like? La Luz .have crafted a shrine, if you will, to a classic period in rock and roll history and it's just about perfect.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blindness Suffers From A Lack Of Vision

So the first thing that caught me about Blindness is that Debbie from Curve and Echobelly is in this band. That has to be a good thing right? I mean Debbie is a hell of a guitarist and has been on some of the best indie singles of the last 25 years, so how could Blindness disappoint? Unfortunately, their album Wrapped In Plastic is like a 90's alt-rock hangover.

Sounding something like a more angsty and mainstream PJ Harvey, Blindness seemingly feel uninspired and unexcited to be playing music.
Wrapped In Plastic, unfortunately, is a bit boring. This is a record that seems to plod around with rehashed 90's alternative songs that for a power trio are lacking the power to propel them into the 21st century. The guitar work is fine for the most part but the songs just aren't strong enough to hold my attention. I wanted to like this record a lot, I tried to like this record a lot but there's just nothing here to get me excited. I've heard most of this record before 20 years ago and for all it's angst it just doesn't have the energy to compete in 2015.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lost In A Static Daydream

Where Snow In Mexico fully embrace a stark minimalistic approach to writing music (see below), Static Daydream on the other hand tackle pop music with sheets and walls of distorted bliss enveloping the listener. Their latest self-titled album is an effects, pedal loving affair that brings the best elements of Chapterhouse and My Bloody Valentine and smash them together in a super-collider of distortion and post shoegazing euphoria. Static Daydream is a brilliant slab of post-shoegazing that sounds like it was produced in 1992 and left on a shelf at Creation's office once Oasis came along.

Entrenched in everything that made the early gazing scene so great, Static Daydream have studied and mastered the manual and have taken those skills and created eleven songs as proof of their mastery. With cascading sheets of noise, drum machine beats, distortion overpowering everything and of course a detached vocal track Static Daydream is awash with enough noise, beats, and heavenly like hooks to just about reach instant classic status. This is clearly a record for anyone who admires dry ice clouds , guitar pedals and the early 4ad/Creation catalog.

With equal parts of aggression and placidity the record is a roller coaster ride of what you can do with a guitar and some nifty production. It's a perfect record for the most part and for anyone that's ever loved the Scene that Celebrated Itself they'll rejoice in it's rapturous washes, moody ethereality, and otherworldly charm.
Static Daydream is a psychedelic record for the angelic set and it truly sounds as if it's from another world. Distortion and noise shouldn't sound this good but Static Daydream proves it's possible that there's beauty in losing your hearing and Static Daydream is proof positive.

Snow In Mexico At Juno Beach

Juno Beach is the third release by the oddly named Snow In Mexico. This four song ep is a sexy detached and ethereal synth pop record that sounds as distant as the sun. With equal parts dreaminess and grooviness Snow In Mexico create a record that would seemingly appeal to both the indie and goth set. The rich, lush textures that wash over this record create this sparse dystopian world where the ghost of pop music roams free singing in whispers to anyone who will listen.

Juno Beach is a stupendously good single that doesn't waste a minute on anything frivolous or extravagant. Instead this record's bleak musicscape is filled with memorable moments and stands as monument to the brilliance that is the Roland Juno (hence the record's name). Juno Beach's ethereal synth washes along with the isolated vocals create a depth to the minimalism that appears throughout this record making the songs depressingly irresistible. I really like that Snow In Mexico so perfectly melds minimalism to synth pop and gets something that's cold and alone but still danceable it makes Snow In Mexico as rare an event as their name implies.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Francesca Blanchard Has Deux Visions

Deux Visions
the new album by Francesca Blanchard is truth in advertising as the album presents two views of this wonderful singer songwriter. On one hand you have the traditional singer songwriter with strummy guitars, lilting vocals, and a bit of heartbreak. On the other hand you have a French chanson artist who is intimate, beautiful, and lovelorn. When you take these two elements and mix them into one record you have an album that's filled with fragile beauty with a striking accent.

Francesca so easily writes songs that tug at your heartstrings that you'd swear she was in love with you. Deux Visions succeeds because even at it's most quiet, minimalistic point it still has your emotions in a bear hug and won't let them go. This is an album that's drenched in tears, an album that finds love in a thunderstorm, and leaves its lover at the airport gate. It's international feel makes it feel even more lovelorn and Francesca navigates English and French with such ease that I couldn't tell you where she's from or what her native language is.

Deux Visions is the sort of singer songwriter album I can actually tolerate because it's emotionally gut wrenching while being different from the nine zillion other singer songwriter albums out there. I love her French songs and I enjoy her English ones and her ability to turn a phrase makes her precious. This album doesn't rock or roll but lilt's along a gentle breeze generated by Cupid's wings. It's the sound of all that is good and bad about love and how we all need it for better or worse in our lives.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shannon & The Clams Are Gone By Dawn

If we are in the middle of a 90's revival clearly someone forgot to tell Shannon and the Clams. You see Shannon and her Clams are firmly entrenched in recording as if it were 1961. This is a three piece group that so fully embraces early rock and roll that you'd swear these guys were well into their 70's and somehow stumbled upon a record label to record them before they shuffled off their mortal coil. Clearly in their 20's, however, Shannon and the Clams are obviously in love with the pure, simple sounds of early rock and roll and their latest record Gone By The Dawn is a living tribute to it.

Much like the Pipettes were, Shannon and the Clams are far from a novelty act; these guys have legitimately good songs and enough pop sensibility to write tunes that twist the night away with hooks. This is modern day doo wop and the sort of thing that would probably make their great grand-parents proud of. Gone By The Dawn isn't the sound of rebellion or angst but pure unadulterated fun and is seemingly from a time when rock and roll was subversive, new and every lyric or note could get you in a whole mess of trouble. Dreams In The Rat House is a fantastic record that's the perfect blend of garage rock rawness, doo wop love songs, and swoony pop in a sugary rush of un-cool hipness.

Sugary sweet and ridiculously authentic sounding, Gone By The Dawn channels it's inner Grease fan perfectly. I love this record, it's simplicity, purity and goodness is simply irresistible. I wish more bands would discover the classic goodness of early rock and roll and embrace a time when music was fresh and fun. It was a brilliant time of discovery, creativity, and honesty...something that the music industry and music in general is lacking today.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lunchbox Pack Smash Hits

I'm not 100% sure Lunchbox's single Smash Hits does indeed contain any actual smash hits but what it does contain is a shambolic romp through the indie rock and pop canon. Frenetic, noisy, and a bit chaotic Smash Hits is an energetic and noisy amalgamation of sloppy guitars, geeky vocals, and hooks the size of Texas. The whole things sounds like it might just spin off the 7” and break apart but Lunchbox manage to hold it all together for the six songs that make up this record.

Smash Hits is messy fun. It's jumpy, hyper and is obviously fueled by a bit of pop ADHD. It's all over the place musically but the melodies are as strong as steel and they rope your ears in. Lunchbox may bash their way through this record but I bet you remember at least one riff or chorus for days. Smash Hits is good stuff and it's proof positive that good things do come in small packages.   

The Moon Types Know The Reason

The Moon Types single Know The Reason is a perfect slice of indie pop neatly served on a 7” platter. Beaming with west coast vibes, radiant horns, and mellow melodies this little record is a bit of heaven via Sweden. The siblings Klein (Jesper and Josefin) know their way around a pop song and manipulate all the tricks to create rays of jangly, jolly jubilance that's as firmly rooted in 60's pop as it is modern indie.

Know The Reason is a near perfect record that's unfortunately short at twelve minutes long. For those twelve minutes, however, indie pop bliss is all ours and it's lit by the glow of the moon (types). It's been a while since Swedish indie pop was all the rage, but The Moon Types haven't forgotten and they clearly Know The Reason why it was to begin with.     

Animal Daydream Create Easy Pleasures

Animal Daydream are a band so in love with west coast pop they seemingly have gotten lost within it. Their recent four song single Easy Pleasures is a ray of sunshiny jangle that's as laid back as a Sunday morning in Santa Barbara. With enough of a Teenage Fanclub/Tyde influence to make you wonder if they're not really lost in Britain as opposed to California, this group gently strums guitars, layers harmonies, and write songs as if the sun was in perpetual sunset mode.

Easy Pleasures is an absolute joy to listen to. It's uncomplicated breezy nature is as warm as the sun and as fresh as the salty beach air. Each of the four songs are melodic masterpieces that are bright even when they're going on about rain. If ever there was a soundtrack to a bonfire on a beach, Easy Pleasures would be it, it's casual and optimistic tone is the perfect way to top off a long day in paradise. This record truly is an easy pleasure.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Presents For Sally Gives Us A Gift of Colours & Changes

You know you're old when you've lived through a movement long enough to see kids fascinated by it and decide to imitate and embrace it wholeheartedly. Such is me and the case of Presents for Sally. This band so encapsulates the Oxford and Leeds shoegazing scenes from the 90's that it makes me feel like a proud parent. The scene that celebrated itself 20 or so years ago has had kids and they're taking after their parents and that's well pleasing.

Anyway, Presents for Sally's album Colours & Changes is an amalgamation of everything that made Ride and the Pale Saints fantastic. There's enough hazy vocals, phase shifted guitars, floor staring, and epic riffs that stretch on to infinity to make any fan blush. Colours & Changes is a brilliant album that layers harmonies upon harmonies, processes guitars into the stratosphere and leaves things just rough enough so that it all seems like it was recorded shortly after 7am on a Monday morning. Presents for Sally have really done a great job of embracing the past and fondly trying to make it sound like something different. They succeed for the most part as certain aspects of this record seemingly want to venture into US indie rock territory while firmly utilizing enough effects to reign in the bombast.

From the opening waves of, “We Fought Lucifer (And Won)” to the epic psychedelia of, “Softly Spoken/Outside Honey,” Colours & Changes is a gauzy treat of sonic bliss. I know bands like this are a dime a dozen now days but so few are honest and sincere in their approach; Presents for Sally are sincere and it shows on how each of the songs here rings true. They may be called Presents for Sally but the real gift is us being able to enjoy Colours & Changes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ozere Free The Quartet With Finding Anyplace

Emerging from the strict confines of the string quartet, Ozere has striven to expand beyond them and take the possibility of a quartet to the next level. Mixing classical influences with world music and folk elements Ozere seems to be well underway to pushing the boundaries of what a modern string quartet can be and do. Their album Finding Anyplace is a tranquil and refreshing exploration of how mixing elements of different genres can work in harmony.

Finding Anyplace takes classical string focused structure and tampers with it's dynamics. And while the strings for the most part stay the center and launching point of the band, they share the spotlight with the vocals of Emily Rockards and Jessica Deutsch. Lending a tender folk sound to the album Rockards and Deutsch give the rigid structure of the quartet a gentle nudge into more song based arrangements. Those moments are nice and intimate but Ozere really does their best work as a modern string quartet. Finding Anyplace has a loosely Celtic/Gypsy feel to it and the string arrangements are beautifully delicate, worldly, and atmospheric. The guitar work, violins, bass, and cello arrangements are simply stunning and will give you goosebumps. The instrumental pieces have this old world feel to them that feels simple yet texturally complicated; it's a bit of time travel stuffed into a five minute song.

Finding Anyplace is a fantastic effort and Ozere have done an amazing job at finding their niche and crafting an album that transports you away from the confines of your modern life. They have successfully taken the string quartet and given it a modern slant by mixing traditional old world sounds and folk music into a stirring mix. If ever there was a “classical crossover,” sort of album Finding Anyplace would have to be it. Finding Anyplace is well worth finding anyplace you can find it!

Bosley Wants To Know Are We In Love?

Bosley is a Baltimore based singer songwriter who firmly understands that sometimes the old ways are the best ways. While he self describes his single, Are We In Love? as Outcast meets the Beach Boys, it is in reality a sexy groove laden jam that firmly embraces late sixties early seventies soul. The song lays down a fat drum beat that takes the song to heaven and back. It's a funky, horn led R&B groove that fits perfectly around Bosely's smokey laced voice. Throw in just enough trippy easy listening and cheesy 70's sound effects and you have something that's just about perfect.

The single is super tight and it's a melodious treat that's kept authentic with enough 70's production and sounds to make you reach for bell bottoms and join the Soul Train line.
Are We In Love? is a sensual romp through the past that's the perfect introduction to Bosley. He knocks it out of the ballpark here and while the single is just two different versions of the same song, if it's any slight indication of what an entire album from him will sound like we are in for something special. Visit for the download!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chico Trujillo's Reina De Todas Las Fiestas

Chilean group Chico Trujillo have been around for roughly fifteen years and in the span of that time have grown to become leaders of Cumbia scene. What's interesting about Chico Trujillo is rather than doing this in Chile, they cut their teeth in Berlin. Yes, Berlin! Bringing the caliente to Germany Chico Trujillo took the party to Europe and since then have been just about everywhere else. Now with a global reach and full grasp of Chilean as well as South & Central American musical references these guys are rapidly becoming global legends!

Basically a party band with more energy than the Argentinian oil supply, Chico Trujillo load their album Reina De Todas Las Fiestas with enough horns, Latin percussion and shuffly danceable rhythms to make the dead dance. This record brings the tropical heat of Carnival and with the help of 30 piece brass band Banda Wiracocha there's no way this album couldn't be raucous. The rhythms, the movement and the energy of Reina De Todas Las Fiestas will make you feel as though you are in the middle of a massive street celebration. It's a stunning album of kinetic vivacity that never eases up or backs down. Chico Trujillo is on a mission to make sure you enjoy yourself while listening to Reina De Todas Las Fiestas and they succeed. This record will literally have you dancing in the streets.

Party music from South America that's in touch with the global pulse of musical culture is what Reina De Todas Las Fiestas is all about and throw in a never ending Cumbia beat and you have perfection. This is a fantastic effort that truly sees Chico Trujillo reaching the pinnacle of their career and they've done so with a fiesta in their heart.

Knowlton Bourne Sings Songs From Motel 43

Mississippi born and bread Knowlton Bourne isn't your typical singer songwriter. Sure the guy sounds a bit country but he's definitely not as buried in the roots of the Deep South as being from Mississippi would seem to indicate. Oh no, Knowlton sounds more like his long lost brother is Richard Ashcroft and he's spent his whole life in Wigan as opposed to the US. His album Songs from Motel 43 is a soaring psychedelic trip through the cosmos in the back of a F-150.

Songs from Motel 43 is a fantastically airy record that lets Knowlton's vocal stylings sweep over the record like a great Condor coasting on a breeze. The record is vast and expansive and leaves his countrified influences in the dust for a more spacey intergalactic feel. The songs have their ups and downs and a few dirt road twists and turns but at times the whole thing seems rather heavenly and angelic. I'm not sure how Knowlton stumbled onto all this deep in the heart of Mississippi but it's pretty amazing that he did. Songs from Motel 43 is fragile, beautiful, and so much more than the sum of it's parts.

Bourne has taken heartbreak and isolation and painted a splendid picture of it that's as stark and intriguing as the album cover that graces Songs from Motel 43. I really didn't think I would like this record but it has totally won me over through it's Verve-ish vibes, sweeping songs, and sense of starkness. This is quite possibly the best record to come out of Mississippi in the last 20 years and as such should be in your collection.