Posts Tagged ‘when you motor away’

Eureka California at When You Motor Away

You might think that a band called Eureka California is from California.  You would be wrong.  The band is a duo comprised of Jake Ward (vocals/guitar) and Marie Uhler (drums), and they are based in Athens, Georgia.  Of course, the location really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that when is comes to punk pop and ’90s influenced noise pop, this band delivers the goods on their new third album, Versus.  At times they sound like a fierce four-piece garage band, which certainly is a tribute to Jake’s guitar.  But it also is a tribute to Marie, whose drumming more than holds its own against the shredding.  And when they dial it back and get slow, reflective and acoustic they are just as adept as when they are making four-piece level rock.

Eureka California has always been a good band, but on Versus they have perfected their stripped-down brand of pop punk into a very impressive guitar/drum triumph that may become a permanent resident on your daily playlist.  A few streams are provided below, and you can listen to the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  Trust me, you’ll like it.

Versus was released on March 25 via HHBTM Records, and is available in CD, vinyl, and digital formats.

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Witching Waves at When You Motor Away

For Crystal Cafe, the second outing from London’s Witching Waves, the trio changes skins from noise pop fuzzy to rocker leather.  There still is plenty of melody, but with a more straightforward and aggressive sound.  If your ears get the impression that the Shop Assistants are channeling Sonic Youth, you have good ears.  You probably also have happy ears.

Every note sounds like it is played with intent and confidence, an 11 track exploration of timeless rock expressions.  Thus you have the in-your-face assault of “Twister”, “Pitiless” and the magnificent “Red Light”, the saucy garage rock “Make It Up”, punk rock such as “The Threat”, the fuzzy “Receiver”, and the menacing mid-tempo closer “Flowers”.  And for a change of pace there are the ambient instrumental interludes “Red Light Loop”, “Anemone” and “Inoa”.  Showcasing the group’s power and breadth, Crystal Cafe should earn Witching Waves new fans on both sides of the Atlantic.

Witching Waves are Emma Wigham, Mark Jasper and Ed Shellard.  Crystal Cafe is released in the United States by HHBTM Records.  In the UK, Soft Power Records (Scotland) is offering limited edition vinyl with a digital download included.

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Animal Daydream at When You Motor Away

About a year ago we featured the Easy Pleasures EP, the debut recording by Gothenburg, Sweden guitar pop duoAnimal Daydream (link).  Our only complaint was that at four songs, we were left wanting more.  A year later, Daniel Fridlund Brandt and Alexander Wahl have sought to resolve our concerns with the Citrus EP, four more tracks of the kind of music that never goes out of style in my house.  What Animal Daydream does so well is absorb classic influences such as west coast jangle pop, Glasgow power pop, and ’70s soft rock and then reinterpret it in their own style.

The title track is a glorious tune that could be a jam between the Byrds and Fleetwood Mac.  “Sun (turn around)” would do Teenage Fanclub proud.  There is a Fleet Foxes vibe to “All That You Can Give”.   The closer, “In My Room”, wraps it up with a uptempo dream pop tune.  Overall, there is so much sunshine in the melodies and harmonies that I’m tempted to wear sunglasses when I play this record.

Citrus EP is out tomorrow, January 29, via Jigsaw Records as a digital download or on vinyl.  See the Bandcamp links below.  I expect that digital retailers are an option as well.

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Stutter Steps at When You Motor Away

Ben Harrison’s regular job is as a curator at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh where, among other things, he is responsible for booking musicians to perform at the venue.  To do a job like that well, one needs to have good taste, and a good sense of what fits.  It appears that Mr. Harrison has those traits.  But in addition, Harrison is himself a musician.  He played in a band years ago, and has continued to write songs while working and raising two children with his wife.  And he now has made the commitment to step up a level, and record and release his songs under the name Stutter Steps.

The self-titled album, in my opinion, is one of the better debut releases this year.  Our curator/musician has drawn from his bands like Yo Ya Tengo, Velvet Underground, Luna, The Bats, and Bill Callahan to make an album of evocative melodies and satisfying guitar textures.  But Harrison isn’t just making a patchwork quilt of worthy influences.  He is blending them together to make his own statement via a warm and instantly familiar set of songs.  Sometimes sounding recalling New Zealand post-punk, sometimes The Feelies or Galaxie 500, and sometimes a bit of dusty Americana.  And then, there are the vocals.  Ben has a gravelly but melodic baritone that brings to mind DIY godfather Calvin Johnson.  When paired with the female vocals from Cindy Yogmas, the result is magic.  You don’t have to have been a fan of Beat Happening to celebrate this pairing, but it will make your appreciation that much greater.

In addition to Yogmas, Harrison fleshed out the songs with Jeff Baron (Essex Green/Ladybug Transistor) on guitar.  Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean and Britta) also contributed guitar for the recording.  The recording band included Sean Finn (drums), David Horn (bass), who with Harrison, Yogmas and Phil Jacoby (guitar), form the band for live shows.

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Moon Types at When You Motor Away

Sweden produces more than its share of jangling guitar pop bands, but we are always delighted to learn of another one.  The latest to please our ears is Stockholm’s Moon Types, a quartet skilled in the art of jangling indie pop and power pop, with an interesting hint of country in the arrangement.  If you are like us, it will only take a listen to the title track of their new Know The Reason 7″ to become a fan.  It touches all the necessary elements for a great jangle pop song, and then puts frosting on the confection with a trumpet.  The other two tracks on the single, “Nothing’s Holy” and “Do It All Over Again” will continue the welcome assault on your pleasure center, with perfect doses of dusty, melancholy, California jangle.  Pour yourself a nice summer beverage and relax under the moonlight with Sweden’s Moon Types.

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American Culture at When You Motor Away

The music of American Culture wears its American rock credentials proudly.  Think The Replacements, The Henry Clay People, Springsteen, Velvet Underground, Dinosaur Jr and Guided By Voices.  It may not be easy to articulate the American essence, but we grew up on this stuff, bought records and went to shows.  This is our rock music — the soundtrack of our lives. And while the fusion of punk, power pop, college rock and guitar pop with a love of volume and ‘we do what we want’ attitude is never going to be destined for the pop charts of 2015, it also is always going to have a place in our hearts.  The band is either shy about, or unconcerned with, telling you anything about themselves, although my crack research assistants generously took time from filling out their March Madness Brackets to advise me that the main man here is Chris Adolf who formerly performed as Bad Weather California.  Due to said interns’ indolence, as well as their not quite admirable resilience in the face of negative job reviews, no other details will be forthcoming.

Thanks to the good folks at Jigsaw Records, we all can have a piece of American Culture.  Pure American Gumdelivers ten anthems reflecting the freedom and anxiety of American youth.  The album kicks off with the ’90s rock of “My Teeth Are Sharp”, with woozy vocals and thick guitar lines.  “Actual Alien” brings a touch of shoegaze without yielding any of the fist-pumping drive.  Fans of the late The Henry Clay People, which certainly includes me, should find great joy in “Social Anxiety”.   The next song is titled “I Like American Culture”.  For my money, it is the best song on the album, and by now I expect any rock fan will agree with the sentiment in the title.  “We Wanna Go To The Movies” sounds like it should be the best Guided by Voices song of the year, and just as you are wrapping your head around that fact the band slides into the Springsteen-like romp of “Just Driving Around”.  The following “I Wanna Be Your Animal” switches the vibe to a taut film noir soundtrack.  The upbeat piano-driven “And That’s Enough For Me” becomes one of the standout tunes of the album by virtue of making you feel so damn good.  The album ends with the adrenaline rush of “About A Friend” and the delightful “I Wasn’t Going To Fuck You Over Like That”.

This album wraps up years of American rock music with its own fresh wrapper.  I love this album and can’t stop playing it.

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Fireworks at When You Motor Away

Switch Me On is the first LP from London/Brighton band The Fireworks, but it has the feel of a mid career album or even a retrospective of past singles.  Perhaps one explanation is that while the band is relatively new the members are veterans of bands such as Big Pink Cake, The Pocketbooks, Popguns and The Wedding Present.  The result is a debut from a band that has their sound completely dialed in. And what sound it is!  Imagine if the Buzzcocks had merged with The Shop Assistants, although if you are searching for a more modern parallel consider the chainsaw pop of San Francisco’s Terry Malts.  Thick, fuzzy, feedback-laden guitars with pop hooks and female (and occasionally male) vocals soaring over the sweet storm.  I have chosen four of the songs to illustrate the album, but just about any one of the 13 would work.  If you only have time for one, spin “Runaround”, but you will be cheating yourself.

Some bands decide to overpower you with punk energy, some with C86 sweetness, some with soaring, gut-thumping power pop.  The Fireworks seem to have considered the options and then said “yes, all of them, only louder”.

Switch Me On is available now from Shelflife Records on vinyl, CD, and digital.

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Black Watch at When You Motor Away

The Black Watch is a long-standing cult band founded by John Andrew Fredrick in the late ’80s.  They have released a number of LPs with various line-ups.  The one constant is Fredrick — singer, songwriter and, forSugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy, the sole musician for all instruments other than drums.  I confess to being thoroughly impressed by the fact that after all of those years of flying under the radar and enduring membership changes, Fredrick still sounds fully engaged and vital.  His songwriting is varied and uniformly assured.  The lyrics are literate and clever, and the vocal delivery expressive and sincere.

The songs on the album are varied, with jaunty indie pop balanced with gentle near-lullabies and a few taut post-punk and shoegazy compositions.  The guitar tones are interesting and range from buzz and crunch to restrained acoustic strumming.  It is an album that deserves repeated listens, but more importantly, it rewards repeated listens.  Fredrick has a knack for simultaneously discussing relationships in a straightforward manner and displaying a cold-eyed self-awareness of the prospective dangers.  For example, in one of my favorite tracks, “Anne of Leaves”, Fredrick notes that he has only talked to to his hoped-to-be-paramour for two drinks before he had to catch a plane, that he has a bright impression of her that he knows will not last, but he nevertheless will return to her side as soon as possible.  I don’t know about you, but that could be a summary of a few dozen chapters in my life, just stated more cleverly.

Influences detected include The Beatles and The Soft Boys, but the result is so much more than the sum or its components.  It is a melodic, shimmering glimpse at the romantic corner of the human condition, and a pleasure to hear.

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Animal Daydream at When You Motor Away

Maybe there should be a rule prohibiting bands from teasing us with four great tracks and then leaving us with nothing except the replay button.  But that is what Swedish duo Animal Daydream has done with their Easy Pleasures EP.  From the opening “Canyon Rose”, with its reminders of the golden years of Teenage Fanclub to the pop gold of “Glass Ships” to the jangling Fleetwood Mac-worthy title track and closing track, the EP is packed with hooks and harmonies, an aural feel-good pill for your winter blahs.  This little record is a great way to start out your 2015 music collection.

Animal Daydream are Daniel Fridlund Brandt and Alexander Wahl, and they are based in Gothenburg, Sweden.  This EP is being released by the sharp-eared folks at Jigsaw Records, who have keen ears for great pop sounds.

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Crayon at When You Motor Away

Hey pop collectors.  Here is a rare and wonderful album from the first half of the ’90s.  The Pacific Northwest, was banging its collective head to grunge and other forms of alternative rock.  The Southeast had R.E.M, The dBs and its own brand of swampy jangle.  But amid it all, there was a spot for a noisy, lo-fi, merger of twee, punk and noise pop.  Born in the college and lumber town of Bellingham, Washington, there was Crayon.  Consisting of Brad Roberts (guitar/vocals), Sean Tollefson (bass/vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums), the band recorded a few singles and one album, Brick Factory, released in 1994 on Harriet Records.  By the middle of the decade, they had disbanded, with Tollefson and Fell leaving to found Tullycraft.  As the release of Brick Factory hits its 20th anniversary, HHBTM Records has issued a limited edition vinyl version of the album, which comes with a digital download with including 20 bonus tracks.  There is a cassette version with some bonus material as well.

The songs on Brick Factory deftly capture the awkwardness of young adulthood, the delight in the commonplace, the trickiness of romance, and wrapping it in distorted guitar, coy lyrics and bratty vocals.  The performances are energetic, and the music begs to be played at a high volume.  The record has been out of print and much sought after for years, so its resurrection is bound to delight old and new fans.  It may never come around again.

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